Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin:
Isa 30:1-32. The Thirtieth Through Thirty-second Chapters Refer Probably to the Summer of 714 B.C., AS THE Twenty-ninth Chapter to the Passover of That Year.
Jewish ambassadors were now on their way to Egypt to seek aid against Assyria (Isa 30:2-6, 15; 31:1). Isaiah denounces this reliance on Egypt rather than on Jehovah. God had prohibited such alliances with heathen nations, and it was a leading part of Jewish polity that they should be a separate people (Ex 23:32; De 7:2).
1. take counsel—rather, as Isa 30:4, 6 imply, "execute counsels."
cover … covering—that is, wrap themselves in reliances disloyal towards Jehovah. "Cover" thus answers to "seek to hide deeply their counsel from the Lord" (Isa 29:15). But the Hebrew is literally, "who pour out libations"; as it was by these that leagues were made (Ex 24:8; Zec 9:11), translate, "who make a league."
not of—not suggested by My Spirit" (Nu 27:21; Jos 9:14).
that they may add—The consequence is here spoken of as their intention, so reckless were they of sinning: one sin entails the commission of another (De 29:19).
That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!
2. walk—are now setting out, namely, their ambassadors (Isa 30:4).
Egypt—See on Isa 19:1; Isa 20:1.
Pharaoh—the generic name of the kings of Egypt, as Cæsar was at Rome. The word in Egyptian means "king" [Josephus, Antiquities, 8.6,2]. Phra, "the sun," was the hieroglyphic symbol and title of the king.
shadow—image from shelter against heat: protection (Ps 121:5, 6).
Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.
3. shame—disappointment. Egypt, weakened by its internal dissensions, can give no solid help.
For his princes were at Zoan, and his ambassadors came to Hanes.
4. his—Judah's (compare Isa 9:21).
at Zoan—are already arrived there on their errand to Pharaoh (see Isa 19:11).
came to Hanes—are come there. West of the Nile, in central Egypt: Egyptian Hnes; the Greek Heracleopolis: perhaps the Anysis of Herodotus (2.137); according to Grotius, Tahpanhes contracted (Jer 43:7-9); the seat of a reigning prince at the time, as was Zoan, hence the Jewish ambassadors go to both.
They were all ashamed of a people that could not profit them, nor be an help nor profit, but a shame, and also a reproach.
5. (Jer 2:36.)
The burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them.
6. burden—the prophecy as to, &c. [Maurer]; so the Septuagint, the fresh inscription here marks emphatically the prediction that follows. Or, rather, Isaiah sees in vision, the ambassador's beasts burdened with rich presents travelling southwards (namely, to Egypt, Da 11:5, 6), and exclaims, Oh, the burden of treasure on the beasts! &c. (Ho 8:9; 12:1).
land of trouble—the desert between Palestine and Egypt, destitute of water and abounding in dangerous animals (De 8:15; Jer 2:6).
flying serpent—(Isa 14:29), a species which springs like a dart from trees, on its prey.
will carry—rather, present, "carry," namely, as presents to Egypt (1Ki 15:19).
young asses—rather, "full-grown asses" [Maurer].
For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.
7. "Egypt is vanity, and to no purpose will they help" [G. V. Smith].
strength—Hebrew, Rabah, a designation for Egypt (Isa 51:9; Ps 87:4), implying her haughty fierceness; translate, "Therefore I call her Arrogance that sitteth still." She who boasted of the help she would give, when it came to the test, sat still (Isa 36:6). English Version agrees with Isa 30:15; Isa 7:4.
Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:
8. table—a tablet (Hab 2:2), which should be set in public, containing the prophecy in a briefer form, to be read by all.
a book—namely, a parchment roll, containing the prophecy in full, for the use of distant posterity. Its truth will be seen hereafter when the event has come to pass. See on Isa 8:1; Isa 8:16.
for ever and ever—rather read, "For a testimony for ever" [Chaldee, Jerome, Lowth]: "testimony is often joined to the notion of perpetuity (De 31:19, 21, 26).
That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:
9. lying—unfaithful to Jehovah, whose covenant they had taken on them as His adopted children (Isa 59:13; Pr 30:9).
Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:
10. (Mic 2:6, 11; 3:5).
See not—as you now do, foretelling misfortune.
Prophesy not … right things—Not that they avowedly requested this, but their conduct virtually expressed it. No man, professedly, wished to be deceived; but many seek a kind of teaching which is deceit; and which, if they would examine, they might know to be such (1Ki 22:13). The Jews desired success to be foretold as the issue of their league with Egypt, though ill had been announced by God's prophet as the result; this constituted the "deceits."
Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.
11. Depart from the true "way" (so in Ac 19:9, 23) of religion.
cause … to cease—Let us hear no more of His name. God's holiness is what troubles sinners most.
Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon:
12. Holy One—Isaiah so little yields to their wicked prejudices that he repeats the very name and truth which they disliked.
this word—Isaiah's exhortation to reliance on Jehovah.
oppression—whereby they levied the treasures to be sent to conciliate Egypt (Isa 30:6).
perverseness—in relying on Egypt, rather than on Jehovah.
Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.
13. Image from a curve swelling out in a wall (Ps 62:3); when the former gives way, it causes the downfall of the whole wall; so their policy as to Egypt.
And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters' vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit.
14. he—the enemy; or rather, God (Ps 2:9; Jer 19:11).
It—the Jewish state.
potter's vessel—earthen and fragile.
sherd—a fragment of the vessel large enough to take up a live coal, &c.
pit—cistern or pool. The swell of the wall is at first imperceptible and gradual, but at last it comes to the crisis; so the decay of the Jewish state.
For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.
15. returning and rest—turning back from your embassy to Egypt, and ceasing from warlike preparations.
quietness—answering to "wait for Him (God)" (Isa 30:18).
But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.
16. flee—not as fugitives, but we will speed our course; namely, against the Assyrians, by the help of cavalry supplied by Egypt (Isa 31:1). This was expressly against the Mosaic law (De 17:16; see on Isa 2:7; Ho 14:3).
shall … flee—literally, "before your enemies"; their sin and its punishment correspond.
One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill.
17. One thousand—A thousand at once, or, "As one man" [Maurer].
rebuke—the battle cry.
shall ye—at the rebuke of five shall ye, namely, all (in contrast to the "one thousand") flee so utterly that even two shall not be left together, but each one shall be as solitary "as a signal staff" [G. V. Smith], or "a banner on a hill" (Isa 5:26; 11:12). The signal staff was erected to rally a nation in war. The remnant of Jews left would be beacons to warn all men of the justice of God, and the truth of His threatenings. Gesenius (from Le 26:8; De 32:30) arbitrarily inserts "ten thousand." "At the rebuke of five shall ten thousand of you flee."
And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.
18. therefore—on account of your wicked perverseness (Isa 30:1, 2, 9, 15, 16), Jehovah will delay to be gracious [Horsley]. Rather, wait or delay in punishing, to give you time for repentance (Isa 30:13, 14, 17) [Maurer]. Or, "Yet therefore" (namely, because of the distress spoken of in the previous verses; that distress will lead the Jews to repentance, and so Jehovah will pity them) [Gesenius].
be exalted—Men will have more elevated views of God's mercy; or else, "He will rise up to pity you" [G. V. Smith]. Or (taking the previous clause as Maurer, "Therefore Jehovah will delay" in punishing you, "in order that He may be gracious to you," if ye repent), He will be far removed from you (so in Ps 10:5, far above out sight); that is, He will not immediately descend to punish, "in order that He may have mercy," &c.
judgment—justice; faithfulness to His covenant.
wait—compare Isa 30:15, wait, namely, for His times of having mercy.
For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee.
19. (Isa 65:9). The restoration from Babylon only typifies the full accomplishment of the prophecy (Isa 30:18-33).
weep no more—(Isa 25:8).
thy cry—(Isa 26:8, 9; Jer 29:12-14).
And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers:
20. Rather, "The Lord will give"; the "though" is not in the original.
bread of adversity—He will not deny you food enough to save you in your adversity (1Ki 22:27; Ps 127:2).
be removed—rather, "hide themselves"; they shall no more be forced to hide themselves from persecution, but shall be openly received with reverence [Maurer]. Contrast with this Ps 74:9; Am 8:11.
And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.
21. word—conscience, guided by the Holy Spirit (Joh 16:13).
Ye shall defile also the covering of thy graven images of silver, and the ornament of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence.
22. covering of … images—rather, "images" (formed of wood or potter's clay, and) "covered with silver." Hezekiah, and afterwards Josiah, defiled them (2Ki 23:8, 10, 14, 16; 2Ch 31:1; compare Isa 2:20; De 7:25).
Then shall he give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous: in that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures.
23. rain of—rather, "for thy seed." Physical prosperity accompanies national piety; especially under the Old Testament. The early rain fell soon after the seed was sown in October or November; the latter rain in the spring, before the ripening of the corn. Both were needed for a good harvest.
fat—bread made of the best wheat flour (compare Ge 49:20; De 32:14).
The oxen likewise and the young asses that ear the ground shall eat clean provender, which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fan.
