Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
Moreover the LORD said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man's pen concerning Mahershalalhashbaz.2. ISAIAH GIVING THE WHOLE NATION A SIGN BY THE BIRTH OF HIS SON MAHER-SHALAL-HASH -BAZ
1MOREOVER the LORD said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with 2a man’s pen concerning1 Maher-shalal-hash-baz. And I took unto me faithful witnesses 3to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah. And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived and bare a son. Then said the LORD to me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz. 4For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
On Isa 9:1. חֶרֶט (found only here and Exod. 32:4), is an instrument for cutting in, engraving in wood, metal, wax, etc., the chisel, style. It stands here as stylus, metonymically as efficiens pro effecto, i. e., the writing instrument stands for the writing. חרט אנוש seems to me not to mean writing of the common man in distinction from that of men of higher degree, say, a popular as distinguished from priestly writing. [In an ordinary and familiar hand, J. A. ALEXANDER, BARNES.] For in the first place it is very doubtful if אֱנוֹשׁ has this meaning. The word is distinguished from אָדָם (comp. Ps. 73:5) but only by its poetic use. It occurs in Isaiah six times, here, and 13:7, 12; 24:6; 33:8; 51:7; 56:2. In the second place we have no trace of there being two sorts of writing in use among the Hebrews before the exile. The passages Hab. 2:2; Ps. 45:2, cited by some in support of the notion, prove nothing. I much rather believe that a contrast of human and superhuman writing is meant. For as Paul distinguishes between human and angel tongues (1 Cor. 13:1) so we may distinguish between human and angel writing. Of the latter, Dan. 5:5 sqq. offers us an example. Comp. Exod. 32:32; Ps. 69:29; 139:16; Dan. 12:1; Rev. 19:12; 20:12, 15; 21:12, 27. For the prophets were not merely “hearers of the words of God,” but also “men whose eyes were open,” “who saw the vision of the Almighty” (Numb. 24:3, 4). The לְ is variously explained. It is taken as constructio periphrastica (acceleratura sunt spolia or accelerationi spolia, comp. Gen. 15:12; Jos. 2:5; Isa. 10:32; 37:26; 38:20, etc.), as depending on כְּתֹב in the sense of commanding (1 Chr. 21:17), as sign of dedication, or as stating the object. The first two explanations are inadmissible, because לְ would then fit only the first member (מהר as infinitive), not the second (חָשׁ particip.). לְ can thus be taken only as a dedication or as stating the aim. Both these ways of explaining it agree in not taking מהר as infin., but as a verbal adjective like Zeph. 1:14 (comp. מָאֵן מַקֵּל). But they differ in sense. This can be no dedication in the common sense. For there is no gift to be presented to Maher-shalal, only the attention of the nation is directed to him. The לְ can define therefore only the reference or the destiny, the aim. It is thereby said that this tablet with its inscription concerns a Maher-shalal-hash-baz, but of whom absolutely nothing is known, not even whether a person or a thing. Comp. Ezek. 37:16. The case is different with Jeremiah 46:2; 48:1; 49:1. Comp. on Jer. 46. sqq.
On Isa 9:2. ואעידה וגו׳ the LXX. translates μάρτυράσ μοι ποίησον as if וְהָעִֽידָה stood in the text. So, too, the SYR., CHALD. and ARAB. in the London Polyglotte, which HITZIG follows. The VULG. translates: ”et adhibui;” it therefore read וָאָעִֽידָה; and so, too, would EICHHORN, DE WETTE, ROORDA, KNOBEL, and others read. But, after mature consideration, I find there is no ground for departing from the reading of the text. It is perfectly supported by testimony. First of all it is the more difficult reading, and both the others give evidence of being attempts to relieve the difficulty by correction. Then, too, Isaiah never uses the cohortative form with the weakened sense, as it occurs elsewhere with the Vav consec. imperf. in the first pers., especially in Dan., Ezra, and Neh. Thus the form וָאָעִֽידָה especially occurs Neh. 13:21 (along with וָאָעִיד ibid. Isa 9:15). Why did not Isaiah write וָאָעֵיד as Jeremiah did in precisely the same sense, Rev 32:10? Comp. 1 Kings 2:42. The form וְאָעִידָה is found Deut. 31:28; Ps. 50:7; 81:9; Jer. 6:10, everywhere as cohortative.—העיד עדים like Jer. 32:10, 25, 44.
On Isa 9:4. יִשָּׂא = “one will bear.”—חַיִל in the sense of possession, riches, treasures is found beside here 10:14; 60:5, 11; 61:6.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. Moreover the Lord said——the king of Assyria.
Vers 1-4. A compound token! First, Isaiah is to take a large tablet (only found beside 3:23; here is meant certainly a tablet coated with smooth wax), and write on it with human handwriting some words. It is therefore assumed here that there is a superhuman handwriting (see Text. and Gram.) and that the Prophet could understand and make use of it (comp. Dan. 5:5 sqq.). But Isaiah must not employ this superhuman, but common, human writing. Isaiah must write on the tablet “Maher-shalal-hash-baz.” It is clear that when he wrote these words they were not designated as the name of a son to be expected. For, first, there is nothing of this in the text. Second, there is a two-fold gradation of the prophecy wherein the first stage gives a pledge of the second. The words on the tablet are the prophecy of a Maher-shalal-hash-baz to be looked for; the appearance of the latter is therefore the fulfilment of this prophecy, and so the guaranty that the event, to which the significant name itself in turn refers, shall certainly come to pass.
The Lord commands the Prophet therefore to set up a tablet with the inscription mentioned, and at the same time makes known his will, that Uriah and Zechariah shall act as witnesses. What they are to witness is as little stated as that Isaiah shall accomplish the will of the LORD in regard to the witnesses and that he actually did this. The latter is assumed as being a matter of course. This scantiness is too common in the prophetic manner of narrating to cause us any surprise. The former is to be obtained from the context. For when we read immediately after: “And I went unto the Prophetess,” etc., it is plain that the witnesses should testify that Isaiah, at the time he set up the tablet, had communicated to them that he would approach his wife, and that she, in consequence, would become pregnant and bear a son. But why, it may be asked, did not the Prophet declare this publicly? Not out of regard for propriety certainly; for there would not have been anything the least offensive in doing so. But why must then the witnesses receive this announcement? I can think of no other reason than the enmity and vindictiveness of Ahaz. He was, we may be sure, only half rejoiced at the quieting of his fears in regard to the impending danger from Rezin and Pekah. The way in which he, according to 7:10 sqq., received that reassuring announcement, and what was connected with it as a further finger-board for the remote future (7:17 sqq.), all this was calculated to embitter him and his against the Prophet. Had, therefore, the Prophet announced publicly the pregnancy of his wife, the mother and child might have incurred danger. This was easiest avoided by imparting the announcement only to witnesses, who, however, were in such esteem with the nation, that their assurance that they had at the proper time received such a communication from the Prophet was universally credited. Then we obtain the following chain of events. First, the tablet. This, makes known in general that the LORD purposes a great crisis of war, and that it is to be looked for shortly. Immediately thereupon the witnesses receive the announcement of the pregnancy of the Prophetess, The son is born, and thereby, on the authority of the witnesses, is given to all, the pledge that the event to which the inscription of the tablet and the corresponding name of the child pointed, shall really come to pass.
