Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
The Prophecies of Isaiah
Time of the Prophet
The first prerequisite to a clear understanding and full appreciation of the prophecies of Isaiah, is a knowledge of his time, and of the different periods of his ministry. The first period was in the reigns of Uzziah (b.c. 811-759) and Jotham (759-743). The precise starting-point depends upon the view we take of Isaiah 6:1-13. But, in any case, Isaiah commenced his ministry towards the close of Uzziah's reign, and laboured on throughout the sixteen years of the reign of Jotham. The first twenty-seven of the fifty-two years that Uzziah reigned run parallel to the last twenty-seven of the forty-one that Jeroboam II reigned (b.c. 825-784). Under Joash, and his son Jeroboam II, the kingdom of Israel passed through a period of outward glory, which surpassed, both in character and duration, any that it had reached before; and this was also the case with the kingdom of Judah under Uzziah and his son Jotham. As the glory of the one kingdom faded away, that of the other increased. The bloom of the northern kingdom was destroyed and surpassed by that of the southern. But outward splendour contained within itself the fatal germ of decay and ruin in the one case as much as in the other; for prosperity degenerated into luxury, and the worship of Jehovah became stiffened into idolatry. It was in this last and longest time of Judah's prosperity that Isaiah arose, with the mournful vocation to preach repentance without success, and consequently to have to announce the judgment of hardening and devastation, of the ban and of banishment. The second period of his ministry extended from the commencement of the reign of Ahaz to that of the reign of Hezekiah. Within these sixteen years three events occurred, which combined to bring about a new and calamitous turn in the history of Judah. In the place of the worship of Jehovah, which had been maintained with outward regularity and legal precision under Uzziah and Jotham; as soon as Ahaz ascended the throne, open idolatry was introduced of the most abominable description and in very various forms. The hostilities which began while Jotham was living, were perpetuated by Pekah the king of Israel and Rezin the king of Damascene Syria; and in the Syro-Ephraimitish war, an attack was made upon Jerusalem, with the avowed intention of bringing the Davidic rule to an end. Ahaz appealed to Tiglath-pileser, the king of Assyria, to help him out of these troubles. He thus made flesh his arm, and so entangled the nation of Jehovah with the kingdom of the world, that from that time forward it never truly recovered its independence again. The kingdom of the world was the heathen state in its Nimrodic form. Its perpetual aim was to extend its boundaries by constant accretions, till it had grown into a world-embracing colossus; and in order to accomplish this, it was ever passing beyond its natural boundaries, and coming down like an avalanche upon foreign nations, not merely for self-defence or revenge, but for the purpose of conquest also. Assyria and Rome were the first and last links in that chain of oppression by the kingdom of the world, which ran through the history of Israel. Thus Isaiah, standing as he did on the very threshold of this new and all-important turn in the history of his country, and surveying it with his telescopic glance, was, so to speak, the universal prophet of Israel. The third period of his ministry extended from the accession of Hezekiah to the fifteenth year of his reign. Under Hezekiah the nation rose, almost at the same pace at which it had previously declined under Ahaz. He forsook the ways of his idolatrous father, and restored the worship of Jehovah. The mass of the people, indeed, remained inwardly unchanged, but Judah had once more an upright king, who hearkened to the word of the prophet by his side - two pillars of the state, and men mighty in prayer (2 Chronicles 32:20). When the attempt was afterwards made to break away from the Assyrian yoke, so far as the leading men and the great mass of the people were concerned, this was an act of unbelief originating merely in the same confident expectation of help from Egypt which had occasioned the destruction of the northern kingdom in the sixth year of Hezekiah's reign; but on the part of Hezekiah it was an act of faith and confident reliance upon Jehovah (2 Kings 18:7). Consequently, when Sennacherib, the successor of Shalmaneser, marched against Jerusalem, conquering and devastating the land as he advanced, and Egypt failed to send the promised help, the carnal defiance of the leaders and of the great mass of the people brought its own punishment. But Jehovah averted the worst extremity, by destroying the kernel of the Assyrian army in a single night; so that, as in the Syro-Ephraimitish war, Jerusalem itself was never actually besieged. Thus the faith of the king, and of the better portion of the nation, which rested upon the word of promise, had its reward. There was still a divine power in the state, which preserved it from destruction. The coming judgment, which nothing indeed could now avert, according to Isaiah 6:1-13, was arrested for a time, just when the last destructive blow would naturally have been expected. It was in this miraculous rescue, which Isaiah predicted, and for which he prepared the way, that the public ministry of the prophet culminated. Isaiah was the Amos of the kingdom of Judah, having the same fearful vocation to foresee and to declare the fact, that for Israel as a people and kingdom the time of forgiveness had gone by. But he was not also the Hosea of the southern kingdom; for it was not Isaiah, but Jeremiah, who received the solemn call to accompany the disastrous fate of the kingdom of Judah with the knell of prophetic denunciations. Jeremiah was the Hosea of the kingdom of Judah. To Isaiah was given the commission, which was refused to his successor Jeremiah - namely, to press back once more, through the might of his prophetic word, coming as it did out of the depths of the strong spirit of faith, the dark night which threatened to swallow up his people at the time of the Assyrian judgment. After the fifteenth year of Hezekiah's reign, he took no further part in public affairs; but he lived till the commencement of Manasseh's reign, when, according to a credible tradition, to which there is an evident allusion in Hebrews 11:37 ("they were sawn asunder"),
(Note: According to b. Jebamoth, 49b, it was found in a roll containing the history of a Jerusalem family; and according to Sanhedrin, 103b, in the Targum on 2 Kings 21:16.)
he fell a victim to the heathenism which became once more supreme in the land. To this sketch of the times and ministry of the prophet we will add a review of the scriptural account of the four kings, under whom he laboured according to Isaiah 1:1; since nothing is more essential, as a preparation for the study of his book, than a minute acquaintance with these sections of the books of Kings and Chronicles.
I. Historical Account of Uzziah-Jotham - The account of Uzziah given in the book of Kings (2 Kings 15:1-7, to which we may add 2 Kings 14:21-22), like that of Jeroboam II, is not so full as we should have expected. After the murder of Amaziah, the people of Judah, as related in Isaiah 14:21-22, raised to the throne his son Azariah, probably not his first-born, who was then sixteen years old. It was he who built the Edomitish seaport town of Elath (for navigation and commerce), and made it a permanent possession of Judah (as in the time of Solomon). This notice is introduced, as a kind of appendix, at the close of Amaziah's life and quite out of its chronological position, because the conquest of Elath was the crowning point of the subjugation of Edom by Amaziah, and not, as Thenius supposes, because it was Azariah's first feat of arms, by which, immediately after his accession, he satisfied the expectations with which the army had made him king. For the victories gained by this king over Edom and the other neighbouring nations cannot have been obtained at the time when Amos prophesied, which was about the tenth year of Uzziah's reign. The attack made by Amaziah upon the kingdom of Israel, had brought the kingdom of Judah into a state of dependence upon the former, and almost of total ruin, from which it only recovered gradually, like a house that had fallen into decay. The chronicler, following the text of the book of Kings, has introduced the notice concerning Elath in the same place (2 Chronicles 26:1, 2 Chronicles 26:2 : it is written Eloth, as in 1 Kings 9:26, and the Septuagint at 2 Kings 14:22). He calls the king Uzziahu; and it is only in the table of the kings of Judah, in 1 Chronicles 3:12, that he gives the name as Azariah. The author of the book of Kings, according to our Hebrew text, calls him sometimes Azariah or Azariahu, sometimes Uzziah or Uzziahu; the Septuagint always gives the name as Azarias. The occurrence of the two names in both of the historical books is an indubitable proof that they are genuine. Azariah was the original name: out of this Uzziah was gradually formed by a significant elision; and as the prophetical books, from Isaiah 1:1 to Zechariah 14:5, clearly show, the latter was the name most commonly used.
Azariah, as we learn from the section in the book of Kings relating to the reign of this monarch (2 Kings 15:1-7), ascended the throne in the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam's reign, that is to say, in the fifteenth year of his sole government, the twenty-seventh from the time when he shared the government with his father Joash, as we may gather from 2 Kings 13:13. The youthful sovereign, who was only sixteen years of age, was the son of Amaziah by a native of Jerusalem, and reigned fifty-two years. He did what was pleasing in the sight of God, like his father Amaziah; i.e., although he did not come up to the standard of David, he was one of the better kings. He fostered the worship of Jehovah, as prescribed in the law: nevertheless he left the high places (bamoth) standing; and while he was reigning, the people maintained in all its force the custom of sacrificing and burning incense upon the heights. He was punished by God with leprosy, which compelled him to live in a sick-house (chophshuth equals chophshith: sickness) till the day of his death, whilst his son Jotham was over the palace, and conducted the affairs of government. He was buried in the city of David, and Jotham followed by him on the throne. This is all that the author of the book of Kings tells us concerning Azariah: for the rest, he refers to the annals of the kings of Judah. The section in the Chronicles relating to Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26) is much more copious: the writer had our book of Kings before him, as 2 Chronicles 26:3-4, 2 Chronicles 26:21, clearly proves, and completed the defective notices from the source which he chiefly employed - namely, the much more elaborate midrash.
Uzziah, he says, was zealous in seeking Elohim in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in divine visions; and in the days when he sought Jehovah, God made him to prosper. Thus the prophet Zechariah, as a faithful pastor and counsellor, stood in the same relation to him in which Jehoiada the high priest had stood to Joash, Uzziah's grandfather. The chronicler then enumerates singly the divine blessings which Uzziah enjoyed. First, his victories over the surrounding nations (passing over the victory over Edom, which had been already mentioned), viz.: (1.) he went forth and warred against the Philistines, and brake down the wall of Gath, and the wall of Jabneh, and the wall of Ashdod, and built towns b'ashdod and b'phelistim (i.e., in the conquered territory of Ashdod, and in Philistia generally); (2.) God not only gave him victory over the Philistines, but also over the Arabians who dwelt in Gur-baal (an unknown place, which neither the lxx nor the Targumists could explain), and the Mehunim, probably a tribe of Arabia Petraea; (3.) the Ammonites gave him presents in token of allegiance, and his name was honoured even as far as Egypt, to such an extent did his power grow. Secondly, his buildings: he built towers (fortifications) above the corner gate, and above the valley gate, and above the Mikzoa, and fortified these (the weakest) portions of Jerusalem: he also built towers in the desert (probably in the desert between Beersheba and Gaza, to protect either the land, or the flocks and herds that were pasturing there); and dug many cisterns, for he had large flocks and herds both in the shephelah (the western portion of Southern Palestine) and in the mishor (the extensive pasture-land of the tribe territory of Reuben on the other side of the Jordan): he had also husbandmen and vine-dressers on the mountains, and in the fruitful fields, for he was a lover of agriculture. Thirdly, his well-organized troops: he had an army of fighting men which consisted - according to a calculation made by Jeiel the scribe, and Maaseiah, the officer under the superintendence of Nahaniah, one of the royal princes - of 2600 heads of families, who had 307,500 men under their command, "that made war with mighty power to help the king against the enemy." Uzziah furnished these, according to all the divisions of the army, with shields, had spears, and helmet, and coats of mail, and bows, even with slinging-stones. He also had ingenious slinging-machines (balistae) made in Jerusalem, to fix upon the towers and ramparts, for the purpose of shooting arrows and large stones. His name resounded far abroad, for he had marvellous success, so that he became very powerful.
Up to this point the chronicler has depicted the brighter side of Uzziah's reign. His prosperous deeds and enterprises are all grouped together, so that it is doubtful whether the history within these several groups follows the chronological order or not. The light thrown upon the history of the times by the group of victories gained by Uzziah, would be worth twice as much if the chronological order were strictly observed. But even if we might assume that the victory over the Philistines preceded the victory over the Arabians of Gur-baal and the Mehunim, and this again the subjugation of Ammon, it would still be very uncertain what position the expedition against Edom - which was noticed by anticipation at the close of Amaziah's life - occupied in relation to the other wars, and at what part of Uzziah's reign the several wars occurred. All that can be affirmed is, that they preceded the closing years of his life, when the blessing of God was withdrawn from him.
The chronicler relates still further, in Isaiah 26:16, that as Uzziah became stronger and stronger, he fell into pride of heart, which led him to perform a ruinous act. He sinned against Jehovah his God, by forcing his way into the holy place of the temple, to burn incense upon the altar of incense, from the proud notion that royalty involved the rights of the priesthood, and that the priests were only the delegates and representatives of the king. Then Azariah the high priest, and eighty other priests, brave men, hurried after him, and went up to him, and said, "This does not belong to thee, Uzziah, to burn incense of Jehovah; but to the priests, and sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary, for thou sinnest; and this is not for thine honour with Jehovah Elohim!" Then Uzziah was wroth, as he held the censer in his hand; and while he was so enraged against the priests, leprosy broke out upon his forehead in the sight of the priests, in the house of Jehovah, at the altar of incense. When Azariah the high priest and the rest of the priests turned to him, behold, he was leprous in his forehead; and they brought him hurriedly away from thence - in fact, he himself hasted to go out - for Jehovah had smitten him. After having thus explained the circumstances which led to the king's leprosy, the chronicler follows once more the text of the book of Kings - where the leprosy itself is also mentioned - and states that the king remained a leper until the day of his death, and lived in a sick-house, without ever being able to visit the temple again. But instead of the statement in the book of Kings, that he was buried in the city of David, the chronicler affirms more particularly that he was not placed in the king's sepulchre; but, inasmuch as he was leprous, and would therefore have defiled it, was buried in the field near the sepulchre. But before introducing this conclusion to the history of Uzziah's reign, and instead of referring to the annals of the kings of Judah, as the author of the book of Kings has done, or making such citations as we generally find, the author simply states, that "the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, write."
It cannot possibly be either the prophecies of Isaiah of the time of Uzziah, or a certain historical portion of the original book of Isaiah's predictions, to which reference is here made; for in that case we should expect the same notice at the close of the account of Jotham's reign, or, at any rate, at the close of that of Ahaz (cf., 2 Chronicles 27:7 and 2 Chronicles 28:26). It is also inconceivable that Isaiah's book of predictions should have contained either a prophetical or historical account of the first acts of Uzziah, since Isaiah was later than Amos, later even than Hosea; and his public ministry did not commence till the close of his reign-in fact, not till the year of his death. Consequently the chronicler must refer to some historical work distinct from "the visions of Isaiah." Just as he mentions two historical works within the first epoch of the divided kingdom, viz., Shemaiah's and Iddo's - the former of which referred more especially to the entire history of Rehoboam, and the latter to the history of Abijah - and then again, in the second epoch, an historical work by Jehu ben Hanani, which contained a complete history of Jehoshaphat from the beginning to the end; so here, in the third epoch, he speaks of Isaiah ben Amoz, the greatest Judaean prophet of this epoch as the author of a special history of Uzziah, which was not incorporated in his "visions" like the history of Hezekiah (cf., 2 Chronicles 32:32), but formed an independent work. Besides this prophetical history of Uzziah, there was also an annalistic history, as 2 Kings 15:6 clearly shows; and it is quite possible that the annals of Uzziah were finished when Isaiah commenced his work, and that they were made use of by him. For the leading purpose of the prophetical histories was to exhibit the inward and divine connection between the several outward events, which the annals simply registered. The historical writings of a prophet were only the other side of his more purely prophetic work. In the light of the Spirit of God, the former looked deep into the past, the latter into the present. Both of them had to do with the ways of divine justice and grace, and set forth past and present, alike in view of the true goal, in which these two ways coincide.
Jotham succeeded Uzziah, after having acted as regent, or rather as viceroy, for several years (2 Kings 15:32-38). He ascended the throne in the second year of Pekah king of Israel, in the twenty-fifth year of his age, and reigned for sixteen years in a manner which pleased God, though he still tolerated the worship upon high places, as his father had done. He built the upper gate of the temple. The author has no sooner written this than he refers to the annals, simply adding, before concluding with the usual formula concerning his burial in the city of David, that in those days, i.e., towards the close of Jotham's reign, the hostilities of Rezin of Damascus and Pekah of Israel commenced, as a judgment from God upon Judah. The chronicler, however, makes several valuable additions to the text of the book of Kings, which he has copied word for word down to the notice concerning the commencement of the Syro-Ephraimitish hostilities (vid., 2 Chronicles 27:1-9). We do not include in this the statement that Jotham did not force his way into the holy place in the temple: this is simply intended as a limitation of the assertion made by the author of the book of Kings as to the moral equality of Jotham and Uzziah, and in favour of the former. The words, "the people continued in their destructive course," also contain nothing new, but are simply the shorter expression used in the Chronicles to indicate the continuance of the worship of the high places during Jotham's reign. But there is something new in what the chronicler appends to the remark concerning the building of the upper gate of the temple, which is very bold and abrupt as it stands in the book of Kings, viz., "On the wall of the Ophel he built much (i.e., he fortified this southern spur of the temple hill still more strongly), and put towns in the mountains of Judah, and erected castles and towers in the forests (for watchtowers and defences against hostile attacks). He also fought with the king of the Ammonites; and when conquered, they were obliged to give him that year and the two following a hundred talents of silver, ten thousand cors of wheat, and the same quantity of barley. Jotham grew stronger and stronger, because he strove to walk before Jehovah his God." The chronicler breaks off with this general statement, and refers, for the other memorabilia of Jotham, and all his wars and enterprises, to the book of the Kings of Israel and Judah.
This is what the two historical books relate concerning the royal pair - Uzziah-Jotham - under whom the kingdom of Judah enjoyed once more a period of great prosperity and power - "the greatest since the disruption, with the exception of that of Jehoshaphat; the longest during the whole period of its existence, the last before its overthrow" (Caspari). The sources from which the two historical accounts were derived were the annals: they were taken directly from them by the author of the book of Kings, indirectly by the chronicler. No traces can be discovered of the work written by Isaiah concerning Uzziah, although it may possibly be employed in the midrash of the chronicler. There is an important supplement to the account given by the chronicler in the casual remark made in 1 Chronicles 5:17, to the effect that Jotham had a census taken of the tribe of Gad, which was settled on the other side of the Jordan. We see from this, that in proportion as the northern kingdom sank down from the eminence to which it had attained under Jeroboam II, the supremacy of Judah over the land to the east of the Jordan was renewed. But we may see from Amos, that it was only gradually that the kingdom of Judah revived under Uzziah, and that at first, like the wall of Jerusalem, which was partially broken down by Joash, it presented the aspect of a house full of fissures, and towards Israel in a very shaky condition; also that the Ephraimitish ox- (or calf-) worship of Jehovah was carried on at Beersheba, and therefore upon Judaean soil, and that Judah did not keep itself free from the idolatry which it had inherited from the fathers (Amos 2:4-5). Again, assuming that Amos commenced his ministry at about the tenth year of Uzziah's reign, we may learn at least so much from him with regard to Uzziah's victories over Edom, Philistia, and Ammon, that they were not gained till after the tenth year of his reign. Hosea, on the other hand, whose ministry commenced at the very earliest when that of Amos was drawing to a close, and probably not till the last five years of Jeroboam's reign, bears witness to, and like Amos condemns, the participation in the Ephraimitish worship, into which Judah had been drawn under Uzziah-Jotham. But with him Beersheba is not referred to any more as an Israelitish seat of worship (Amos 5:5); Israel does not interfere any longer with the soil of Judah, as in the time of Amos, since Judah has again become a powerful and well-fortified kingdom (Hosea 8:14, cf., Hosea 1:7). But, at the same time, it has become full of carnal trust and manifold apostasy from Jehovah (Hosea 5:10; Hosea 12:1); so that, although receiving at first a miraculous deliverance from God (Hosea 1:7), it is ripening for the same destruction as Israel (Hosea 6:11).
