Isaiah 9:3
Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
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(3) Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy . . .—Better, following the marginal reading of the Hebrew: Thou hast increased its joy. The picture is one of unmingled brightness; the return as of a golden age, the population growing to an extent never attained before (comp. Isaiah 26:15; Jeremiah 31:27; Ezekiel 36:11), and scarcely admits of the dark shadow introduced by the reading of the text, unless, with some critics (Kay), we see in the words a contrast between the outward prosperity of the days of Solomon and Uzziah, in which there was no permanent joy, and the abundancy of joyfulness under the ideal king.

They joy before thee according to the joy in harvest . . .—The words “before thee” are significant. The gladness of the people is that of worshippers at a sacrificial feast (Isaiah 25:6; Deuteronomy 12:7; Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 12:18), who find the secret spring of blessing in their consciousness of the presence of Jehovah. So the New Testament writers speak of “rejoicing in the Lord” (Philippians 3:1), of “joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17). This “joy of harvest” represents the peaceful side of that gladness, thought of as the gift of God (Acts 14:17). But it had another aspect. It was the rejoicing after a conflict, historically with foes like the Assyrians, spiritually with all powers hostile to the true kingdom of God (Matthew 12:29). The joy of the conquerors on the battle-field, like that of harvest, had become proverbial (Psalm 119:162).

Isaiah 9:3. Thou hast multiplied the nation — Thou hast made good thy promise to Abraham, concerning the multiplication of his seed, by adding his spiritual seed unto the carnal, by gathering in the Gentiles to the Jews, and making them both one people in Christ, John 10:16; Ephesians 2:14. For, in the Scriptures, the believing Gentiles are accounted the seed of Abraham as well as the Jews, Galatians 3:7-9. Or, as the Hebrew may be rendered, Thou hast magnified the nation, honoured it with peculiar privileges above all other nations, and especially with this transcendent privilege, that the Saviour of the world should be born in it, and live among its people; of which he speaks more fully Isaiah 9:6-7. And not increased — Or rather, according to the marginal reading in the Hebrew, (which, instead of לא, not, has לו, it, him, or them,) confirmed by many of the ancient versions, Thou hast increased their joy, which reading, it is evident, the next words require. Dr. Waterland’s version of these two clauses is, Thou hast advanced the nation; hast heightened upon her joy. The meaning is, thou hast conferred upon it a very great benefit, and thereby prepared for it the highest joy: joy which shall be to all people; true joy arising from the consolations of the gospel. See Zechariah 2:10-11; Luke 2:10. They joy before thee — In thy presence, and in the place of thy worship; according to the joy in harvest, &c. — When men, with great joy, reap the long-expected fruit of their great labours and expectations, or as when, after a glorious victory, they come to take the spoil.

9:1-7 The Syrians and Assyrians first ravaged the countries here mentioned, and that region was first favoured by the preaching of Christ. Those that want the gospel, walk in darkness, and in the utmost danger. But when the gospel comes to any place, to any soul, light comes. Let us earnestly pray that it may shine into our hearts, and make us wise unto salvation. The gospel brings joy with it. Those who would have joy, must expect to go through hard work, as the husbandman, before he has the joy of harvest; and hard conflict, as the soldier, before he divides the spoil. The Jews were delivered from the yoke of many oppressors; this was a shadow of the believer's deliverance from the yoke of Satan. The cleansing the souls of believers from the power and pollution of sin, would be by the influence of the Holy Spirit, as purifying fire. These great things for the church, shall be done by the Messiah, Emmanuel. The Child is born; it was certain; and the church, before Christ came in the flesh, benefitted by his undertaking. It is a prophecy of him and of his kingdom, which those that waited for the Consolation of Israel read with pleasure. This Child was born for the benefit of us men, of us sinners, of all believers, from the beginning to the end of the world. Justly is he called Wonderful, for he is both God and man. His love is the wonder of angels and glorified saints. He is the Counsellor, for he knew the counsels of God from eternity; and he gives counsel to men, in which he consults our welfare. He is the Wonderful Counsellor; none teaches like him. He is God, the mighty One. Such is the work of the Mediator, that no less power than that of the mighty God could bring it to pass. He is God, one with the Father. As the Prince of Peace, he reconciles us to God; he is the Giver of peace in the heart and conscience; and when his kingdom is fully established, men shall learn war no more. The government shall be upon him; he shall bear the burden of it. Glorious things are spoken of Christ's government. There is no end to the increase of its peace, for the happiness of its subjects shall last for ever. The exact agreement of this prophecy with the doctrine of the New Testament, shows that Jewish prophets and Christian teachers had the same view of the person and salvation of the Messiah. To what earthly king or kingdom can these words apply? Give then, O Lord, to thy people to know thee by every endearing name, and in every glorious character. Give increase of grace in every heart of thy redeemed upon earth.Thou hast multiplied the nation - Thou hast rendered the nation strong, powerful, mighty. Several interpreters, as Calvin, Vitringa, and Le Clerc, suppose that the prophet here, and in the two following verses, speaks in the first instance of the prosperity near at hand, and of the rapid increase of the Israelites after the return from the Babylonian exile, in which the inhabitants of Galilee must have participated, as may be inferred from the accounts of Josephus respecting the great population of that province in his time; see Jewish Wars, i. 20, 23. Vitringa also directs our attention to the fact, that the Jewish people, after the exile, not only filled Judea, but spread themselves into Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy. But there seems to be no necessity for referring it to such an increase of the inhabitants. It may refer to the great increase of the Messiah's kingdom, or of the kingdom which he would set up, and whose commencement would be in Galilee; see Hengstenberg, Christol., vol. i. p. 354.

