Isaiah 9:10
The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.
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(10) The bricks are fallen down . . .—Sun-dried bricks and the cheap timber of the sycamore (1Kings 10:27) were the common materials used for the dwellings of the poor, hewn stones and cedar for the palaces of the rich. Whatever injury Samaria had sustained (the words are too proverbially figurative to make literal interpretation probable), through the intervention of Tiglath-pileser, was, its rulers thought, but as the prelude to a great and more lasting victory even than that of 2Chronicles 28:6.

9:8-21 Those are ripening apace for ruin, whose hearts are unhumbled under humbling providences. For that which God designs, in smiting us, is, to turn us to himself; and if this point be not gained by lesser judgments, greater may be expected. The leaders of the people misled them. We have reason to be afraid of those that speak well of us, when we do ill. Wickedness was universal, all were infected with it. They shall be in trouble, and see no way out; and when men's ways displease the Lord, he makes even their friends to be at war with them. God would take away those they thought to have help from. Their rulers were the head. Their false prophets were the tail and the rush, the most despicable. In these civil contests, men preyed on near relations who were as their own flesh. The people turn not to Him who smites them, therefore he continues to smite: for when God judges, he will overcome; and the proudest, stoutest sinner shall either bend or break.The bricks are fallen down - The language of this verse is figurative; but the sentiment is plain. It contains the confession of the inhabitants of Samaria, that their affairs were in a ruinous and dilapidated state; but also their self-confident assurance that they would be able to repair the evils, and restore their nation to more than their former magnificence.

Bricks, in oriental countries, were made of clay and straw, and were rarely turned. Hence, exposed to suns and rains, they soon dissolved. Walls and houses constructed of such materials would not be very permanent, and to build with them is strongly contrasted with building in a permanent and elegant manner with hewn stone.

The meaning is, that their former state was one of less splendor than they designed that their subsequent state should be. Desolation had come in upon their country, and this they could not deny. But they confidently boasted that they would more than repair the evil.

We will build - Our ruined houses and walls.

With hewn stones - At once more permanent and elegant than the structures of bricks had been.

The sycamores - These trees grew abundantly on the low lands of Judea, and were very little esteemed; 1 Kings 10:27; 2 Chronicles 1:15; 2 Chronicles 9:27.

'This curious tree seems to partake of the nature of two different species,' says Calmet, 'the mulberry and the fig; the former in its leaf, and the latter in its fruit. Its Greek name, συκόμορος sukomoros, is plainly descriptive of its character, being compounded of συκος sukos, a fig tree, and μορος moros, a mulberry tree. It is thus described by Norden: "They have in Egypt divers sorts of figs; but if there is any difference between them, a particular kind differs still more. I mean that which the sycamore bears, that they name in Arabic giomez. This sycamore is of the height of a beech, and bears its fruit in a manner quite different from other trees. It has them on the trunk itself, which shoots out little sprigs in form of a grapestalk, at the end of which grows the fruit close to one another, most like bunches of grapes. The tree is always green, and bears fruit several times in the year, without observing any certain seasons, for I have seen some sycamores which had fruit two months after others. This sort of tree is pretty common in Egypt."' They were not highly valued, though it is probable they were often employed in building.

They are contrasted with cedars here -

(1) Because the cedar was a much more rare and precious wood.

(2) Because it was a much more smooth and elegant article of building.

(3) Because it was more permanent. The grain and texture of the sycamore is remarkably coarse and spongy, and could, therefore, stand in no competition with the cedar for beauty and ornament.

We will change them - We will employ in their stead.

Cedars - The cedar was a remarkably fine; elegant, and permanent wood for building. It was principally obtained on mount Lebanon, and was employed in temples, palaces, and in the houses of the rich; see the note at Isaiah 2:18.

The sycamore is contrasted with the cedar in 1 Kings 10:27 : 'Cedars he made to be as sycamore trees.' The whole passage denotes self-confidence and pride; an unwillingness to submit to the judgments of God, and a self-assurance that they would more than repair all the evils that would be inflicted on them.

10. bricks—in the East generally sun-dried, and therefore soon dissolved by rain. Granting, say the Ephraimites to the prophet's threat, that our affairs are in a ruinous state, we will restore them to more than their former magnificence. Self-confident unwillingness to see the judgments of God (Isa 26:11).

hewn stones—(1Ki 5:17).

sycamores—growing abundantly on the low lands of Judea, and though useful for building on account of their antiseptic property (which induced the Egyptians to use them for the cases of their mummies), not very valuable. The cedar, on the other hand, was odorous, free from knots, durable, and precious (1Ki 10:27). "We will replace cottages with palaces."

