Isaiah 48:4
Because I knew that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew, and your brow brass;
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(4) Because I knew that thou art obstinate . . .—The point is that Jehovah foresees not only the conquests of Cyrus, but the obduracy of His own people. In Egypt (Jeremiah 44) and in Babylon, as of old, they were still a stiff-necked people, inclined (Isaiah 48:5), to ascribe their deliverance to another god, and to worship that god in the form of a graven image.

48:1-8 The Jews valued themselves on descent from Jacob, and used the name of Jehovah as their God. They prided themselves respecting Jerusalem and the temple, yet there was no holiness in their lives. If we are not sincere in religion, we do but take the name of the Lord in vain. By prophecy they were shown how God would deal with them, long before it came to pass. God has said and done enough to prevent men's boasting of themselves, which makes the sin and ruin of the proud worse; sooner or later every mouth shall be stopped, and all become silent before Him. We are all born children of disobedience. Where original sin is, actual sin will follow. Does not the conscience of every man witness to the truth of Scripture? May the Lord prove us, and render us doers of the word.Because I knew that thou art obstinate - I made these frequent predictions, and fulfilled them in this striking manner, because I knew that as a people, you were prone to unbelief, and in order that you might have the most full and undoubted demonstration of the truth of what was declared. As they were disinclined to credit his promises, and as he saw that in their long captivity they would be prone to disbelieve what he had said respecting their deliverance under Cyrus, he had, therefore, given them these numerous evidences of the certainty of the fulfillment of all his prophecies, in order that their minds might credit what he said about their return to their own land.

That thou art obstinate - Margin, as Hebrew, 'Hard,' The sense is, that they were obstinate and intractable - an expression probably taken from a bullock which refuses to receive the yoke. The word hard, as expressive of obstinacy, is often combined with others. Thus, in Exodus 32:9; Exodus 34:9, 'hard of neck,' that is, stiff-necked, stubborn; 'hard of face' Ezekiel 2:4; 'hard of heart' Ezekiel 3:7. The idea is, that they were, as a people, obstinate, rebellious, and indisposed to submit to the laws of God - a charge which is often brought against them by the sacred writers, and which is abundantly verified by all their history as a people (compare Exodus 32:9; Exodus 33:3-5; Exodus 34:9; Deuteronomy 9:6-13; Deuteronomy 31:27; 2 Chronicles 30:8; Ezekiel 2:4; Acts 7:51).

Thy neck is an iron sinew - The word גיד giyd means properly a cord, thong, or band; then a nerve, sinew, muscle, or tendon. The metaphor is taken from oxen when they make their neck stiff, and refuse to submit it to the yoke.

And thy brow brass - Thy forehead is hard and insensible as brass. The phrase is applied to the shameless brow of a harloi Jeremiah 3:3; Ezekiel 3:7, where there is an utter want of modesty, and consummate impudence. A brow of brass is an image of insensibility, or obstinacy (so in Jeremiah 6:28).

4. obstinate—Hebrew, "hard" (De 9:27; Eze 3:7, Margin).

iron sinew—inflexible (Ac 7:51).

brow brass—shameless as a harlot (see Jer 6:28; 3:3; Eze 3:7, Margin).

Because I knew: therefore I gave thee the more and clearer demonstrations of my Divine nature and providence, because I knew thou wast an unbelieving and perverse nation, that would not easily nor willingly be convinced.

Thy neck is an iron sinew, which will not bow down to receive my yoke, nor to obey my commands. It is a metaphor taken from untamed and stubborn cattle; of which see also Nehemiah 9:29 Zechariah 7:11 Acts 7:51. The sense is, I considered that thou wast unteachable and incorrigible.

