Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:
Verses 1-7. - ISRAEL REBUKED BY THE PARABLE OF A VINEYARD. This chapter stands in a certain sense alone, neither closely connected with what precedes nor with what follows, excepting that it breathes throughout a tone of denunciation. There is also a want of connection between its parts, the allegory of the first section being succeeded by a series of rebukes for sins, expressed in the plainest language, and the rebukes being followed by a threat of punishment, also expressed with plainness. The resemblance of the parable with which the chapter opens to one of those delivered by our Lord, and recorded in the three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 21:33-41; Mark 12:1-9; Luke 20:9-16), has been frequently noticed. Verse 1. - Now will I sing to my Well-beloved. The prophet sings to Jehovah a song concerning his vineyard. The song consists of eight lines, beginning with "My Well-beloved," and ending with "wild grapes." It is in a lively, dancing measure, very unlike the general style of Isaiah's poetry. The name "Well-beloved" seems to be taken by the prophet from the Song of Songs, where it occurs above twenty times. It well expresses the feeling of a loving soul towards its Creator and Redeemer. A song of my Well-beloved. Bishop Lowth translates "A song of loves," and Mr. Cheyne "A love-song;" but this requires an alteration of the text, and is unsatisfactory from the fact that the song which follows is not a "love-song." May we not understand the words to mean "a song concerning my Well-beloved in respect of his vineyard?" Touching his vineyard. Israel is compared to a "vine" in the Psalms (Psalm 80:8-16), and the Church of God to a "garden" in Canticles (Song of Solomon 4:12; Song of Solomon 5:1); perhaps also to a "vineyard" in the same book (Song of Solomon 8:12). Isaiah may have had this last passage in his mind. My Beloved hath a vineyard; rather, had a vineyard (ἀμπελὼν ἑγενήθη τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ, LXX.). In a very fruitful hill. So the passage is generally understood, since keren, horn, is used for a height by the Arabs (as also by the Germans, e.g. Matterhorn, Wetterhorn, Aarhorn, etc.), and "son of oil" is a not unlikely Orientalism for "rich" or "fruitful." With the "hill" of this passage compare the "mountain" of Isaiah 2:2, both passages indicating that the Church of God is set on aft eminence, and "cannot be hid" (Matthew 5:14).
And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
Verse 2. - He fenced it. So the LXX., the Vulgate, Aben Ezra, Jarchi, Rosenmüller, Lowth, Kay. Gesenius, Knobel, and Mr. Cheyne prefer to translate, "he dug it over;" while the Revisers of 1885 have suggested, "he made a trench about it." The word occurs only in this place, and has no cognates in Hebrew. And gathered out the stones (comp. Isaiah 62:10). In the stony soil of Palestine, to collect the surface stones into heaps, or build them into walls, is of primary necessity for the improvement of the land. Conversely the stones were put back, and scattered over the land, by those who wished to "mar" it (2 Kings 3:19, 25). Planted it with the choicest vine (comp. Genesis 49:11; Jeremiah 2:21). The sorek seems to have been a particular kind of vine, reckoned superior to others. The etymology of the word indicates that it was of a deep red color. Built a tower (comp. Matthew 21:33). Towers had to be built in gardens, orchards, and vineyards, that watch might be kept from them against thieves and marauders (see 1 Kings 17:9; 1 Kings 18:8; 2 Chronicles 26:10; 2 Chronicles 27:4, etc.). Made a wine-press; literally, dug a winepress. The excavation was made to contain a vat, above which was the "press," worked by men, who wrung the liquor out of a great bag containing the grapes. (See the Egyptian rock-paintings, passim, where the operation is represented repeatedly.) It brought forth wild grapes. The natural, not the cultivated fruit, a worthless product.
And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.
Verse 3. - The prophet's "song" here ends, and Jehovah himself takes the word. As if the story told in the parable had been a fact, he calls on the men of Judah and Jerusalem to "judge between him and his vineyard." Compare Nathan's appeal to David by the parable of the ewe lamb (2 Samuel 12:1-4).
