Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!
Verses 1-4. - A WARNING TO SAMARIA. The prophet has now east his eagle glance over the whole world and over all time. He has denounced woe upon all the principal nations of the earth (Isaiah 13-23.), glanced at the destruction of the world itself (Isaiah 24:17-20), and sung songs over the establishment of Christ's kingdom, and the ingathering of the nations into it (Isaiah 25-27.). In the present chapter he returns to the condition of things in his own time and among his own people. After a brief warning, addressed to Samaria, he turns to consider the condition of Judah, which he accuses of following the example of Samaria, of perishing through self-indulgence and lack of knowledge (vers. 7-12). He then proceeds to expostulate seriously with the "rulers of Jerusalem," on whom lies the chief responsibility for its future. Verse 1. - Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkard; rather, of the drunkards, The "drunkards of Ephraim," or of the ten tribes, were at once intoxicated with wine (Amos 4:1; Amos 6:6) and with pride (Amos 6:13). As the external aspect of affairs grew mere and more threatening through the advances of Tiglath-Pileser and Shalmaneser, they gave themselves up more and more to self-indulgence and luxury, lay upon beds of ivory, drank wine from bowls, feasted to the sound of the viol, and even invented fresh instruments of music (Amos 6:4, 5). At the same time, they said in their hearts, "Have we not taken by our own strength?" (Amos 6:13). They persisted in regarding themselves as secure, when even ordinary political foresight might have seen that their end was approaching. Whose glorious beauty is a fading flower; rather, and to the fading flower of his glorious beauty. The "glorious beauty" of Samaria was a beauty of magnificent luxury. "Summer" and "winter houses," distinct each from the other (Amos 3:15); "ivory palaces" (1 Kings 22:39; Amos 3:15); a wealth of "gardens, vineyards, fig-orchards, and olive yards" (Amos 4:9); residences of "hewn stone" (Amos 5:11); feasts enlivened with "the melody of viols" (Amos 5:23); "beds of ivory" (Amos 6:4); "wine in bowls" (Amos 6:6); "chief ointments" (Amos 6:6); constituted a total of luxurious refinement beyond which few had proceeded at the time, and which Isaiah was fain to recognize, in a worldly point of view, as "glorious" and "beautiful." But the beauty was of a kind liable to fade, and it was already fading under the sirocco of Assyrian invasion. Which are on the head of the fat valleys; rather, which is on the head (or, which decks the head) of the rich valley. Samaria was built on a hill of an oval form, which rose up in the midst of a fertile valley shut in by mountains. The prophet identifies the valley with the kingdom itself, and then personifies it, and regards its head as crowned by the fading flower of Samaria's beauty.
Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand.
Verse 2. - The Lord hath a mighty and strong one. God has in reserve a mighty power, which he will let loose upon Samaria. The wicked are "his sword" (Psalm 17:13), and are employed to carry out his sentences. In the present ease the "mighty and strong one" is the Assyrian power. As a tempest of hail, etc. The fearfully devastating force of an Assyrian invasion is set forth under three distinct images - a hailstorm, a furious tempest of wind, and a violent inundation - as though so only could its full horror be depicted. War is always a horrible scourge; but in ancient times, and with a people so cruel as the Assyrians, it was a calamity exceeding in terribleness the utmost that the modern reader can conceive. It involved the wholesale burning of cities and villages, the wanton destruction of trees and crops, the slaughter of thousands in battles and sieges, the subsequent massacre of hundreds in cold blood, the plunder of all classes, and the deportation of tens of thousands of captives, who were carried into hopeless servitude in a strange land. With the hand; i.e. "with force," "violently." So in Assyrian constantly (compare the use of the Greek χερί).
The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet:
Verse 3. - The crown of pride, the drunkards; rather, of the drunkards (comp. ver. 1). The "crown of pride" is scarcely "Samaria," as Delitzsch supposes, it is rather the self-complacent and boastful spirit of the Israelite people, which will be "trodden under foot" by the Assyrians.
And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up.
