Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!
Isa 31:1-9. The Chief Strength of the Egyptian Armies Lay in Their Cavalry.
1. and stay on horses, and trust in chariots—In their level and fertile plains horses could easily be used and fed (Ex 14:9; 1Ki 10:28). In hilly Palestine horses were not so easily had or available. The Jews were therefore the more eager to get Egyptian chariots as allies against the Assyrian cavalry. In Assyrian sculptures chariots are represented drawn by three horses, and with three men in them (see Isa 36:9; Ps 20:7; Da 9:13).
Yet he also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity.
2. he also is wise—as well as the Egyptian priests, so famed for wisdom (Ac 7:22), but who are "fools" before Him (Isa 19:11). He not only devises, but executes what He devises without "calling back His words" (Nu 23:19).
home—the whole race.
help—the Egyptian succor sought by the Jews.
Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down, and they all shall fail together.
3. not spirit—not of divine power (Ps 56:4; 146:3, 5; Zec 4:6).
he that helpeth—Egypt.
For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof.
4. (Isa 42:13; Ho 11:10).
roaring on—"growling over" his prey.
abase himself—be disheartened or frightened.
As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.
5. As in the image of "the lion," the point of comparison is the fearless might of Jehovah; so in that of the birds, it is His solicitous affection (De 32:11; Ps 91:4; Mt 23:37).
flying—Rather, "which defend" their young with their wings; "to fly" is a secondary meaning of the Hebrew word [Maurer]. "Hovering over" to protect their young [G. V. Smith].
passing over—as the destroying angel passing over, so as to spare the blood-marked houses of the Israelites on the first passover (Ex 12:13, 23, 27). He passed, or leaped forward [Lowth], to destroy the enemy and to spare His people.
Turn ye unto him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted.
6. The power and love of Jehovah, just mentioned, are the strongest incentives for returning to Him (Eze 16:62, 63; Ho 6:1).
ye … Israel—The change of person marks that when they return to the Lord, He will address them in more direct terms of communion in the second person; so long as they were revolters, God speaks of them, as more at a distance, in the third person, rather than to them.
For in that day every man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made unto you for a sin.
7. In the day of trial the idols will be found to render no help and will therefore be cast away. Compare as to the future restoration and conversion of Israel simultaneously with the interposition of Jehovah in its defense, Zec 12:9-14; 13:1, 2.
for a sin—that is, whereby especially you contracted guilt (1Ki 12:30).
Then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword, not of a mighty man; and the sword, not of a mean man, shall devour him: but he shall flee from the sword, and his young men shall be discomfited.
8. Assyrian—Sennacherib, representative of some powerful head of the ungodly in the latter ages [Horsley].
sword, not of … mighty … mean man—but by the unseen sword of God.
flee—Sennacherib alone fled homewards after his army had been destroyed (Isa 37:37).
young men—the flower of his army.
discomfited—rather, "shall be subject to slavery"; literally, "shall be liable to tribute," that is, personal service (De 20:11; Jos 9:21) [Maurer]. Or, not so well, "shall melt away" [Rosenmuller].
And he shall pass over to his strong hold for fear, and his princes shall be afraid of the ensign, saith the LORD, whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem.
9. Rather, "shall pass beyond his strongholds"; he Shall not stop to take refuge in it through fear (Jud 20:47; Jer 48:28) [Gesenius].
ensign—the banner of Jehovah protecting the Jews [Maurer].
fire … furnace—"light" and "fire," namely, of Jehovah's altar at Jerusalem (Isa 29:1). Perhaps "furnace," as distinguished from "fire," may mean that His dwelling-place (His hearth) was at Jerusalem (compare Isa 4:5); or else the fiery furnace awaiting all the enemies who should attack Jerusalem.