What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
Verse 4. - What could have been done more? Comp. 2 Kings 17:13 and 2 Chronicles 36:15, where God is shown to have done all that was possible to reclaim his people: "Yet the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to the Law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets;" "And the Lord God of their fathers sent unto them by his messengers, rising up early, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling-place: but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, until there was no remedy."
And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:
Verse 5. - And now go to; I will tell you; rather, and now, I pray you, let me tell yon. The address is still smooth and persuasive up to the word "vineyard." Then there is a sudden change; the style becomes abrupt, the tone fierce and menacing. "Let me tell you what I will do to my vineyard: break down its hedge, that it be grazed on; destroy its wall, that it be trampled underfoot," etc. The hedge... the wall. Vine-yards were usually protected either by a hedge of thorns, commonly of the prickly pear, or else by a wall; but the rabbis say that in some cases, for additional security, they were surrounded by both. God had given his vineyard all the protection possible.
And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
Verse 6. - I will lay it waste; literally, I will make it a desolation (comp. Isaiah 7:19, where a cognate term occurs). Active ravage is not so much pointed at, as the desolation which comes from neglect. There shall come up briers and thorns. The natural produce of neglected ground in Palestine (see Proverbs 24:31). The "thorns and briers" symbolize vices of various kinds, the natural produce of the human soul, if God leaves it to itself. The words are scarcely to be taken literally, though it is probably true that "no country in the world has such variety and abundance of thorny plants as Palestine in its present desolation" (Macmillan, 'Min. of Nat.,' p. 103). I will also command the clouds. Here at last disguise is thrown off, and the speaker manifestly appears as Jehovah, who can alone "command the clouds." The "rain" intended is probably that of his gracious influences.
For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.
Verse 7. - For the vineyard, etc. The full explanation of the parable follows immediately on the disclosure in ver. 6. The vineyard is "Israel," or rather "Judah;" the fruit expected from it, "judgment and righteousness;" the wild grapes which alone it had produced, "oppression" and the "cry" of the distressed. His pleasant plan;: literally, the plant of his delights; i.e. the plantation in which he had so long taken delight. He looked for judgment, etc. Gesenius has attempted to give the verbal antithesis of the Hebrew, which is quite lost in our version -
"Er harrete auf Recht, und siehe da Unrecht,
Auf Gerechtigkeit, und siehe da Schlechtigkeit."
Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!
Verses 8-24. - THE SIX WOES. After the general warning conveyed to Israel by the parable of the vineyard, six sins are particularized as those which have especially provoked God to give the warning. On each of these woe is denounced. Two have special punishments assigned to them (vers. 8-17); the remainder are joined in one general threat of retribution (vers. 18 - 24). Verse 8. - Woe unto them that join house to house. This is the first woe. It is pronounced on the greed which leads men to continually enlarge their estates, without regard to their neighbors' convenience. Nothing is said of any use of unfair means, much less of violence in dispossessing the former proprietors. What is denounced is the selfishness of vast accumulations of land in single bands, to the detriment of the rest of the community. The Jewish law was peculiarly inimical to this practice (Numbers 27:1-11; Numbers 33:54; 1 Kings 21:4); but perhaps it is not without reason that many writers of our own time object to it on general grounds. Till there be no place; literally, till want of place; i.e. till there is no room for others. A hyperbole, doubtless, but marking a real national inconvenience. That they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth; rather, that ye may dwell by yourselves in the midst of the land. The great landlords wished to isolate themselves; they disliked neighbors; they would fain "dwell by themselves," without neighbors to trouble them. Uzziah seems, by what is said of his possessions (2 Chronicles 26:10), to have been one of the greatest sinners in respect of the accumulation of land.
In mine ears said the LORD of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant.
Verse 9. - Either something has fallen out in the first clause of this verse, or there is a most unusual ellipse of the verb "said" which our translators have supplied, very properly. There seems to be nothing emphatic in the words, "on mine ears" (see Isaiah 22:14; Ezekiel 9:1, 5; Ezekiel 10:13). Many houses shall be desolate. The greed of adding house to house will be punished by the death of those who have so sinned, and the extinction of their families, either through war, or through a more direct divine judgment.
Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah.
