Isaiah 6:13
But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.
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(13) But yet in it shall be a tenth . . .—Better, And though there should be a tenth in it, yet this shall be again devoured (with fire). What the prophet is led to expect is a series of successive chastisements sifting the people, till the remnant of the chosen ones alone is left. (Comp. the same thought under a different imagery in Ezekiel 5:12 : Zechariah 13:8-9.) The “tenth” is taken, as in Leviticus 27:30, for an ideally consecrated portion.

As a teil tree.—Better, terebinth; and for “when they cast their leaves” read, when they are cut down. The “teil tree” of the Authorised Version is probably meant for the “lime(tilier, tilleul). The thought of this verse is that embodied in the name of his son Shear-jashub (see Note on Isaiah 7:3), and constantly reappears (Isaiah 1:27; Isaiah 4:2-3; Isaiah 10:20; Isaiah 29:17; Isaiah 30:15, &c). The tree might be stripped of its leaves, and its branches lopped off, and nothing but the stump left; but from that seemingly dead and decayed stock, pruned by the chastisements of God (John 15:2), a young shoot should spring, holy, as consecrated to Jehovah, and carry on the continuity of the nation’s life. The same thought is dominant in St. Paul’s hope for his people. At first the “remnant,” and then “all Israel,” should be saved (Romans 11:5; Romans 11:26). In Isaiah 10:33 to Isaiah 11:1 the same image is specially applied to the house of David, and becomes, therefore, essentially Messianic.

Isaiah 6:13. But yet in it shall be a tenth — A small remnant reserved, that number being put indefinitely. And it shall return — Out of the Babylonish captivity, into their own land. And shall be eaten — Or, shall be for a prey, as Dr. Waterland translates it: that is, that remnant shall be devoured a second time by the kings of Syria, and afterward by the Romans. Yet as a teil-tree, and as an oak, &c. — Yet there shall be another remnant, not such a one as that which came out of Babylon, but a holy seed, who shall afterward look upon him whom they have pierced, and mourn over him. Whose substance is in them when they cast their leaves, &c. — Who, when their leaves are cast in winter, have a substance within themselves, a vital principle, which preserves life in the root of the tree, and in due time sends it forth into all the branches. So the holy seed shall be the substance, or, rather, the support thereof — Of the people, who, were it not for the sake of these, should be finally rooted out and destroyed.

6:9-13 God sends Isaiah to foretell the ruin of his people. Many hear the sound of God's word, but do not feel the power of it. God sometimes, in righteous judgment, gives men up to blindness of mind, because they will not receive the truth in the love of it. But no humble inquirer after Christ, need to fear this awful doom, which is a spiritual judgment on those who will still hold fast their sins. Let every one pray for the enlightening of the Holy Spirit, that he may perceive how precious are the Divine mercies, by which alone we are secured against this dreadful danger. Yet the Lord would preserve a remnant, like the tenth, holy to him. And blessed be God, he still preserves his church; however professors or visible churches may be lopped off as unfruitful, the holy seed will shoot forth, from whom all the numerous branches of righteousness shall arise.But yet ... - The main idea in this verse is plain, though there is much difficulty in the explanation of the particular phrases. The leading thought is, that the land should not be "utterly" and finally abandoned. There would be the remains of life - as in an oak or terebinth tree when the tree has fallen; compare the notes at Isaiah 11:1.

A tenth - That is, a tenth of the inhabitants, or a very small part. Amidst the general desolation, a small part should be preserved. This was accomplished in the time of the captivity of the Jews by Nebuchadnezzar. We are not to suppose that "literally" a tenth part of the nation would remain; but a part that should bear somewhat the same proportion to the entire nation, in strength and resources, that a tenth does to the whole. Accordingly, in the captivity by the Babylonians we are told 2 Kings 25:12, that 'the captain of the guard left the poor of the land to be vinedressers and farmers;' compare 2 Kings 24:14, where it is said, that 'Nebuchadnezzar carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valor, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths, none remained save the poorer sort of the people of the land.' Over this remnant, Nebuchadnezzar made Gedaliah king; 2 Kings 25:22.

