Isaiah 9:19
Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother.
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(19, 20) Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts is the land darkened . . .—The vision of darkness and famine which had come before the prophet’s eyes in Isaiah 8:21 appears once again, and here, as there, it is a question whether the words are to be understood literally or figuratively. The definiteness of the language of Isaiah 9:20 suggests the thoughts of the horrors of a famine like that of Samaria (2Kings 6:28-29), or of Deuteronomy 28:53-57; Zechariah 11:9. But even that scene of horror might be only typical of a state of chaos and confusion pervading the whole order of society, fierce passions, jealousies, rivalries working out the destruction of the nation’s life; such as Thucydides (iii. 82-84) has painted as the result of the Peloponnesian war. The mention of Ephraim and Manasseh as conspicuous in the self-destructive work confirms the figurative interpretation. They were devouring “the flesh of their own arm” when they allowed their old tribal jealousies (Judges 8:1; Judges 12:1-4; 2Samuel 19:43) to break up the unity of the nation.

And they together shall be against Judah.—This formed the climax of the whole. The only power of union that showed itself in the northern kingdom was to perpetuate the great schism in which it had its origin. The idea that Israel as such was a nation was forgotten. Ephraim and Manasseh could join in a common expedition against Judah when they could join in nothing else. Of this the alliance of Pekah with Rezin was the most striking instance (2Chronicles 28:6-15). Traces of internal division are found in the conspiracy of the Gileadites of the trans-Jordanic district of Manasseh, against Pekah’s predecessor in Samaria (2Kings 15:25).

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.Through the wrath - By the anger, or indignation. This spreading desolation is the proof of his anger.

Is the land darkened - The word used here - עתם ‛âtham - occurs nowhere else. According to Gesenius, it is the same as תמם tâmam to be or make complete; and hence means, "in this place, to be consumed, or laid waste." Kimchi and Aben Ezra render it, 'The land is darkened.' Septuagint, Συγκέκαυται Sungkekautai. Chaldee, צרוכת chărôkat - 'Is scorched.' Jerome renders it, Conturbata est terra - 'The land is disturbed.' The effect is doubtless such as ascending and spreading columns of fire and smoke would produce, and perhaps the general word desolate had better be used in translating the word.

And the people shall be as fuel of the fire - This is an image of widespread ruin. The idea is, that they shall destroy one another as pieces of wood, when on fire, help to consume each other. The way in which it shall be done is stated more fully in the next verse.

No man shall spare his brother - There shall be such a state of wickedness, that it shall lead to anarchy, and strife, and mutual destruction. The common ties of life shall be dissolved, and a man shall have no compassion on his own brother.

19. darkened—namely, with smoke (Isa 9:18). The Septuagint and Chaldee render it, "is burnt up," so Maurer, from an Arabic root meaning "suffocating heat."

no man … spare … brother—intestine discord snapping asunder the dearest ties of nature.

Darkened, either with the smoke last mentioned, or with misery. Or, burnt up, as the LXX., Chaldee, and Arabic interpreters render it.

No man shall spare his brother; they shall destroy one another, as they did in their civil wars, which were frequent among them. The name brother is oft largely used among the Hebrews, even of the remoter kindred, yea, of the fellow members of one city, or tribe, or nation.

Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts is the land darkened,.... Brought into great distress and affliction; sore judgments and calamities being upon it; for not darkness in a natural, but in a figurative sense, is intended, see Isaiah 8:22 the allusion is to the ascending of the smoke before mentioned, through fire being kindled in the thickets of the forest, which filled the air with darkness; as smoke arising in great quantity does. This sense of the word, which is only to be met with in this place, is given by Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and Ben Melech, from the use of it in the Arabic language, in which it signifies (f) darkness; but the Septuagint and Arabic versions render it, "the whole land is burned"; and which is confirmed by the Targum, which so interprets it; and this sense well agrees with the context:

and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire; this explains who are meant by the briers and thorns, and thickets of the forest, the inhabitants of the land of Israel; who, as they are the fuel of fire, were the objects of divine wrath and fury:

no man shall spare his brother; which may be ascribed either to the darkness and confusion in which they should be, and so not be able to discern a friend from a foe, as persons surrounded with smoke; or to their malignant spirit, cruelty and inhumanity, not only doing ill to their enemies, but to their own friends and relations, to their own flesh and blood.

(f) "obscura evasit", ---- "tertia pars noctis, a fine crepusculi, tempus quo posterior peragitur precatio vespertina", Golius, col. 1521, 1522. Castel col. 2944. So Schindler, col. 1410. "ateme, caligo, tenebra, crepusculum".

Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall {q} spare his brother.

(q) Though there was no foreign enemy, yet they will destroy one another.