This survey of the kingdom of Judah in the time of Uzziah-Jotham by the Israelitish prophet, we shall find repeated in Isaiah; for the same spirit animates and determines the verdicts of the prophets of both kingdoms.
II. Historical Account of Ahaz and the Syro-Ephraimitish War. - The account of Ahaz, given in the book of Kings and in the Chronicles (2 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 28:1), may be divided into three parts: viz., first, the general characteristics; secondly, the account of the Syro-Ephraimitish war; and thirdly, the desecration of the temple by Ahaz, more especially by setting up an altar made after the model of that at Damascus.
(Note: On the temple at Damascus, whose altar Ahaz imitated, see the Commentary on the Book of Job.)
-12 Kings 16:1-4. Ahaz ascended the throne in the seventeenth year of Pekah. He was then twenty years old (or twenty-five according to the lxx at 2 Chronicles 28:1, which is much more probabBut if the conquest of Elath fell within the period of the Syro-Ephraimitish war, which commenced towards the end of Jotham's reign, and probably originated in the bitter feelings occasioned by the almost total loss to Judah of the country on the east of the Jordan, and which assumed the form of a direct attack upon Jerusalem itself soon after Ahaz ascended the throne; the question arises, How was it that this design of the two allied kings upon Jerusalem was not successful? The explanation is given in the account contained in the book of Kings (2 Kings 16:7): "Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pelezer (sic) the king of Asshur, to say to him, I am thy servant, and thy son; come up, and save me out of the hand of Aram, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, who have risen up against me. And Ahaz took the silver and the gold that was found in the house of Jehovah, and in the treasures of the palace, and sent it for a present to the king of Asshur. The king hearkened to his petition; and went against Damascus, and took it, and carried the inhabitants into captivity to Kir, and slew Rezin." And what did Tiglath-pileser do with Pekah? The author of the book of Kings has already related, in the section referring to Pekah (2 Kings 15:29), that he punished him by taking away the whole of the country to the east of the Jordan, and a large part of the territory on this side towards the north, and carried the inhabitants captive to Assyria. This section must be supplied here - an example of the great liberty which the historians allowed themselves in the selection and arrangement of their materials. The anticipation in 2 Kings 16:5 is also quite in accordance with their usual style: the author first of all states that the expedition against Jerusalem was an unsuccessful one, and then afterwards proceeds to mention the reason for the failure - namely, the appeal of Ahaz to Assyria for help. For I also agree with Caspari in this, that the Syrians the Ephraimites were unable to take Jerusalem, because the tidings reached them, that Tiglath-pileser had been appealed to by Ahaz and was coming against them; and they were consequently obliged to raise the siege and made a speedy retreat.
The account in the Chronicles (2 Chronicles 28:5-21) furnishes us with full and extensive details, with which to supplement the very condensed notice of the book of Kings. When we compare the two accounts, the question arises, whether they refer to two different expeditions (and if so, which of the two refers to the first expedition and which to the second), or whether they both relate to the same expedition. Let us picture to ourselves first of all the facts as given by the chronicler. "Jehovah, his God," he says of Ahaz, "delivered him into the hand of the king of Aram, and they (the Aramaeans) smote him, and carried off from him a great crowd of captives, whom they brought to Damascus; and he was also given into the hand of the king of Israel, who inflicted upon him a terrible defeat." This very clearly implies, as Caspari has shown, that although the two kings set the conquest of Jerusalem before them as a common end at which to aim, and eventually united for the attainment of this end, yet for a time they acted separately. We are not told here in what direction Rezin's army went. But we know from 2 Kings 16:6 that it marched to Idumaea, which it could easily reach from Damascus by going through the territory of his ally - namely, the country of the two tribes and a half. The chronicler merely describes the simultaneous invasion of Judaea by Pekah, but he does this with all the greater fulness.
"Pekah the son of Remaliah slew in Judah a hundred and twenty thousand in one day, all valiant men, because they forsook Jehovah, the God of their fathers. Zichri, an Ephraimitish hero, slew Ma'asejahu the king's son, and Azrikam the governor of the palace, and Elkanah, the second in rank to the king. And the Israelites carried away captive of their brethren two hundred thousand women, boys, and girls, and took away much spoil from them, and brought this booty to Samaria." As the Jewish army numbered at that time three hundred thousand men (2 Chronicles 25:5; 2 Chronicles 26:13), and the war was carried on with the greatest animosity, these numbers need not be regarded as either spurious or exaggerated. Moreover, the numbers, which the chronicler found in the sources he employed, merely contained the estimate of the enormous losses sustained, as generally adopted at that time of the side of Judah itself.
This bloody catastrophe was followed by a very fine and touching occurrence. A prophet of Jehovah, named Oded (a contemporary of Hosea, and a man of kindred spirit), went out before the army as it came back to Samaria, and charged the victors to release the captives of their brother nation, which had been terribly punished in God's wrath, and by so doing to avert the wrath of God which threatened them as well. Four noble Ephraimitish heads of tribes, whose names the chronicler has preserved, supported the admonition of the prophet. The army then placed the prisoners and the booty at the disposal of the princes and the assembled people: "And these four memorable men rose up, and took the prisoners, and all their naked ones they covered with the booty, and clothed and shod them, and gave them to eat and drink, and anointed them, and conducted as many of them as were cripples upon asses, and brought them to Jericho the palm-city, to the neighbourhood of their brethren, and returned to Samaria." Nothing but the rudest scepticism could ever seek to cast a slur upon this touching episode, the truth of which is so conspicuous. There is nothing strange in the fact that so horrible a massacre should be followed by a strong manifestation of the fraternal love, which had been forcibly suppressed, but was not rekindled by the prophet's words. We find an older fellow-piece to this in the prevention of a fratricidal war by Shemaiah, as described in 1 Kings 12:22-24.
Now, when the chronicler proceeds to observe in 2 Chronicles 28:16, that "at that time Ahaz turned for help to the royal house of Assyria" (malce asshur), in all probability this took place at the time when he had sustained two severe defeats, one at the hands of Pekah to the north of Jerusalem; and another from Rezin in Idumaea. The two battles belong to the period before the siege of Jerusalem, and the appeal for help from Assyria falls between the battles and the siege. The chronicler then mentions other judgments which fell upon the king in his estrangement from God, viz.: (1.) "Moreover the Edomites came, smote Judah, and carried away captives;" possibly while the Syro-Ephraimitish war was still going on, after they had welcomed Rezin as their deliverer, had shaken off the Jewish yoke, and had supported the Syrian king against Judah in their own land; (2.) the Philistines invaded the low land (shephelah) and the south land (negeb) of Judah, and took several towns, six of which the chronicler mentions by name, and settled in them; for "Jehovah humbled Judah because of Ahaz the king of Israel (an epithet with several sarcastic allusions), for he acted without restraint in Judah, and most wickedly against Jehovah." The breaking away of the Philistines from the Jewish dominion took place, according to Caspari, in the time of the Syro-Ephraimitish war. The position of 2 Chronicles 28:18 in the section reaching from 2 Chronicles 28:5 to 2 Chronicles 28:21 (viz., 2 Chronicles 28:18, invasion of the Philistines; 2 Chronicles 28:17, that of the Edomites) renders this certainly very probable, though it is not conclusive, as Caspari himself admits.
In 2 Chronicles 28:20, 2 Chronicles 28:21, the chronicler adds an appendix to the previous list of punishments: Tiglath-Pilnezer (sic) the king of Asshur came upon him, and oppressed him instead of strengthening him; for Ahaz had plundered both temple and palace, and given the treasures to the king of Asshur, without receiving any proper help in return. Thenius disputes the rendering, "He strengthened him not" (cf., Ezekiel 30:21); but Caspari has shown that it is quite in accordance with the facts of the case. Tiglath-pileser did not bring Ahaz any true help; for what he proceeded to do against Syria and Israel was not taken in hand in the interests of Ahaz, but to extend his own imperial dominion. He did not assist Ahaz to bring ether the Edomites or the Philistines into subjection again, to say nothing of compensating him for his losses with either Syrian or Ephraimitish territory. Nor was it only that he did not truly help him: he really oppressed him, by making him a tributary vassal instead of a free and independent prince - a relation to Asshur which, according to many evident signs, was the direct consequence of his appeal for help, and which was established, at any rate, at the very commencement of Hezekiah's reign. Under what circumstances this took place we cannot tell; but it is very probable that, after the victories over Rezin and Pekah, a second sum of money was demanded by Tiglath-pileser, and then from that time forward a yearly tribute. The expression used by the chronicler-"he came upon him" - seems, in fact, to mean that he gave emphasis to this demand by sending a detachment of his army; even if we cannot take it, as Caspari does, in a rhetorical rather than a purely historical sense, viz., as signifying that, "although Tiglath-pileser came, as Ahaz desired, his coming was not such as Ahaz desired, a coming to help and benefit, but rather to oppress and injure."
(3.) The third part of the two historical accounts describes the pernicious influence which the alliance with Tiglath-pileser exerted upon Ahaz, who was already too much inclined to idolatry (2 Kings 16:10-18). After Tiglath-pileser had marched against the ruler of Damascus, and delivered Ahaz from the more dangerous of his two adversaries (and possibly from both of them), Ahaz went to Damascus to present his thanks in person. There he saw the altar (which was renowned as a work of art), and sent an exact model to Uriah the high priest, who had an altar constructed like it by the time that the king returned. As soon as Ahaz came back he went up to this altar and offered sacrifice, thus officiating as priest himself (probably as a thanksgiving for the deliverance he had received). The brazen altar (of Solomon), which Uriah had moved farther forward to the front of the temple building, he put farther back again, placing it close to the north side of the new one (that the old one might not appear to have the slightest preference over the new), and commanded the high priest to perform the sacrificial service in future upon the new great altar; adding, at the same time, "And (as for) the brazen altar, I will consider (what shall be done with it)." "And king Ahaz," it is stated still further, "broke out the borders of the stools, and took away the basons; and the sea he took down from the oxen that bare it, and set it upon a stone pedestal (that took the place of the oxen). And the covered sabbath-hall which had been built in the temple, and the outer king's entrance, he removed into the temple of Jehovah before the king of Assyria." Thenius explains this as meaning "he altered them" (taking away the valuable ornaments from both), that he might be able to take with him to Damascus the necessary presents for the king of Asshur. Ewald's explanation, however, is better than this, and more in accordance with the expression "before," viz., "in order that he might be able to secure the continued favour of the dreaded Assyrian king, by continually sending him fresh presents." But הסבdoes not mean to alter, and בית ה equals בבית ה would be an unmeaning addition in the wrong place, which would only obscure the sense. If the great alterations mentioned in 2 Kings 16:17 were made for the purpose of sending presents to the king of Assyria with or from the things that were removed, those described in 2 Kings 16:18 were certainly made from fear of the king; and, what appears most probable to me, not to remove the two splendid erections from the sight of the Assyrians, nor to preserve their being used in the event of an Assyrian occupation of Jerusalem, but in order that his relation to the great king of Assyria might not be disturbed by his appearing as a zealous worshipper of Jehovah. They were changes made from fear of man and servility, and were quite in keeping with the hypocritical, insincere, and ignoble character of Ahaz. The parallel passage in the Chronicles is 2 Chronicles 28:22-25. "In the time of his distress," says the chronicler in his reflective and rhetorical style, "he sinned still more grievously against Jehovah: he, king Ahaz. He sacrificed to the gods of Damascus, who had smitten him. For the gods of the kings of Aram, he said, helped them; I will sacrifice to them, that they may also help me. And they brought him and all Israel to ruin. And Ahaz collected together the vessels of the house of God, and cut them in pieces, and shut the doors of the house of Jehovah, and made himself altars in ever corner of Jerusalem. And in every town of Judah he erected high places to burn incense to other gods, and stirred up the displeasure of Jehovah the God of his fathers." Thenius regards this passage as an exaggerated paraphrase of the parallel passage in the book of Kings, and as resting upon a false interpretation of the latter. But the chronicler does not affirm that Ahaz dedicated the new altar to the gods of Damascus, but rather that in the time of the Syro-Ephraimitish war he attempted to secure for himself the same success in war as the Syrians had obtained, by worshipping their gods. The words of Ahaz, which are reported by him, preclude any other interpretation. He there states - what by no means contradicts the book of Kings - that Ahaz laid violent hands upon the furniture of the temple. All the rest - namely, the allusion to his shutting the temple - gates, and erecting altars and high places on every hand - is a completion of the account in the book of Kings, the historical character of which it is impossible to dispute, if we bear in mind that the Syro-Ephraimitish war took place at the commencement of the reign of Ahaz, who was only sixteen years old at the time.
The author of the book of Kings closes the history of the reign of Ahaz with a reference to the annals of the kings of Judah, and with the remark that he was buried in the city of David (2 Kings 16:19-20). The chronicler refers to the book of the kings of Judah and Israel, and observes that he was indeed buried in the city (lxx "in the city of David"), but not in the king's sepulchre (2 Chronicles 28:26-27). The source employed by the chronicler was his midrash of the entire history of the kings; from which he made extracts, with the intention of completing the text of our book of Kings, to which he appended his work. His style was formed after that of the annals, whilst that of the author of the book of Kings is formed after Deuteronomy. But from what source did the author of the book of Kings make his extracts? The section relating to Ahaz has some things quite peculiar to itself, as compared with the rest of the book, viz., a liking for obscure forms, such as Eloth (2 Kings 16:6), hakkomim (2 Kings 16:7), Dummesek (2 Kings 16:10), and Aromim (2 Kings 16:6); the name Tiglath-peleser;
(Note: This mode of spelling the name, also the one adopted by the chronicler (Tiglath-pilnezer), are both incorrect. Pal is the Assyrian for son, and according to Oppert (Expdition Scientifique en Msopotamie), the whole name would read thus: Tiglatḣpalli̇shiar, i.e., reverence to the son of the zodiac (the Assyrian Hercules).)
מכף instead of מיד, which is customary elsewhere; the rare and more colloquial term jehudim (Jews); the inaccurate construction את־המסגרות המכונות (2 Kings 16:17); and the verb בּקּר (to consider, 2 Kings 16:15), which does not occur anywhere else.
These peculiarities may be satisfactorily explained on the assumption that the author employed the national annals; and that, as these annals had been gradually composed by the successive writings of many different persons, whilst there was an essential uniformity in the mode in which the history was written, there was also of necessity a great variety in the style of composition. But is the similarity between 2 Kings 16:5 and Isaiah 7:1 reconcilable with this annalistic origin? The resemblance in question certainly cannot be explained, as Thenius supposes, from the fact that Isaiah 7:1 was also taken from the national annals; but rather on the ground assigned by Caspari - namely, that the author of the Chronicles had not only the national annals before him, but also the book of Isaiah's prophecies, to which he directs his readers' attention by commencing the history of the Syro-Ephraimitish war in the words of the portion relating to Ahaz. The design of the two allies, as we know from the further contents of Isaiah 1, was nothing less than to get possession of Jerusalem, to overthrow the Davidic government there, and establish in its stead, in the person of a certain ben-Tāb'êl ("son of Tabeal," Isaiah 7:6), a newly created dynasty, that would be under subjection to themselves. The failure of this intention is the thought that is briefly indicated in 2 Kings 16:5 and Isaiah 7:1.
III. Historical Account of Hezekiah, more especially of the first six years of his reign. - The account given of Hezekiah in the book of Kings is a far more meagre one than we should expect to find, when we have taken out the large section relating to the period of the Assyrian catastrophe (2 Kings 18:13-20:19), which is also found in the book of Isaiah, and which will come under review in the commentary on Isaiah 36-39. All that is then left to the author of the book of Kings is 2 Kings 18:1-12 and 2 Kings 20:20, 2 Kings 20:21; and in these two paragraphs, which enclose the section of Isaiah, there are only a few annalistic elements worked up in Deuteronomical style. Hezekiah began to reign in the third year of Hosea king of Israel. He was twenty-five years old when he came to the throne, and reigned twenty-nine years. He was a king after the model of David. He removed the high places, broke in pieces the statutes, cut down the Asheroth, and pounded the serpent, which had been preserved from the time of Moses, and had become an object of idolatrous worship. In his confidence in Jehovah he was unequalled by any of his followers or predecessors. The allusion here is to that faith of his, by which he broke away from the tyranny of Asshur, and also recovered his supremacy over the Philistines. We have no means of deciding in what years of Hezekiah's reign these two events - the revolt from Asshur, and the defeat of the Philistines - occurred. The author proceeds directly afterwards, with a studious repetition of what he has already stated in Isaiah 17:1-14 in the history of Hosea's reign,
(Note: The Chabor nehar Gozan (Eng. ver.: Habor by the river of Gozan), which is mentioned in both passages among the districts to which the Israelitish exiles were taken, is no doubt the Châbūr, which flows into the Tigris from the east above Mosul, and of which it is stated in Merâsid ed. Juynboll, that "it comes from the mountains of the land of Zauzn," a district of outer Armenia lying towards the Tigris, which is described by Edrisi in Jaubert's translation, Pt. ii. p. 330. Another river, on the banks of which Ezekiel's colony of exiles lived, is the Chebar, which flows from the north-east into the Euphrates, and the source of which is in the Mesopotamian town of Râs-el-'ain, a place celebrated through the marvellous springs of this Chaboras, the praises of which have often been sung.)
to describe Shalmanassar's expedition against Israel in the fourth year of Hezekiah's reign (the seventh of Hosea's), and the fall of Samaria, which took place, after a siege of three years, in the sixth year of Hezekiah's reign, and the ninth of Hosea's. But as Shalmanassar made no attack upon Judah at the time when he put an end to the kingdom of Israel, the revolt of Hezekiah cannot have taken place till afterwards. But with regard to the victory over the Philistines, there is nothing in the book of Kings to help us even to a negative conclusion. In 2 Kings 20:20, 2 Kings 20:21, the author brings his history rapidly to a close, and merely refers such as may desire to know more concerning Hezekiah, especially concerning his victories and aqueducts, to the annals of the kings of Judah.
