Isaiah 9
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
b) The light of the future proceeding from a child that is to be born of the race of David

CHAPTER 9:1–6. (2–7).

2 (1)   THE people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light:

They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

(2) 3Thou hast multiplied the nation,

And not increased the joy:

They joy before thee according to the joy in harvest,

And as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

(3) 4For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden,

And the staff of his shoulder,

The rod of his oppressor,

As in the day of Midian.

5 (4) Fora every battle of the warrior is with confused noise,

And garments rolled in blood;

bBut this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.

(5) 6For unto us a child is born,

Unto us a son is given:

And the government shall be upon his shoulder:

And his name shall be called

Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God,

The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

(6) 7Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end,

Upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom;

To order it, and to establish it

With judgment and with justice, from henceforth even for ever.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this,


On Isa 9:1. צַלְמָוֶת is regarded by almost all later authorities as modified from צַלְמוּת (root צלם “to be dark”). But I rather side with BOETTCHER (De inferis, § 190 sq., 285, and Neue exeg. Krit. Aehrenl. II., p. 124), who, referring to עַזְמָוֶת (name of a person, 2 Sam. 23:31; 1 Chron. 27:25, and of a place, Neh. 7:28; 12:29; Ezra 2:24; comp. Song of Sol. 8:6) explains it as a superlative expression. The word often stands parallel with חשֶׁךְ and other kindred expressions (Job 3:5; 10:21; 28:3; Ps. 107:10, 14, etc.). It is a poetic term and intensive of חשׁך, being related to it as the night of death to common night. The word does not again occur in Isaiah.—נָגַהּ Kal. only here in Isaiah; Hiph. 13:10.

On Isa 9:2. Had the Prophet meant the heathen, he would have written הַגּוֹי .נוים is evidently a distinct and single people.—In what follows, the most important inquiry is whether K’thibh or K’ri presents the correct reading. Of the old versions TARG., JON. and SYRUS decidedly read לוֹ; the LXX., too, so expresses itself that this reading is detected. But JEROME and SYMMACHUS read לֹא. But many as have been the attempts, no one has yet been able to obtain a satisfactory sense from the latter. I therefore take לֹו for the correct reading (as do KNOBEL, DRECHSLER, DELITZSCH [J. A. ALEXANDER] among the later authorities). It stands in front as in Jer. 7:7, 8, 9,14, 33; Prov. 24:8, because an emphasis rests on it.

On Isa 9:3. עֹל סֻבֳּלוֹ, “the yoke of his burden.” Of the noun סבל only this form occurs, and that, in this verse, 10:27; 14:25. How the primary form is to be pointed is thus undecided. But we are justified in assuming סֹבֶל ( = סֵבֶל 1 Kings 11:28) after analogy of גֻּדְלו (Ps. 150:2) from גֹּדֶל (9:8; 10:12, etc.) as with סֻבֲּכוֹ (Jer. 4:7), קֻמְצוֹ (Lev. 2:2; 5:12; 6:8). גֻּשְׁמָהּ Ezek. 22:24. Comp. EWALD, § 255 b.—The goad of the neck is explained by “the goad of the driver.” מַטֶּה and שֵׁבֶט occur not seldom together in Isa. 10:5, 15, 34; 14:5; 28:27; 30:31 sq.—הַנֹּגֵשׂ בּוֹ is evidently an allusion to Exod. 5:6, where Pharaoh’s task-masters are called נֹגְשִׂים בָּעָם. Only in these two passages does נָגַשׂ occur with בְּ (after analogy of verbs that mean a physical holding to, holding fast, penetrating into: דָּבַק ,נָגַע ,הֶֽחֱזִיק ,אָחַז, etc., comp. נֹהֵג בָּם 11:6).

On Isa 9:4. The כִּי at the beginning seems to me to be not co-ordinate with, but subordinated to the כִּי that begins ver 3.—The words סאוד םאן ב׳ are very difficult. The ancient versions all vary, and it is evident the word was unknown to all. JOSEPH KIMCHI first cited the Syriac סְאוּנֹא ,מְסֹן ,מְסֹנֹא ,סְאוּן = calceus, ocrea, caliga, as also to the like meaning Chaldaic סֵינָא and מְסָנָא (comp. Aetheop. אֲסָאן). To this explanation assent, among modern authorities, ROSENMUELLER, GESENIUS. HENGSTENBERG, EWALD, DRECHSLER, BOETTCHER, DELITZSCH, DIESTEL. I side with these, and give to סְאוֹן the meaning “boot,” and סֹאֵן, as particip. of the verbi denom. סָאַן “to boot, to stride in boots.”—רַעַשׁ is understood by many of the noise of battle, according to Jer. 10:22 (GESENIUS, DELITZSCH [J. A. ALEXANDER] etc.). But the expression is not too strong for the heavy tramp of the booted foot, as DELITZSCH says it is, since, Ps. 72:16. it is even used of the rustling of the standing grain. Besides, the Prophet would depict here the wild noise of the impetuous advance, as afterwards the shocking look of the blood-stained garments. HOHEISEL has shown from PLIN. Hist. Nat. IX. 18, that soldiers’ boots were stuck with nails (clavi caligares). He also cites JOSEP. De bello jud. VI. 1, 8, where it is told of a centurion who had τὰ ὑποδήματα πεπαρμένα πυκνοῖς καὶ ὀξέσιν ἥλοις, and JUVEN. Sat. III. 247 sq., where one cast down in the tumult says: “Planta mox undique magna calcor et in digito clavus mihi militis haerit.מגללה part. Pual, from גָלַל, which Isaiah uses again only in the Niph. (34:4).—The Vav before היתה is that paratactic ו which we must render by a relative pronoun “that, this.”—The phrase היה לשׂרפה is found only here and 64:10.—מאכלת only here and Isa 9:18.

