Isaiah 59:5
They hatch cockatrice' eggs, and weave the spider's web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper.
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(5) They hatch cockatrice’ eggs.—Better, basilisk’s, as in Isaiah 14:29. The schemes of the evil-doers are displayed in their power for evil and their impotence for good. To “eat of the eggs,” which are assumed to be poisonous, is to fall in with their schemes, and so be ruined: to “crush” them is to oppose and so to rouse a more venomous opposition. Men break the egg, and the living viper darts forth to attack them.

Isaiah 59:5-6. They hatch cockatrice’ eggs — They contrive and execute wicked purposes and practices, whereby sure and sudden destruction is brought upon themselves and others. Of the cockatrice, or basilisk, as it should rather be rendered, see on Isaiah 14:29. One kind is put for any venomous creature. The speech is proverbial, signifying, by these eggs, mischievous designs, and by hatching them their putting them in practice. And weave the spider’s web — Another proverbial speech, whereby is signified, both how by their plots they weaved nets, laid snares industriously with great pains and artifice, to entrap or entangle others; and also how their designs would come to nothing, as the spider’s web is soon swept away. He that eateth of their eggs — That converses and joins with them in their mischievous designs, and partakes of the fruits thereof; dieth — Is seduced into destructive errors and vices, or involved in ruin. And that which is crushed — In order that it may be eaten; breaketh out into a viper — A poisonous viper proceeds from it. The more any one partakes of their counsels, the more he is infected, such a deadly poison lies imbodied in them. Their webs shall not become garments — Though they are finely wrought, yet they are too thin and weak to be of any use; that is, their contrivances and deep designs shall not advantage them. Neither shall they cover themselves, &c. — Their works shall neither cover nor defend the actors. Their works are works of iniquity — Of injustice, whereby they grieve, vex, and injure their brethren. And the act of violence is in their hands — They exercise themselves in all acts of violence and oppression.

59:1-8 If our prayers are not answered, and the salvation we wait for is not wrought for us, it is not because God is weary of hearing prayer, but because we are weary of praying. See here sin in true colours, exceedingly sinful; and see sin in its consequences, exceedingly hurtful, separating from God, and so separating us, not only from all good, but to all evil. Yet numbers feed, to their own destruction, on infidel and wicked systems. Nor can their skill or craft, in devising schemes, as the spider weaves its web, deliver or save them. No schemes of self-wrought salvation shall avail those who despise the Redeemer's robe of righteousness. Every man who is destitute of the Spirit of Christ, runs swiftly to evil of some sort; but those regardless of Divine truth and justice, are strangers to peace.They hatch cockatrice' eggs - Margin, 'Adders'.' On the meaning of the word rendered here 'cockatrice,' see the notes at Isaiah 11:8. Some poisonous serpent is intended, probably the adder, or the serpent known among the Greeks as the basilisk, or cerastes. This figurative expression is designed to show the evil nature and tendency of their works. They were as if they should carefully nourish the eggs of a venomous serpent. Instead of crushing them with the foot and destroying them, they took pains to hatch them, and produce a venomous race of reptiles. Nothing can more forcibly describe the wicked character and plans of sinners than the language used here - plans that are as pernicious, loathsome, and hateful as the poisonous serpents that spread death and ruin and alarm everywhere.

And weave the spider's web - This phrase, in itself, may denote, as some have understood it, that they formed plans designed to seize upon and destroy others, as spiders weave their web for the purpose of catching and destroying insects. But the following verse shows that the language is used rather with reference to the tenuity and gossamer character of the web, than with any such designs. Their works were like the web of the spider. They bore the same relation to true piety which the web of the spider did to substantial and comfortable raiment. They were vain and useless. The word rendered here 'web' properly denotes the cross-threads in weaving, the woof or filling; and is probably derived from a word signify ing a cross-beam (see Rosenmuller in loc; also Bochart, Hieroz. ii. 4. 23).