Verse 10. - Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath. The greed of adding field to field will he punished by the curse of barrenness, which God will send upon the laud. Dr. Kay-calculates that ten acres (Roman) of vineyard ought to yield upon the average five hundred baths (or four thousand gallons) instead of one bath (eight gallons). An homer... an ephah. The "ephah" was the tenth-part of a "homer" (Ezekiel 45:11). Corn lands should return only one-tenth part of the seed sown in them.
Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!
Verse 11. - Woe unto them that... follow strong drink. We have here the second woe. It is pronounced on drunkenness and revelry. Drunkenness is an infrequent Oriental vice; but it seems to have been one whereto many among the Jews were at all times prone (see Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 23:29-32; Ecclesiastes 10:17; Hosea 4:11; Isaiah 28:7, etc.). Even the priests and the soi-disant prophets erred through strong drink and were swallowed up of wine" (Isaiah 28:7). That rise up early in the morning. Great banquets were held by the "princes" and "nobles," beginning at an early hour (Ecclesiastes 10:10), and accompanied by music of an exciting kind (Amos 6:5, 6), which were "continued until night," or rather, "into the night" (Revised Version), and terminated in general drunkenness, perhaps in general licentiousness. (See Proverbs 23:27-30 and Hosea 4:11 for the connection of inebriety with whoredom.) Two kinds of intoxicating liquor seem to have been consumed at these banquets, viz. ordinary grape wine, and a much stronger drink, which is said to have been "made of dates, pomegranates, apples, honey, barley, and other ingredients," which was known as shekar (Greek, σίκερα), and is called "strong drink" in the Authorized Version. Till wine inflame them; or, the wine inflaming them.
And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands.
Verse 12. - The harp and the viol, the tabret and pipe. It is difficult to identify the Hebrew instruments of music with modern names; but there seems to be no doubt that the kinnor was a sort of harp, and the khalib a sort of pipe. The nebel, generally rendered by "psaltery," but here and in Isaiah 14:11 by "viol," was a stringed instrument played with the fingers (Josephus); perhaps a lyre, perhaps a sort of dulcimer. The toph, here translated "tabret," and elsewhere often "timbrel," was most likely a tambourine. All four instruments had in the earlier times been dedicated to the worship of Jehovah (1 Samuel 10:5); now they were employed to inflame men's passions at feasts. They regard not the work of the Lord. The "work of Jehovah" is his manifestation of himself in history, more especially in the history of his chosen people (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 92:4; Psalm 111:3, etc.). A pious Israelite was ever marveling at all that God had done for his nation (Deuteronomy 32:7-14; Joshua 24:2-13; 1 Chronicles 16:12-22; Ezra 9:7-9; Nehemiah 9:7-31; Psalm 68:7-28; Psalm 78:10-72; Psalm 105:5-45; Psalm 106:7-46; Psalm 136:5-24, etc.). The men of Isaiah's generation had ceased to care for things of the past, and devoted themselves to enjoying the present. Neither consider, etc. (comp. Isaiah 1:3, "My people doth not consider"). The verb used is not, however, the same in the Hebrew.
Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.
Verse 13. - Therefore my people are gone into captivity. "Are gone" or "have gone" is "the perfect of prophetic certainty" (Cheyne). The prophet sees the captivity as a thing that had already taken place. It as an appropriate punishment for drunkenness and revelry to be carried off into servitude, and in that condition to suffer, as slaves so often did, hunger and thirst. Because they have no knowledge; or, unawares, without foreseeing it (so Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Ewald, Delitzsch, Cheyne). Their honorable men; literally, their glory, for "their glorious ones" - the abstract for the concrete. Are famished; literally, sons of famine; i.e. "starvelings." Their multitude; or, their noisy crowd (Kay) - the "throng of voluptuaries" who frequented the great banquets of vers. 11, 12.
Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.
