Isaiah 5:24
Therefore as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
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(24) Therefore as the fire devoureth.—Literally, the tongue of fire. The scene brought before us is—(1) that of a charred and burnt-up field, horrible and hideous to look upon (comp. Hebrews 6:8); (2) that of a tree decayed and loathsome. The double imagery represents the end of the riotous mirth of the unjust judges.

Isaiah 5:24. Therefore as the fire, &c. — “The latter part of the parabolic song, contained in Isaiah 5:6, begins here to be more fully explained; and, to the end of the chapter, we have an account of that total destruction of the republic, which was to be brought upon it by a people most skilful in war, and coming from a very distant country.” The greatness and impelling cause of this threatened destruction are explained in this and the following verse: the instruments of it, a fierce and warlike people, are described Isaiah 5:26-29. And the consequence of it, the trouble and desperation of those that remained from this slaughter, Isaiah 5:30. See Vitringa. Their root shall be as rottenness — They shall be like a tree, which not only withers in its branches, but dies and rots at the roots, and therefore is past all hopes of recovery. That is, they shall be destroyed, both root and branch, and that as certainly and irresistibly as fire devours the stubble on which it kindles, and the flame consumes the chaff which it touches. Their blossom shall go up as dust — Shall vanish as the dust, which is blown away with every wind, or shall be resolved into dust, and yield no fruit; because they have cast away the law of the Lord, &c. — Have cast off all obedience to it, and treated it with contempt.5:24-30 Let not any expect to live easily who live wickedly. Sin weakens the strength, the root of a people; it defaces the beauty, the blossoms of a people. When God's word is despised, and his law cast away, what can men expect but that God should utterly abandon them? When God comes forth in wrath, the hills tremble, fear seizes even great men. When God designs the ruin of a provoking people, he can find instruments to be employed in it, as he sent for the Chaldeans, and afterwards the Romans, to destroy the Jews. Those who would not hear the voice of God speaking by his prophets, shall hear the voice of their enemies roaring against them. Let the distressed look which way they will, all appears dismal. If God frowns upon us, how can any creature smile? Let us diligently seek the well-grounded assurance, that when all earthly helps and comforts shall fail, God himself will be the strength of our hearts, and our portion for ever.Therefore as the fire ... - The remainder of this chapter is occupied with predicting "judgments," or punishments, upon the people for their sins which had been specified. The Hebrew here is, 'The tongue of fire.' The figure is beautiful and obvious. It is derived from the pyramidal, or tongue-like appearance of "flame." The concinnity of the metaphor in the Hebrew is kept up. The word "devoureth" is in the Hebrew "eateth:" 'As the tongue of fire eats up,' etc. The use of the word "tongue" to denote "flame" is common in the Scriptures; see the note at Acts 2:3.

And the flame consumeth the chaff - The word rendered "chaff here," means rather "hay, or dried grass." The word rendered 'consumeth,' denotes properly "to make to fall," and refers to the appearance when a fire passes through a field of grain or grass, consuming the stalks near the ground, so that the upper portion "falls down," or sinks gently into the flames.

So their root shall be as rottenness - Be rotten; or decayed - of course furnishing no moisture, or suitable juices for the support of the plant. The idea is, that all the sources of national prosperity among the Jews would be destroyed. The word "root" is often used to denote the source of "strength or prosperity;" Isaiah 14:30; Hosea 9:16; Job 18:16.

And their blossom - This word rather means germ, or tender branch. It also means the flower. The figure is kept up here. As the root would be destroyed, so would all that was supported by it, and all that was deemed beautiful, or ornamental.

As dust - The Hebrew denotes "fine dust," such as is easily blown about. The root would be rotten; and the flower, lacking nourishment, would become dry, and turn to dust, and blow away. Their strength, and the sources of their prosperity would be destroyed; and all their splendor and beauty, all that was ornamental, and the source of national wealth, would be destroyed with it.

They have cast away - They have refused to "obey" it. This was the cause of all the calamities that would come upon them.

24. Literally, "tongue of fire eateth" (Ac 2:3).

flame consumeth the chaff—rather, withered grass falleth before the flame (Mt 3:12).

root … blossom—entire decay, both the hidden source and outward manifestations of prosperity, perishing (Job 18:16; Mal 4:1).

cast away … law—in its spirit, while retaining the letter.

Their root shall be as rottenness; they shall be like a tree which not only withers in its branches, but dies and rots at the roots, and therefore is past all hopes of recovery. The sense is, They shall be destroyed both root and branch.

Their blossom shall go up as dust; shall vanish (for so the word ascend or go up is oft used, as Exodus 16:14 Job 5:26 Jeremiah 48:15 Ezekiel 11:23,24) as the dust, which is blown away with every wind; or, shall be resolved into dust, and yield no fruit.