The chronicler merely gives an extract from the section of Isaiah; but he is all the more elaborate in the rest. All that he relates in 2 Chronicles 29:2-31 is a historical commentary upon the good testimony given to king Hezekiah in the book of Kings (2 Kings 18:3), which the chronicler places at the head of his own text in 2 Chronicles 29:2. Even in the month Nisan of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah re-opened the gates of the temple, had it purified from the defilement consequent upon idolatry, and appointed a re-consecration of the purified temple, accompanied with sacrifice, music, and psalms (Isaiah 29:3.). Hezekiah is introduced here (a fact of importance in relation to Isaiah 38) as the restorer of "the song of the Lord" (Shir Jehovah), i.e., of liturgical singing. The Levitical and priestly music, as introduced and organized by David, Gad, and Nathan, was heard again, and Jehovah was praised once more in the words of David the king and Asaph the seer. The chronicler then relates in Isaiah 30 how Hezekiah appointed a solemn passover in the second month, to which even inhabitants of the northern kingdom, who might be still in the land, were formally and urgently invited. It was an after-passover, which was permitted by the law, as the priests had been busy with the purification of the temple in the first month, and therefore had been rendered unclean themselves: moreover, there would not have been sufficient time for summoning the people to Jerusalem. The northern tribes as a whole refused the invitation in the most scornful manner, but certain individuals accepted it with penitent hearts. It was a feast of joy, such as had not been known since the time of Solomon (this statement is not at variance with 2 Kings 23:22), affording, as it did, once more a representation and assurance of that national unity which had been rent in twain ever since the time of Rehoboam. Caspari has entered into a lengthened investigation as to the particular year of Hezekiah's reign in which this passover was held. He agrees with Keil, that it took place after the fall of Samaria and the deportation of the people by Shalmanassar; but he does not feel quite certain of his conclusion. The question itself, however, is one that ought not to be raised at all, if we think the chronicler a trustworthy authority. He places this passover most unquestionably in the second month of the first year of Hezekiah's reign; and there is no difficulty occasioned by this, unless we regard what Tiglath-pileser had done to Israel as of less importance than it actually was. The population that was left behind was really nothing more than a remnant; and, moreover, the chronicler draws an evident contrast between tribes and individuals, so that he was conscious enough that there were still whole tribes of the northern kingdom who were settled in their own homes. He then states in 2 Chronicles 31:1, that the inhabitants of the towns of Judah (whom he calls "all Israel," because a number of emigrant Israelites had settled there) went forth, under the influence of the enthusiasm consequent upon the passover they had celebrated, and broke in pieces the things used in idolatrous worship throughout both kingdoms; and in 2 Chronicles 31:2., that Hezekiah restored the institutions of divine worship that had been discontinued, particularly those relating to the incomes of the priests and Levites. Everything else that he mentions in 32:1-26, 2 Chronicles 32:31, belongs to a later period than the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign; and so far as it differs from the section in Isaiah, which is repeated in the book of Kings, it is a valuable supplement, more especially with reference to 2 Kings 22:8-11 (which relates to precautions taken in the prospect of the approaching Assyrian siege). But the account of Hezekiah's wealth in 2 Chronicles 32:27-29 extends over the whole of his reign. The notice respecting the diversion of the upper Gihon (2 Chronicles 32:30) reaches rather into the period of the return after the Assyrian catastrophe, than into the period before it; but nothing can be positively affirmed.
Having thus obtained the requisite acquaintance with the historical accounts which bear throughout upon the book of Isaiah, so far as it has for its starting-point and object the history of the prophet's own times, we will now turn to the book itself, for the purpose of acquiring such an insight into its general plan as is necessary to enable us to make a proper division of our own work of exposition.
Arrangement of the Collection
We may safely enter upon our investigation with the preconceived opinion that the collection before us was edited by the prophet himself. For, with the exception of the book of Jonah, which belongs to the prophetico-historical writings rather than to the literature of prediction, or the prophetical writings in the ordinary acceptation of the term, all the canonical books of prophecy were written and arranged by the prophets whose names they bear. The most important to our purpose is the analogy of the larger books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. No one denies that Ezekiel prepared his work for publication exactly as it lies before us now; and Jeremiah informs us himself, that he collected and published his prophecies on two separate occasions. Both collections are arranged according to the two different points of view of the subject-matter and the order of time, which are interwoven the one with the other. And this is also the case with the collection of Isaiah's prophecies. As a whole, it is arranged chronologically. The dates given in Isaiah 6:1; Isaiah 7:1; Isaiah 14:28; Isaiah 20:1, are so many points in a progressive line. The three principal divisions also form a chronological series. For Isaiah 1-6 set forth the ministry of Isaiah under Uzziah-Jotham; Isaiah 7-39, his ministry under Ahaz and Hezekiah down to the fifteenth year of the reign of the latter; whilst Isaiah 40-66, assuming their authenticity, were the latest productions of the deepest inner-life, and were committed directly to writing. In the central part, the Ahaz group (Isaiah 7-12) also precedes the Hezekiah group (Isaiah 13-39) chronologically. But the order of time is interrupted in several places by an arrangement of the subject-matter, which was of greater importance to the prophet. The address in Isaiah 1 is not the oldest, but is placed at the head as an introduction to the whole. The consecration of the prophet (Isaiah 6:1-13), which ought to stand at the beginning of the Uzziah-Jotham group, if it relates to his original consecration to his office, is placed at the end, where it looks both backwards and forwards, as a prophecy that was in course of fulfilment. The Ahaz group, which follows next (Isaiah 7-12), is complete in itself, and, as it were, from one casting. And in the Hezekiah group (Isaiah 13-39) the chronological order is frequently interrupted again. The prophecies against the nations (Isaiah 14:24-32), which belong to the Assyrian period, have a massa upon Babel, the city of the world's power, for their opening piece (Isaiah 13-14:23); a massa upon Tyre, the city of the world's commerce, which was to be destroyed by the Chaldeans, for their finale (Isaiah 23); and a shorter massa upon Babel, for a party-wall dividing the cycle into two halves (Isaiah 21:1-10); and all the prophecies upon the nations run into a grand apocalyptic epilogue (Isaiah 24-27), like rivers into a sea. The first part of the Hezekiah group, the contents of which are pre-eminently ethnic (Isaiah 13-27), are interwoven with passages which may not have been composed till after the fifteenth year of Hezekiah's reign. The grand epilogue (Isaiah 34-35), in which the second portion of the Hezekiah group dies away, is also another such passage. This second part is occupied chiefly with the fate of Judah, the judgment inflicted upon Judah by the imperial power of Assyria, and the deliverance which awaited it (Isaiah 27-33). This prediction closes with a declaration, in Isaiah 34-35, on the one hand, of the judgment of God upon the world of Israel's foes; and on the other hand, of the redemption of Israel itself. This passage, which was composed after the fifteenth year of Hezekiah's reign, is followed by the historical portions (Isaiah 36-39), which enclose in a historical frame the predictions of Isaiah delivered when the Assyrian catastrophe was close at hand, and furnish us with the key to the interpretation not only of Isaiah 7-35, but of Isaiah 40-66 also.
Taking the book of Isaiah, therefore, as a whole, in the form in which it lies before us, it may be divided into two halves, viz., Isaiah 1-39, and Isaiah 40-66. The former consists of seven parts, the latter of three. The first half may be called the Assyrian, as the goal to which it points is the downfall of Asshur; the second the Babylonian, as its goal is the deliverance from Babel. The first half, however, is not purely Assyrian; but there are Babylonian pieces introduced among the Assyrian, and such others, as a rule, as break apocalyptically through the limited horizon of the latter. The following are the seven divisions in the first half. (1.) Prophecies founded upon the growing obduracy of the great mass of the people (Isaiah 2-6). (2.) The consolation of Immanuel under the Assyrian oppressions (Isaiah 7-12). These two form a syzygy, which concludes with a psalm of the redeemed (Isaiah 12:1-6), the echo, in the last days, of the song at the Red Sea. The whole is divided by the consecration of the prophet (Isaiah 6:1-13), which looks backwards and forwards with threatenings and promises. It is introduced by a summary prologue (Isaiah 1), in which the prophet, standing midway between Moses and Jesus the Christ, commences in the style of the great Mosaic ode. (3.) Predictions of the judgment and salvation of the heathen, which belong, for the most part, to the time of the Assyrian judgment, though they are enclosed and divided by Babylonian portions. For, as we have already observed, and oracle concerning Babel, the city of the world-power, forms the introduction (Isaiah 13-14:23); an oracle concerning Tyre, the city of the world's commerce, which was to receive its mortal wound from the Chaldeans, the conclusion (Isaiah 23); and a second oracle on the desert by the sea, i.e., Babel, the centre (Isaiah 21:1-10). (4.) To this so thoughtfully arranged collection of predictions concerning the nations outside the Israelitish pale, there is attached a grand apocalyptic prophecy of the judgment of the world and the last things (Isaiah 24-27), which gives it a background that fades away into eternity, and forms with it a second syzygy. (5.) From these eschatological distances the prophet returns to the realities of the present and of the immediate future, and describes the revolt from Asshur, and its consequences (Isaiah 28-33). The central point of this group is the prophecy of the precious corner-stone laid in Zion. (6.) This is also paired off by the prophet with a far-reaching eschatological prediction of revenge and redemption for the church (Isaiah 34-35), in which we already hear, as in a prelude, the keynote of Isaiah 40-66. (7.) After these three syzygies we are carried back, in the first two historical accounts of Isaiah 36-39, into the Assyrian times, whilst the other two show us in the distance the future entanglement with Babylon, which was commencing already. These four accounts are arranged without regard to the chronological order, so that one half looks backwards and the other forwards, and thus the two halves of the book are clasped together. The prophecy in Isaiah 39:5-7 stands between these two halves like a sign-post, with the inscription "To Babylon" upon it. It is thither that the further course of Israel's history tends. There, from this time forward, is Isaiah buried in spirit with his people. And there, in Isaiah 40-66, he proclaims to the Babylonian exiles their approaching deliverance. The trilogical arrangement of this book of consolation has been scarcely disputed by any one, since it was first pointed out by Rckert in his Translation and Exposition of Hebrew Prophets (1831). It is divided into three sections, each containing three times three addresses, with a kind of refrain at the close.
The Critical Questions
The collection of Isaiah's prophecies is thus a complete work, most carefully and skilfully arranged. It is thoroughly worthy of the prophet. Nevertheless, we should be unable to attribute it to him in its present form, (1.) if it were impossible that Isaiah 13-14:23; Isaiah 21:1-10; 23; 24-27; 34-35, could have been composed by Isaiah, and (2.) if the historical accounts in Isaiah 36-39, which are also to be found in 2 Kings 18:13-20:19, have been copied from the book of Kings, or even directly from the national annals. For if the prophecies in question be taken away, the beautiful whole unquestionably falls into a confused quodlibet, more especially the book against the nations; and if Isaiah 36-39 were not written directly by Isaiah, the two halves of the collection would be left without a clasp to bind them together. It would be irregular to think of deciding the critical questions bearing upon this point now, instead of taking them up in connection with our exegetical inquiries. At the same time, we will put the reader in possession at once of the more general points, which cause us to dissent from the conclusions of the modern critics, who regard the book of Isaiah as an anthology composed of the productions of different authors.
The critical treatment of Isaiah commenced as follows: It began with the second part. Koppe first of all expressed some doubts as to the genuineness of Isaiah 1. Doderlein then gave utterance to a decided suspicion as to the genuineness of the whole; and Justi, followed by Eichhorn, Paulus, and Bertholdt, raised this suspicion into firm assurance that the whole was spurious. The result thus obtained could not possibly continue without reaction upon the first part. Rosenmller, who was always very dependent upon his predecessors, was the first to question whether the oracle against Babylon in Isaiah 13-14:23 was really Isaiah's, as the heading affirms; and to his great relief, Justi and Paulus undertook the defence of his position. Further progress was now made. With the first oracle against Babylon in Isaiah 13-14:23, the second, in Isaiah 21:1-10, was also condemned; and Rosenmller was justly astonished when Gesenius dropped the former, but maintained that the arguments with regard to the latter were inconclusive. There still remained the oracle against Tyre in Isaiah 23, which might either be left as Isaiah's, or attributed to a younger unknown prophet, according to the assumption that it predicted the destruction of Tyre by Assyrians or by Chaldeans. Eichhorn, followed by Rosenmller, decided that it was not genuine. But Gesenius understood by the destroyers the Assyrians; and as the prophecy consequently did not extend beyond Isaiah's horizon, he defended its authenticity. Thus the Babylonian series was set aside, or at any rate pronounced thoroughly suspicious. But the keen eyes of the critics made still further discoveries. Eichhorn found a play upon words in the cycle of predictions in Isaiah 24-27, which was unworthy of Isaiah. Gesenius detected an allegorical announcement of the fall of Babylon. Consequently they both condemned these three chapters; and it had its effect, for Ewald transferred them to the time of Cambyses. Still shorter work was made with the cycle of predictions in Isaiah 34-35, on account of its relation to the second part. Rosenmller pronounced it, without reserve, "a song composed in the time of the Babylonian captivity, when it was approaching its termination." This is the true account of the origin of the criticism upon Isaiah. It was in the swaddling-clothes of rationalism that it attained its maturity. Its first attempts were very juvenile. The names of its founders have been almost forgotten. It was Gesenius, Hitzig, and Ewald, who first raised it to the eminence of a science.
If we take our stand upon this eminence, we find that the book of Isaiah contains prophecies by Isaiah himself, and also prophecies by persons who were either directly or indirectly his disciples. The New Testament passages in which the second half of the book of Isaiah is cited as Isaiah's, are no proof of the contrary, since Psalm 2:1-12, for example, which has no heading at all, is cited in Acts 4:25 as David's, merely because it is contained in the Davidic Psalter, and no critic would ever feel that he was bound by that. But many objections present themselves to such a conclusion. In the first place, nothing of the kind can be pointed out in any of the other canonical books of prophecy, except indeed the book of Zechariah, in which Isaiah 9-14 is said to stand in precisely the same position as Isaiah 40-66, according to Hitzig, Ewald, and others; with this difference, however, that Isaiah 40-66 is attributed to a later prophet than Isaiah, whereas Zechariah 9-14 is attributed to one or two prophets before the time of Zechariah. But even De Wette, who maintained, in the first three editions of his Introduction to the Old Testament, that Zech was written before the captivity, altered his views in the fourth edition; and Khler has lately confirmed the unity of the book of Zechariah after an unbiased investigation. It is Zechariah himself who prophesies of the last times in Isaiah 9-14, in images drawn from the past, and possibly with the introduction of earlier oracles. It remains, therefore, that not a single book of prophecy is open to any such doubts as to the unity of its authorship and Hitzig admits that even the book of Jeremiah, although interpolated, does not contain spurious sections. Nevertheless, it is quite possible that something extraordinary might have taken place in connection with the book of Isaiah. But there are grave objections even to such an assumption as this in the face of existing facts. For example, it would be a marvellous occurrence in the history of chances, for such a number of predictions of this particular kind to have been preserved - all of them bearing so evidently the marks of Isaiah's style, that for two thousand years the have been confounded with his own prophecies. It would be equally marvellous that the historians should know nothing at all about the authors of these prophecies; and thirdly, it would be very strange that the names of these particular prophets should have shared the common fate of being forgotten, although they must all have lived nearer to the compiler's own times than the old model prophet, whose style they imitated. It is true that these difficulties are not conclusive proofs to the contrary; but, at any rate, they are so much to the credit of the traditional authorship of the prophecies attacked. On the other hand, the weight of this tradition is not properly appreciated by opponents. Wilful contempt of external testimony, and frivolity in the treatment of historical data, have been from the very first the fundamental evils apparent in the manner in which modern critics have handled the questions relating to Isaiah. These critics approach everything that is traditional with the presumption that it is false; and whoever would make a scientific impression upon them, must first of all declare right fearlessly his absolute superiority to the authority of tradition. Now tradition is certainly not infallible. No more are the internal grounds of the so-called higher criticism, especially in the questions relating to Isaiah. And in the case before us, the external testimony is greatly strengthened by the relation in which Zephaniah and Jeremiah, the two most reproductive prophets, stand not only to Isaiah 40-66, but also to the suspected sections of the first half. They had these prophecies in their possession, since they evidently copy them, and incorporate passages taken from them into their own prophecies; a fact which Caspari has most conclusively demonstrated, but which not one of the negative critics has ventured to look fairly in the face, or to set aside by counter-proofs of equal force. Moreover, although the suspected prophecies do indeed contain some things for which vouchers cannot be obtained from the rest of the book, yet the marks which are distinctly characteristic of Isaiah outweigh by far these peculiarities, which have been picked out with such care; and even in the prophecies referred to, it is Isaiah's spirit which animates the whole, Isaiah's heart which beats, and Isaiah's fiery tongue which speaks in both the substance and the form.
Again, the type of the suspected prophecies - which, if they are genuine, belong to the prophet's latest days - is not thoroughly opposed to the type of the rest; on the contrary, those prophecies which are acknowledged to be genuine, present many a point of contact with this; and even the transfigured form and richer eschatological contents of the disputed prophecies have their preludes there. There is nothing strange in this great variety of ideas and forms, especially in Isaiah, who is confessedly the most universal of all the prophets, even if we only look at those portions which are admitted to be genuine, and who varies his style in so masterly a way to suit the demands of his materials, his attitude, and his purpose. One might suppose that these three counter-proofs, which can be followed up even to the most minute details, would have some weight; but for Hitzig, Ewald, and many others, they have absolutely none. Why not? These critics think it impossible that the worldwide empire of Babel, and its subsequent transition to Medes and Persians, should have been foreseen by Isaiah in the time of Hezekiah. Hitzig affirms in the plainest terms, that the very same Caligo futuri covered the eyes of the Old Testament prophets generally, as that to which the human race was condemned during the time that the oracle at Delphi was standing. Ewald speaks of the prophets in incomparably higher terms; but even to him the prophetic state was nothing more than a blazing up of the natural spark which lies slumbering in every man, more especially in Ewald himself. These two Coryphaei of the modern critical school find themselves hemmed in between the two foregone conclusions, "There is no true prophecy," and "There is no true miracle." They call their criticism free; but when examined more closely, it is in a vice. In this vice it has two magical formularies, with which it fortifies itself against any impression from historical testimony. It either turns the prophecies into merely retrospective glances (vaticinia post eventum), as it does the account of miracles into sagas and myths; or it places the events predicted so close to the prophet's own time, that there was no need of inspiration, but only of combination, to make the foresight possible. This is all that it can do. Now we could do more than this. We could pronounce all the disputed prophecies the production of other authors than Isaiah, without coming into contact with any dogmatical assumptions: we could even boast, as in the critical analysis of the historical books, of the extent to which the history of literature was enriched through this analysis of the book of Isaiah. And if we seem to despise these riches, we simply yield to the irresistible force of external and internal evidence. This applies even to Isaiah 36-39. For whilst it is true that the text of the book of Kings is the better of the two, yet, as we shall be able to prove, the true relation is this, that the author of the book of Kings did not obtain the parallel section (2 Kings 18:13-20:19) from any other source than the book of Isaiah. We have similar evidence in 2 Kings 24:18. and Isaiah 25:1, as compared with Jer, that the text of a passage may sometimes be preserved in greater purity in a secondary work than in the original work from which it was taken. It was Isaiah's prophetico-historical pen which committed to writing the accounts in Isaiah 36-39. The prophet not only wrote a special history of Uzziah, according to 2 Chronicles 26:22, but he also incorporated historical notices of Isaiah in his "vision" (2 Chronicles 32:32). We reserve the fuller demonstration of all this. For whilst, on the one hand, we consider ourselves warranted in rejecting those tendencies of modern criticism, to which naturalistic views of the world have dictated at the very outset full-blown negative results, and we do so on the ground of supernatural facts of personal experience; on the other hand, we are very far from wishing to dispute the well-founded rights of criticism as such.
