Isaiah 7:20
In the same day shall the Lord shave with a rasor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also consume the beard.
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(20) Shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired.—Better, “with the razor.” The words find a parallel in the “made him naked” of 2Chronicles 28:19. The term “hired” applies to the tribute which Ahaz was about to pay to Tilgath-pilneser. He thought that he was securing an ally: he was but hiring a razor (there is, perhaps, the implied thought that the razor is in other hands than his) that should sweep away all the signs of strength, and leave him an open shame and scorn to all who looked on him. (2Samuel 10:4). From head to foot, not sparing even the beard, to maltreat which was the last extreme of Oriental outrage, he and his kingdom should be laid bare and naked to his enemies. Possibly there may be an allusive reference (Kay) to Leviticus 14:9. The nation, leprous in its guilt (Isaiah 1:6), needs the treatment which was prescribed for the leper.

(21:22) A man shall nourish a young cow, and two sheep . . .—Better, two ewes. Not only should cultivation cease, but the flocks and herds that had before been counted by hundreds or thousands should be counted now by units, two ewes and a heifer for a man’s whole stock, and yet (we note the prophet’s irony once more in the use of the word “abundance”) even that should be enough for a population reduced in proportion. There should be “milk and honey” for the scattered remnant. They should have that, and nothing but that, to eat, ad nauseam usque. The words are grouped together with a grim irony as reminding men of the proverbial words of praise which spoke of Canaan as “a land of milk and honey” (Exodus 3:17).

Isaiah 7:20. The Lord shall shave — Shall utterly spoil, as shaving takes away the hair; with a razor that is hired — Hired by Ahaz; for he purchased the aid of the Assyrians with large sums of silver and gold, 2 Kings 16:7-8. And so the prophet signifies the just judgment of God, in scourging them with a rod of their own making. By them beyond the river — Euphrates, called the river, by way of eminence, beyond which Assyria lay. By the king of Assyria — By the successive kings of the Assyrian empire, Sennacherib, Esar-haddon, and especially by Nebuchadnezzar, who, having subdued the Assyrian monarchy, from thenceforth was king of Assyria as well as of Chaldea. The head and the hair of the feet, &c. — This highly parabolical mode of expression is used to denote “the utter devastation of the country from one end to the other, and the plundering of the people from the highest to the lowest. The hairs of the head are those of the highest order in the state; those of the feet, or lower parts, are the common people: the beard is the king, the high-priest, the very supreme in dignity and majesty: for the eastern people have always held the beard in the highest veneration, and have been extremely jealous of its honour.”

7:17-25 Let those who will not believe the promises of God, expect to hear the alarms of his threatenings; for who can resist or escape his judgments? The Lord shall sweep all away; and whomsoever he employs in any service for him, he will pay. All speaks a sad change of the face of that pleasant land. But what melancholy change is there, which sin will not make with a people? Agriculture would cease. Sorrows of every kind will come upon all who neglect the great salvation. If we remain unfruitful under the means of grace, the Lord will say, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforth for ever.In the same day ... - The idea in this verse is the same as in the preceding, though presented in a different form. The meaning is, that "God" would bring upon them this punishment, but that he would make use of the Assyrian as an "instrument" by which to do it.

Shave - The act of shaving off the hair denotes punishment or disgrace; compare 2 Samuel 10:4 : 'Hanun took David's servants, and shaved off one half of their beards;' 1 Chronicles 19:4.

With a razor - Using them as an instrument. God here claims the power of directing them, and regards them as employed by him; see Isaiah 10:5-7.

That is hired - This is an allusion to the custom of hiring soldiers, or employing mercenary armies. Thus Great Britain employed mercenary troops, or hired of the Germans bodies of Hessians to carry on the war in America. The meaning here is, that God would employ the Assyrians as his instruments, to effect his purposes, as though they were hired and paid by the plunder and spoil of the nation.

By them beyond the river - The river Euphrates. The Euphrates is usually meant in the Scriptures where 'the river' is mentioned without specifying the name; Psalm 72:8; Psalm 80:2. This was the river which Abraham had passed; and this, perhaps, was, for a long time, the eastern boundary of their geographical knowledge; see the note at Isaiah 11:15.

