Matthew Poole's Commentary
Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.Christ’s kingdom, and its blessings, Isaiah 32:1-8. Careless women shall be troubled, Isaiah 32:9-11, and the land laid waste, Isaiah 32:12-14, until a restoration, Isaiah 32:15-20.
This seems to me to be a distinct prophecy from the former, and delivered at another time, and probably before that which is related in the former chapters. For this is certain, and confessed by all, that the prophecies are not always set down in that order in which the prophets delivered them. The foregoing prophecy seems to have been delivered, not in the time of Ahaz, for he sent to the Assyrian, and not to the Egyptian, for help; but in the days of Hezekiah, who rebelled against the king of Assyria, as is said, 2 Kings 18:7, and was too prone to trust upon the staff of Egypt, as the Assyrian expressly chargeth him there, to which course it is likely he was drawn or tempted by some of his wicked princes and counsellors, whom the prophet therefore severely censures and condemns in the two foregoing chapters. And this seems to have been delivered in the time of Ahaz, and to speak of Hezekiah, and of his righteous and happy government. But withal, as Hezekiah and his reign was an eminent type of Christ, and of his kingdom; so this prophecy looks through Hezekiah unto Christ, as many other scriptures in their literal sense do unquestionably concern David, which yet have a mystical sense, and are also meant of Christ, in whom those things were more fully and eminently accomplished.
A king; Hezekiah, a type of Christ, and Christ typified by him.
Shall reign; therefore Hezekiah was not king when this prophecy was delivered. And whereas some say that he speaks of the good government of Hezekiah after the destruction of Sennacherib, it is easy to observe that his government was as good before that time as afterward; and that in the very beginning of his reign he ruled with righteousness and the fear of God, as the history plainly declareth.
Princes; the ministers of state, and justice, and war under the king. For a wise and good king will take care to have like ministers.
And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.A man; either,
1. The man or king spoken of. Or,
2. Each or every one, to wit, of his princes. That king shall not patch up an old garment with new cloth, nor mingle good and bad together; but shall take care to purge out all the corrupt magistrates, and, as far as he can, to settle good ones in all places. A man is oft put for every or any man, as Isaiah 2:20 3:5,6, and elsewhere.
Shall be as an hiding place unto the people under their government, especially to such as are oppressed or injured by those Who are more potent than they.
From the wind; from the rage and violence of evil men.
As rivers of water in a dry place; no less refreshing and acceptable shall this king and his princes be to their subjects.
In a weary land; in a dry and scorched country, which is called weary here, as also Psalm 63:1, metonymically, because it makes travellers weary; as death is called pale in other authors, because it makes men’s faces pale.
And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken.This is meant either,
1. Of the princes or magistrates, who are instead of eyes and ears, both to the king and to the people, who, by their office, are to see and observe all things, and to hear all causes. These, saith he, shall not shut their eyes, nor suffer them to be blinded with gifts, to favour a rich man in an unjust cause; they shall not shut their ears against the complaints of the poor oppressed ones, as wicked princes commonly do. Or,
2. Of the people; they shall not shut their eyes and ears against the good counsels and examples of their religious king and rulers, as they have done formerly: both princes and people shall be reformed. This was done in some poor measure in Hezekiah’s time; but far more fully and eminently in the days of the Messiah, who, by his grace, changeth men’s hearts, and cureth them of that wilful and obstinate blindness whereof they had been guilty before; which clearly showeth that this prophecy looks through Hezekiah unto Christ. And the like may be said of the following verse.
The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly.The rash; who were hasty and heady in judging of things; which is an argument of ignorance and folly.
Shall understand knowledge; shall become more knowing and considerate in their judgments and actions.