For centuries, yea, for thousands of years, no objection was raised as to the Davidic origin of a psalm headed "a psalm of David," to say nothing of a prophecy of Isaiah; and therefore no such objection was refuted. Apart from the whims of a few individuals,
(Note: e.g., that of Abenezra, who regarded king Jehoiakim, who was set free in the thirty-seventh year of his Babylonian captivity, as the author of Isaiah 40-60.).
which left no traces behind them, it was universally assumed by both Jewish and Christian writers down to the last century, that all the canonical books of the Old Testament had the Holy Ghost as their one auctor primarius, and for their immediate authors the men by whose names they are called. But when the church in the time of the Reformation began to test and sift what had been handed down; when the rapid progress that was made in classical and oriental philology compelled the students of the Scriptures to make larger if not higher demands upon themselves; when their studies were directed to the linguistic, historical, archaeological, aesthetic - in short, the human-side of the Scriptures, and the attempt was made to comprehend the several aspects presented by sacred literature in their progressive development and relation to one another - Christian science put forth many branches that had never been anticipated till then; and biblical criticism sprang up, which from that time forward has been not only an inalienable, but a welcome and even necessary, member in the theological science of the church. That school of criticism, indeed, which will not rest till all miracles and prophecies, which cannot be set aside exegetically, have been eliminated critically, must be regarded by the church as self-condemned; but the labour of a spiritual criticism, and one truly free in spirit, will not only be tolerated, because "the spiritual man discerneth all things" (1 Corinthians 2:15), but will be even fostered, and not looked upon as suspicious, although its results should seem objectionable to minds that are weakly strung, and stand in a false and fettered attitude in relation to the Scriptures. For it will be no more offended that the word of God should appear in the form of a servant, than that Christ Himself should do so; and, moreover, criticism not only brings any blemishes in the Scriptures to the light, but affords an ever-deepening insight into its hidden glory. It makes the sacred writings, as they lie before us, live again; it takes us into its very laboratory; and without it we cannot possibly obtain a knowledge of the historical production of the biblical books.
Exposition in Its Existing State
It was at the time of the Reformation also that historico-grammatical exposition first originated with a distinct consciousness of the task that it had to perform. It was then that the first attempt was made, under the influence of the revival of classical studies, and with the help of a knowledge of the language obtained from Jewish teachers, to find out the one true meaning of the Scriptures, and an end was put to the tedious jugglery of multiplex Scripturae sensus. But very little was accomplished in the time of the Reformation for the prophecies of Isaiah.
Calvin's Commentarii answer the expectations with which we take them up; but Luther's Scholia are nothing but college notes, of the most meagre description. The productions of Grotius, which are generally valuable, are insignificant in Isaiah, and, indeed, throughout the prophets. He mixes up things sacred and profane, and, because unable to follow prophecy in its flight, cuts off its wings. Aug. Varenius of Rostock wrote the most learned commentary of all those composed by writers of the orthodox Lutheran school, and one that even now is not to be despised; but though learned, it is too great a medley, and written without discipline of mind. Campegius Vitringa († 1722) threw all the labours of his predecessors into the shade, and none even of his successors approach him in spirit, keenness, and scholarship. His Commentary on Isaiah is still incomparably the greatest of all the exegetical works upon the Old Testament. The weakest thing in the Commentary is the allegorical exposition, which is appended to the grammatical and historical one. In this the temperate pupil of the Cocceian school is dependent upon what was then the prevalent style of the commentary in Holland, where there was an utter absence of all appreciation of the "complex-apotelesmatical" character of prophecy, whilst the most minute allusions were traced in the prophets to events connected with the history of both the world and the church. The shady sides of the Commentary are generally the first to present themselves to the reader's eye; but the longer he continues to use it, the more highly does he learn to value it. There is deep research everywhere, but nowhere a luxuriance of dry and dead scholarship. The author's heart is in his work. He sometimes halts in his toilsome path of inquiry, and gives vent to loud, rapturous exclamations. But the rapture is very different from that of the Lord Bishop Robert Lowth, who never gets below the surface, who alters the Masoretic text at his pleasure, and goes no further than an aesthetic admiration of the form.
The modern age of exegesis commenced with that destructive theology of the latter half of the eighteenth century, which pulled down without being able to build. But even this demolition was not without good result. The negative of anything divine and eternal in the Scriptures secured a fuller recognition of its human and temporal side, bringing out the charms of its poetry, and, what was of still greater importance, the concrete reality of its history. Rosenmller's Scholia are a careful, lucid, and elegant compilation, founded for the most part upon Vitringa, and praiseworthy not only for the judicious character of the selection made, but also for the true earnestness which is displayed, and the entire absence of all frivolity. The decidedly rationalistic Commentary of Gesenius is more independent in its verbal exegesis; displays great care in its historical expositions; and is peculiarly distinguished for its pleasing and transparent style, for the survey which it gives of the whole of the literature bearing upon Isaiah, and the thoroughness with which the author avails himself of all the new sources of grammatical and historical knowledge that have been opened since the days of Vitringa. Hitzig's Commentary is his best work in our opinion, excelling as it does in exactness and in the sharpness and originality of its grammatical criticisms, as well as in delicate tact in the discovery of the train of thought and in thoroughness and precision in the exposition of well-pondered results; but it is also disfigured by rash pseudo-critical caprice, and by a studiously profane spirit, utterly unaffected by the spirit of prophecy. Hendewerk's Commentary is often very weak in philological and historical exposition. The style of description is broad, but the eye of the disciple of Herbart is too dim to distinguish Israelitish prophecy from heathen poetry, and the politics of Isaiah from those of Demosthenes. Nevertheless, we cannot fail to observe the thoughtful diligence displayed, and the anxious desire to point out the germs of eternal truths, although the author is fettered even in this by his philosophical standpoint. Ewald's natural penetration is universally recognised, as well as the noble enthusiasm with which he dives into the contents of the prophetical books, in which he finds an eternal presence. His earnest endeavours to obtain deep views are to a certain extent rewarded. But there is something irritating in the self-sufficiency with which he ignores nearly all his predecessors, the dictatorial assumption of his criticism, his false and often nebulous pathos, and his unqualified identification of his own opinions with truth itself. He is a perfect master in the characteristics of the prophets, but his translations of them are stiff, and hardly to any one's taste. Umbreit's Practical Commentary on Isaiah is a useful and stimulating production, exhibiting a deep aesthetic and religious sensibility to the glory of the prophetic word, which manifests itself in lofty poetic language, heaping image upon image, and, as it were, never coming down from the cothrunus. Knobel's prose is the very opposite extreme. The precision and thoroughness of this scholar, the third edition of whose Commentary on Isaiah was one of his last works (he died, 25th May 1863), deserve the most grateful acknowledgment, whether from a philological or an archaeological point of view; but his peculiar triviality, which amounts almost to an affectation, seems to shut his eyes to the deeper meaning of the work, whilst his excessive tendency to "historize" (historisiren, i.e., to give a purely historical interpretation to everything) makes him blind even to the poetry of the form. Drechsler's Commentary was a great advance in the exposition of Isaiah. He was only able to carry it out himself as far as Isaiah 27:1-13; but is was completed by Delitzsch and H. A. Hahn of Greifswald († 1st Dec. 1861), with the use of Drechsler's notes, though they contained very little that was of any service in relation to Isaiah 40-66. This was, comparatively speaking, the best commentary upon Isaiah that had appeared since the time of Vitringa, more especially the portion on Isaiah 13-27. Its peculiar excellency is not to be found in the exposition of single sentences, which is unsatisfactory, on account of the comminuting, glossatorial style of its exegesis, and, although diligent and thorough enough, is unequal and by no means productive, more especially from a grammatical point of view; but in the spiritual and spirited grasp of the whole, the deep insight which it exhibits into the character and ideas of the prophet and of prophecy, its vigorous penetration into the very heart of the plan and substance of the whole book. In the meantime (1850), there had appeared the Commentary written by the catholic Professor Peter Schegg, which follows the Vulgate, although with as little slavishness as possible, and contains many good points, especially the remarks relating to the history of translation. At the same time there also appeared the Commentary of Ernst Meier, the Tbingen orientalist, which did not get beyond the first half. If ever any one was specially called to throw fresh light upon the book of Isaiah, it was C. P. Caspari of Christiania; but all that has yet appeared of his Norwegian Commentary only reaches to the end of Isaiah 5. Its further progress has been hindered partly by the exhaustive thoroughness at which he aimed, and the almost infinite labour which it involved, and partly by the fact that the Grundtvig controversy involved him in the necessity of pursuing the most extensive studies in ecclesiastical history. In the meantime, he has so far expanded his treatise om Serapherne (on the Seraphim), that it may be regarded as a commentary on Isaiah 6:1-13; and rich materials for the prophetic sayings which follow may be found in his contributions to the introduction to the book of Isaiah, and to the history of Isaiah's own times, which appeared as a second volume of our biblico-theological and apologetico-critical Studien (1858), his Programme on the Syro-Ephraimitish war (1849), and his comprehensive and by no means obsolete article, entitled, "Jeremiah a witness to the genuineness of Isaiah 34, and therefore also to that of Isaiah 13:1-14:23, and Isaiah 21:1-10," which appeared in the Zeitschrift fr d. ges. luth. Theologie u. Kirche (1843), together with an excursus on the relation of Zephaniah to the disputed prophecies of Isaiah.
We shall reserve those works which treat more particularly of the second part of the book of Isaiah for our special introduction to that part. But there are two other distinguished commentaries that we must mention here, both of them by Jewish scholars: viz., that of the M. L. Malbim (Krotoshin 1849), which is chiefly occupied with the precise ideas conveyed by synonymous words and groups of words; and that of S. D. Luzzatto of Padua - a stimulating work, entitled Profeta Isaia volgarizzato e commentato ad uso degli Israeliti, which aims throughout at independence, but of which only five parts have yet appeared.
Appendix to Isaiah
Introduction/Exposition of Its Existing State
In the commentary on the second half of Isaiah 40-66, I have referred here and there to the expositions of J. Heinemann (Berlin 1842) and Isaiah Hochstdter (Carlsruhe 1827), both written in Hebrew - the former well worthy of notice for criticism of the text, the latter provided with a German translation. For the psalm of Hezekiah (ch. 38) Professor Sam. David Luzzatto of Padua lent me his exposition in manuscript. Since then this great and noble-minded man has departed this life (on the 29th Sept. 1865). His commentary on Isaiah, so far as it has been printed, is full of information and of new and stirring explanations, written in plain, lucid, rabbinical language. It would be a great misfortune for the second half of this valuable work to remain unprinted. I well remember the assistance which the deceased afforded me in my earlier studies of the history of the post-biblical Jewish poetry (1836), and the affection which he displayed when I renewed my former acquaintance with him on the occasion of his publishing his Isaiah; so that I lament his loss on my own account as well as in the interests of science. "Why have you allowed twenty-five years to pass," he wrote to me on the 22nd Feb. 1863, "without telling me that you remembered me? Is it because we form different opinions of the עלמה and the ילד ילד לנו of Isaiah? Are you a sincere Christian? Then you are a hundred times dearer to me than so many Israelitish scholars, the partizans of Spinoza, with whom our age swarms." These words indicate very clearly the standpoint taken in his writings.
Of the commentaries written in English, I am acquainted not only with Lowth, but with the thoroughly practical commentary of Henderson (1857), and that of Joseph Addison Alexander, Prov. in Princeton (1847, etc.), which is very much read as an exegetical repertorium in England also. But I had neither of them in my possession.
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.What I have said here on Isaiah 1:1 as the heading to the whole book, or at any rate to Isaiah 1-39, has been said in part by Photios also in his Amphilochia, which Sophocles the M.D. has published complete from a MS of Mount Athos (Athens 1858, 4).
Isaiah 1:1Title of the collection, as given in Isaiah 1:1 : "Seeing of Jesha'-yahu, son of Amoz, which he saw over Judah and Jerusalem in the days of 'Uzziyahu, Jotham, Ahaz, and Yehizkiyahu, the kings of Judah." Isaiah is called the "son of Amoz." There is no force in the old Jewish doctrine (b. Megilla 15a), which was known to the fathers, that whenever the name of a prophet's father is given, it is a proof that the father was also a prophet. And we are just as incredulous about another old tradition, to the effect that Amoz was the brother of Amaziah, the father and predecessor of Uzziah (b. Sota 10b). There is some significance in this tradition, however, even if it is not true. There is something royal in the nature and bearing of Isaiah throughout. He speaks to kings as if he himself were a king. He confronts with majesty the magnates of the nation and of the imperial power. In his peculiar style, he occupies the same place among the prophets as Solomon among the kings. Under all circumstances, and in whatever state of mind, he is completely master of his materials - simple, yet majestic in his style - elevated, yet without affectation - and beautiful, though unadorned. But this regal character had its roots somewhere else than in the blood. All that can be affirmed with certainty is, that Isaiah was a native of Jerusalem; for notwithstanding his manifold prophetic missions, we never find him outside Jerusalem. There he lived with his wife and children, and, as we may infer from Isaiah 22:1, and the mode of his intercourse with king Hezekiah, down in the lower city. And there he laboured under the four kings named in Isaiah 1:1, viz., Uzziah (who reigned 52 years, 811-759), Jotham (16 years, 759-743), Ahaz (16 years, 743-728), and Hezekiah (29 years, 728-699). The four kings are enumerated without a Vav cop.; there is the same asyndeton enumerativum as in the titles to the books of Hosea and Micah. Hezekiah is there called Yehizkiyah, the form being almost the same as ours, with the simple elision of the concluding sound. The chronicler evidently preferred the fullest form, at the commencement as well as the termination. Roorda imagines that the chronicler derived this ill-shaped form from the three titles, were it is a copyist's error for וחזקיּהוּ or וחזקיּה; but the estimable grammarian has overlooked the fact that the same form is found in Jeremiah 15:4 and 2 Kings 20:10, where no such error of the pen can have occurred. Moreover, it is not an ill-shaped form, if, instead of deriving it from the piel, as Roorda does, we derive it from the kal of the verb "strong is Jehovah," an imperfect noun with a connecting i, which is frequently met with in proper names from verbal roots, such as Jesimil from sim, 1 Chronicles 4:36 : vid., Olshausen, 277, p. 621). Under these four kings Isaiah laboured, or, as it is expressed in Isaiah 1:1, saw the sight which is committed to writing in the book before us.
Of all the many Hebrew synonyms for seeing, חזה (cf., Cernere, κρίνειν, and the Sanscrit and Persian kar, which is founded upon the radical notion of cutting and separating) is the standing general expression used to denote prophetic perception, whether the form in which the divine revelation was made to the prophet was in vision or by word. In either case he saw it, because he distinguished this divine revelation from his own conceptions and thoughts by means of that inner sense, which is designated by the name of the noblest of all the five external senses. From this verb Chazah there came both the abstract Chazon, seeing, and the more concrete Chizzayon, a sight (visum), which is a stronger from of Chizyon (from Chazi equals Chazah). The noun Chazon is indeed used to denote a particular sight (comp. Isaiah 29:7 with Job 20:8; Job 33:15), inasmuch as it consists in seeing (visio); but here in the title of the book of Isaiah the abstract meaning passes over into the collective idea of the sight or vision in all its extent, i.e., the sum and substance of all that was seen. It is a great mistake, therefore, for any one to argue from the use of the word Chazon (vision), that Isaiah 1:1 was originally nothing more than the heading to the first prophecy, and that it was only by the addition of Isaiah 1:1 that it received the stamp of a general title to the whole book. There is no force in the argument. Moreover, the chronicler knew the book of Isaiah by this title (2 Chronicles 32:32); and the titles of other books of prophecy, such as Hosea, Amos, Micah, and Zephaniah, are very similar. A more plausible argument in favour of the twofold origin of Isaiah 1:1 has been lately repeated by Schegg and Meier, namely, that whilst "Judah and Jerusalem" are appropriate enough as defining the object of the first prophecy, the range is too limited to apply to all the prophecies that follow; since their object is not merely Judah, including Jerusalem, but they are also directed against foreign nations, and at chapter 7 the king of Israel, including Samaria, also comes within the horizon of the prophet's vision. And in the title to the book of Micah, both kingdoms are distinctly named. But it was necessary there, inasmuch as Micah commences at once with the approaching overthrow of Samaria. Here the designation is a central one. Even, according to the well-known maxims a potiori, and a proximo, fit denominatio, it would not be unsuitable; but Judah and Jerusalem are really and essentially the sole object of the prophet's vision. For within the largest circle of the imperial powers there lies the smaller one of the neighbouring nations; and in this again, the still more limited one of all Israel, including Samaria; and within this the still smaller one of the kingdom of Judah. And all these circles together form the circumference of Jerusalem, since the entire history of the world, so far as its inmost pragmatism and its ultimate goal were concerned, was the history of the church of God, which had for its peculiar site the city of the temple of Jehovah, and of the kingdom of promise. The expression "concerning Judah and Jerusalem" is therefore perfectly applicable to the whole book, in which all that the prophet sees is seen from Judah - Jerusalem as a centre, and seen for the sake and in the interests of both. The title in Isaiah 1:1 may pass without hesitation as the heading written by the prophet's own hand. This is admitted not only by Caspari (Micah, pp. 90-93), but also by Hitzig and Knobel. But if Isaiah 1:1 contains the title to the whole book, where is the heading to the first prophecy? Are we to take אשׁר as a nominative instead of an accusative (qui instead of quam, sc. visionem), as Luzzatto does? This is a very easy way of escaping from the difficulty, and stamping Isaiah 1:1 as the heading to the first prophetic words in Chapter 1; but it is unnatural, as חזון אשׁר חזה, according to Ges. (138, note 1), is the customary form in Hebrew of connecting the verb with its own substantive. The real answer is simple enough. The first prophetic address is left intentionally without a heading, just because it is the prologue to all the rest; and the second prophetic address has a heading in Isaiah 2:1, although it really does not need one, for the purpose of bringing out more sharply the true character of the first as the prologue to the whole.
