Matthew Poole's Commentary
In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.God’s care over his vineyard Isaiah 27:1-6. His chastisements on them, Isaiah 27:7-9. His severe judgments against them, Isaiah 27:10,11. Their return, Isaiah 27:12,13.
Shall punish leviathan; what kind of creature the leviathan is, See Poole "Job 41:1", &c.; whence it is evident that it was a very great and terrible sea-monster. But here it is certain that the expression is metaphorical, and that by this leviathan, serpent, and dragon (for all signify the same thing) he understands some very powerful enemy or enemies (for the singular number may be here put for the plural, as it is in many other places) of God, and of his church or people, which may well be called by these names, partly for their great might, and partly for the great terror and destruction which they cause upon the earth, as the leviathan doth in the sea. He seems to have a special respect to some particular enemy and oppressor of God’s people; either the Assyrian emperor, who now was so; or rather the Babylonian, who should be so. Some understand this of the devil; but although it may be applied to him in a mystical sense, it seems to be literally meant of some potent and visible adversary; which seems more agreeable to the following verses, and to the usage of this and other prophets.
The piercing serpent; which by its sting pierceth quickly and deeply into men’s bodies. Or, the bar (as this word is elsewhere used) serpent, as this may be called, either for its length, or strength, or swift motion.
That crooked serpent; winding and turning itself with great variety and dexterity; whereby he seems to signify the craftiness and activity of this enemy, which being added to his strength makes it more formidable.
The dragon; or rather, the whale, as this word is rendered, Genesis 1:21 Job 7:12, and elsewhere; which agrees better with the following words,
that is in the sea, which possibly were added only to limit that general and ambiguous word to a sea-monster, and not to describe the place in which the enemy signified by this dragon had his abode. Although the sea, which here follows, may be metaphorically understood of the great largeness of his empire, and the multitude of his subjects, by comparing this with Revelation 17:1,15.
In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine.In that day; when this potent enemy shall be destroyed·
A vineyard of red wine: the words in the Hebrew text lie thus, A vineyard (Behold, a vineyard; or, Jacob or Israel, my church and people, which is sufficiently understood from the next verse, and is expressed Isaiah 27:6, shall be a vineyard, shall be defended and dressed, shall thrive and flourish like a vineyard) of red wine, (i.e. of the choicest and best wine, which in those parts was red, as appears both from Scripture, as Proverbs 23:31, whence it is called the blood of the grape, Genesis 49:11 Deu 32:14, and from other authors,)
sing ye (O you faithful souls, sing with joy and thanksgiving to God) to (or of, or concerning, as this prefix is elsewhere used) her, or it, to wit, the vineyard, or church, (which is frequently compared to a vineyard, as Psalm 80:8 Isaiah 5:7, and elsewhere,) now delivered from her great enemy, and blessed with peace and prosperity.
I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.I the Lord do keep it; I will secure it, that neither men, nor beasts, nor drought shall spoil it; which alone are the things that can hurt it. I will protect my church from all the assaults of her enemies, and supply her with all necessary provisions, with my ordinances, and with my Spirit and grace.
Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together.Fury, to wit, against my vineyard, or my people; which is easily understood both from the foregoing and following verses. I have been displeased with them, and have chastised them; but I am not implacable towards them, and resolved utterly to destroy them, as their enemies are, and would have me to be.
I would go through them, I would burn them together: this is added as a reason of the foregoing clause and assertion; which may be conceived either,
1. Thus, I rather desire to contend with briers and thorns, i.e. with the wicked enemies of my church, who are thus called, Isaiah 10:17 Ezekiel 28:24; and if my wrath was now kindled against them, as it is against my people, I would be furious towards them, and never leave till I had utterly consumed them; but I will deal more indulgently with my people. Which exposition seems to receive some light and strength from Isaiah 27:6-8. Or,
2. Thus, For I consider the weakness of my people, that if I should let loose my fury upon them, they could no more stand before me than briers and thorns (to which God’s people, when they fall into sin, and provoke God, are not unfitly resembled) can stand before a devouring fire, and therefore they would in an instant be utterly destroyed; which I will not do. And this consideration of man’s imbecility is elsewhere alleged as a reason of God’s indulgence, as Psalm 103:13-16 Isaiah 57:16. But this I deliver with submission.
Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me.Or, or if at any time fury be, or seem to be, in me against my vineyard or people,
let him, my people, as is clearly implied from the following words; for there is no peace to those who are not God’s people, or to the wicked, Isaiah 57:21, and is expressed in the following verse; take hold of my strength, i.e. take hold of my arm, which is metonymically strength, and stay it from giving the blow, not by force, which is impossible, but by humble submission and earnest supplication. Or, strengthen himself, or be strong, (as this word properly signifies, and is elsewhere used,) by my strength; not by his own strength, which he will oppose to mine, but by my strength, which he may by humble and frequent prayers not only restrain from doing him hurt, but effectually engage to assist him, and do him good. He seems to allude to that history of Jacob’s wrestling with the angel of God, Genesis 32:28, which he could never have done but by a strength received from God.
That he may make peace with me; that instead of opposing me, he may in this manner reconcile himself to me. Or, and
he shall make peace with me, as the same words are rendered in the next clause; which may be repeated to assure them of that great and important favour, that God would make peace with them. Or the words may be rendered in both clauses, let him make peace with me, yea, let him make peace with me; this future verb being taken imperatively, as the other is in the former clause of the verse.
He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.To take root; to be firmly settled in their possessions, and not tossed hither and thither, as they have been.
Fill the face of the world with fruit; their posterity shall be so numerous, that their own land shall not be sufficient for them, but they shall be forced to seek habitations in other countries, and shall replenish them with people. But this seems to be understood of the spiritual seed of Jacob, or of believers, who are oft called God’s Israel, as Romans 9:6, and elsewhere.
Hath he smitten him, as he smote those that smote him? or is he slain according to the slaughter of them that are slain by him?Hath he smitten him, as he smote those that smote him? the question implies a denial; he hath not so smitten him, to wit, Jacob. He hath not dealt so severely with his people as he hath dealt with his and their enemies, whom he hath utterly destroyed. This may look either,
1. Backward, upon times past. If you consult former experiences, you will find that God hath done so, hath spared and restored his people, and in judgment remembered mercy to them, when he hath totally ruined their enemies. Or,
2. Forward, upon the time to come, of which he speaks as of a thing past, after the manner of the prophets, and of which he speaks in the next verse.
Of them that are slain by him; of those who were slain by Israel, or rather by God at the prayer and on the behalf of Israel. Heb. of his slain ones, i.e. of those of his smiters or enemies who were slain; which exposition is favoured by comparing this with the foregoing clause.
In measure, when it shooteth forth, thou wilt debate with it: he stayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind.In measure; with moderation, in certain proportions which God meteth out and fitteth to their strength. When it shooteth forth; when the vine shooteth forth its luxuriant branches, he, like the vine-dresser, cutteth them off, but so as not to spoil or destroy the vine. Or, as divers interpreters render it, and the word properly and frequently signifies, in or by casting, or dismissing, or sending her or it out; or, when thou dost cast or send her out, to wit, out of her own land, in which she was planted, into captivity. He alludes to a man that divorceth his wife, which is expressed by this word; but withal intimates that this shall not be peremptory and perpetual, as other divorces were.
Thou wilt debate with it; God is said to debate or contend with men, when he executeth his judgments upon them, as Isaiah 57:16 Amos 7:4.
He stayeth his rough wind; he mitigateth the severity of the judgment. But I must confess I do not meet with any of the ancient or modern translators that agree with ours in this version; nor is the Hebrew verb used, so far as I know, in the signification of staying or restraining; besides, our translation takes no notice of the Hebrew preposition. But this word unquestionably signifies to remove or take away, as 2 Samuel 20:13 Proverbs 25:4,5, and thus most interpreters understand it. And so the place is very fitly thus rendered, he (or, when he, which particle may easily be understood out of the former clause, as is usual) removeth (understand either it, to wit, the vine; or them, to wit; the enemies of God and his people. And so this agreeth with the former verse, in representing the different way of God’s proceeding against his people, and his and their enemies. Either way there is only a defect of the pronoun, which I have before showed in divers places to be very usual in the Hebrew language) with or by his rough wind; by which sometimes vines and other trees are pulled up by the roots, as that did, 1 Kings 19:11, whereby he understands his most terrible judgments.
In the day of the east wind; in the time when he sendeth forth his east wind; which he mentions, because that wind in those parts was most violent, and most hurtful to trees and fruits, as hath been oft observed, and therefore is used to signify the most grievous calamities.
By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up.By this, by this manner of God’s dealing with his people, therefore, that the difference between Jacob and his enemies in their several sufferings may appear,
shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged, Heb. expiated or forgiven upon their true repentance, which shall be the happy effect of their chastisement.