He that eateth of their eggs dieth - That is, he who partakes of their counsels, or of the plans which they form, shall perish. Calvin says that the meaning is, that 'whosoever had anything to do with them would find them destructive and pestiferous.' Similar phrases, comparing the plans of the wicked with the eggs and the brood of the serpent, are common in the East. 'It is said,' says Roberts, speaking of India, 'of the plans of a decidedly wicked and talented man, "That wretch! he hatches serpents' eggs." "Beware of the fellow, his eggs are nearly hatched." "Ah, my friend, touch not that affair, meddle not with that matter; there is a serpent in the shell."'

And that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper - On the meaning of the word rendered here 'viper,' see the notes at Isaiah 30:6. Margin, 'Sprinkled, is as if there brake out a viper. Jerome renders it, 'Which if pierced, breaks out into a basilisk.' The Septuagint renders it, 'And he who was about to eat of their eggs having broken one that was putrid (συντρίψας οὔριον suntripsas ourion), found in it a basilisk (βασόλισκον basiliskon). 'The difference of translation in the text and the margin of the common version has arisen from the fact that the translators supposed that the word used here (זוּרה zûrâh) might be derived from זרה zârâh, to sprinkle, or to scatter. But it is formed from the word זור zûr, to squeeze, to press, to crush; and in Job 39:15, is applied to the fact that the ostrich might crush her eggs with her foot. The sense here is, that when their plans were developed, they would be found to be evil and pernacious - as when an egg should be broken open, a venomous setpent would come forth. The viper, it is true, brings forth its young alive, or is a viviparous animal. But Bochart has remarked, that though it produces its young in this manner, yet that during the period of gestation the young are included in eggs which are broken at the birth. This is a very impressive illustration of the character and plans of the wicked. The serpents here referred to are among the most venomous and destructive that are known. And the comparison here includes two points -

1. That their plans resembled the egg of the serpent. The nature of the egg cannot be easily known by an inspection. It may have a strong resemblance to those which would produce some inoffensive and even useful animals. It is only when it is hatched that its true nature is fully developed. So it is with the plans of the wicked. When forming, their true nature may not be certainly known, and it may not be easy to determine their real character.

2. Their plans, when developed, are like the poisonous and destructive production of the serpent's egg. The true nature is then seen; and it is ruinous, pernicious, and evil.

5. cockatrice—probably the basilisk serpent, cerastes. Instead of crushing evil in the egg, they foster it.

spider's web—This refers not to the spider's web being made to entrap, but to its thinness, as contrasted with substantial "garments," as Isa 59:6 shows. Their works are vain and transitory (Job 8:14; Pr 11:18).

eateth … their eggs—he who partakes in their plans, or has anything to do with them, finds them pestiferous.

that which is crushed—The egg, when it is broken, breaketh out as a viper; their plans, however specious in their undeveloped form like the egg, when developed, are found pernicious. Though the viper is viviparous (from which "vi-per" is derived), yet during gestation, the young are included in eggs, which break at the birth [Bochart]; however, metaphors often combine things without representing everything to the life.

They hatch cockatrice eggs; or adder, or basilisk; one kind put for any venomous creature; a proverbial speech, signifying by these eggs mischievous designs, and by hatching them their putting them in practice: this is to show that mischief is natural to them, and they can do no otherwise, poison is natural to these eggs.

Weave the spider’s web; another proverbial speech, whereby is taught, both how by their plots they weave nets, lay snares industriously, with great pains and artifice, whereby they may entangle and involve their poor neighbours in intricacies and perplexities, and so devour them, as the spider weaves her web to catch flies, and then to feed on them; and also how that they contrive nothing but what will tend to their own ruin, as the issue of the viper is the death of the mother, and they and their designs will come to nothing, and not answer their end, as the spider’s web is soon swept away, and is seen no more, which doth well agree with what follows.

He that eateth of their eggs dieth: here is a catachrestical allusion, noting that he who hath commerce with them, and approves their counsels, which are the eggs which they hatch, will be poisoned with them.