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.The difficult question as to the historical and chronological standpoint of this overture to all the following addresses, can only be brought fully out when the exposition is concluded. But there is one thing which we may learn even from a cursory inspection: namely, that the prophet was standing at the eventful boundary line between two distinct halves in the history of Israel. The people had not been brought to reflection and repentance either by the riches of the divine goodness, which they had enjoyed in the time of Uzziah-Jotham, the copy of the times of David and Solomon, or by the chastisements of divine wrath, by which wound after wound was inflicted. The divine methods of education were exhausted, and all that now remained for Jehovah to do was to let the nation in its existing state be dissolved in fire, and to create a new one from the remnant of gold that stood the fiery test. At this time, so pregnant with storms, the prophets were more active than at any other period. Amos appeared about the tenth year of Uzziah's reign, the twenty-fifth of Jeroboam II; Micah prophesied from the time of Jotham till the fall of Samaria, in the sixth year of Hezekiah's reign; but most prominent of all was Isaiah, the prophet par excellence, standing as he did midway between Moses and Christ.
In the consciousness of his exalted position in relation to the history of salvation, he commences his opening address in Deuteronomic style. Modern critics are of opinion, indeed, that Deuteronomy was not composed till the time of Josiah, or at any rate not earlier than Manasseh; and even Kahnis adduces this as a firmly established fact (see his Dogmatik, i. 277). But if this be the case, how comes it to pass, not only that Micah (Micah 6:8) points back to a saying in Deuteronomy 10:12, but that all the post-Mosaic prophecy, even the very earliest of all, is tinged with a Deuteronomic colouring. This surely confirms the self-attestation of the authorship of Moses, which is declared most distinctly in Isaiah 31:9. Deuteronomy was most peculiarly Moses' own law-book - his last will, as it were: it was also the oldest national book of Israel, and therefore the basis of all intercourse between the prophets and the nation. There is one portion of this peculiarly Mosaic thorah, however, which stands not only in a more truly primary relation to the prophecy of succeeding ages than any of the rest, but in a normative relation also. We refer to Moses' dying song, which has recently been expounded by Volck and Camphausen, and is called shirath hâzinu (song of "Give ear"), from the opening words in chapter 32. This song is a compendious outline or draft, and also the common key to all prophecy, and bears the same fundamental relation to it as the Decalogue to all other laws, and the Lord's Prayer to all other prayers. The lawgiver summed up the whole of the prophetic contents of his last words (Deuteronomy 27-28, 29-30), and threw them into the form of a song, that they might be perpetuated in the memories and mouths of the people. This song sets before the nation its entire history to the end of time. That history divides itself into four great periods: the creation and rise of Israel; the ingratitude and apostasy of Israel; the consequent surrender of Israel to the power of the heathen; and finally, the restoration of Israel, sifted, but not destroyed, and the unanimity of all nations in the praise of Jehovah, who reveals Himself both in judgment and in mercy. This fourfold character is not only verified in every part of the history of Israel, but is also the seal of that history as a whole, even to its remotest end in New Testament times. In every age, therefore, this song has presented to Israel a mirror of its existing condition and future fate. And it was the task of the prophets to hold up this mirror to the people of their own times. This is what Isaiah does. He begins his prophetic address in the same form in which Moses begins his song. The opening words of Moses are: "Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth" (Deuteronomy 32:1). In what sense he invoked the heaven and the earth, he tells us himself in Deuteronomy 31:28-29. He foresaw in spirit the future apostasy of Israel, and called heaven and earth, which would outlive his earthly life, that was now drawing to a close, as witnesses of what he had to say to his people, with such a prospect before them. Isaiah commences in the same way (Isaiah 1:2), simply transposing the two parallel verbs "hear" and "give ear:" "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for Jehovah speaketh!" The reason for the appeal is couched in very general terms: they were to hear, because Jehovah was speaking. What Jehovah said coincided essentially with the words of Jehovah, which are introduced in Deuteronomy 32:20 with the expression "And He said." What it was stated there that Jehovah would one day have to say in His wrath, He now said through the prophet, whose existing present corresponded to the coming future of the Mosaic ode. The time had now arrived for heaven and earth, which are always existing, and always the same, and which had accompanied Israel's history thus far in all places and at all times, to fulfil their duty as witnesses, according to the word of the lawgiver. And this was just the special, true, and ultimate sense in which they were called upon by the prophet, as they had previously been by Moses, to "hear." They had been present, and had taken part, when Jehovah gave the thorah to His people: the heavens, according to Deuteronomy 4:36, as the place from which the voice of God came forth; and the earth, as the scene of His great fire. They were solemnly invoked when Jehovah gave His people the choice between blessing and cursing, life and death (Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 4:26).
And so now they are called upon to hear and join in bearing witness to all that Jehovah, their Creator, and the God of Israel, had to say, and the complaints that He had to make: "I have brought up children, and raised them high, and they have fallen away from me" (Isaiah 1:2). Israel is referred to; but Israel is not specially named. On the contrary, the historical facts are generalized almost into a parable, in order that the appalling condition of things which is crying to heaven may be made all the more apparent. Israel was Jehovah's son (Exodus 4:22-23). All the members of the nation were His children (Deuteronomy 14:1; Deuteronomy 32:20). Jehovah was Israel's father, by whom it had been begotten (Deuteronomy 32:6, Deuteronomy 32:18). The existence of Israel as a nation was secured indeed, like that of all other nations, by natural reproduction, and not by spiritual regeneration. But the primary ground of Israel's origin was the supernatural and mighty word of promise given to Abraham, in Genesis 17:15-16; and it was by a series of manifestations of miraculous power and displays of divine grace, that the development of Israel, which dated from that starting-point, was brought up to the position it had reached at the time of the exodus from Egypt. It was in this sense that Israel had been begotten by Jehovah. And this relation between Jehovah and Israel, as His children, had now, at the time when Jehovah was speaking through the mouth of Isaiah, a long and gracious past behind it, viz., the period of Israel's childhood in Egypt; the period of its youth in the desert; and a period of growing manhood from Joshua to Samuel: so that Jehovah could say, "I have brought up children, and raised them high." The piel (giddel) used here signifies "to make great;" and when applied to children, as it is here and in other passages, such as 2 Kings 10:6, it means to bring up, to make great, so far as natural growth is concerned. The pilel (romem), which corresponds to the piel in the so-called verbis cavis, and which is also used in Isaiah 23:4 and Ezekiel 31:4 as the parallel to giddel, signifies to lift up, and is used in a "dignified (dignitative) sense," with reference to the position of eminence, to which, step by step, a wise and loving father advances a child. The two vv. depict the state of Israel in the times of David and Solomon, as one of mature manhood and proud exaltation, which had to a certain extent returned under Uzziah and Jotham. But how base had been the return which it had made for all that it had received from God: "And they have fallen away from me." We should have expected an adversative particle here; but instead of that, we have merely a Vav cop., which is used energetically, as in Isaiah 6:7 (cf., Hosea 7:13). Two things which ought never to be coupled - Israel's filial relation to Jehovah, and Israel's base rebellion against Jehovah - had been realized in their most contradictory forms. The radical meaning of the verb is to break away, or break loose; and the object against which the act is directed is construed with Beth. The idea is that of dissolving connection with a person with violence and self-will; here it relates to that inward severance from God, and renunciation of Him, which preceded all outward acts of sin, and which not only had idolatry for its full and outward manifestation, but was truly idolatry in all its forms. From the time that Solomon gave himself up to the worship of idols, at the close of his reign, down to the days of Isaiah, idolatry had never entirely or permanently ceased to exist, even in public. In two different reformations the attempt had been made to suppress it, viz., in the one commenced by Asa and concluded by Jehoshaphat; and in the one carried out by Joash, during the lifetime of the high priest Jehoiada, his tutor and deliverer. But the first was not successful in suppressing it altogether; and what Joash removed, returned with double abominations as soon as Jehoiada was dead. Consequently the words, "They have rebelled against me," which sum up all the ingratitude of Israel in one word, and trace it to its root, apply to the whole history of Israel, from its culminating point under David and Solomon, down to the prophet's own time.
The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.Jehovah then complains that the rebellion with which His children have rewarded Him is not only inhuman, but even worse than that of the brutes: "An ox knoweth its owner, and an ass its master's crib: Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider." An ox has a certain knowledge of its buyer and owner, to whom it willingly submits; and an ass has at least a knowledge of the crib of its master (the noun for "master" is in the plural: this is not to be understood in a numerical, but in an amplifying sense, "the authority over it," as in Exodus 21:29 : vid., Ges. 108, 2, b, and Dietrich's Heb. Gram. p. 45), i.e., it knows that it is its master who fills its crib or manger with fodder (evus, the crib, from avas, to feed, is radically associated with φάτνη, vulgar πάτνη, Dor. and Lac. πάτνη, and is applied in the Talmud to the large common porringer used by labourers).
(Note: Nedarim iv 4 jer. Demai viii. The stable is called repheth Even in jer. Shebuoth viii. 1, where cattle are spoken of as standing b'evus, the word signifies a crib or manger, not a stable. Luzzatto tries to prove that evus signifies a threshing-floor, and indeed an enclosed place, in distinction from geren; but he is mistaken.)
Israel had no such knowledge, neither instinctive and direct, nor acquired by reflection (hithbonan, the reflective conjugation, with a pausal change of the e4 into a long a, according to Ges. 54, note). The expressions "doth not know" and "doth not consider" must not be taken here in an objectless sense - as, for example, in Isaiah 56:10 and Psalm 82:5 -viz. as signifying they were destitute of all knowledge and reflection; but the object is to be supplied from what goes before: they knew not, and did not consider what answered in their case to the owner and to the crib which the master fills," - namely, that they were the children and possession of Jehovah, and that their existence and prosperity were dependent upon the grace of Jehovah alone. The parallel, with its striking contrasts, is self-drawn, like that in Jeremiah 8:7, where animals are referred to again, and is clearly indicated in the words "Israel" and "my people." Those who were so far surpassed in knowledge and perception even by animals, and so thoroughly put to shame by them, were not merely a nation, like any other nation on the earth, but were "Israel," descendants of Jacob, the wrestler with God, who wrestled down the wrath of God, and wrestled out a blessing for himself and his descendants; and "my people," the nation which Jehovah had chosen out of all other nations to be the nation of His possession, and His own peculiar government. This nation, bearing as it did the God-given title of a hero of faith and prayer, this favourite nation of Jehovah, had let itself down far below the level of the brutes. This is the complaint which the exalted speaker pours out in Isaiah 1:2 and Isaiah 1:3 before heaven and earth. The words of God, together with the introduction, consist of two tetrastichs, the measure and rhythm of which are determined by the meaning of the words and the emotion of the speaker. There is nothing strained in it at all. Prophecy lives and moves amidst the thoughts of God, which prevail above the evil reality: and for that very reason, as a reflection of the glory of God, which is the ideal of beauty (Psalm 50:1), it is through and through poetical. That of Isaiah is especially so. There was no art of oratory practised in Israel, which Isaiah did not master, and which did not serve as the vehicle of the word of God, after it had taken shape in the prophet's mind.
With Isaiah 1:4 there commences a totally different rhythm. The words of Jehovah are ended. The piercing lamentation of the deeply grieved Father is also the severest accusation. The cause of God, however, is to the prophet the cause of a friend, who feels an injury done to his friend quite as much as if it were done to himself (Isaiah 5:1). The lamentation of God, therefore, is changed now into violent scolding and threatening on the part of the prophet; and in accordance with the deep wrathful pain with which he is moved, his words pour out with violent rapidity, like flash after flash, in climactic clauses having no outward connection, and each consisting of only two or three words.
Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward."Woe upon the sinful nation, the guilt-laden people, the miscreant race, the children acting corruptly! They have forsaken Jehovah, blasphemed Israel's Holy One, turned away backwards." The distinction sometimes drawn between hoi (with He) and oi (with Aleph) - as equivalent to oh! and woe! - cannot be sustained. Hoi is an exclamation of pain, with certain doubtful exceptions; and in the case before us it is not so much a denunciation of woe (vae genti, as the Vulgate renders it), as a lamentation (vae gentem) filled with wrath. The epithets which follow point indirectly to that which Israel ought to have been, according to the choice and determination of God, and plainly declare what it had become through its own choice and ungodly self-determination. (1.) According to the choice and determination of God, Israel was to be a holy nation (goi kadosh, Exodus 19:6); but it was a sinful nation - gens peccatrix, as it is correctly rendered by the Vulgate. חטא is not a participle here, but rather a participial adjective in the sense of what was habitual. It is the singular in common use for the plural חטאי, sinners, the singular of which was not used. Holy and Sinful are glaring contrasts: for kadosh, so far as its radical notion is concerned (assuming, that is to say, that this is to be found in kad and not in dosh: see Psalter, i. 588, 9), signifies that which is separated from what is common, unclean, or sinful, and raised above it. The alliteration in hoi goi implies that the nation, as sinful, was a nation of woe. (2.) In the thorah Israel was called not only "a holy nation," but also "the people of Jehovah" (Numbers 17:6, Eng. ver. Numbers 16:41), the people chosen and blessed of Jehovah; but now it had become "a people heavy with iniquity." Instead of the most natural expression, a people bearing heavy sins; the sin, or iniquity, i.e., the weight carried, is attributed to the people themselves upon whom the weight rested, according to the common figurative idea, that whoever carries a heavy burden is so much heavier himself (cf., gravis oneribus, Cicero). עון (sin regarded as crookedness and perversity, whereas חטא suggests the idea of going astray and missing the way) is the word commonly used wherever the writer intends to describe sin in the mass (e.g., Isaiah 33:24; Genesis 15:16; Genesis 19:15), including the guilt occasioned by it. The people of Jehovah had grown into a people heavily laden with guilt. So crushed, so altered into the very opposite, had Israel's true nature become. It is with deliberate intention that we have rendered גּוי a nation (Nation), and עם(am a people (Volk): for, according to Malbim's correct definition of the distinction between the two, the former is used to denote the mass, as linked together by common descent, language, and country; the latter the people as bound together by unity of government (see, for example, Psalm 105:13). Consequently we always read of the people of the Lord, not the nation of the Lord; and there are only two instances in which goi is attached to a suffix relating to the ruler, and then it relates to Jehovah alone (Zephaniah 2:9; Psalm 106:5).
(3.) Israel bore elsewhere the honourable title of the seed of the patriarch (Isaiah 41:8; Isaiah 45:19; cf., Genesis 21:12); but in reality it was a seed of evil-doers (miscreants). This does not mean that it was descended from evil-doers; but the genitive is used in the sense of a direct apposition to zera (seed), as in Isaiah 65:23 (cf., Isaiah 61:9; Isaiah 6:13, and Ges. 116, 5), and the meaning is a seed which consists of evil-doers, and therefore is apparently descended from evil-doers instead of from patriarchs. This last thought is not implied in the genitive, but in the idea of "seed;" which is always a compact unit, having one origin, and bearing the character of its origin in itself. The rendering brood of evil-doers, however it may accord with the sense, would be inaccurate; for "seed of evil-doers" is just the same as "house of evil-doers" in Isaiah 31:2. The singular of the noun מרעים is מרע , with the usual sharpening in the case of gutturals in the verbs (' '(, מרע with patach, מרע with kametz in pause (Isaiah 9:16, which see) - a noun derived from the hiphil participle. (4.) Those who were of Israel were "children of Jehovah" through the act of God (Deuteronomy 14:1); but in their own acts they were "children acting destructively (bânim mashchithim), so that what the thorah feared and predicted had now occurred (Deuteronomy 4:16, Deuteronomy 4:25; Deuteronomy 31:29). In all these passages we find the hiphil, and in the parallel passage of the great song (Deuteronomy 32:5) the piel - both of them conjugations which contain within themselves the object of the action indicated (Ges. 53, 2): to do what is destructive, i.e., so to act as to become destructive to one's self and to others. It is evident from Isaiah 1:2, that the term children is to be understood as indicating their relation to Jehovah (cf., Isaiah 30:1, Isaiah 30:9). The four interjectional clauses are followed by three declaratory clauses, which describe Israel's apostasy as total in every respect, and complete the mournful seven. There was apostasy in heart: "They have forsaken Jehovah." There was apostasy in words: "They blaspheme the Holy One of Israel." The verb literally means to sting, then to mock or treat scornfully; the use of it to denote blasphemy is antiquated Mosaic (Deuteronomy 31:20; Numbers 14:11, Numbers 14:23; Numbers 16:30). It is with intention that God is designated here as "the Holy One of Israel,"a name which constitutes the keynote of all Isaiah's prophecy (see at Isaiah 6:3). It was sin to mock at anything holy; it was a double sin to mock at God, the Holy One; but it was a threefold sin for Israel to mock at God the Holy One, who had set Himself to be the sanctifier of Israel, and required that as He was Israel's sanctification, He should also be sanctified by Israel according to His holiness (Leviticus 19:2, etc.). And lastly, there was also apostasy in action: "they have turned away backwards;" or, as the Vulgate renders it, abalienati sunt. נזור is the reflective of זוּר, related to נור and סוּר, for which it is the word commonly used in the Targum. The niphal, which is only met with here, indicates the deliberate character of their estrangement from God; and the expression is rendered still more emphatic by the introduction of the word "backwards" (achor, which is used emphatically in the place of מאחריו). In all their actions they ought to have followed Jehovah; but they had turned their backs upon Him, and taken the way selected by themselves.
Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.In this v. a disputed question arises as to the words על־מה (מה, the shorter, sharper form of מה, which is common even before non-gutturals, Ges. 32, 1): viz., whether they mean "wherefore," as the lxx, Targums, Vulgate, and most of the early versions render them, or "upon what," i.e., upon which part of the body, as others, including Schrring, suppose. Luzzatto maintains that the latter rendering is spiritless, more especially because there is nothing in the fact that a limb has been struck already to prevent its being struck again; but such objections as these can only arise in connection with a purely literal interpretation of the passage. If we adopted this rendering, the real meaning would be, that there was no judgment whatever that had not already fallen upon Israel on account of its apostasy, so that it was not far from utter destruction. We agree, however, with Caspari in deciding in favour of the meaning "to what" (to what end). For in all the other passage in which the expression occurs (fourteen times in all), it is used in this sense, and once even with the verb hiccâh, to smite (Numbers 22:32), whilst it is only in Isaiah 1:6 that the idea of the people as one body is introduced; whereas the question "upon what" would require that the reader or hearer should presuppose it here. But in adopting the rendering "whereto," or to what end, we do not understand it, as Malbim does, in the sense of Cui bono, with the underlying thought, "It would be ineffectual, as all the previous smiting has proved;" for this thought never comes out in a direct expression, as we should expect, but rather - according to the analogy of the questions with lamah in Ezekiel 18:31; Jeremiah 44:7 -in the sense of qua de causa, with the underlying thought, "There would be only an infatuated pleasure in your own destruction."
