Isaiah 57:5
Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clefts of the rocks?
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(5) Enflaming yourselves.—The best illustration of the phrase is found in the real or supposed derivation of “fanatic” as meaning one who is circa fana calefactus. No word could better describe the orgiastic excitement of heathen rites. For “with idols read among the terebinths, which were prominent, with other trees, in the groves dedicated to idol-worship (Hosea 4:13; Ezekiel 6:13).

Under every green tree is almost a stereotyped formula in this connection (Deuteronomy 12:2; 1Kings 14:23; Jeremiah 2:20), the tree itself becoming a direct object of the cultus.

Slaying the children in the valleys . . .—This had been done by Ahaz (2Chronicles 28:3). It was perfectly natural that it should be done by Manasseh. There is not the slightest trace of the revival of the practice among the exiles in Babylon or after their return. The scenery described—the torrent-stream, the clefts of the rock—belongs distinctively to Palestine.

Isaiah 57:5-6. Inflaming yourselves with idols — Hebrew, הנחמים, being inflamed, or growing hot, after idols, as Dr. Waterland renders it. Lusting after them, and mad upon them, as the phrase is, Jeremiah 50:38. Fervent, both in making and in worshipping them, as was observed Isaiah 44:12. Under every green tree — Wherever you see an idol erected, which was commonly done in groves, or under great and shady trees, which defended the worshippers from the heat of the sun, and were supposed to strike them with a kind of sacred awe and reverence. Slaying the children — In the way of sacrifice to your idols, after the manner of the barbarous heathen; in the valleys — Or, beside the brooks which run in the valleys; which was most commodious for such bloody work. He seems to allude to the valley of Hinnom, in which these cruelties were practised, Jeremiah 7:31. Under the clefts of the rocks — Which they choose for shade, or those dark vaults in rocks, which were convenient for idolatrous uses. Among the smooth stones, &c, is thy portion — Thou hast chosen for thy portion those idols, which were either made of those smooth stones, or were worshipped by the sides of brooks or rivers, where such smooth stones commonly lie. They are thy lot — Thou hast forsaken me, and chosen idols. Thou hast offered a meat-offering — For the devil is God’s ape, and idolaters use the same rites and offerings in the worship of idols, which God prescribed in his own worship. Should I receive comfort in these — Should I be pleased with such a people, and with such actions? “The Jews were extremely addicted to the practice of many superstitious and idolatrous rites, which the prophet here inveighs against. Of the worship of huge stones consecrated, there are many testimonies of the ancients. They were called Βαιτυλοι and Βαιτυλια, probably from the stone which Jacob erected at Beth-el, pouring oil upon the top of it. The practice was very common in different ages and places.” — Bishop Lowth, who mentions divers instances of this foolish superstition.57:3-12 The Lord here calls apostates and hypocrites to appear before him. When reproved for their sins, and threatened with judgments, they ridiculed the word of God. The Jews were guilty of idolatry before the captivity; but not after that affliction. Their zeal in the worship of false gods, may shame our indifference in the worship of the true God. The service of sin is disgraceful slavery; those who thus debase themselves to hell, will justly have their portion there. Men incline to a religion that inflames their unholy passions. They are led to do any evil, however great or vile, if they think it will atone for crimes, or purchase indulgence for some favourite lust. This explains idolatry, whether pagan, Jewish, or antichristian. But those who set up anything instead of God, for their hope and confidence, never will come to a right end. Those who forsake the only right way, wander in a thousand by-paths. The pleasures of sin soon tire, but never satisfy. Those who care not for the word of God and his providences, show they have no fear of God. Sin profits not; it ruins and destroys.Inflaming yourselves - Burning, that is, with lust. The whole language here is derived from adulterous intercourse. The sense is, that they were greatly addicted to idolatry, and that they used every means to increase and extend the practice of it. The Vulgate, however, renders this, 'Who console yourselves.' The Septuagint renders it, 'Invoking (παρακαλοῦντες parakalountes) idols.' But the proper meaning of the Hebrew word חמם châmam is, "to become warm; to be inflamed, or to burn as with lust."

