Isaiah 9:8
The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it has lighted on Israel.
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(8).The Lord sent a word into Jacob . . .—For “hath lighted” read it lighteth. A new section, though still closely connected with the historical occasion of Isaiah 7, begins. The vision of the glory of the far-off king comes to an end, and the prophet returns to the more immediate surroundings of his time. The “word” which Jehovah sends is the prophetic message that follows. It is a question whether the terms “Jacob” and “Israel” stand in the parallelism of identity or contrast, but the use of the former term in Isaiah 2:3; Isaiah 2:5-6, makes the former use more probable. In this case both names stand practically for the kingdom of Judah as the true representative of Israel, the apostate kingdom of the Ten Tribes being no longer worthy of the name, and therefore described here, as in Isaiah 7:5; Isaiah 7:8; Isaiah 7:17, simply as Ephraim. The occasion of the prophecy is given in Isaiah 9:9. Pekah, the king of Ephraim, was still confident in his strength, and in spite of his partial failure, and the defeat of his ally (2Kings 16:9), derided the prophet’s prediction.

Isaiah 9:8-12. The Lord sent a word, &c. — A prophetical and threatening message by me: for now the prophet, having inserted some consolatory passages for the support of God’s faithful people, returns to his former work of commination against the rebellious Israelites; and it lighted — Hebrew, נפל, it fell, that is, it shall fall in the prophetical style. It shall certainly be accomplished; upon Israel — The same with Jacob in the former clause. We have here the third section of the fifth discourse, which reaches to the fifth verse of the next chapter, “and makes,” says Bishop Lowth, “a distinct prophecy, and a just poem, remarkable for the regularity of its disposition, and the elegance of its plan. It has no relation to the preceding or following prophecy, which relate principally to the kingdom of Judah; whereas, this is addressed exclusively to the kingdom of Israel. The subject of it is a denunciation of vengeance awaiting their crimes. It is divided into four parts, each threatening the particular punishment of some grievous offence; of their pride; of their perseverance in their vices; of their impiety; and of their injustice. To which is added a general denunciation of a further reserve of divine wrath, contained in a distich before used by the prophet on a like occasion, (Isaiah 5:25,) and here repeated after each part: this makes the intercalary verse of the poem; or, as we call it, the burden of the song.” And all the people shall know — Namely, by experience. They shall know whether my word be true or false. Even Ephraim, &c. — The people of the ten tribes, and particularly Ephraim, the proudest of them all. And Samaria — The strongest place, and the seat of the king and court. Here we have the first fault of the Ephraimites, namely, the pride and contempt with which they had received the threatenings of the true prophets of God, who had denounced to them the unhappy consequences of their undertakings. Elevated with vain hope, they had declared that they would never desist from their purpose of invading Judah for any denunciations of the prophets; on the contrary, they had boasted proudly, that, strengthened as they were by their present alliance with the king of Syria, though they had heretofore suffered great loss, they had no doubt of repairing their fortune. Though the bricks were fallen down, they would build with hewn stones, &c. — The expression is metaphorically elegant, and denotes the restoration of a fallen state for the better, and the change of a mean and low to a more honourable and excellent situation. For their pride and arrogance, the God who laugheth vain men to scorn, denounces their punishment in the two following verses; and, according to his usual justice, assures them that the union with Rezin, wherein they boasted, should itself prove their destruction. This prophecy was fulfilled by Tiglath-pileser. See 2 Kings 16:17, Vitringa, and Dodd. Dr. Waterland renders the beginning of the twelfth verse, “The Syrians from the east, and the Philistines from the west.” Though Rezin, king of Syria, was destroyed, yet the body of the nation survived, and submitted themselves to the king of Assyria, and upon his command invaded Israel afterward. And they shall devour Israel, &c. — Like wild beasts.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 Lord sent - Not Yahweh here, but "Adonai." It is apparent that this verse is the commencement of a new prophecy, that is not connected with that which precedes it. The strain of the preceding prophecy had respect to Judah; this is confined solely to Israel, or Ephraim. Here the division of the chapter should have been made, and should not have been again interrupted until Isaiah 10:4, where the prophecy closes. The prophecy is divided into four parts, and each part is designed to threaten a distinct judgment on some particular, prominent vice.

