Isaiah 49:12 Commentaries: "Behold, these will come from afar; And lo, these will come from the north and from the west, And these from the land of Sinim."
Isaiah 49:12
Behold, these shall come from far: and, see, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.
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(12) From the west.—Literally, from the sea, which commonly has this meaning. In Psalm 107:3, however, it clearly stands for the south, and is probably used in that sense here. In this case “from far” stands for the south, probably for the distant Ethiopia, where Jewish exiles had already found their way (Zephaniah 3:10).

From the land of Sinim.—The region thus named is clearly the ultima Thule of the prophet’s horizon, and this excludes the “Sinites” of Canaan (Genesis 10:17), and the Sin (Pelusium) of Egypt. Modern scholars are almost unanimous in making it refer to the Chinese. Phœnician or Babylonian commerce may have made that people known, at least by name, to the prophet. Recent Chinese researches have brought to light traditions that in B.C. 2353 (and again in B.C. 1110) a people came from a strange western land, bringing with them a tortoise, on the shell of which was a history of the world, in strange characters “like tadpoles.” It is inferred that this was a cuneiform inscription, and the theory has been recently maintained that this was the origin of the present Chinese mode of writing. (See Cheyne’s “Excursus,” 2 p. 20, and an elaborate article on “China and Assyria” in the Quarterly Review for October, 1882.) Porcelain with Chinese characters has been found, it may be added, in the ruins of the Egyptian Thebes (Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians, 1st ser., iii. 106-109). All recent discoveries tend to the conclusion that the commerce of the great ancient monarchies was wider than scholars of the sixteenth century imagined. The actual immigration of Jews into China is believed to have taken place about B.C. 200 (Delitzsch in loc).

Isaiah 49:12-13. Behold, these shall come from far — My people shall be gathered from the most remote parts of the earth. He speaks here, and in many other places, of the conversion of the Gentiles, with allusion to that work of gathering and bringing back the Jews from all parts where they were dispersed, into their own land. And these from the land of Sinim — Either of the Sinites, as they are called, Genesis 10:17, who dwelt about the wilderness; or of Sin, a famous city of Egypt, which may be put for all Egypt, and that for all southern parts. And so he here mentions the several quarters of the world where the generality of the Jews were dispersed; the north, which is everywhere named as the chief place of their banishment and dispersion, as Jeremiah 16:15; and Jeremiah 31:8, and elsewhere; the west, the western countries and islands; and the south. Sing, O heavens, &c. — See note on Isaiah 44:23. For the Lord hath comforted his people — God hath now sent the long-desired consolation of Israel.49:7-12 The Father is the Lord, the Redeemer, and Holy One of Israel, as sending the Son to be the Redeemer. Man, whom he came to save, put contempt upon him. To this he submitted for our salvation. He is a pledge for all the blessings of the covenant; in him God was reconciling the world to himself. Pardoning mercy is a release from the curse of the law; renewing grace is a release from the dominion of sin: both are from Christ. He saith to those in darkness, Show yourselves. Not only see, but be seen, to the glory of God, and your own comforts. Though there are difficulties in the way to heaven, yet the grace of God will carry us over them, and make even the mountains a way. This denotes the free invitations and the encouraging promises of the gospel, and the outpouring of the Spirit.Behold, these shall come from far - That is, one part shall come from a distant land, and another from the north and west. This is a statement of the fulfillment of the promise made to him Isaiah 49:6-7, that he should be for a light to the Gentiles, and that kings and princes should rise up and honor him. The words 'from far,' denote a distant land, without specifying the particular direction from which they would come. The most distant nations should embrace his religion, and submit to him. Lowth and Seeker understand it of Babylon; Grotius of the East, that is, Persia, and the other countries east of Judea. But it more properly denotes any distant country; and the sense is, that converts should be made from the most distant lands.

And lo, these - Another portion.

From the north - The regions north of Palestine.

And from the west - Hebrew, 'From the sea;' that is, the Mediterranean. This word is commonly used to denote the west. The western countries known to the Hebrews were some of the islands of that sea, and a few of the maritime regions. The idea here in general is, that those regions would furnish many who would embrace the true religion. If it be understood as referring to the Messiah, and the accession to his kingdom among the Gentiles, it is needless to say that the prediction has been already strikingly fulfilled. Christianity soon spread to the west of Palestine, and the countries in Europe have been thus far the principal seat of its influence and power. It has since spread still further to the west; and, from a western world unknown to Isaiah, million have come and acknowledged the Messiah as their Redeemer.