Thy brow brass; thou wast impudent, and therefore wouldst boldly pretend that thou didst forsake me, for want of full conviction of my Divine authority, and of thy duty; therefore I determined that I would leave thee without excuse. Because I knew that thou art obstinate,.... Or "hard" (a), hard hearted, an obdurate and rebellious people, contradicting and gainsaying:

and thy neck is as an iron sinew; stiffnecked, inflexible, not compliant with the will of God, and his commands; unwilling to admit his yoke, and bear it:

and thy brow brass; impudent, not ashamed of sin, nor blushing at it, refusing to receive correction for it, having a whore's forehead. This the Lord knew and foreknew, and therefore declared before hand what would come to pass unto them; who otherwise would have had the assurance to have ascribed them to themselves, or their idols, and not to him.

(a) "quod durus tu es", Pagninus, Montanus; "te durum esse", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Vitringa.

Because I knew that {e} thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass;

(e) I have done for you more than I promised, that your stubbornness and impudency might have been overcome.

4. Cf. Ezekiel 3:7-9.

thy neck is an iron sinew] Cf. for the idea Exodus 32:9; Deuteronomy 9:6; Deuteronomy 9:13.Verse 4. - I knew that thou art obstinate; literally, hard, or stiff - the adjective used in the phrase translated in our version "stiff-necked." The idea is still more forcibly expressed in the following clause - thy neck is an iron sinew; or rather, a band of iron, as stiff as if it were made-of the hardest metal. And thy brow brass. The exact simile here used does not occur elsewhere in Scripture. It seems to be the origin of our expressions, "brazen,... brazen-faced," "to brazen a thing out." The forehead may be hardened for a good or for a bad purpose; in obstinacy or in a determination to resist evil (comp. Isaiah 1:7 and Ezekiel 3:8 with Jeremiah 5:3; Ezekiel 3:7; Zechariah 7:12). Here the hardening is evil, marking defiance and self-will. ἀλμενιχακά in Plut., read Porph., viz., in the letter of Porphyrios to the Egyptian Anebo in Euseb. praep. iii. 4, init.: τάς τε εἰς τοὺς δεκανοὺς τομὰς καὶ τοὺς ὡροσκόποὺς καὶ τοὺς λεγομένους κραταιοὺς ἡγεμόνας, ὧν καὶ ὀνόματα ἐν τοῖς ἀλμενιχιακοῖς φέρεται; compare Jamblichos, de Mysteriis, viii. 4: τά τε ἑν τοῖς σαλμεσχινιακοῖς μέρος τι βραχύτατον περιέχει τῶν ̔Ερμαικῶν διατάξεων. This reading σαλμεσχινιακοῖς has been adopted by Parthey after two codices and the text in Salmasius, de annis clim. 605. But ἀλμενιχιακοῖς is favoured by the form Almanach (Hebr. אלמנק, see Steinschneider, Catal. Codd. Lugduno-Batav. p. 370), in which the word was afterwards adopted as the name of an astrological handbook or year-book. In Arabic the word appears to me to be equivalent to 'l-mnâch, the encampment (of the stars); but to all appearance it was originally an Egyptian word, and possibly the Coptic monk (old Egyptian mench), a form or thing formed, is hidden beneath it.