And not increased the joy - The Masoretes here read in the margin לו lô "to it," instead of לא lo' "not." Eleven manuscripts, two of them ancient, have this reading. This reading is followed by the Chaldee Paraphrase, the Syriac, and the Arabic. The Septuagint seems also to have so understood it. So also it is in the margin, and so the connection demands; and it is unquestionably the correct reading. It would then read, 'thou hast increased for it (the nation) the joy.' Hengstenberg, however, suggests that the phrase may mean, 'whose joy thou didst not before enlarge,' that is, upon whom thou hast before inflicted heavy sufferings. But this is harsh, and I see no reason to doubt that an error may have crept into the text.

They joy before thee according to the joy of harvest - This is a beautiful figure; and is found frequently in ancient writings. The harvest was a time of exultation and joy, and was commonly gathered amid songs and rejoicings, and concluded with a festival. The phrase 'before thee' refers to the fact that the first-fruits of the harvest among the Hebrews were presented with thanksgiving before God in the temple; Deuteronomy 12:7; Deuteronomy 14:22-26.

And as men rejoice ... - This is also an expression of great joy and rejoicing. Such an occasion, at the close of a battle, when great spoil or plunder had been taken, would be one of great rejoicing; see Judges 5:30; 1 Samuel 30:16; 2 Chronicles 20:25-28.

3. multiplied … nation—primarily, the rapid increase of Israelites after the return from Babylon; more fully and exhaustively the rapid spread of Christianity at first.

not increased the joy—By a slight change in the Hebrew, its (joy) is substituted by some for not, because "not increased the joy" seems opposite to what immediately follows, "the joy," &c. Hengstenberg, retains not thus: "Whose joy thou hadst not increased," (that is, hadst diminished). Others, "Hast thou not increased the joy?" The very difficulty of the reading, not, makes it less likely to be an interpolation. Horsley best explains it: The prophet sees in vision a shifting scene, comprehending at one glance the history of the Christian Church to remotest times—a land dark and thinly peopled—lit up by a sudden light—filled with new inhabitants—then struggling with difficulties, and again delivered by the utter and final overthrow of their enemies. The influx of Gentile converts (represented here by "Galilee of the Gentiles") soon was to be followed by the growth of corruption, and the final rise of Antichrist, who is to be destroyed, while God's people is delivered, as in the case of Gideon's victory over Midian, not by man's prowess, but by the special interposition of God.

before thee—a phrase taken from sacrificial feasts; the tithe of harvest was eaten before God (De 12:7; 14:26).

as men rejoice … divide … spoil—referring to the judgments on the enemies of the Lord and His people, which usually accompany revelations of His grace.

Thou hast multiplied the nation; thou hast made good thy promise to Abraham concerning the multiplication of his seed, Genesis 15:5 22:17, by adding his spiritual seed unto the carnal, by gathering in the Gentiles to the Jews, and making them both one people in Christ, John 10:16 Ephesians 2:14, &c. For in Scripture account the believing Gentiles are the seed of Abraham as well as the Jews; of which see Galatians 3:7-9. Or,

thou hast magnified the nation; honoured them with peculiar privileges above all other nations, and especially with this transcendent privilege, that the Messiah and Saviour of the world should be born of them, and live among them; of which he speaks more fully Isaiah 9:6,7.