Isaiah 1:5 we therefore render thus: "Why would ye be perpetually smitten, multiplying rebellion?" עוד (with tiphchah, a stronger disjunctive than tebir) belongs to תּכּוּ; see the same form of accentuation in Ezekiel 19:9. They are not two distinct interrogative clauses ("why would ye be smitten afresh? why do ye add revolt?" (Luzzatto), but the second clause is subordinate to the first (without there being any necessity to supply Chi, "because," as Gesenius supposes), an adverbial minor clause defining the main clause more precisely; at all events this is the logical connection, as in Isaiah 5:11 (cf., Psalm 62:4, "delighting in lies," and Psalm 4:3, "loving vanity"): lxx "adding iniquity." Sârâh (rebellion) is a deviation from truth and rectitude; and here, as in many other instances, it denotes apostasy from Jehovah, who is the absolutely Good, and absolute goodness. There is a still further dispute whether the next words should be rendered "every head" and "every heart," or "the whole head" and "the whole heart." In prose the latter would be impossible, as the two nouns are written without the article; but in the poetic style of the prophets the article may be omitted after Col, when used in the sense of "the whole" (e.g., Isaiah 9:12 : with whole mouth, i.e., with full mouth). Nevertheless Col, without the article following, never signifies "the whole" when it occurs several times in succession, as in Isaiah 15:2 and Ezekiel 7:17-18. We must therefore render Isaiah 1:5, "Every head is diseased, and every heart is sick." The Lamed in locholi indicates the state into which a thing has come: every head in a state of disease (Ewald, 217, d: locholi without the article, as in 2 Chronicles 21:18). The prophet asks his fellow-countrymen why they are so foolish as to heap apostasy upon apostasy, and so continue to call down the judgments of God, which have already fallen upon them blow after blow. Has it reached such a height with them, that among all the many heads and hearts there is not one head which is not in a diseased state, not one heart which is not thoroughly ill? (davvai an emphatic form of daveh). Head and heart are mentioned as the noblest parts of the outer and inner man. Outwardly and inwardly every individual in the nation had already been smitten by the wrath of God, so that they had had enough, and might have been brought to reflection.
From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.This description of the total misery of every individual in the nation is followed by a representation of the whole nation as one miserably diseased body. "From the some of the foot even to the head there is nothing sound in it: cuts, and stripes, and festering wounds; they have not been pressed out, nor bound up, nor has there been any soothing with oil." The body of the nation, to which the expression "in it" applies (i.e., the nation as a whole), was covered with wounds of different kinds; and no means whatever had been applied to heal these many, various wounds, which lay all together, close to one another, and one upon the other, covering the whole body. Cuts (from פּצע to cut) are wounds that have cut into the flesh - sword-cuts, for example. These need binding up, in order that the gaping wound may close again. Stripes (Chabburâh, from Châbar, to stripe), swollen stripes, or weals, as if from a cut with a whip, or a blow with a fist: these require softening with oil, that the coagulated blood of swelling may disperse. Festering wounds, maccâh teriyâh, from târâh, to be fresh (a different word from the talmudic word t're, Chullin 45b, to thrust violently, so as to shake): these need pressing, for the purpose of cleansing them, so as to facilitate their healing. Thus the three predicates manifest an approximation to a chiasm (the crossing of the members); but this retrospective relation is not thoroughly carried out. The predicates are written in the plural, on account of the collective subject. The clause ולא רּכּכה בּשּׁמן, which refers to חבורה (stripes), so far as the sense is concerned (olive-oil, like all oleosa, being a dispersing medium), is to be taken as neuter, since this is the only way of explaining the change in the number: "And no softening has been effected with oil." Zoru we might suppose to be a pual, especially on account of the other puals near: it is not so, however, for the simple reason that, according to the accentuation (viz., with two pashtahs, the first of which gives the tone, as in tohu, Genesis 1:2, so that it must be pronounced zóru), it has the tone upon the penultimate, for which it would be impossible to discover any reason, if it were derived from zârâh. For the assumption that the tone is drawn back to prepare the way for the strong tone of the next verb (Chubbâshu) is arbitrary, as the influence of the pause, though it sometimes reaches the last word but one, never extends to the last but two. Moreover, according to the usage of speech, zorâh signifies to be dispersed, not to be pressed out; whereas zur and zârar are commonly used in the sense of pressing together and squeezing out. Consequently zoru is either the kal of an intransitive zor in the middle voice (like boshu), or, what is more probable - as zoru, the middle voice in Psalm 58:4, has a different meaning (abalienati sunt: cf., Isaiah 1:4) - the kal of zârar ( equals Arab. Constringere), which is here conjugated as an intransitive (cf., Job 24:24, rommu, and Genesis 49:23, where robbu is used in an active sense). The surgical treatment so needed by the nation was a figurative representation of the pastoral addresses of the prophets, which had been delivered indeed, but, inasmuch as their salutary effects were dependent upon the penitential sorrow of the people, might as well have never been delivered at all. The people had despised the merciful, compassionate kindness of their God. They had no liking for the radical cure which the prophets had offered to effect. All the more pitiable, therefore, was the condition of the body, which was sick within, and diseased from head to foot. The prophet is speaking here of the existing state of things. He affirms that it is all over with the nation; and this is the ground and object of his reproachful lamentations. Consequently, when he passes in the next v. from figurative language to literal, we may presume that he is still speaking of his own times. It is Isaiah's custom to act in this manner as his own expositor (compare Isaiah 1:22 with Isaiah 1:23). The body thus inwardly and outwardly diseased, was, strictly speaking, the people and the land in their fearful condition at that time.
Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.This is described more particularly in Isaiah 1:7, which commences with the most general view, and returns to it again at the close."Your land ... a desert; your cities ... burned with fire; your field ... foreigners consuming it before your eyes, and a desert like overthrowing by strangers." Caspari has pointed out, in his Introduction to the Book of Isaiah, how nearly every word corresponds to the curses threatened in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 (29); Micah 6:13-16 and Jeremiah 5:15. stand in the very same relation to these sections of the Pentateuch. From the time of Isaiah downwards, the state of Israel was a perfect realization of the curses of the law. The prophet intentionally employs the words of the law to describe his own times; he designates the enemy, who devastated the land, reduced its towers to ashes, and took possession of its crops, by the simple term zarim, foreigners or barbarians (a word which would have the very same meaning if it were really the reduplication of the Aramaean bar; compare the Syriac barōye, a foreigner), without mentioning their particular nationality. He abstracts himself from the definite historical present, in order that he may point out all the more emphatically how thoroughly it bears the character of the fore-ordained curse. The most emphatic indication of this was to be found in the fact, which the clause at the close of Isaiah 1:7 palindromically affirms, that a desolation had been brought about "like the overthrow of foreigners." The repetition of a catchword like zarim (foreigners) at the close of the v. in this emphatic manner, is a figure of speech, called epanaphora, peculiar to the two halves of our collection. The question arises, however, whether zarim is to be regarded as the genitive of the subject, as Caspari, Knobel, and others suppose, "such an overthrow as is commonly produced by barbarians" (cf., 2 Samuel 10:3, where the verb occurs), or as the genitive of the object, "such an overthrow as comes upon barbarians." As mahpechâh (overthrow) is used in other places in which it occurs to denote the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, etc., according to the primary passage, Deuteronomy 29:22, and Isaiah had evidently also this catastrophe in his mind, as Isaiah 1:8 clearly shows; we decide in favour of the conclusion that zârim is the genitive of the object (cf., Amos 4:11). The force of the comparison is also more obvious, if we understand the words in this sense. The desolation which had fallen upon the land of the people of God resembled that thorough desolation (subversio) with which God visited the nations outside the covenant, who, like the people of the Pentapolis, were swept from off the earth without leaving a trace behind. But although there was similarity, there was not sameness, as Isaiah 1:8, Isaiah 1:9 distinctly affirm. Jerusalem itself was still preserved; but in how pitiable a condition! There can be no doubt that bath-Zion ("daughter of Zion," Eng. ver.) in Isaiah 1:8 signifies Jerusalem. The genitive in this case is a genitive of apposition: "daughter Zion," not "daughter of Zion" (cf., Isaiah 37:22 : see Ges. 116, 5). Zion itself is represented as a daughter, i.e., as a woman. The expression applied primarily to the community dwelling around the fortress of Zion, to which the individual inhabitants stood in the same relation as children to a mother, inasmuch as the community sees its members for the time being come into existence and grow: they are born within her, and, as it were, born and brought up by her. It was then applied secondarily to the city itself, with or without the inhabitants (cf., Jeremiah 46:19; Jeremiah 48:18; Zechariah 2:11). In this instance the latter are included, as Isaiah 1:9 clearly shows. This is precisely the point in the first two comparisons.
And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city."And the daughter of Zion remains lie a hut in a vineyard; like a hammock in a cucumber field." The vineyard and cucumber field (mikshah, from kisshu, a cucumber, Cucumis, not a gourd, Cucurbita; at least not the true round gourd, whose Hebrew name, dalâth, does not occur in the Old Testament) are pictured by the prophet in their condition before the harvest (not after, as the Targums render it), when it is necessary that they should be watched. The point of comparison therefore is, that in the vineyard and cucumber field not a human being is to be seen in any direction; and there is nothing but the cottage and the night barrack or hammock (cf., Job 27:18) to show that there are any human beings there at all. So did Jerusalem stand in the midst of desolation, reaching far and wide - a sign, however, that the land was not entirely depopulated. But what is the meaning of the third point of comparison? Hitzig renders it, "like a watch-tower;" Knobel, "like a guard-city." But the noun neither means a tower nor a castle (although the latter would be quite possible, according to the primary meaning, Cingere); and nezurâh does not mean "watch" or "guard." On the other hand, the comparison indicated (like, or as) does not suit what would seem the most natural rendering, viz., "like a guarded city," i.e., a city shielded from danger. Moreover, it is inadmissible to take the first two Caphs in the sense of sicut (as) and the third in the sense of sic (so); since, although this correlative is common in clauses indicating identity, it is not so in sentences which institute a simple comparison. We therefore adopt the rendering, Isaiah 1:8, "As a besieged city," deriving nezurâh not from zur, niphal nâzor (never used), as Luzzatto does, but from nâzar, which signifies to observe with keen eye, either with a good intention, or, as in Job 7:20, for a hostile purpose. It may therefore be employed, like the synonyms in 2 Samuel 11:16 and Jeremiah 5:6, to denote the reconnoitring of a city. Jerusalem was not actually blockaded at the time when the prophet uttered his predictions; but it was like a blockaded city. In the case of such a city there is a desolate space, completely cleared of human beings, left between it and the blockading army, in the centre of which the city itself stands solitary and still, shut up to itself. The citizens do not venture out; the enemy does not come within the circle that immediately surrounds the city, for fear of the shots of the citizens; and everything within this circle is destroyed, either by the citizens themselves, to prevent the enemy from finding anything useful, or else by the enemy, who cut down the trees. Thus, with all the joy that might be felt at the preservation of Jerusalem, it presented but a gloomy appearance. It was, as it were, in a state of siege. A proof that this is the way in which the passage is to be explained, may be found in Jeremiah 4:16-17, where the actual storming of Jerusalem is foretold, and the enemy is called nozerim, probably with reference to the simile before us.
Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.For the present, however, Jerusalem was saved from this extremity. The omnipotence of God had mercifully preserved it: "Unless Jehovah of hosts had left us a little of what had escaped, we had become like Sodom, we were like Gomorrah." Sarid (which is rendered inaccurately σπέρμα in the Sept.; cf., Romans 9:29) was used, even in the early Mosaic usage of the language, to signify that which escaped the general destruction (Deuteronomy 2:34, etc.); and כּמעט (which might very well be connected with the verbs which follow: "we were very nearly within a little like Sodom," etc.) is to be taken in connection with sarid, as the pausal form clearly shows: "a remnant which was but a mere trifle" (on this use of the word, see Isaiah 16:14; 2 Chronicles 12:7; Proverbs 10:20; Psalm 105:12). Jehovah Zebaoth stands first, for the sake of emphasis. It would have been all over with Israel long ago, if it had not been for the compassion of God (vid., Hosea 11:8). And because it was the omnipotence of God, which set the will of His compassion in motion, He is called Jehovah Zebaoth, Jehovah (the God) of the heavenly hosts - an expression in which Zebaoth is a dependent genitive, and not, as Luzzatto supposes, an independent name of God as the Absolute, embracing within itself all the powers of nature. The prophet says "us" and "we." He himself was an inhabitant of Jerusalem; and even if he had not been so, he was nevertheless an Israelite. He therefore associates himself with his people, like Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:22. He had had to experience the anger of God along with the rest; and so, on the other hand, he also celebrates the mighty compassion of God, which he had experienced in common with them. But for this compassion, the people of God would have become like Sodom, from which only four human beings escaped: it would have resembled Gomorrah, which was absolutely annihilated. (On the prefects in the protasis and apodosis, see Ges. 126, 5.)
Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.The prophet's address has here reached a resting-place. The fact that it is divided at this point into two separate sections, is indicated in the text by the space left between Isaiah 1:9 and Isaiah 1:10. This mode of marking larger or smaller sections, either by leaving spaces of by breaking off the line, is older than the vowel points and accents, and rests upon a tradition of the highest antiquity (Hupfeld, Gram. p. 86ff.). The space is called pizka; the section indicated by such a space, a closed parashah (sethumah); and the section indicated by breaking off the line, an open parashah (petuchah). The prophet stops as soon as he has affirmed, that nothing but the mercy of God has warded off from Israel the utter destruction which it so well deserved. He catches in spirit the remonstrances of his hearers. They would probably declare that the accusations which the prophet had brought against them were utterly groundless, and appeal to their scrupulous observance of the law of God. In reply to this self-vindication which he reads in the hearts of the accused, the prophet launches forth the accusations of God. In Isaiah 1:10, Isaiah 1:11, he commences thus: "Hear the word of Jehovah, ye Sodom judges; give ear to the law of our God, O Gomorrah nation! What is the multitude of your slain-offerings to me? saith Jehovah. I am satiated with whole offerings of rams, and the fat of stalled calves; and blood of bullocks and sheep and he-goats I do not like." The second start in the prophet's address commences, like the first, with "hear" and "give ear." The summons to hear is addressed in this instances (as in the case of Isaiah's contemporary Micah, Micah 3:1-12) to the kezinim (from kâzâh, decidere, from which comes the Arabic el-Kadi, the judge, with the substantive termination in: see Jeshurun, p. 212 ss.), i.e., to the men of decisive authority, the rulers in the broadest sense, and to the people subject to them. It was through the mercy of God that Jerusalem was in existence still, for Jerusalem was "spiritually Sodom," as the Revelation (Revelation 11:8) distinctly affirms of Jerusalem, with evident allusion to this passage of Isaiah. Pride, lust of the flesh, and unmerciful conduct, were the leading sins of Sodom, according to Ezekiel 16:49; and of these, the rulers of Jerusalem, and the crowd that was subject to them and worthy of them, were equally guilty now. But they fancied that they could not possibly stand in such evil repute with God, inasmuch as they rendered outward satisfaction to the law. The prophet therefore called upon them to hear the law of the God of Israel, which he would announce to them: for the prophet was the appointed interpreter of the law, and prophecy the spirit of the law, and the prophetic institution the constant living presence of the true essence of the law bearing its own witness in Israel. "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith Jehovah." The prophet intentionally uses the word יאמר, not אמר: this was the incessant appeal of God in relation to the spiritless, formal worship offered by the hypocritical, ceremonial righteousness of Israel (the future denoting continuous actions, which is ever at the same time both present and future). The multitude of zebâchim, i.e., animal sacrifices, had no worth at all to Him. As the whole worship is summed up here in one single act, zebâchim appears to denote the shelamim, peace-offerings (or better still, communion offerings), with which a meal was associated, after the style of a sacrificial festival, and Jehovah gave the worshipper a share in the sacrifice offered. It is better, however, to take zebâchim as the general name for all the bleeding sacrifices, which are then subdivided into 'oloth and Cheleb, as consisting partly of whole offerings, or offerings the whole of which was placed upon the altar, though in separate pieces, and entirely consumed, and partly of those sacrifices in which only the fat was consumed upon the altar, namely the sin-offerings, trespass-offerings, and pre-eminently the shelâmim offerings. Of the sacrificial animals mentioned, the bullocks (pârim) and fed beasts (meri'im, fattened calves) are species of oxen (bakar); and the lambs (Cebashim) and he-goats (atturim, young he-goats, as distinguished from se'ir, the old long-haired he-goat, the animal used as a sin-offering), together with the ram (ayil, the customary whole offering of the high priest, of the tribe prince, and of the nation generally on all the high feast days), were species of the flock. The blood of these sacrificial animals - such, for example, as the young oxen, sheep, and he-goats - was thrown all round the altar in the case of the whole offering, the peace-offering, and the trespass-offering; in that of the sin-offering it was smeared upon the horns of the altar, poured out at the foot of the altar, and in some instances sprinkled upon the walls of the altar, or against the vessels of the inner sanctuary. Of such offerings as these Jehovah was weary, and He wanted no more (the two perfects denote that which long has been and still is: Ges. 126, 3); in fact, He never had desired anything of the kind.
To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?Jeremiah says this with regard to the sacrifices (Isaiah 7:22); Isaiah also applies it to visits to the temple: "When ye come to appear before my face, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?" לראות is a contracted infinitive niphal for להראות (compare the hiphil forms contracted in the same manner in Isaiah 3:8; Isaiah 23:11). This is the standing expression for the appearance of all male Israelites in the temple at the three high festivals, as prescribed by the law, and then for visits to the temple generally (cf., Psalm 42:3; Psalm 84:8). "My face" (panai): according to Ewald, 279, c, this is used with the passive to designate the subject ("to be seen by the face of God"); but why not rather take it as an adverbial accusative, "in the face of," or "in front of," as it is used interchangeably with the prepositions ל, את, and אל? It is possible that לראות is pointed as it is here, and in Exodus 34:24 and in Deuteronomy 31:11, instead of לראות - like יראוּ for יראוּ, in Exodus 23:15; Exodus 34:20, - for the purpose of avoiding an expression which might be so easily misunderstood as denoting a sight of God with the bodily eye. But the niphal is firmly established in Exodus 23:17; Exodus 34:23, and 1 Samuel 1:22; and in the Mishnah and Talmud the terms ראיה and ראיון are applied without hesitation to appearance before God at the principal feasts. They visited the temple diligently enough indeed, but who had required this at their hand, i.e., required them to do this? Jehovah certainly had not. "To tread my courts" is in apposition to this, which it more clearly defines. Jehovah did not want them to appear before His face, i.e., He did not wish for this spiritless and undevotional tramping thither, this mere opus operatum, which might as well have been omitted, since it only wore out the floor.
Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.Because they had not performed what Jehovah commanded as He commanded it, He expressly forbids them to continue it. "Continue not to bring lying meat-offering; abomination incense is it to me." Minchah (the meat-offering) was the vegetable offering, as distinguished from zebach, the animal sacrifice. It is called a "lying meat-offering," as being a hypocritical dead work, behind which there was none of the feeling which it appeared to express. In the second clause the Sept., Vulg., Gesenius, and others adopt the rendering "incense - an abomination is it to me," ketoreth being taken as the name of the daily burning of incense upon the golden altar in the holy place (Exodus 30:8). But neither in Psalm 141:2, where prayer is offered by one who is not a priest, nor in the passage before us, where the reference is not to the priesthood, but to the people and to their deeds, is this continual incense to be thought of. Moreover, it is much more natural to regard the word ketoreth not as a bold absolute case, but, according to the conjunctive darga with which it is marked, as constructive rather; and this is perfectly allowable. The meat-offering is called "incense" (ketoreth) with reference to the so-called azcarah, i.e., that portion which the priest burned upon the altar, to bring the grateful offerer into remembrance before God (called "burning the memorial," hiktir azcârâh, in Leviticus 2:2). As a general rule, this was accompanied with incense (Isaiah 66:3), the whole of which was placed upon the altar, and not merely a small portion of it. The meat-offering, with its sweet-smelling savour, was merely the form, which served as an outward expression of the thanksgiving for God's blessing, or the longing for His blessing, which really ascended in prayer. But in their case the form had no such meaning. It was nothing but the form, with which they thought they had satisfied God; and therefore it was an abomination to Him. Isaiah 1:13. God was just as little pleased with their punctilious observance of the feasts: "New-moon and Sabbath, calling of festal meetings ... I cannot bear ungodliness and a festal crowd." The first objective notions, which are logically governed by "I cannot bear" (לא־אוּכל: literally, a future hophal - I am unable, incapable, viz., to bear, which may be supplied, according to Psalm 101:5; Jeremiah 44:22; Proverbs 30:21), become absolute cases here, on account of another grammatical object presenting itself in the last two nouns: "ungodliness and a festal crowd." As for new-moon and Sabbath (the latter always signifies the weekly Sabbath when construed with Chodesh) - and, in fact, the calling of meetings of the whole congregation on the weekly Sabbath and high festivals, which was a simple duty according to Leviticus 23 - Jehovah could not endure festivals associated with wickedness. עצרה (from עצר, to press, or crowd thickly together) is synonymous with מקרא), so far as its immediate signification is concerned, as Jeremiah 9:1 clearly shows, just as πανήγυρις is synonymous with εκκλησία . און (from אוּן, to breathe) is moral worthlessness, regarded as an utter absence of all that has true essence and worth in the sight of God. The prophet intentionally joins these two nouns together. A densely crowded festal meeting, combined with inward emptiness and barrenness on the part of those who were assembled together, was a contradiction which God could not endure.
Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.He gives a still stronger expression to His repugnance: "Your new-moons and your festive seasons my soul hateth; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them." As the soul (nephesh) of a man, regarded as the band which unites together bodily and spiritual life, though it is not the actual principle of self-consciousness, is yet the place in which he draws, as it were, the circle of self-consciousness, so as to comprehend the whole essence of His being in the single thought of "I;" so, according to a description taken from godlike man, the "soul" (nephesh) of God, as the expression "my soul" indicates, is the centre of His being, regarded as encircled and pervaded (personated) by self-consciousness; and therefore, whatever the soul of God hates (vid., Jeremiah 15:1) or loves (Isaiah 42:1), is hated or loved in the inmost depths and to the utmost bounds of His being (Psychol. p. 218). Thus He hated each and all of the festivals that were kept in Jerusalem, whether the beginnings of the month, or the high feast-days (moadim, in which, according to Leviticus 23, the Sabbath was also included) observed in the course of the month. For a long time past they had become a burden and annoyance to Him: His long-suffering was weary of such worship. "To bear" (נשׂא), in Isaiah, even in Isaiah 18:3, for שׂאת or שׂאת ro , and here for לשׂאת: Ewald, 285, c) has for its object the seasons of worship already mentioned.
And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.Their self-righteousness, so far as it rested upon sacrifices and festal observances, was now put to shame, and the last inward bulwark of the sham holy nation was destroyed: "And if ye stretch out your hands, I hide my eyes from you; if ye make ever so much praying, I do not hear: your hands are full of blood." Their praying was also an abomination to God. Prayer is something common to man: it is the interpreter of religious feeling, which intervenes and mediates between God and man;
(Note: The primary idea of hithpallel and tephillah is not to be obtained from Deuteronomy 9:18 and Ezra 10:1, as Dietrich and Frst suppose, who make hithpallel equivalent to hithnappel, to throw one's self down; but from 1 Samuel 2:25, "If a man sin against a man, the authorities right him" (וּפללו אלהים: it is quite a mistake to maintain that Elohim cannot have this meaning), i.e., they can set right the relation which he has disturbed. "But if one sin against Jehovah, who shall mediate for him (מי יתפּלּל־לו, quis intercedat pro eo)?" We may see from this that prayer is regarded as mediation, which sets right and establishes fellowship; and hithpallel signifies to make one's self a healer of divisions, or to settle for one's self, to strive after a settlement (sibi, pro se, intercedere: cf., Job 19:16, hithchannen, sibi propitium facere; Job 13:27, hithchakkah, sibi insculpere, like the Arabic ichtatta, to bound off for one's self).)
it is the true spiritual sacrifice. The law contains no command to pray, and, with the exception of Deuteronomy 26, no form of prayer. Praying is so natural to man as man, that there was no necessity for any precept to enforce this, the fundamental expression of the true relation to God. The prophet therefore comes to prayer last of all, so as to trace back their sham-holiness, which was corrupt even to this the last foundation, to its real nothingness. "Spread out," parash, or pi pērēsh, to stretch out; used with Cappaim to denote swimming in Isaiah 25:11. It is written here before a strong suffix, as in many other passages, e.g., Isaiah 52:12, with the inflection i instead of e. This was the gesture of a man in prayer, who spread out his hands, and when spread out, stretched them towards heaven, or to the most holy place in the temple, and indeed (as if with the feeling of emptiness and need, and with a desire to receive divine gifts) held up the hollow or palm of his hand (Cappaim: cf., tendere palmas, e.g., Virg. Aen. xii. 196, tenditque ad sidera palmas). However much they might stand or lie before Him in the attitude of prayer, Jehovah hid His eyes, i.e., His omniscience knew nothing of it; and even though they might pray loud and long (gam chi, etiamsi: compare the simple Chi, Jeremiah 14:12), He was, as it were, deaf to it all. We should expect Chi here to introduce the explanation; but the more excited the speaker, the shorter and more unconnected his words. The plural damim always denotes human blood as the result of some unnatural act, and then the bloody deed and the bloodguiltiness itself. The plural number neither refers to the quantity nor to the separate drops, but is the plural of production, which Dietrich has so elaborately discussed in his Abhandlung, p. 40.
(Note: As Chittah signified corn standing in the field, and Chittim corn threshed and brought to the market, so damim was not blood when flowing through the veins, but when it had flowed out-in other words, when it had been violently shed. (For the Talmudic misinterpretation of the true state of the case, see my Genesis, p. 626.))
The terrible damim stands very emphatically before the governing verb, pointing to many murderous acts that had been committed, and deeds of violence akin to murder. Not, indeed, that we are to understand the words as meaning that there was really blood upon their hands when they stretched them out in prayer; but before God, from whom no outward show can hide the true nature of things, however clean they might have washed themselves, they still dripped with blood. The expostulations of the people against the divine accusations have thus been negatively set forth and met in Isaiah 1:11-15 : Jehovah could not endure their work-righteous worship, which was thus defiled with unrighteous works, even to murder itself. The divine accusation is now positively established in Isaiah 1:16, Isaiah 1:17, by the contrast drawn between the true righteousness of which the accused were destitute, and the false righteousness of which they boasted. The crushing charge is here changed into an admonitory appeal; and the love which is hidden behind the wrath, and would gladly break through, already begins to disclose itself. There are eight admonitions. The first three point to the removal of evil; the other five to the performance of what is good.
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;The first three run thus: "Wash, clean yourselves; put away the badness of your doings from the range of my eyes; cease to do evil." This is not only an advance from figurative language to the most literal, but there is also an advance in what is said. The first admonition requires, primarily and above all, purification from the sins committed, by means of forgiveness sought for and obtained. Wash: rachatzu, from râchatz, in the frequent middle sense of washing one's self. Clean yourselves: hizdaccu, with the tone upon the last syllable, is not the niphal of zâkak, as the first plur. imper. niph. of such verbs has generally and naturally the tone upon the penultimate (see Isaiah 52:11; Numbers 17:10), but the hithpael of zacah for hizdaccu, with the preformative Tav resolved into the first radical letter, as is very common in the hithpael (Ges. 54, 2, b). According to the difference between the two synonyms (to wash one's self, to clean one's self), the former must be understood as referring to the one great act of repentance on the part of a man who is turning to God, the latter to the daily repentance of one who has so turned. The second admonition requires them to place themselves in the light of the divine countenance, and put away the evil of their doings, which was intolerable to pure eyes (Habakkuk 1:13). They were to wrestle against the wickedness to which their actual sin had grown, until at length it entirely disappeared. Neged, according to its radical meaning, signifies prominence (compare the Arabic ne‛gd, high land which is visible at a great distance), conspicuousness, so that minneged is really equivalent to ex apparentia.
Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.Five admonitions relating to the practice of what is good: "Learn to do good, attend to judgment, set the oppressor right, do justice to the orphan, conduct the cause of the widow." The first admonition lays the foundation for the rest. They were to learn to do good - a difficult art, in which a man does not become proficient merely by good intentions. "Learn to do good:" hetib is the object to limdu (learn), regarded as an accusative; the inf. abs. הרע in Isaiah 1:16 takes the place of the object in just the same manner. The division of this primary admonition into four minor ones relating to the administration of justice, may be explained from the circumstance that no other prophet directs so keen an eye upon the state and its judicial proceedings as Isaiah has done. He differs in this respect from his younger contemporary Micah, whose prophecies are generally more ethical in their nature, whilst those of Isaiah have a political character throughout. Hence the admonitions: "Give diligent attention to judgment" (dârash, to devote one's self to a thing with zeal and assiduity); and "bring the oppressor to the right way." This is the true rendering, as Châmotz (from Châmatz, to be sharp in flavour, glaring in appearance, violent and impetuous in character) cannot well mean "the oppressed," or the man who is deprived of his rights, as most of the early translators have rendered it, since this form of the noun, especially with an immutable kametz like בּגוד בּגודה (cf., נקד נקּדּה), is not used in a passive, but in an active or attributive sense (Ewald, 152, b: vid., at Psalm 137:8): it has therefore the same meaning as Chomeotz in Psalm 71:4, and âshok in Jeremiah 22:3, which is similar in its form. But if Châmotz signifies the oppressive, reckless, churlish man, אשּׁר cannot mean to make happy, or to congratulate, or to set up, or, as in the talmudic rendering, to strengthen (Luzzatto: rianimate chi oppresso); but, as it is also to be rendered in Isaiah 3:12; Isaiah 9:15, to lead to the straight road, or to cause a person to keep the straight course. In the case before us, where the oppressor is spoken of, it means to direct him to the way of justice, to keep him in bounds by severe punishment and discipline.
(Note: The Talmud varies in its explanation of Chamoz: in one instance it is applied to a judge who lets his sentence be thoroughly leavened before pronouncing it; in another the Chamuz is said to signify a person robbed and injured, in opposition to Chomez (b. Sanhedrin 35a). It is an instructive fact in relation to the idea suggested by the word, that, according to Joma 39b, a man who had not only taken possession of his own inheritance, but had seized upon another person's also, bore the nickname of ben chimzon as long as he lived.)
In the same way we find in other passages, such as Isaiah 11:4 and Psalm 72:4, severe conduct towards oppressors mentioned in connection with just treatment of the poor. There follow two admonitions relating to widows and orphans. Widows and orphans, as well as foreigners, were the protgs of God and His law, standing under His especial guardianship and care (see, for example, Exodus 22:22 (21), cf., Exodus 21:21 (20). "Do justice to the orphan" (Shâphat, as in Deuteronomy 25:1, is a contracted expression for shâphat mishpat): for if there is not even a settlement or verdict in their cause, this is the most crying injustice of all, as neither the form nor the appearance of justice is preserved. "Conduct the cause of the widows:" ריב with an accusative, as in Isaiah 51:22, the only other passage in which it occurs, is a contracted form for ריב ריב. Thus all the grounds of self-defence, which existed in the hearts of the accused, are both negatively and positively overthrown. They are thundered down and put to shame. The law (thorah), announced in Isaiah 1:10, has been preached to them. The prophet has cast away the husks of their dead works, and brought out the moral kernel of the law in its universal application.
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.The first leading division of the address is brought to a close, and Isaiah 1:18 contains the turning-point between the two parts into which it is divided. Hitherto Jehovah has spoken to His people in wrath. But His love began to move even in the admonitions in Isaiah 1:16, Isaiah 1:17. And now this love, which desired not Israel's destruction, but Israel's inward and outward salvation, breaks fully through. "O come, and let us reason together, saith Jehovah. If your sins come forth like scarlet cloth, they shall become white as snow; if they are red as crimson, they shall come forth like wool!" Jehovah here challenges Israel to a formal trial: nocach is thus used in a reciprocal sense, and with the same meaning as nishpat in Isaiah 43:26 (Ges. 51, 2). In such a trial Israel must lose, for Israel's self-righteousness rests upon sham righteousness; and this sham righteousness, when rightly examined, is but unrighteousness dripping with blood. It is taken for granted that this must be the result of the investigation. Israel is therefore worthy of death. Yet Jehovah will not treat Israel according to His retributive justice, but according to His free compassion. He will remit the punishment, and not only regard the sin as not existing, but change it into its very opposite. The reddest possible sin shall become, through His mercy, the purest white. On the two hiphils here applied to colour, see Ges. 53, 2; though he gives the meaning incorrectly, viz., "to take a colour," whereas the words signify rather to emit a colour: not Colorem accipere, but Colorem dare. Shâni, bright red (the plural shânim, as in Proverbs 31:21, signifies materials dyed with shâni), and tolâ, warm colour, are simply different names for the same colour, viz., the crimson obtained from the cochineal insect, Color cocccineus. The representation of the work of grace promised by God as a change from red to white, is founded upon the symbolism of colours, quite as much as when the saints in the Revelation (Revelation 19:8) are described as clothed in white raiment, whilst the clothing of Babylon is purple and scarlet (Isaiah 17:4). Red is the colour of fire, and therefore of life: the blood is red because life is a fiery process. For this reason the heifer, from which the ashes of purification were obtained for those who had been defiled through contact with the dead, was to be red; and the sprinkling-brush, with which the unclean were sprinkled, was to be tied round with a band of scarlet wool. But red as contrasted with white, the colour of light (Matthew 17:2), is the colour of selfish, covetous, passionate life, which is self-seeking in its nature, which goes out of itself only to destroy, and drives about with wild tempestuous violence: it is therefore the colour of wrath and sin. It is generally supposed that Isaiah speaks of red as the colour of sin, because sin ends in murder; and this is not really wrong, though it is too restricted. Sin is called red, inasmuch as it is a burning heat which consumes a man, and when it breaks forth consumes his fellow-man as well. According to the biblical view, throughout, sin stands in the same relation to what is well-pleasing to God, and wrath in the same relation to love or grace, as fire to light; and therefore as red to white, or black to white, for red and black are colours which border upon one another. In the Song of Solomon (Isaiah 7:5), the black locks of Shulamith are described as being "like purple," and Homer applies the same epithet to the dark waves of the sea. But the ground of this relation lies deeper still. Red is the colour of fire, which flashes out of darkness and returns to it again; whereas white without any admixture of darkness represents the pure, absolute triumph of light. It is a deeply significant symbol of the act of justification. Jehovah offers to Israel an actio forensis, out of which it shall come forth justified by grace, although it has merited death on account of its sins. The righteousness, white as snow and wool, with which Israel comes forth, is a gift conferred upon it out of pure compassion, without being conditional upon any legal performance whatever.
If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:But after the restoration of Israel in integrum by this act of grace, the rest would unquestionably depend upon the conduct of Israel itself. According to Israel's own decision would Jehovah determine Israel's future. "If ye then shall willingly hear, ye shall eat the good of the land; if ye shall obstinately rebel, ye shall be eaten by the sword: for the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it." After their justification, both blessing and cursing lay once more before the justified, as they had both been long before proclaimed by the law (compare Isaiah 1:19 with Deuteronomy 28:3., Leviticus 26:3., and Isaiah 1:20 with the threat of vengeance with the sword in Leviticus 26:25). The promise of eating, i.e., of the full enjoyment of domestic blessings, and therefore of settled, peaceful rest at home, is placed in contrast with the curse of being eaten with the sword. Chereb (the sword) is the accusative of the instrument, as in Psalm 17:13-14; but this adverbial construction without either genitive, adjective, or suffix, as in Exodus 30:20, is very rarely met with (Ges. 138, Anm. 3); and in the passage before us it is a bold construction which the prophet allows himself, instead of saying, חרב תּאכלכם, for the sake of the paronomasia (Bttcher, Collectanea, p. 161). In the conditional clauses the two futures are followed by two preterites (compare Leviticus 26:21, which is more in conformity with our western mode of expression), inasmuch as obeying and rebelling are both of them consequences of an act of will: if ye shall be willing, and in consequence of this obey; if ye shall refuse, and rebel against Jehovah. They are therefore, strictly speaking, perfecta consecutiva. According to the ancient mode of writing, the passage Isaiah 1:18-20 formed a separate parashah by themselves, viz., a sethumah, or parashah indicated by spaces left within the line. The piskah after Isaiah 1:20 corresponds to a long pause in the mind of the speaker. - Will Israel tread the saving path of forgiveness thus opened before it, and go on to renewed obedience, and will it be possible for it to be brought back by this path? Individuals possibly may, but not the whole. The divine appeal therefore changes now into a mournful complaint. So peaceful a solution as this of the discord between Jehovah and His children was not to be hoped for. Jerusalem was far too depraved.
But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers."How is she become a harlot, the faithful citadel! she, full of right, lodged in righteousness, and now-murderers." It is the keynote of an elegy (kinah) which is sounded here. איכה, and but rarely איך, which is an abbreviated form, is expressive of complaint and amazement. This longer form, like a long-drawn sigh, is a characteristic of the kinah. The kinoth (Lamentations) of Jeremiah commence with it, and receive their title from it; whereas the shorter form is indicative of scornful complaining, and is characteristic of the mâshōl (e.g., Isaiah 14:4, Isaiah 14:12; Micah 2:4). From this word, which gives the keynote, the rest all follows, soft, full, monotonous, long drawn out and slow, just in the style of an elegy. We may see clearly enough that forms like מלאתי for מלאת, softened by lengthening, were adapted to elegiac compositions, from the first v. of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, where three of these forms occur. Jerusalem had previously been a faithful city, i.e., one stedfastly adhering to the covenant of Jehovah with her (vid., Psalm 78:37).
(Note: We have translated the word kiryah "citadel" (Burg), instead of "city;" but Burg also became the name of the town which sprang up around the citadel, and the persons living in and around the Burg or citadel were called burgenses, "burghers." Jerusalem, which was also called Zion, might be called, with quite as much right, a citadel (Burg), as a city.)