And these - Another portion, carrying out the idea that they were to come from every part of the world.

From the land of Sinim - There have been many different opinions in regard to the 'land of Sinim.' The name 'Sinim' (סינים siyniym) occurs nowhere else in the Bible, and of course it is not easy to determine what country is meant. It is evident that it is some remote country, and it is remarkable that it is the only land specified here by name. Some, it is said, should come from far, some from the north, others from the west, and another portion from the country here specifically mentioned. Jerome understands it of the south in general - Isti de terra Australi. The Septuagint understands it as denoting Persia - Ἄλλοι δὲ ἐκ γῆς Περσῶν alloi di ek gēs Persōn. The Chaldee also interprets it as Jerome has done, of the south. The Syriac has not translated it, but retained the name Sinim. The Arabic coincides with the Septuagint, and renders it, 'From the land of Persia.' Grotius supposes that it means the region of Sinim to the south of Palestine, and Vitringa also coincides with this opinion.

Bochart supposes that it means the same as Sin or Syene, that is, Pelusium, a city of Egypt; and that it is used to denote Egypt, as Pelusium was a principal city in Egypt. In Ezekiel 30:15, Sin or Pelusium (margin) is mentioned as 'the strength of Egypt.' Gesenius supposes that it refers to the Chinese, and that the country here referred to is Sina or China. 'This very ancient and celebrated people,' says he, 'was known to the Arabians and Syrians by the name Sin, Tein, Tshini; and a Hebrew writer might well have heard of them, especially if sojourning in Babylon, the metropolis as it were of all Asia. This name appears to have been given to the Chinese by the other Asiatics; for the Chinese themselves do not employ it, and seem indeed to be destitute of any ancient domestic name, either adopting the names of the reigning dynasties, or ostentatiously assuming high-sounding titles, as "people of the empire in the center of the world." 'The Rev. Peter Parker, M. D., missionary to China, remarked in an address delivered in Philadelphia, that 'the Chinese have been known from time immemorial by the name Tschin. Tschin means a Chinaman.' When they first received this appellation, cannot be determined, nor is the reason of its being given to them now known.

As there is remarkable permanency in the names as well as in the customs of the East, it is possible that they may have had it from the commencement of their history. If so, there is no improbability in supposing that the name was known to the Jews in the time of Isaiah. Solomon had opened a considerable commerce with the East. For this he had built Palmyra, or Tadmor, and caravans passed constantly toward Palestine and Tyre, conveying the rich productions of India. The country of Tschin or Sinim may be easily supposed to have been often referred to by the foreign merchants as a land of great extent and riches, and it is not impossible that even at that early day a part of the merchandise conveyed to the west might have come from that land. It is not necessary to suppose that the Hebrews in the time of Isaiah had any very extensive or clear views of that country; but all that is necessary to be supposed is that they conceived of the nation as lying far in the east, and as abounding in wealth, sufficiently so to entitle it to the pre-eminency which it now has in the enumeration of the nations that would be blessed by the gospel.

If this be the correct interpretation - and I have on a re-examination come to this opinion, though a different view was given in the first edition of these Notes - then the passage furnishes an interesting prediction respecting the future conversion of the largest kingdom of the world. It may be added, that this is the only place where that country is referred to in the Bible, and there may be some plausibility in the supposition that while so many other nations, far inferior in numbers and importance, are mentioned by name, one so vast as this would not wholly be omitted by the Spirit of Inspiration.

12. Sinim—The Arabians and other Asiatics called China Sin, or Tchin; the Chinese had no special name for themselves, but either adopted that of the reigning dynasty or some high-sounding titles. This view of "Sinim" suits the context which requires a people to be meant "from far," and distinct from those "from the north and from the west" [Gesenius]. These shall come from far; my people shall be called and gathered even from the most remote parts of the earth. He speaks here, and in many other places, of the conversion of the Gentiles, with allusion to that work of gathering and bringing back the Jews from all parts where they were dispersed into their own land.

