Matthew Poole's Commentary
Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed;The woe of unjust oppressors, Isaiah 10:1-4: of Assyria for their pride and ambition: his folly in it, Isaiah 10:5-19. A remnant of Israel shall be saved, and that speedily, Isaiah 10:20-27. Sennacherib marching toward Jerusalem, Isaiah 10:28-31. His judgment, Isaiah 10:32-34.
Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees! unto those magistrates who make unjust laws, and give unjust sentences.
That write; either,
1. The scribes, who were assistant to the magistrates, and ofttimes did promote or execute such decrees; or,
2. The unjust magistrates, whose decrees were usually written. So the same thing is repeated in other words. Only this writing may note their obstinacy or perseverance in their unjust decrees, and their proceeding to the execution of them.
Grievousness; grievous things, such unjust decrees as cause grief and vexation to their subjects.
To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!From judgment; or, from their right, as it is in the next clause; or, from obtaining a just sentence, because they either denied or delayed to hear their causes, or gave a wrong sentence.
From the poor, whom I have in a special manner committed to your care.
Of my people; of Israelites. who profess themselves to be my people, and whom I did take into covenant with myself; and therefore this is an injury not only to them, but to me also.
And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory?What will ye do to save yourselves? In the day of visitation: when I shall come to visit you in wrath, as the next words limit it, and as this phrase is oft used; although sometimes it signifies a visitation in mercy, as Luke 19:14, and elsewhere.
From far; from the Assyrians. This he adds, because the Israelites, having weakened the Jews, and being in amity with the Syrians their next neighbours, were secure.
To whom will ye flee for help? to the Syrians, as now you do? But they shall be destroyed together with you, as they were, 2 Kings 16.
Where will you leave, to be kept safe for your use, and to be restored to you when you call for it, your glory? either,
1. Your power and authority, which now you so wickedly abuse; or,
2. Your wealth, got by injustice, as glory is taken, Genesis 31:1 Psalm 49:16,17, &c.
Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.Without me they shall bow down: the words thus translated seem to contain an answer to the foregoing questions: In vain do you seek for a refuge and help from others; for without me, without my favour and help which you have forfeited, and do not seek to recover, and which I shall withdraw from you, or because you are without me, or forsaken by me,
you shall bow down, notwithstanding all your succours. In the Hebrew here is a change of the person and number, which is very usual in prophetical writings. The LXX., and some others, join these words to the foregoing verse, and translate them thus, that you may not bow down: so the sense of the place is, What will you do to prevent your captivity or slaughter? And it is true, that the first word is elsewhere taken for a negative particle. But the former translation seems more genuine.
Under the prisoners; or rather, in the place (as this particle signifies, and is rendered by interpreters, Genesis 30:2 50:19 Exodus 16:29 Joshua 5:8, and elsewhere) of the prisoners, or among the prisoners; and so in the next clause, among or in the place of the slain.
O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation.O Assyrian: so it is God’s call or invitation to him to take the charge, and set upon the work. Or, Woe to the Assyrian! because though he do my work, yet he doth it in a wicked manner, and for wicked ends, as we shall see.
The rod of mine anger; the instrument of mine anger. wherewith I shall chastise my people.
The staff in their hand is mine indignation; mine anger against my people puts the weapons of war into their hand, and gives them strength and success in this expedition.
I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.I will send him, not by express commission, but by the secret yet powerful conduct of my providence, giving him both occasion and inclination to this expedition. Hypocritical: See Poole "Isaiah 9:17".
The people of my wrath; the objects of my just wrath, devoted to destruction.
Give him a charge, by putting this instinct into his mind.
To tread them down like the mire of the streets; which signifies that he should easily conquer them, and utterly destroy them, as he did after this time.
Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few.He meaneth not so; he doth not at all design the execution of my will. and the glory of my justice, in punishing mine enemies; but only to enlarge his own empire, and satisfy his own lusts; which is seasonably added, to justify God in his judgments threatened to the Assyrian, notwithstanding this service.
To destroy and cut off nations not a few; to sacrifice multitudes of people to his own ambition and covetousness; which is abominable impiety.
For he saith, Are not my princes altogether kings?Equal for power, and wealth, and glory to the kings of other nations, though my subjects and servants.
Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is not Samaria as Damascus?Is not Calno as Carchemish? have not I conquered one place as well as another, the stronger as well as the weaker? Have I not from time to time added new conquests to the old? Calno seems to be the same with Calneh, Genesis 10:10 Amos 6:2, a great and strong city. Carchemish was a city upon Euphrates, of which 2 Chronicles 35:20 Jeremiah 46:2.
Is not Hamath as Arpad? Hamath was an eminent city of Syria, not far from Euphrates, called Hemath, or Hamath the great, Amos 6:2; of which see 2 Kings 14:28 17:24 Jeremiah 49:23. Arpad seems to have been an obscure place, not being elsewhere named. Is not that as soon conquered as this?