This is all the fruit to take away his sin; the effect hereof shall not be to destroy the sinner, as it is in other men, but only to take away the guilt and power of their sins.
When he maketh; which sin of Jacob’s shall be purged and taken away, and the judgment removed, when he shall truly repent of all his sins, and especially of his idolatry, to which they were most inclined, and for which the most of God’s judgments which they had hitherto felt had been inflicted upon them.
The altar; which by a usual enallage may be put for the altars, to wit, their idolatrous altars, as is evident from the following words. Possibly he may say the altar with respect to that particular altar which Ahaz had set up in the place of God’s own altar; and this prophecy might be delivered either to the prophet, or by him to the people, in Ahaz’s time, while that altar stood and was used.
As chalk stones; when he shall break all those goodly altars in pieces, which God by his law had enjoined.
That are beaten in sunder; which kind of stones are of themselves apt to break into small pieces, and by the artificer are broken into smaller pieces for making mortar. He seems to allude to that fact of Moses, who, to show his detestation of idolatry, took the golden calf, and burnt it, and ground it to powder; and intimates, that when their repentance should be sincere, it would discover itself by their zeal in destroying the instruments of their idolatry. The groves; which were frequently erected to the honour of idols, of which we have many instances in Scripture, which God therefore commanded his people to destroy, Deu 7:5 12:3.
Shall not stand up; shall be thrown down with contempt and indignation.
Yet the defenced city shall be desolate, and the habitation forsaken, and left like a wilderness: there shall the calf feed, and there shall he lie down, and consume the branches thereof.Yet; yet before this glorious promise concerning the removal of Israel’s sin and calamity be fulfilled, a dreadful and desolating judgment shall first come upon them.
The defenced city; Jerusalem, and the rest of the defenced cities in the land, the singular number being put for the plural.
The habitation; the most inhabited and populous places. Or, as the Hebrew word properly signifies, their pleasant habitations, whether in the city or country.
Forsaken and left like a wilderness; which was fulfilled in the time of the Babylonish captivity.
The calf; which is synecdochically put for all sorts of cattle, which may securely feed there, because there shall be no men left to disturb or annoy them.
The branches thereof; of their pleasant habitation; of the young trees which shall grow up in that ruinated country.
When the boughs thereof are withered, they shall be broken off: the women come, and set them on fire: for it is a people of no understanding: therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will shew them no favour.When the boughs thereof are withered; when they shall begin to wither, as they will when they are thus gnawed and cropped by cattle.
They shall be broken off, that there may be no hopes nor possibility of their recovery.
The women; he mentions women, either because it is their usual work in the country to make fires, and to gather fuel for them, or to signify that the men should be generally destroyed.
It is a people of no understanding; they do not understand either me or themselves, either my word or works; they know not the things which concern their own peace and happiness, but, like brute beasts made to be destroyed, they blindly and wilfully go on in those courses which will bring them to certain ruin. He that made them; both as they are creatures, and as they are his people; for this also is expressed by making or forming, as Psalm 100:3 102:18 149:2. Thus he overthroweth their false and presumptuous conceits, that God would never destroy the work of his own hands, nor the seed of Abraham his friend for ever; and plainly declareth the contrary.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel.Shall beat off; or, shall beat out; which is not meant in a way of punishment, which is rather designed by threshing, as Isaiah 21:10 25:10, than by beating; but as an act of mercy, as is evident from the following clause of this, and from the next verse. It is a metaphor from some grains which were beaten out with a rod or staff, of which see Isaiah 28:27,28, and then were carefully gathered and laid up, for the use of man.
From the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt; from Euphrates to Nilus, which were the two borders of the Land of Promise, Joshua 1:4 13:3. All the Israelites which are left in the land; which are here opposed to those of them that are dispersed into foreign parts, such as Assyria and Egypt.
Ye shall be gathered one by one; which signifies either the smallness of the remnant of that numerous people; or rather God’s exact and singular care of them, that not one of them should be lost.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem.The great trumpet; which may be heard even to the remotest parts of the earth. God shall summon them all together as it were by sound of trumpet, to wit, by an eminent call or act of his providence on their behalf. He alludes to the custom of calling the Israelites, together with trumpets; of which see Numbers 10:2,3.
The land of Assyria, where the ten tribes were carried captive. The land of Egypt, where many of the Jews were, as is manifest both from Scripture, as Jeremiah 43:7 44:28 Hosea 8:13 Zechariah 10:10, and from other authors.