24. ear—that is, till. Asses were employed in tillage, as well as oxen (De 22:10).
clean—rather, salted provender [Gesenius]. The Arab proverb is, "Sweet provender is as bread to camels—salted provender as confectionery." The very cattle shall share the coming felicity. Or else, well-fermented maslin, that is, provender formed of a mixture of various substances: grain, beans, vetches, hay, and salt.
winnowed—not as it is usually given to cattle before it is separated from the chaff; the grain shall be so abundant that it shall be given winnowed.
shovel—by which the grain was thrown up in the wind to separate it from the chaff.
fan—an instrument for winnowing.
And there shall be upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, rivers and streams of waters in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.
25. Even the otherwise barren hills shall then be well-watered (Isa 44:3).
the day, &c.—when the disobedient among the Jews shall have been slain, as foretold in Isa 30:16: "towers," that is, mighty men (Isa 2:15). Or else, the towers of the Assyrian Sennacherib, or of Babylon, types of all enemies of God's people.
Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.
26. Image from the heavenly bodies to express the increase of spiritual light and felicity. "Sevenfold" implies the perfection of that felicity, seven being the sacred number. It shall also be literally fulfilled hereafter in the heavenly city (Isa 60:19, 20; Re 21:23, 24; 22:5).
breach—the wound, or calamity, sent by God on account of their sins (Isa 1:5).
Behold, the name of the LORD cometh from far, burning with his anger, and the burden thereof is heavy: his lips are full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire:
27. name of … Lord—that is, Jehovah Himself (Ps 44:5; 54:1); represented as a storm approaching and ready to burst over the Assyrians (Isa 30:30, 31).
burden … is heavy—literally, "grievousness is the flame," that is, the flame which darts from Him is grievous. Or else (as the Hebrew means an "uplifting") the uprising cloud is grievous [G. V. Smith]; the gathering cloud gradually rising till it bursts.
And his breath, as an overflowing stream, shall reach to the midst of the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of vanity: and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err.
28. (Isa 11:4; 2Th 2:8).
reach … neck—the most extreme danger; yet as the head, or capital of Judah, was to be spared (Isa 8:8), so the head, or sovereign of Assyria, Sennacherib, should escape.
sieve of vanity—Rather, "the winnowing fan of destruction" [Lowth] (Isa 41:16).
bridle in … jaws—as prisoners are represented in the Assyrian inscriptions (Isa 37:29).
causing … to err—(Isa 63:17). "People," Hebrew, "peoples," namely, the various races composing the Assyrian armies (Isa 5:26).
Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the LORD, to the mighty One of Israel.
29. the night … solemnity—As in the passover night ye celebrate your deliverance from Egypt, so shall ye celebrate your rescue from Assyrian bondage. Translate, "the solemnity" (Ex 12:42).
goeth with a pipe—or flute. They used to go up to Jerusalem ("the mountain of the Lord," Zion) at the three feasts with music and gladness (De 16:16; Ezr 2:65; Ps 122:1-4).
And the LORD shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall shew the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones.
30. Jehovah's "glorious voice," raised against the enemy (Isa 30:27), is again mentioned here, in contrast to the music (Isa 30:29) with which His people shall come to worship Him.
lighting down of … arm—(Isa 30:32; Ps 38:2). The descent of His arm in striking.
scattering—namely, a blast that scatters, or an "inundation" [Maurer].
For through the voice of the LORD shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod.
31. The Assyrian rod which beat shall itself be beaten, and that by the mere voice of the Lord, that is, an unseen divine agency (Isa 10:5, 24).
And in every place where the grounded staff shall pass, which the LORD shall lay upon him, it shall be with tabrets and harps: and in battles of shaking will he fight with it.
32. grounded—rather, "decreed," "appointed" [Maurer].
staff—the avenging rod.
him—the Assyrian; type of all God's enemies in every age. Margin and Maurer construe, "Every passing through (infliction, Isa 28:15) of the appointed rod, which, &c., shall be with tabrets," that is, accompanied with joy on the part of the rescued peoples.
battles of shaking—that is, shock of battles (Isa 19:16; compare "sift … sieve," Isa 30:28).
with it—namely, Assyria.
For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.
33. Tophet—literally, "A place of abomination"; the valley of the sons of Hinnom, southeast of Jerusalem, where Israel offered human sacrifices to Moloch by fire; hence a place of burning (2Ki 23:10; Jer 7:31). Latterly Gehinnom or Gehenna, that is, valley of Hinnom, was the receptacle of the refuse of the city, to consume which fires were constantly burning. Hence it came to express hell, the place of torment. In the former sense it was a fit place to symbolize the funeral pyre of the Assyrian army (not that it actually perished there); the Hebrews did not burn, but buried their dead, but the heathen Assyrians are to be burnt as a mark of ignominy. In the latter sense Tophet is the receptacle "prepared for the devil (antitype to the king, Isa 14:12-15) and his angels," and unbelieving men (Mt 5:22; 25:41; Mr 9:43, 44).