Whether Uriah is the priest mentioned, 2 Kings 16:10 sqq. [BARNES, J. A. ALEXANDER], who, out of regard for Ahaz, placed in the temple the altar made after the heathen pattern, is just as doubtful as whether Zechariah is identical with the one said to be the author of Zech. 9–11, or with the son of Asaph (2 Chr. 29:13).
Isaiah’s wife is hardly called Prophetess, because she was the wife of a Prophet, but because she herself was a prophetic woman. We do not indeed know of prophecies of which she was the authoress, but she, along with other things of the Prophet’s family, was set for a sign and wonder (Isa 9:18).
Our exposition of 7:14 of itself shows that the present history is not coincident with 7:10 sqq., and therefore that Maher-shalal is not identical with Immanuel. Yet the present narrative is nearly related to 7:10 sqq. In both, pregnancy and the birth of a son are pledges of deliverance. In both, a stage of development in the child is made the measure that defines the period of the deliverance. But a child can say father and mother, sooner than it can distinguish between good and evil. If then, as also the place of the passage in the book, indicates, what is now narrated, took place somewhat later than the events 7:10 sqq., it agrees very well. Both have the same objective end, viz., the rendering harmless Syria and Ephraim. Therefore the later one must use the shorter time measure. As Pekah and Rezin lived during the events prophesied here, yet the former died B. C. 739, so the transactions related here must fall between B. C. 743 and 739. The king of Assyria did not at that time destroy Samaria. He only desolated a few border regions (2 Kings 15:29). But as we showed at 7:17, that the prophecy contemplated two events, inwardly related, but separated as to time, so it is here. That first, preliminary devastation of the region of Ephraim bears the later one (2 Kings 17:6) so really in it, that the Prophet is justified in comprehending both together.
The LORD spake also unto me again, saying,II.—THE SUPPLEMENTS
1. THOSE THAT DESPISE SHILOAH SHALL BE PUNISHED BY THE WATERS OF THE EUPHRATES
5 THE LORD spake also unto me again, saying,
6 For as much as this people refuseth
The waters of Shiloah that go softy,
And rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son;
7 Now therefore, behold, the LORD bringeth up upon them
The waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory; And he shall come up over all his channels,
And go over all his banks;
8 And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over,
He shall reach even to the neck;
And d the stretching out of his wings shall fill
The breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
On Isa 9:6. ויסף דבר comp. at 7:10.—לְאַט is compounded of אַט (1 Kings 21:27) lenitas and the prefix. The prefix is used like in לָרֹב ,לָבֶטַח (EWALD, § 217 d); comp. Gen. 33:14; 2 Sam. 18:5; Job 15:11.—Corrections of the reading like מְסוֹס (MEIER = “fainting away before Rezin,” 10:18) and וּמָשׁוֹשׁ (“and blind groping seized,” BOETTCHER Aehrenl. p. 30, comp. Job 5:14 are unnecessary. Isaiah often uses the verb שׂוּשׂ (35:1; 61:10; 62:5; 64:4; 65:18 sq; 66:10, 14) and the substantive שָׂשׂוֹז (12:3; 22:13; 35:10; 51:3, 11; 61:3) and מָשׂוֹשׂ (24:8, 11; 32:13 sq.; 60:15; 62:5; 65:18; 66:10). Here מָשׂוֹשׂ seems chosen for the sake of a paranomasia with מָאַם. The following אֵת cannot be the sign of the accusative, because the subject of joy is never so designated. It resembles the proposition like 66:10 (שִׂישׂוּ אִתָּהּ מָשׂוֹשׂ). Joy with Rezin and Pekah is the rejoicing that is felt in communion, in connection with these rulers. Moreover the substantive משׂוֹשׂ is dependent on יַעַו, which accordingly governs two clauses, a verbal and a nominal clause. Thus, too, DRECHSLER. There is then no need for regarding מְשׂוֹשׂ as the status absol. according to EWALD, § 351, 6. According to a usage especially common with Isaiah, the status constr. stands before the preposition.
On Isa 9:7. עצום ורב combined like Exod. 1:9; Deut. 7:1; 9:14; 26:5; Joel 2:2, 5; Mic. 4:3; Zech. 8:22; עצום signifying rather the intensive, רב the extensive greatness.—כָּבוֹד here involves the secondary notion of “might,” as elsewhere that of riches (10:3; 61:6; 66:12, the last citation seeming to stand in intentional contrast with our passage. Comp. the Latin opes). KNOBEL regards את־מלד to בבודו as a gloss, because “good poets do not add explanatory notes to their metaphors.” As if Isaiah were only a poet, and had not, too, a very practical interest! Comp. 7:17, 20.—אָפִיק (not again in Isaiah) is the bed of a torrens, synonymous with נַחַל (Josh. 1:20; 4:18); גדות, plur. tantum, in Isa only here; besides Joel 3:15; 4:18; 1 Chr. 12:15 K’ri (beside K’thib גִּדְיוֹת), is from גָּדָה, kindred to גָּדַד incidit, secuit, is “the indentation, the shore-line, the shore.”
On Isa 9:8. חָלַף (comp. on 2:18) is originally “to change” thence transire (to change place, whence “to change” in hunters’ language said of wild game). Comp. 21:1; 24:5. שׁטף means the spreading out, עבר the pressing forward (both notions joined as in 28:15, 18), עד־צואר יגיע the height of the water.—מֻטּוֹת from נָטָה “to spread out,” are the out-spreadings, expansiones; ἅπ. λεγ.—The sing. והיה is in consequence of the verb coming first.—מְלֹא is to be construed in an active sense (comp. 6:3; 31:4; 34:1; 42:10). רחב not again in Isaiah.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. This section has the external mark of a supplement in the transition formula “the LORD spake also again,” which occurs again only 7:10, and which here as well as there intimates that an interval occurred between these words and what goes before. But the contents, too, show that we have no immediate and necessary amplification of the foregoing words and deeds before us. Nothing more is said of the son of the Prophet. Rather the language turns suddenly against the Ephraimites who contemned the quiet fountain of Shiloah, i. e. David’s kingdom, and rejoiced in communion with Rezin and the son of Remaliah (Isa 9:6). Therefore the floods of the Euphrates, which the Prophet himself explains as meaning the king of Assyria, shall overflow Ephraim (Isa 9:7), but of course Judah also, the land of Immanuel (Isa 9:8). The mention of Rezin and Pekah, the calling Judah land of Immanuel, and the threatening of overflow by Assyria, prove that these words belong to the same period as the preceding chief prophecies. And as the expression “Immanuel” presupposes the transactions narrated 7:10, the insertion of this section at this place is completely explained.