Verse 14. - Therefore hell hath enlarged herself; rather, hath enlarged her desire (comp. Habakkuk 2:5). "Hell" here represents the underworld, into which souls descended at death, not yet perhaps recognized as comprehending two divisions, but regarded much as the Greeks regarded their Hades - as a general receptacle of the dead, dark and silent. Hades (Sheol), not viewed as a person, but personified by poetical license, "enlarges her desire" and "opens her mouth" to receive the crowd that is approaching the crowd of those who in captivity succumb to the hardships of their lot. Their glory; literally, her glory - the glory, i.e., of Jerusalem, which is especially in the prophet's thoughts. "Her glory, and her crowd, and her pomp, and he that is joyful in her, shall go down" into the sheol that gapes for them.
And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled:
Verse 15. - And the mean man, hall be brought down; rather, so the mean man is brought down; i.e. in this way, by the Captivity and the consequent sufferings and deaths, both high and low are brought down and humbled, while God is exalted in man's sight. The future is throughout spoken of as present (comp. Isaiah 2:9, 11, 17).
But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.
Verse 16. - God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness; rather, the holy God shows himself holy by righteousness; i.e. by executing this righteous judgment on Jerusalem the holy God shows his holiness.
Then shall the lambs feed after their manner, and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat.
Verse 17. Then shall the lambs feed. Dr. Kay takes the "lambs" to be the remnant of Israel that survived the judgment, who will feed freely, cared for by the good Shepherd; but the parallelism so generally affected by Isaiah seems to require a meaning more consonant with the later clause of the verse. Most commentators, therefore, expound the passage literally, "Then shall lambs feed [on the desolated estates of the covetous]" (see vers. 8-10). After their manner; or, after their own guidance; i.e. at their pleasure, as they list (so Lowth and Rosenmüller). And the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat. Goim, i.e. nomad tribes, shall consume the produce of the wasted fields once possessed by the Hebrew grandees. Ewald proposes to make the verse immediately follow ver. 10; but this is not necessary. The occupation of their lands by wandering tribes, Arabs and others, was a part of the punishment that fell on all the nobles, not on those only who accumulated large estates.
Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope:
Verse 18. - Woe unto them, etc. We come here to the third woe, which is pronounced against those who openly pile up sin upon sin, and scoff at God. These men are represented as "drawing iniquity with cords of vanity," i.e. dragging after them a load of sin by cords that seem too weak; and then as "sinning with a cart-rope," which is a mere variant expression of the same idea. Mr. Cheyne quotes from the Rig-Veda, as a parallel metaphor, the phrase, "Undo the rope of sin."
That say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!
Verse 19. - That say, Let him make speed, etc. Instead of trembling at the coming judgment of God, which Isaiah has announced, they pretend to desire its immediate arrival; they want to "see it." They walk, not by faith, but by sight. At the bottom of this pretended desire there lies a complete incredulity. The counsel; or, purpose, as in Isaiah 14:26. Of the Holy One of Israel. They use one of Isaiah's favorite titles of God (see note on Isaiah L 4), not from any belief in him, but rather in a mocking spirit.
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Verse 20. - Woe unto them that call evil good. This is the fourth woe. There are persons who gloss over evil deeds and evil habits by fair-sounding names, who call cowardice caution, and rashness courage, niggardliness thrift, and wasteful profusion generosity. The same men are apt also to call good evil; they brand prudence with the name of cunning, call meekness want of proper spirit, sincerity rudeness, and firmness obstinacy. This deadness to moral distinctions is the sign of deep moral corruption, and fully deserves to have a special "woe" pronounced against it. That put darkness for light. "Light" and "darkness" symbolize good and evil throughout Scripture (1 Samuel 2:9; 2 Samuel 22:29; Job 29:3; Psalm 112:4; Proverbs 2:13; Ecclesiastes 2:13; Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 6:22; John 1:19; Acts 26:18; Romans 13:12; 1 Corinthians 4:5, etc.). They are sometimes mere synonyms, as here; but sometimes they express rather the intellectual side of morality. Bitter for sweet. More symbolism, but of a rarer kind. Jeremiah calls wickedness "bitter" (Jeremiah 2:9; 4:18), and the psalmist calls the judgments of God" sweet" (Psalm 109:103). But the terms are not often used with any moral bearing.
Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
Verse 21. - Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes. The fifth woe. Self-conceit is the antithesis of humility; and as humility is, in a certain sense, the crowning virtue, so self-conceit is a sort of finishing touch put to vice. While a man thinks humbly of himself, there is a chance that he may repent and amend. When he is "wise in his own eyes," he does not see why he should change.
Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:
Verse 22. - Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine. The sixth woe seems at first sight a repetition of the second. But there is this difference, that the drinkers in the present verse do not succumb to their liquor, or remain at the banquet all day, but proceed to the business of their lives, attend courts and judge causes, but with brain obfuscated and moral vision bedimmed, so that they are easily induced to pervert justice on receipt of a bribe. The sixth woe may be considered to be pronounced rather upon their corruption than upon their drinking, and so to be really quite distinct from the second (comp. Proverbs 31:4, 5).
Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!
Verse 23. - Justify the wicked; i.e. "decide his cause in his favor," declare him to be right, and his adversary wrong. For reward; or, for a bribe. Take away the righteousness of the righteous; i.e. "declare him to be in the wrong by deciding his cause against him."
Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
Verse 24. - Therefore, etc. A general judgment is now pronounced against all the forms of wickedness enumerated - a judgment of ruin or destruction. It is expressed by a mixed metaphor, or "combination of two figures," the former taken from the burning of stubble and withered grass by the farmer when he is cleaning his fields, the latter from the natural decay of a blossoming plant or tree. In either case the destruction is complete, but in the one it arises from an external force, fire; in the other from an internal failure of vitality. The ruin of Israel would include both; it would be brought about by an internal cause, their corruption, and an external one, God's anger. As the fire devoureth the stubble; literally, as a tongue of fire eats up stubble. "Tongue of fire" is an unusual phrase, occurring in all Scripture only here and in Acts 2:3. But it well depicts the power of fire to lick up clean all that comes in its way. Isaiah elsewhere notes the analogy, making it the foundation of simile (Isaiah 30:27). And the flame consumeth the chaff; rather, and as dry grass sinks down inflame. The withered grass of pastures was burnt by farmers to improve the after-growth (Lucan, 'Pharsal.,' 9:182). Their root shall be as rottenness (comp. Hosea 9:16). The root is the last thing to decay. When that fails, the case is desperate. Judah's "root" did not utterly fail (see Isaiah 11:1); but the present warning is to individuals and classes (vers. 8, 11, 18, 20-23), not to the nation. Their blossom shall go up as dust; i.e. their external glory shall crumble and waste away. Because they have cast away the Law. All the sins of Israel had this one thing in common - they were transgressions of the Law of God as delivered to them by Moses, and enforced upon them by the prophetical order (comp. 2 Kings 17:13-16). Despised the word; or, the speech. Imrah is rarely used by Isaiah. It does not refer to the written "Word," but to the declarations of God by the mouth of his prophets (see Isaiah 28:23; Isaiah 32:9).
Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
Verses 25-30. - THE NATURE OF THE COMING JUDGMENT EXPLAINED. Hints have been already given that the judgment which is to fall on the nation is a foreign war, or a series of foreign wars (see Isaiah 3:25; Isaiah 5:13). But now for the first time a terrible invasion, in which many nations will participate, is clearly announced. At first the imagery is obscure (ver. 25), but it soon grows more distinct. "Nations" are summoned to the attack; a vast army comes, and comes" with speed swiftly" (ver. 26); then their array is described (vers. 27, 28); and finally their ravin is compared to that of lions, and their success in catching and carrying off their prey is prophesied (ver. 29). In the last verse of the chapter the prophet falls back into vaguer imagery, comparing the roar of the invaders to the roaring of the sea, and the desolated land to one seen under the gloom of a preternatural darkness (ver. 30). Verse 25. - The threats of this verse are all vague and general, for there is no reason to suppose that the phrase," the hills did tremble, "refers to an actual earthquake. That there was an earthquake in the reign of Uzziah is, indeed, clear from Amos 1:1; but it was probably a thing of the past when Isaiah wrote this chapter, and he is spiking of the future. A "trembling of the hills" is, in prophetic language, a commotion among the chief men of the land. He hath stretched forth his hand. Again the "perfect of prophetic certitude." Their carcasses were torn; rather, were as refuse (comp. Lamentations 3:45). There would be many slain, and lying unburied, in the streets of Jerusalem. For all this, etc. (comp. Isaiah 9:12, 17, 21, and Isaiah 10:4, where the same words are used as a refrain). The words imply that God's judgment upon Judah will not be a single stroke, but a continuous smiting, covering some considerable space of time.
