Isaiah 9:15
The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.
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(15) The ancient and honourable . . .—Comp. Isaiah 3:2-3, for the meaning of the words. These, the prophet seems to say, were the true leaders of the people. The ideal work of the prophet was, indeed, that of a teacher who was to lead even them, but corruptio optimi pessima; and to Isaiah, as to Jeremiah, there was no class so contemptible and base as that of spiritual guides whose policy was that of a time-serving selfishness. The verse is rejected by some critics as a marginal note that has found its way into the text; but the prophet may well have given his own interpretation of this formula. (Comp. Isaiah 28:7; Isaiah 29:10; Jeremiah 14:14; Jeremiah 23:9-40.)

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 ancient - The elder; the old man.

And honorable - Hebrew, 'The man of elevated countenance.' The man of rank and office.

The prophet that teacheth lies - The false prophet. Of those there were many; and probably at this time many in Samaria.

15. ancient—the older.

honourable—the man of rank.

prophet … lies, … tail—There were many such in Samaria (1Ki 22:6, 22, 23; compare as to "tail," Re 9:19).

He is, i.e. signifies, as that word is commonly used in the Hebrew tongue, as Genesis 41:26,27, and every where.

The prophet that teacheth lies; whose destruction he mentions, not as if it were a punishment to them to be deprived of such persons, but partly to show the extent of the calamity, that it should reach all sorts of persons; and partly to beat down their vain presumptions of peace and prosperity, by showing that those false prophets, which had fed their vain hopes, should perish, and all their false prophecies of peace with them.

He is the tail; these I mean by the tail, as being in’ truth the basest part of the whole body of the people.

The ancient and honourable, he is the head,.... The elder in office, not in age; and who, on account of his office, dignity, and riches, is honoured by men, is of a venerable countenance himself, and is reverenced when seen and looked upon by others, and received by persons with pleasure and cheerfulness; as the phrase used signifies. The Septuagint and Arabic versions render it, "who admire", or "have" men's "persons in admiration"; which is the character Jude gives of false teachers, Jde 1:16 who are next described:

and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail; so called from their low extract, being often of a mean original and descent; or rather from the meanness of their spirits, their flattery of princes and great men, to whom they tell lies, and prophesy smooth and false things, for the sake of a little sordid gain, in allusion to dogs that wag their tails at their masters; or from the poison of their doctrines, some creatures having poison in their tails, and do much mischief with them. See Revelation 9:19.

The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.
Verse 15. - Some suppose this verse to be a gloss, or marginal note, which has crept into the text; but it is too pointed and sarcastic for a mere gloss. There is no reason to doubt its being Isaiah's. Having spoken of "the tail," he takes the opportunity of lashing the false prophet, who claimed to be among the "honorable," but was really the lowest of the low, worse than his dupes, the true "tail" (comp. Isaiah 28:7; Isaiah 29:10; Isaiah 30:10). Isaiah 9:15Strophe 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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