Isaiah 8:14
And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
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(14) And he shall be for a sanctuary . . .—Literally, he shall become a hallowed thing, with the implied thought as in Ezekiel 11:16, that the sanctuary is also an asylum (1Kings 1:50; 1Kings 2:28). In that sanctuary, in the presence of Jehovah, there was a refuge from all terror, the answer to all misgivings (Psalm 73:17).

But for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence . . .—The words have become so familiar to us through their Christian application (Matthew 21:44; Romans 9:33; 1Peter 2:8) that we find it hard to measure their force and meaning as they came from Isaiah’s lips. Are the contrasted clauses connected by any common link of imagery? To enter into fellowship with Jehovah, is to enter into the sanctuary. He who stands on the stone which forms the threshold of that sanctuary, has gained an asylum. But to do that requires the clear vision of faith. He who walks blindly (Isaiah 6:10; John 11:10), without faith, may stumble on that very stone of the threshold, and what was safety and life for others, might for him bring pain and shame. He might be there sorely bruised (Matthew 21:44) like the wild animals taken in a trap (synonyms are heaped one upon another to increase the force of the imagery), till a helper came to release him. So, Isaiah says, was Jehovah “to both the houses of Israel” (the phrase is peculiar, and implies a hope of the restored unity of the nation’s life) in their self-chosen blindness. So St. Peter says, even the head corner-stone is to those who “stumble at the word, being disobedient” a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offence” (1Peter 2:8). It lies in the nature of the case that the fall is not necessarily final and irretrievable. Men may be braised, but not “ground to powder;” may “stumbleso that they may rise again (Matthew 21:44; Luke 2:34; Romans 11:11).

8:9-16 The prophet challenges the enemies of the Jews. Their efforts would be vain, and themselves broken to pieces. It concerns us, in time of trouble, to watch against all such fears as put us upon crooked courses for our own security. The believing fear of God preserves against the disquieting fear of man. If we thought rightly of the greatness and glory of God, we should see all the power of our enemies restrained. The Lord, who will be a Sanctuary to those who trust in him, will be a Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offence, to those who make the creature their fear and their hope. If the things of God be an offence to us, they will undo us. The apostle quotes this as to all who persisted in unbelief of the gospel of Christ, 1Pe 2:8. The crucified Emmanuel, who was and is a Stumbling-stone and Rock of offence to unbelieving Jews, is no less so to thousands who are called Christians. The preaching of the cross is foolishness in their esteem; his doctrines and precepts offend them.And he shall be for a sanctuary - The word translated sanctuary means, literally, a holy place, a consecrated place, and is usually applied to the tabernacle, or to the temple; Exodus 25:8; Leviticus 12:4; Leviticus 21:12; Jeremiah 51:51. It also means an asylum, or a refuge, to which one might flee in case of danger, and be safe; see Ezekiel 11:16. Among all ancient nations, temples were regarded as safe places to which people might flee when pursued, and when in danger. It was deemed sacrilege to tear a man away from a temple or an altar. That the temple was so regarded among the Jews is manifest; see 1 Kings 1:50; 1 Kings 2:28. In allusion to this, the prophet says, that Yahweh would be a sanctuary; that is, an asylum, or refuge, to whom they should flee in times of danger, and be safe; see Psalm 46:1 : 'God is our refuge and strength;' Proverbs 18:10 : 'The name of the Loan is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.' It is also well known that temples and altars were regarded as asyla among the Greeks and Romans. The reference here is rather to an altar, as the asylum, than to a city or temple; as, in the other member of the sentence, the same object is said to be a stone of stumbling - a figure which would not be applicable to a temple or a city.

