Isaiah 9:14
Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day.
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(14) Head and tail, branch and rush . . .—The “branch” is strictly that of the palm-tree, which in its stately height answered to the nobles of the land, while the “rush,” the emblem of a real or affected lowliness (Isaiah 58:5) represented the “mean man” of Isaiah 2:9. The same proverbial formula meets us in Isaiah 19:15.

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.Will cut off head and tail - This is a proverbial expression, which is explained in the following verse; see also Deuteronomy 28:13-14. The head is often used to denote those in honor and authority. The tail is an expression applicable to the lower ranks, and would commonly indicate more than simply the common people. It would imply contempt; a state of great abjectness and meanness.

Branch and rush - This is also a proverbial expression, meaning the highest and lowest; see the note at Isaiah 19:15. The word here translated branch, means properly the bough or top of the palm tree. The palm grew to a great height before it gave out any branches, and hence, the image is a beautiful one to denote those high in office and authority. The word rush means the coarse, long-jointed reed, that grows in marshes - an apt emblem of the base and worthless classes of society.

14. head and tail—proverbial for the highest and lowest (De 28:13, 44).

branch and rush—another image for the same thought (Isa 19:15). The branch is elevated on the top of the tree: the rush is coarse and low.

Head and tail; high and low, honourable and contemptible, as the next verse explains it.

Branch; the goodly branches of tall and strong trees, the mighty and noble.

Rush; the bulrush, the weakest and meanest persons.

In one day; all together, one as well as another, without any distinction.

Therefore the Lord will cut off from Israel head and tail,.... The former of these is afterwards interpreted of "the ancient and honourable", men in high places, civil magistrates, judges, governors, and elders of the people, the king as supreme, and all subordinate officers; and so the Targum,

"the Lord will destroy from Israel the prince and the ruler;''

and the latter is interpreted of the false prophet. The people of Israel are compared to a beast with a tail, being so sadly degenerated and corrupted; as the Romish antichrist, in both his capacities, civil and ecclesiastical, is compared to a beast; the one being the head, and the other the tail, Revelation 13:1 and Rome Pagan to a dragon with a tail, Revelation 12:3 and the Saracens and Turks to locusts with tails like the tails of scorpions, Revelation 9:10,

branch and rush, in one day. The Septuagint render it, "great and small"; and so the Arabic version; the first word intending the great men of the nation, in flourishing circumstances, like branches of trees; the latter the common, people, like reeds and rushes, weak and feeble; so Kimchi explains them,

"the strong and the weak;''

though the Targum interprets both of the governor and lord; and so Jarchi says they signify kings and governors; but Aben Ezra renders the word root and branch; and so they may denote the utter destruction of the people of Israel, fathers and children, high and low, rich and poor. See Malachi 4:1.

Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day.
14. Render: And (so) Jehovah cut off from Israel head and tail, palm-branch and rush, in one day. head and tail] i.e. leader and follower, a proverbial expression, like the next phrase.

15 is almost universally regarded as an erroneous explanation of Isaiah 9:14 and therefore a gloss; but this is not quite certain. False prophets were frequently guilty of following where they pretended to lead (1 Kings 22:6; Ezekiel 13:10) and might be very appropriately described as the “tail.” The verse may be objected to on account of its somewhat prosaic character, but the strophe is not complete without it.

The ancient and honourable] see on Isaiah 3:2-3.

