Matthew Poole's Commentary
Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!The folly and punishment of trust in Egypt, Isaiah 31:1-3. God will fight for Jerusalem, Isaiah 31:4,5, if they will turn unto him, Isaiah 31:6,7. The fall of Assyria, Isaiah 31:8,9.
That go down to Egypt for help; as the Jews did, contrary to God’s command, Deu 17:16.
And stay on horses; for Egypt had many and choice horses.
They look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord; their confidence in the creature was accompanied with and did produce a distrust of God, and a neglect of seeking to him by prayer for his help.
Yet he also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity.He also is wise: you think you are wise, and act wisely in engaging the Egyptians, who are a wise and warlike people, to help. you; but God is not inferior to them in wisdom nor in strength, but much their superior; and therefore you have done foolishly and wickedly in prefer. ring them before him.
Will bring evil; will execute his judgments upon you, notwithstanding all that you or your allies the Egyptians can do to hinder it.
Will not call back his words, his threatenings denounced against you, but will infallibly execute them.
Will arise; though at present he sit still, yet he will bestir himself and fight.
Against the house of evil-doers; against this wicked and rebellious people of the Jews.
The help; the helpers, as it is explained in the next verse; the abstract being put for the concrete.
Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down, and they all shall fail together.Are men, and not God; and therefore utterly unable to defend you, either without or against my will.
Their horses flesh; weak and frail, as that word signifies, Psalm 78:39 Hebrews 5:7, and elsewhere.
Not spirit; not like spiritual substances, such as the angels, who are immortal, and invisible by men; whereof we have instances, Exodus 12:29,30 Isa 37:36.
For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof.For; or, but; or, nevertheless, as this particle is elsewhere used, as hath been proved before. Although you have done evil in sending to Egypt for help, and they shall not be able to help you; yet the Lord himself will, of his own grace, and for the glory of his own name, give you that help and deliverance which you do not deserve, and have no reason to expect from him. And therefore desist from those evil courtels and courses, as those which are both unnecessary and pernicious.
Roaring on his prey; when he is ready to seize upon it, and devour it.
He will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself: it hath been observed of lions, that when they are pursued, they do not run away with all speed, as other creatures do, but march away slowly, and make an honourable retreat. For: although this Hebrew particle might be rendered against, and so this place might be understood of God’s fighting against the Jews and Egyptians, of which he speaks Isaiah 31:3; yet it is better rendered for, as it is taken in many other places, as is manifest from the following similitude and verse.
As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.As birds flying; which come from above, and so cannot be kept off; which fly swiftly, and engage themselves Valiantly and resolutely, when they perceive that their young ones are in eminent danger. He seems to allude, and to oppose this, to those boasting expressions of the Assyrian, Isaiah 10:14: compare Deu 32:11,12 Mt 23:37.
Passing over; the destroying angel shall pass over Jerusalem untouched, and shall fall upon the Assyrians. He seems to allude to the history of God’s passing over and sparing the houses of the Israelites, when he slew the Egyptians, in which this word is constantly used, Exodus 12:12,23,27.
Turn ye unto him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted.Turn ye unto him; let the consideration of this gracious promise engage you to repent of your carnal policies, in seeking and trusting to Egypt for help, and sincerely to return to God.
The children of Israel; either,
1. The Israelites, strictly so called, who are now utterly destroyed for their apostacy; and therefore take heed that you do not follow their example. Or,
2. You Jews, who are the children of Israel; which title he here gives them, partly to admonish them of their great and many obligations to God, and partly to aggravate the sin of their apostacy.
Have deeply revolted, in neglecting and forsaking him, and seeking to Egypt for help; which he calls a deep revolt, partly because it was a heinous sin, being contrary to God’s express command, and highly dishonourable to God; and partly because it was carried on with deep dissimulation, and with a public profession of cleaving to God, and with a design of seeking deep to hide this their counsel from the Lord, wherewith he charged this people, Isaiah 29:15.
For in that day every man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made unto you for a sin.For when the Assyrian shall invade your land, you shall find the vanity of those idols to which you have trusted; and therefore shall cast them away with indignation, and be forced to seek to me for help. So this is added as an argument to persuade them to practise his counsel of turning to God. Which your own hands have made unto you for a sin; which you have made as instruments of your sin of idolatry. Or, which your sinful hands (by a common Hebraism, called hands of sin) have made for you. Or, the sin (as an idol is called, Deu 9:21) which your hands have made for you. So there is only a transposition of one word, which is very usual in the Hebrew text.
Then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword, not of a mighty man; and the sword, not of a mean man, shall devour him: but he shall flee from the sword, and his young men shall be discomfited.Then; when you have cast away your idols, and seriously sought to me for help; both which things were performed by Hezekiah.
With the sword, not of a mighty man; and the sword, not of a mean man; by the sword, not of any man, either mean or mighty, but of an angel.
From the sword; from, or for fear of, that plague which so strangely and suddenly destroyed his army.
His young men, Heb. his choice young men; his guards and valiant commanders and soldiers.
Shall be discomfited, Heb. shall melt away, a great part of them being destroyed by the angel; and the hearts of the rest melting for fear.
And he shall pass over to his strong hold for fear, and his princes shall be afraid of the ensign, saith the LORD, whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem.He shall pass over to his strong hold; Sennacherib shall flee away, with all speed, from Jerusalem, to his strong city of Nineveh, Isaiah 37:37. Or, as it is in the margin, and as the words lie in the Hebrew text, his rock (i.e. his strength, the greatest champions of his army, to whom he trusted) shall pass away (shall flee with all speed from Jerusalem)
for fear, lest the sword of the destroying angel should overtake them.
Of the ensign; either,
1. Of any ensign. This dreadful judgment shall strike them with such a terror, that they shall not dare to look any enemy in the face. Or,
2. Of the Lord’s ensign, which he hath lifted up against them.
Whose fire is in Zion: so the sense is either,
1. Whose fire is continually burning upon the altar in Zion; which signifies his presence and residence there. Or rather,
2. Who is and will appear to be in Zion, like a fire, to defend his people, and to consume their enemies; for which end God promiseth that he would be unto Jerusalem a wall of fire round about, Zechariah 2:5, &c.; and that he would make the governor of Judah like a hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and that they should devour all the people round about. Possibly these and the following words may be thus rendered, and that very agreeably to the Hebrew words, who will be a fire (to wit, a consuming fire) to him (to the king of Assyria, of whom he is here speaking) in Zion, (from whence he will send forth that fire which shall consume his army: or, for Zion; for Zion’s sake; for the prefix here rendered in frequently signifies for, as hath been proved,) and a furnace to him in or for Jerusalem. But this I only propose, leaving it to the judgment of the intelligent reader. His furnace in Jerusalem; the same thing repeated in other words.