And it shall return - This expression can be explained by the history. The prophet mentions the "return," but he has omitted the fact that this remnant should go away; and hence, all the difficulty which has been experienced in explaining this. The history informs us, 2 Kings 25:26, that this remnant, this tenth part, 'arose and came to Egypt, for they were afraid of the Chaldees.' A part also of the nation was scattered in Moab and Edom, and among the Ammonites; Jeremiah 40:2. By connecting this idea with the prophecy, there is no difficulty in explaining it. It was of the return from Egypt that the prophet here speaks; compare Jeremiah 42:4-7. After this flight to Egypt they returned again to Judea, together with those who were scattered in Moab, and the neighboring regions; Jeremiah 40:11-12. This renmant thus collected was what the prophet referred to as "returning" after it had been scattered in Egypt, and Moab, and Edom, and among the Ammonites.

And shall be eaten - This is an unhappy translation. It has arisen from the difficulty of making sense of the passage, by not taking into consideration the circumstances just adverted to. The word translated 'eaten' means to feed, to graze, to consume by grazing to consume by fire, to consume or destroy in any way, to remove. "Gesenius" on the word בער bâ‛ar. Here it means that this remnant shall be for "destruction;" that judgments and punishments shall follow them after their return front Egypt and Moab. Even this remnant shall be the object of divine displeasure, and shall feel the weight of his indignation; see Jeremiah 43:1-13; 44.

As a teil-tree - The word "teil" means the "linden," though there is no evidence that the linden is denoted here. The word used here - אלה 'êlâh - is translated "elm" in Hosea 4:13, but generally "oak:" Genesis 35:4; Judges 6:11, Judges 6:19; 2 Samuel 18:9, 2 Samuel 18:14. It is here distinguished from the אלון 'allôn "oak." It probably denotes the "terebinth," or turpentine tree, for a description of which, see the notes at Isaiah 1:29.

Whose substance - Margin, 'Stock' or 'Stem.' The margin is the more correct translation. The word usually denotes the upright shaft, stem, or stock of a tree. It means here, whose "vitality" shall remain; that is, they do not entirely die.

When they cast their leaves - The words 'their leaves' are not in the original, and should not be in the translation. The Hebrew means, 'in their falling' - or when they fall. As the evergreen did "not" cast its leaves, the reference is to the falling of the "body" of the tree. The idea is, that when the tree should fall and decay, still the life of the tree would remain. In the root there would be life. It would send up new "shoots," and thus a new tree would be produced; see the notes at Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:1. This was particularly the case with the terebinth, as it is with the fir, the chestnut, the oak, the willow, etc.; see Job 14:7. The idea is, that it would be so with the Jews. Though desolate, and though one judgment would follow another, and though even the renmant would be punished, yet the race would not be extinguished. It would spring up again, and survive. This was the case in the captivity of Babylon; and again the case in the destruction of Jerusalem; and in all their persecutions and trials since, the same has always occurred. They survive; and though scattered in all nations, they still live as demonstrative of the truth of the divine predictions; Deuteronomy 28.

The holy seed - The few remaining Jews. They shall not be utterly destroyed, but shall be like the life remaining in the root of the tree. No prophecy, perhaps, has been more remarkably fulfilled than that in this verse. Though the cities be waste and the land be desolate, it is not from the poverty of the soil that the fields are abandoned by the plow, nor from any diminution of its ancient and natural fertility, that the land has rested for so many generations. Judea was not forced only by artificial means, or from local and temporary causes, into a luxuriant cultivation, such as a barren country might have been, concerning which it would not have needed a prophet to tell that, if once devastated and abandoned it would ultimately revert to its original sterility. Phenicia at all times held a far different rank among the richest countries of the world; and it was not a bleak and sterile portion of the earth, nor a land which even many ages of desolation and neglect could impoverish, that God gave in possession and by covenant to the seed of Abraham. No longer cultivated as a garden, but left like a wilderness, Judea is indeed greatly changed from what it was; all that human ingenuity and labor did devise, erect, or cultivate, people have laid waste and desolate; all the "plenteous goods" with which it was enriched, adorned, and blessed, have fallen like seared and withered leaves when their greenness is gone; and stripped of its "ancient splendor," it is left "as an oak whose leaf fadeth," but its inherent sources of fertility are not dried up; the natural richness of the soil is unblighted; "the substance is in it," strong as that of the tell tree or the solid oak, which retain their substance when they east their leaves.

