Isaiah 56:9
All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest.
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(9) All ye beasts of the field . . .—The sudden change of tone indicates that we enter on an entirely new section, which extends to the close of Isaiah 57. The contents of that section fit in with the assumption of its having been written early in the reign of Manasseh, better than With that of a date after the exile. The opening words summon the enemies of Israel to do their work of punishment, and this is followed naturally by a denunciation of the sins which had made it necessary. For the form of the summons, comp. Ezekiel 34:8; Jeremiah 12:9.

Isaiah 56:9. All ye beasts of the field, come to devour — “Here,” says Bishop Lowth, “manifestly begins a new section. The prophet, in the foregoing chapters, having comforted the faithful with many great promises of God’s favour to be extended to them, in the restoration of their ruined state, and of the enlargement of his church by the admission of the Gentiles, here, on a sudden, makes a transition to the more disagreeable part of the prospect, and to a sharp reproof of the wicked and unbelievers, and especially of the negligent and faithless governors and teachers, of the idolaters and hypocrites, who would still draw his judgments upon the nation; probably having in view the destruction of their city and polity by the Chaldeans, and perhaps by the Romans.” Vitringa, however, thinks the enemies of the Christian Church may be here pointed out, such as the Goths, Vandals, Turks, and others, who committed great devastations upon it after it declined from the first faith, and became extremely corrupt; as is particularly specified in the next verses. It seems very evident that this is a prediction, either of Israel’s destruction, or that of the fallen Christian Church, by their cruel enemies, who are often represented in Scripture under the emblem of ravenous beasts. Thus Jeremiah 12:7-9, I have forsaken my house, I have deserted my heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies. Come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour.

56:9-12 Desolating judgments are called for; and this severe rebuke of the rulers and teachers of the Jewish church, is applicable to other ages and places. It is bad with a people when their shepherds slumber, and are eager after the world. Let us pray the Great Shepherd to send us pastors after his own heart, who will feed us with knowledge, that we may rejoice in his holy name, and that believers may be daily added to the church.All ye beasts of the field - This evidently commences a new subject, and refers to some invasion of the land of Judea. In the previous chapter, the prophet had comforted the people by the assurance of the coming of the Messiah, and by the fact that they should be enlarged by the accession of the Gentiles. He proceeds here to a more disagreeable part of the subject. The design is, to reprove particularly the sins of the rulers of the people, and to assure them that such conduct would incur the vengeance of heaven. The sins reproved are indolence and inattention to duty Isaiah 56:10-12; a spirit of self-indulgence and of slumber, avarice and selfishness, and luxury and intemperance. The vengeance here referred to, Lowth supposes to be the invasion of the land by the Chaldeans, and perhaps by the Romans. Grotius supposes that it refers to the Egyptians, and to bands of robbers from the Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites. Vitringa strangely enough refers it to the barbarous nations which broke in upon the Christian church to lay it waste and destroy it during the decline of the Roman empire, particularly the Huns, Saracens, Turks, Turcomans, Tartars, etc. But the connection seems to demand that it should be understood of some events, not far distant from the time of the prophet, which would be a proper punishment of the crimes then existing. According to this interpretation, the reference here, I suppose, is to the invasion of the land by the Chaldeans. They would come as wild beasts, to spread terror and devastation before them. And so great were the national crimes, that the prophet calls on them to come and devour all before them. The comparison of invaders to wild beasts is not uncommon in the Scriptures. Thus Jeremiah 12:9 -

Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird,

The birds round about are against her;

Come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field,

Come to devour.

So Jeremiah 50:17 -

Israel is a scattered sheep;

The lions have driven him away;

First the king of Assyria hath devoured him,

And last this Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, hath broken his bones.

See also Isaiah 9:11.

9. beasts—Gentile idolatrous nations hostile to the Jews, summoned by God to chastise them (Jer 12:7-9; 50:17; Eze 34:5): the Chaldeans and subsequently the Romans. The mention of the "outcasts of Israel" (Isa 56:8) brings in view the outcasting, caused by the sins of their rulers (Isa 56:10-12).

to devour—namely, Israel.

This invitation or proclamation is a prediction of Israel’s destruction by their cruel enemies, which are oft expressed in Scripture under the names of ravenous beasts. But the great question is, What connexion this part of the chapter hath with the former? Which may be thus conceived: The prophet having largely discoursed concerning the Messiah, and his church and kingdom, and particularly of the great accession and conversion of the Gentiles to it, and of the infidelity, apostacy, and manifold wickednesses of the Jewish nation, and having comforted and encouraged the Gentiles with God’s gracious promises made to them, he now proceeds to terrify the unbelieving and ungodly Jews, and to show that as the Gentiles should believe, and be saved, so they should reject their Messiah, and be utterly destroyed; although we need not labour much about the coherence; for this may be a new sermon, and therefore many learned interpreters make this the beginning of the 57th chapter.