A stone of stumbling - A stone against which one should impinge, or over which he should fall. The idea is, that none could run against a hard, rough, fixed stone, or rock, without injuring himself. So the Jews would oppose the counsels of God; instead of making him their refuge and strength, they would resist his claims and appeals, and the consequence would be their destruction. It is also to be remembered, that God is often represented in the Scriptures as a rock, a firm defense, or place of safety, to those who trust in him. But instead of their thus taking refuge in him, they would oppose themselves to this firm rock, and ruin themselves; see Deuteronomy 32:4, Deuteronomy 32:15, Deuteronomy 32:18, Deuteronomy 32:30-31, Deuteronomy 32:37; Psalm 19:14; Psalm 28:1; Psalm 31:2, Psalm 31:8; Psalm 41:2; Psalm 42:9. Many of the ancient Jewish commentators applied this to the Messiah. - Gesenius in loc. It is also applied to Christ in the New Testament, 1 Peter 2:8.

A rock of offence - A rock over which they should fall. The English word offence, had that meaning formerly, and retains it in our translation of the Bible.

To both the houses of Israel - To the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel; that is, to the wicked portion of them, not to those who were truly pious.

For a gin - A net, or snare, to take birds. The idea is the same as in the former part of the verse. By rejecting the counsel of God; by despising his protection, and by resisting his laws, they would be unexpectedly involved in difficulties, as birds which are caught in a snare.

14. sanctuary—inviolable asylum, like the altar of the temple (1Ki 1:50; 2:28; Eze 11:16; compare Pr 18:10); namely, to those who fear and trust in Him.

but … offence—that is, a rock over which they should fall to their hurt; namely those who would not believe.

both … houses—Israel and Judah. Here again the prophecy expands beyond the temporary application in Ahaz' time. The very stone, Immanuel, which would have been a sanctuary on belief, becomes a fatal stumbling-block through unbelief. Jesus Christ refers to this in Mt 21:44. (Compare De 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31, 37; Da 2:34; Ro 9:33; 1Pe 2:8).

gin—trap, in which birds are unexpectedly caught (Lu 21:35; 1Th 5:2). So at the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus.

Your sanctuary; a sure refuge to all that truly fear him, and rely upon him.

For a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence; an occasion of sin and ruin, at whom they will take offence and stumble, so as to fall and be broken, as it is expressed, Isaiah 8:15.

To both the houses of Israel; to the two royal families of Israel, largely so called; that of Judah, to wit, the house of David; and that of Ephraim: or, to the two kingdoms, that of the ten tribes, and that of the two tribes.

For a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; which are distinctly mentioned, as a very observable and wonderful thing, because Jerusalem was the seat of the temple, and of God’s solemn worship, where all the means of knowledge and grace were in greatest power and plenty, where the thrones of civil and ecclesiastical judicature were established, where the most wise and learned doctors had their constant or frequent abode. And that such a place and people should reject Immanuel, or their Messiah, when he should appear, was so great and strange an occurrent, that the prediction of it was highly necessary, lest otherwise, when it came to pass, it should shake the faith of all who did believe on him; whereas now the accomplishment hereof was a notable confirmation of their faith, and an evidence that Christ was the true Messiah. And he shall be for a sanctuary,.... Not the king of Assyria, as Aben Ezra, but the Lord of hosts: the Targum rightly interprets it of the word of the Lord, the essential Word; of the Messiah, who is for a sanctuary, or asylum, a place of refuge for his people in all times of distress, and who is their dwelling place in all generations; he dwells in them, and they dwell in him; and where they dwell safely and securely, peaceably and quietly, comfortably and pleasantly, and that always; he is a sanctuary to worship in, in whom they draw nigh to the Father, and offer up the sacrifices of prayer and praise, and where the glory of God is seen by them, and they have communion with him; or "for sanctification", as the Septuagint version; this Christ is to his people, 1 Corinthians 1:30,

but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offence, to both the houses of Israel: which Jarchi interprets of Pekah, the son of Remaliah, and his company, and of Shebna and his company; but Aben Ezra much better of the kingdoms of Israel and of Judah, especially when the twelve tribes were under one form of government in Christ's time. In the Talmud (u) it is explained of the two houses of the fathers of Israel; and these are they, the head of the captivity in Babylon, and the prince in the land of Israel; and the Nazarenes, as Jerom (w) reports, apply the words to the two houses or families of Hillel and Shammai, who were two heads of schools in Jerusalem, a little before the times of Christ, and were of the sect of the Pharisees; and to whom indeed Christ was a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, as he was to the Jews in common; who were offended and stumbled at his birth and parentage, he descending from poor parents; at his education and place of bringing up; at the mean appearance of himself and his followers; at the obscurity of his kingdom, it not being of this world, nor coming with observation; at the company he kept, and the audience that attended on him; at his doctrines and miracles; and at his death, and the manner of it; see Romans 9:32.

