Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Woe to thee that spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled; and dealest treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with thee! when thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; and when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee.
Isa 33:1-24. The Last of Isaiah's Prophecies as to Sennacherib's Overthrow.
Isa 33:1, 8, 9, describe the Assyrian spoiler; strong as he is, he shall fall before Jehovah who is stronger (Isa 33:2-6, 10-12). The time is the autumn of 713 B.C.
1. and thou—that is, though thou wast not spoiled—though thou wast not dealt treacherously with (see on Isa 24:16), thy spoiling and treachery are therefore without excuse, being unprovoked.
cease—When God has let thee do thy worst, in execution of His plans, thine own turn shall come (compare Isa 10:12; 14:2; Hab 2:8; Re 13:10).
O LORD, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.
2. us; we … their … our—He speaks interceding for His people, separating himself in thought for a moment from them, and immediately returns to his natural identification with them in the word "our."
every morning—each day as it dawns, especially during our danger, as the parallel "time of trouble" shows.
At the noise of the tumult the people fled; at the lifting up of thyself the nations were scattered.
3. the tumult—the approach of Jehovah is likened to an advancing thunderstorm (Isa 29:6; 30:27), which is His voice (Re 1:15), causing the people to "flee."
nation—the Assyrian levies.
And your spoil shall be gathered like the gathering of the caterpiller: as the running to and fro of locusts shall he run upon them.
4. The invaders' "spoil" shall be left behind by them in their flight, and the Jews shall gather it.
caterpillar—rather, "the wingless locust"; as it gathers; the Hebrew word for "gathers" is properly used of the gathering of the fruits of harvest (Isa 32:10).
running to and fro—namely, in gathering harvest fruits.
them—rather, "it," that is, the prey.
The LORD is exalted; for he dwelleth on high: he hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness.
And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the LORD is his treasure.
6. wisdom—sacred; that is, piety.
thy—Hezekiah's; or rather, "Judea's." "His" refers to the same; such changes from the pronoun possessive of the second person to that of the third are common in Hebrew poetry.
treasure—Not so much material wealth as piety shall constitute the riches of the nation (Pr 10:22; 15:16).
Behold, their valiant ones shall cry without: the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly.
7-9. From the vision of future glory Isaiah returns to the disastrous present; the grief of "the valiant ones" (parallel to, and identical with, "the ambassadors of peace"), men of rank, sent with presents to sue for peace, but standing "without" the enemy's camp, their suit being rejected (2Ki 18:14, 18, 37). The highways deserted through fear, the cities insulted, the lands devastated.
The highways lie waste, the wayfaring man ceaseth: he hath broken the covenant, he hath despised the cities, he regardeth no man.
8. broken … covenant—When Sennacherib invaded Judea, Hezekiah paid him a large sum to leave the land; Sennacherib received the money and yet sent his army against Jerusalem (2Ki 18:14, 17).
despised—make slight of as unable to resist him (Isa 10:9; 36:19); easily captures them.
The earth mourneth and languisheth: Lebanon is ashamed and hewn down: Sharon is like a wilderness; and Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits.
9. (Isa 24:4).
Lebanon—personified; the allusion may be to the Assyrian cutting down its choice trees (Isa 14:8; 37:24).
Sharon—south of Carmel, along the Mediterranean, proverbial for fertility (Isa 35:2).
Bashan—afterwards called Batanea (Isa 2:13).
fruits—rather, understand "leaves"; they lie as desolate as in winter.
Now will I rise, saith the LORD; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself.
10. The sight of His people's misery arouses Jehovah; He has let the enemy go far enough.
I—emphatic; God Himself will do what man could not.
Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you.
11. Ye—the enemy.
conceive chaff—(Isa 26:18; 59:4).
your breath—rather, your own spirit of anger and ambition [Maurer], (Isa 30:28).
And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire.
12. (Isa 9:19; Am 2:1). Perhaps alluding to their being about to be burnt on the funeral pyre (Isa 30:33).
thorns—the wicked (2Sa 23:6, 7).
Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might.
13. far off—distant nations.
near—the Jews and adjoining peoples (Isa 49:1).
The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?
14. sinners in Zion—false professors of religion among the elect people (Mt 22:12).
hypocrites—rather, "the profane"; "the abandoned" [Horsley].
who, &c.—If Jehovah's wrath could thus consume such a host in one night, who could abide it, if continued for ever (Mr 9:46-48)? Fire is a common image for the divine judgments (Isa 29:6; 30:30).
among us—If such awful judgments have fallen on those who knew not the true God, how infinitely worse shall fall on us who, amid religious privileges and profession, sin against God, (Lu 12:47, 48; Jas 4:17)?
He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;
15. In contrast to the trembling "sinners in Zion" (Isa 33:14), the righteous shall be secure amid all judgments; they are described according to the Old Testament standpoint of righteousness (Ps 15:2; 24:4).
stoppeth … ears … eyes—"Rejoiceth not in iniquity" (1Co 13:6; contrast Isa 29:20; Ps 10:3; Ro 1:32). The senses are avenues for the entrance of sin (Ps 119:37).
He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.