The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones. It is true, we have received some damages from our enemies; but Rezin and the Syrians being now our friends and confederates, we doubt not we shall quickly repair them with great glory and advantage.

Sycomores; wild fig trees, a contemptible sort of trees, if compared with cedars, 1 Kings 10:27.

We will change them into cedars; putting cedars into our buildings instead of sycomores. See Jeremiah 22:13,15.

The bricks are fallen down,.... Houses made of bricks, which were without the cities besieged and destroyed by the Assyrians; of which the haughty Israelites made no account, looking upon such a desolation as little, or no loss at all:

but we will build with hewn stone, so that the houses will be better and stronger, more beautiful, and more durable:

the sycamores are cut down; which grew in the fields, and outer parts of the cities, and were but a mean sort of wood, and which the Assyrians cut down to serve several purposes in their siege; of this sort of trees; see Gill on Luke 19:4,

but we will change them into cedars; that is, will plant cedars in place of them; trees tall and large, very delightful to look at, of great worth and usefulness, and very durable; though this may regard not so much the planting of them as the use of them in building, and the sense be agreeable to the former clause; that as, instead of brick, they would build houses with hewn stone; so, instead of sycamore wood, which was not so substantial and durable, and fit for building, they would make use of cedar, which was both beautiful and lasting; so the Septuagint,

"the bricks are fallen, let us hew stones, and cut down sycamores and cedars, and build for ourselves a tower;''

and so the Arabic version; so that, upon the whole, they flattered themselves they should be gainers, and not losers, by the Assyrian invasion; thus deriding it, and despising the prophecy concerning it. Jarchi interprets the bricks and sycamores of the kings that went before, as Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, in whose days they were lessened, and were like a building of brick, broken and falling; but their present king, Pekah, the son of Remaliah, was strong, like a building of hewn stone, and so cedars were better for building than sycamores; and to this sense agrees the Targum,

"the heads (or princes) are carried captive, but we will appoint better in their room; goods are spoiled, but what are more beautiful than them we will purchase.''

The {n} bricks have fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.

(n) We were but weak, when the enemy overcame us, but we will make ourselves so strong, that we will neither care for our enemies, nor fear God's threatenings.

10. It has been conjectured that these words are a fragment of a drinking song actually sung in Ephraim. They express the spirit of bravado which prevailed in the northern capital, cf. Amos 6:13; Hosea 7:9-10. It is, therefore, not necessary to refer them to any particular recent reverses, such as the inroads of Assyria which punished the ill-timed attack on Judah. From the time of the Syrian wars there had been abundant “occasion to use this proverb in Israel.”

hewn stones] Cf. Amos 5:11.

sycomores] The wood of the mulberry-fig, spongy but exceedingly durable, is still the cheapest and commonest building material in Palestine, cf. 1 Kings 10:27.

Verse 10. - The bricks are fallen down, etc.; i.e. we have suffered a moderate damage, but we will more than make up for it; all our losses we will replace with something better. Bricks were the ordinary material for the poorer class of houses in Palestine; stone was reserved for the dwellings of the rich and great (Amos 5:11). Sycamore wood was the commonest sort of timber, cedar the scarcest and most precious, having to be imported from Phoenicia (1 Kings 5:6; 2 Chronicles 2:3; Ezra 3:7). (On the contrast between cedar and sycamore wood, comp. 2 Chronicles 1:15.) Cut down. The Israelites probably alluded to damage done by Tiglath-Pileser in his first invasion. The Assyrians were in the habit of actually cutting down trees in foreign countries, in order to injure and weaken them; but the present passage is, perhaps, rather intended to be figurative. Isaiah 9:10The great light would not arise till the darkness had reached its deepest point. The gradual increase of this darkness is predicted in this second section of the esoteric addresses. Many difficult questions suggest themselves in connection with this section. 1. Is it directed against the northern kingdom only, or against all Israel? 2. What was the historical standpoint of the prophet himself? The majority of commentators reply that the prophet is only prophesying against Ephraim here, and that Syria and Ephraim have already been chastised by Tiglath-pileser. The former is incorrect. The prophet does indeed commence with Ephraim, but he does not stop there. The fates of both kingdoms flow into one another here, as well as in Isaiah 8:5., just as they were causally connected in actual fact. And it cannot be maintained, that when the prophet uttered his predictions Ephraim had already felt the scourging of Tiglath-pileser. The prophet takes his stand at a time when judgment after judgment had fallen upon all Israel without improving it. And one of these past judgments was the scourging of Ephraim by Tiglath-pileser. How much or how little of the events which the prophet looks back upon from this ideal standpoint had already taken place, it is impossible to determine; but this is a matter of indifference so far as the prophecy is concerned. The prophet, from his ideal standing-place, had not only this or that behind him, but all that is expressed in this section by perfects and aorists (Ges. 129, 2, b). And we already know from Isaiah 2:9; Isaiah 5:25, that he sued the future conversive as the preterite of the ideal past. We therefore translate the whole in the present tense. In outward arrangement there is no section of Isaiah so symmetrical as this. In chapter 5 we found one partial approach to the strophe in similarity of commencement, and another in chapter 2 in similarity of conclusion. But here Isaiah 5:25 is adapted as the refrain of four symmetrical strophes. We will take each strophe by itself.

