Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed;
Isa 10:1-4. Fourth strophe.
1. them that decree—namely, unrighteous judges.
write grievousness, &c.—not the scribes, but the magistrates who caused unjust decisions (literally, "injustice" or "grievousness") to be recorded by them (Isa 65:6) [Maurer], (Isa 1:10, 23).
To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!
2. To turn aside, &c.—The effect of their conduct is to pervert the cause of the needy [Horsley]. In English Version "from judgment" means "from obtaining justice."
take away the right—"make plunder of the right" (rightful claim) [Horsley].
And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory?
3. what will ye do—what way of escape will there be for you?
visitation—of God's wrath (Isa 26:14; Job 35:15; Ho 9:7).
from far—from Assyria.
leave … glory—rather, "deposit (for safekeeping) your wealth" [Lowth]. So Ps 49:17.
Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
4. Without me—not having Me to "flee to" (Isa 10:3).
bow down—Bereft of strength they shall fall; or else, they shall lie down fettered.
under … under—rather, "among" (literally, "in the place of") [Horsley]. The "under" may be, however, explained, "trodden under the (feet of the) prisoners going into captivity," and "overwhelmed under the heaps of slain on the battlefield" [Maurer].
O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation.
Isa 10:5-34 and Isa 11:12. Destruction of the Assyrians; Coming of Messiah; Hymn of Praise.
Isa 10:9, 11 show that Samaria was destroyed before this prophecy. It was written when Assyria proposed (a design which it soon after tried to carry out under Sennacherib) to destroy Judah and Jerusalem, as it had destroyed Samaria. This is the first part of Isaiah's prophecies under Hezekiah. Probably between 722 and 715 B.C. (see Isa 10:27).
5. O Assyrian, &c.—rather, "What, ho (but Maurer, Woe to the) Assyrian! He is the rod and staff of Mine anger (My instrument in punishing, Jer 51:20; Ps 17:13). In their hands is Mine indignation" [Horsley, after Jerome]. I have put into the Assyrians' hands the execution of Mine indignation against My people.
I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
6. send him—"Kings' hearts are in the hand of the Lord" (Pr 21:1).
nation—Judah, against whom Sennacherib was forming designs.
of my wrath—objects of My wrath.
give … charge—(Jer 34:22).
and to tread, &c.—Horsley translates: "And then to make him (the Assyrian) a trampling under foot like the mire of the streets" (so Isa 10:12; Isa 33:1; Zec 10:5). But see Isa 37:26.
Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few.
7. meaneth not so—He is only thinking of his own schemes, while God is overruling them to His purposes.
think—intend. Sinners' plans are no less culpable, though they by them unconsciously fulfil God's designs (Ps 76:10; Mic 4:12). So Joseph's brethren (Ge 50:20; Pr 16:4). The sinner's motive, not the result (which depends on God), will be the test in judgment.
heart to destroy … not a few—Sennacherib's ambition was not confined to Judea. His plan was also to conquer Egypt and Ethiopia (Isa 20:1-6; Zec 1:15).
For he saith, Are not my princes altogether kings?
8-11. Vauntings of the Assyrians. Illustrated by the self-laudatory inscriptions of Assyria deciphered by Hincks.
princes … kings—Eastern satraps and governors of provinces often had the title and diadem of kings. Hence the title, "King of kings," implying the greatness of Him who was over them (Eze 26:7; Ezr 7:12).
Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is not Samaria as Damascus?
9. Is not … as—Was there any one of these cities able to withstand me? Not one. So Rab-shakeh vaunts (Isa 36:19).
Calno—Calneh, built by Nimrod (Ge 10:10), once his capital, on the Tigris.
Carchemish—Circesium, on the Euphrates. Taken afterwards by Necho, king of Egypt; and retaken by Nebuchadnezzar: by the Euphrates (Jer 46:2).
Hamath—in Syria, north of Canaan (Ge 10:18). Taken by Assyria about 753 B.C. From it colonists were planted by Assyria in Samaria.
Damascus—(Isa 17:1, 3).
As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria;
10, 11. found—unable to resist me: hath overcome (so Ps 21:8).
and whose—rather, "and their." This clause, down to "Samaria," is parenthetical.
excel—were more powerful. He regards Jerusalem as idolatrous, an opinion which it often had given too much ground for: Jehovah was in his view the mere local god of Judea, as Baal of the countries where it was adored, nay, inferior in power to some national gods (Isa 36:19, 20; 37:12). See in opposition, Isa 37:20; 46:1.
As my hand … shall I not, as I have—a double protasis. Agitation makes one accumulate sentences.
Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols?
Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.
12. whole work—His entire plan is regard to the punishment of the Jews (Isa 10:5-7).
Zion—the royal residence, the court, princes and nobles; as distinguished from "Jerusalem," the people in general.
fruit—the result of, that is, the plants emanating from.
stout—Hebrew, "greatness of," that is, pride of.