2. The Lord——Remaliah’s son.
Isa 9:5, 6. Most authorities agree that the fountain of Shiloah or Siloam is on the south side of Jerusalem; vid.ROBINSON’SPalestine, Vol. I. p. 501–505. The name (written שִׁלֹּחַ ,שִׁלֹחַ and שִׁילֹחַ) means emissio, or emissus (comp. הִמְשַׁלֵּח מַעְיָנִים, “He sendeth the springs,” Ps. 104:10; hence ἀπεσταλμένος “sent” Jno. 9:7; comp. EWALD § 156 a). It occurs only here, John 9:7 and Luke 13:4, in which last place is told of the tower of Siloam (so LXX and New Testament, AQU. and SYMM., THEOD. spell the name Σιλωά: VULG.:Siloe). Yet the name שֶׁלַה which the בְּרֵבַת השֶּׁלַח “pool of Siloah,” Neh. 3:15, bears is very probably identical with our Shiloah. The descent between the fountain of Mary above and the fountain of Siloam is very little, therefore the flow is very gentle and soft.
The weak brooklet, welling up at the foot of Moriah and Zion, represents the unobservable nature of the kingdom of God in the period of its earthly humility. It recalls the form of a servant which the Lord assumed, and the “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matth. 11:29). This feature is prominent in all the stages of the history of salvation. Outwardly Israel was the least of all nations (Deut. 7:7); Bethlehem was the least of the cities of Judah (Mic. 5:1); David was the youngest among his brothers, and his father supposed he must be of no account at the election of a king (1 Sam. 16:11 sqq.). So, too, at the time of our present history, the kingdom of David was very small and weak amid the world-powers. If now and then it arose to greater power, that makes but one resemblance more to the intermittent fountain of Shiloah.
And rejoice,etc. The passage is easily explained if one only notices that the Prophet does not till Isa 9:8 represent the swelling stream as overflowing also the territory of Judah. Then “upon them” Isa 9:7 means those whom the Assyrian stream, that comes in from the north, overflows first. That is evidently the Ephraimites. Therefore by the people Isa 9:6, to whom “upon them” refers back, must, at least primarily, be understood the nation of the Ten Tribes. The nation Israel, then, i. e. Ephraim looks down contemptuously on the kingdom of Judah as on a weak flowing brooklet, and meanwhile with proud self-complacency rejoices in its own king and in the alliance with the Syrian king that added to his strength. This haughtiness shall not escape the avenging Nemesis. From the Euphrates shall mighty floods of water overflow first Ephraim and then Judah. [“To understand this it is necessary to remark that the Euphrates annually overflows its banks.”—BARNES]. That by this is meant the king of Assyria with all his glorious army, Isaiah himself proceeds to explain. It is a proof that the Prophet before this had the territory of Israel in mind, that here he makes so prominent the trespassing of the waters into Judah’s territory, the spreading beyond its borders. In Isa 9:8b, the Prophet by a glorious figure compares the volumes of water to a bird spreading out its wings, to which he is evidently moved by the fact that the floods of water mean army hordes. Accordingly he designates the wings of the army as the wings of the extended flood. Because the space covered by the expanded wings coincides with the breadth of the land, so it may be said that the stretching out of the wings is at the same time the filling up of the land. It is very significant that the Prophet closes his address so emphatically with the word “Immanuel.” He signifies thus that the land is Immanuel’s, and that consequently the violence is done to Immanuel. It is plain that Immanuel is written as a proper name, from the suffix in ארצך. Yet most editions separate the words, and several versions too, as LXX. and ARAM., translate accordingly. The occasion for this is the, of course, correct notion that in the word there is an intimation of comfort that is to be the stay of Israel in that great tribulation. But evidently the Prophet has immediately in mind a person, whom he addresses. He turns to Him who is predicted in the birth of that child 7:14. Although He is a person of the future, still the Prophet knows Him as one already present. How else could he turn to Him with this lamentation? Herein, then, lies a preparation for what the Prophet says of the promised one in the predicates of 9:5 (6).
Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.2. THREATENING AGAINST THOSE THAT CONSPIRE AGAINST JUDAH, AND AGAINST THOSE THAT FEAR THESE CONSPIRACIES
CHAPTER VIII. 9–15.
9 ASSOCIATE yourselves, O ye people, 1and ye shall be broken in pieces;
And give ear, all ye of far countries:
Gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces:
Gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.
10 Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought;
Speak the word, and it shall not stand:
For God is with us.
11 For the LORD spake thus to me cwith a strong hand,
And instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying,
12 Say ye not, A confederacy,
To all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy;
Neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.
13 Sanctify the LORD of Hosts himself;
And let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
14 And he shall be for a sanctuary;
But for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence
To both the houses of Israel,
For a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
15 And many among them shall stumble,
And fall, and be broken,
And be snared, and be taken.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
On Isa 9:9. רֹעוּ. The forms and meanings of the roots רוע ,רעע and ירע cross each other in a peculiar manner. רֹעוּ can only come from the root רָעַע; but to this root has been transferred the meaning, too, of רוּעַ. Although originally רוּעַ has the meaning malum esse, as appears from the imperf. Niph. יֵרוֹעַ (Prov. 11:15; 13 20) which can only be derived from a root עו׳, yet this root never occurs in Kal., but all Kal forms that mean “to be evil” are to be derived from a root רָעַע (comp. רָע Num. 11:10, then the adjective רעַ, and perhaps, too, the forms רָעָה Deut 15:9; 2 Sam. 19:8 and infin. רֹעַ Eccl. 7:3). On the other hand רעע has undoubtedly the meaning “to break” (Ps. 2:9; Jer. 11:16; 15:12, etc.). We must therefore choose here between the meanings “be evil” and “break.” With DRECHSLER and others, I prefer the latter, because “be wicked” and “break in pieces” involve no contradiction; for where fore may not what is wicked also break in pieces? [“GESENIUS in his latest lexicons gives this verb its usual sense of being evil, malignant, which is also expressed by LUTHER (seid bِse, ihr Vِlker). It is here equivalent to do your worst.” J. A. ALEXANDER.].—מֶרְחָק frequent in Isaiah (10:3; 13:5; 17:13; 30:27; 46:11; plural מַרְחַקִּים 33:17).—The double imperative התאזרו וחתו sustain an adverbial relation to one another: break up yet break in pieces yourselves; gird ye yourselves, and spite of it break in pieces. Comp. GESEN., § 130, 2. The former word seems to me not to mean bellum parare, for the war is far progressed; but in accord with the proper vis vocabult, the girding the loins, bracing oneself up as men are wont to do in the midst of an attack.
On Isa 9:10. עוּץ only here and Judg. 19:30. On עֵצָה comp. on 5:19.——Pual תפר only here in Isaiah (Jer. 33:21; Zech. 11:11).——Other forms of פרר; 14:27; 24:5, 19; 33:8; 44:25.