On Isa 9:5. יֶלֶד means both the new-born child (Exod. 1:17; 2:3, 6), and also the grown boy (Gen. 42:22, etc.). Isaiah uses the word pretty often: 2:6; 8:18; 11:7; 29:23; 57:4, 5. The following בֵּן defines the sex. In 1 Chron. 22:9, where the birth of Solomon is promised to David, it is said: הִנֵּה גוֹלַד לָךְ. It is not impossible that the source whence the chronicler drew suggested the Prophet’s words here—וַתְּהִי is praeter. propheticum. For the Prophet sees the entire life of the Messiah child as actually before him.—The noun מִשׂרָה, principatus, principatum, is found only here and Isa 9:6. The root שָׂרָה, kindred to שָׂרַר, whence שַׂר. שָׂרָהis not used in Hebrew in the sense of dominari, principatum tenere.על שׁכמו, “The shoulders are mentioned here as Isa 9:3, 10:27, in as much as they bear and carry (Gen. 49:15; Ps. 81:7), the office bearer having the office, as it were, on his shoulders.” HENGST. יקרא must be taken impersonally, as often: Gen. 11:9; 16:14; Num. 11:34; Jos. 7:26; Jud. 15:19. The TARGUM JONATHAN, translates on the assumption that only שׂר־שׁלום is the name of the child, and that all that precedes is the name of him that bestows the name, for it renders thus: “et appellabitur nomen ab admirabili consilii, Deo forti, qui manet in aeternum, Messias, cujus diebus pax super nobis multiplicabitur. The most Rabbis follow this view, referring the predicates, “everlasting Father, Prince of peace,” to Hezekiah. Even the Masorets would have only these predicates just named regarded as the name of the child, as may be seen from the Sakeph over גִּבּוֹר. But every one looks for the name of the one to be named after שׂמו, and not for that of the one giving the name. As the expressions אל גבור ,אבי־עד ,שׂר־שׁלום form pairs, symmetry requires that פלא יועץ be regarded as a pair. If we construe it as two words, we have five names, which does not harmonize with the duality underlying the passage. Beside it has an analogy in פֶרֶא אָדָם (Gen. 16:12) which is predicated of Ishmael. In this the man is properly subject and the notion “wild ass” is attribute. It might read אדם פרא: but the expression would not be so strong. Ishmael is not said to be a man that might be called a wild ass; but he is called directly a wild ass, that is at the same time a man accordingly, a human (two-legged) wild ass. So too is פלאיועץ stronger than יועץ פלא; for the latter would be the counsellor of a wonderful thing, or, that is a wonder, whereas the former presents the subject as a personal wonder, i. e., a wonderful one that gives counsel. Comp. the expressions יָמִים מִסְפָּר ,אֲנָשִׁים מְעַט, which are stronger than if the words were reversed. פֶלֶא may be either St. constructus or absolutus, but the latter gives the more intensive sense.—אל גבור cannot be “strong hero” (GESEN., DE W., MAUR.) because (as KNOB. says) אֵל does not occur as an adjective and because it does not read גִּבּוֹר אֵל. Like most words of this formation, גבור is a substantive, but it is no abstract noun, and the boundary of nomina concreta substantiva and adjectiva is fluctuating (comp. יִלּוֹד 2 Sam. 5:14). So הַגִּבּוֹר stands as attribute of אֵל in the midst of adjectives, Deut. 10:17; Jer. 32:18: and Isaiah 10:21 אל גביר is undoubted predicate of the absolute Godhead.—אבי עד. Names compounded of אֲבִי are frequent. In many it means pater meus (thus is properly pointed אָבִי), e. g. in אֲבִיָּה ,אֲבִיאֵל אֲבִיהוּא: for pater Dei, Jehovae is a dogmatic, and pater illius (for אביהוא) is a grammatical impossibility. In the names where אֲבִי is st. constructus, e. g., אֲבִיעֶזֶר אֲבִיחַיִל ,אֲבִישָׁלוֹם ,אֲבִישׁוּע etc., it may be doubtful whether it is genitivus auctoris or attributivus. But in אבי עד the genitive of the author is inconceivable: eternity has no author. We must take it then as genitive of the attribute = Father whose predicate is eternity.

On Isa 9:6. מַרְבֶּה (formed like מַֽעֲשֶׂה ,מַשְׁקֶה ,מַרְאה), means multiplicatio, “increase,” and occurs again only 33:23. ELIAS LEVITA conjectures that originally the text read לָם רַבָּה (eis multiplicatur imperium), which is little probable. We might rather conjecture that it originally read לְהֵרְבַּה, to which also the LXX. would agree, which ends Isa 9:5 with αὐτᾡ and begins Isa 9:6 with μεγάλη ή ἀρχὴ αὐτοῦ; from which it may be inferred they read רַבָּה הַמִּשְׂרָה (לוֹ =) לֹה. The unusual construction would facilitate the change to לם רבה. [On the ם clausum see J. A. ALEXANDER in loc.]—אין קץ vid. 2:7. HENGSTENBERG would have למרבה וגו depend on אין קץ. Grammatically this is admissible. But then למרבה would be superfluous. One would only expect למשׂרה. Evidently מרבה corresponds to אין קץ and stands in the same relation to משׂרה as אין קץ to על כסא.שׁלום and על ממלכתו relate to the subject and not to the object of the increase and peace-making.—The infinitives להכין and לסעדה I hold to be gerundive infinitives: thus is avoided the tautological relation to למרבה וגו, i. e., the repetition of the aim.—קגאה is a two-edged word. It involves both the notion of the negative zeal consuming all that is opposed to it, and the notion of the positive zeal that provides and furthers all that serves the purpose. The same words occur again 37:32. Beside that, קגאה is found 11:13; 26:11; 42:13; 59:17; 63:15.