All ye beasts of the field, come to devour,.... Which may be understood either literally of savage beasts being called to devour the slain, signifying a great slaughter that should be made, like that in Revelation 19:17 to which the fowls of the heaven are invited, as to a supper; and so Kimchi interprets it of such creatures being called to feed upon the carcasses in the camp of Gog and Magog, agreeably to Ezekiel 39:17, but it seems better to understand it figuratively of people and nations, comparable to the beasts of the field for their strength, cruelty, and voraciousness. The Targum of the whole is,

"all the kings of the people that shall be gathered to oppress thee, O Jerusalem, shall be cast in the midst of thee; they shall be for food to the beast of the field, the beast of the forest shall be satisfied with them.''

Though it seems most correct to interpret these beasts of the kings of the people themselves; by whom some understand the Chaldeans, Babylonians, and other nations along with them, and under them, who spoiled the people of the Jews, and carried them captive; but rather the Romans are intended. And so the prophet, after he had foretold the gathering in of the remnant, according to the election of grace, among the Jews, and the addition to them from among the Gentiles, proceeds to give an account what should become of the rest of the Jewish nation that rejected the Messiah and his Gospel; that the Romans should be brought in upon them, who should devour them; which destruction would be owing to the following sins abounding among their principal men. But I am inclined to the opinion of Cocceius and Vitringa, that the barbarous nations of the Goths and Vandals, and others, coming into the Roman empire, become Christian, though greatly corrupted, are here meant (t); since this seems to be a prophecy of what should happen between the first gathering of the Jews and Gentiles to Christ in the first times of the Gospel, and the later gathering of them in the latter day; and the following words aptly describe the ignorance, stupidity, avarice, and intemperance of the priests of the apostate church of Rome; and the following chapter, which is a continuance of this prophecy, better agrees with the idolatry of the church of Rome than with the Jews, who, especially at the time of their destruction by the Romans, were not given to idolatry. Yea,

all the beasts in the forest: a herd of them, which, like an inundation, ran over the Roman empire, and tore it to pieces, and spread ignorance and corruption every where, next described; for now the beast of Rome arose with his ten heads. Some think that a new chapter should begin here.

(t) Agreeably to which, the words, according to the accents, are thus rendered by Reinbeck, De Accent. Heb. p. 427. "all ye beasts of the field; come ye, to devour all the beasts in the forest"; so Munster; one sort of beasts are called upon to devour another sort.

All ye {i} beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest.

(i) Meaning, the enemies of the Church, as the Babylonians, Assyrians, etc thus he speaks to scare the hypocrites and to assure the faithful that when this comes they may know it was told to them before.

9. The apostrophe to the wild beasts is suggested by the following comparison of the people to an ill-guarded and therefore defenceless flock. That a new chastisement at the hands of the heathen is actually contemplated need not be assumed. A close parallel is found in Jeremiah 12:9; cf. Ezekiel 34:5; Ezekiel 34:8.

Ch. Isaiah 56:9 to Isaiah 57:21. A Protest against the Unworthy Shepherds of God’s Flock, and the arrogant Heathenism by which it is threatened; followed by a Message of Consolation to True Israelites

This sombre and impassioned discourse is composed of three parts:

i. ch. Isaiah 56:9 to Isaiah 57:2.—The defenceless condition of the community, due to the incompetence of its spiritual leaders.

(1) All the wild beasts of the field and the forest are invited to come and devour the unprotected flock (Isaiah 56:9). (2) For its rulers neglect their duty; they are inefficient as dumb dogs, they are slothful, greedy and sensual (Isaiah 56:10-12). (3) In consequence of their incapacity the righteous perish, none regarding their fate (Isaiah 57:1-2).

ii. Isaiah 57:3-13 a. A bitter tirade against an insolent and aggressive paganising party, animated by a contemptuous hostility towards the true religion.

(1) This party, which is characterised as a bastard and hybrid race, the illegitimate offspring of an adulterer and a harlot, is summoned to the bar to hear the Divine sentence on their career of flagrant idolatry (Isaiah 57:3-4). (2) The indictment follows, in the form of a recital of the varied heathen rites to which they were addicted (Isaiah 57:5-9), and in which with infatuated perversity they still persist in spite of all the teachings of experience (Isaiah 57:10-11). (3) Judgement is then pronounced; Jehovah will unmask the hypocrisy of their pretended righteousness, and leave them to the protection of the false deities whom they have so diligently served, but who shall be unable to save them (Isaiah 57:12-13).

iii. Isaiah 57:14-21. The prophet now turns with a message of comfort to the depressed and contrite people of God. The obstacles in the way of their salvation shall be removed (Isaiah 57:14); Jehovah, whose condescension brings Him near to the lowly in heart, will at length avert His anger, and bring healing and peace (Isaiah 57:15-19); only the wicked who persist in their impenitence are excluded from the promised blessing (Isaiah 57:20-21).