For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man:
13. I am prudent—He ascribes his success to his own prudence, not to God's providence.
removed the bounds—set aside old, and substituted new boundaries of kingdoms at will. A criminal act, as Jehovah Himself had appointed the boundaries of the nations (De 32:8).
treasures—"hoarded treasures" [Horsley].
put down … inhabitants like, &c.—rather, "as a valiant man, I have brought down (from their seats) those seated" (namely, "on thrones"; as in Ps 2:4; 29:10; 55:19). The Hebrew for "He that abideth," is He that sitteth on a throne); otherwise, "I have brought down (as captives into Assyria, which lay lower than Judea; therefore 'brought down,' compare Isa 36:1, 10), the inhabitants" [Maurer].
And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped.
14. nest—implying the ease with which he carried off all before him.
left—by the parent bird.
none … moved … wing—image from an angry bird resisting the robbery of its "nest."
peeped—chirped even low (Isa 8:19). No resistance was offered me, of deed, or even word.
Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.
15. Shall the instrument boast against Him who uses it? Through free in a sense, and carrying out his own plans, the Assyrian was unconsciously carrying out God's purposes.
shaketh it—moves it back and forward.
staff … lift … itself … no wood—rather, "as if the staff (man, the instrument of God's judgments on his fellow man) should set aside (Him who is) not wood" (not a mere instrument, as man). On "no wood" compare De 32:21, "that which is not God;" Isa 31:8 shows that God is meant here by "not wood" [Maurer].
Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire.
16. fat ones—(Isa 5:17). The robust and choice soldiers of Assyria (Ps 78:31, where "fattest" answers in the parallelism to "chosen," or "young men," Margin).
leanness—carrying out the image on "fat ones." Destruction (Ps 106:15). Fulfilled (Isa 37:36).
his glory—Assyria's nobles. So in Isa 5:13, Margin; Isa 8:7.
kindle—a new image from fire consuming quickly dry materials (Zec 12:6).
And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day;
17, 18. light of Israel—carrying out the image in the end of Isa 10:16. Jehovah, who is a light to Israel, shall be the "fire" (De 4:24; Heb 12:29) that shall ignite the "thorns," (the Assyrians, like dry fuel, a ready prey to flame).
And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body: and they shall be as when a standardbearer fainteth.
18. glory of his forest—The common soldiers, the princes, officers, &c., all alike together, shall be consumed (see on Isa 9:18).
in one day—(Isa 37:36).
fruitful field—literally, "Carmel," a rich mountain in the tribe of Asher. Figurative for Sennacherib's mighty army. Perhaps alluding to his own boasting words about to be uttered (Isa 37:24), "I will enter the forest of his Carmel."
soul and body—proverbial for utterly; the entire man is made up of soul and body.
as when a standard bearer fainteth—rather, "they shall be as when a sick man" (from a Syriac root) wastes away." Compare "leanness," that is, wasting destruction (Isa 10:16) [Maurer]. Or, "there shall be an entire dissipation, like a perfect melting" (namely, of the Assyrian army) [Horsley].
And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may write them.
19. rest—those who shall survive the destruction of the host.
his forest—same image as in Isa 10:18, for the once dense army.
child … write—so few that a child might count them.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.
20-22. The effect on the "remnant" (contrasted with the Assyrian remnant, Isa 10:19); namely, those who shall be left after the invasion of Sennacherib, will be a return from dependence on external idolatrous nations, as Assyria and Egypt (2Ki 18:21; 16:7-9), to the God of the theocracy; fulfilled in part in the pious Hezekiah's days; but from the future aspect under which Paul, in Ro 9:27, 28 (compare "short work" with "whole work," Isa 10:12, here), regards the whole prophecy, the "remnant," "who stay upon the Lord," probably will receive their fullest realization in the portion of Jews left after that Antichrist shall have been overthrown, who shall "return" unto the Lord (Isa 6:13; 7:3; Zec 12:9, 10; 14:2, 3; Zep 3:12).
The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God.
21. mighty God—(Isa 9:6) the God who shall have evinced such might in destroying Israel's enemies. As the Assyrians in Sennacherib's reign did not carry off Judah captive, the returning "remnant" cannot mainly refer to this time.
For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness.
22. yet—rather in the sense in which Paul quotes it (Ro 9:27), "Though Israel be now numerous as the sand, a remnant only of them shall return"—the great majority shall perish. The reason is added, Because "the consumption (fully completed destruction) is decreed (literally, decided on, brought to an issue), it overfloweth (Isa 30:28; 8:8) with justice"; that is, the infliction of just punishment (Isa 5:16) [Maurer].
For the Lord GOD of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land.
23. even determined—"A consumption, and whatever is determined," or decreed [Maurer].
midst—Zion, the central point of the earth as to Jehovah's presence.
land—Israel. But the Septuagint, "in the whole habitable world." So English Version (Ro 9:28), "upon the earth."
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt.
24. Therefore—Return to the main proposition, Assyria's ultimate punishment, though employed as God's "rod" to chastise Judea for a time.