1. The progress at the close of Isa 8 to this first part of Isa 9 is like that from early dawn to sunrise. “No dawn,” 8:20, “No darkness,” 8:23 (9:1), “Light is risen upon them,” 9:1, represent the stages in which the successive unfolding of the light contained in the Law and Testimony takes place. The light becomes not only clearer and brighter, but wider extended Isa 9:1–4 (2–5). All this blessing proceeds from a child, a son that is born to the people. It is a wonderful child; that is proved by his might and his names, that point to an origin above the earth. The child is a son of David, and will raise up the kingdom of David on the foundation of justice and righteousness. All this shall appear as accomplished by the zeal of Jehovah Isa 9:6 (7).

2. The people—divide the spoil.

Isa 9:1, 2. The people that walk in darkness is certainly the same as 8:23. So Matt. 4:16 understands the passage. But if the great light first rises on this part of the Israelitish nation, it will still not be confined to them. How could such great salvation be the portion of one member and not of the whole organism? The imagery is like 50:10; 60:1 sq. The distresses referred to 8:21 must necessarily have had a hurtful effect on the population numerically. Hence increase of the nation necessarily belongs to the new dawning day of happiness and prosperity. This benedictio vere theocratica is elsewhere, too, promised as the physical basis of the period of Messianic prosperity. Comp. 49:18–21; 54:1–3; Jer. 3:16 (and my comment in loc.); 23:3 sq. We assume that “the people” means Israel, not the heathen (see above, Text. and Gram.).

The nation, dwindled down to a remnant, is without joy; but, as no blessing comes singly, the nation, again become numerous, has great joy. This joy is so great because it is a joy before the Lord (Ps. 42:3; 95:2; 100:2). For substance comp. Jud. 5:30; Ps. 4:8; 68:13; 126:5 sq.; Isa. 33:23.

3. For thou hast broken—fuel of fire.

Isa 9:3, 4. These verses mention a twofold negative cause of joy: 1, the deliverance from the burden of oppression; 2, the cessation of war. The deliverance from oppression is mentioned first. But in order to give assurance that its recurrence is not to be apprehended, it is added that all arming for war, with its consequences, is for ever done away. Israel does not free itself by its own power from the yoke and goad of the driver. The Lord has done it like once He destroyed Midian by a little band that was not even armed (Jud. 7, especially Isa 9:2). The overthrow of the Midianites is mentioned 10:26 in the same sense as here. The deliverance from bondage is especially described as everlasting, in that, Isa 9:4, the absolute end of all warlike occupation is announced. For as long as there is war, there are the conquered and slaves. Only when there is no more war does slavery cease, to which no one submits except by compulsion. Comp. for substance Ps. 46:9, 10; Ezek. 39:9, 10; Zech. 9:10. ROSENMUELLER recalls the fact, that there exist coins of Vespasian and Domitian on which Peace is represented as kindling with a torch a heap of the implements of war.

4. For unto us a child—will perform this.

Isa 9:5, 6. A third כִּי “for” refers the totality of all the blessings before named to a personal cause, to a child that is bestowed as a gift to Israel and all mankind. Herein lies the reason why the prophetic testament of Isaiah is inserted at this place. For, from Isa 7 on, the Prophet has represented the Messianic salvation as proceeding from the race of David in a genuine human way by means of conception, pregnancy and birth. Thus the statement fits this place very well, that one day there will be a birth, the fruit of which will be a child, which, fashioned wonderfully and infinitely higher than all other human children, will establish the kingdom of David, his ancestor, not only on the firmest foundations, but shall raise it up to the point of eternal power and peace.

There is no need of a definite subject for ויקרא “and one shall call,” as the present has nothing to do with an actual name for use and calling. The name-giving is only ideal, not real, i. e., it is not the end, but means to the end, viz., the characteristic. The Prophet invents the names only in order by this means to characterize the child briefly, thus to say what he is, not how he shall actually be called by name. It is in this respect like יִהוָֹה צִדְקֵנוּ. “Jehovah our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6) and many other similar designations (comp. 1:26; 60:14; Jer. 11:16; Ezek. 48:35, etc.). A wonder-counsellor is one (הִכְּלִיא עֵצָה28:29) “wonderful in counsel,” who forms wonderful, unfathomably deep purposes, into which “the angels desire to look” (1 Pet. 1:12). “Mighty God” being added, intimates that He has the power to accomplish His purposes. In this expression “God” is the chief word, and “mighty” is the attribute (see above, Text. and Gram.). Therefore the child is expressly called אֵל, “God,” and that, too, God, who is at the same time Hero.

The question arises: can this name אֵל “God” be applied to a creature, and in what sense? Ps. 82:1, 6, comp. John 10:34 sq., are cited, where princes are called אלהים “gods.” When the Jews would have stoned Jesus “for blasphemy and because, being a man, he made himself God,” Jesus replied by referring to the Psalm: “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” Evidently He would say that it is not under all circumstances blasphemy to predicate divinity of a man, because otherwise the Psalm could not possibly have spoken so of men. He therefore does not deny that he had called Himself God, but He challenged the right of the Jews to charge Him on that account with blasphemy, because it was possible He may have called Himself God in that sense that was allowable from their standpoint. It appears therefore that the notion אלהים certainly can be used in various senses, and in some circumstances may be said of a creature, and without blasphemy. But there is a difference between אֵל and אֱלהִים. For the former is never used in the wide sense in which we see the latter used. אֵל always means the Godhead in a specific or absolute sense, even in passages like Gen. 31:29; Deut. 28:32; Mich. 2:1; Prov. 3:27. In Ezek. 31:11אֵל=אֵיל, comp. HAEVERNICKin loc. and Ezek. 32:21. We must, of course, admit that for the Prophet himself there hovered a certain obscurity about this expression. For it is impossible for us to ascribe to him the full, clear insight into the being of the person of Christ and of His Homoousia with the Father. It was the New Testament fulfilment, and especially the Resurrection of the Lord, that first brought full light in this respect. The term “mighty God” must be contemplated from a double standpoint. From that of the Old Testament the expression appears to be a term of indefinite extent. It is possible that it designates the absolute Godhead, but it is far from clear in what sense. But if we contemplate the expression from the New Testament point of view, and in the light of its fulfilment, i. e., in the light of the Resurrection and Ascension, then it is plain not only that it may be taken as the predicate of the absolute Godhead, but that it must be so taken. For there is no son of David that can be regarded as the fulfiller of this prophecy except Jesus of Nazareth. But He is “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead,” Rom. 1:4.