This covenant was a marriage covenant. And she had broken it, and had thereby become a zonâh (harlot) - a prophetic view, the germs of which had already been given in the Pentateuch, where the worship of idols on the part of Israel is called whoring after them (Deuteronomy 31:16; Exodus 34:15-16; in all, seven times). It was not, however, merely gross outward idolatry which made the church of God a "harlot," but infidelity of heart, in whatever form it might express itself; so that Jesus described the people of His own time as an "adulterous generation," notwithstanding the pharisaical strictness with which the worship of Jehovah was then observed. For, as the v. before us indicates, this marriage relation was founded upon right and righteousness in the broadest sense: mishpat, "right," i.e., a realization of right answering to the will of God as positively declared; and tzedek, "righteousness," i.e., a righteous state moulded by that will, or a righteous course of conduct regulated according to it (somewhat different, therefore, from the more qualitative tzedâkâh). Jerusalem was once full of such right; and righteousness was not merely there in the form of a hastily passing guest, but had come down from above to take up her permanent abode in Jerusalem: she tarried there day and night as if it were her home. The prophet had in his mind the times of David and Solomon, and also more especially the time of Jehoshaphat (about one hundred and fifty years before Isaiah's appearance), who restored the administration of justice, which had fallen into neglect since the closing years of Solomon's reign and the time of Rehoboam and Abijah, to which Asa's reformation had not extended, and re-organized it entirely in the spirit of the law. It is possible also that Jehoiada, the high priest in the time of Joash, may have revived the institutions of Jehoshaphat, so far as they had fallen into disuse under his three godless successors; but even in the second half of the reign of Joash, the administration of justice fell into the same disgraceful state, at least as compared with the times of David, Solomon, and Jehoshaphat, as that in which Isaiah found it. The glaring contrast between the present and the past is indicated by the expression "and now." In all the correct MSS and editions, mishpat is not accented with zakeph, but with rebia; and bâh, which ought to have zakeph, is accented with tiphchah, on account of the brevity of the following clause. In this way the statement as to the past condition is sufficiently distinguished from that relating to the present.
(Note: It is well known that rebia has less force as a disjunctive than tiphchah, and that zakeph is stronger then either. With regard to the law, according to which bâh has rebia instead of zakeph, see Br, Thorath Emeth, p. 70. To the copies enumerated by Luzzatto, as having the correct accentuation (including Brescia 1494, and Venice, by J. B. Chayim, 1526), we may add Plantin (1582), Buxtorf (1618), Nissel (1662), and many others (cf., Dachselt's Biblia accentuata, which is not yet out of date).)
Formerly righteousness, now "murderers" (merazzechim), and indeed, as distinguished from rozechim, murderers by profession, who formed a band, like king Ahab and his son (2 Kings 6:32). The contrast was as glaring as possible, since murder is the direct opposite, the most crying violation, of righteousness.
Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water:The complaint now turns from the city generally to the authorities, and first of all figuratively. "Thy silver has become dross, thy drink mutilated with water." It is upon this passage that the figurative language of Jeremiah 6:27. and Ezekiel 22:18-22 is founded. Silver is here a figurative representation of the princes and lords, with special reference to the nobility of character naturally associated with nobility of birth and rank; for silver - refined silver - is an image of all that is noble and pure, light in all its purity being reflected by it (Bhr, Symbolik, i. 284). The princes and lords had once possessed all the virtues which the Latins called unitedly Candor animi, viz., the virtues of magnanimity, affability, impartiality, and superiority to bribes. This silver had now become l'sigim, dross, or base metal separated (thrown off) from silver in the process of refining (sig, pl. sigim, siggim from sug, recedere, refuse left in smelting, or dross: cf., Proverbs 25:4; Proverbs 26:23). A second figure compares the leading men of the older Jerusalem to good wine, such as drinkers like. The word employed here (sobe) must have been used in this sense by the more cultivated classes in Isaiah's time (cf., Nahum 1:10). This pure, strong, and costly wine was now adulterated with water (lit. castratum, according to Pliny's expression in the Natural History: compare the Horatian phrase, jugulare Falernum), and therefore its strength and odour were weakened, and its worth was diminished. The present was nothing but the dross and shadow of the past.
Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.In Isaiah 1:23 the prophet says this without a figure: "Thy rulers are rebellious, and companions of thieves; every one loveth presents, and hunteth after payment; the orphan they right not, and the cause of the widow has no access to them." In two words the prophet depicts the contemptible baseness of the national rulers (sârim). He describes first of all their baseness in relation to God, with the alliterative sorerim: rebellious, refractory; and then, in relation to men, companions of thieves, inasmuch as they allowed themselves to be bribed by presents of stolen goods to acts of injustice towards those who had been robbed. They not only willingly accepted such bribes, and that not merely a few of them, but every individual belonging to the rank of princes (Cullo, equivalent to haccol, the whole: every one loveth gifts); but they went eagerly in pursuit of them (rodeph). It was not peace (shâlom) that they hunted after (Psalm 34:16), but shalmonimshalmonim, things that would pacify their avarice; not what was good, but compensation for their partiality. - This was the existing state of Jerusalem, and therefore it would hardly be likely to take the way of mercy opened before it in Isaiah 1:18; consequently Jehovah would avail himself of other means of setting it right.
Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies:"Therefore, saying of the Lord, of Jehovah of hosts, of the Strong One of Israel: Ah! I will relieve myself on mine adversaries, and will avenge myself upon mine enemies." Salvation through judgment was the only means of improvement and preservation left to the congregation, which called itself by the name of Jerusalem. Jehovah would therefore afford satisfaction to His holiness, and administer a judicial sifting to Jerusalem. There is no other passage in Isaiah in which we meet with such a crowding together of different names of God as we do here (compare Isaiah 19:4; Isaiah 3:1; Isaiah 10:16, Isaiah 10:33; Isaiah 3:15). With three names, descriptive of the irresistible omnipotence of God, the irrevocable decree of a sifting judgment is sealed. The word נאּם, which is used here instead of אמר and points back to a verb נאם, related to נהם and המה, corresponds to the deep, earnest pathos of the words. These verbs, which are imitations of sounds, all denote a dull hollow groaning. The word used here, therefore, signifies that which is spoken with significant secrecy and solemn softness. It is never written absolutely, but is always followed by the subject who speaks (saying of Jehovah it is, i.e., Jehovah says). We meet with it first of all in Genesis 22:16. In the prophetic writings it occurs in Obadiah and Joel, but most frequently in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. It is generally written at the close of the sentence, or parenthetically in the middle; very rarely at the commencement, as it is here and in 1 Samuel 2:30 and Psalm 110:1. The "saying" commences with hoi (ah!), the painfulness of pity being mingled with the determined outbreak of wrath. By the side of the niphal nikkam min (to be revenged upon a person) we find the niphal nicham (lit. to console one's self). The two words are derived from kindred roots. The latter is conjugated with ĕ in the preformative syllable, the former with i, according to the older system of vowel-pointing adopted in the East.
(Note: The so-called Assyrian mode of pointing, which was entirely supplanted, with the exception of a few relics, by the Tiberian mode which now lies before us, has no seghol (see DMZ. xviii. 322). According to Luzzatto (Proleg. p. 200), they wrote ektol instead of iktol, to avoid confounding it with יקטל, which was pronounced iktol, and not yiktol.)
Jehovah would procure Himself relief from His enemies by letting out upon them the wrath with which He had hitherto been burdened (Ezekiel 5:13). He now calls the masses of Jerusalem by their right name.
And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin:Isaiah 1:25 states clearly in what the revenge consisted with which Jehovah was inwardly burdened (innakmah, a cohortative with the ah, indicating internal oppression): "And I will bring my hand over thee, and will smelt out thy dross as with alkali, and will clear away all thy lead." As long as God leaves a person's actions or sufferings alone, His hand, i.e., His acting, is at rest. Bringing the hand over a person signifies a movement of the hand, which has been hitherto at rest, either for the purpose of inflicting judicial punishment upon the person named (Amos 1:8; Jeremiah 6:9; Ezekiel 38:12; Psalm 81:15), or else, though this is seldom the case, for the purpose of saving him (Zechariah 13:7). The reference here is to the divine treatment of Jerusalem, in which punishment and salvation were combined - punishment as the means, salvation as the end. The interposition of Jehovah was, as it were, a smelting, which would sweep away, not indeed Jerusalem itself, but the ungodly in Jerusalem. They are compared to dross, or (as the verb seems to imply) to ore mixed with dross, and, inasmuch as lead is thrown off in the smelting of silver, to such ingredients of lead as Jehovah would speedily and thoroughly remove, "like alkali," i.e., "as if with alkali" (Cabbor, Comparatio decurtata, for C'babbor: for this mode of dropping Beth after Caph, compare Isaiah 9:3; Leviticus 22:13, and many other passages). By bedilim (from bâdal, to separate) we are to understand the several pieces of stannum or lead
(Note: Plumbum nigrum, says Pliny, n. n. xxiv. 16, is sometimes found alone, and sometimes mixed with silver: ejus qui primus fluic in fornacibus liquor, stannum appellatur. The reference here is to the lead separated from the ore in the process of obtaining pure silver. In the form of powder this dross is called bedil, and the pieces bedilim; whereas ophereth is the name of solid lead, obtained by simply melting down from ore which does not contain silver. The fact that bedil is also apparently used as a name for tin, may be explained in the same way as the homonymy of iron and basalt (Com. on Job 28:2), and of the oak and terebinth. The two metals are called by the same name on account of their having a certain outward resemblance, viz., in softness, pliability, colour, and specific gravity.)
in which the silver is contained, and which are separated by smelting, all the baser metals being distinguished from the purer kinds by the fact that they are combustible (i.e., can be oxidized). Both bor, or potash (an alkali obtained from land-plants), and nether, natron (i.e., soda, or natron obtained from the ashes of marine plants, which is also met with in many mineral waters), have been employed from the very earliest times to accelerate the process of smelting, for the purpose of separating a metal from its ore.
And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellers as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city.As the threat couched in the previous figure does not point to the destruction, but simply to the smelting of Jerusalem, there is nothing strange in the fact that in Isaiah 1:26 it should pass over into a pure promise; the meltingly soft and yearningly mournful termination of the clauses with ayich, the keynote of the later songs of Zion, being still continued. "And I will bring back thy judges as in the olden time, and thy counsellors as in the beginning; afterwards thou wilt be called city of righteousness, faithful citadel." The threat itself was, indeed, relatively a promise, inasmuch as whatever could stand the fire would survive the judgment; and the distinct object of this was to bring back Jerusalem to the purer metal of its own true nature. But when that had been accomplished, still more would follow. The indestructible kernel that remained would be crystallized, since Jerusalem would receive back from Jehovah the judges and counsellors which it had had in the olden flourishing times of the monarchy, ever since it had become the city of David and of the temple; not, indeed, the very same persons, but persons quite equal to them in excellence. Under such God-given leaders Jerusalem would become what it had once been, and what it ought to be. The names applied to the city indicate the impression produced by the manifestation of its true nature. The second name is written without the article, as in fact the word kiryah (city), with its massive, definite sound, always is in Isaiah. Thus did Jehovah announce the way which it had been irrevocably determined that He would take with Israel, as the only way to salvation. Moreover, this was the fundamental principle of the government of God, the law of Israel's history.
Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.Isaiah 1:27 presents it in a brief and concise form: "Sion will be redeemed through judgment, and her returning ones through righteousness." Mishpat and tzedâkâh are used elsewhere for divine gifts (Isaiah 33:5; Isaiah 28:6), for such conduct as is pleasing to God (Isaiah 1:21; Isaiah 32:16), and for royal Messianic virtues (Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 11:3-5; Isaiah 16:5; Isaiah 32:1). Here, however, where we are helped by the context, they are to be interpreted according to such parallel passages as Isaiah 4:4; Isaiah 5:16; Isaiah 28:17, as signifying God's right and righteousness in their primarily judicious self-fulfilment. A judgment, on the part of God the righteous One, would be the means by which Zion itself, so far as it had remained faithful to Jehovah, and those who were converted in the midst of the judgment, would be redeemed - a judgment upon sinners and sin, by which the power that had held in bondage the divine nature of Zion, so far as it still continued to exist, would be broken, and in consequence of which those who turned to Jehovah would be incorporated into His true church. Whilst, therefore, God was revealing Himself in His punitive righteousness; He was working out a righteousness which would be bestowed as a gift of grace upon those who escaped the former. The notion of "righteousness" is now following a New Testament track. In front it has the fire of the law; behind, the love of the gospel. Love is concealed behind the wrath, like the sun behind the thunder-clouds. Zion, so far as it truly is or is becoming Zion, is redeemed, and none but the ungodly are destroyed. But, as is added in the next verse, the latter takes place without mercy.
And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed."And breaking up of the rebellious and sinners together; and those who forsake Jehovah will perish." The judicial side of the approaching act of redemption is here expressed in a way that all can understand. The exclamatory substantive clause in the first half of the v. is explained by a declaratory verbal clause in the second. The "rebellious" were those who had both inwardly and outwardly broken away from Jehovah; "sinners," those who were living in open sins; and "those who forsake Jehovah," such as had become estranged from God in either of these ways.
For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen.Isaiah 1:29 declares how God's judgment of destruction would fall upon all of these. The v. is introduced with an explanatory "for" (Chi): "For they become ashamed of the terebinths, in which ye had your delight; and ye must blush for the gardens, in which ye took pleasure." The terebinths and gardens (the second word with the article, as in Habakkuk 3:8, first binharim, then banneharim) are not referred to as objects of luxury, as Hitzig and Drechsler assume, but as unlawful places of worship and objects of worship (see Deuteronomy 16:21). They are both of them frequently mentioned by the prophets in this sense (Isaiah 57:5; Isaiah 65:3; Isaiah 66:17): Châmor and bâchar are also the words commonly applied to an arbitrary choice of false gods (Isaiah 44:9; Isaiah 41:24; Isaiah 66:3), and bosh min is the general phrase used to denote the shame which falls upon idolaters, when the worthlessness of their idols becomes conspicuous through their impotence. On the difference between bosh and Châpher, see the comm. on Psalm 35:4.
(Note: It is perfectly certain that Châpher (Arab. Chaphira, as distinguished from Châphar, hafara, to dig) signifies to blush, erubescere; but the combination of bosh and yâbash (bâda), which would give albescere or expallescere (to turn white or pale) as the primary idea of bosh, has not only the Arabic use of bayyada and ibyadda (to rejoice, be made glad) against it, but above all the dialectic bechath, bahita (bahuta), which, when taken in connection with bethath (batta), points rather to the primary idea of being cut off (abscindi: cf., spes abscissa). See Lane's Arabic-English Lexicon, i.263.)
The word elim is erroneously translated "idols" in the Septuagint and other ancient versions. The feeling which led to this, however, was a correct one, since the places of worship really stand for the idols worshipped in those places.
(Note: With regard to the derivation, êlim, whether used in the sense of strong men, or gods, or rams, or terebinths, is still but one word, derived from ı̄l or ūl, so that in all three senses it may be written either with or without Yod. Nevertheless elim in the sense of "rams" only occurs without Yod in Job 42:8. In the sense of "gods" it is always written without Yod; in that of "strong men" with Yod. In the singular the name of the terebinth is always written elah without Yod; in the plural, however, it is written either with or without. But this no more presupposes a singular êl (ayil) in common use, than bêtzim presupposes a singular bêts (bayits); still the word êl with Yod does occur once, viz., in Genesis 14:6. Allâh and allōn, an oak, also spring from the same root, namely âlal equals il; just as in Arabic both ı̄l and ill are used for ēl (God); and âl and ill, in the sense of relationship, point to a similar change in the form of the root.)
The excited state of the prophet at the close of his prophecy is evinced by his abrupt leap from an exclamation to a direct address (Ges. 137, Anm. 3).
For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water.He still continues in the same excitement, piling a second explanatory sentence upon the first, and commencing this also with "for" (Chi); and then, carried away by the association of ideas, he takes terebinths and gardens as the future figures of the idolatrous people themselves. "For ye shall become like a terebinth with withered leaves, and like a garden that hath no water." Their prosperity is distroyed, so that they resemble a terebinth withered as to its leaves, which in other cases are always green (nobleth ‛aleah, genitives connection according to (Ges. 112, 2). Their sources of help are dried up, so that they are like a garden without water, and therefore waste. In this withered state terebinths and gardens, to which the idolatrous are compared, are easily set on fire. All that is wanted is a spark to kindle them, when they are immediately in flames.
And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them.Isaiah 1:31 shows in a third figure where this spark was to come from: "And the rich man becomes tow, and his work the spark; and they will both burn together, and no one extinguishes them." The form poalo suggests at first a participial meaning (its maker), but החסון would be a very unusual epithet to apply to an idol. Moreover, the figure itself would be a distorted one, since the natural order would be, that the idol would be the thing that kindled the fire, and the man the object to be set on fire, and not the reverse. We therefore follow the lxx, Targ., and Vulg., with Gesenius and other more recent grammarians, and adopt the rendering "his work" (opus ejus). The forms פּעלו and פּעלו (cf., Isaiah 52:14 and Jeremiah 22:13) are two equally admissible changes of the ground-form פעלו (פּעלו). As Isaiah 1:29 refers to idolatrous worship, poalo (his work) is an idol, a god made by human hands (cf., Isaiah 2:8; Isaiah 37:19, etc.). The prosperous idolater, who could give gold and silver for idolatrous images out of the abundance of his possessions (Châson is to be interpreted in accordance with Isaiah 33:6), becomes tow (talm. "the refuse of flax:" the radical meaning is to shake out, viz., in combing), and the idol the spark which sets this mass of fibre in flames, so that they are both irretrievably consumed. For the fire of judgment, by which sinners are devoured, need not come from without. Sin carries the fire of indignation within itself. And an idol is, as it were, an idolater's sin embodied and exposed to the light of day.
The date of the composition of this first prophecy is a puzzle. Caspari thoroughly investigated every imaginary possibility, and at last adopted the conclusion that it dates from the time of Uzziah, inasmuch as Isaiah 1:7-9 do not relate to an actual, but merely to an ideal, present. But notwithstanding all the acuteness with which Caspari has worked out his view, it still remains a very forced one. The oftener we return to the reading of this prophetic address, the stronger is our impression that Isaiah 1:7-9 contain a description of the state of things which really existed at the time when the words were spoken. There were actually two devastations of the land of Judah which occurred during the ministry of Isaiah, and in which Jerusalem was only spared by the miraculous interposition of Jehovah: one under Ahaz in the year of the Syro-Ephraimitish war; the other under Hezekiah, when the Assyrian forces laid the land waste but were scattered at last in their attack upon Jerusalem. The year of the Syro-Ephraimitish war is supported by Gesenius, Rosenmller (who expresses a different opinion in every one of the three editions of his Scholia), Maurer, Movers, Knobel, Hvernick, and others; the time of the Assyrian oppression by Hitzig, Umbreit, Drechsler, and Luzzatto. Now, whichever of these views we may adopt, there will still remain, as a test of its admissiblity, the difficult question, How did this prophecy come to stand at the head of the book, if it belonged to the time of Uzziah-Jotham? This question, upon which the solution of the difficulty depends, can only be settled when we come to Isaiah 6:1-13. Till then, the date of the composition of chapter 1 must be left undecided. It is enough for the present to know, that, according to the accounts given in the books of Kings and Chronicles, there were two occasions when the situation of Jerusalem resembled the one described in the present chapter.