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). Strophe 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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