The head - The hair of the head.

The hair of the feet - Or the other parts of the body; of the lower parts of the body.

Shall consume the beard - Shall cut off the beard. This was esteemed particularly disgraceful among the Jews. It is, at this day, among all Eastern nations. The beard is regarded as a distinguished ornament; among the Mahometans, it is sworn by, and no higher insult can be offered than to treat the beard with indignity; compare the note at Isaiah 50:6. The meaning is here, that God would employ the Assyrian as his instrument to lay waste the land.

20. razor—The Assyrians are to be God's instrument of devastating Judea, just as a razor sweeps away all hair before it (Isa 10:5; Eze 29:19, 20).

hired—alluding to Ahaz' hiring (2Ki 16:7, 8) Tiglath-pileser against Syria and Israel; namely,

by them beyond the river—namely, the Euphrates; the eastern boundary of Jewish geographical knowledge (Ps 72:8); the river which Abram crossed; the Nile also may be included (Isa 7:18) [G. V. Smith]. Gesenius translates, "With a razor hired in the parts beyond the river."

head … feet—the whole body, including the most honored parts. To cut the "beard" is the greatest indignity to an Easterner (Isa 50:6; 2Sa 10:4, 5; Eze 5:1).

Shave with a razor, i.e. utterly spoil and destroy, as shaving takes away all the hair, and leaves not any thing of it visible, as there is when the hair is only cut or polled. Hired; either,

1. By Ahaz, who did hire them, 2 Kings 16:7,8. And so the prophet notes the just judgment of God, in scourging them with a rod of their own making; and by this threatening he endeavours to prevent that wicked design which then was on foot, of hiring Assyrian succours. Or,

2. By God, who did stir them up, and send them upon his errand against Judah, as he threatens, Isaiah 10:6, and paid them liberally for that service, as he did Nebuchadnezzar, of which see Jeremiah 25:9 27:6,7 Da 2:37,38.

The river Euphrates, called the river, by way of eminency, Psalm 72:8 Jeremiah 2:18, beyond which Assyria lay.

By the king of Assyria; by the successive kings of the Assyrian empire, Sennacherib, 2 Kings 18:13, &c., Esarhaddon, 2 Chronicles 33:11, and especially by Nebuchadnezzar, who having subdued the Assyrian monarchy, from thenceforth was king of Assyria as well as of Chaldea. And the prophet rather mentions Assyria than Chaldea or Babylon, partly because the Assyrian began and continued to execute this judgment, although the Babylonian completed it; and partly to inform them that they laid the foundation of their own ruin, by opening the door to the Assyrian, who afterwards entered at his pleasure, and left it open for Nebuchadnezzar.

The hair of the feet; of the lower or secret parts, which come under that name, Ezekiel 16:7,25, and elsewhere, as it hath been noted again and again; and which the Jewish writers affirm to have been shaved in the purification of lepers and Levites, Leviticus 14:8,9 Num 8:7.

The beard, which they highly esteemed, as a great ornament. By these metaphorical expressions he signifies the total destruction of their state, from head to foot, from the highest to the lowest.

In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired,.... Meaning the Assyrian monarch, whom he would use as an instrument in his hand to spoil and cut off the people of the Jews; who is compared to a "razor" for sharpness; and for the thorough work, and utter ruin and destruction, he should be the means of; and called a "hired" one, either in reference to the present Ahaz sent to the king of Assyria, by which he prevailed upon him to come and help him against the kings of Syria and Israel, 2 Kings 16:7 or to a reward given by the Lord to Nebuchadnezzar for the service in which he employed him, see Ezekiel 29:18,

namely, by them beyond the river; not Nile, but Euphrates; even the Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Babylonians, who lived on the other side that river; which, with what follows, explains the simile of the razor:

by the king of Assyria; who ruled over those beyond the river:

the head, and the hair of the feet; and it shall also consume the beard; signifying that as a razor cuts off the hair entirely where it is applied, and leaves nothing behind, whether of the head, beard, or feet, or privy parts, which are meant by the latter; so the king of Assyria should carry all clean off captive out of the land of Judea; king, princes, nobles, and common people; those of the highest, and of the middling, and of the lowest class. The Targum is,

"in that time the Lord shall slay them as one is slain by a sharp sword, by clubs, and by saws, by those beyond the river, and by the king of Assyria; the king, and his army, and even his rulers, together shall he destroy.''

