Isaiah 8:22
And they shall look to the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.
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8:17-22 The prophet foresaw that the Lord would hide his face; but he would look for his return in favour to them again. Though not miraculous signs, the children's names were memorials from God, suited to excite attention. The unbelieving Jews were prone to seek counsel in difficulties, from diviners of different descriptions, whose foolish and sinful ceremonies are alluded to. Would we know how we may seek to our God, and come to the knowledge of his mind? To the law and to the testimony; for there you will see what is good, and what the Lord requires. We must speak of the things of God in the words which the Holy Ghost teaches, and be ruled by them. To those that seek to familiar spirits, and regard not God's law and testimony, there shall be horror and misery. Those that go away from God, go out of the way of all good; for fretfulness is a sin that is its own punishment. They shall despair, and see no way of relief, when they curse God. And their fears will represent every thing as frightful. Those that shut their eyes against the light of God's word, will justly be left to darkness. All the miseries that ever were felt or witnessed on earth, are as nothing, compared with what will overwhelm those who leave the words of Christ, to follow delusions.And they shall look unto the earth - They would look upward and find no relief, and then in despair cast their eyes to the earth to obtain help there. Yet equally in vain. The whole image is one of intense anguish brought on the nation for leaving the counselor the true God.

And behold ... - see the note at Isaiah 5:30.

Trouble - Anguish, oppression, צרה tsârâh, from צור tsûr, to oppress, to straiten, to afflict. This is a remarkable instance of the prophet Isaiah's manner - of a rapid, impetuous, and bold style of utterance. He accumulates images; piles words on each other; and deepens the anxiety by each additional word, until we almost feel that we are enveloped by the gloom, and see objects of terror and alarm on every side.

Dimness of anguish - These words should be kept separate in the translation - צוּקה מעוּף me‛ûp tsûqâh, "darkness, oppression" - accumulated epithets to heighten the gloom and terror of the scene.

And they shall be driven to darkness - Hebrew, מנדה ואפלה va'ăpēlâh menudāch a darkness that is driven, or that is urged upon itself; that becomes condensed, accumulated, until it becomes terrible and frightful. The idea is that of a driving tempest, or an involving obscurity (מנדה menudāch from נדה nâdâh, to push, thrust, impel, urge on, as a driving storm). The prophet has thus accumulated every possible idea of gloom and obscurity, and probably there is not anywhere a more graphic description of gathering darkness and trouble, and of the consternation of those involved in it, than this. So fearful and terrific are the judgments of God when he comes forth to punish people!

21, 22. More detailed description of the despair, which they shall fall into, who sought necromancy instead of God; Isa 8:20 implies that too late they shall see how much better it would have been for them to have sought "to the law," &c. (De 32:31). But now they are given over to despair. Therefore, while seeing the truth of God, they only "curse their King and God"; foreshadowing the future, like conduct of those belonging to the "kingdom of the beast," when they shall be visited with divine plagues (Re 16:11; compare Jer 18:12).

through it—namely, the land.

hardly bestead—oppressed with anxiety.

hungry—a more grievous famine than the temporary one in Ahaz' time, owing to Assyria; then there was some food, but none now (Isa 7:15, 22; Le 26:3-5, 14-16, 20).

their king … God—Jehovah, King of the Jews (Ps 5:2; 68:24).

look upward … unto the earth—Whether they look up to heaven, or down towards the land of Judea, nothing but despair shall present itself.

dimness of anguish—darkness of distress (Pr 1:27).

driven to darkness—rather, "thick darkness" (Jer 23:12). Driven onward, as by a sweeping storm. The Jewish rejection of "their King and God," Messiah, was followed by all these awful calamities.

They shall look unto the earth; finding no help from heaven, they turn their eyes downward, looking hither and thither for comfort.

Trouble and darkness. &c.; many words expressing the same thing are put together, to signify the variety, and extremity, and continuance of their miseries. And they shall look unto the earth,.... As persons in distress, upwards and downwards, backwards and forwards, on the right hand and on the left, particularly into the land of Judea; a land that used to flow with milk and honey, a land of light, plenty, and prosperity:

and behold trouble and darkness; adversity, and miseries of all kinds, expressed by a variety of words; and even words fail to express the tribulation of these times, which were such as were not from the beginning of the world, Matthew 24:22,

dimness of anguish; or "fleeing from affliction" (e), multitudes everywhere fleeing from one place to another, to avoid the calamities coming upon them, Matthew 24:16,

and they shall be driven to darkness; when they endeavour to escape one calamity, they shall be driven and fall into another; the whole land shall be full of nothing else.

(e) a "volare", Forerius.

And they shall look to the earth; and behold trouble and {c} darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.

(c) They will think that heaven and earth and all creatures are bent against them to trouble them.

22. The last words of the previous verse should be taken along with this one: and he shall look upward and shall look to the earth: and behold, &c. Whether he look to heaven or earth, no ray of hope shall appear (cf. ch. Isaiah 5:30).

trouble and darkness …] Render with R.V. distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. The word here translated “gloom” is slightly different in form from that in Isaiah 9:1, and does not occur again.

and they shall … darkness] Probably: and he shall be chased into thick darkness. A somewhat similar phrase in Jeremiah 23:12. Others render: “and darkness shall be driven (upon him)”; others: “but (the) darkness shall be dispelled.”Verse 22. - They shall look unto the earth. For necessary nutriment, or simply as the place to which downcast and despairing eyes are turned naturally. They shall be driven to darkness. So Kay, who thinks the Captivity is meant; but it seems better to render the whole passage, with Mr. Cheyne, "They shall look to earth, and behold, distress and darkness, gloom of affliction, and thick darkness driven (upon them)." The darkness is spoken of as if it were a thing palpable, like rain or snow (comp. Exodus 10:21).

The words that follow in Isaiah 8:16, "Bind up the testimony, seal the lesson in my disciples," appear at first sight to be a command of God to the prophet, according to such parallel passages as Daniel 12:4, Daniel 12:9; Revelation 22:10, cf., Daniel 8:26; but with this explanation it is impossible to do justice to the words "in my disciples" (b'ilmmudâi). The explanation given by Rosenmller, Knobel, and others, viz., "by bringing in men divinely instructed" (adhibitis viris piis et sapientibus), is grammatically inadmissible. Consequently I agree with Vitringa, Drechsler, and others, in regarding Isaiah 8:16 as the prophet's own prayer to Jehovah. We tie together (צרר, imperf. צור equals צר) what we wish to keep from getting separated and lost; we seal (Châtam) what is to be kept secret, and only opened by a person duly qualified. And so the prophet here prays that Jehovah would take his testimony with regard to the future, and his instruction, which was designed to prepare for this future - that testimony and thorah which the great mass in their hardness did not understand, and in their self-hardening despised - and lay them up well secured and well preserved, as if by band and seal, in the hearts of those who received the prophet's words with believing obedience (limmūd, as in Isaiah 50:4; Isaiah 54:13). For it would be all over with Israel, unless a community of believers should be preserved, and all over with this community, if the word of God, which was the ground of their life, should be allowed to slip from their hearts. We have here an announcement of the grand idea, which the second part of the book of Isaiah carries out in the grandest style. It is very evident that it is the prophet himself who is speaking here, as we may see from Isaiah 8:17, where he continues to speak in the first person, though he does not begin with ואני.
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