With idols - Margin, 'Among the oaks.' Hebrew, באלים bā'ēlı̂ym. Vulgate, In diis - 'With the gods.' Septuagint, Εἴδωλα Eidōla - 'Idols.' So the Chaldee and Syriac. The Hebrew may denote 'with gods,' that is, with idol-gods; or it may denote, as in the margin, 'among the oaks,' or the terebinth groves, from איל 'ēyl, plural אילים 'ēylı̂ym, or אלים 'ēlym (the terebinth). See the word explained in the note at Isaiah 1:29. Kimchi and Jarchi here render it by 'the terebinth tree.' Lowth renders it, 'Burning with the lust of idols;' and probably this is the correct interpretation, for, if it had meant oaks or the terebinth tree, the phrase would have been "under" (תחת tachath) instead of "in" or "with" (ב b).

Under every green tree - (See the notes at Isaiah 1:29; compare Deuteronomy 22:2; 2 Kings 17:10; 2 Chronicles 28:4).

Slaying the children - That is, sacrificing them to the idol-gods. This was commonly done by burning them, as when they were offered to Moloch, though it is not improbable that they were sometimes sacrificed in other ways. It was a common custom among the worshippers of Moloch. Thus it is said of Ahaz 2 Chronicles 28:3, that he 'burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire.' The same thing is said of Manasseh, to whose time the prophet most probably refers. 'And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom' (2 Chronicles 33:6; compare Jeremiah 7:31). The same thing was practiced in the countries of the Babylonian empire 2 Kings 17:31, and from Deuteronomy 12:31, it is evident that it was commonly practiced by pagan nations. The Phenicians, according to Eusebius (Praep. Evan. iv. 16), and the Carthagenians, according to Diodorus Siculus (xx. 14), practiced it.

In the valleys - The place where these abominations were practiced by the Jews was the valley of the son of Hinnom (see the references above); that is, the valley of Jehoshaphat, lying to the south and the southeast of Jerusalem. A large hollow, brass statue was erected, and the fire was enkindled within it, and the child was placed in his heated arms, and thus put to death. The cries of the child were drowned by the music of the תף tôph, or kettle-drums (see the notes at Isaiah 5:12, where this instrument is fully described), and hence, the name of the valley was Tophet.

Under the clefts of the rocks - Dark and shady groves, and deep and sombre caverns were the places where the abominable rites of the pagan superstitions were practiced (compare the notes at Isaiah 11:1).

5. Enflaming yourselves—burning with lust towards idols [Gesenius]; or else (compare Margin), in the terebinth groves, which the Hebrew and the parallelism favor (see on [857]Isa 1:29) [Maurer].

under … tree—(2Ki 17:10). The tree, as in the Assyrian sculptures, was probably made an idolatrous symbol of the heavenly hosts.

slaying … children—as a sacrifice to Molech, &c. (2Ki 17:31; 2Ch 28:3; 33:6).

in … valleys—the valley of the son of Hinnom. Fire was put within a hollow brazen statue, and the child was put in his heated arms; kettle drums (Hebrew, toph) were beaten to drown the child's cries; whence the valley was called Tophet (2Ch 33:6; Jer 7:3).

under … clifts—the gloom of caverns suiting their dark superstitions.

Inflaming yourselves with idols, Heb. Being inflamed, &c.; lusting after them, and mad upon them, as the phrase is, Jeremiah 50:38; fervent both in making and in worshipping of them, as was observed, Isaiah 44:12, &c. It is a metaphor borrowed from whoredom, to which idolatry is oft compared.

Under every green tree; wheresoever you see an idol erected, which was commonly done in groves, or under great and shady trees, which both defended the worshippers from the heat of the sun, and were supposed to strike them with a kind of sacred horror and reverence. See Poole "Deu 12:2"; See Poole "2 Kings 16:4"; See Poole "2 Kings 17:10".

Slaying the children, in way of sacrifice to their idols, after the manner of the barbarous heathens; of which see on Leviticus 18:21 Deu 12:31 2 Kings 21:6 23:10.

In the valleys; or, beside the brooks, which run in the valleys; which was most commodious for such bloody work. He seems to allude to the valley of Hinnom, in which these cruelties were practised, Jeremiah 7:31, through which also the brook Kidron is supposed to have run.