And that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper: if and be copulative here, then the sense is either, If any seek to crush and disappoint their plots, or if they be sprinkled or dispersed abroad, (as the margin seems to favour,) they will seek his ruin, will be as a viper to him. But if and be causal, as it often is, and may be here, then the sense is, q.d. He dieth, because the eggs being crushed, a poisonous viper proceeds from it; the more you partake of their counsels, the more you are infected, there lies such a dreadful poison embodied in them.

They hatch cockatrice eggs, and weave the spider's web,.... Invent false doctrines according to their own fancies, which may seem fair and plausible, but are poisonous and pernicious; as the "eggs of the cockatrice", which may look like, and may be taken for, the eggs of creatures fit to eat; and spin out of their brains a fine scheme of things, but which are as thin, and as useless, and unprofitable, as "the spider's web"; and serve only to ensnare and entangle the minds of men, and will not stand before the word of God which sweeps them away at once; particularly of this kind is the doctrine of justification by the works of men, which are like the spider's web, spun out of its own bowels; so these are from themselves, as the doctrine of them is a device of man, and is not of God:

he that eateth of their eggs dieth: as a man that eats of cockatrice eggs dies immediately, being rank poison; so he that approves of false doctrines, receives them, and feeds upon them, dies spiritually and eternally; these are damnable doctrines, which bring upon men swift destruction; they are poisonous, and eat as do a canker, and destroy the souls of men:

and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper; or "cockatrice"; so Kimchi and Ben Melech take it to be the same creature as before, which goes by different names; and the words seem to require this sense; however, it cannot be the creature we call the viper, since that is not oviparous, but viviparous, lays not eggs, but brings forth its young; though both Aristotle (w) and Pliny (x), at the same time they say it is viviparous, yet observe that it breeds eggs within itself, which are of one colour, and soft like fishes. The Targum renders it "flying serpents": the sense is, that if a man is cautious, and does not eat of the cockatrice eggs, but sets his foot on them, and crushes them, out comes the venomous creature, and he is in danger of being hurt by it; so a man that does not embrace false doctrines, and escapes eternal death by them, but tramples upon them, opposes them, and endeavours to crush and destroy them, yet he is exposed to and brings upon himself calumnies, reproach, and persecution.

(w) Hist. Animal. l. 5. c. 34. (x) Nat. Hist. I. 10. c. 62.

They hatch {d} eggs of an adder, and weave the spider's {e} web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper.

(d) Whatever comes from them is poison, and brings death.

(e) They are profitable to no purpose.

5. cockatrice’ eggs] or basilisks’ eggs. See on ch. Isaiah 11:8. The figure is expanded in the latter part of the verse, and the meaning seems to be that the persons spoken of brood over and bring to maturity projects of wickedness, whose effects are almost equally fatal to those who acquiesce in them and to those who oppose them.

he that eateth of their eggs] (cf. Deuteronomy 32:33) i.e. either he who enters into their schemes, or he who is their victim.

that which is crushed … viper] Should one try to stamp out one of their diabolical plots, its deadly nature will only be the more clearly manifested.

5–8. These verses differ somewhat in character from Isaiah 59:3 f., and are regarded by Duhm and Cheyne as a quotation from some Psalm or collection of proverbs. In point of fact the first part of Isaiah 59:7 appears in Proverbs 1:16, but probably as an interpolation, since the verse is wanting in the LXX. On the other hand, Isaiah 59:7-8 are partly reproduced in the LXX. recension of Psalm 14:3, as in Romans 3:10 ff. These facts do not by themselves raise any presumption against the genuineness of the passage in this discourse; and the first image of Isaiah 59:5 connects itself naturally enough with the conclusion of Isaiah 59:4. It must be admitted, however, that the description can only apply to a limited class of utter reprobates, and there is some difficulty in conceiving that it can be the continuation of Isaiah 59:3-4, which contain perfectly definite and intelligible accusations against a whole community.