They have cast away; which implies disobedience joined with contempt. Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble,.... Or "tongue of fire" (h); meaning the flame, the same as in the next clause; because it is in the form of a tongue; see Acts 2:3,

and the flame consumeth the chaff; which is done easily, speedily, and entirely; the metaphors denote that their destruction would be easy, swift, sudden, irresistible, and irrecoverable. Reference may be had to the burning of Jerusalem, literally understood:

so their root shall be rottenness; and so utterly perish; meaning their fathers, as Aben Ezra and Abarbinel think; or their chief and principal men, before mentioned; or their riches and substance, and whatever they gloried of, or trusted in; see Matthew 3:10,

and their blossom shall go up as dust; before the wind; either their children, or whatever was excellent or valuable with them; so Jarchi interprets it of their grandeur, pomp, and glory; it seems to express an utter destruction of them, root and branch, as in Malachi 4:1,

because they have cast away the law of the Lord; or doctrine of the Lord; that is, the Gospel; which the Jews blasphemed, contradicted, and put away from them, and judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life: the preaching of a crucified Christ, and salvation by him, and justification by his righteousness, were a stumbling block to them: this is to be understood not of the law of works, but of the law or doctrine of faith:

and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel; meaning either the same as before; expressing their great contempt of the Gospel, and the reason why they rejected it, because they loathed, abhorred, and despised it: or else Christ, the essential Word of God; so the Targum,

"they rejected the Word, the Holy One of Israel;''

as the Messiah, and received him not; and this their rejection of him, and ill treatment of his Gospel and ministers, were the cause of the burning of Jerusalem, and of their utter ruin and destruction, Matthew 22:4.

(h) "lingua ignis", Vatablus.

Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their {d} root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

(d) Both they and their posterity so that nothing will be left.

24. The conclusion. Render with R.V.

Therefore as the tongue of fire devoureth the stubble,

And as the dry grass sinketh down in the flame, &c.

The similes are taken from two common customs, the burning of the stubble in the fields, and the use of dry grass for fuel. The comparison is completed in a different figure.

root … blossom] The expression is found on a Phœnician sarcophagus (Eshmunazar), “let him not have root below or fruit above”; and frequently in the O.T., Isaiah 14:29; Isaiah 37:31; Amos 2:9; Hosea 9:16, &c.

the law of the Lord of hosts] See on Isaiah 1:10. The last clause is a summary description of the sins of the nation; the source from which they all spring is the rejection of the prophetic message.Verse 24. - Therefore, etc. A general judgment is now pronounced against all the forms of wickedness enumerated - a judgment of ruin or destruction. It is expressed by a mixed metaphor, or "combination of two figures," the former taken from the burning of stubble and withered grass by the farmer when he is cleaning his fields, the latter from the natural decay of a blossoming plant or tree. In either case the destruction is complete, but in the one it arises from an external force, fire; in the other from an internal failure of vitality. The ruin of Israel would include both; it would be brought about by an internal cause, their corruption, and an external one, God's anger. As the fire devoureth the stubble; literally, as a tongue of fire eats up stubble. "Tongue of fire" is an unusual phrase, occurring in all Scripture only here and in Acts 2:3. But it well depicts the power of fire to lick up clean all that comes in its way. Isaiah elsewhere notes the analogy, making it the foundation of simile (Isaiah 30:27). And the flame consumeth the chaff; rather, and as dry grass sinks down inflame. The withered grass of pastures was burnt by farmers to improve the after-growth (Lucan, 'Pharsal.,' 9:182). Their root shall be as rottenness (comp. Hosea 9:16). The root is the last thing to decay. When that fails, the case is desperate. Judah's "root" did not utterly fail (see Isaiah 11:1); but the present warning is to individuals and classes (vers. 8, 11, 18, 20-23), not to the nation. Their blossom shall go up as dust; i.e. their external glory shall crumble and waste away. Because they have cast away the Law. All the sins of Israel had this one thing in common - they were transgressions of the Law of God as delivered to them by Moses, and enforced upon them by the prophetical order (comp. 2 Kings 17:13-16). Despised the word; or, the speech. Imrah is rarely used by Isaiah. It does not refer to the written "Word," but to the declarations of God by the mouth of his prophets (see Isaiah 28:23; Isaiah 32:9). The third woe is directed against the supposed strong-minded men, who called down the judgment of God by presumptuous sins and wicked words. "Woe unto them that draw crime with cords of lying, and sin as with the rope of the waggon." Knobel and most other commentators take mâshak in the sense of attrahere (to draw towards one's self): "They draw towards them sinful deeds with cords of lying palliation, and the cart-rope of the most daring presumption;" and cite, as parallel examples, Job 40:24 and Hosea 11:4. But as mâshak is also used in Deuteronomy 21:3 in the sense of drawing in a yoke, that is to say, drawing a plough or chariot; and as the waggon or cart (agâlâh, the word commonly used for a transport-waggon, as distinguished from mercâbâh, the state carriage or war chariot is expressly mentioned here, the figure employed is certainly the same as that which underlies the New Testament ἑτεροζυγεῖν ("unequally yoked," 2 Corinthians 6:14). Iniquity was the burden which they drew after them with cords of lying (shâv'h : see at Psalm 26:4 and Job 15:31), i.e., "want of character or religion;" and sin was the waggon to which they were harnessed as if with a thick cart-rope (Hofmann, Drechsler, and Caspari; see Ewald, 221, a). Iniquity and sin are mentioned here as carrying with them their own punishment. The definite העון (crime or misdeed) is generic, and the indefinite הטּאה qualitative and massive. There is a bitter sarcasm involved in the bold figure employed. They were proud of their unbelief; but this unbelief was like a halter with which, like beasts of burden, they were harnessed to sin, and therefore to the punishment of sin, which they went on drawing further and further, in utter ignorance of the waggon behind them.
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