Isaiah 9:20
And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm:
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Isaiah 9:20-21. He shall snatch on the right hand — They shall plunder and devour one another, without ever being satisfied, or ceasing. They shall eat every man the flesh, &c. — They shall destroy one another by their intestine wars: see Isaiah 49:26. But it was literally fulfilled when they were reduced to that extremity that they ate the flesh of their own children, 2 Kings 6:28; Jeremiah 19:8-9; a judgment denounced for their sins by Moses, Deuteronomy 28:53, where see the note. They together shall fall on Judah — When those tribes have preyed upon and nearly destroyed one another, they shall turn their rage on Judah. The prophet in the above verses describes the infatuation of the Israelites and Jews, who, instead of uniting in a confederacy against their common enemies, the Syrians and Assyrians, with whom they were not singly able to contend, fell out among themselves, and so far destroyed each other, that they became, one after the other, an easy prey to those heathen nations, whom, humanly speaking, they would have been able to have repelled, had they united in a league, and aided each other. But God suffered them to be infatuated, as a punishment of their sins. 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.And he shall snatch - Hebrew, 'He shall cut off.' Many have supposed that this refers to a state of famine; but others regard it as descriptive of a state of faction extending throughout the whole community, dissolving the most tender ties, arid producing a dissolution of all the bonds of life. The context Isaiah 9:19, Isaiah 9:21 shows, that the latter is meant; though it is not improbable that it would be attended with famine. When it is said that he 'would cut off his right hand,' it denotes a condition of internal anarchy and strife.

And be hungry - And not be satisfied. Such would be his rage, and his desire of blood, that he would be insatiable. The retarder of those on one side of him would not appease his insatiable wrath. His desire of carnage would be so great that it would be like unappeased hunger.

And he shall eat - The idea here is that of contending factions excited by fury, rage, envy, hatred, contending in mingled strife, and spreading death with insatiable desire everywhere around them.

They shall eat - Not literally; but "shall destroy." To eat the flesh of anyone, denotes to seek one's life, and is descriptive of blood-thirsty enemies; Psalm 27:2 : 'When the wicked, even mine enemies and foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell;' Job 19:22 :

Why do ye persecute me as God,

And are not satisfied with my flesh?

Compare Deuteronomy 7:16; Jeremiah 10:25; Jeremiah 30:15; Jeremiah 50:17; Hosea 7:7; see Ovid's Metam. 8, 867:

Ipse suos artus lacero divellere morsu

Coepit; et infelix minuendo corpus alebat.

The flesh of his own arm - The Chaldee renders this, 'Each one shall devour the substance of his neighbor.' Lowth proposes to read it, 'The flesh of his neighbor.' but without sufficient authority. The expression denotes a state of dreadful faction - where the ties of most intimate relationship would be disregarded, represented, here by the appalling figure of a man's appetite being so rabid that he would seize upon and devour his own flesh. So, in this state of faction and discord, the rage would be so great that people would destroy those who were, as it were, their own flesh, that is, their nearest kindred and friends.

20. hungry—not literally. Image from unappeasable hunger, to picture internal factions, reckless of the most tender ties (Isa 9:19), and insatiably spreading misery and death on every side (Jer 19:9).

eat—not literally, but destroy (Ps 27:2; Job 19:22).

flesh of … arm—those nearest akin: their former support (helper) (Isa 32:2) [Maurer].

Shall snatch; every one shall greedily and violently seize upon any provisions that come in his way; which implies, either great scarcity, or insatiable covetousness, as is manifest from the next clause.

Shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm; either,

1. Properly; so it notes extreme famine; in which case men are apt to eat their own flesh. Compare Jeremiah 19:9. Or,

2. Metaphorically, which seems best to suit with the following verse, the flesh of his brethren by nation and religion, which are as it were our own flesh, and are so called, Isaiah 58:7 Zechariah 11:9; and, consequently, the flesh of their arm is in a manner the flesh of our own arm. And one tribe was to another as an arm, i.e. a support or strength, which is called an arm, 2 Chronicles 32:8 Jeremiah 17:5, and elsewhere. And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry,.... Either with his hand, and rob and plunder all within his reach; or, with his teeth, as cannibals, or beasts of prey, catch at, tear, and rend in pieces, whatever comes in their way; and yet hungry after more, and unsatisfied, as follows:

and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied; ravage and spoil on every side, and yet not content. The Targum is,

"he shall spoil on the south, and be hungry; and he shall destroy on the north, and not be satisfied:''

they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm; destroy their near relations, who are their own flesh and blood, or take away their substance from them; so the Targum,

"they shall spoil every man the substance of his neighbour:''

which will give some light to Revelation 17:16.

And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the {r} flesh of his own arm:

(r) Their greediness will be insatiable, so that one brother will eat up another, as though he should eat his own flesh.

20. And one snatched on the right hand and was hungry (still) and devoured on the left hand and they were not satisfied, &c.

every man the flesh of his own arm] The image would be that of men maddened with hunger and gnawing their own flesh. The words are reproduced exactly, with the omission of a single letter, in Jeremiah 19:9, which gives the sense “every man the flesh of his neighbour.” It might be better to assimilate the text here to that reading, since it is the “cruelty of rival factions” that seems to be described.Verse 20. - He shall snatch; rather, one shall devour. A man, i.e., shall plunder and ravage in one quarter, and yet not be satisfied; then he shall do the same in another, and still desire more. "Increase of appetite shall grow by what it feeds on." There shall be no sense of satiety anywhere. The flesh of his own arm. In a civil war, or a time of anarchy, each man is always "eating the flesh of his own arm" - i.e. injuring his neighbor, who is his own natural protector and defender. 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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