Isaiah 51:8
For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.
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(8) The moth . . . the worm.—The two words in Hebrew have the force of an emphatic assonance—ash and sāsh.

51:4-8 The gospel of Christ shall be preached and published. How shall we escape if we neglect it? There is no salvation without righteousness. The soul shall, as to this world, vanish like smoke, and the body be thrown by like a worn-out garment. But those whose happiness is in Christ's righteousness and salvation, will have the comfort of it when time and days shall be no more. Clouds darken the sun, but do not stop its course. The believer will enjoy his portion, while revilers of Christ are in darknessFor the moth - (see Isaiah 50:9). The idea is, that they shall be consumed as the moth eats up a garment; or rather, that the moth itself shall consume them as it does a garment: that is, that they were so weak when compared with Yahweh that even the moth, one of the smallest, and most contemptible of insects, would consume them. An expression remarkably similar to this occurs in Job 4:18-20 :

Behold in his servants he putteth no confidence,

And his angels he chargeth with frailty;

How much more true is this of those who dwell in houses of clay,

Whose foundation is in the dust!

They are crashed before the moth-worm!

Between morning and evening they are destroyed;

Without anyone regarding it, they perish forever.

Perhaps the following extract from Niebuhr may throw some light on the passage, as showing that man may be crushed by so feeble a thing as a worm 'A disease very common an Yemen is the attack of the Guiney-worm, or the 'Verea-Medinensis,' as it is called by the physicians of Europe. This disease is supposed to be occasioned by the use of the putrid waters, which people are obliged to drink in various parts of Yemen; and for this reason the Arabians always pass water, with the nature of which they are unacquainted, through a linen cloth before using it. When one unfortunately swallows the eggs of this insect, no immediate consequence follows; but after a considerable time the worm begins to show itself through the skin. Our physician, Mr. Cramer, was within a few days of his death attacked by five of these worms at once, although this was more than five months after we left Arabia. In the isle of Karek I saw a French officer named Le Page, who, after a long and difficult journey, performed on foot, and in an Indian dress, between Pondicherry and Surat, through the heat of India, was busy extracting a worm out of his body. He supposed he had got it by drinking bad water in the country of the Mahrattas. This disorder is not dangerous if the person who is affected can extract the worm without breaking it. With this view it is rolled on a small bit of wood as it comes out of the skin. It is slender as a thread, and two or three feet long. If unluckily it be broken, it then returns into the body, and the most disagreeable consequences ensue - palsy, a gangrene, and sometimes death.' A thought similar to that of Isaiah respecting man, has been beautifully expressed by Gray:

To contemplation's sober eye,

Such is the race of man;

And they that creep, and they that fly,

Shall end where they began.

Alike the busy and the gay,


8. (See on [840]Isa 50:9; Job 4:18-20). Not that the moth eats men up, but they shall be destroyed by as insignificant instrumentality as the moth that eats a garment. The moth shall eat them up; your reproachers shall be easily destroyed, and so God will revenge your cause upon them, and deliver you from their reproaches.

Like wool; like a woollen garment, which is sooner corrupted by moths or such creatures than linen.

For the moth shall eat them up like a garment,.... Either these reproaches, or the persons that reproach; as a garment is eaten by the moth, secretly, slowly, surely, and at last completely, so that it becomes utterly good for nothing; so secret, gradual, sure and certain, complete and perfect, will be the ruin and destruction of the enemies of Christ and his people:

and the worm shall eat them like wool; or as a woollen garment, which is most liable to be motheaten; for the moth and worm are much the same, as Kimchi and Ben Melech observe; who say, that in the Arabic tongue the moth is called by a name much of the same sound with this word in the text; and the sense is, that as a woollen garment is eaten and consumed by vermin, so wicked men will be destroyed by the vengeance of the Lord upon them; for the moth and worm design both the judgments of God upon them in this world, and his wrath in the other, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched:

but my righteousness shall be for ever; to justify his people and secure them from wrath and ruin:

and my salvation from generation to generation; it will abide through the endless ages of eternity, and be the portion of the saints for ever, of which they are now heirs; is nearer than when they first believed, and is ready to be revealed, and will be everlastingly enjoyed by them, firm against all the accusations and charges of men and devils: or, "shall not fail" (o), as the Septuagint; its virtue to justify will always continue; it will answer for the saints in a time to come, even at the last judgment. The Targum is, it

"shall not tarry;''

being near to be wrought out and revealed, Isaiah 51:5.