Under the clifts of the rocks; which they chose either for shade, or for those dark vaults and hollow places which were either by nature or art made in rocks, and which were convenient for and frequently appointed to idolatrous uses. Inflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree,.... Or, "inflamed with or among oaks" (h); with images made of oaken wood, such as the Papists worship, Revelation 9:20 expressing a burning zeal for their idols, and being as hot upon them, as impure persons burn in lust one towards another: or "with mighty ones" (i); the kings and potentates of the earth, with whom the whore of Rome commits her fornication, even in every flourishing kingdom and state in Europe, compared to a green tree; alluding to the custom of the Heathens, who used to set up their idols under green trees and groves, and there worship them, which were pleasing to the flesh; and I wish, says Musculus on the text, there were no instances of this kind in the Papacy.

Slaying the children in the valleys, under the clifts of the rocks? this may refer to the cruelty of these idolatrous worshippers; for, as they burn with zeal to their idols, so with rage against those that oppose their idolatrous practices, not sparing men, women, and children; and such butcheries have been committed in many places, and especially in the "valleys" of Piedmont; nor could the cragged rocks secure them from their falling a sacrifice unto them. Or it may intend the ruining and destroying the souls of such, who, before they fell into their hands, were innocent as children, by their superstitious worship and idolatry, committed in low and dark places, under cragged rocks, and in caves and dens; such as the above mentioned commentator speaks of, a very dark one, under a prominent rock, in which the ignorant and unhappy people, some time ago, worshipped and invoked a certain blessed saint, he knew not who, which could scarce be looked into without horror; and such was the cave in which they worshipped the angel Michael.

(h) "inflammati inter quercus", Gataker; "incalescentes, vel incalescitis inter quercus, vel ulmos", Vatablus. (i) "In potentibus", Cocceius.

Inflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the {d} children in the valleys under the clefts of the rocks?

(d) Read Le 18:21, 2Ki 23:10.