From the north and from the west; from the several parts of the world; which are here synecdochically expressed, as they are in many other places.

From the land of Sinim; either of the Sinites, as they are called, Genesis 10:17, who dwelt about the wilderness of Sin, which was southward from Judea; or of Sin, a famous city of Egypt, called the strength of Egypt, which may be synecdochically put for all Egypt, and that for all southern parts. And so he here mentions the several quarters of the world, where the generality of the Jews were dispersed; the north, which is every where named as the chief place of their banishment and dispersion, as Jeremiah 16:15 31:8, and elsewhere; the west, the western countries and islands; and the south. Behold, these shall come from far,.... This is a prophecy of the conversion of the Jews, or of the Gentiles, or of both, in the latter day, in the several parts of the world; who shall come to Christ, and to his churches, and join in fellowship with them: the allusion is to the return of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon, and from all other parts at that time; some are said to come "from far", from the east, as it is generally interpreted, from the several eastern nations, as Persia, Judea lying west from them, on the western or Mediterranean sea:

and, lo, these from the north; from Media, as some; or rather from Babylon, which lay north of Judea:

and from the west; or "from the sea"; the Mediterranean sea, and the countries beyond it, which lie west of Judea:

and these from the land of Sinim. The Targum and Vulgate Latin version render it, from the land of the south, with which Jarchi and Kimchi agree, where dwelt the Sinites, which were of the children of Canaan, Genesis 10:17, as the latter observes; and where were the wilderness of Sin, and mountain of Sinai, according to the observation of Jerom. Aben Ezra thinks Egypt is meant, which lay south of Judea, and conjectures that Sinai, a place in it, is designed; perhaps Sin, as others are of opinion, called "the strength of Egypt", Ezekiel 30:15, the same city the Greeks called Pelusium; and R. Saadiah, in Kimchi, supposes it is here intended, which is most likely; the Pelusiotae are meant. Manasseh ben Israel (g) will have it that the Chinese are intended: China is indeed called, by Ptolemy (h), the country of the Sinites; and if this is designed, which is not probable, it cannot be so called from the family of Cina, as Martinius (i) thinks, since that family was not in being till two or three hundred years after this prophecy; and, if it concerns them, it will have its accomplishment, when the kingdoms of this world shall become Christ's, Revelation 11:15 compare with this Matthew 8:12 yea, they are said to have received the Gospel, in the first times of it, by the means of the apostles, Thomas, or Bartholomew (k). The Septuagint version renders it, "from the land of the Persians"; and the Arabic version, "from the land of Persia"; and the Syriac version, "from the sea of Senjam".

(g) Spes Israelis, p. 48. (h) Geograph. l. 7. c. 3.((i) Hist. Sinic. p. 195. (k) Vid Fabricii Lux Evangelii, p. 652, 653.

Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of {r} Sinim.

(r) Meaning, the south country, so that Christ will deliver his from all the parts of the world.

