Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices.
Isa 29:1-24. Coming Invasion of Jerusalem: Its Failure: Unbelief of the Jews.
This chapter opens the series of prophecies as to the invasion of Judea under Sennacherib, and its deliverance.
1. Ariel—Jerusalem; Ariel means "Lion of God," that is, city rendered by God invincible: the lion is emblem of a mighty hero (2Sa 23:20). Otherwise "Hearth of God," that is, place where the altar-fire continually burns to God (Isa 31:9; Eze 43:15, 16).
add … year to year—ironically; suffer one year after another to glide on in the round of formal, heartless "sacrifices." Rather, "add yet another year" to the one just closed [Maurer]. Let a year elapse and a little more (Isa 32:10, Margin).
let … kill sacrifices—rather, "let the beasts (of another year) go round" [Maurer]; that is, after the completion of a year "I will distress Ariel."
Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel.
2. Yet—rather, "Then."
heaviness … sorrow—rather, preserving the Hebrew paronomasia, "groaning" and "moaning."
as Ariel—either, "the city shall be as a lion of God," that is, it shall emerge from its dangers unvanquished; or "it shall be as the altar of burnt offering," consuming with fire the besiegers (Isa 29:6; Isa 30:30; 31:9; Le 10:2); or best, as Isa 29:3 continues the threat, and the promise of deliverance does not come till Isa 29:4, "it shall be like a hearth of burning," that is, a scene of devastation by fire [G. V. Smith]. The prophecy, probably, contemplates ultimately, besides the affliction and deliverance in Sennacherib's time, the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome, the dispersion of the Jews, their restoration, the destruction of the enemies that besiege the city (Zec 14:2), and the final glory of Israel (Isa 29:17-24).
And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee.
3. I—Jehovah, acting through the Assyrian, &c., His instruments (Isa 10:5).
mount—an artificial mound formed to out-top high walls (Isa 37:33); else a station, namely, of warriors, for the siege.
round about—not fully realized under Sennacherib, but in the Roman siege (Lu 19:43; 21:20).
forts—siege-towers (De 20:20).
And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.
4. Jerusalem shall be as a captive, humbled to the dust. Her voice shall come from the earth as that of the spirit-charmers or necromancers (Isa 8:19), faint and shrill, as the voice of the dead was supposed to be. Ventriloquism was doubtless the trick caused to make the voice appear to come from the earth (Isa 19:3). An appropriate retribution that Jerusalem, which consulted necromancers, should be made like them!
Moreover the multitude of thy strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly.
5. Moreover—rather, "Yet"; yet in this extremity help shall come, and the enemy be scattered.
strangers—foreign enemies, invaders (Isa 25:2).
it shall be—namely, the destruction of the enemy.
at an instant—in a moment (Isa 30:23).
Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.
6. Thou—the Assyrian army.
thunder, &c.—not literally, in the case of the Assyrians (Isa 37:36); but figuratively for an awful judgment (Isa 30:30; 28:17). The ulterior fulfilment, in the case of the Jews' foes in the last days, may be more literal (see as to "earthquake," Zec 14:4).
And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision.
It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion.
8. Their disappointment in the very height of their confident expectation of taking Jerusalem shall be as great as that of the hungry man who in a dream fancies he eats, but awakes to hunger still (Ps 73:20); their dream shall be dissipated on the fatal morning (Isa 37:36).
soul—simply his appetite: he is still thirsty.
Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink.
9. Stay—rather, "Be astounded"; expressing the stupid and amazed incredulity with which the Jews received Isaiah's announcement.
wonder—The second imperative, as often (Isa 8:9), is a threat; the first is a simple declaration of a fact, "Be astounded, since you choose to be so, at the prophecy, soon you will be amazed at the sight of the actual event" [Maurer].
cry … out … cry—rather, "Be ye blinded (since you choose to be so, though the light shines all round you), and soon ye shall be blinded" in good earnest to your sorrow [Maurer], (Isa 6:9, 10).
not with wine—but with spiritual paralysis (Isa 51:17, 21).
ye … they—The change from speaking to, to speaking of them, intimates that the prophet turns away from them to a greater distance, because of their stupid unbelief.
For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.
10. Jehovah gives them up judicially to their own hardness of heart (compare Zec 14:13). Quoted by Paul, with variations from the Septuagint, Ro 11:8. See Isa 6:10; Ps 69:23.
eyes; the prophets, &c.—rather, "hath closed your eyes, the prophets; and your heads (Margin; see also Isa 3:2), the seers, He hath covered." The Orientals cover the head to sleep; thus "covered" is parallel to "closed your eyes" (Jud 4:19). Covering the face was also preparatory to execution (Es 7:8). This cannot apply to the time when Isaiah himself prophesied, but to subsequent times.
And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:
11. of all—rather, "the whole vision." "Vision" is the same here as "revelation," or "law"; in Isa 28:15, the same Hebrew word is translated, "covenant" [Maurer].
sealed—(Isa 8:16), God seals up the truth so that even the learned, because they lack believing docility, cannot discern it (Mt 13:10-17; 11:25). Prophecy remained comparatively a sealed volume (Da 12:4, 9), until Jesus, who "alone is worthy," "opened the seals" (Re 5:1-5, 9; 6:1).