Verse 5. - Inflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree (comp. Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 65:3; Isaiah 66:17; and see also 2 Kings 16:4; 2 Kings 17:10; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:6, etc.). The reference is, as Mr. Cheyne says, to the "orgiastic cults' in the sacred groves of Palestinian heathenism." The nature of these cults is well stated by Professor Dollinger ('Jew and Gentile,' vol. 1. p. 430): "At the spring festival, called by some the 'brand-feast,' by others that of torches, which was attended by streams of visitors from every country, huge trees were burnt, with the offerings suspended on them. Even children were sacrificed; they were put into a leathern bag, and thrown the whole height of the temple to the bottom, with the shocking expression that they were calves, and not children. In the fore-court stood two gigantic phalli. To the exciting din of drums, flutes, and inspired songs, the Galli cut themselves on the arms; and the effect of this act, and of the music accompanying it, was so strong upon mere spectators, that all their bodily and mental powers were thrown into a tumult of excitement; and they too, seized by the desire to lacerate themselves, deprived themselves of their manhood by means of potsherds lying ready for the purpose." Slaying the children in the valleys under the clefts of the rocks. The sacrifice of their children to Moloch was largely practised by the Jews in the later period of the kingdom of Judah. It seems to have been originally introduced by the superstitious Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah, who "made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen" (2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chronicles 28:3). Suspended during the reign of Hezekiah, it was renewed under Manasseh, who followed the example of his grandfather in himself sacrificing one of his sons (2 Kings 21:6). Under the last three kings it prevailed to a very wide extent, and the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel are loud in their denunciations of it (Jeremiah 7:31, 32; Jeremiah 19:2-6; Jeremiah 32:35; Ezekiel 16:20; Ezekiel 20:26; Ezekiel 23:37, etc.). Arguments have been brought forward to prove that the child was merely passed before a fire, or between two fires, and not burnt; but the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming (see the article on "Moloch" in Dr. W. Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' vol. 2, pp. 403, 404). The rite belonged especially to the worship of Chemosh and Moloch by the Moabites and Ammonites (2 Kings 3:27; Micah 6:7), from whom it was adopted by the Israelites (2 Kings 17:7) and Jews. The sacrifice was supposed to be expiatory (Micah 6:7). In the later times of the Jewish kingdom the place of sacrifice was the valley of Hinnom, west and north of Jerusalem, which is overhung by rugged rocks. The prophet now proceeds with צפו (צפיו): the suffix refers to Israel, which was also the object to לאכל. "His watchmen are blind: they (are) all ignorant, they (are) all dumb dogs that cannot bark; raving, lying down, loving to slumber. And the dogs are mightily greedy, they know no satiety; and such are shepherds! They know no understanding; they have all turned to their own ways, every one for his own gain throughout his border." The "watchmen" are the prophets here, as everywhere else (Isaiah 52:8, cf., Isaiah 21:6, Habakkuk 2:1; Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 3:17). The prophet is like a watchman (tsōpheh) stationed upon his watch-tower (specula), whose duty it is, when he sees the sword come upon the land, to blow the shōphâr, and warn the people (Ezekiel 33:1-9). But just as Jeremiah speaks of bad prophets among the captives (Jeremiah 29), and the book of Ezekiel is full of reproaches at the existing neglect of the office of watchman and shepherd; so does the prophet here complain that the watchmen of the nation are blind, in direct opposition to both their title and their calling; they are all without either knowledge or the capacity for knowledge (vid., Isaiah 44:9; Isaiah 45:20). They ought to resemble watchful sheep-dogs (Job 30:1), which bark when the flock is threatened; but they are dumb, and cannot bark (nâbhach, root nab), and leave the flock to all its danger. Instead of being "seers" (chōzı̄m), they are ravers (hōzı̄m; cf., Isaiah 19:18, where we have a play upon החרס in ההרס). הזים, from הזה, to rave in sickness, n. act. hadhajan (which Kimchi compares to parlare in snno); hence the Targum נימים, lxx ἐνυπνιαζόμενοι A φανταζόμενοι, S ὁραματισταί, Jer. videntes vana. The predicates which follow are attached to the leading word hōzı̄m (raving), if not precisely as adjectives, yet as more minutely descriptive. Instead of watching, praying, wrestling, to render themselves susceptible of visions of divine revelations for the good of their people, and to keep themselves in readiness to receive them, they are idle, loving comfortable ease, talkers in their sleep. And the dogs, viz., those prophets who resemble the worst of them (see at Isaiah 40:8), are נפשׁ עזּי, of violent, unrestrained soul, insatiable. Their soul lives and moves in the lowest parts of their nature; it is nothing but selfish avarice, self-indulgent greediness, violent restlessness of passion, that revolves perpetually around itself. With the words "and these are shepherds," the range of the prophet's vision is extended to the leaders of the nation generally; for when the prophet adds as an exclamation, "And such (hi equals tales) are shepherds!" he applies the glaring contrast between calling and conduct to the holders of both offices, that of teacher and that of ruler alike. For, apart from the accents, it would be quite at variance with the general use of the personal pronoun המה, to apply it to any other persons than those just described (viz., in any such sense as this: "And those, who ought to be shepherds, do not know"). Nor is it admissible to commence an adversative minor clause with והמה, as Knobel does, "whereas they are shepherds;" for, since the principal clause has הכלבים (dogs) as the subject, this would introduce a heterogeneous mixture of the two figures, shepherds' dogs and shepherds. We therefore take רעים והמה as an independent clause: "And it is upon men of such a kind, that the duty of watching and tending the nation devolves!" These רעים (for which the Targum reads רעים) are then still further described: they know not to understand, i.e., they are without spiritual capacity to pass an intelligible judgment (compare the opposite combination of the two verbs in Isaiah 32:4); instead of caring for the general good, they have all turned to their own way (ledarkâm), i.e., to their own selfish interests, every one bent upon his own advantage (בּצע from בּצע, abscindere, as we say, seinen Schnitt zu machen, to reap an advantage, lit., to make an incision). מקּצהוּ, from his utmost extremity (i.e., from that of his own station, including all its members), in other words, "throughout the length and breadth of his own circle;" qâtseh, the end, being regarded not as the terminal point, but as the circumference (as in Genesis 19:4; Genesis 47:21, and Jeremiah 51:31).
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