So Jarchi explains it. Several of the Jewish writers, as Aben Ezra, Abarbinel, and Kimchi (k), explain this of the Angel of the Lord destroying Sennacherib's army, when before Jerusalem, in Hezekiah's time; so the latter interprets it: "the head"; the heads of his armies: "the hair of the feet"; the multitude of the people: "the beard"; the king, who died, not in the camp, but was killed by his sons in his own land; but this is not a prophecy of the destruction of the Assyrian army, but of the Jewish people by it; and the whole denotes the mean and low condition, the state of slavery and bondage, the Jews should be brought into; of which the shaving of the hair is the symbol; it was usual to shave the head and hair of such as were taken captive, as a sign of reproach and servitude; see 2 Samuel 10:4 (l).

(k) Vid. T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 95. 2. and 96. 1.((l) Vid. Lydium de re militari, l. 6. c. 6. p. 238, 239. & Noldium, No. 937.

In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the {t} feet: and it shall also consume the beard.

{t} That is, that which is from the belly downward meaning that he would destroy both great and small.

20. A new figure for the degradation and impoverishment of Judah at the hands of Assyria. In the same day] In that day.

with a rasor … river] Better: with the razor hired beyond the river (Euphrates). There may possibly be here an allusion to the “hiring” of Assyria by Ahaz (2 Kings 16:7 f.); if so the prophecy is almost certainly later than Isaiah 7:1-17.

the king of Assyria] see on Isaiah 7:17.

and it shall also consume the beard] and even the beard (the symbol of manly dignity) it shall take away.

Verse 20. - Shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired; rather, with the hired razor; i.e. the razor that Ahaz will have hired (2 Kings 16:8). The metaphor well expresses the stripping of the land bare by plunder and exaction (comp. Ezekiel 5:1, 12, and 2 Chronicles 28:19-21). God would use Tiglath-Pileser as his instrument to distress Ahaz. By them beyond the river; or, in the parts beyond the river (comp. 1 Chronicles 19:16). "The river" is undoubtedly the Euphrates, and they who dwell beyond it the Assyrians. By the King of Assyria. Once more a gloss is suspected, as in ver. 17. The meaning would certainly be sufficiently plain without the clause. The head... the hair of the feet... the beard. These three represent all the hair on any part of the body. Judah is to be completely stripped. Isaiah 7:20"In that day will the Lord shave with a razor, the thing for hire on the shore of the river, with the king of Assyria, the head and the hair of the feet; and even the beard it will take away." Knobel takes the hair to be a figurative representation of the produce of the land; but the only thing which at all favours the idea that the flora is ever regarded by biblical writers as the hairy covering of the soil, is the use of the term nâzir as the name of an uncultivated vine left to itself (Leviticus 25:5). The nation of Judah is regarded here, as in Isaiah 1:6, as a man stript naked, and not only with all the hair of his head and feet shaved off (raglaim, a euphemism), but what was regarded as the most shameful of all, with the hair of his beard shaved off as well. To this end the Almighty would make use of a razor, which is more distinctly defined as hired on the shore of the Euphrates (Conductitia in litoribus Euphratis: nâhâr stands here for hannâhâr), and still more precisely as the king of Asshur (the latter is again pronounced a gloss by Knobel and others). "The thing for hire:" hassecı̄râh might be an abstract term (hiring, Conductio), but it may also be the feminine of sâcı̄r, which indicates an emphatic advance from the indefinite to the more definite; in the sense of "with a razor, namely, that which was standing ready to be hired in the lands on both sides of the Euphrates, the king of Assyria." In hassecı̄râh (the thing for hire) there was involved the bitterest sarcasm for Ahaz. The sharp knife, which it had hired for the deliverance of Judah, was hired by the Lord, to shave Judah most thoroughly, and in the most disgraceful manner. Thus shaved, Judah would be a depopulated and desert land, in which men would no longer live by growing corn and vines, or by trade and commerce, but by grazing alone.
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