For a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; even the principal inhabitants of it, such as the elders of the people, priests, Scribes, and Pharisees, who sought to entangle Christ in his talk, and to ensnare him by questions they put unto him; but were themselves snared and taken, convicted, confounded, and silenced. See Matthew 22:15.

(u) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 38. 1.((w) In loc.

And he shall be for a {q} sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a trap and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

(q) He will defend you who are his elect, and reject all the rest, meaning Christ against whom the Jews would stumble and fall, Lu 2:23, Ro 9:33, 1Pe 2:7,8.

14. To those who obey this admonition, Jehovah shall be for a sanctuary; to all others a stumbling-stone. This contrast would certainly be clearer if (with the Targ. and Vulg.) we might insert “to you” after “shall be.” But the want of these words hardly justifies us in changing the text, or even in translating “He will shew Himself a holy object,” in the sense explained by the remainder of the verse. Although it is doubtful if the word is ever used for “asylum,” yet the sanctuary was in fact an asylum (Exodus 21:14; 1 Kings 1:50; 1 Kings 2:28; 1 Kings 2:30), and there is no great improbability in supposing that that idea is expressed here.

Two figures are used to set forth the threatening side of Jehovah’s relation to both the houses of Israel: the stone against which one heedlessly stumbles to one’s own destruction; and the snare in which a wild animal is caught unawares. Jehovah is a secret and sudden danger to those who walk in blind unbelief. Cf. Psalm 18:26.Verse 14. - He shall be for a Sanctuary (comp. Ezekiel 11:16, "Yet will I be to them as a little Sanctuary"). A sanctuary is "a refuge" (Psalm 90:1; Psalm 91:9), and something more. It is a holy refuge, a place which is a refuge because of its holiness. Its material counterpart in the Mosaic system is, not "the city of refuge," but the altar (1 Kings 1:50; 1 Kings 2:28). Both the houses of Israel; i.e. "the two reigning houses of Samaria and Judaea," both of which were Israelite. Both the "houses" would ultimately forsake Jehovah, and find in him a "Snare" and a "Rock of offense." Not till then would this overflowing reach as far as Judah, but then it would do so most certainly and incessantly."And presses forward into Judah, overflows and pours onward, till it reaches to the neck, and the spreading out of its wings fill the breadth of thy land, Immanuel." The fate of Judah would be different from that of Ephraim. Ephraim would be laid completely under water by the river, i.e., would be utterly destroyed. And in Judah the stream, as it rushed forward, would reach the most dangerous height; but if a deliverer could be found, there was still a possibility of its being saved. Such a deliverer was Immanuel, whom the prophet sees in the light of the Spirit living through all the Assyrian calamities. The prophet appeals complainingly to him that the land, which is his land, is almost swallowed up by the world-power: the spreadings out (muttoth, a hophal noun: for similar substantive forms, see Isaiah 14:6; Isaiah 29:3, and more especially Psalm 66:11) of the wings of the stream (i.e., of the large bodies of water pouring out on both sides from the main stream, as from the trunk, and covering the land like two broad wings) have filled the whole land. According to Norzi, Immanul is to be written here as one word, as it is in Isaiah 7:14; but the correct reading is Immân El, with mercha silluk (see note on Isaiah 7:14), though it does not therefore cease to be a proper name. As Jerome observes, it is nomen proprium, non interpretatum; and so it is rendered in the Sept., Μεθ ̓ ἡμῶν ὁ Θεός.
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