16. on high—heights inaccessible to the foe (Isa 26:1).
bread … waters—image from the expected siege by Sennacherib; however besieged by trials without, the godly shall have literal and spiritual food, as God sees good for them (Isa 41:17; Ps 37:25; 34:10; 132:15).
Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.
17. Thine—the saints'.
king in … beauty—not as now, Hezekiah in sackcloth, oppressed by the enemy, but King Messiah (Isa 32:1) "in His beauty" (So 5:10, 16; Re 4:3).
land … very far off—rather, "the land in its remotest extent" (no longer pent up as Hezekiah was with the siege); see Margin. For Jerusalem is made the scene of the king's glory (Isa 33:20, &c.), and it could not be said to be "very far off," unless the far-off land be heaven, the Jerusalem above, which is to follow the earthly reign of Messiah at literal Jerusalem (Isa 65:17-19; Jer 3:17; Re 21:1, 2, 10).
Thine heart shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe? where is the receiver? where is he that counted the towers?
18. meditate—on the "terror" caused by the enemy, but now past.
where, &c.—the language of the Jews exulting over their escape from danger.
scribe—who enrolled the army [Maurer]; or, who prescribed the tribute to be paid [Rosenmuller]; or, who kept an account of the spoil. "The principal scribe of the host" (2Ki 25:19; Jer 52:25). The Assyrian records are free from the exaggerations of Egyptian records. Two scribes are seen in every Assyrian bas-relief, writing down the various objects brought to them, the heads of the slain, prisoners, cattle, sheep, &c.
receiver—"weigher," Margin. Layard mentions, among the Assyrian inscriptions, "a pair a scales for weighing the spoils."
counted … towers—he whose duty it was to reconnoitre and report the strength of the city to be besieged.
Thou shalt not see a fierce people, a people of a deeper speech than thou canst perceive; of a stammering tongue, that thou canst not understand.
19. fierce people—The Assyrians shall not be allowed to enter Jerusalem (2Ki 19:32). Or, thou shalt not any longer see fierce enemies threatening thee as previously; such as the Assyrians, Romans, and the last Antichristian host that is yet to assail Jerusalem (De 28:49, 50; Jer 5:15; Zec 14:2).
stammering—barbarous; so "deeper," &c., that is, unintelligible. The Assyrian tongue differed only in dialect from the Hebrew, but in the Assyrian levies were many of non-Semitic race and language, as the Medes, Elamites, &c. (see on Isa 28:11).
Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.
20. solemnities—solemn assemblies at the great feasts (see on Isa 30:29; Ps 42:4; Ps 48:12).
not … taken down … removed—image from captives "removed" from their land (Isa 36:17). There shall be no more "taking away" to an enemy's land. Or else, from nomads living in shifting tents. The saints, who sojourned once in tabernacles as pilgrims, shall have a "building of God—eternal in the heavens" (2Co 5:1; Heb 11:9, 10; compare Isa 54:2).
stakes—driven into the ground; to these the "cords" were fastened. Christ's Church shall never fall (Mt 16:18). So individual believers (Re 3:12).
But there the glorious LORD will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.
21. there—namely, in Jerusalem.
will be … rivers—Jehovah will be as a broad river surrounding our city (compare Isa 19:6; Na 3:8), and this, too, a river of such a kind as no ship of war can pass (compare Isa 26:1). Jerusalem had not the advantage of a river; Jehovah will be as one to it, affording all the advantages, without any of the disadvantages of one.
galley with oars—war vessels of a long shape, and propelled by oars; merchant vessels were broader and carried sail.
gallant—same Hebrew word as for "glorious," previously; "mighty" will suit both places; a ship of war is meant. No "mighty vessel" will dare to pass where the "mighty Lord" stands as our defense.
For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.
22. Lord—thrice repeated, as often: the Trinity (Nu 6:24-26).
judge … lawgiver … king—perfect ideal of the theocracy, to be realized under Messiah alone; the judicial, legislative, and administrative functions as king to be exercised by Him in person (Isa 11:4; 32:1; Jas 4:12).
Thy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey.
23. tacklings—Continuing the allegory in Isa 33:21, he compares the enemies' host to a war galley which is deprived of the tacklings or cords by which the mast is sustained and the sail is spread; and which therefore is sure to be wrecked on "the broad river" (Isa 33:21), and become the prey of Israel.
they—the tacklings, "hold not firm the base of the mast."
then—when the Assyrian host shall have been discomfited. Hezekiah had given Sennacherib three hundred talents of silver, and thirty of gold (2Ki 18:14-16), and had stripped the temple of its gold to give it to him; this treasure was probably part of the prey found in the foe's camp. After the invasion, Hezekiah had so much wealth that he made an improper display of it (2Ki 20:13-15); this wealth, probably, was in part got from the Assyrian.
the lame—Even the most feeble shall spoil the Assyrian camp (compare Isa 35:6; 2Sa 5:6).
And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.
24. sick—Smith thinks the allusion is to the beginning of the pestilence by which the Assyrians were destroyed, and which, while sparing the righteous, affected some within the city ("sinners in Zion"); it may have been the sickness that visited Hezekiah (Isa 38:1-22). In the Jerusalem to come there shall be no "sickness," because there will be no "iniquity," it being forgiven (Ps 103:3). The latter clause of the verse contains the cause of the former (Mr 2:5-9).