But in what sense is eternal fatherhood (אכי עד) ascribed to the child (יֶלֶד) in our passage? From the fact that the Son is called “Everlasting Father,” we know at once that it does not mean the Father that from eternity begot the Son. But we must here, too, distinguish between the Old Testament and the New Testament points of view, and must say that from the former the entire comprehensiveness of the expression is not appreciable. When Isaiah 63:16 and 64:7 calls Jehovah the true Father of Israel, this passage may be taken as saying that the Son is the eternal Mediator of this love. But from 1 Corinth. 15 we learn that the Son will be the Second Adam, Mediator of incorruptibility and immortality (Isa 9:53) for His own. Finally the child is called “Prince of Peace,” because, according to Isa 9:6, He stands at the head of a kingdom to which is assured eternal peace. This assurance is founded on the fact that this King will be David and Solomon in one person: David in so far as He casts down every enemy; Solomon in so far as he reaps peace from this sowing of war (Ps. 72:3, 7; Jer. 33:6; Mic. 5:4, etc.).—Of the increase,etc. The Prophet sees the promised Son enthroned with highly significant titles that He may be a true semper Augustus, ever an augmenter of the kingdom and institutor of eternal peace. To this end the child is set on David’s throne and over David’s kingdom. The expected Son is Davidic. It is the Son that is promised to David 2 Sam. 7, the real Solomon; for his kingdom of peace shall have no end. That quantitative and qualitative influence of the augmentatio and pacificatio is only possible by founding the kingdom on judgment and justice (comp. on 1:21), and by carrying out every single act of administration in this spirit. And upon his kingdom to order it is taken from 2 Sam. 7:12, where it is said: “I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish His kingdom” (וַהֲכִינֹתִי אֶת־מַמְלַכְתּוֹ). Comp. Isa 9:13, 16; 1 Chron. 17:11; 22:10; 28:7; Prov. 20:28.

[J. A. ALEXANDER on Isa 9:6. “The word קנאה, “zeal,” expresses the complex idea of strong affection comprehending or attended by a jealous preference of one above another. It is used to signify God’s disposition to protect and favor His people at the expense of others. Sometimes, moreover, it includes the idea of a jealous care of His own honor, or a readiness to take offence at anything opposed to it, and a determination to avenge it when insulted. The expressions are derived from the dialect of human passion, but describe something absolutely right on God’s part for the very reasons which demonstrate its absurdity and wickedness on man’s. These two ideas of God’s jealous partiality for His own people and His jealous sensibility respecting His own honour are promiscuously blended in the usage of the word, and are perhaps both included in the case before us, or rather the two motives are identical; that is to say, the one includes the other. The mention of God’s jealousy or zeal as the procuring cause of this result affords a sure foundation for the hopes of all believers. His zeal is not a passion, but a principle of powerful and certain operation. The astonishing effects produced by feeble means in the promotion, preservation, and extension of Christ’s kingdom can only be explained upon the principle that the zeal of the Lord of Hosts effected it.”

”Is not this the reign of Christ? Does it not answer all the requisite conditions? The Evangelists take pains to prove by formal genealogies His lineal descent from David; and His reign, unlike all others, still continues and is constantly enlarging. HENDEWERK and other modern German writers have objected that this prophecy is not applied to Christ in the New Testament. But we have seen already that the first verse of the chapter and the one before it are interpreted by Matthew as a prophecy of Christ’s appearing as a public teacher first in Galilee, and, no one has denied that this is part of the same context. Nor is this all. The expressions of the verse before us were applied to Christ, before His birth, by Gabriel, when he said to Mary (Luke 1:32–34), ”He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” The historical allusions in these words show clearly that the person spoken of was expected, or, in other words, a subject of prophecy; and though the terms are not precisely those used by Isaiah, they agree with them more closely than with any other passage. Indeed the variations may be perfectly accounted for upon the supposition that the angel’s message was intended to describe the birth of Christ as a fulfilment, not of this passage only, but of several others also which are parallel with this, and that the language was so framed as to suggest them all, but none of them so prominently as the one before us, and the earlier promise upon which it was founded. Comp. 2 Sam. 7:11, 12; Dan. 7:14, 27; Mic. 4:7, etc.”]

The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.

ISA 9:8 (7).– 10:4.

To the prophecies that denounce impending judgment against Judah, of which Assyria was to be the agent, is joined a prophecy, that announces the same fate for the kingdom of the Ten Tribes. For, that the latter are the subject of this prophecy appears, 1) because, in the whole passage, only Israel or Jacob (9:7, 11, 13), the “Ephraimites and inhabitants of Samaria” (Isa 9:8) appear as those addressed; never Judah. For Isa 9:8 shows plainly that we must so understand Jacob and Israel (Isa 9:7), because those receiving the word spoken of in Isa 9:7 are designated as “the whole people,” and they in turn in the second clause of Isa 9:8 are specified, not as Judah and Israel, but as Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria: 2) because Isa 9:20 we notice that the totality who are there reproached with ruinous dissensions are divided into Ephraim and Manasseh. These are opposed to one another; if they unite it is for the purpose of attacking Judah. If Judah were included in the totality addressed there, it must read: “Ephraim Judah, Judah Ephraim.” But Ephraim and Manasseh are designated as the mutually contending members; Judah as one outside of the community and the common object of their hatred. We will show below that Isa 9:11 a does not conflict with this interpretation.