O my people—God's tenderness towards His elect nation.
after the manner of Egypt—as Egypt and Pharaoh oppressed thee. Implying, too, as Israel was nevertheless delivered from them, so now it would be from the Assyrian Sennacherib. The antithesis in Isa 10:26 requires this interpretation [Maurer].
For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction.
25. For—Be not afraid (Isa 10:24), for, &c.
indignation … cease—The punishments of God against Israel shall be consummated and ended (Isa 26:20; Da 11:36). "Till the indignation be accomplished," &c.
mine anger—shall turn to their (the Assyrians') destruction.
And the LORD of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb: and as his rod was upon the sea, so shall he lift it up after the manner of Egypt.
26. slaughter of—"stroke upon."
Midian—(Isa 9:4; Jud 7:25).
as his rod was upon the sea—rather, understanding "stroke" from the previous clause, "according to the stroke of His rod upon the Red Sea" (Ex 14:16, 26). His "rod" on the Assyrian (Isa 10:24, 26) stands in bold contrast to the Assyrian used as a "rod" to strike others (Isa 10:5).
after the manner of Egypt—as He lifted it up against Egypt at the Red Sea.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.
27. his burden—the Assyrians' oppression (Isa 9:3). Judah was still tributary to Assyria; Hezekiah had not yet revolted, as he did in the beginning of Sennacherib's reign.
because of—(Ho 10:15).
the anointing—namely, "Messiah" (Da 9:24). Just as in Isa 9:4-6, the "breaking of the yoke of" the enemies' "burden and staff" is attributed to Messiah, "For unto us a child is born," &c., so it is here. Maurer not so well translates, "Because of the fatness"; an image of the Assyrians fierce and wanton pride drawn from a well-fed bull tossing off the yoke (De 32:15). So Isa 10:16 above, and Isa 5:17, "fat ones."
He is come to Aiath, he is passed to Migron; at Michmash he hath laid up his carriages:
28-32. Onward gradual march of Sennacherib's army towards Jerusalem, and the panic of the inhabitants vividly pictured before the eyes.
come to—come upon as a sudden invader (Ge 34:27).
Aiath—same as Ai (Jos 7:2; Ne 7:32). In the north of Benjamin; so the other towns also; all on the line of march to Jerusalem.
Michmash—nine miles northeast of Jerusalem.
laid up … carriages—He has left his heavier baggage (so "carriages" for the things carried, Ac 21:15) at Michmash, so as to be more lightly equipped for the siege of Jerusalem. So 1Sa 17:22; 25:13; 30:24 [Jerome and Maurer].
They are gone over the passage: they have taken up their lodging at Geba; Ramah is afraid; Gibeah of Saul is fled.
29. passage—the jaws of the wady or defile at Michmash (1Sa 13:23; 14:4, 5).
lodging—their quarters for the night, after having passed the defile which might have been easily guarded against them.
Ramah—near Geba; seven miles from Jerusalem.
Gibeah of Saul—his birthplace and residence, in Benjamin (1Sa 11:4), distinct from Gibeah of Judah (Jos 15:57).
Lift up thy voice, O daughter of Gallim: cause it to be heard unto Laish, O poor Anathoth.
30. daughter of Gallim—Gallim and her sons (see on Isa 1:8; 2Ki 19:21). "Cry aloud in consternation."
Laish—not the town in Dan (Jud 18:7), but one of the same name near Jerusalem (1 Maccabees 9:9).
Anathoth—three miles from Jerusalem in Benjamin; the birthplace of Jeremiah. "Poor" is applied to it in pity, on account of the impending calamity. Others translate, Answer her, O Anathoth.
Madmenah is removed; the inhabitants of Gebim gather themselves to flee.
31. Madmenah—not the city in Simeon (Jos 15:31), but a village near Jerusalem.
removed—fled from fear.
gather themselves to flee—"put their goods in a place of safety" [Maurer].
As yet shall he remain at Nob that day: he shall shake his hand against the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem.
32. that day—literally, "As yet this (one only) day (is allowed to the soldiers) for remaining (halting for rest) at Nob"; northeast of Jerusalem on Olivet; a town of the priests (Ne 11:32).
daughter—rightly substituted for the Chetib reading, house. His "shaking his hand" in menace implies that he is now at Nob, within sight of Jerusalem.
Behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, shall lop the bough with terror: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled.
33. bough—literally, the "beauty" of the tree; "the beautiful branch."
high ones of stature—"the upright stem," as distinguished from the previous "boughs" [Horsley].
And he shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one.
34. This verse and Isa 10:33 describe the sudden arrest and overthrow of Sennacherib in the height of his success; Isa 10:18, 19; Eze 31:3, 14, &c., contain the same image; "Lebanon" and its forest are the Assyrian army; the "iron" axe that fells the forest refers to the stroke which destroyed the one hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians (2Ki 19:35). The "Mighty One" is Jehovah (Isa 10:21; Isa 9:6).