Verse 14. - Head and tail, branch and rush; i.e. the whole nation, from the highest to the lowest. The "branch" intended is the "palm branch," at once lofty in position and the most glorious form of vegetable life (Psalm 92:12; Song of Solomon 7:7, 8, etc.); the "rush" is the simple "sedge" that grows, not only low on the ground, but in the "mire" (Job 8:11). The same expression occurs again in Isaiah 19:15. Isaiah 9:14Strophe 2. "But the people turneth not unto Him that smiteth it, and they seek not Jehovah of hosts. Therefore Jehovah rooteth out of Israel head and tail, palm-branch and rush, in one day. Elders and highly distinguished men, this is the head; and prophets, lying teachers, this is the tail. The leaders of this people have become leaders astray, and their followers swallowed up. Therefore the Lord will not rejoice in their young men, and will have no compassion on their orphans and widows: for all together are profligate and evil-doers, and every mouth speaketh blasphemy. With all this His anger is not turned away, and His hand is stretched out still." As the first stage of the judgments has been followed by no true conversion to Jehovah the almighty judge, there comes a second. עד שׁוּב (to turn unto) denotes a thorough conversion, not stopping half-way. "The smiter of it" (hammaccēhu), or "he who smiteth it," it Jehovah (compare, on the other hand, Isaiah 10:20, where Asshur is intended). The article and suffix are used together, as in Isaiah 24:2; Proverbs 16:4 (vid., Ges. 110, 2; Caspari, Arab. Gram. 472). But there was coming now a great day of punishment (in the view of the prophet, it was already past), such as Israel experienced more than once in the Assyrian oppressions, and Judah in the Chaldean, when head and tail, or, according to another proverbial expression, palm-branch and rush, would be rooted out. We might suppose that the persons referred to were the high and low; but Isaiah 9:15 makes a different application of the first double figure, by giving it a different turn from its popular sense (compare the Arabic er-ru 'ūs w-aledhnâb equals lofty and low, in Dietrich, Abhandlung, p. 209). The opinion which has very widely prevailed since the time of Koppe, that this v. is a gloss, is no doubt a very natural one (see Hitzig, Begriff der Kritik; Ewald, Propheten, i. 57). But Isaiah's custom of supplying his own gloss is opposed to such a view; also Isaiah's composition in Isaiah 3:3 and Isaiah 30:20, and the relation in which this v. stands to Isaiah 9:16; and lastly, the singular character of the gloss itself, which is one of the strongest proofs that it contains the prophet's exposition of his own words. The chiefs of the nation were the head of the national body; and behind, like a wagging dog's tail, sat the false prophets with their flatteries of the people, loving, as Persius says, blando caudam jactare popello. The prophet drops the figure of Cippâh, the palm-branch which forms the crown of the palm, and which derives its name from the fact that it resembles the palm of the hand (instar palmae manus), and agmōn, the rush which grows in the marsh.

(Note: The noun agam is used in the Old Testament as well as in the Talmud to signify both a marshy place (see Baba mesi'a 36b, and more especially Aboda zara 38a, where giloi agmah signifies the laying bare of the marshy soil by the burning up of the reeds), and also the marsh grass (Sabbath 11a, "if all the agmim were kalams, i.e., writing reeds, or pens;" and Kiddsin 62b, where agam signifies a talk of marsh-grass or reed, a rush or bulrush, and is explained, with a reference to Isaiah 58:5, as signifying a tender, weak stalk). The noun agmon, on the other hand, signifies only the stalk of the marsh-grass, or the marsh-grass itself; and in this sense it is not found in the Talmud (see Comm on Job, at Isaiah 41:10-13). The verbal meaning upon which these names are founded is evident from the Arabic mâ āgim (magūm), "bad water" (see at Isaiah 19:10). There is no connection between this and maugil, literally a depression of the soil, in which water lodges for a long time, and which is only dried up in summer weather.)

The allusion here is to the rulers of the nation and the dregs of the people. The basest extremity were the demagogues in the shape of prophets. For it had come to this, as Isaiah 9:16 affirms, that those who promised to lead by a straight road led astray, and those who suffered themselves to be led by them were as good as already swallowed up by hell (cf., Isaiah 5:14; Isaiah 3:12). Therefore the Sovereign Ruler would not rejoice over the young men of this nation; that is to say, He would suffer them to be smitten by their enemies, without going with them to battle, and would refuse His customary compassion even towards widows and orphans, for they were all thoroughly corrupt on every side. The alienation, obliquity, and dishonesty of their heart, are indicated by the word Chânēph (from Chânaph, which has in itself the indifferent radical idea of inclination; so that in Arabic, Chanı̄f, as a synonym of ‛âdil,

(Note: This is the way in which it should be written in Comm on Job, at Isaiah 13:16; ‛adala has also the indifferent meaning of return or decision.)

has the very opposite meaning of decision in favour of what is right); the badness of their actions by מרע (in half pause for מרע

(Note: Nevertheless this reading is also met with, and according to Masora finalis, p. 52, Colossians 8, this is the correct reading (as in Proverbs 17:4, where it is doubtful whether the meaning is a friend or a malevolent person). The question is not an unimportant one, as we may see from Olshausen, 258, p. 581.)

equals מרע, maleficus); the vicious infatuation of their words by nebâlâh. This they are, and this they continue; and consequently the wrathful hand of God is stretched out over them for the infliction of fresh strokes.

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