Is not Samaria as Damascus? or, shall not Samaria be as Damascus? Shall I not take that as I have done this city? For although Damascus possibly was not yet taken by the Assyrian, yet the prophet speaks of it as actually taken, because these words are prophetically delivered, and supposed to be uttered by the king of Assyria at or about the siege of Samaria, when Damascus was taken.
As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria;Hath found, i.e. hath taken, as this word is used, Proverbs 1:13, and oft elsewhere, the antecedent being put for the consequent, because what men find they commonly take to themselves.
The kingdoms of the idols; which worshipped their own proper idols, and vainly imagined that they could protect them from power. He calls the gods of the several nations, not excepting Jerusalem, idols, by way of contempt, because none of them could deliver their people out of his hands, as he brags, Isaiah 37:11,12, and because he judged them to be but petty gods, far inferior to the sun, which was the great god of the Assyrians.
Excel them, to wit, in reputation and strength; which blasphemy of his proceeded from his deep ignorance of the true God.
Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols?I shall certainly do it, and neither God nor man can hinder me.
Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.Wherefore; because of this impudent blasphemy.
Hath performed his whole work, of chastising his people so long and so much as he sees fit and necessary for them.
Punish, Heb. visit, to wit, in wrath, as before on Isaiah 10:3.
The glory of his high looks; his insolent words and carriages, proceeding from intolerable pride of heart.
For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man:He saith, not only within himself, but before his courtiers and others.
By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; I owe all my successes to my own power, and valour, and wise conduct, and to no other god or man.
I have removed the bounds; I have invaded their lands, and added them to my own dominions, as this phrase is used, Proverbs 22:28 Hosea 5:10.
Their treasures, Heb. their prepared things, their gold and silver, and other precious things, which they had long been preparing and laying in store.
I have put down; deprived of their former glory and power.
And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped.Hath found as a nest; as one findeth young birds in a nest, the nest being put for the birds in it, as Deu 32:11. No less easily do I both find and take them.
Eggs that are left; which the dam hath left in her nest. This is more easy than the former; for the young birds might possibly make some faint resistance, or flutter away; but the eggs could do neither.
All the earth; all the riches of the earth or world. An hyperbole not unusual in the mouths of such persons, upon such occasions.
That moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped; as birds do, which, when they see and cannot hinder the robbing of their nests, express their grief and anger by hovering about them, and by mournful cries.
Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? How absurd and unreasonable a thing is it for thee, who art but an instrument in God’s hand, and canst do nothing without his leave and help, to blaspheme thy Lord and Master, who hath as great a power over thee, to manage thee as he pleaseth, as a man hath over the axe wherewith he heweth!
As if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up; or, as it is rendered in the margin, and by other interpreters, as if a rod should shake (i.e. shall pretend to shake, or should boast that it would or could shake; which may easily be understood out of the foregoing words) them
that lift it up. As if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood; as if a staff should forget that it was wood, and should pretend or attempt to lift up itself either without or against the man that moveth it; which is absurd in the very supposition of it, and were much more unreasonable in the practice. Nor are thy boasts less ridiculous.
Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire.The Lord of hosts; the sovereign Lord and General of thine and all other armies.
Send among his fat ones leanness; strip him, and all his great princes and commanders, of all their wealth, and might, and glory. He shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire; he will destroy his numerous and victorious army, and that suddenly and irrecoverably, as the fire doth those combustible things which are cast into it; which was fulfilled 2 Kings 19:25.
And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day;The light of Israel, that God who is and will be a comfortable light to his people,
shall be for a fire to the Assyrians who shall have heat without light, as it is in hell.
His thorns and briers; his vast army, which is no more able to resist God, than dry thorns and briers are to oppose the fire which is kindled among them.
And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body: and they shall be as when a standardbearer fainteth.Of his forrest; of his great army, which may not unfitly be compared to a forest, either for the multitude of their spears, which, when lifted up together, resemble the trees of a wood or forest; or for the numbers of men, which stood as thick as trees do in a forest. Of his fruitful field; of his soldiers, which stood as thick as ears of corn do in a fruitful field. Heb. of his Carmel; wherein it is not improbably conjectured by our late most learned Mr. Gataker, that there is an allusion to that brag of the Assyrian, who threatens that he would go up to the sides of (Israel’s) Lebanon, and to the forest of his Carmel, and there cut down the tall cedars thereof: which though it was not uttered by the Assyrian till some years after this time, yet was exactly foreknown to God, who understandeth men’s thoughts, and much more their words, afar off, Psalm 139:2-4, and therefore might direct the prophet to use the same words, and to turn them against himself; Whereas thou threatenest to destroy Israel’s Carmel, I will destroy thy Carmel
Both soul and body, i.e. totally, both inwardly and outwardly, both strength and life. Heb. from the soul to the flesh; which may possibly signify the manner of their death, which should be by a sudden stroke of the destroying angel upon their inward and vital parts, which was speedily followed by the consumption of their flesh. See Isaiah 37:35,36.