Verse 4. - And the glorious beauty, etc. Translate, And the fading flower of his glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be like an early fig (that comes) before the harvest. Such an "early fig" is a tempting delicacy, devoured as soon as seen (comp. Hosea 9:10; Nahum 3:12; Jeremiah 24:2, etc.). The "beauty" of Samaria would tempt the Assyrians to desire it so soon as they saw it, and would rouse an appetite which would be content with nothing less than the speedy absorption of the coveted morsel. Samaria's siege, once begun, was pressed without intermission, and lasted less than three years (2 Kings 18:9, 10) - a short space compared to that of other sieges belonging to about the same period; e.g., that of Ashdod, besieged twenty-nine years (Herod., 2. 157); that of Tyre, besieged thirteen years ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 3:492).
In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people,
Verses 5, 6. - THE FALL OF SAMARIA COINCIDENT WITH AN OFFER OF FAVOR TO JUDAH. Her sister's fate was the most powerful of all possible warnings to Judah against treading in her steps. Samaria had perished through want of faith in Jehovah. She had turned to other gods; she had trusted in her own "glory" and "beauty;" and she had trusted in Egypt. If Judah would do the exact opposite, she might be saved. If she would take Jehovah for her "Crown of glory" and "Diadem of beauty," he was willing to be so taken. He was willing to impart a "spirit of judgment" to her rulers, and "strength" to her armed force. Verse 5. - In that day shall the Lord of hosts be, etc. This is an offer, and something more than an offer. It is implied that, to some extent, the offer would be accepted. And clearly the closing of the clouds around Samaria was coincident with the dawn of a brighter day in Judah. Hezekiah came to the throne only three years before the fatal siege of Samaria began. His accession must have been nearly contemporaneous with that expedition of Shal-maneser against Hoshea, when he "shut him up, and bound him in prison" (2 Kings 17:4). Yet he was not daunted by his neighbor's peril. He began his reign with a political revolution and a religious reformation. He threw off the yoke of Assyria, to which his father had submitted (2 Kings 18:7), and he cleared the land of idols and idol-worship. It was the dawn of a day of promise, such as the prophet seems to point to in these two verses. Unhappily, the dawn was soon clouded over (vers. 7-9). The residue of his people; i.e. Judah. All admit that "they also," in ver. 7, refers to Judah, and Judah only; but the sole antecedent to "they also" is this mention of the residue of God's people.
And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.
Verse 6. - For a spirit of judgment. How far Judah had departed from the spirit of just judgment was made apparent in the very opening chapter of Isaiah's prophecy (vers. 15-27). To him that sitteth in judgment; rather, that sitteth on the judgment-seat (Cheyne). For strength to them that turn the battle to the gate; i.e. "to those who repulse an enemy, and drive him back to his own city's gate" (comp. 2 Kings 18:8, "He smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza ").
But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.
Verses 7-10. - JUDAH'S SINFULNESS. The reformation effected by Hezekiah was but a half-reformation. It put away idolatry, but it left untouched a variety of moral evils, as:
1. Drunkenness. Judah was no whir behind Ephraim in respect of this vice. The very priests and "prophets" gave way to the disgusting habit, and came drunk to the most solemn functions of religious teaching and hearing causes.
2. Scorn and mockery of God's true prophets. The teaching of Isaiah was made light of by the officials of the priestly and prophetic orders, who claimed to be quite as competent to instruct men in their duties as himself. They seem to have ridiculed the mode of his teaching - its catch-words, as they thought them, and its insistence on minutiae. Verse 7. - They also. Judah, no less than Ephraim (see vers. 1, 3). It has been questioned whether literal intoxication is meant, and suggested that Judah "imitated the pride and unbelief and spiritual intoxication of Ephraim" (Kay). But the numerous passages which tax both the Israelites and the Jews of the period with drunkenness (Isaiah 5:11, 22; Isaiah 22:13; Isaiah 56:12; Hosea 4:11; Hosea 7:5; Amos 6:6, etc.), are best understood literally. Orientals (e.g, the Persians) are often given to such indulgence. Have erred through wine; rather, reel with wine. Are out of the way; or, stagger. The verbs express the physical effects of intoxication. The priest and the prophet. Priests were forbidden by the Law to drink any wine or strong drink previously to their taking part in the service of the tabernacle (Leviticus 10:9), and the prohibition was always understood to apply afortiori to the temple (Ezekiel 44:21). Prophets might have been expected to act in the spirit of the command given to priests. By "prophets" here Isaiah means, not persons especially called of God, but official members of the prophetical order. Of these there were always many in Judah, who had no strong sense of religion (see Isaiah 29:10; Jeremiah 5:13, 31; Ezekiel 13:2-16; Amos 2:12; Micah 3:11; Zephaniah 3:4, etc.). They err in vision; rather, they reel in the vision. They are drunken, even in the very exercise of their prophetical office - when they see, and expound, their visions. They stumble in judgment; or, they stagger when pronouncing judgment (Delitzsch). Persons in authority had been specially warned not to drink wine before the hearing of causes (Proverbs 31:4, 5).