And as the leafless oak waits throughout winter for the genial warmth of returning spring, to be clothed with renewed foilage, so the once glorious land of Judea is yet full of latent vigor, or of vegetative power, strong as ever, ready to shoot forth, even "better than at the beginning," whenever the sun of heaven shall shine on it again, and "the holy seed" be prepared for being finally" the substance thereof." "The substance that is in it" - which alone has here to be proved - is, in few words, thus described by an enemy: "The land in the plains is fat and loamy, and exhibits every sign of the greatest fecundity. Were nature assisted by art, the fruits of the most distant countries might be produced within the distance of twenty leagues." "Galilee," says Malte Brun, "would be a paradise, were it inhabited by an industrious people, under an enlightened government."'

13. and it shall return, and … be eaten—Rather, "but it shall be again given over to be consumed": if even a tenth survive the first destruction, it shall be destroyed by a second (Isa 5:25; Eze 5:1-5, 12), [Maurer and Horsley]. In English Version, "return" refers to the poor remnant left in the land at the Babylonish captivity (2Ki 24:14; 25:12), which afterwards fled to Egypt in fear (2Ki 25:26), and subsequently returned thence along with others who had fled to Moab and Edom (Jer 40:11, 12), and suffered under further divine judgments.

tell—rather, "terebinth" or "turpentine tree" (Isa 1:29).

substance … when … cast … leaves—rather, "As a terebinth or oak in which, when they are cast down (not 'cast their leaves,' Job 14:7), the trunk or stock remains, so the holy seed (Ezr 9:2) shall be the stock of that land." The seeds of vitality still exist in both the land and the scattered people of Judea, waiting for the returning spring of God's favor (Ro 11:5, 23-29). According to Isaiah, not all Israel, but the elect remnant alone, is destined to salvation. God shows unchangeable severity towards sin, but covenant faithfulness in preserving a remnant, and to it Isaiah bequeaths the prophetic legacy of the second part of his book (the fortieth through sixty-sixth chapters).

A tenth; a small remnant reserved, that number being put indefinitely, as is very usual.

Shall return, to wit, on, of the Babylonish captivity, into their own land.

Shall be eaten; that remnant shall be devoured and destroyed a second time by the kings of Syria, and afterwards more effectually by the Romans.

As a teil tree, and as an oak, or, yet as, &c.; or, nevertheless as, &c.; such particles being frequently understood in the Hebrew, as hath been noted again and again. So the sense of the following words of the verse seems to be this, Although the Jewish nation shall undergo a second and a greater desolation by the Romans, yet there shall be another remnant, not such a one as that which came out of Babylon, which for the most part were corrupt and degenerate, as appears by the sacred histories and prophecies relating to that time; but a holy seed, a number of elect and godly Israelites, who shall afterwards look upon him whom they pierced, and mourn over him, as is said, Zechariah 12:10, and by me be received to mercy. Whose substance is in them, when they east their leaves; who, when their leaves are withered and east, as it is in winter, have a substance, or subsistence, or support within themselves, to wit, a vital principle, which preserves life in the root and body of the tree, and in due time sends it forth into all the branches. But others take the Hebrew word shallecheth for the proper name of a place, to wit, a causeway which led from the palace to the temple, 1 Chronicles 26:16; and so the place is and may be rendered thus, as a teil tree, (or, an elm,) and as an oak, (the singular number for the plural, as is very frequent,) as the elms and the oaks which are at or by Shallecheth (on both sides of which way such trees were planted, to beautify and to support that causeway, as some have observed) have subsistence or support in them; either,

1. For themselves; they stand fast and firm, when other trees are blown down: or,

2. For the way which they uphold.

The substance thereof; or rather, the support (as the same word seems to be taken in the next foregoing; clause) thereof, to wit, of the land or people, which, were it not for the sake of these elect persons, should be totally and finally rooted out; or, of that tenth part, which shall be delivered and preserved for the sake of that holy seed, those true-hearted Israelites which are among them.