On Isa 9:11. חֶזְקָה wherever else it occurs (2 Chr. 12:1; 26:16; Dan. 11:2) means “the being strong,” and is used everywhere of the fortified power of a potentate. חזקת היד is therefore “the hand being strong.” It is the hand of God that comes over the prophets (Ezek. 1:3; 3:22; 8:1; 33:22; 37:1; 40:1) and in fact our expression signifies the condition that Ezekiel describes with the words וְַיד י׳ עַָלי חָזָֽקָה 3:14.——וְיִסְּרֵנִי cannot be the perf., or it must read יִסְרַנִי. But the imperf stands as jussive with the Vav. consec. (Comp. EWALD, § 347 a). ויסרני is, then, not co-ordinate with כה אמר as KNOBEL and even EWALD would have it; but it continues and declares the object of בחזקת היד, co-ordinate with the latter, subordinate to the former (DELITZSCH. As regards the form, the imperf. יִסֹּר underlies it, which Hos. 10:10 is used in the first person.—The preposition מן is to be treated as dependent on the notion of “holding back, restraining,” contained in יסרני (constructio praegnans).
On Isa 9:12. לְכֹל וגו does not designate the object that is given a name. For then the second member must read: יִאמר העם הזה לו קשׁר. But, as DRECHSLER justly remarks, לְ before כֹּל = darauf hin, bei, “at,” “with,” and כֹּל has the meaning cunque (compare אֶל־בָּל־אֲשֶׁר Prov. 17:8, “whither-so-ever”). Not so often as those, not incessantly shall they say קשׁר, as if there were nothing in the world to fear but this. מורא only here in Isaiah.—העריץ Hiph. in Isaiah also Isa 9:13 and 29:23. Kal. 2:19, 21; 47:12. From 29:23 it is seen that Isaiah uses the word in the sense of “timere aliquid;” in our passage it means “to fear” and Isa 9:13 “to affright.” Thus it appears that Isaiah uses the Hiph. sometimes as indirect, sometimes as direct causative, and then uses the latter in a transitive sense.
On Isa 9:13. In מראבם Isaiah has evidently in mind Gen. 9:2; Deut. 11:25.
On Isa 9:14. מקדשׁ (again in Isa. 16:12; 60:13; 63:18) means sanctuary generally, here evidently with the additional notion of asylum (comp. 1 Kings 1:50 sq.; 2:28 sqq.). וּ before לְאֶבֶן is adversative.—נֶגֶף only here in Isaiah and moreover אבן נגף ἅπ. λεγ.—מבשׁל “that over which one stumbles,” (again 57:14; צור מכשׁל only here).—פח (παγίς, “cord,” vid. 24:17 sq.). מוקשׁ “loop-snare” of the bird-catcher, only here in Isaiah.
On Isa 9:15. The operation of מבשׁול and פח are in Isa 9:15 represented by five verbs, of which the first three relate to נגף and מבשׁל, and the last to פח and מוקשׁ.—Many, e. g., GESENIUS, HITZIG, UMBREIT, refer בָּם to the two notions of stone and snare. But as KNOBEL justly remarks, it is a “chief thought of Isaiah that the judgments overtake the sinners; the pious are left as a remnant: 1:25, 28; 6:13; 28:18 sq.; 29:20 sq.; 33:14.”—כָּשַׁל comp. 3:8. Niph. נשׁבר 14:29; 24:10; 27:11; 28:13; 41:1.—יקשׁ 29:21; 28:13, in which last cited passage the verbs here employed are repeated excepting נפלו.—לבד again in Isaiah only 20:1; 24:18.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. Having reproved the perverse policy of the earthly-minded Israel, the Prophet proclaims to the nations conspiring against Judah that they, the breakers-in-pieces, shall themselves be broken in pieces (Isa 9:9, 10). Then he says—turning to the spiritually-minded Israel—the LORD has emphatically warned them against the ways of the fleshly-minded (Isa 9:11) and forbidden them to regard the conspiracy of the enemies as most to be dreaded (Isa 9:12). Jehovah ought to be feared (Isa 9:13). He is to the one a sanctuary (asylum), to the others, a stone of stumbling and a snare (Isa 9:14, 15).
2. Associate—God is with us.
Isa 9:9, 10. These words are addressed to the עַמִּים “peoples;” Isa 9:5–8 were addressed to “this people,” Isa 9:6. Evidently then “peoples,” Isa 9:9, is contrasted with “this people,” Isa 9:6. The Prophet plainly addresses nations, that arm themselves against the land of Immanuel, devise plans, issue commands. Nothing shall come of all this. Comparing 7:7, it is seen that Syria and Ephraim must be meant here. A remarkable contrast is put, when he that has broken others to pieces himself breaks to pieces. Syria and Ephraim had already done Judah considerable harm (comp. on 7:1, 2); Isa 9:9, they are challenged to prepare still more, but spite of the breaking already accomplished, and these first attempts, they shall themselves be broken to pieces. The Prophet moreover summons distant nations to take notice of this for their own warning. The clause: “give ear—countries” is a parenthesis. As the Prophet repeats the words of 7:7 “and it shall not stand,” with little alteration, he intimates that he has the same matter in his mind. And in fact 7:5 sq., speaks of “evil counsel” on the part of Syria and Ephraim against Judah, the land of Immanuel, as here of “taking counsel together,” and “speaking a word.” By this arises the conspiracy (קֶשֶׁר) spoken of Isa 9:12, which can mean nothing but the alliance of the two states named. בי עמגו אל. For the third and last time we have the words Immanuel. They must certainly be read separate here as a clause. They express the idea of the name as an independent judgment. The world-power must shiver on the rock Israel, for it is thereby the strong rock in that God is with it. But this strong rock is not the ’Ισραὴλ σαρκικός, but the ’Ισραὴλ πνευματικός [not the fleshly Israel, but the spiritual Israel]. Comp. Ps. 2.
3. For the Lord——your dread.
Isa 9:11-13. Judah is safe from the breaker-in-pieces, for God is with it (Isa 9:10). That is, in a certain sense, not unconditionally. For the LORD will be an asylum only to those who fear and sanctify Him; but to others, who fear men more than Him, He will be their fall. “For the LORD spake thus,” etc.: “for,” relates to the thought contained in the words Immanuel, “God is with us.” This thought is both established and limited by what follows. For God is with that part of the people only that fears Him above all things, loves and trusts Him alone. Therefore the Prophet says that this word of the LORD was directed to him. But he is representative of the believing Israel. Therefore Isa 9:12 continues with “say ye not,” and those addressed are expressly distinguished from “this people,” Isa 9:11.
“Ye shall not say conspiracy.”
Isa 9:12. It is impossible that the Prophet can mean to say: “Ye shall not call everything conspiracy that people call conspiracy!” For what sort of confederations did they incorrectly call conspiracies? May, perhaps, Pekah’s alliance with Rezin be justified here? Or is some conspiracy of the Prophet and his followers against Ahaz (ROORDA) approved of? Or, are the believing Israelites warned against taking part in conspiracies (HOFMANN, DRECHSLER), which does not the least lie in the words? According to 7:2, the heart of Ahaz, and his people quaked like trees before the wind, when intelligence came to Jerusalem of the union of Syria with Ephraim. At that time, assuredly, the political wiseacres might be seen in every corner putting their heads together, and anxiously whispering: קֶשֶׁר קֶשֶׁר, “conspiracy, conspiracy.” They called the alliance of Pekah with Rezin a קֶשֶׁר and saw therein, of course with some justice, the chief danger of Judah. Thus, the Prophet adds, “and what they fear shall not ye fear.” It must therefore have been a conspiracy that was the subject of fear to the mass of the nation of Judah. The meaning then is that men ought not to say “conspiracy” so often, not so incessantly to have this word in their months, and make the conspiracy the matter of greatest concern.