For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean.
Verse 8. - So that there is no place clean. This is probably the true meaning, though the prophet simply says, "There is no place" (comp. Isaiah 5:8).
Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
Verse 9. - Whom shall he teach? A sudden and abrupt transition. The best explanation seems to be that suggested by Jerome, and followed by Bishop Lowth and most commentators, viz. that the prophet dramatically introduces his adversaries as replying to him with taunting speeches. "Whom does he think he is teaching?" they ask. "Mere children, just weaned from their mother's milk, and taken away from the breast? Does he forget that we are grown men - nay, priests and prophets? And what poor teaching it is! What 'endless petty feazing'! (Delitzsch) - precept upon precept," etc. The intention is to throw ridicule upon the smallness and vexatious character of the prophet's interminable and uninterrupted chidings (Delitzsch). Knowledge... doctrine. Technical terms in Isaiah's teaching, which his adversaries seem to have ridiculed as "catch-words." The term translated "doctrine" means properly "tidings," and involves the idea that the prophet obtained the teaching so designated by direct revelation from God.
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
Verse 10. - For precept must be upon precept; rather, for it is precept upon precept (Lowth, Cheyne). The whole teaching is nothing but an accumulation of precept upon precept, rule upon rule, one little injunction followed up by another, here a little, there a little. The objectors profess to find in the prophet's teaching nothing grand, nothing broad - no enunciation of great leading principles; but a perpetual drizzling rain of petty maxims and rules, vexatious, cramping, confining; especially unsuitable to men Who had had the training of priests and prophets, and could have appreciated a grand theory, or a new religious standpoint, but were simply revolted at a teaching which seemed to them narrow, childish, and wearisome. It has been said that in the language of this passage "we may hear the heavy babbling utterance of the drunken scoffers" (Delitzsch); but in this we have perhaps an over-refinement. Isaiah probably gives us, not what his adversaries said of him over their cups, but the best arguments which they could hit on in their sober hours to depreciate his doe-trine. The arguments must be allowed to be clever.
For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.
Verses 11-13. - JUDAH'S PUNISHMENT. God will retort on the Jews their scorn of his prophet, and, as they will not be taught by his utterances, which they find to be childish and unrefined, will teach them by utterances still more unrefined - those of the Assyrians, which will be quite as monotonous and quite as full of minutiae as Isaiah's. Verse 11. - With stammering lips and with another tongue. The Assyrian language, though a Semitic idiom nearly allied to Hebrew, was sufficiently different to sound in the ears of a Jew like his own tongue mispronounced and barbarized.
To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.
Verse 12. - To whom he said; rather, because he said to them. God had from remote times offered to his people "rest" and "refreshing" - or a life of ease and peace in Palestine - but on condition of their serving him faithfully and observing his Laws (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). But they had re-jeered this "rest," since they had refused to observe the condition on which it was pro-raised. Because they had thus acted, God now brought upon them war and a conqueror.
But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
Verse 13. - The word of the Lord was to them; rather, shall be to them. God will now speak to them, not by his prophet, but by the Assyrian conqueror, who will do what they said Isaiah had done, i.e. lay upon them command after command, rule alter rule, a constant series of minute injunctions, under which they will chafe and fret and at last rebel, but only to be "snared and taken." It is uncertain whether the reference is to the immediate future and to the Assyrians proper only, or whether the Babylonians are not taken into account also, and their oppression of Judaea pointed to. The yoke of Babylon was probably quite as difficult to endure as that of Assyria; and we find that, in the space of eighteen years, it produced at least three rebellions.
Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.