12. The return of exiles from the most distant parts of the earth.

these from the land of Sinim (the Sinites)] The last word is a hopeless enigma. As the only proper name in the verse the writer must have had some special reason for mentioning it; and the only reason that can be plausibly imagined is that Sinim lay on the utmost limit of his geographical horizon. This would exclude two suggested identifications: (1) the Canaanite Sinites of Genesis 10:17, and (2) Sin (Pelusium) on the nearest border of Egypt. Again, from the fact that “north” and “west” have been already mentioned we may reasonably infer that the Sinim must be looked for either in the far East or the far South. The former is the view of most commentators, who find in Sinim the name China (properly “the Chinese”). If the prophecy had been written four or five centuries later this hypothesis would be more plausible than it is. The word might be the same as the Arabic and Syriac name for China (צין), although there is a difference in the first consonant which would excite misgivings. But it is generally considered that this name is derived from that of the Tsin-dynasty, which dates from 255 b.c.; it could not therefore have reached the West in the time of the Exile. The numerous attempts to find an older Chinese origin of the word are merely wasted ingenuity. Moreover, it is inconceivable that Jewish captives had been transported to China at so early a period; and speculations about the possibility of intercourse between the Chinese and Western Asia hardly touch the question. The Sinim are located in the South by the Targ. and Vulg., which render “a Southern land”; also by Cheyne, who, in his latest work, revives a suggestion of J. D. Michaelis that Syene is meant (reading סְוֵנִים for סינים).Verse 12. - These shall come from far. The nations shall flow in from all sides to the Redeemer's kingdom (Isaiah 2:2; Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 60:1-5, etc.). They shall come from the north and from the west; literally, from the north and from the sea, which generally means "the west," but which, in one enumeration of the points of the compass (Psalm 107:3), is certainly "the south." They shall also come from the land of Sinim by which most recent interpreters understand China. But it is highly improbable that an ethnic name which was not known to the Greeks till the time of Ptolemy (A.D. 120) should have recoiled Palestine by B.C. 700. And if "the sea" means "the south" in the preceding clause, the Sinim may be these of Phoenicia (Genesis 10:17), who were among the furthest inhabitants of Asia towards the west. In any case, the reference is, not to the dispersed Jews, but to the remote Gentiles, who would pass from all quarters lute the kingdom of the Redeemer. The expression "and now" (ועתּה), which follows, evidently indicates a fresh turn in the official life of the person speaking here. At the same time, it is evident that it is the failure of his labours within his own people, which has forced out the lamentation in Isaiah 49:4. For his reason for addressing his summons in Isaiah 49:1 to the world of nations, is that Jehovah has not guaranteed to him, the undaunted one, success to his labours among his own people, but has assigned him a mission extending far beyond and reaching to all mankind. "And now, saith Jehovah, that formed me from the womb to be His servant, to bring back Jacob to Him, and that Israel may be gathered together to Him; and I am honoured in the eyes of Jehovah, and my God has become my strength. He saith, It is only a small thing that thou becomest my servant, to set up the tribes of Jacob, and to bring back the preserved of Israel. I have set thee for the light of the Gentiles, to become my salvation to the end of the earth." Both shōbhēbh and hâshı̄bh unite within themselves the meanings reducere (Jeremiah 50:19) and restituere. On לא equals לו generally, see at Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 63:9. Jerome is wrong in his rendering, et Israel qui non congregabitur (what could a prophecy of the rejection of the Jews do here?); so also is Hitzig's rendering, "since Israel is not swept away;" and Hofmann's, "Israel, which is not swept away." In the present instance, where the restoration of Israel is the event referred to, אצף must signify "the gathering together of Israel," as in Isaiah 11:12. לו (parallel אליו) points to Jehovah as the author of the gathering, and as the object of it also. The transition from the infinitive of design to the finite verb of desire, is the same as in Isaiah 13:9; Isaiah 14:25. The attributive clause, added to the name Jehovah, expresses the lofty mission of the servant of God with regard to Israel. The parenthesis, "I have honour in the eyes of Jehovah, and my God has become my strength, i.e., has become mighty in me, the apparently weak one," looks beyond to the still loftier mission, by which the former lofty one is far surpassed. On account of this parenthetically inserted praise of Jehovah, the אמר is resumed in ויּאמר. Instead of נקל היותך (compare 1 Kings 16:31), i.e., it is a small thing that thou shouldst be, we have it here, as in Ezekiel 8:17, with a comparative min, which must not, however, be logically pressed: "It is smaller than that," i.e., it is too small a thing that thou shouldst be. The netsı̄rē (Keri, netsūrē) of Israel are those who have been preserved in exile (Ezekiel 6:12); in other cases, we find שׁאר, שׁארית, or פּלטה. Not only is the restoration of the remnant of Israel the work of the servant of Jehovah; but Jehovah has appointed him for something higher than this. He has given or set him for the light of the heathen ("a light to lighten the Gentiles," Luke 2:32), to become His salvation to the end of the earth (lxx: τοῦ εἶναι σε εἰς σωτηρίαν ἕως ἐσχάτου τῆς γῆς). Those who regard Israel as a nation as speaking here (e.g., Hitzig, Ewald, Umbreit, etc.) go right away from this, which is the most natural sense of the words, and explain them as meaning, "that my salvation may be, reach, or penetrate to the end of the earth." But inasmuch as the servant of Jehovah is the light of the world, he is through that very fact the salvation of the world; and he is both of these through Jehovah, whose counsels of ישׁוּעה are brought by him into historical realization and visible manifestation.
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