As to the period to which this prophecy belongs, we may ascertain it from 9:9. It appears there that at this time pieces must have been rent away from the kingdom of the Ten Tribes. We know of only one such diminution of their territory occurring in that period. It is that related 2 Kings 15:29. According to that account Tiglath-Pileser, who had been invoked by Ahaz, depopulated a great part of the eastern and northern region of that kingdom. At that time the Ephraimites must have boasted that it would be easy to repair the damage they had suffered. Isaiah felt that he must meet this foolish notion, which took the damage done by Tiglath-Pileser for the conclusion of their visitation, with the announcement that that visitation was only the beginning, only the first of many following degrees. If, then, the foregoing prophecies (7–9:6) fall in the time before the introduction of the Assyrians, then our present passage belongs to the period immediately after. And if chapters 7–9:6, are attributed to the beginning of the three years, when both Pekah and Ahaz were living, say about 743 B. C., then the present prophecy belongs to the close of this period, say about 740–39 B. C. (Comp. on 7:15–17)

The form of our passage is artistic, yet simple. Proceeding from the underlying thought that what the Ephraimites took for the end, was only the first stage, the Prophet builds up his prophecy in three stages, each of which points to the succeeding one with the refrain: “for all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still.” Even the last concludes with these words to show that the judgment on Israel continues still beyond the immediate horizon of the prophetic view. This extreme visible horizon is the exile (10:4). Beyond that the Israel of the Ten Tribes has disappeared to the present day. They experienced no restoration like Judah did. But to “the day of visitation and desolation” (10:3) the punishments increase as the inward corruption grows. After that visitation to which the audacious words 9:9 refer, Israel, instead of recovering and growing strong, is renewedly hard pressed on the East and the West. But still more comes (9:11 b). Still the people are not converted to Him that smites them. Therefore the punishment falls first of all on the leaders of the people, who have proved themselves betrayers, whose sins must be expiated by the betrayed down to the young men, the widows and the orphans (Isa 9:13–16). But still more comes. For the people are as a forest on fire: for the flames of discord spread on all sides with devouring and desolation (Isa 9:17–20). Injustice and violence, according to the constant Old Testament sentiment, the chief cause of the ruin of states, bring the people to the verge of the abyss. Then no seeking for aid from foreign nations will avail. Nothing remains but to submit to the horrors of exile. But still more comes. For even the carrying away into exile is not yet the end of God’s judgments on Israel (10:1–4).

Thus we have four sections, of which the first two have each five verses, the last two four verses. They may be set forth as follows:

1. The supposed end is the beginning of the judgment (9:7–11).

2. The deceivers the bane of the deceived (9:12–16).

3. Israel devouring itself by the flames of discord (9:17–20).

4. Injustice and violence fill up the measure and precipitate Israel into the horrors of exile (10:1–4).



CHAPTER 9:8–12. (7–11)

8 (7) THE LORD sent a word into Jacob,

And it hath lighted upon Israel.

(8) 9And all the people shall know,

Even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria,

That say in the pride and stoutness of heart,

(9) 10The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones:

The sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.

11 (10) Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him,

And ajoin his enemies together;

(11) 12The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind;

And they shall devour Israel with bopen mouth.

For all this his anger is not turned away,

But his hand is stretched out still.


On Isa 9:8. גאוה according to 13:3, 11; 16:6; 25:11.—גדל לככ again only 10:12.—לאמר does not depend on וידעו, but on גאוה and גדל לבב to which it relates as quotation marks, in as much as it introduces the speech that manifests that haughtiness.

On Isa 9:9. גזית, properly אַבְנֵי גָזִית, 1 Kings 5:31;Ezek. 40:42; lapides caesurae, i. e., caesi, only here in Isa.—That בָּנָה means not simply exstruere, construere, “build up,” “construct,” but also simply struere “to pile,” “pile up,” appears from passages like 1 Kings 18:32; Exod. 20:25.—שׁקמיס only here. גדע 10:33; 14:12; 22:25; 45:2 (from these examples it appears that it is wont to be joined with נכּל); but the context shows that not cutting down trees is meant, as DRECHSLER supposes, but breaking down wooden buildings. חלף (see on 8:8) is “to exchange.” Hiph. is—“let come in as exchange, reparation;” comp. 40:31; 41:1.

On Isa 9:10. וישׂגב and also ויאכלו, Isa 9:11, are praeter. propheticum. The ו involves at the same time adverbial meaning. DRECHSLER remarks that שׂגכ Pi. has always the meaning “to make high, unattainable, place higher, defendere, munire.” But then it is construed with מן (Ps. 59:2; 107:41). That עלין stands here proves that the word is taken in an offensive sense, which it may very well have. Moreover it is to be noticed that שִׂגֵכ stands in contrast with the high structures which the Israelites purpose in Isa 9:9.—It is incomprehensible how EWALD can prefer שָׂרֵי, the reading of some MSS. to צָרֵי of the text; or how CHEYNE can construe צרי ר as genitive of the subject, seeing that the same power that slew Rezin and conquered his land, not twenty years later actually made an end to the kingdom of Ephraim.—סִכְסֵןְ is found only here and 19:2. The verb סָכַןְ, with all its derivatives (סֻכָּה, סִכּוּת, מָסָןְ, סֹןְ) has the sense of “covering.” Now there is a word שֵׂןְ, spina (Num. 33:65) and שֻׂכָּה telum acutum (Job 40:31). As regards the exchange of ס for שׂ compare שָׂכַןְ Exod. 33:22. Seeing the meaning “to cover” in the sense usual with the Hebrews, i. e., “to protect,” does not at all suit here (comp. Isa 9:11), and “to cover,” = “to cover with arms, to arm,” cannot be supported, I prefer, with TARG., SYR., SAAD., GESENIUS (Thes.), DELITZSCH, [J. A. ALEXANDER], to take סִכְסֵןְ in the sense of “to set on,” stimulate, concitare.