Isaiah 47:12Then follows the concluding strophe, which, like the first, announces to the imperial city in a triumphantly sarcastic tone its inevitable fate; whereas the intermediate strophes refer rather to the sins by which this fate has been brought upon it. "Come near, then, with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy witchcrafts, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth: perhaps thou canst profit, perhaps thou wilt inspire terror. Thou art wearied through the multitude of thy consultations; let the dissectors of the heavens come near, then, and save thee, the star-gazers, they who with every new moon bring things to light that will come upon thee. Behold, they have become like stubble: fire has consumed them: there is not a red-hot coal to warm themselves, a hearth-fire to sit before. So is it with thy people, for whom thou hast laboured: thy partners in trade from thy youth, they wander away every one in his own direction; no one who brings salvation to thee." Hitzig and others adopt the simple rendering, "Persevere, then, with thine enchantments." It is indeed true, that in Leviticus 13:5 בּ עמד signifies "to remain standing by anything," i.e., to persevere with it, just as in Ezekiel 13:5 it signifies to keep one's standing in anything; in 2 Kings 23:3, to enter upon anything; and in Ecclesiastes 8:3, to engage in anything; but there is no reason for taking it here in any other sense than in Isaiah 47:13. Babylon is to draw near with all the processes of the black art, wherein בּאשׁר, according to our western mode of expression, equivalent to בּהם אשׁר, Ges. 123, 2*) it had been addicted to abundance of routine from its youth upwards (יגעאתּ with an auxiliary pathach for יגעתּ); possibly it may be of some use, possibly it will terrify, i.e., make itself so terrible to the approaching calamity, as to cause it to keep off. The prophet now sees in spirit how Babylon draws near, and how it also harasses itself to no purpose; he therefore follows up the עמדי־נא, addressed in pleno to Babylon, with a second challenge commencing with יעמדוּ־נא. Their astrologers are to draw near, and try that power over the future to which they lay claim, by bringing it to bear at once upon the approaching destruction for the benefit of Babylon. עצתיך is a singular form connected with a feminine plural suffix, such as we find in Psalm 9:15; Ezekiel 35:11; Ezra 9:15, connected with a masculine plural suffix. Assuming the correctness of the vowel-pointing, the singular appears in such cases as these to have a collective meaning, like the Arabic pl. fractus; for there is no ground to suppose that the Aramaean plural form ‛ētsâth is used here in the place of the Hebrew. Instead of שׁמים הברו (which would be equivalent to הברו אשׁרא, the keri reads שׁמים הברי, cutters up of the heavens, i.e., planners or dissectors of them, from hâb, dissecare, resecare (compare the rabbinical habhârâh, a syllable, i.e., segmentum vocabuli, and possibly also the talmudic 'ēbhârı̄m, limbs of a body). The correction proposed by Knobel, viz., chōbherē, from châbhār, to know, or be versed in, is unnecessary. Châzâh b' signifies here, as it generally does, to look with pleasure or with interest at anything; hence Luther has rendered it correctly, die Sternkucker (Eng. ver. star-gazers). They are described still further as those who make known with every new moon (lechŏdâshı̄m, like labbeqârı̄m, every morning, Isaiah 33:2, etc.), things which, etc. מאשׁר is used in a partitive sense: out of the great mass of events they select the most important, and prepare a calendar or almanack (ἀλμενιχιακά in Plutarch) for the state every month. But these very wise men cannot save themselves, to say nothing of others, out of the power of that flame, which is no comforting coal-fire to warm one's self by, no hearth-fire (Isaiah 44:16) to sit in front of, but a devouring, eternal, i.e., peremptory flame (Isaiah 33:14). The rendering adopted by Grotius, Vitringa, Lowth, Gesenius, and others, "non supererit pruna ad calendum," is a false one, if only because it is not in harmony with the figure. "Thus shall they be unto thee," he continues in Isaiah 47:15, i.e., such things shall be endured to thy disgrace by those about whom thou hast wearied thyself (אשׁר equals בּהם אשׁר). The learned orders of the Chaldeans had their own quarter, and enjoyed all the distinction and privileges of a priestly caste. What follows cannot possibly be understood as relating to these masters of astrology and witchcraft, as Ewald supposes; for, according to the expression שׁחרהּ in Isaiah 47:11, they would be called שׁחריך. Moreover, if they became a prey of the flames, and therefore were unable to flee, we should have to assume that they were burned while taking flight (Umbreit). סחריך are those who carried on commercial intercourse with the great "trading city" (Ezekiel 17:4), as Berossos says, "In Babylon there was a great multitude of men of other nations who had settled in Chaldea, and they lived in disorder, like the wild beasts;" compare Aeschylus, Pers. 52-3, Βαβυλὼν δ ̓ ἡ πολύχρυσος πάμμικτον ὄχλον πέμπει. All of these are scattered in the wildest flight, אל־עברו אישׁ, every one on his own side, viz., in the direction of his own home, and do not trouble themselves about Babylon.

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