4. Sanctify——be taken.
Isa 9:13-15. Here begins the antithesis, that says what ought to be. They ought to sanctify Jehovah, (comp. 29:23, the only other instance of this Hiph.); He ought to be the object of fear, the terror-maker. In such a case He will be for man a safe, sheltering, holy asylum (comp. Ps. 15:1; 18:3; 23:6; 84:5). But He will be a stone of stumbling to those that fear Him not. Therefore the two houses of Israel, Judah and Ephraim, shall be destroyed just by the LORD. It would have been better for this fleshly Israel, had it never known the LORD. Jerusalem is mentioned expressly, because, as capital city, its example had great influence. To it the LORD will be a snare.
[J. A. ALEXANDER on Isa 9:12–14. קֶשֶׁר, according to etymology and usage, is a treasonable combination or conspiracy. It is elsewhere commonly applied to such a combination on the part of subjects against their rulers (2 Kings 11:14; 12:21; 14:19; 15:30). It is not strictly applicable, therefore, to the confederacy of Syria and Israel against Judah (GESENIUS, ROSENMULLER, HENDERSON,etc.), nor to that of Ahaz with the king of Assyria (BARNES,etc.). It would be more appropriate to the factious combinations among the Jews themselves (ABEN EZRA, KIMCHI), if there were any trace of these in history. The correct view seems to be: that the opposition of the Prophet and his followers to seeking foreign aid, viz.: Assyrian, as a violation of duty to Jehovah, like the conduct of Jeremiah during the Babylonian siege, was regarded by the king and his adherents as a treasonable combination to betray them to their enemies. But God commands not to regard the cry of treason or conspiracy, nor to share the real or pretended terrors of the unbelievers.”
On Isa 9:14. מִקדָּשׁ. “Although the temples of the gods were regarded as asylums by the Greeks and Romans, no such usage seems to have prevailed among the Christians till the time of Constantine (BINGHAM’S,Orig. Eccles. 8:11, 1). As to the Jews, the only case which has been cited to establish such a practice seems to prove the contrary. So far was the altar from protecting Joab, that he was not even dragged away, but killed on the spot. [The same obtains with 1 Kings 1:50 sq., cited by NAEGELSBACH.—TR.]. The word was meant to bear the same relation to תקדישו (in Isa 9:13) that מורא bears to תיראו and מעריץ to מעריצו. God was the only proper object to be dreaded, feared and sanctified, i. e., regarded as a holy being in the widest and the most emphatic sense. Thus explained מהדשׁ corresponds almost exactly to the Greek τὸ ἅγιον, the term applied to Christ by the angel who announced His birth (Luke 1:35). In 1 Pet. 2:7, where this very passage is applied to Christ, ἡ τιμή seems to be employed as an equivalent to מקדשׁ as here used. To others he is a stone of stumbling, but to you who believe He is ἡ τιμή, something precious, something honored, something looked upon as holy. The same application of the words is made by Paul, Rom. 9:33. These quotations seem to show that the Prophet’s words have an extensive import, and are not to be restricted either to his own times or to the times of Christ. The doctrine of the text is, that even the most glorious exhibitions of God’s holiness, i. e., of His infinite perfection, may occasion the destruction of the unbeliever.”]
Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.3. THE TESTAMENT OF THE PROPHET TO HIS DISCIPLES
a) Prayer and Exhortation merging into prophetic vision
CHAPTER 8:16–23. (9:1)
16 BIND up the testimony,
Seal the law among my disciples.
17 And I will wait upon the LORD,
That hideth his face from the house of Jacob,
And I will look for him.
18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me
Are for signs and for wonders in Israel
From the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion.
19 And when they shall say unto you,
Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards
That peep, and that mutter:
Should not a people seek unto their God?
For the living to the dead?
20 To the law and to the testimony:
If they speak not according to this word,
It is because there is no light in them,
21 And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry:
And it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves,
And curse their king and their God,
And look upward.
22 And they shall look unto the earth;
And behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish;
And they shall be driven to darkness.
ISA 9:1 (23). Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation,
When at the first he lightly afflicted
The land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali,
And afterward did more grievously afflict
Her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in kGalilee of the nations.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
On Isa 9:16. תעודה beside here and Isa 9:20 occurs only Ruth 4:7. The meaning is “testifying;” in the passive sense, “that which is testified,” which then may be taken in various senses. The divine will which the prophets testify to men (Exod. 19:21, 23; Deut. 8:19; 1 Sam. 8:9; Jer. 11:7; 42:19; Am. 3:13, etc.) has for contents both what men ought to do and what God has resolved to do. צוֹר imper. from צָרַר constringere, colligare (11:13); חָתַם (in Isaiah again only 29:11) is “to seal.”—למֻּד occurs only Isa. 1. 4; 54:13 and Jer. 2:24; 13:23. It means doctus, eruditus; and is used both of spiritual and of physical relations.
On Isa 9:17, 18. According to our construction it might be expected that there would be וַאֲנִי before חִכִּיתִי. But this ואני follows in Isa 9:18; for הנה אנכי does not mean “behold, I am here,” but, “behold I.” I do not deny that in itself it may mean the former. But I believe that were this the Prophet’s meaning he would have expressed it in a less mistakable form by writing הִנְנִי before אנכי or (Gen. 49:16) הִנֶנִוּ. I think הנה אנכי, then, is epexegetical of the subject of חכיתי. Then is explained why this subject is not more distinctly marked by וַאֲנִי. The Prophet obtains a more emphatic prominence for it in the הנה אנכי.—אוֹה and מוֹפֶח are combined as in Deuteronomy (Deut. 4:34; 6:22; 7:19; 13:3; 26:8; 28:46; 29:2; 34:11. Comp. Isa. 20:3.—מֵעִם ונו depends on אתות ומופתים. This addition is, in relation to אשׁר נתן־לי י׳, not superfluous.