On Isa 9:11. The formula בכל־זאת וגו beside here and Isa 9:16, 20; 10:4, is found only Isa 9:25.


1. The Lord sentcedars.

Isa 9:8-10 (7–9). It seems to me that the words, “A word has the LORD sent,” etc., “is fallen,” etc., must be judged of according to passages like Job 4:12; 35:4; Ps. 62:12. As in those, a single little word, tossed to them, as it were, from the mouth of the Lord as from a judging and destroying power, is opposed to human pride and haughtiness, so the Prophet here opposes a single, brief word of the LORD to the Ephraimites which, as it were, falls by the way, but which suffices to humble that foolish pride. “The word” (דָּכָרִ) therefore, stands first with emphasis, as if the Prophet would say: only a word, nothing more has the LORD sent. And this word has, as it were, fallen in Israel by accident. I prefer to compare Ruth 3:18, for the meaning of נָכַּל “to fall,” rather than Dan. 4:28, because there, too, is the underlying idea of (at least seeming) accident. This mode of expression, by which the Prophet represents the following language as something accidental and by the way, has its reason, likely, in this, that Isaiah is a Prophet primarily for Judah, and not for Israel. He therefore steps beyond the sphere of his own proper activity with these words, which fall like a morsel from the table prepared for the children.

Jacob stands only poetically for Israel. It can mean the whole nation, and the people of the Ten Tribes just as well as the name Israel (comp. 2:3, 5, 6; 8:17). Only the context decides in what sense the name is to be taken where it occurs. In the introduction to this section, we have showed that both Jacob and Israel mean the kingdom of the Ten Tribes. This antithesis of Jacob and Israel in parallelism occurs here for the first time. It is found again as designation of the entire Israel, 10:20; 14:1; 27:6; 29:23; 40:27; 41:8, 14; 42:24; 43:1, 22, 28; 44:1, (2), 5, 21, 23; 45:4; 46:3; 48:1, 12; 49:5, 6. This antithesis is found first in Hos. 12:13 (of the Patriarch): then in Micah, and relatively the oftenest in him: Mic. 1:5; 2:12; 3:1, 8, 9. In Nahum 2:3. In Jeremiah 2:4; 30:10; 31:7; 46:27. Ezek. 39:25. From this it appears that the form of expression is pre-eminently characteristic of Isaiah. If it is asked; what kind of word the LORD sent? I would refer for answer neither to 5:25 nor to 7:14 sqq. For both are remote. Those are right that take Isa 9:8, or say Isa 9:10 sq., as the word referred to in Isa 9:7. Nothing is more natural; any word more remote must be more exactly designated. The word “they shall know it,” Isa 9:8, favors this. For what should the Ephraimites know? Certainly, the very word of which Isa 9:7 speaks. At the same time the context makes it clear, that they should learn how ill the plan of Jehovah (according to Isa 9:10) will suit their proud plans. Therefore, “the word,” Isa 9:7, is identical with the object of “they shall know,” Isa 9:8, and we are justified in translating “and shall know it.”

”Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria” are contrasted here just as “the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” 5:3, comp. 1:1, 2:1. The Ephraimites and Samaritans, then, shall come to a certain knowledge, as persons that are in a state of pride and height of courage, for which just that knowledge commends itself as the best remedy. Wherein the pride consists is said Isa 9:9.

The haughty language consists of two simple, easily understood contrasts. Wood and stone are the chief materials for building. Bricks are poorer than hewn stones, and sycamores than cedars. “Sycamore trees are common in Palestine,” as THEODORETin loc. says. Flourishing in low places, (signum camporum sunt sycamori,) says the JERUS. GEMARA, comp. 1 Chron. 27:28); they are prized as wood for building, but not compared with the cedar. (Comp. under Text. and Gram.) The sense of the figurative language is plain. They acknowledge that Ephraim has suffered, but they hope abundantly to repair all these damages.

2. Therefore the Lord——stretched out still.

Isa 9:11, 12 (10, 11). Jehovah’s doing Isa 9:10 sq. brings to nought the proud hopes of Isa 9:9, and is announced here as the contents of “the word” of Isa 9:7. They would rise high, but the LORD raises above even their high house, the oppressors of Rezin. These oppressors are the Assyrians. They had proved themselves such even at that time. They are called oppressors of Rezin, because Israel’s strength at that time, lay in the alliance with Rezin. The same power that killed Rezin, and conquered his kingdom, actually made an end of Ephraim not twenty years later. Syria itself, compelled by Assyria, is represented as marching against Ephraim. Because of the words, “the Philistines behind,” DELITZSCH supposes that the Prophet, from Isa 9:11 on, extends his view and has in mind all Israel, since the northern kingdom never had to suffer from the Philistines, whereas (acc. to 2 Chr. 28:16–19) an invasion by the Philistines in Judah is expressly mentioned as belonging to the judgments of Ahaz’s time. But if this were so, Isa 9:12 (11) would need to be more distinctly disconnected from Isa 9:11 (10). For, as they stand, the words “the Syrians—behind” must be taken as dependent on יסכסר “will set on,” and the nations named here as specifications of “the enemies” Isa 9:11 (10). But then those attacked by Syria and the Philistines are identical with Ephraim to whom “him” and “his” (the suffixes in איביו and עליו (Isa 9:10) refer. But Isa 9:12a (11) is not to be taken in a literal sense. Syria and the Philistines represent East and West. Isa. 2:6; 11:14 puts the Philistines as representatives of the West as opposed to (קֶדֶם) the East. Moreover we must not take “eating with a full mouth” as meaning a complete destruction. On the contrary, we see from Isa 9:12b (11), that recurs afterwards three times, that the Prophet would say: ye hold the damage that ye hope easily to repair, to be the end of your calamity. But I say to you: you are destined to have your oppressors come on you from every side in superior power, and yet even this will be but the beginning of the end.