Verses 14-22. - THE REBUKE OF JUDAH'S NOBLES. The power of the nobles under the later Jewish monarchy is very apparent throughout Isaiah's prophecy. It is they, and not the king, who are always blamed for bad government (Isaiah 1:10-23; Isaiah 3:12-15, etc.) or errors of policy (Isaiah 9:15, 16; Isaiah 22:15-19, etc.). Isaiah now turns from a denunciation of the priests and prophets, who especially opposed his teaching, to a threatening of the great men who guided the course of public affairs. He taxes them with being "men of scorn" (ver. 14), i.e. scorners of Jehovah, and with" a proud and insolent self-confidence" (Delitzsch). They have made, or are about to make, secret arrangements which will, they believe, secure Judaea against suffering injury at the hands of the Assyrians, and are quite satisfied with what they have done, and fear no evil. Isaiah is instructed that their boasted arrangements will entirely fail in the time of trial - their "refuge" (Egypt) will be found a refuge of lies (ver. 17), and the "overflowing scourge" (Assyria) will pass through the land, and carry all before it (ver. 18). There will then ensue a time of "vexation" and discomfort (vers. 19, 20) - God's anger will be poured out upon the land in strange ways (ver. 21). He therefore warns the rulers to lay aside their scorn of God, and humble themselves, lest a worse thing happen to them (ver. 22). Verse 14. - Ye scornful men; literally, ye men of scorn. The word used is rare, but will be found in the same sense in Proverbs 1:22 and Proverbs 29:8. A cognate participle occurs in Hosea 7:5. That rule this people. (On the authority of the nobles at this period, see the introductory paragraph.)
Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:
Verse 15. - We have made a covenant with death (comp. Job 5:23; Hosea 2:18). The words are a boast, expressed somewhat enigmatically, that they have secured their own safety by some secret agreement. The exact nature of the agreement they are disinclined to divulge. With hell are we at agreement. A "synonymous parallelism," merely strengthening the previous assertion. When the overflowing scourge shall pass through. Assyrian invasion has been compared to a "flood" (Isaiah 8:7; Isaiah 28:2), and to a "rod" or "staff" in Isaiah 10:24. Here the two metaphors are joined together. It shall not come to us. Some means will be found - what, they do not say, either for diverting the flood, or for stemming it. For we have made lies our refuge. Here the Divine reporter departs from the language of those whose words he is reporting, and substitutes his own estimate of the true nature and true value of that "refuge" on which they placed such entire reliance. It appears by Isaiah 30:1-7 and Isaiah 36:6-9 that that refuge was Egypt. Now, Egypt was a "bruised reed," not to be depended on for keeping her engagements. To trust in her was to put confidence in "lies" and "falsehood."
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
Verse 16. - Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone. In contrast with the insecure refuge and false ground of confidence whereon the nobles relied, the prophet puts forward the one sure "Rock" on which complete dependence may be placed - which he declares that Jehovah is laying, or "has laid," in Zion as a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation. The imagery is, no doubt, drawn from the practice of Oriental kings, and notably Solomon, to employ foundation-stones of enormous size and weight at the corners of buildings. Some of those uncovered at the corners of Solomon's temple by the Palestine Exploration Fund are more than thirty-eight feet long, and weigh above a hundred tons (see 'Our Work in Palestine,' pp. 38, 115). But the reference cannot, of course, be to the material structure of the temple as Israel's true refuge. Rather, Jehovah himself would seem to be the Rock (Isaiah 26:4; Isaiah 30:29, etc.) intended; and hence the application to Christ by the writers of the New Testament (Romans 9:33; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6-8) was natural and easy. But it may be questioned whether the passage was to Isaiah himself "Messianic," or meant more than that God had set his Name and his presence at Jerusalem from the time that the temple was built there, and that it was a mistake to look elsewhere titan to him for deliverance or security. He that believeth shall not make haste. The LXX. have "He that believeth shall not be ashamed" or "confounded;" and St. Paul (Romans 9:33) follows this rendering. It is conjectured that the Hebrew had originally yabish instead of yakhish.
Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.