The stammerers; that used to speak of the things of God darkly, and doubtfully, and unwillingly. As men’s understandings shall then be enlightened, so their speech shall be reformed; which though it was in part fulfilled in Hezekiah; this reformation being effected in some measure by his counsel and example, and by the powerful preaching of the Levites, whom he excited and encouraged to teach the good knowledge of the Lord, as is said, 2 Chronicles 30:22; yet was truly and fully accomplished only by Christ, who wrought this wonderful change in an innumerable company both of Jews and Gentiles.
The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful.The vile person; base and worthless men. Heb. the fool; which in Scripture use commonly signifies a wicked man.
Shall be no more called liberal, or noble, or a prince, or lord, as this word is used, Psalm 118:9 146:3, and elsewhere. The sense of the place is, either,
1. Unworthy men shall not be advanced to places of honour and power, as the LXX. and some others understand it; for to be called is oft put in Scripture for to be, as hath been frequently observed. Or,
2. Vicious and worthless persons shall no longer be reputed honourable and virtuous because of their high and honourable places, as commonly they are under wicked princes by means of flatterers; but wickedness shall be discovered and punished wheresoever it is, and virtue shall be manifested and rewarded, and all things shall be managed with sincerity and simplicity; which was eminently fulfilled under the gospel; by the preaching whereof, and by Christ’s Spirit, hypocrites are detected, and men are enabled to discern between good and evil, both persons and things. The churl; the sordid and covetous man; which is a great vice in any man, but especially in magistrates; who therefore must be men hating covetousness, Exodus 18:21. But under this one vice all vices are understood by a synecdoche, very frequent in Scripture and in other authors; as under the apposite virtue of bountifulness all virtues are comprehended.
For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail.For the vile person will speak villany: so this is a reason of the assertion, Isaiah 32:5; either thus, Such shall not be advanced to places of trust and dignity; for if they were, they would abuse them by unjust sentences and practices. Or thus, Men shall no longer be miscalled; for every one will discover what he is by his Words and actions; which also shall be narrowly observed. But these and the following words are and may be otherwise rendered: But (as this particle oft signifies) he shall be called or said to be (which words are easily understood out of the former verse, as is very frequent in Scripture) a fool, who (which relative particle is understood in very many places) shall speak villany, and whose heart shall work iniquity, &c.
His heart will work iniquity; he will, from time to time, be devising wickedness, that he may execute it when he hath opportunity.
To practise hypocrisy: to, do bad things, but with a pretence of religion and justice, which he shall use to keep himself from the disfavour of his prince, and from the lash of the law. Or, to practise profaneness or wickedness, as this word, at least sometimes, seems to signify.
To utter error against the Lord; to pass unjust sentences, which is directly contrary to the will and command of God.
To make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail; whereby they take away the bread and drink of the poor, and give it to their rich oppressors.
The instruments also of the churl are evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right.The instruments also of the churl are evil, Heb. The vessels, &c., which is a word of a very general signification among the Hebrews, and signifies any person or thing which is employed in a man’s use and service. I say person, for the name of vessel is given to such persons as are instrumental to another, as to the Babylonians, who were God’s instruments in executing his vengeance, Isaiah 13:5 to God’s ministers, Acts 9:15 2 Corinthians 4:5; and to useful Christians, 2 Timothy 2:20; and to wives, 1 Peter 3:7. And so it may be here noted, that such covetous or wicked princes most willingly choose and employ wicked men in their affairs, because such men will, without any regard to conscience or justice, serve all their exorbitant desires or lusts. But withal, it seems to include his counsels, and practices, and arts, which are here declared to be generally evil. But this verse is and may be otherwise rendered, as the former was; And (repeat, he shall be called) a churl (as indeed he is one) whose instruments are evil, and who deviseth, &c.; which agrees with the order of the words in the Hebrew text, and with the order of the foregoing verses: for as he speaks of the vile person, and of the churl, Isaiah 32:6; so he gives a description of the vile person, Isaiah 32:6, and then of the churl, in this verse.
He deviseth wicked devices; he useth all his wit and art to do injury to others, without any inconvenience to himself.
With lying words; with false and unrighteous decrees.
