Isaiah 5:26
And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss to them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly:
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(26) And he will lift up an ensign.—The banner on the summit of a hill indicated the meeting-place of a great army. In this case the armies are thought of as doing the work of Jehovah Sabaoth, and therefore as being summoned by Him. The same image meets us in Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 11:12; Isaiah 13:2; Isaiah 18:3; Isaiah 49:22; Isaiah 62:10.

Will hiss unto them.—The verb meets us in a like context in Isaiah 7:18. It seems to describe the sharp shrill whistle which was to the ear what the banner was to the eye, the signal of a rendezvous. Possibly, as in Isaiah 7:18, the idea of the bees swarming at the whistling of the bee-master is already in the prophet’s thoughts.

From the end of the earth.—The words point to the Assyrians, the Euphrates being the boundary of Isaiah’s political geography.

Isaiah 5:26. And he will lift up an ensign to the nations — To call them together for his service. Here that decree of the divine severity, which had been spoken of in general terms in Isaiah 5:24, is explained. God is shown to be the supreme general or leader of the people, which were to come from far to execute his vengeance; they were to assemble at his setting up his ensign as a signal; and at his hissing — A metaphor taken from the practice of persons keeping bees; who used to draw them out of their hives into the fields, and lead them back again, συρισμασι, by hissing, whistling, or some sounds of that kind; as Cyril, Theodoret, and Bochart have shown. The meaning is, that God would collect the people, like bees, by the slightest indication of his will, and bring them into Judea to execute his vengeance. — Bishop Lowth and Dodd. It is not expressed particularly from whence they should be brought, but only said in general, 1st, That they should come from far — Which may be applied, either to the Assyrians, spoken of under this same character, (Isaiah 10:3,) and who, not long after, invaded Judea, and did much mischief in it; or to the Chaldeans, even Babylon being called a far country, Isaiah 39:3. 2d, That they should come from the ends of the earth — An expression hardly applicable either to the Assyrians or Chaldeans, but which exactly agrees to the Romans, and which undoubtedly received its final and most perfect accomplishment in the destruction brought on the Jews by them. In saying, they shall come with speed swiftly, the prophet refers to Isaiah 5:19. As the scoffers had challenged God to make speed, and to hasten his work of vengeance, so now they are assured, that with speed, and swiftly, it shall come.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.And he will lift up an ensign ... - The idea here is, that the nations of the earth are under his control, and that he can call whom he pleases to execute his purposes. This power over the nations he often claims; compare Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1-7; Isaiah 10:5-7; Isaiah 9:11; Isaiah 8:18. An "ensign" is the "standard," or "flag" used in an army. The elevation of the standard was a signal for assembling for war. God represents himself here as simply raising the standard, expecting that the nations would come at once.

And will hiss unto them - This means that he would "collect" them together to accomplish his purposes. The expression is probably taken from the manner in which bees were hived. Theodoret and Cyril, on this place, say, that in Syria and Palestine, they who kept bees were able to draw them out of their hives, and conduct them into fields, and bring them back again, with the sound of a flute or the noise of hissing. It is certain also that the ancients had this idea respecting bees. Pliny (lib. xi. ch. 20) says: Gaudent plausu, atque tinnitu aeris, coque convocantur. 'They rejoice in a sound, and in the tinkling of brass, and are thus called together.' AElian (lib. v. ch. 13) says, that when they are disposed to fly away, their keepers make a musical and harmonious sound, and that they are thus brought back as by a siren, and restored to their hives. So Virgin says, when speaking of bees:

Tinnitusque cie, et Matris quate cymbala circum.

Georg. iv. 64.

'On brazen vessels beat a tinkling sound,

And shake the cymbals of the goddess round;

Then all will hastily retreat, and fill

The warm resounding hollow of their cell.'


So Ovid:

Jamque erat ad Rhodopen Pangaeaque flumina ventum,

Aeriferae comitum cum crepuere manus.

Ecce! novae coeunt volucres tinnitibus actae

Quosque movent sonitus aera sequuntur apes.


26. lift … ensign—to call together the hostile nations to execute His judgments on Judea (Isa 10:5-7; 45:1). But for mercy to it, in Isa 11:12; 18:3.

hiss—(Isa 7:18). Bees were drawn out of their hives by the sound of a flute, or hissing, or whistling (Zec 10:8). God will collect the nations round Judea like bees (De 1:44; Ps 118:12).

end of the earth—the widely distant subject races of which the Assyrian army was made up (Isa 22:6). The ulterior fulfilment took place in the siege under Roman Titus. Compare "end of the earth" (De 28:49, &c.). So the pronoun is singular in the Hebrew, for "them," "their," "whose" (him, his, &c.), Isa 5:26-29; referring to some particular nation and person [Horsley].