I. "Crime" - their pride and ostentation, Isaiah 9:8-9. "Punishment" - the land would be invaded by the Syrians and the Philistines, Isaiah 9:11-12.

II. "Crime" - they had apostatized from God, and the leaders had caused them to err, Isaiah 9:13, Isaiah 9:16. "Punishment" - Yahweh would cut off the chief men of the nation, Isaiah 9:14-15, Isaiah 9:17.

III. "Crime" - prevalent wickedness in the nation, Isaiah 9:18. "Punishment" - the anger of Yahweh, consternation, anarchy, discord, and want, Isaiah 9:19-21.

IV. "Crime" - prevalent injustice; Isaiah 10:1-2. "Punishment" - foreign invasion, and captivity; Isaiah 10:3-4.

The poem is remarkably regular in its structure (Lowth), and happy in its illustrations. At what time it was composed is not certain, but it has strong internal evidence that it immediately followed the preceding respecting Judah.

A word - A message, or prediction; Note, Isaiah 2:1.

Into Jacob - Jacob was the ancestor of the nation. But the name came to be appropriated to the ten tribes, as constituting the majority of the people. It was at first used to denote all the Jews Numbers 23:7, Numbers 23:10, Numbers 23:23; Numbers 24:17, Numbers 24:19; Deuteronomy 32:9; 1 Chronicles 16:13; Psalm 14:7; Psalm 20:1; but it came, after the revolt of the ten tribes under Jeroboam, to be used often to denote them alone; Amos 6:8; Micah 1:5; Micah 3:1; Micah 5:8. The word or message which was sent, refers undoubtedly to that which immediately follows.

And it hath lighted upon - Hebrew 'It fell.' This is but a varied expression for, he sent it to Israel.

Israel - The same as Jacob the ten tribes - the kingdom of Ephraim.

Isa 9:8-10:4. Prophecy as to the Ten Tribes.

Delivered a little later than the previous one. The ninth and tenth chapters ought to have been so divided. The present division into chapters was made by Cardinal Hugo, in A.D. 1250; and into verses, by Robert Stephens, the famous printer of Paris, in 1551. After the Assyrian invasion of Syria, that of Ephraim shall follow (2Ki 16:9); Isa 9:8-11, 17-20, foretell the intestine discords in Israel after Hoshea had slain Pekah (A.D. 739), that is, just after the Assyrian invasions, when for seven years it was stripped of magistrates and torn into factions. There are four strophes, each setting forth Ephraim's crime and consequent punishment, and ending with the formula, "For all this His anger is not turned away," &c. (Isa 9:12, 17, 21, and Isa 10:4).

8. Heading of the prophecy; (Isa 9:8-12), the first strophe.

unto Jacob—against the ten tribes [Lowth].

lighted upon—fallen from heaven by divine revelation (Da 4:31).

Sent a word; a prophetical and threatening message by me; for now the prophet, having inserted some consolatory passages for the support of God’s faithful people, returns to his former work of commination against the rebellious Israelites.

It lighted, Heb. it fell, i.e. it shall fall, in the prophetical style. It shall certainly be accomplished.

Israel; the same with Jacob in the former clause, the posterity of Jacob or Israel. The Lord sent a word unto Jacob,.... The prophet, having comforted Judah with the promise of the Messiah, returns to denounce the judgments of God upon the ten tribes, under the names of Jacob and Israel, which signify the same; for the "word" here is not the word of promise, the comfortable word concerning the Messiah before mentioned; but a word of threatening, ruin, and destruction, to the kingdom of Israel, after enlarged upon, which the Lord sent unto them by his prophets before hand, to warn them of it, and bring them to repentance; by which they would know, when it came to pass, that their destruction was of the Lord, and not a matter of chance: the Septuagint version is, "the Lord sent death upon Jacob"; and so the Arabic version, following it; the same word, differently pointed, being used for the pestilence, but is not the sense here; the Targum, Syriac, and Vulgate Latin versions, render it, "a word", as we do:

and it hath lighted upon Israel, or "hath fallen" (x); as an arrow shot out of a bow, as some think; or as seed cast upon the earth; or rather like a thunderbolt: it denotes the sure and full accomplishment of the word of God upon the persons to whom it was sent; for as his word of promise, so of threatening, does not return to him void and empty, Isaiah 55:10. The Targum is,