Verse 5. - They hatch cockatrice' eggs. (On the cockatrice, see the comment upon Isaiah 11:8.) The meaning here is that the people gave themselves to brooding on and hatching purposes which were as pernicious and destructive as the eggs of venomous serpents. And weave the spider's web; i.e. "their purposes were as flimsy and unsubstantial as the web of the spider." He that eateth, etc. If a man partake of their plans, he becomes morally as bad as they, and is smitten with spiritual death. If an attempt be made to "crush" and destroy their plans, the only result is the premature birth of a viper. Isaiah 59:5The description now passes over to the social and judicial life. Lying and oppression universally prevail. "No one speaks with justice, and no one pleads with faithfulness; men trust in vanity, and speak with deception; they conceive trouble, and bring forth ruin. They hatch basilisks' eggs, and weave spiders' webs. He that eateth of their eggs must die; and if one is trodden upon, it splits into an adder. Their webs do not suffice for clothing, and men cannot cover themselves with their works: their works are works of ruin, and the practice of injustice is in their hands." As קרא is generally used in these prophetic addresses in the sense of κηρύσσειν, and the judicial meaning, citare, in just vocare, litem intendere, cannot be sustained, we must adopt this explanation, "no one gives public evidence with justice" (lxx οὐδεὶς λαλεῖ δίκαια). צדק is firm adherence to the rule of right and truth; אמוּנה a conscientious reliance which awakens trust; משׁפּט (in a reciprocal sense, as in Isaiah 43:26; Isaiah 66:16) signifies the commencement and pursuit of a law-suit with any one. The abstract infinitives which follow in Isaiah 59:4 express the general characteristics of the social life of that time, after the manner of the historical infinitive in Latin (cf., Isaiah 21:5; Ges. 131, 4, b). Men trust in tōhū, that which is perfectly destitute of truth, and speak שׁוא, what is morally corrupt and worthless. The double figure און והוליד עמל הרו is taken from Job 15:35 (cf., Psalm 7:15). הרו (compare the poel in Isaiah 59:13) is only another form for הרה (Ges. 131, 4, b); and הוליד (the western or Palestinian reading here), or הולד (the oriental or Babylonian reading), is the usual form of the inf. abs. hiph. (Ges. 53, Anm. 2). What they carry about with them and set in operation is compared in Isaiah 59:5 to basilisks' eggs (צפעוני, serpens regulus, as in Isaiah 11:8) and spiders' webs (עכּבישׁ, as in Job 8:14, from עכּב, possibly in the sense of squatter, sitter still, with the substantive ending ı̄sh). They hatch basilisks' eggs (בּקּע like בּקע, Isaiah 34:15, a perfect, denoting that which has hitherto always taken place and therefore is a customary thing); and they spin spiders' webs (ארג possibly related to ἀράχ-νη;

(Note: Neither καῖρος nor ἀράχνη has hitherto been traced to an Indian root in any admissible way. Benfey deduces the former from the root dhvir (to twist); but this root has to perform an immense number of services. M. Mller deduces the latter from rak; but this means to make, not to spin.)

the future denoting that which goes on occurring). The point of comparison in the first figure is the injurious nature of all they do, whether men rely upon it, in which case "he that eateth of their eggs dieth," or whether they are bold or imprudent enough to try and frustrate their plans and performances, when that (the egg) which is crushed or trodden upon splits into an adder, i.e., sends out an adder, which snaps at the heel of the disturber of its rest. זוּר as in Job 39:15, here the part. pass. fem. like סוּרה (Isaiah 49:21), with a - instead of ā - like לנה, the original ă of the feminine (zūrăth) having returned from its lengthening into ā to the weaker lengthening into ĕ. The point of comparison in the second figure is the worthlessness and deceptive character of their works. What they spin and make does not serve for a covering to any man (יתכּסּוּ with the most general subject: Ges. 137, 3), but has simply the appearance of usefulness; their works are מעשׂי־און (with metheg, not munach, under the Mem), evil works, and their acts are all directed to the injury of their neighbour, in his right and his possession.

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