And not increased the joy; or, yet not increased their joy; which might very truly and fitly be said of the Jewish nation upon this occasion, partly because they did not rejoice in the conversion of the Gentiles, as they should have done, but murmured, and grieved, and stumbled at it; and partly because, through their perverseness and unbelief, that would be unto them an occasion of their utter ruin, the conversion of the Gentiles being attended with the rejection of the Jews. But because this translation seems not to agree with the following words, which ascribe great joy to them, some render the words otherwise; either thus, and

wilt thou not increase their joy? to which question the next words give an affirmative answer. So the Hebrew particle lo is put interrogatively for halo, as it is in many other places, which I have formerly observed. Or thus, and hast increased to it, or him, or them (to that nation) their joy. For though the Hebrew lo be written like an adverb, yet it may be read like a pronoun, as it is both by Jewish and Christian interpreters acknowledged to be in many places; of which see more in my Latin Synopsis.

They joy before thee; in thy presence, and in the place of thy worship; not with a carnal and worldly, but with a spiritual and religious joy, giving thee the praise and glory of all thy favours afforded to them.

According to the joy in harvest; when men receive with great joy that for which they have laboured much and long waited. See Psalm 126:5,6.

When they divide the spoil; when, after a bloody fight, and a glorious victory, they come to take the spoil.

Thou hast multiplied the nation,.... With light, knowledge, honour, and glory, even Galilee of the nations before mentioned, the land of darkness, and of the shadow of death, where the people dwelt; on whom Christ, the light, shone in the ministration of his Gospel to them; whereby the number of believers in Christ were multiplied; and indeed, as he conversed, preached, and wrought his miracles most here, he had here the greatest number of disciples and followers; here were the five hundred brethren by whom he was seen at once, after his resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:6 for this is not to be understood of the Assyrian nation, whose army under Sennacherib was very large; nor of the Jewish nation enlarged by the destruction of that army, or of their increase after their return from the Babylonish captivity; nor of the church of God by the accession of Gentiles to it; but of the land or nation before spoken of:

and not increased the joy; or rather, as it should be rendered, "and hast increased joy unto it"; following the Keri; or marginal reading, which directs that it should be read, not as a negative, "not", but "to it"; and which is followed by the Targum and Syriac version, and by Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Kimchi, and others; and the sense of the words requires this reading, since it follows,

they joy before thee; or otherwise there would be a manifest contradiction in the text; though some, to avoid it, read the words interrogatively, "hast thou not increased the joy?" thou hast; and in this way both the Keri and the Cetib, the reading and the writing, may be taken in, "hast thou not increased joy unto it?" and so as Gussetius (i) renders it,

"thou hast multiplied the nation to whom thou hadst not given great joy:''

that is, temporal joy; though now much of that which is of a spiritual kind: Christ the light appearing, his Gospel being preached by him, and his apostles, and many believing in him, occasioned an increase of spiritual joy in those parts; and so it is, that wherever the Gospel comes, and Christ is preached, and souls are converted, there is great joy, Acts 8:6 where there is any grace of the Spirit, as faith, hope, and love, there is joy; and particularly when a soul is enlightened and quickened, as in the preceding verse Isaiah 9:2, it rejoices, reflecting on the state of darkness and death it is brought out of, and on the marvellous light, life, and liberty it is brought into; and at a sight of Christ, his person, offices, relations, and grace, as the sun of righteousness, with healing in his wings, and beaming light, salvation, and happiness; which joy is spiritual, internal, passes knowledge, is imperfect, but capable of being increased:

they joy before thee; the words, both in this and in the preceding clauses, are addressed to God, and show, that as the work of conversion, and an increase of spiritual joy, are from him; so that joy that is given by hint is expressed "before" him, in his house and ordinances, and it is in his sight, before whom all things are manifest; and so it denotes the truth and sincerity of it, which is illustrated by the following metaphors:

according to the joy in harvest; such as is expressed by men in harvest time, both by the rich owners and proprietors, when they have a good harvest, and well got in, and by the poor, who have a prospect of a comfortable supply in a cheap manner; and this simile is used with great propriety and pertinence. Christ and his ministers are sowers of seed, of the word; and hearers of the word are compared to seed sown in different places; and when any number of these are converted, it is a harvest which occasions joy. The Targum is,

"as the joy of conquerors in war;''

which agrees with what follows:

and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil; taken in war: in redemption, Christ has taken the prey from the mighty, and delivered the lawful captive, and has divided the spoil with the strong; and in effectual calling binds the strong man armed, and spoils his goods, and delivers souls out of his hands, and this is matter of great joy, Isaiah 53:12 see Psalm 119:162.