"the Lord sent a word into the house of Jacob, and it was heard in Israel.''

(x) "cecidit", Grotius, Cocccius.

The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon {m} Israel.

(m) This is another prophecy against them of Samaria who were mockers and contemners of God's promises and menaces.

8. Translate: A word hath the Lord sent into Jacob and it shall light upon Israel. “The Word is in nature and history the messenger of the Lord” (Del.) cf. Psalm 107:20; Psalm 147:15; Psalm 147:18; Isaiah 55:11. The “word” here is the following oracle, which has already been “sent,” and will “light” (cf. Daniel 4:31) on Israel, bringing about its own fulfilment.

Jacob … Israel] here denote the Northern Kingdom, as is plain from the next verse.

8–12. The first strophe (Isaiah 9:8-10 being an introduction to the whole prophecy).

Chap. Isaiah 9:8 to Isaiah 10:4 (+ Isaiah 5:25-30)

Jehovah’s hand stretched out in wrath over His people. An oracle against North Israel

The key-note of the prophecy is given in the recurrent refrain—Isaiah 9:12; Isaiah 9:17; Isaiah 9:21, Isaiah 10:4, Isaiah 5:25. (On the reasons for including ch. Isaiah 5:25-30 see on that passage.) It is the most artistically arranged of all Isaiah’s writings, being divided into regular strophes as follows:—

(i) Ch. Isaiah 9:8-12. The introduction (Isaiah 9:8-10) explains that the oracle concerns the inhabitants of Samaria, and points to the buoyant assurance and self-confidence which was the habitual temper of the Northern Kingdom. The prophet then enters on a review of the various calamities by which Jehovah had sought to bring the nation to repentance, the first of these being the aggressions of its powerful neighbours on the East and the West (Isaiah 9:11-12). This was the first stroke of Jehovah’s hand.

(ii) Isaiah 9:13-17. A second blow descends on the impenitent nation in some sudden disaster by which the state is bereft of its leaders, great and small (13–16); the condition of the people is then seen to be utterly corrupt, so that Jehovah withdraws His compassion even from the helpless widows and orphans (17).

(iii) Isaiah 9:18-21. The third visitation is a state of anarchy and internecine strife, which is described mainly in a succession of powerful and telling images. The nation is rent by the conflict of rival factions, the only bond of unity being a common hatred of Judah.

(iv) Ch. Isaiah 10:1-4. The fourth strophe opens with a “Woe” on the maladministration of the judges, which was always to Isaiah’s mind the chief symptom of a rotten republic (Isaiah 9:1-2). This is followed by an allusion to a day of slaughter in which the magnates shall vainly seek safety beneath the slain (3, 4).

[It is possible that another strophe originally stood here, the closing words of which are preserved in Isaiah 5:25.]

(v) Ch. Isaiah 5:26-30. The prediction of the Assyrian invasion forms, as has been already explained, the dénouement of this great drama of judgment. (For the exegesis, see on the passage above, pp. 40–42.) The refrain is of course dropped; Jehovah’s wrath is stayed, His hand is no longer stretched forth.

