Isaiah 7:25
And on all hills that shall be dig with the mattock, there shall not come thither the fear of briers and thorns: but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle.
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(25) And on all hills that shall be digged . . .—Better, “that are digged” or that used to be digged with the hoe. The picture of devastation is completed. On the hill-sides, every inch of which was once brought under careful vine culture, “Thou wilt not enter for fear of thorns and briars” i.e., thou wilt not venture on the task of tilling the soil in face of such disarrangements. What would be the use of hoeing such a tangled mass of brushwood? At the best it must be left for such pasturage as oxen and sheep might find there as they browsed, and they by their trampling should but increase the mischief. The rendering of the Authorised version conveys the thought that where there was the careful culture thus described, there should be an exception to the general desolation. Below this, if we accept it, there may be a spiritual meaning like that of Jeremiah 4:3 (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.And on all hills ... - All the fertile places in the mountains that used to be cultivated with the spade. Vineyards were often planted on the sides of hills; and those places were among the most productive and fertile in the land; see Isaiah 5:1.

The mattock - The spade; the garden hoe; or the weeding-hook. An instrument chiefly used, probably, in vineyards.

There shall not come thither - There shall not be.

The fear of briers and thorns - This does not make sense; or if it does, it is not a sense consistent with the connection. The idea of the whole passage is, that the land, even the most fertile parts of it, should be given up to briers and thorns; that is, to desolation. The Hebrew here, is ambiguous. It may mean, 'thou shalt not come there, for fear of the briers and thorns.' That is, the place that was formerly so fertile, that was cultivated with the spade, shall now be so completely covered with thorns, and shall furnish so convenient a resting place for wild beasts and reptiles, as to deter a man from going there. The Septuagint, and the Syriac, however, understand it differently - as denoting that those places should be still cultivated. But this is evidently a departure from the sense of the connection. Lowth understands it in the past tense; 'where the fear of briers and thorns never came.' The general idea of the passage is plain, that those places, once so highly cultivated, would now be desolate.

Shall be for the sending forth ... - Shall be wild, uncultivated, and desolate - vast commons on which oxen and sheep shall feed at large. "Lesser cattle." Hebrew 'Sheep, or the flock.' Sheep were accustomed to range in deserts and uncultivated places, and to obtain there, under the guidance of the shepherd, their subsistence. The description, therefore, in these verses, is one of extensive and wide desolation; and one that was accomplished in the calamities that came upon the land in the invasions by the Egyptians and Assyrians.

25. shall be—rather, "were once."

digged—in order to plant and rear vines (Isa 5:6).

there shall not come—that is, none shall come who fear thorns, seeing that thorns shall abound on all sides [Maurer]. Otherwise, "Thou shalt not come for fear of thorns" [Gesenius]. Only cattle shall be able to penetrate the briery ground.

lesser cattle—sheep and goats.

That shall be digged; or, that were digged, to wit, formerly; that used to be digged and dressed for the planting of vines, or other choice fruit trees.

There shall not come thither the fear of briers and thorns: the words thus rendered sound like a promise, but that doth no way agree with the scope of the place. And they may be, and are by some, understood not of briers and thorns growing in those grounds, which would hinder the feeding of cattle there, but of such wherewith they were fenced, and by which the cattle were affrighted or hindered from breaking into them, which cause of their fear being now removed by the general devastation, they might now enter there, and feed at pleasure, as the next words imply. Or they may be rendered thus, as they are by a late learned interpreter,

that there might not come thither, & c., which is mentioned as the reason why they were digged and dressed, that they might be freed from briers and thorns. And so there is only a defect of the Hebrew particle asher, which is frequent, and that not only as it signifies which, but as it is taken finally for that, as Isaiah 5:11 10:2, and elsewhere.

It shall be; or, even (as this particle is oft rendered) there shall be, to wit, a place; which word is understood, 2 Samuel 7:1 1 Kings 18:12. Or the words may be thus rendered, and all hills that shall be digged—and thorns, even they or each of them shall be; the singular being taken collectively, as is very usual.