For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts.

ISA 9:13–17 (12–16)

13 (12)    FOR the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them,

Neither do they seek the LORD of hosts.

14 (13)    Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail,

Branch and rush, in one day.

15 (14)    The ancient and honourable, he is the head;

And the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.

16 (15)    For the leaders of this people cause them to err:

And they that are led of them are 3destroyed.

17 (16)    Therefore the LORD shall have no joy in their young men,

Neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows:

For every one is an hypocrite and an evil-doer,

And every mouth speaketh folly.

For all this his anger is not turned away,

But his hand is stretched out still.


On Isa 9:12. By וְ before העם the thought of this verse is paratactically co-ordinated with the foregoing, where as it ought properly to be subordinated in the form of assigning a reason. For had the people been converted by the chastisement, then had the wrath of Jehovah been turned away. We have here therefore one of those frequent instances where the וְ demands definition, which however the reader must supply.—לֹא־שָׁב sounds like an echo of the same words in the foregoing verse.—עַר, especially after שׁוּב, not seldom stands for אֵל: Deut. 4:30; 30:2; Joel 2:12; Amos 4:6–11; Isa. 19:22, etc. It appears that all these prophetic passages just cited rest on the original passage in Deuteronomy also cited. The expression דָּרָשׁוּ recalls Deut. 4:29.—The article before מַכֵּחוּ is against the rule. The exception is to be explained by the pronominal force of the article according to which it refers back to Isa 9:11 b.ויכרת and ויהיו, Isa 9:15, must be taken as pract. propheticum. with which accord the fut. imperf. ישׂמח and ירחם Isa 9:16.

On Isa 9:13. כִּכָּה found only here, 19:15 and Job 15:32.——אנמווfound again only 19:15. 58:5, what grows in אֲנַם “the swamp.”—נשׂוא פנים comp. on 3:3.—מוֹרֶה in Isaiah again only 30:20.

On Isa 9:15. מאשׁרי comp. on 3:12. Notice the paronomasia of the last two words.

On Isa 9:16. חָנֵף properly, “unclean, spotted,” pollutus, immundus: 10:6; 24:5; 33:14.—מֵרָע pausal form of מֵרֵעַ, unless it is = ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ as KNOBEL translates.


For the people——he is the tail.

Isa 9:12 (13)–14 (15). The four expressions, head and tail, palm-branch and rush, are to be found in the same order 19:15. Many expositors (since KOPPE’SAnmm. zum Lowthschen Iesaias, 1799, sqq. the most of them) have misunderstood the figures. They have taken head and tail, as well as palm-branch and rush, as a figurative expression for “honorable and insignificant,” and, because Isa 9:14 does not suit this construction, they have declared it to be not genuine. But just that Isa 9:14 ought to have convinced the expositors that head and tail did not mean superior and inferior, but two sorts of leaders, the genuine and the bad, i.e. those who as the elders and as men of high standing had a natural right to be leaders, and those that by lying prophecies presumed to leadership. KNOBEL says: “making the tail to mean a prophet that teaches lies is false, because the false prophets, too, were leaders of the people, and therefore belonged to the head.” But that is what the prophet means. Only the irony has not been understood, with which Isaiah declares the false prophets to be such as have their place where the tail is. Thus he mocks them. He intimates thereby that the lying prophets are only seeming heads, but in fact representatives of the region of the tail, and that if men take them for heads and follow in the direction of their would be heads, then Israel will go directly backward instead of forward. Such is essentially the exposition of DRECHSLER and UMBREIT. [“The false Prophets are called the tail, because they were morally the basest of the people, and because they were the servile adherents and supporters of wicked rulers. With respect both to the head which they followed and the body of which they were the vilest part, they might justly be called the tail. The Prophet does not make a like explanation of the palm-leaf and the rush, because they are not equally suited to express his contempt for the false Prophets.”—J. A. ALEXANDER]. The palm-branch growing high up on the trunk, so named because of its resemblance to a hand (כַּף, Latin palma) means of course the elevated ones, the rush the lowly. Thus three of the figures represent the leaders, and only one, those that are led, the humble ones. “One day” (comp. 10:17; 47:9) expresses that the destruction comes with such might as to take off its victim with one blow.

2. For the leaders——destroyed.

Isa 9:16 (15). As Isaiah intimates here the final destiny of leaders and led, the verse corresponds to “will cut off,” Isa 9:14 (13) being, as it were, the specification of the notion. The leaders are misleaders of the people, and are themselves given over to error and its peril; but those led astray are swallowed up (3:12), a figure that recalls the position of the rush in the water. For, if it is long submerged, it perishes.

3. Therefore——stretched out still.

Isa 9:17 (16). It might be objected to the Prophet that among the led were many that were irresponsible; thus without their fault they were led astray. Does the Lord make no exception in their favor? The Prophet denies this, saying that inasmuch as all those led astray are swallowed up, it is to be understood that none are spared, not even the young men, children and widows. But are not the children required to follow their elders? Are they not innocent then if led into error’s ways by them? Ought they not, spite of this, to remain the ornament, the bloom of the nation, and consequently the delight of the Lord? But it shall not be thus. The wish expressed Ps. 144:12 shall not be fulfilled. If the Lord, therefore, takes no more pleasure in the young, He leaves them indifferently to their fate. What it is may be imagined. Widows and orphans, without the guidance of husband and father seem, too, to be innocent and thus deserving of compassion. But no. They are all contaminated and thoroughly penetrated with evil. They are corrupt, atrociously bad, and what they say is insane wickedness. Therefore there can be no sparing. In fact the last degree of their judgment is far from being attained.