Verse 17. - Judgment also will I lay to the line, said righteousness to the plummet; rather, justice also will I set for my rule, and righteousness for my plumb-line; i.e. I will execute justice and judgment on the earth with all strictness and exactness. The scorners had implied that, by their clever devices, they would escape the judgment of God (ver. 15). The hail (comp. ver. 2). The storm of Assyrian invasion will overwhelm Egypt, which is a "refuge of lies," false and untrustworthy (see the comment on ver. 15). The hiding-place. Mr. Cheyne adds, "of falsehood," supposing a word to have fallen out of the text. Such an addition seems almost required to complete the parallelism of the two clauses, and also for the balance between this verse and ver. 15.
And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.
Verse 18. - And your covenant with death shall be disannulled; or, wiped out. The entire clever arrangement, by which they thought to avert the danger from themselves and from Judaea, shall come to naught. When the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. As the prophet continues, his metaphor becomes still more mixed. "Treading down" was so familiar an expression for destroying, that, perhaps, its literal sense was overlooked (comp. Isaiah 5:5; Isaiah 7:25; Isaiah 10:6; Daniel 8:13; Micah 7:10; Zechariah 10:5, etc.).
From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report.
Verse 19. - From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you; rather, as often as it passes along, it shall take you away; i.e. as often as the flood of Assyrian invasion sweeps through Palestine, it shall thin the population by death and captivity. We know of at least eight passages of the flood through Judaea - one under Sargon, two under Sennacherib, three or four under Esarhaddon, and two under Asshur-bani-pal. There may have been more. Morning by morning; i.e. frequently - time after time. Shall it pass over; rather, pass along, or pass through. It shall be a vexation only to understand the report; rather, it will be sheer terror to understand the doctrine. There is an allusion to ver. 9. They had thought scorn of Isaiah's "doctrine," when he taught it them by word of mouth; they will understand it but too well, and find it" nothing but a terror," when it is impressed on them by the preaching of facts.
For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.
Verse 20. - For the bed, etc. We have a proverb, "As a man makes his bed, so must he lie in it." The Jews will have made themselves a bed in which they can have no comfort or ease, and consequently no rest. But they will only have themselves to blame for it.
For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.
Verse 21. - The Lord shall rise up as in Mount Perazim. The "Mount Perazim" of this passage is probably the same as the "Baal-Perazim" of 1 Chronicles 14:11, where David completely defeated the Philistines by the Divine help. This victory is connected with another over the same nation in the valley of Gibeon (1 Chronicles 14:13-16). Now, however, God was to be on the side of the enemies of his people, who were to suffer as the Philistines had suffered in the olden time. This punishment of Ida own people by the sword of foreigners was strange work on God's part - a strange act. But it was their strange conduct which caused God's strange action. They had become as it were, Philistines.
Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth.
Verse 22. - Be ye not mockers. As they had shown themselves previously (vers. 9, 10). Lest your bands be made strong; or, lest your fetters grow strong. The prophet views Judah as still, to some extent, an Assyrian dependency, held in light bonds; and warns his countrymen that an attempt to break the light bonds may result in Assyria's making them stronger and heavier. A consumption... determined upon the whole earth; rather, a consummation (comp. Isaiah 10:22, 23).
Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech.
Verses 23-29. - A PARABLE TO COMFORT BELIEVERS. Isaiah is always careful to intermingle promises with his threats, comfort with his denunciations. Like his great Master, of whom he prophesied, he was fain not to "break the bruised reed" or "quench the smoking flax." When he had searched men's wounds with the probe, he was careful to pour in oil and wine. So now, having denounced the sinners of Judah through three long paragraphs (vers. 7-22), he has a word of consolation and encouragement for the better disposed, whose hearts he hopes to have touched and stirred by his warning. This consolation he puts in a parabolic form, leaving it to their spiritual insight to discover the meaning. Verse 23. - Give ye ear (comp. Psalm 49:1; Psalm 78:1). A preface of this kind, enjoining special attention and thought, was appropriate to occasions when instruction was couched in a parabolic form.
Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground?
Verse 24. - Doth the plowman plow all day? The Church of God, go often called a vineyard, is here compared to an arable field, and the processes by which God educates and disciplines his Church are compared to those employed by man in the cultivation of such a piece of ground, and the obtaining of a harvest, from it. First of all, the ground must be ploughed, the face of the earth "opened" and the "clods broken." This, however, does not go on forever; it is for an object - that the seed may be sown; and, as soon as the ground is fit for the sowing to take place, the preparation of the soil ceases. Doth he open and break, etc.? Harrowing succeeds to ploughing in the natural order of things, the object of the harrowing being to break and pulverize the clods.