It is assumed in the foregoing analysis that the passage is in the main (down at least to the end of ch. 9) a retrospect of historical judgments; and this is the view naturally suggested by the tenses of the original, which are with few exceptions perfects, or the equivalents of perfects. A majority of commentators, however, taking the perfects as those of prophetic certainty, interpret the oracle as an ideal delineation of the stages of a judgment yet to come. And it is no doubt conceivable that the prophet might assume an ideal standpoint on the eve of the Assyrian invasion, regarding the preliminary chastisements as past, although they were in reality still future at the time of writing. But such a lavish and continuous use of the prophetic perfect would be unparalleled; and the change to the impf. at Isaiah 5:26 seems too significant to be explained on this hypothesis. It is, therefore, on the whole safer to assume that in Isaiah 9:8-21 the references are to past events, although it may not be possible in every case to specify the exact circumstances that are meant. A shorter oracle arranged on the principle here supposed is found in Amos 4:6-12.

The date of the prophecy is not easily determined. The most probable view is that it was composed just before the outbreak of the Syro-Ephraimitish war. A later date (though not perhaps impossible) is difficult to reconcile with the fact that the issues of that expedition, so disastrous to the Northern Kingdom, are not mentioned. The Assyrians, moreover, are described in terms so vaguely poetic as to suggest that they were as yet unknown to the Israelites at close quarters. Syria also is mentioned as the enemy of Israel, without any hint of an alliance between them; while it is thought by some that Isaiah 9:21 alludes to the incipient antagonism towards Judah which afterwards found vent in the invasion. None of these indications are very decisive, but there are none to neutralise them (see, however, on Isaiah 9:10-11 below); and the passage may at least be regarded provisionally as a product of the earliest period of Isaiah’s ministry.Verses 8-21. - THE PROPHET RETURNS TO THREATS AND WARNINGS, ADDRESSED CHIEFLY TO THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL. The remainder of this chapter, together with the first four verses of the next, seems to have formed originally a distinct and separate prophecy. The passage is a poem in four stanzas, with the same refrain at the end of each: "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." A somewhat early date has been assigned to the prophecy, as; for instance, "some period in the reign of Jotham" (Cheyne); but the internal evidence only proves that it was written before the destruction of Samaria by the Assyrians. Verse 8. - Jacob... Israel. These words do not show that the prophecy is directed against the kingdom of Israel only. "Jacob" designates Judah rather than Israel in Isaiah 2:3, 5, 6; and the expression, "both the houses of Israel," in Isaiah 8:14, shows that the term "Israel" embraces both kingdoms. Tim distinctive names by which Isaiah ordinarily designates the northern kingdom are "Ephraim" and "Samaria." The range of vision is first widened in Isaiah 9:2.: "The people that walk about in darkness see a great light; they who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light shines." The range of vision is here extended; not to the Gentiles, however, but to all Israel. Salvation would not break forth till it had become utterly dark along the horizon of Israel, according to the description in Isaiah 5:30, i.e., till the land of Jehovah had become a land of the shadow of death on account of the apostasy of its inhabitants from Jehovah (zalmâveth is modified, after the manner of a composite noun, from zalmūth, according to the form kadrūth, and is derived from צלם, Aeth. salema, Arab. zalima, to be dark).

(Note: The shadow or shade, zēl, Arab. zill (radically related to tall equals טל, dew), derived its name ab obtegendo, and according to the idea attached to it as the opposite of heat or of light, was used as a figure of a beneficent shelter (Isaiah 16:3), or of what was dark and horrible (cf., Targ. tallâni, a night-demon). The verb zâlam, in the sense of the Arabic zalima, bears the same relation to zâlal as bâham to bâhâh (Gen. p. 93), ‛âram, to be naked, to ‛ârâh (Jeshurun, p. 159). The noun zelem, however, is either formed from this zâlam, or else directly from zēl, with the substantive termination em.)

The apostate mass of the nation is to be regarded as already swept away; for if death has cast its shadow over the land, it must be utterly desolate. In this state of things the remnant left in the land beholds a great light, which breaks through the sky that has been hitherto covered with blackness. The people, who turned their eyes upwards to no purpose, because they did so with cursing (Isaiah 8:21), are now no more. It is the remnant of Israel which sees this light of spiritual and material redemption arise above its head. In what this light would consist the prophet states afterwards, when describing first the blessings and then the star of the new time.

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