(i) Ebr. Comment. p. 423.

Thou hast {g} multiplied the nation, and increased the joy: they rejoice before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

(g) Their number was greater when they went into captivity then when they returned but their joy was greater at their return, Hag 2:9.

3. and not increased the joy] Lit., “unto it thou hast increased the joy.” Lô’, “not” and , “to it,” being pronounced alike, are sometimes confused in the text of the O.T. There is no reason for assuming such a confusion here, and R.V. (“thou hast increased their joy”) rightly adheres to the Massoretic text. But it is still better to adopt a very simple emendation, approved by many expositors (הנילה for הנוילא) and translate: Thou hast multiplied the exultation; thou hast increased the joy.

before thee] as at the festivals in the sanctuary, a phrase often used in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 12:7, Isaiah 14:26, &c.).

the joy in harvest] Psalm 4:8; Psalm 126:5-6.

as men rejoice when they divide the spoil] cf. ch. Isaiah 33:23; Jdg 5:30; Psalm 119:162. For “rejoice” read exult.

Verse 3. - Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy. Dr. Kay defends this reading, and supposes a contrast of time between this clause and the next; he renders, "Thou didst multiply the nation" (i.e. in the days of Solomon and again in those of Uzziah) "and not increase the joy; but now," etc. The objection is that the verbs are all in the same tense, the simple preterit, and that there is nothing in the original corresponding to "but now." Almost all other recent commentators accept the solution offered by the Masoretic reading (לו for לא), which makes the passage simple and easy: "Thou hast multiplied the nation; its joy thou hast increased; they joy before thee," etc. (So many Hebrew manuscripts, the Alexandrine Septuagint, the Syriac, Gesenius, Knobel, Cheyne, etc.) According to the joy in harvest. "The joy in harvest" was to the Jews the joy of the Feast of Tabernacles, or in gathering (Exodus 23:16), held when the last fruits were brought in. But the prophet is perhaps taking a wider view, and thinking of the many harvest festivals prevailing throughout Western Asia, all of them originating in gratitude to the Giver of all good, and many of them comprising manifestations of joy more jubilant than those habitual to his sedater countrymen. Isaiah 9:3In Isaiah 9:3 he says, in words of thanksgiving and praise: "Thou multipliest the nation, preparest it great joy; they rejoice before Thee like the joy in harvest, as men rejoice when they share the spoil." "The nation" (haggoi) is undoubtedly Israel, reduced to a small remnant. That God would make this again into a numerous people, was a leading feature in the pictures drawn of the time of glory (Isaiah 26:15; Isaiah 66:8; Zechariah 14:10-11), which would be in this respect the counterpart of that of Solomon (1 Kings 4:20). If our explanation is the correct one so far, the only way to give an intelligible meaning to the chethib לא, taking it in a negative sense, is to render it, as Hengstenberg, Hitzig, and others have done, "Thou multipliest the nation to which Thou hadst formerly not given great joy," which must signify, per litoten, "the nation which Thou hadst plunged into deep sorrow." But it is unnatural to take any one of the prophetic preterites, commencing with hicbı̄d in Isaiah 9:1, in any other than a future sense. We must therefore give the preference to the Keri לו, and render it, "Thou makest of the nation a great multitude, and preparest it great joy." The pronoun loo is written first, as in Leviticus 7:7-9; Job 41:4 (keri), probably with the emphasis assumed by Drechsler: "to it, in which there was not the smallest indication of such an issue as this." The verbs "multiplied" (higdaltâ) and "increased" (hirbithâ) are intentionally written together, to put the intensity of the joy on a level with the extensiveness of the multitude. This joy would be a holy joy, as the expression "before Thee" implies: the expression itself recals the sacrificial meals in the courts of the temple (Deuteronomy 12:7; Deuteronomy 14:26). It would be a joy over blessings received, as the figure of the harvest indicates; and joy over evil averted, as the figure of dividing the spoil presupposes: for the division of booty is the business of conquerors. This second figure is not merely a figure: the people that are so joyous are really victorious and triumphant.

(Note: On the passages in which לא chethib is לו keri, see at Psalm 100:3 and Job 13:15.)

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