But yet in it shall be a tenth,.... Which some understand of ten kings that should reign over Judah from this time, the death of Uzziah, unto the captivity, as Jarchi and Aben Ezra observe; and which are, as Kimchi reckons them, as follows, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah; but the prophecy, as we have seen, respects not the captivity of the Jews in Babylon, but their present one; wherefore the words are to be understood of a few persons, a remnant, according to the election of grace, that should be called, and saved amidst all the blindness, darkness, and destruction that should come upon that people; and may be illustrated by the words of the apostle in Romans 11:5 and these chosen, called, and saved ones, are the "tenth", that is, the Lord's tenth, as the words may be rendered (r). To this sense the Targum agrees,

"and there shall be left in it righteous persons, one out of ten;''

though indeed the Christians were not left in Jerusalem when it was destroyed, but were called out of it just before, and were preserved from that ruin.

And it shall return, and shall be eaten; or "be for burning". I should choose to render it, "it shall return, and be burnt" (s); that is, it shall be burnt again; it was burnt a first time by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and his army, Jeremiah 52:13 and a second time by Titus Vespasian, to which this prophecy refers:

as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves; the word "Beshallecheth", which we render, "when they cast their leaves", is by some, as Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Kimchi observe, thought to be the name of a gate in Jerusalem, called "Shallecheth", from which a causeway went towards the king's palace, from whence it had its name, 1 Chronicles 26:16 and along which causeway, as is supposed, were planted teil trees and oaks, which are here referred to. But the Targum, Jarchi, and Kimchi, interpret the word as we do, of casting their leaves: and the sense seems to be this; that as the teil tree and oak, when they cast their leaves in autumn, and look as if they were dry, withered, and dead, yet have a substance in them, and in spring appear alive and green, and flourishing again; so the Jews, notwithstanding their miserable destruction by the Romans, when they were stripped of all their riches and glory, yet were not utterly consumed as a people, but remained an entire distinct people, and do so to this day, among the nations of the world; though, like a dry withered trunk of a tree, without verdure or beauty; the reason of this follows:

so, or "because",

the holy seed shall be the substance thereof; that is, they shall subsist, or continue a distinct people, though in this miserable condition; because there is a "holy seed", or a certain number, whom God has chosen to be holy, that is to arise from them, and will be called and converted in the latter day; hence they have a substance, a subsistence, and shall remain till that comes, and that chosen remnant is called and saved, Romans 11:25. The Targum is,

"as the elm and oak, when their leaves fall, and are like to dry "trees", and yet are moist to raise up seed from them; so the captivities of Israel shall be gathered, and shall return to their land; for the seed which is holy is their plantation.''

Some, interpreting the passage of the Babylonish captivity, by the "holy seed" understand the Messiah. See Luke 1:35 (t).

(r) "decima ejus", i.e. Dei. (s) "et convertatur sitque in incendium", Syr.; "ad conflagrandum", Montanus; "ad urendum", De Dieu. (t) Ericus Phaletranus de ablat. Sceptr. Jud. in Graev. Syntag. p. 437.

But yet in it shall be {q} a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, {r} and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance of it.

(q) Meaning, the tenth part: or as some write, it was revealed to Isaiah for the confirmation of his prophecy that ten kings would come before their captivity, as were from Uzziah to Zedekiah.

(r) For the fewness of them they will seem to be eaten up: yet they will later flourish as a tree, which in winter loses leaves, and seems to be dead, yet in summer is fresh and green.

13. The verse reads:

And should there still be in it a tenth,

It must again pass through the fire,

Like the terebinth and like the oak,

To which a stump (remains) when they are felled;

A holy seed is the stump thereof.