For the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle; all sorts of cattle may fairly enter, and feed there, the fences being broken down, and the owners generally slain, or carried into captivity. And on all hills that shall be digged with the mattock,.... Which could not be ploughed with a plough, but used to be dug with a mattock or spade, and then sowed with corn:

there shall not come thither the fear of briers and thorns; where thorns and briers used not to grow, and where there was no fear or danger of being overrun with them, as the vineyards in the valleys and champaign country; yet those places should become desolate in another way; or rather, there shall be now no fences made of briers and thorns, which deter cattle from entering into fields and vineyards thus fenced:

but it shall be for the setting forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle; there being no fence of briers and thorns to keep them out, cattle both of the greater and lesser sort should get into the corn, and feed upon it, and make such places desolate, where much pains were taken to cultivate them. The Targum is,

"it shall be for a place of lying down of oxen, and for a place of dwelling of flocks of sheep;''

not for pastures, but for folds for them; though the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions, suggest these places should become pastures; and therefore some understand this as a prophecy of a change in the country for the better, and of the great fruitfulness of it after the Jews' return from the Babylonish captivity.

And on {z} all hills that shall be dug with the mattock, there shall not come there the fear of briers and thorns: but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle.

(z) The mountains contrary to their will, will be tilled by such as shall flee to them for comfort.

25. 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.

25. And on all hills … mattock] And as for all the hills that used to be hoed with the mattock. Such hills were the best sites for vineyards (ch. Isaiah 5:2).

there shall not come thither the fear …] This could only mean, in the present connexion, that there would be no more anxiety about thorns, &c., because the place was hopelessly overgrown by them. It is better to render with R.V. thou shalt not come thither for fear of, &c., although the construction is certainly harsh. Or the words might be taken as a continuation of the relative clause, thus: “And as for … mattock, whither no fear of thorns, &c. used to come, it shall be, &c.” This is perhaps preferable.

for the sending forth of oxen] i.e. a place where oxen are sent forth (cf. ch. Isaiah 32:20). the treading (ch. Isaiah 5:5) of lesser cattle (R.V. sheep).Verse 25. - On all hills that shall be digged; rather, that shall have been digged in former times, whether for corn cultivation or for any other. There shall not come thither the fear of briers (so Ewald and Kay). But almost all other commentators translate, "Thou shalt not come thither for fear of briers," etc. The briers and thorns of the East tear the clothes and the flesh. It shall be; i.e. "each such place shall be." For the sending forth of oxen; rather, for the sending in of oxen. Men shall send their cattle into them, as alone able to penetrate the jungle without hurt. SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE. "And it comes to pass in that day, Jehovah will hiss for the fly which is at the end of the Nile-arms of Egypt, and the bees that are in the land of Asshur; and they come and settle all of them in the valleys of the slopes, and in the clefts of the rocks, and in all the thorn-hedges, and upon all grass-plats." The prophet has already stated, in Isaiah 5:26, that Jehovah would hiss for distant nations; and how he is able to describe them by name. The Egyptian nation, with its vast and unparalleled numbers, is compared to the swarming fly; and the Assyrian nation, with its love of war and conquest, to the stinging bee which is so hard to keep off (Deuteronomy 1:44; Psalm 118:12). The emblems also correspond to the nature of the two countries: the fly to slimy Egypt with its swarms of insects (see Isaiah 18:1),

(Note: Egypt abounds in gnats, etc., more especially in flies (muscariae), including a species of small fly (nemâth), which is a great plague to men throughout all the country of the Nile (see Hartmann, Natur-geschichtlich-medicinische Skizze der Nillnder, 1865, pp. 204- 5).)

and the bee to the more mountainous and woody Assyria, where the keeping of bees is still one of the principal branches of trade. יאר, pl. יארים, is an Egyptian name (yaro, with the article phiaro, pl. yarōu) for the Nile and its several arms. The end of the Nile-arms of Egypt, from a Palestinian point of view, was the extreme corner of the land. The military force of Egypt would march out of the whole compass of the land, and meet the Assyrian force in the Holy Land; and both together would cover the land in such a way that the valleys of steep precipitous heights (nachalee habbattoth), and clefts of the rocks (nekikē hasselâ‛im), and all the thorn-hedges (nâ‛azūzı̄m) and pastures (nahalolim, from nihēl, to lead to pasture), would be covered with these swarms. The fact that just such places are named, as afforded a suitable shelter and abundance of food for flies and bees, is a filling up of the figure in simple truthfulness to nature. And if we look at the historical fulfilment, it does not answer even in this respect to the actual letter of the prophecy; for in the time of Hezekiah no collision really took place between the Assyrian and Egyptian forces; and it was not till the days of Josiah that a collision took place between the Chaldean and Egyptian powers in the eventful battle fought between Pharaoh-Necho and Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish (Circesium), which decided the fate of Judah. That the spirit of prophecy points to this eventful occurrence is evident from Isaiah 7:20, where no further allusion is made to Egypt, because of its having succumbed to the imperial power of Eastern Asia.

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