On Isa 9:19. אוב means an inflated leather bottle (occurs only Job 32:19, and as a proper name Num. 21:10; 33:43), then the distended body of the ventriloquist, and then, not only the ventriloquist himself, (1 Sam. 28:3, 9; 2 Kings 23:24; Isa. 19:3; and the passage previously cited) but the pretended spirit of the dead that spoke by him (1 Sam. 28:7, 8; Is. 29:4; 1 Chr. 10:13). In many of these passages it is indeed doubtful which of these two meanings the word may have; or if it does not have both. Elsewhere the word seems to mean the secret art, necromancy, divination itself (2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chron. 33:6). The plural is always אֹבוֹת. Because this plural occurs also Job 32:19, it cannot for that reason be concluded that only women were possessed of this necromancy (בעלת אוב, 1 Sam. 28:7, the witch of Endor). Still it is surprising that בעל אוב (mase.) is found only in the Talmud (vid. GESEN. Thes. p. 35). יִדְּעֹנִי never occurs alone, but always joined with אוֹב. It means “the knowing one, wise one, or wizard.” DELITZSCH, very much to the point, compares δαίμων according to Plato = δαίμων, “the much knowing being.”—צִפְצֵף Pilpel, found only in Isaiah. The word primarily is used of the chirping of birds (10:14; 38:14), then of the voice proceeding out of the ground (29:4).—הָגָה is likewise a word that imitates a sound (comp. ach. نchsen). As צפצף represents a high, shrill sound, so חגה does a low one; for it is used for the growling of a lion (31:4), of the rolling of the thunder (Job 37:2), of the low murmuring of the dove (38:14; 59:11). It occurs again in Isa. 16:7; 33:18; 59:3, 13. In classic antiquity, too, we find a gentle, chirping, whispering voice ascribed to the dead. Comp. Iliad XXIII. 101, where it is said of the soul of Patroclos “ᾤχετοτετριγυῖα;” Odyss. 24:5–9, where τρίζειν stridere is equally ascribed to the souls of the dead suitors and to the whirring of the bats in the dark caves. Other examples see in GESENIUS, in loc. In our passage the necromancers are said to hiss and mutter, because they imitated the voice of the dead in this fashion.—דָּרַשׁ with אֶל (elsewhere it is construed with לְ Ezek. 14:7, or with בְּ 1 Sam. 28:7, 2 Kings 1:2) by reason of Deut. 12:30; 18:11, occurs in Isaiah three times; here, 11:10; 19:3; comp. Job 5:8. The preposition is perhaps to be treated as depending on the notion of “penetrating” that is contained in that of investigation.
On Isa 9:20. לתורה ו׳ is an exclamation, a sort of shout of command. But if one must have a grammatical construction, the לְ may be taken as dependent on דִּרְשׁוּ or תִּפְנוּ (comp. Lev. 19:31; 20:6), whereby the remark of GESENIUS (Thes. p. 728) obtains, that “אֶל praemittitur homini, לְ rei locoque.” DELITSZCH compares Jud. 7:18. לַיְחוָה וּלְגִדְעוֹן, but it is doubtful whether חֶרֶכ is not to be supplied there according to Isa 9:20.
Expositors differ extraordinarily about אס־לֹא. The explanation is grammatically quite incorrect that makes אֲשֶׁר begin the apodosis, and construes it as a particle of asseveration or of the apodosis ( = כִּי) VITRINGA, ROSENMUELLER, GESENIUS, etc.). Others (DE WETTE, MAURER, EW., HITZIG, DRECHSLER) take אס־לא as a form of adjuration: “they will say truly.” But this involves an evident contradiction. For how can he who turns to the law and testimony curse his king and God in time of need? Others (KNOBEL, DELITZSCH) take it as an interrogative particle, referring it back to הֲלֹא Isa 9:19: “Or will not they accord in this word that are without dawn?” But from the context it appears that this is just what they will not do. I construe אס־לא simply = nisi, and begin the apodosis with ועבר Isa 9:21 (so, too, DIESTEL).—שַׁחַר (comp. 19:12) occurs 47:11; 58:8, as figure of the dawning revelation of salvation.
On Isa 9:21. בָּהּ is referred by VITRINGA, MAURER, DELITZSCH, etc., to ארץ understood as a matter of course, Isa 9:22. But this ארץ is not so a matter of course, because it first appears after; and עָבַר cannot be said only in relation to the notion “land.” ROORDA, DRECHSLER refer it more correctly to the condition intimated by נִקְשֶׁה—.אין לא שׁחר is the ἅπ. λεγ. If קָשָׁה means durum esse, “to be hard, heavy,” then נִקְשֶׁה is “treated hard, grieved, oppressed.”—רָעֵב (9:19; 29:8; 32:6; 44:12; 58:7, 10) adds to the notion of outward pressure that of incapacity to bear, that is occasioned by hunger. The full (Deut. 32:15; Ps. 78:29; Prov. 30:9) has easily too much, the hungry too little strength.—Hithp. התקצף only here Kal. 47:6; 54:9; 57:16, 17; 64:4, 8.—קלל I construe with בְּ in the sense of “curse against one.” Elsewhere it is construed with the accusative, and the following בְּ signifies the higher power by which one swears, i.e., by whose mediation one imprecates evil on the object of his wrath (1 Sam. 17:43; 2 Kings 2:24). But with that construction there would be wanting here an object of the cursing (DIESTEL). And it is much more natural that one enraged should curse the cause of his sufferings than the sufferings themselves. קלל may be construed with בְּ after the analogy of verbs that mean striving (19:2; 30:32, etc.) and being angry (Deut. 3:26; Ps. 78:62; Gen. 30:2; 44:18, etc.).—On Isa 9:22. הִבִּיט Hiph. 18:4; 22:11; 42:18; 51:1, 2, 6, etc. צרה וחשׁכה, “distress and darkness,” vid. comment. on Isa 9:30.—מָעוּף caligo “obscurity,” ἄπ. λεγ.—צוקה found again 30:6; Prov. 1:27.—אֲפֵלָה (again 58:10; 59:9) is used for thick darkness, e. g., Exod 10:22.—מְנֻדַּח some take in the sense of “scared away,” so that the transition would begin here. “As to this time the nation will have been rejected, so from now on shall misfortune, as it were, be exiled” (DRECHSLER). But the words אפ׳ מ׳ are so completely co-ordinate with both the foregoing members of the sentence, and on the other hand the transition is so utterly without anything to indicate it, that this meaning cannot be satisfactory. Others (KNOBEL, DELITZSCH) explain after the analogy of Jer. 23:12, as if it read וּבָֽאֲפֵלָה הוּא מְנֻדַּח, or וְהִנּוֹ בָּֽאֲפ׳ מ׳. But this also seems too artificial. The omission of the subject, when it is especially looked for on account of its generic difference from the subjects of both the foregoing members, must raise a doubt. But נָדַח has by no means only the signification “to scatter, disperse.” In Deut. 20:19 it means impellers (securim), 2 Sam. 15:14, propellere, immittere (miseriam) Prov. 7:21 depellere, “drive away; seduce.” Why then may not אפּלה מנדח mean tenebrae immissae, whereby, because the notion dispellere undoubtedly lies in the word, it may be taken in the sense of ab omni parte immissae, longe lateque diffusae? So substantially SAADIA, KOCHER. As regards the incongruity of gender, it need give no surprise. The predicate is to be construed as neuter: tenebrae immissum, expansum aliquid. It is apparent that in the three members of Isa 9:22 b reigns the law of unity in manifoldness. For evidently these three members are so far alike that in all of them the words are in pairs, and the notion of darkness recurs as the chief one. But in the first member occurs hendiadys (distress and darkness = obscuring distress, or distressing obscurity), in the second both are merged into one notion, dimness of anguish; in the third the predicate is added in an adjective, i. e., participial form.