The last clause is wanting in the LXX., and with its omission it undoubtedly becomes possible to understand the figure of the verse as a sentence of final rejection; not only will the tree be cut down, but its stump will be destroyed by fire. The usual interpretation (which there is no reason to abandon) is: As the terebinth and oak when cut down retain the principle of vitality in their roots, which will again spring up into a great tree (cf. Job 14:7 ff.), so the ruined Israel contains the indestructible germ of the future kingdom of God, the “holy seed” is wrapped up in it. The difference is not material, since in any view Isaiah speaks of an extermination of the actually existing people: but the first explanation excludes Isaiah’s characteristic doctrine of the Remnant, which we should certainly expect to find in his inaugural vision. It must have been shortly after this time that he gave a significant expression to that doctrine in the name of his son Shear-jashub (see on next chapter).

a tenth] Perhaps an allusion to Amos 5:3.

A symbolical representation of the idea of this verse is given in Ezekiel 5:1-4. Cf. also Zechariah 13:8.

Verse 13. - But yet in it shall be a tenth, etc.; rather, and should there still be in it a tenth; i.e. should there still remain, after the great deportation, a tenth part of the inhabitants, "this again shall be burned up," i.e. shall be destined to further judgment and destruction. The trials of the Jewish nation under the Persian, Egyptian, and Syrian monarchies may be intended. As a teil tree, and as an oak, etc.; rather, as the terebinth tree and as the oak - trees which shoot up again from the stock after being cut down; or, as the prophet expresses it, "have a stem in their destruction." So to Judah shall remain, after all, a "holy seed," which shall be its "stem" or "stock, "and from which it shall once more "take root downward, and bear fruit upward" (Isaiah 37:31).

Isaiah 6:13Hofmann in his Schriftbeweis (ii. 2, 541) maintains with Knobel, that מצּבת cannot be shown to have any other meaning than "plant." It is never met with in this sense, which it might have (after נצב equals נטע equals נ), though it is in the sense of statua and cippus, which, when applied to a tree deprived of its crown, can only mean stipes or truncus. - We take this opportunity of referring to a few other passages of his work: Isaiah 8:22. "And the deep darkness is scared away: menuddâch with the accusative of the object used with the passive." But this is only possible with the finite verb, not with the passive participle. Isaiah 9:2. "By the fact that Thou hast made the people many, Thou hast not made the joy great; but now they rejoice before Thee (who hast appeared)." It is impossible that הרבית and הגדלת, when thus surrounded with perfects relating to the history of the future, should itself relate to the historical past - Isaiah 18:1-7. "It is Israel in its dispersion which is referred to here as a people carried away and spoiled, but which from that time forward is an object of reverential awe - a people that men have cut in pieces and trampled under foot, whose land streams have rent in pieces." But does not this explanation founder on נורא מן־הוא והלאה? In the midst of attributes which point to ill-treatment, can this passage be meant to describe the position which Israel is henceforth to hold as one commanding respect (see our exposition)? - Isaiah 19:18. "Egypt the land of cities will be reduced to five cities by the judgment that falls upon it." But how can the words affirm that there will be only five cities in all, when there is nothing said about desolation in the judgment predicted before? - Isaiah 21:1-10. "What the watchman on the watch-tower see is not the hostile army marching against Babel, but the march of the people of God returning home from Babel." Consequently tsemed pârâshı̄m does not mean pairs of horsemen, but carriages full of men and drawn by horses. But we can see what tsemed pârâshı̄m is from 2 Kings 9:25 (rōkhebhı̄m tsemâdı̄m), and from the combination of rekhebh and pârâshı̄m (chariots and horsemen) in Isaiah 22:7; Isaiah 31:1. And the rendering "carriages" will never do for Isaiah 21:7, Isaiah 21:9. Carriages with camels harnessed to them would be something unparalleled; and rekhebh gâmâl (cf., 1 Samuel 30:17) by the side of tsemed pârâshı̄m has a warlike sound.
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