(o) , Sept. "non deficiet", V. L.

For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.
8. For the moth &c.] See again ch. Isaiah 50:9; another indication that the Servant is the type of the true Israel, and hence an example to individual Israelites.

The word rendered “worm” (ṣâṣ, cf. the Greek σής) means strictly “moth.” Although common in Semitic, it is found only here in Hebr.

Verse 8. - The moth shall eat them (comp. Isaiah 50:9). If men themselves never wholly pass away (see the comment on ver. 6), yet it is otherwise with their judgments. These perish absolutely, disappear, and are utterly forgotten. Isaiah 51:8Upon this magnificent promise of the final triumph of the counsel of God, an exhortation is founded to the persecuted church, not to be afraid of men. "Hearken unto me, ye that know about righteousness, thou people with my law in the heart; fear ye not the reproach of mortals, and be ye not alarmed at their revilings. For the moth will devour them like a garment, and the worm devour them like woollen cloth; and my righteousness will stand for ever, and my salvation to distant generations." The idea of the "servant of Jehovah," in its middle sense, viz., as denoting the true Israel, is most clearly set forth in the address here. They that pursue after righteousness, and seek Jehovah (Isaiah 51:1), that is to say, the servants of Jehovah (Isaiah 65:8-9), are embraced in the unity of a "people," as in Isaiah 65:10 (cf., Isaiah 10:24), i.e., of the true people of God in the people of His choice, and therefore of the kernel in the heart of the whole mass - an integral intermediate link in the organism of the general idea, which Hvernick and, to a certain extent, Hofmann eliminate from it,

(Note: Hvernick, in his Lectures on the Theology of the Old Testament, published by H. A. Hahn, 1848, and in a second edition by H. Schultz, 1863; Drechsler, in his article on the Servant of Jehovah, in the Luth. Zeitschrift, 1852; V. Hofmann, in his Schriftbeweis, ii. 1, 147. The first two understand by the servant of Jehovah as an individual, the true Israel personified: the idea has simply Israel as a whole at its base, i.e., Israel which did not answer to its ideal, and the Messiah as the summit, in whom the ideal of Israel was fully realized. Drechsler goes so far as to call the central link, viz., an Israel true to its vocation, a modern abstraction that has no support in the Scriptures. Hofmann, however, says that he has no wish to exclude this central idea, and merely wishes to guard against the notion that a number of individuals, whether Israelites generally or pious Israelites, are ever intended by the epithet "servant of Jehovah." "The nation," he says himself at p. 145, "was called as a nation to be the servant of God, but it fulfilled its calling as a church of believers." And so say we; but we also add that this church is a kernel always existing within the outer ecclesia mixta, and therefore always a number of individuals, though they are only known to God.)

but not without thereby destroying the typical mirror in which the prophet beholds the passion of the One. The words are addressed to those who know from their own experience what righteousness is as a gift of grace, and as conduct in harmony with the plan of salvation, i.e., to the nation, which bears in its heart the law of God as the standard and impulse of its life, the church which not only has it as a letter outside itself, but as a vital power within (cf., Psalm 40:9). None of these need to be afraid of men. Their despisers and blasphemers are men ('ĕnōsh; cf., Isaiah 51:12, Psalm 9:20; Psalm 10:18), whose pretended omnipotence, exaltation, and indestructibility, are an unnatural self-convicted lie. The double figure in Isaiah 51:8, which forms a play upon words that cannot well be reproduced, affirms that the smallest exertion of strength is quite sufficient to annihilate their sham greatness and sham power; and that long before they are actually destroyed, they carry the constantly increasing germ of it within themselves. The sâs, says a Jewish proverb, is brother to the ‛âsh. The latter (from ‛âshēsh, collabi, Arab. ‛aththa, trans. corrodere) signifies a moth; the former (like the Arabic sūs, sūse, Gr. σής) a moth, and also a weevil, curculio. The relative terms in Greek are σής (Armen. tzetz) and κίς. But whilst the persecutors of the church succumb to these powers of destruction, the righteousness and salvation of God, which are even now the confidence and hope of His church, and the full and manifest realization of which it will hereafter enjoy, stand for ever, and from "generation to generation," ledōr dōrı̄m, i.e., to an age which embraces endless ages within itself.

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