On Isa 9:23. I construe the words אם לא Isa 9:20 on to מנדח Isa 9:22 as a parenthesis, and refer כי לא מועף וגו׳ to לתורה ולתעודה Isa 9:20. Where law and testimony live in men’s souls, there, spite of distress (מוּצָק only here in Isaiah; comp. Job 36:16; 37:10), is no darkness. לֹא מוּעָף ἄπ. λεγ. notice in Mu-aph a reverse vowel pointing from Ma-uph, Isa 9:22, a play of words that reflects the contrast of thought.—לָהּ anticipates the idea of “land” contained in next clause.— כְּ—.כָּעֵת וגו is not a conjunction “as,” but a preposition, and signifies the coincidence (9:2; Gen. 18:1, 10, 14; 39:18; Jud. 2:4, etc.) = “about the first time.” This “first time” evidently extends to the dawn of the new time that begins with the Messiah; and עת האחרון “last time” coincides therefore with אחרית הימים (2:2).—קַל means levem, tenuem, exilem esse (Gen. 8:11; Job 7:6; Nah. 1:14; Jer. 4:13, etc.,) therefore the Hiph. (again in Isaiah only, 23:9) levem, exilem reddere.—אַרְצָה a poetic form of אֶרֶץ (comp. Job 34:13; 37:12).—והאחרון is best construed as accusative of time. It might, indeed, be taken as nominative, but elegance is against it. The same regions, that in the first clause of the verse are described as the object of the הֵקַל “degrading,” are now, in the second clause, by other divisions and names, said to be the object of הכביד, “glorifying.” [“The English version supposes a contrast that requires הֵקַל to be taken in the sense of lightly afflicting, as distinguished from הִכְבִּיד to afflict more grievously. But this distinction is unauthorized by usage.”—J. A. ALEXANDER].
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. I cannot help thinking that in this section we have a farewell address of the Prophet; as it were, his spiritual will. That it speaks of “disciples,” whereas there is no mention of them elsewhere, is a hint that here lies before us a written archive specially meant for them. What, then, could the Prophet have given his disciples in this written form, but something that must be valuable to them for the time, when he could no longer communicate with them by word of mouth as he could at that moment? Then, too, the prayer to the LORD, to seal in the disciples’ law and testimony, the emphatic reference to the pledges of faith given in the persons of himself and his sons, the warning against future seductions, and the reference to that which could give light and comfort in the troublous days to be expected,—all this brings me to the conviction that here we have actually the spiritual testament of Isaiah to his disciples.
2. Bind up—my disciples.
Isa 9:16. The opening words of this will connect appropriately with the LORD’S words of exhortation Isa 9:13. I have no doubt that the words Isa 9:16, are addressed to Jehovah. For only the LORD can do this binding up and sealing. The prophets might seal a book roll, or declare that the meaning of a prophecy is to be shut up till a certain time (vid.Dan. 8:26; 12:4, 9; Rev. 10:4; 22:10; Isa. 29:11; Jer. 51:60 sqq. and my comment); but they cannot seal the divine revelation in the hearts of men. Moreover, in all the following verses the Prophet is the speaker, and the change from the words of God to the words of the Prophet must certainly have been more distinctly marked than by the simple וְ before חכיתי. The mention of binding up and sealing in a spiritual sense was perhaps occasioned by the actions appropriate to the real documents (vid.Jer. 32:9 sqq.). Having so disposed of the writing that contained his own will, the Prophet prayed the LORD to do still better, and enclose and seal up his testament in the hearts of his disciples. For the propriety of the metaphor, vid.Prov. 3:3; 7:3; Jer. 31:33. They are the same as “are written to life,” Isa. 4:3. As primarily “the law” means the Mosaic law, which was the basis and norm of all prophetic announcements (Deut. 13:1 sqq.; 18:18 sqq.), and which the Prophets ever and again had to reimpress (Jer. 29:19), so Isaiah must mean by “the testimony” all additional prophetic testimony, especially all threatenings and promises that referred to the future. In the prayer he makes for his disciples, he does not intend the preservation of the divine testimony unto the proper time for its revelation, but he would thereby give to themselves the only true support and comfort for the evil days to come. As, according to Isa 9:17, his faith in the word of God was his own sole comfort, so (Isa 9:20) he directs his disciples to the law and testimony, warning them against every false comfort (Isa 9:19). Though Isaiah had primarily disciples and scholars in mind, we need not suppose he was at the head of a school of prophets. What he would teach them was religious truth, not to prophesy. And thus about this group of scholars, as about a nucleus, would gather all in Jerusalem and Judah that had any heart for the spiritual jewels of Israel.
3. I will wait—in mount Zion.
Isa 9:17, 18. This affords a touching insight into the personal life of the Prophet. He enforces the prayer just made by confessing that he holds fast to the LORD, and waits (vid.5:4; 25:9; 26:8; 33:2; 51:5; 59:9, 11; 60:9; 64:2), notwithstanding the LORD seems to have forsaken the house of Jacob (he evidently means “this people,” the fleshly Israel) and hidden His face (comp. 50:6; 53:3; 54:8; 59:2; 64:6). But he does not hope alone. His children hope with him. This is significant. We know, indeed, nothing about the age of the children. That our passage follows close on 8:1–4, is no proof that it originated in that period. Isaiah would hardly at that time have designated his children (plural) as companions of his faith. For Maher-shalal was hardly yet born, and this circumstance speaks rather for later composition. Isaiah knows that his children are not only children of his body, but of his spirit too. They are miraculous children, products, not only of nature, but of the divine effective power. (Rom. 9:7 sqq.: Gal. 4:28 sq.). Therefore, not only are his and their names prophetic, but their birth, too, is such; at least that of Maher-shalal. Thus they are by their existence as by their names אתות, signa, τύποι τοῦ μέλλοντος (Rom. 5:14) “finger boards,” and מופתים, miraculous pledges of miracles. “Which Jehovah has given me;” by these words Isaiah points to the support of his hope. For why should not we hope in God who has done such wonders? Our passage, moreover, recalls the words of Joshua 24:15: “I and my house will serve the LORD”
4. And when they shall say—to the dead.
Isa 9:19. The Prophet now adds a warning against seduction to idolatrous necromancy. And does not this warning give the impression of proceeding from a man who is on the point of leaving his own, and who, before his departure, seeks to protect them against impending danger? “And when they shall say,” presents the superstition as at hand and to be dreaded. From 2:6; 3:2 sq., we see that various sorts of superstitious divination were practised among the Jews at that time. Such were expressly forbidden in the law. Comp. Lev. 19:31; 20:6, 27; Deut. 18:10, 11. In all these passages אבות “familiar spirits” and ידענים “wizards” are named together, and Deut. 18:11 the words דּרֵשׁ אֶל־הַמֵּתִים “necromancer” are expressly added: so that Isaiah seems to have had this passage in mind.