When the needy speaketh right; when their cause is just and good.
But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.He who is truly liberal and virtuous will show it by designing and practising liberal or virtuous actions; and he who doth so will not destroy himself thereby, as wicked men falsely suppose, but establish and advance himself. But this verse also, as Well as the former, is and may be otherwise rendered; And (repeat, he shall be called, as before)
liberal, who deviseth liberal things, and persisteth or continueth in liberal things. If it be thought strange that so many verses should be spent in affirming that which in effect was said Isaiah 32:5, it must be considered that these verses do not only contain an affirmation, that they should be called vile persons, or churls, or liberal that were so; but also a description of their qualities and practices, which was useful for their conviction, and for the instruction of others.
Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto my speech.Rise up; bestir and prepare yourselves to hear, as it follows, and shake off sloth and carelessness.
That are at ease; that indulge yourselves in idleness and luxury.
Careless, Heb. confident or secure, who are insensible of your sin and danger.
Daughters; the same before called women; whom he here reproveth and threateneth for their sins, as he did the men before for seeking to Egypt for help, and divers other sins, whereof the men were most guilty.
Many days and years shall ye be troubled, ye careless women: for the vintage shall fail, the gathering shall not come.Many days and years, Heb. Days above a year, i.e. a year and some days; which notes either,
1. The time from this prophecy to the beginning of this judgment; or rather,
2. The time of the continuance of it, that it should last for above one year; as indeed this did, and no longer; for Hezekiah reigned in all but twenty-nine years, 2 Kings 18:2, and Sennacherib came in his fourteenth year, and after his defeat and departure God promised and added to him fifteen years more, 2 Kings 20:6.
The vintage shall fail, during the time of the Assyrian invasion. And this commination is here added to qualify the foregoing promise, and to warn them, that although God would give them so good a king, and there should be some reformation of their former abuses under the government of Ahaz; yet as there were many sins among them not yet repented of, so they should be severely chastised for them.
The gathering, to wit, of the other fruits of the earth; as that feast which was observed after the gathering of all the fruits was called the feast of ingathering, Exodus 23:16.
Tremble, ye women that are at ease; be troubled, ye careless ones: strip you, and make you bare, and gird sackcloth upon your loins.Strip you, and make you bare; put off your ornaments, as God commanded upon a like occasion, Exodus 33:5, that you may put on sackcloth instead of them, as mourners and penitents used to do.
They shall lament for the teats, for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine.They shall lament for the teats; either,
1. Properly, because through famine your teats are destitute of milk for the nourishment of your poor children. Or rather,
2. Metaphorically, as the following words explain it,
for the pleasant and fruitful fields, which like teats yielded you plentiful and excellent nourishment, for which the land was said to flow with milk, Ezekiel 20:6. And the earth being compared to the womb that bare us, Job 1:21, it is not strange if its fruitful fields be compared to the breasts which nourish us.
Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers; yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city:Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers. If any of you think there is no great cause for such trembling and lamentation, which shall last but for a year and some days, know that this calamity by the Assyrians is but an earnest of further and sorer judgments; for the time is coming when this land shall be laid desolate, and instead of vines and other fruits, it shall yield nothing but briers and thorns; of which see on Isaiah 7:23,24.
Upon all the houses of joy; upon that ground where now your houses stand, in which you delight, and take your fill of mirth and pleasure.
Because the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be left; the forts and towers shall be for dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks;The palaces, Heb. the palace; the king’s house, and other magnificent buildings in the city.
Shall be left; or rather, shall be forsaken, to wit, of God, and given up into their enemies’ hands. And the verb in the foregoing clause may be rendered, shall be left.
A joy of wild asses; desolate places, in which wild asses delight to be, Job 39:5,6 Jer 2:24.
Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest.Until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high: and this calamity and desolation shall, in a manner, continue until the time come, in which God will pour, or, as the Hebrew word properly signifies, reveal, i.e. evidently and plentifully pour out, his Spirit from heaven upon his people; which was done in some sort upon the return of the people from Babylon, when God, by his Spirit, stirred up the spirit, both of Cyrus to give them liberty of returning to Jerusalem, and of the people to return and build the city and temple; but was far more clearly and fully accomplished in the days of the Messiah. And indeed the promises contained in these and the following words and verses were not fulfilled upon their coming out of Babylon, after which time they had but a little reviving in their bond. age, as is said, Ezra 9:8, and continued in servitude and distress under the Persian emperors, Nehemiah 9:36,37, and afterward suffered many and grievous calamities from the kings of Syria and Egypt, and from the Romans; which suits very ill with that glorious promise here following, Isaiah 32:18. And therefore these promises concern the times of the gospel, when God’s Spirit was in a most evident and glorious manner poured forth upon the apostles, and other believing Jews, to the astonishment of their very adversaries; and when the following promises were in a good measure fulfilled, and are more fully to be accomplished in God’s due time.
The wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest; which is allegorically understood. The meaning may be this; God’s people, who were desolate and destroyed, shall be revived and flourish, and their flourishing enemies shall be brought to desolation and destruction. It may also signify the conversion of the barren and despised Gentiles, and the rejection of the Jews, in the time of the Messiah.
Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field.Judgment; just judgment, as the next clause explains it. Justice shall be executed in all the parts of the land, both in the barren and fruitful places, and shall be practised by all my people; which agrees with that promise, Isaiah 60:21, Thy people shall be all righteous, &c.
And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.The work of righteousness shall be peace; the effect of this prevailing practice of righteousness shall be prosperity and outward felicity.
Quietness; tranquillity, both of mind and outward estate.
Assurance; or, confidence. The observation of God’s precepts will beget in them a confidence and assurance of God’s mercy, and the fulfilling of his promises.
And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places;My people; either the Gentiles, who then shall be my people; or the Jews, to whom this promise shall be made good upon their conversion to Christ in the latter times of the gospel.
When it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place.When it shall hail, coming down on the forest, Heb. And it shall hail, &c. As my blessings shall be poured down upon my people, who from a wilderness are turned into a fruitful field, as it is said, Isaiah 32:15; so my wrath and judgments (which are signified by hail, Isaiah 28:2,17, and elsewhere) shall fall upon them, who were a fruitful field, but are turned into a forest, as was said, Isaiah 32:15, i.e. upon the unbelieving and rebellious Jews, who seem there to be designed under that notion.
The city; either,
1. Babylon, the great enemy and oppressor of God’s people. Or,
2. Jerusalem, which, though now it was the seat of God’s worship and people, yet he foresaw by the Spirit of prophecy that it would be the great enemy of the Messiah, and of God’s people.
Shall be low in a low place, Heb. shall be humbled with humiliation; which by an ordinary Hebraism signifies, shall be greatly humbled, or brought very low.
Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass.Blessed are ye that sow: as the barren forest shall be destroyed with hail, Isaiah 32:19, so the fruitful field shall be improved, and bring forth much fruit; which is signified by a declaration of the blessedness of them that sow in it.
Beside all waters; in all moist and fat grounds, which are like to yield good fruit. But this passage, as well as others in the foregoing verses, is to be understood mystically, and seems to respect the times of the gospel. The prophet reflecting upon his own unsuccessful labours, of which he complains, Isaiah 49:4, and elsewhere, and foreseeing by, the Spirit the great and happy success of his successors, the ministers of the gospel, tacitly bewails his own unhappiness, who sowed his seed upon dry and barren ground, by congratulating the happiness of the apostles, who sowed their seed more generally, upon all fit grounds, without any distinction between Jews and Gentiles; and who found the ground, to wit, the hearts of the people, more moistened and softened, and better prepared to receive the good seed of God’s word.
The ox and the ass; which creatures they employed in ploughing and sowing the ground, Deu 22:10 Psalm 144:14 Isaiah 30:24.