And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.
12. The unlearned succeed no better than the learned, not from want of human learning, as they fancy, but from not having the teaching of God (Isa 54:13; Jer 31:34; Joh 6:45; 1Co 2:7-10; 1Jo 2:20).
Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
13. precept of men—instead of the precepts of God, given by His prophets; also worship external, and by rule, not heartfelt as God requires (Joh 4:24). Compare Christ's quotation of this verse from the Septuagint.
Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
14. (Hab 1:5; Ac 13:41). The "marvellous work" is one of unparalleled vengeance on the hypocrites: compare "strange work," Isa 28:21. The judgment, too, will visit the wise in that respect in which they most pride themselves; their wisdom shall be hid, that is, shall no longer appear, so as to help the nation in its distress (compare 1Co 1:19).
Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?
15. seek deep to hide—rather, "That seek to hide deeply," &c. (compare Isa 30:1, 2). The reference is to the secret plan which many of the Jewish nobles had of seeking Egyptian aid against Assyria, contrary to the advice of Isaiah. At the same time the hypocrite in general is described, who, under a plausible exterior, tries to hide his real character, not only from men, but even from God.
Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?
16. Rather, "Ah! your perverseness! just as if the potter should be esteemed as the clay!" [Maurer]. Or, "Ye invert (turn upside down) the order of things, putting yourselves instead of God," and vice versa, just as if the potter should be esteemed as the clay [Horsley], (Isa 45:9; 64:8).
Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?
17. turned—as contrasted with your "turnings of things upside down" (Isa 29:16), there shall be other and better turnings or revolutions; the outpouring of the Spirit in the latter days (Isa 32:15); first on the Jews; which shall be followed by their national restoration (see on Isa 29:2; Zec 12:10) then on the Gentiles (Joe 2:28).
fruitful field—literally, "a Carmel" (see on Isa 10:18). The moral change in the Jewish nation shall be as great as if the wooded Lebanon were to become a fruitful field, and vice versa. Compare Mt 11:12, Greek: "the kingdom of heaven forces itself," as it were, on man's acceptance; instead of men having to seek Messiah, as they had John, in a desert, He presents Himself before them with loving invitations; thus men's hearts, once a moral desert, are reclaimed so as to bear fruits of righteousness: vice versa, the ungodly who seemed prosperous, both in the moral and literal sense, shall be exhibited in their real barrenness.
And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.
18. deaf … blind—(Compare Mt 11:5). The spiritually blind, &c., are chiefly meant; "the book," as Revelation is called pre-eminently, shall be no longer "sealed," as is described (Isa 29:11), but the most unintelligent shall hear and see (Isa 35:5).
The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
19. meek—rather, the afflicted godly: the idea is, virtuous suffering (Isa 61:1; Ps 25:9; 37:11) [Barnes].
poor among men—that is, the poorest of men, namely, the pious poor.
rejoice—when they see their oppressors punished (Isa 29:20, 21), and Jehovah exhibited as their protector and rewarder (Isa 29:22-24; Isa 41:17; Jas 2:5).
For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off:
20. terrible—namely, the persecutors among the Jewish nobles.
scorner—(Isa 28:14, 22).
watch for—not only commit iniquity, but watch for opportunities of committing it, and make it their whole study (see Mic 2:1; Mt 26:59; 27:1).
That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.
21. Rather, "Who make a man guilty in his cause" [Gesenius], that is, unjustly condemn him. "A man" is in the Hebrew a poor man, upon whom such unjust condemnations might be practiced with more impunity than on the rich; compare Isa 29:19, "the meek … the poor."
him that reproveth—rather, "pleadeth"; one who has a suit at issue.
gate—the place of concourse in a city, where courts of justice were held (Ru 4:11; Pr 31:23; Am 5:10, 12).
just—one who has a just cause; or, Jesus Christ, "the Just One" [Horsley].
for a thing of naught—rather, "through falsehood," "by a decision that is null in justice" [Barnes]. Compare as to Christ, Pr 28:21; Mt 26:15; Ac 3:13, 14; 8:33.
Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale.
22. Join "saith … concerning the house of Jacob."
redeemed—out of Ur, a land of idolaters (Jos 24:3).
not now—After the moral revolution described (Isa 29:17), the children of Jacob shall no longer give cause to their forefathers to blush for them.
wax pale—with shame and disappointment at the wicked degeneracy of his posterity, and fear as to their punishment.
But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.
23. But—rather, "For."
work of mine hands—spiritually, as well as physically (Isa 19:25; 60:21; Eph 2:10). By Jehovah's agency Israel shall be cleansed of its corruptions, and shall consist wholly of pious men (Isa 54:13, 14; 2:1; 60:21).
midst of him—that is, his land. Or else "His children" are the Gentiles adopted among the Israelites, his lineal descendants (Ro 9:26; Eph 3:6) [Horsley].
They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.
24. They … that erred—(Isa 28:7).
learn doctrine—rather, "shall receive discipline" or "instruction." "Murmuring" was the characteristic of Israel's rebellion against God (Ex 16:8; Ps 106:25). This shall be so no more. Chastisements, and, in Horsley's view, the piety of the Gentiles provoking the Jews to holy jealousy (Ro 11:11, 14), shall then produce the desired effect.