For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke.

CHAPTER 9:18–21 (17–20)

18 (17)    FOR wickedness burneth as the fire:

It shall devour the briers and thorns,

And shall kindle in the thickets of the forest,

And they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke.

19 (18)    Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened,

And the people shall be as the fuel of the fire:

No man shall spare his brother.

20 (19)    And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry;

And he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied:

They shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm:

21 (20)    Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh;

And they together shall be against Judah.

For all this his anger is not turned away,

But his hand is stretched out still.


On Isa 9:17. רִשׁעָה, in the older writings found only in Deut. 9:4, 5; 25:2; in Isaiah only here; beside this only in post Isaiah writings; so that the expression seems to be a reminiscence of Deuteronomy.—בערה כאשׁ perhaps a reminiscence of Num. 11:3.—The form יצת occurs only once more in Isa. 33:12, and there it is undoubtedly passive. Consider in addition that here the preposition בְּ occasions surprise if thereby the object of the kindling is expressed (GESEN. would take this בְּ in a partitive sense, Thes., p. 172, sub. A. 2), whereas הִצִּת אֵשׁ בְּ occurs often (Amos 1:14; Jer. 17:27; 21:14; 43:13, etc.) thus it seems to me more probable that תִּצַּת is to be taken as passive of הִצִּית אֵשׁ. As to the form, see EWALD, § 197, a.התאבדּ is ἄπ. λεγ. The root אבד seems related to חפד whereby the meaning is approximated “to turn one’s-self, to roll, whirl” (comp. Judg. 7:13): “they whirled up in height of the smoke.” The construction is analogous to עָלָה שָׁמִיר וָשַׁיִת 5:6;34:13; Prov. 24:31.—נאות must be regarded as accusative, and of that species that follows verbs of fulness. The expression נאות עשׁו recalls נֵאוּת הַיָם Ps. 89:10.

On Isa 9:18. נעתם ἅπ. λεγ. “burnt up, charred.” חמל often with עַל; Exod. 2:6; 1 Sam. 15:3, 9, 15; 23:21, etc. Here עַל stands for אֶל as Jer. 50:14; 51:3.

On Isa 9:19. נָּזַר means secuit, and is used of cutting through the middle a living body (1 Kings 3:25 sq.) or a dead one (2 Kings 6:4), comp. מַנְזֵרָה “a cutting implement,” 2 Sam. 12:31. It is better then to translate it, “to hew,” than “to bite.”

On Isa 9:20. The accusatives את־מנשׁה ,את־אפרים depend on יאכלו, whereas על־יהודה depends on the notion of the hostile onslaught that lies in Isa 9:19 a.


1. This strophe plainly divides into two parts. In the first (Isa 9:17–18a.), the dissension is described figuratively. In the following, the Prophet himself explains the figure.

2. For wickedness——fuel of the fire.

Isa 9:18 (17)–19 (18). The כִּי “for” appears to introduce the proof not only for ver. (16b), but also for (16a). For the impregnation with badness, that is declared of the whole people, ver. (16), displays itself as real, if its condition may be compared to an all-devouring conflagration. The badness burns like fire; not as a fire that devours only thorns and thistles (comp., on Isa 9:6) the lowlier products of the open field, but also the thickets (the standing timber, 10:34), of the forests, consequently seizes on the entire vegetation of the land, high and low. The fire of Isa 9:17 is the fire of sin, consequently a fire hateful to God, and which therefore bears no blessing in it, but a curse. The Prophet therefore can say that the effect of this fire is at the same time an effect of divine wrath. This effect is that the land looks burnt up, charred, while the people dwelling in it are become food of the fire. So far the figure.

4. No man shall spare——stretched out still.

Isa 9:19b (18)–21 (20). With these words the Prophet explains the figure. It is plain that he means the fire of dissension. This he first characterizes negatively by saying, that one behaves himself pitilessly, unsparingly against the other; then positively by describing how the rough, selfish men direct their attacks now on the right, now on the left. But these attacks do no good: for those attacking get no blessing thereby; they remain hungry after as well as before. They do harm in fact. For it appears that those men of violence have raged against themselves, and (comp. Jer. 19:9) have, so to speak, devoured their own flesh. In what sense he means this, the Prophet explains Isa 9:20 (21) a: The tribes of the northern kingdom were divided among themselves, but united for hostility against Judah. It is to be noticed that he does not say; Israel and Judah were mutually hostile; but names only Ephraim and Manasseh as embroiled in mutual strife. Judah, however, appears outside of their communion and the object of their common hatred, while, moreover, there is no reference to a hostility of Judah against Israel. Thus it appears that the Prophet represents the flames of discord as raging only in the bounds of the Ten Tribes. This is another proof that the entire passage, 9:7–10:4 is directed only against the northern kingdom. Manasseh and Ephraim are mentioned because these two tribes were descendants of uterine brothers, the sons of Joseph. From of old there was jealousy between these tribes (comp. 1 Sam. 10:27; 2 Sam. 20:1; 1 Kings 12:16; 15:27 sqq.; 16:21 sqq.; 2 Kings 9:14, etc.). From the first the Ten Tribes were little inclined to David’s dynasty (2 Sam. 2:8 sqq.); but their own history is a continued alternation of conspiracy and murder. It may be said that the Israelites did themselves more harm than all foreign foes could ever have done. Thus dissension was the destruction of Israel. And still even this is not the last stage of the divine judgment.

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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