The second clause of the verse, “should not,” etc., is usually regarded as the reply of the believing disciples to those who tempted them [J. A. ALEXANDER]. But this seems to me unnecessary. It is primarily the answer that Isaiah himself gives, and it is to be understood that the disciples are to reply to the same effect. According to the Prophet, those seductive temptations are to be met by two arguments. First, he urges that every nation must inquire of its god as the chief disposer of its destiny. Therefore Israel onght to turn to Jehovah. It appears from this that the Prophet assumes the position that Jehovah is the national god of Israel, without challenging the existence of other gods, and that he assumes that those tempters recognize Jehovah as the proper national god. (God of the fathers). The second argument Isaiah takes from the representation of the ancients of the relation of the dead to the living. Only he that lives in the body lives really. By death he sinks deep down. Comp. FRIEDR., NAGELSBACH,Homer. Theol. VII. § 14 sqq. Nachhomer. Theol. VII. § 14 sqq. But how nearly Hebrew representations approach those of classic antiquity, may be seen from passages like 14:9 sqq.; Ezek. 26:20 sq,; 31:14 sqq.; 32:17 sqq.; Isa. 38:18 eq.; Ps. 6:6: 88:4 sqq.; Job 14:10 sqq. It is therefore folly, nonsense, to seek any help for the living among those gone down deep. Thus the words בעד וגו are to be construed interrogatively: “For the living (shall one inquire of) the dead?”
4. To the law—Galilee of the nations.
Isa 9:20-23 (9:1). Now Isaiah refers his disciples to the divine source of light and comfort, which alone can keep them upright in the impending evil days. Whoever does not find these his support, will undoubtedly be destroyed. Who shall say: “To the law and the testimony?” All that have no dawn. They are such as nowhere see in any outward relations a ray of light, that announces the day of salvation. When such see no inward comfort and support by means of God’s word, they wander oppressed and hungry, etc. As hunger smarts, it readily happens that such fall into a bitter rage and curse their king and God, thus both the heavenly and earthly government, as being to blame for their sufferings. Most expositors understand by מלכו “his king” that a divinity is meant; and only differ as to whether, according to Ps. 5:3; 68:25, Jehovah is meant, [so J. A. ALEXANDER and BARNES] or, according to Am. 5:26; Zeph. 1:5, the idols; agreeing that “king” and “God” mean the same person. But against this speaks: 1. בְּ occurring twice; 2. the following “he looks upward and to the earth he looks.” Similar blasphemy is described as a symptom of the anti-Christian time Rev. 16:9, 11, 21.
Wherever the wretched look, above or to earth, everywhere presents itself only the mournful sight of dark distress.
About the first time,etc.
Isa 9:23 (9:1). The Prophet now intimates what sort of light shall arise to the believing from the law and testimony. He shall know from the prophecy, which the Prophet with these very words gives to his own (to which however, others still are added later), that the North of Palestine, which heretofore was little regarded compared with the South, shall attain to great honor, and become a place of great blessing to the whole land. He evidently refers to the Messianic time, and intimates that the glory of it will illuminate in an eminent way that northern region of Palestine. More particularly as to the how? and when? the Prophet does not know. If it is asked why he predicts this just here, we may see the ground for it in the fact that at that time, it was just from that northern quarter of the Ten Tribes, that great danger threatened Judah. The war with Syria and Ephraim was the occasion of this whole series of prophecies. The gaze of the Prophet is emphatically fastened on the North. What wonder if on this occasion he not only predicts the impending judgment of this northern land, but also the glory in store for it!
Zebulon was bounded on the North by Naphtali, eastward by the sea of Galilee, westward by Asher and Phœnicia (comp. Josh. 19:10 sqq.). Naphtali possessed the north-east of Canaan west of Jordan, for it touched the base of Antilebanon, was bounded on the east by the sea of Galilee, on the south by Zebulon, and on the west by Asher. (Josh. 19:32 sqq.). As “the way of the sea,” according to the context, must be a land inhabited by Israelites, it cannot be the coast of the Mediterranean, as some have supposed; for Phœnicians dwelt there. It can only be the coast of the יַם כִּנֶּרֶת “the sea of Chinnereth” (Num. 34:11; Josh. 12:3; 13:27)—עבר הירדּז “bank of Jordan,” is East Jordan land. The expression, with and without “the sun-rising,” is extremely common (Gen. 1. 10 sq.; Num. 35:14; Deut. 1:1, 5; Josh. 1:14 sq.; 2:10, etc.). The region named here גליל הגוים “Galilee of the nations,” (ἄπ. λεγ.), was originally called הַגָּלִיל, “the Galilee,” (the bent, the circuit, circulus, annulus, comp. כִּכָּר) and was a part of Naphtali. Comp. Josh. 20:7; 21:32; 1 Chr. 6:61; 1 Mace. 2:63. The region is called also אֶרֶץ הַגָּלִיל (1 Kings 9:11), and הַגָּלֶילָה (2 Kings 15:29).
In Jud. 1:30–33 we are told that, as elsewhere, the Canaanites were not exterminated from this region. From the nature of things, in a region so distant from the national sanctuary, the heathen element would increase more than elsewhere. The continual intercourse with neighboring heathen in war and peace, moreover, the depriving the land of its Israelite inhabitants by Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 15:29) may have gradually given the heathen element a preponderance. From the New Testament, we know that the Jews looked down on the Galileans with a certain contempt (Jno. 1:46; 7:41, 52; Acts 2:7). When, Jno. 7:41 the Jews questioned whether the Messiah would come out of Galilee, when they, Isa 9:52, asserted, too, that not even a Prophet was to come out of Galilee, it is the more remarkable that, as DELITZSCH quotes, Talmud and Midrasch say: that “the Messiah shall be revealed in Galilee, and from out Tiberias shall the redemption dawn.” But Matthew sees in the fact that Jesus “came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim” a fulfilment of our prophecy, and justly (vid.Matt. 4:13 sqq.). For that the Prophet notices such special traits of the Messianic picture of the future as the ante-nuptial conception, and the going forth from Galilee will not surprise those who reflect that these special matters are no trifles, but of greatest importance, and thus in a high degree worthy of prophetic notice. For they belong essentially to that fundamental character of the plan of redemption, whereby the Redeemer and His kingdom shall rise out of the depth of humility and ignominy to honor and glory.
[J. A. ALEXANDER with HENDERSON, COCCEIUS and others regard the words Isa 9:16 as spoken to the Prophet “by God, or, as some suppose, by the Messiah, the מִּקְדָּשׁ mentioned in the foregoing verse; and likewise Isa 9:17 and 18, because there is no intimation of a change in the speaker, and because Heb. 2:13, 5:17 is quoted as the words of the Messiah, not as an illustration, but as a proof that Christ partook of the same nature with the persons called His children. DELITZSCH and v. HOFMANN (vid. their comment on Heb. 2:13), who agree in treating these words of Isa 9:16–18 as the Prophet’s, and yet recognize a typical and prophetic reference to Christ, explain the use made of this in Heb. l. c. by the canon: “it admits of no doubt that the writers of the New Testament, allow themselves to quote utterances of typical Old Testament personages concerning themselves as utterances, and words of Christ.” DELITZSCH.—TR.].