They shall be, the state of that king, and of his great and valiant army, shall be,
as when a standard-bearer fainteth; like that of an army when their standard-bearer either is slain, or rather flees away, which strikes a panic terror into the whole army, and puts them to flight.
And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may write them.The rest of the trees of his forest; the remainders of that mighty host.
That a child may write them; that they may be easily numbered by the meanest accountant. A child may be their muster-master.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.The remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob; such Jews as shall be preserved from that sweeping Assyrian scourge, by which great numbers both of Israel and Judah were destroyed, and from their succeeding calamities. For that this place looks beyond the deliverance from the Assyrian army, and unto the times of the New Testament, seems probable,
1. From the following verses, which belong to that time, as we shall see.
2. From the state of the Jewish nation, which, after that deliverance, continued to be very sad and corrupt, and averse from that reformation which Hezekiah and Josiah prosecuted with all their might; and therefore the body of that people had not yet learned this lesson of sincere trusting in God alone.
3. From St. Paul’s explication and application of these words, Romans 9:27, of which more may be said when I come thither. And for the words in that day, which may seem to restrain this to the time of the Assyrian invasion, they are frequently used in the prophets of the times of the gospel, as Isaiah 2:2 4:2 11:10, &c.
Shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; shall learn by this judgment and experience never to trust to the Assyrians for help, as Ahaz and his people now did. In truth; not only by profession, but sincerely.
The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God.The remnant; or, a remnant; or, but a remnant; or, a remnant only; which particles are oft understood, as hath been formerly and frequently observed, and may be here supplied from the following verses.
Unto the mighty God; unto the Messiah, expressly called the mighty God, Isaiah 9:6.
For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness.Israel; or, O Israel; to whom by an apostrophe he directeth his speech.
A remnant; or, a remnant only, as before; for that this is a threatening in respect of some, as well as a promise in respect of others, is evident from the rest of this and from the following verse.
The consumption decreed shall overflow; the destruction of the people of Israel was already decreed or determined (as it is in the next verse) by the fixed counsel of God, and therefore must needs be executed, and like a deluge overflow them.
With righteousness, as this word is rendered, Romans 9:28; the preposition in or with being here understood, as it is every where. And this is added, to show, that although this judgment of God may seem very severe, yet it is most just, not only by the laws of strict and rigid justice, but even by the rules of equity and clemency, as this word oft signifies, inasmuch as he hath spared a considerable remnant of them, when he might have destroyed, them utterly. And so this word is added as a reason why a remnant, and why but a remnant, should return, because God would both glorify his justice, and manifest his mercy. And in this mixed sense the apostle seems to expound this place, Romans 9:27,28.
For the Lord GOD of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land.Shall make a consumption, even determined; the same thing is repeated in other words, with some addition; God will execute his own decree concerning the destruction of Israel, which he is well able to do, because he is the Lord of hosts.
In the midst of all the land; in all the parts of the land, not excepting Jerusalem, which was to be preserved in the Assyrian invasion, when almost all the other fenced cities of Judah should be taken; but should afterwards be taken and destroyed, as it was, first by the Babylonians, and then by the Romans.
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD of hosts, O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt.Therefore: this is an inference, not from the words immediately foregoing, but from the whole prophecy. Seeing the Assyrian shall be destroyed, and a remnant of my people preserved and restored.
In Zion; in Jerusalem, which is frequently called Zion, as Psalm 48:12 87:2 Isaiah 1:8,27 33:20, &c.; which he mentions, because this was the principal object of the Assyrians’ design and rage, and there were the temple, and thrones of justice, and the king and his princes, and multitudes had fled thither from the Assyrian.
He shall smite thee with a rod; he shall afflict thee, but not destroy thee. Compare 1 Kings 12:11.
After the manner of Egypt; as the Egyptians formerly did, and with the same ill success to themselves, and comfortable issue to you.
For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction.The indignation; mine anger, as it is explained in the next clause; either,
1. Towards my people; which shall weaken the Assyrian, whose great strength lay there; of which see above, Isaiah 10:5. Or,
2. Towards the Assyrian, with whom God was very angry, Isaiah 10:12, &c., yea, so angry, as not to be satisfied without their destruction, as it follows.
Shall cease; as anger commonly doth, when vengeance is fully executed.
And the LORD of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb: and as his rod was upon the sea, so shall he lift it up after the manner of Egypt.Shall stir up a scourge; shall send a destroying angel, Isaiah 37:36.