When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place?
Verse 25. - When he hath made plain the face thereof; i.e. leveled it - brought the ground to a tolerably even surface. Doth he not cast abroad the fitches? The Hebrew word translated "fitches" - i.e. "vetches" - is qetsach, which is generally allowed to represent the Nigella sativa, a sort of ranun-cuhs, which is cultivated in many parts of the East for the sake of its seeds. These are black, and have an aromatic flavor. Dioscorides (3:83) and Pliny (19:8) say that they were sometimes mixed with bread. And scatter the cummin. "Cummin" (Cuminum sativum) is "an umbelliferous plant, something like fennel." The seeds - or rather, berries - have "a bitterish warm taste, with an aromatic flavor" ('Dict. of the Bible,' vol. 1. p. 372). They seem to have been eaten as a relish with various kinds of food. And cast in the principal wheat; rather, and put in wheat in rows. Drill-ploughs, which would deposit grain in rows, were known to the Assyrians ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. p. 198). And the rie in their place. Cussemeth, the word translated "rie," is probably the Holeus sorghum, or "spelt," which is largely cultivated in Palestine and other parts of the East, and is the ordinary material of the bread eaten by the poorer classes (see the 'Pulpit Commentary' on Exodus, pp. 219, 220). For "in their place," Kay translates, "in its own border." The wheat and the barley and the spelt would all be sown separately, according to the direction of Leviticus 19:19, "Thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed."
For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him.
Verse 26. - For his God doth instruct him. Through the reason which God has given to men, they deal thus prudently and carefully with the pieces of land which they cultivate.
For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod.
Verse 27. - For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing-instrument. The Nigella sativa is too lender a plant to be subjected to the rude treatment of a threshing-instrument, or "threshing-sledge." Such instruments are of the coarsest and clumsiest character in the East, and quite inapplicable to plants of a delicate fabric. Karsten Niebuhr thus describes the Arabian and Syrian practices: "Quand le grain dolt etre battu, les Arabes de Yemen posent le bled par terre en deux tangles, epis center epis, apres quoi ils font trainer par-dessus une grosse pierre tiree par deux boeufs. La machine dent on se sert en Syrie consiste en quelques planches garnies par-dessous d'une quantite de pierres a fusil" ('Description de l'Arabie,' p. 140). Neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin. The allusion is to aim the coarse mode of threshing practiced in Palestine and elsewhere, by driving a cart with broad wheels over the grain. But the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod. Canon Tristram says, "While the cummin can easily be separated from its case by a slender rod, the harder pod of the Nigella requires to be beaten by a stout staff" ('Natural History of the Bible,' p. 445).
Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen.
Verse 28. - Bread corn is braised; literally, bread; but no doubt the corn, from which bread is made, is meant. Most critics regard the clause as interrogative, "Is bread corn bruised?" - and the answer as given in the negative by the rest of the sentence, "No; he will not continue always threshing it, nor crunch it with his cart-wheel and his horses - he will not bruise it." Even where the rougher modes of threshing are employed, there is moderation in their employment. Care is taken not to injure the grain. Here the main bearing of the whole parable appears. The afflictions which God sends upon his people are adapted to their strength and to their needs. In no case are they such as to crush and injure. Only such violence is used as is required to detach the good seed from the husks. Where the process is most severe, still the "bread-corn" is not "bruised."
This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.
Verse 29. - This also (comp. ver. 26). This prudent dealing of the husbandman with his produce is the result of the wisdom implanted in him by God. The prophet goes no further, but leaves his disciples to draw the conclusion that God's own method of working will be similar. Wonderful in counsel (comp. Isaiah 9:6). Excellent in working; rather, great in wisdom (comp. Job 6:13: 12:16; Proverbs 2:7; Proverbs 3:21; Proverbs 8:14; Proverbs 18:1; Micah 6:9). Proverbs 8:14 is especially in point, since there the same two qualities are ascribed to God as in the present passage.