Isaiah 7:23
And it shall come to pass in that day, that every place shall be, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand sliver coins, it shall even be for briers and thorns.
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(23) Where there were a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings.—The words seem to contain an allusive reference to Song of Solomon 8:11, and are therefore worth noting as bearing on the date of that book. There, however, the sum represents the annual produce of the vineyard, here the rent of the vines at a shekel each, a high rent apparently, and indicating a choice quality of vine. The costly vineyards of the hills of Judah should be left to run wild without a keeper (Isaiah 5:10), and thorns and briers would rapidly cover it. “Silverling” was an old English word for any silver coin, and appears in Tyndale’s version of Acts 19:19, and Coverdale’s of Judges 9:4; Judges 16:5; here it stands for “shekel.” The modern rent is said to be a piastre (2¼d.) for each vine; the shekel was worth 2s. 3 d. (Kay).

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.The remainder of this chapter is a description of great desolation produced by the invasion of the Assyrians. "Where there were a thousand vines." Where there was a valuable vineyard. In every place, that is, that was well cultivated and valuable.

At a thousand silverlings - The word rendered 'silvertings' here - כסף keseph - denotes, properly, silver, of any amount. But it is also used to denote the silver coin which was in use among the Jews, the shekel. Perhaps this was the only silver coin which, in early times, they possessed, and hence, the word shekel is omitted, and so many pieces of silver are mentioned. Thus, in Genesis 20:16, Abimelech says, that he had given Abraham, a thousand of silver' - that is, a thousand shekels. The shekel was worth about two shillings of our money. It is probable that a vineyard would be valued, in proportion to the number of vines that could be raised on the smallest space; and the meaning is here, that the land that was most fertile, and that produced the most, would be desolate, and would produce only briers and thorns. The land in Judea admits of a high state of cultivation, and requires it, in order to make it productive. When neglected, it becomes as remarkably sterile. At present, it generally bears the marks of great barrenness and sterility. It is under the oppression of Turkish power and exactions; and the consequence is, that, to a traveler, it has the appearance of great barrenness. But, in the high state to which the Jews brought it, it was eminently fertile, and is capable still of becoming so, if it should be placed under a government that would encourage agriculture and bestow freedom. This is the account which all travelers give of it now.

23. where there were, &c.—where up to that time there was so valuable a vineyard as to have in it a 1000 vines, worth a silverling (shekel, about 2s. 3d.; a large price) each, there shall be only briers (So 8:11). Vineyards are estimated by the number of the vines, and the goodness of the kind of vine. Judea admits of a high state of cultivation, and requires it, in order to be productive; its present barrenness is due to neglect. A thousand vines at a thousand silverings; or, pieces of silver, as the same word is commonly rendered. Whereby we may understand either,

1. So many pounds; a pound for each vineyard, to wit, for the annual rent. Or,

2. So many shekels, which word is most commonly understood, when no particular kind of coin is expressed, as 2 Samuel 18:11,12 Mt 26:15; and then the meaning is, not that the thousand vineyards were let for a thousand shekels, a vineyard for a shekel, which is a contemptible price; but that each of the thousand vineyards might have been sold or let for a thousand shekels, which was the yearly rent of some excellent vineyards, as may be gathered from Song of Solomon 8:11; except we understand this not of so many vineyards, as other interpreters do, but of so many single vines, as the word properly and generally signifies, planted together in one large vineyard, which may be here meant by the place of the river, and then each vine may be valued at a shekel. But this place may possibly be otherwise rendered, and that exactly according to the Hebrew text, every place where there are a thousand vines, shall be for a thousand pieces of silver, i.e. it shall be valued or offered, either to be let, or rather to be sold, at that price; which was a very low price, and therefore fitly signifies the greatness of the desolation.

It shall even be for briers and thorns, because it shall be utterly neglected, and therefore overspread with them. Or, yea,

it shall be for briers and thorns. No man will either buy or hire it upon any terms. And it shall come to pass in that day; that every place shall be,.... Barren and unfruitful, for want of men to till the ground:

where there were a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings; which were so good, as to be sold or let out for so many silver shekels (m); or the fruit of them came to such a price; see Sol 8:11,

it shall even be for briers and thorns; for want of persons to stock the ground and cultivate it.

