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. The prophetic address now turns again from the despisers of the word, whom it has threatened with the torment of fire, to those who long for salvation. "Hearken to me, ye that are in pursuit of righteousness, ye that seek Jehovah. Look up to the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hollow of the pit whence ye are dug. Look up toe Abraham your forefather, and to Sara who bare you, that he was one when I called him, and blessed him, and multiplied him. For Jehovah hath comforted Zion, comforted all her ruins, and turned her desert like Eden, and her steppe as into the garden of God; joy and gladness are found in her, thanksgiving and sounding music." The prophecy is addressed to those who are striving after the right kind of life and seeking Jehovah, and not turning from Him to make earthly things and themselves the object of their pursuit; for such only are in a condition by faith to regard that as possible, and in spirit to behold that as real, which seems impossible, and in spirit to behold that as real, which seems impossible to human understanding, because the very opposite is lying before the eye of the senses. Abraham and Sarah they are mentally to set before them, for they are types of the salvation to be anticipated now. Abraham is the rock whence the stones were hewn, of which the house of Jacob is composed; and Sarah with her maternal womb the hollow of the pit out of which Israel was brought to the light, just as peat is dug out of a pit, or copper out of a mine. The marriage of Abraham and Sarah was for a long time unfruitful; it was, as it were, out of hard stone that God raised up children to Himself in Abraham and Sarah. The rise of Israel was a miracle of divine power and grace. In antithesis to the masculine tsūr, bōr is made into a feminine through maqqebheth, which is chosen with reference to neqēbhâh. to חצּבתּם we must supply ממּנּוּ ... אשׁר, and to נקּרתּם, ממּנּה ... אשׁר. Isaiah 51:2 informs them who the rock and the hollow of the pit are, viz., Abraham your forefather, and Sarah techōlelkhem, who bare you with all the pains of childbirth: "you," for the birth of Isaac, the son of promise, was the birth of the nation. The point to be specially looked at in relation to Abraham (in comparison with whom Sarah falls into the background) is given in the words quod unum vocavi eum (that he was one when I called him). The perfect קראתיו relates the single call of divine grace, which removed Abraham from the midst of idolaters into the fellowship of Jehovah. The futures that follow (with Vav cop.) point out the blessing and multiplication that were connected with it (Genesis 12:1-2). He is called one ('echâd as in Ezekiel 33:24; Malachi 2:15), because he was one at the time of his call, and yet through the might of the divine blessing became the root of the whole genealogical tree of Israel, and of a great multitude of people that branched off from it. This is what those who are now longing for salvation are to remember, strengthening themselves by means of the olden time in their faith in the future which so greatly resembles it. The corresponding blessing is expressed in preterites (nicham, vayyâsem), inasmuch as to the eye of faith and in prophetic vision the future has the reality of a present and the certainty of a completed fact. Zion, the mother of Israel (Isaiah 50:1), the counterpart of Sarah, the ancestress of the nation-Zion, which is now mourning so bitterly, because she is lying waste and in ruins - is comforted by Jehovah. The comforting word of promise (Isaiah 40:1) becomes, in her case, the comforting fact of fulfilment (Isaiah 49:13). Jehovah makes her waste like Eden (lxx ὡς παράδεισον), like a garden, as glorious as if it had been directly planted by Himself (Genesis 13:10; Numbers 24:6). And this paradise is not without human occupants; but when you enter it you find joy and gladness therein, and hear thanksgiving at the wondrous change that has taken place, as well as the voice of melody (zimrâh as in Amos 5:23). The pleasant land is therefore full of men in the midst of festal enjoyment and activity. As Sarah gave birth to Isaac after a long period of barrenness, so Zion, a second Sarah, will be surrounded by a joyous multitude of children after a long period of desolation.
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