Isaiah 56:9 to Isaiah 57:2. Denunciation of the worthless rulers of the Jewish community.—The difficulty of supposing that this passage refers to the state of things in the Exile is obvious. Israel is compared to a flock in charge of its own shepherds; and these shepherds are responsible both for the internal disorders from which it suffers, and the outward dangers which threaten it. An invitation to the wild beasts (the heathen nations) to come and devour a people already “robbed and spoiled” (Isaiah 42:22) by foreign conquest, is almost inconceivable. It is of course possible, as many scholars hold, that the verses are extracted from a pre-exilic prophecy; but the description is at least as applicable to the conditions which existed after the return from Babylon. The books of Malachi and Nehemiah reveal incidentally a state of affairs which would go far to account for the dark picture here presented of the ruling classes in the restored community.

Verses 9-12. - THE BLIND GUIDES OF ISRAEL REBUKED. A sudden change of style marks the introduction of an entirely new prophecy. The eye of the prophet, apparently, goes back from the period of the exile, which he has been so long contemplating, to his own day, or at any rate to the pre-exile period, and rests upon Israel in their own land. He sees them misled by their teachers (vers. 10-12), given to idolatry (Isaiah 57:3-9), and offering themselves a ready prey to their enemies (Isaiah 56:9). Many modern critics regard the passage as the composition of an unknown prophet belonging to the time of Manasseh. But there is no sufficient evidence of this. The prophecy has many Isaiah characteristics. Verse 9. - Beasts of the field... beasts in the forest; i.e. "all wild beasts of whatever kind" - all the enemies of God's flock (see Jeremiah 12:9; Ezekiel 34:8). Come to devour. Make haste, now is your opportunity. The people have none to protect them, and will be an easy prey. Come, set to work; devour. Isaiah 56:9It is a question whether Isaiah 56:9 forms the commencement of a fresh prophecy, or merely the second half of the prophecy contained in Isaiah 56:1-8. We decide, for our part, in favour of the former. If Isaiah 56:9. formed an antithetical second half to the promising first half in Isaiah 56:1-8, we should expect to find the prophets and leaders of Israel, whose licentiousness and want of principle are here so severely condemned, threatened with destruction in the heathen land, whilst true proselytes and even eunuchs were brought to the holy mountain. But we meet with this antithesis for the first time in Isaiah 57:13, where we evidently find ourselves in the midst of another prophetic address. And where can that address commence, if not at Isaiah 56:9, from which point onwards we have that hard, dull, sharp, and concise language of strong indignation, which recals to mind psalms written "in a thundering style" (Psalter, i. 80) and the reproachful addresses of Jeremiah, and which passes again in Isaiah 57:11. into the lofty crystalline language peculiar to our prophet's "book of consolation?" The new prophetic address commences, like Isaiah 55:1, with a summons. "All ye beasts of the field, come near! To devour, all ye beasts in the forest!" According to the accentuation before us (לכל mercha, כלח־יתו tiphchah), the beasts of the field are summoned to devour the beasts in the forest. This accentuation, however, is false, and must be exchanged for another which is supported by some MSS, viz., לכל tiphchah, כלח־יתו mercha, and ביער Beth raphatum. It is true that even with these accents we might still adhere to the view favoured by Jewish commentators, viz., that the beasts of the field are to be devoured by the beasts of the forest, if this view yielded any admissible sense (compare, for example, that supported by Meyer, "Ye enemies, devour the scattered ones of my congregation"), and had not against it the synonymous parallelism of שדי חיתו and ביער חיתו (Isaiah 43:20; Psalm 104:11, Psalm 104:20; cf., Genesis 3:14). But there remains another view, according to which ביער כל־חיתו is a second vocative answering to שׂדי כל־חיתו. According to the Targum, what is to be devoured is the great body of heathen kings attacking Jerusalem; according to Jerome, Cyril, Stier, etc., the pasture and food provided by the grace of God. But what follows teaches us something different from this. Israel has prophets and shepherds, who are blind to every coming danger, and therefore fail to give warning of its approach, because they are sunken in selfishness and debauchery. It resembles a flock with a keeper, and therefore an easy prey (Ezekiel 34:5); and the meaning of the appeal, which is certainly addressed to the nations of the world, the enemies of the people of God, is this: "Ye have only to draw near; ye can feed undisturbed, and devour as much as ye please." This is the explanation adopted by most of the more modern commentators. In Jeremiah 12:9, which is founded upon this ("Assemble all ye beasts of the field, bring them hither to devour"), it is also Jerusalem which is assigned as food to the heathen. The parallel in Isaiah 56:9 is both synonymous and progressive. The writer seeks for rare forms, because he is about to depict a rare inversion of the proper state of things. חיתו (with the first syllable loosely closed) is the antiquated form of connection, which was admissible even with ביּער following (cf., Isaiah 5:11; Isaiah 9:1-2; 2 Samuel 1:21). On אתיוּ ( equals אתוּ), see at Isaiah 21:12 (cf., Isaiah 21:14).
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