(m) Which was about two shillings and sixpence of our money.

And it shall come to pass in that day, that every place shall be, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings, it shall even be for briers and thorns.
23. a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings] i.e. “silver shekels.” Schrader reckons the silver shekel as equal to about half-a-crown of our money, which would make the price of the vineyard about £125. But the estimate neglects the important element of variation in the purchasing power of money. The traveller Burckhardt, who found it the custom in Syria to estimate the value of a vineyard according to the number of vines, tells us that good vines are valued at less than three pence each.

23–25. The most costly vineyards, requiring the most sedulous cultivation, are overrun by thorns and thistles, cf. ch. Isaiah 5:6.Verse 23. - A thousand vines at a thousand silverlings. By "silverlings" our translators mean "pieces of silver," probably shekels. "A thousand vines at a thousand shekels" may mean either a thousand vines worth that amount, or a thousand vines rented at that sum annually (comp. Song of Solomon 8:11). The latter would point to vineyards of unusual goodness, since the shekel is at least eighteen pence, and the present rent of a vineyard in Palestine is at the rate of a piastre for each vine, or 2½d. The general meaning would seem to be that not even the best vineyards would be cultivated, but would lie waste, and grow only "briers and thorns." "For before the boy shall understand to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land will be desolate, of whose two kings thou art afraid. Jehovah will bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days such as have not come since the day when Ephraim broke away from Judah - the king of Asshur." The land of the two kings, Syria and Israel, was first of all laid waste by the Assyrians, whom Ahaz called to his assistance. Tiglath-pileser conquered Damascus and a portion of the kingdom of Israel, and led a large part of the inhabitants of the two countries into captivity (2 Kings 15:29; 2 Kings 16:9). Judah was then also laid waste by the Assyrians, as a punishment for having refused the help of Jehovah, and preferred the help of man. Days of adversity would come upon the royal house and people of Judah, such as ('asher, quales, as in Exodus 10:6) had not come upon them since the calamitous day (l'miyyōm, inde a die; in other places we find l'min-hayyom, Exodus 9:18; Deuteronomy 4:32; Deuteronomy 9:7, etc.) of the falling away of the ten tribes. The appeal to Asshur laid the foundation for the overthrow of the kingdom of Judah, quite as much as for that of the kingdom of Israel. Ahaz became the tributary vassal of the king of Assyria in consequence; and although Hezekiah was set free from Asshur through the miraculous assistance of Jehovah, what Nebuchadnezzar afterwards performed was only the accomplishment of the frustrated attempt of Sennacherib. It is with piercing force that the words "the king of Assyria" ('eth melek Asshur) are introduced at the close of the two verses. The particle 'eth is used frequently where an indefinite object is followed by the more precise and definite one (Genesis 6:10; Genesis 26:34). The point of the v. would be broken by eliminating the words as a gloss, as Knobel proposes. The very king to whom Ahaz had appealed in his terror, would bring Judah to the brink of destruction. The absence of any link of connection between Isaiah 7:16 and Isaiah 7:17 is also very effective. The hopes raised in the mind of Ahaz by Isaiah 7:16 are suddenly turned into bitter disappointment. In the face of such catastrophes as these, Isaiah predicts the birth of Immanuel. His eating only thickened milk and honey, at a time when he knew very well what was good and what was not, would arise from the desolation of the whole of the ancient territory of the Davidic kingdom that had preceded the riper years of his youth, when he would certainly have chosen other kinds of food, if they could possibly have been found. Consequently the birth of Immanuel apparently falls between the time then present and the Assyrian calamities, and his earliest childhood appears to run parallel to the Assyrian oppression. In any case, their consequences would be still felt at the time of his riper youth. In what way the truth of the prophecy was maintained notwithstanding, we shall see presently. What follows in Isaiah 7:18-25, is only a further expansion of Isaiah 7:17. The promising side of the "sign" remains in the background, because this was not for Ahaz. When Ewald expresses the opinion that a promising strophe has fallen out after Isaiah 7:17, he completely mistakes the circumstances under which the prophet uttered these predictions. In the presence of Ahaz he must keep silence as to the promises. But he pours out with all the greater fluency his threatening of judgment.
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