Strophe 1. Isa 9:8-12 "The Lord sends out a word against Jacob, and it descends into Israel. And all the people must make atonement, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, saying in pride and haughtiness of heart, 'Bricks are fallen down, and we build with square stones; sycamores are hewn down, and we put cedars in their place.' Jehovah raises Rezin's oppressors high above him, and pricks up his enemies: Aram from the east, and Philistines from the west; they devour Israel with full mouth. For all this His anger is not turned away, and His hand is stretched out still." The word (dâbâr) is both in nature and history the messenger of the Lord: it runs quickly through the earth (Psalm 147:15, Psalm 147:18), and when sent by the Lord, comes to men to destroy or to heal (Psalm 107:20), and never returns to its sender void (Isaiah 55:10-11). Thus does the Lord now send a word against Jacob (Jacob, as in Isaiah 2:5); and this heavenly messenger descends into Israel (nâphal, as in Daniel 4:28, and like the Arabic nazala, which is the word usually employed to denote the communication of divine revelation), taking shelter, as it were, in the soul of the prophet. Its immediate commission is directed against Ephraim, which has been so little humbled by the calamities that have fallen upon it since the time of Jehu, that the people are boasting that they will replace bricks and sycamores (or sycamines, from shikmin), that wide-spread tree (1 Kings 10:27), with works of art and cedars. "We put in their place:" nachaliph is not used here as in Job 14:7, where it signifies to sprout again (nova germina emittere), but as in Isaiah 40:31; Isaiah 41:1, where it is construed with כּח (strength), and signifies to renew (novas vires assumere). In this instance, when the object is one external to the subject, the meaning is to substitute (substituere), like the Arabic achlafa, to restore. The poorest style of building in the land is contrasted with the best; for "the sycamore is a tree which only flourishes in the plain, and there the most wretched houses are still built of bricks dried in the sun, and of knotty beams of sycamore."

(Note: Rosen, Topographisches aus Jerusalem.)

These might have been destroyed by the war, but more durable and stately buildings would rise up in their place. Ephraim, however, would be made to feel this defiance of the judgments of God (to "know," as in Hosea 9:7; Ezekiel 25:14). Jehovah would give the adversaries of Rezin authority over Ephraim, and instigate his foes: sicsēc, as in Isaiah 19:2, from sâcac, in its primary sense of "prick," figere, which has nothing to do with the meanings to plait and cover, but from which we have the words שׂך, סך, a thorn, nail, or plug, and which is probably related to שׂכה, to view, lit., to fix; hence pilpel, to prick up, incite, which is the rendering adopted by the Targum here and in Isaiah 19:2, and by the lxx at Isaiah 19:2. There is no necessity to quote the talmudic sicsēc, to kindle (by friction), which is never met with in the metaphorical sense of exciting. It would be even better to take our sicsēc as an intensive form of sâcac, used in the same sense as the Arabic, viz., to provide one's self with weapons, to arm; but this is probably a denominative from sicca, signifying offensive armour, with the idea of pricking and spearing - a radical notion, from which it would be easy to get at the satisfactory meaning, to spur on or instigate. "The oppressors of Rezin" tzâr Retzı̄n, a simple play upon the words, like hoi goi in Isaiah 1:4, and many others in Isaiah) are the Assyrians, whose help had been sought by Ahaz against Rezin; though perhaps not these exclusively, but possibly also the Trachonites, for example, against whom the mountain fortress Rezı̄n appears to have been erected, to protect the rich lands of eastern Hauran. In Isaiah 9:12 the range of vision stretches over all Israel. It cannot be otherwise, for the northern kingdom never suffered anything from the Philistines; whereas an invasion of Judah by the Philistines was really one of the judgments belonging to the time of Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:16-19). Consequently by Israel here we are to understand all Israel, the two halves of which would become a rich prize to the enemy. Ephraim would be swallowed up by Aram - namely, by those who had been subjugated by Asshur, and were now tributary to it - and Judah would be swallowed up by the Philistines. But this strait would be very far from being the end of the punishments of God. Because Israel would not turn, the wrath of God would not turn away.

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