He will lift up an ensign, to call them together for his service, as generals used to do for the raising of armies, to

the nations from far; either,

1. To the Assyrians, of whom he speaks more particularly Isaiah 10, and that under this same character of a people that come from far, Isaiah 5:29 and who did not long after this prophecy invade Judea, and did much mischief in it. Although that part of the prediction, Isaiah 5:29,

They shall lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it, do not seem to agree to them, nor that invasion; for the Assyrians were forced to retreat with great shame and loss, and the Jews were delivered from them. Or,

2. To the Chaldeans; for even Babylon is called a far country, Isaiah 39:3. And he saith nations, because the Chaldean army was made up of several nations. Will hiss unto them; or, will whistle unto or for them; will gather them together by his word, as shepherds gather their sheep. He intimates how easily and speedily God can do this work. From the ends of the earth; which is not to be understood strictly, but popularly, and with a latitude, from very remote places; although part of the Chaldean army did come from places not very far distant from the end of that part of the world, so far as it was then known. And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far,.... Not to the Chaldeans or Babylonians, for they were not nations, but one nation, and were a people near; but to the Romans, who consisted of many nations, and were afar off, and extended their empire to the ends of the earth; these, by one providence or another, were stirred up to make an expedition into the land of Judea, and besiege Jerusalem: and this lifting up of an ensign is not, as sometimes, for the gathering and enlisting of soldiers, or to prepare them for the battle, or to give them the signal when to begin the fight; but as a direction to decamp and proceed on a journey, on some expedition:

and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth, or "to him" (i); the king, or general of them, wherever he is, even though at the end of the earth: and the phrase denotes the secret and powerful influence of divine Providence, in moving upon the hearts of the Romans, and their general, to enter upon such a design against the Jews; and which was as easily done as for one man to hiss or call to another; or as for a shepherd to whistle for his sheep; to which the allusion seems to be; the Lord having the hearts of all in his hands, and can turn them as he pleases, to do his will:

and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly; or "he shall come"; the king with his army; and so the Targum paraphrases it;

"and behold, a king with his army shall come swiftly, as light clouds;''

this shows the swift and sudden destruction that should come upon the Jews; and is an answer to their scoffs, Isaiah 5:19.

(i) "ei", Vatablus; Montanus; "illi", Cocceius; "ad se", Junius & Tremellius.

And he will lift up an ensign {f} to the nations from afar, and will hiss to them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly:

(f) He will make the Babylonians come against them at his beck, and to fight under his standard.

26. And he will lift up an ensign] i.e. a signal, set up on a hill (Isaiah 13:2, Isaiah 18:3, Isaiah 30:17; cf. Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 11:12) as a point of rendezvous. (Mark the significant change to the future tense.) the nations from far] better, a nation from afar (cf. Amos 6:14). The singular is demanded by what follows, and is obtained by removing the last letter of one word to the beginning of the next, exactly as in Jeremiah 5:15. will hiss] as in ch. Isaiah 7:18; Zechariah 10:8. The image is that of a bee-keeper alluring the swarm.

with speed swiftly] because it is Jehovah who calls. “They” should be “he,” to the end of the chapter, the nation being individualised.

26–29. A powerful description of the advance of the invaders, who however remain unnamed.Verse 26. - And he will lift up an ensign. Mr. Cheyne translates, "a signal," and would so render the Hebrew word in Isaiah 11:10, 12; Isaiah 13:2; Isaiah 18:3; Isaiah 49:22; Isaiah 62:10. But "ensigns" or "standards" were in use both among the Egyptians (Rosellini, 'Monumenti Civili,' pl. 121.) and among the Assyrians ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1. p. 461) before the time of Isaiah, and are, therefore, likely to have been in use among the Hebrews. The standards, however, of this early period were not flags, as Jarchi supposes, but solid constructions of wood or metal, exhibiting some emblem or other. God lifts up his standard to draw the nations together, indicating thereby that they are to fight his battles. And will hiss. "Hissing" is said to have been practiced by bee-keepers to draw their bees out of the hives in the morning, and bring them home again from the fields at nightfall (Cyril, ad loc.). God will collect an army against Israel, as such persons collect their bees (comp. Isaiah 7:18). From the end of the earth; i.e. "to bring them from the end of the earth." The nations are, or at least many of them are, extremely distant, as Elamites from the Persian Gulf (Isaiah 22:6), and perhaps Medes from beyond Zagros. They shall come; literally, he cometh; showing that, though the nations are many, they are united under one head, which here is probably the Assyrian power. With speed swiftly (comp. Joel 3:4). The reference is not so much to the speed with which the Assyrians marched, as to the immediate response which they would make to God's call, The fourth woe: "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who give out darkness for light, and light for darkness; who give out bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter." The previous woe had reference to those who made the facts of sacred history the butt of their naturalistic doubt and ridicule, especially so far as they were the subject of prophecy. This fourth woe relates to those who adopted a code of morals that completely overturned the first principles of ethics, and was utterly opposed to the law of God; for evil, darkness, and bitter, with their respective antitheses, represent moral principles that are essentially related (Matthew 6:23; James 3:11), Evil, as hostile to God, is dark in its nature, and therefore loves darkness, and is exposed to the punitive power of darkness. And although it may be sweet to the material taste, it is nevertheless bitter, inasmuch as it produces abhorrence and disgust in the godlike nature of man, and, after a brief period of self-deception, is turned into the bitter woe of fatal results. Darkness and light, bitter and sweet, therefore, are not tautological metaphors for evil and good; but epithets applied to evil and good according to their essential principles, and their necessary and internal effects.
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