According to the slaughter of Midian; whom God slew suddenly, and unexpectedly, and in the night, as he did the Assyrians.
At the rock of Oreb; upon which one of their chief princes was slain, and nigh unto which the Midianites were destroyed.
Was upon the sea, to smite and divide it, and so to make way both for thy deliverance, and for the destruction of the Egyptians.
After the manner of Egypt; as he did in Egypt, to bring his plagues upon that land and people.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.His burden; the burden of the Assyrian: for so it was actively, because imposed by him; though passively it was Israel’s burden, as being laid upon him. Because of the anointing; out of the respect which I bear to that holy unction which I have established amongst you. And so this may relate either,
1. To the body of the people, who were in some sort anointed, being made by God a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation, Exodus 19:6; or,
2. To that sacred kingdom which God had, by his positive precept and solemn covenant, established in David and his posterity for ever. The Jews therefore, and some others, understand this of Hezekiah, to whom God had a singular respect, and upon whose prayers God gave this deliverance, as we read, Isaiah 37:15, &c. Possibly it might be better understood of David, who is oft mentioned in Scripture by the name of God’s anointed, as Psalm 20:6 89:20 132:17, and elsewhere; and for whose sake God gave many deliverances to the succeeding kings and ages, as is expressly affirmed, 1 Kings 11:32,34 2 Kings 8:19. And, which is more considerable, God declareth that he would give this very deliverance from the Assyrian for David’s sake, 2 Kings 19:34 20:6. But the Messiah, I doubt not, is here principally intended, of whom David was but a type, and who was in a peculiar manner anointed above all his fellows, as is said, Psalm 45:7. For he is the foundation of all the promises, 2 Corinthians 1:20, and of all the deliverances and mercies granted to God’s people in all ages; whence this very prophet makes use of this great promise of the Messiah, as an assurance that God would make good his promises of particular deliverances from their present or approaching calamities, as Isaiah 7:14, &c.; Isaiah 9:4, &c. And therefore the prophet might well say, that God would grant this deliverance for Christ’s sake; especially if it be considered, that this was the very reason why God had promised, and did so constantly perform, his mercy promised unto the tribe of Judah, and unto the house of David, until the coming of the Messiah, because the Messiah was to come of the tribe of Judah, and of the posterity of David, and was to succeed David in his throne and kingdom; and he was to be known by this character; and therefore this tribe, and house, and kingdom were to continue, and that in a visible manner, till Christ came.
He is come to Aiath, he is passed to Migron; at Michmash he hath laid up his carriages:He is come to Aiath: here the prophet returns to his former discourse concerning the Assyrian invasion into Judah; which he describes, after the manner of the prophets, as a thing present, and sets down the several stages by which he marched towards Jerusalem. The places here named are most of them towns of Benjamin, and some of Judah, as appears from other scriptures; of which it is needless to say more in this place.
He, to wit, Sennacherib, king of Assyria,
is come in his way to Jerusalem.
He hath laid up his carriages; leaving such things there as were less necessary, that so he might march with more expedition. Heb. he visited his vessels or instruments; which may be meant of his taking a survey of his army and artillery, to see that all things were ready for his enterprise.
They are gone over the passage: they have taken up their lodging at Geba; Ramah is afraid; Gibeah of Saul is fled.The passage; some considerable passage then well known, possibly that 1 Samuel 14:4. The people fled to Jerusalem for fear of the Assyrian.
Lift up thy voice, O daughter of Gallim: cause it to be heard unto Laish, O poor Anathoth.O daughter of Gallim: Jerusalem was the mother city, and lesser towns are commonly called her daughters, as hath been oft noted.
Madmenah is removed; the inhabitants of Gebim gather themselves to flee.No text from Poole on this verse.
As yet shall he remain at Nob that day: he shall shake his hand against the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem.He shall shake his hand, by way of commination. But withal he intimates that he should be able to do no more against it, and that there his proud waves should be stayed, as it is declared in the following verses, and in the history.
Behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, shall lop the bough with terror: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled.The bough; the top bough, Sennacherib; or,
the boughs, his valiant soldiers or commanders of his army, which he compareth to a forest, Isaiah 10:18,34.
With terror; with a most terrible and amazing stroke by an angel.
And he shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one.With iron; or, as with iron, as the trees of the forest are cut down by instruments of iron.
And Lebanon; or, his Lebanon, the pronoun being oft understood in the Hebrew text; the Assyrian army, which being before compared to a forest or wood, and being called his Carmel in the Hebrew text, Isaiah 10:18, may very fitly, upon the same ground, be called his Lebanon here; especially considering that the king of Assyria is called a cedar of Lebanon, Ezekiel 31:3.
By a mighty one; by a mighty angel, Isaiah 37:36.