And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly:
Verse 26. - And he will lift up an ensign. Mr. Cheyne translates, "a signal," and would so render the Hebrew word in Isaiah 11:10, 12; Isaiah 13:2; Isaiah 18:3; Isaiah 49:22; Isaiah 62:10. But "ensigns" or "standards" were in use both among the Egyptians (Rosellini, 'Monumenti Civili,' pl. 121.) and among the Assyrians ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1. p. 461) before the time of Isaiah, and are, therefore, likely to have been in use among the Hebrews. The standards, however, of this early period were not flags, as Jarchi supposes, but solid constructions of wood or metal, exhibiting some emblem or other. God lifts up his standard to draw the nations together, indicating thereby that they are to fight his battles. And will hiss. "Hissing" is said to have been practiced by bee-keepers to draw their bees out of the hives in the morning, and bring them home again from the fields at nightfall (Cyril, ad loc.). God will collect an army against Israel, as such persons collect their bees (comp. Isaiah 7:18). From the end of the earth; i.e. "to bring them from the end of the earth." The nations are, or at least many of them are, extremely distant, as Elamites from the Persian Gulf (Isaiah 22:6), and perhaps Medes from beyond Zagros. They shall come; literally, he cometh; showing that, though the nations are many, they are united under one head, which here is probably the Assyrian power. With speed swiftly (comp. Joel 3:4). The reference is not so much to the speed with which the Assyrians marched, as to the immediate response which they would make to God's call,
None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken:
Verse 27. - None shall be weary nor stumble. None shall lag behind on the march, none fall and be disabled. None shall slumber. They shall scarcely give themselves time for necessary repose.
Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses' hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind:
Verse 28. - Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent. The special weapon of the Assyrian soldiers is the bow. From the king in his chariot to the light-armed recruit just pressed into the service, all fight mainly with this weapon, more particularly in the earlier times (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1. pp. 414, 423, 424-437, etc.). Swords and spears are also known, but comparatively little used. Their horses' hoofs... like flint. Hard, strong, and solid, as was most necessary when shoeing was unknown. Their wheels like a whirlwind. Sennacherib (Isaiah 37:24) is represented as boasting of the "multitude of his chariots;" and both the sculptures and the inscriptions of Assyria show that the chariot throe was numerous, and was regarded as more important than any other. The king always went to battle in a chariot. For the comparison of the rush of chariot-wheels to a whirlwind, see below, Isaiah 66:15; and comp. Jeremiah 4:13).
Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it.
Verse 29. - Their roaring shall be like a lion; rather, like a lioness, which the Hebrews appear to have regarded as fiercer than a lion (see Genesis 44:9; Numbers 24:9; Habakkuk 2:11). The Assyrian armies probably advanced to the combat with loud shouts and yells (see Jeremiah 2:15). Yea, they shall roar; rather, growl. The word is different from the one used previously, and may express the "deep growl" with which the lion springs upon his prey (see Dr. Kay's note, ad loc.). Shall carry it away safe. Sennacherib says in one of his inscriptions, that he carried off to Nineveh 200, 150 captives on his first expedition against Jerusalem (Oppert, 'Inscriptions des Sargonides,' pp. 45, 46).
And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.
Verse 30. - Like the roaring of the sea. Not content with one simile, the prophet has recourse to a second. "The noise of the Assyrian army shall be like that of a raging sea;" or, perhaps, "After he has carried off his prey, the Assyrian shall still continue to growl and threaten, like a stormy sea." If one look unto the land, etc. If Israel turn its gaze from Assyria to its own land, it sees nothing but a dark prospect - darkness and distress, all light shrouded amid clouds and deep obscurity. The text and the construction are, both of them, uncertain; but the general meaning can scarcely be other than this.