19. darkened] Another translation is “made to glow”; the word is not found elsewhere.

no man sparing his brother. The clause shews that the fire is an emblem of ungovernable party strife. The sense would be still clearer if we could adopt Duhm’s hazardous emendation in the preceding clause so as to make it read “and the people became like man-eaters (cannibals).”

Verse 19. - Is the land darkened; rather, burst up (συγκέκαυται, LXX.). The root used occurs in Arabic in this sense. It is not used elsewhere in Scripture. The people shall be as the fuel of the fire. Though the general ravage, devastation, and desolation of the laud, with its buildings, its trees, and its other vegetable products, is included in the image of the fire devouring the thorny brakes and tangled thickets of a dense forest, yet the threat is intended still more against the Israelite people, who were the true "fuel of the fire," since the ravage would go on until the land should be depopulated. No man shall spare his brother. We have here a new feature. Not only shall foreign enemies - Syrians and Philistines - dew, up Israel, but the plague of civil war will also be let loose upon them (comp. ver. 21, and see 2 Kings 15:30, where we find that Pekah fell a victim to a conspiracy headed by Hoshea). Isaiah 9:19Strophe 3. "For the wickedness burneth up like fire: it devours thorns and thistles, and burns in the thickets of the wood; and they smoke upwards in a lofty volume of smoke. Through the wrath of Jehovah of hosts the land is turned into coal, and the nation has become like the food of fire: not one spares his brother. They hew on the right, and are hungry; and devour on the left, and are not satisfied: they devour the flesh of their own arm: Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: these together over Judah. With all this His anger is not turned away, and His hand is stretched out still." The standpoint of the prophet is at the extreme end of the course of judgment, and from that he looks back. Consequently this link of the chain is also past in his view, and hence the future conversives. The curse, which the apostasy of Israel carries within itself, now breaks fully out. Wickedness, i.e., the constant thirst of evil, is a fire which a man kindles in himself. And when the grace of God, which damps and restrains this fire, is all over, it is sure to burst forth: the wickedness bursts forth like fire (the verb is used here, as in Isaiah 30:27, with reference to the wrath of God). And this is the case with the wickedness of Israel, which now consumes first of all thorns and thistles, i.e., individual sinners who are the most ripe for judgment, upon whom the judgment commences, and then the thicket of the wood (sib-che,

(Note: The metheg (gaya) in סבכי (to be pronounced sib-che) has simply the caphonic effect of securing a distinct enunciation to the sibilant letter (in other instances to the guttural, vid., ‛arboth, Numbers 31:12), in cases where the second syllable of the word commences with a guttural or labial letter, or with an aspirate.)

as in Isaiah 10:34, from sebac, Genesis 22:13 equals sobec), that is to say, the great mass of the people, which is woven together by bands of iniquity (vattizzath is not a reflective niphal, as in 2 Kings 22:13, but kal, to kindle into anything, i.e., to set it on fire). The contrast intended in the two figures is consequently not the high and low (Ewald), nor the useless and useful (Drechsler), but individuals and the whole (Vitringa). The fire, into which the wickedness bursts out, seizes individuals first of all; and then, like a forest fire, it seizes upon the nation at large in all its ranks and members, who "whirl up (roll up) ascending of smoke," i.e., who roll up in the form of ascending smoke (hith'abbek, a synonym of hithhappēk, Judges 7:13, to curl or roll). This fire of wickedness was no other than the wrath (ebrâh) of God: it is God's own wrath, for all sin carries this within itself as its own self-punishment. By this fire of wrath the soil of the land is gradually but thoroughly burnt out, and the people of the land utterly consumed: עתם ἁπ λεγ to be red-hot (lxx συγκέκαυται, also the Targum), and to be dark or black (Arabic ‛atame, late at night), for what is burnt out becomes black. Fire and darkness are therefore correlative terms throughout the whole of the Scriptures. So far do the figures extend, in which the prophet presents the inmost essence of this stage of judgment. In its historical manifestation it consisted in the most inhuman self-destruction during an anarchical civil war. Destitute of any tender emotions, they devoured one another without being satisfied: gâzar, to cut, to hew (hence the Arabic for a butcher): zero'o, his arm, according to Jeremiah 19:9, equivalent to the member of his own family and tribe, who was figuratively called his arm (Arabic ‛adud: see Ges. Thes. p. 433), as being the natural protector and support. This interminable self-immolation, and the regicide associated with the jealousy of the different tribes, shook the northern kingdom again and again to its utter destruction. And the readiness with which the unbrotherly feelings of the northern tribes towards one another could turn into combined hostility towards Judah, was evident enough from the Syro-Ephraimitish war, the consequences of which had not passed away at the time when these prophecies were uttered. This hostility on the part of the brother kingdoms would still further increase. And the end of the judgments of wrath had not come yet.

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