Give ear, O you heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.…
Isaiah makes a similar sublime commencement to his prophecies, apostrophising heaven and earth in nearly identical language. Moses had already used the same sentiment in simple didactic form when he said, "I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse," and thereby he explains the meaning of this more highly poetic style of adjuration. Such an adjuration indicates great intensity, elevation, and sincerity of feeling, while calling attention to the solemn importance of what is about to be said. It is like a herald's cry, the sound of the tocsin, or the summoning of an assize. For heaven and earth had both of them been witnesses of the covenant and giving of the law. By a sudden but suggestive transition we are introduced to the style and theme of the song. The change is from the awe-inspiring to the tenderest of moods; but it is made without derogating from the loftiness of the thought. The imagery of the gentle rain and the softly distilling dew is a fit sequel to the opening appeal to heaven and earth, and bespeaks attention to the source, the quality, and the design of the song.
1. Its source. The reference to dew and rain implies, first of all, that the whole subject, suggestion, and origin of the song is from above. Nothing but a voice Divine will ever avail to soften human nature, come home to the conscience, subjugate the will and reign in the affections. "Ascribe ye greatness," therefore, that is, authoritativeness, "unto our God."
2. Its quality. "My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew." The song is just the pith and substance of the Book of Deuteronomy; the distilled quintessence of the Deuteronomic law and covenant. It is a protestation that no community can ever thrive, surmount their dangers and slough off their corruptions, by simply confining their attention to earthly relations and requisitions. They need a higher motive and spirit of life as a sustaining and self-cleansing principle — in one word, a Gospel of God.
3. Its design. "As the small rain upon the tender grass, and as the showers upon the herb"; gentle, yet copious and penetrative; soft, seasonable and saturating; not like a sudden but soon spent thunderstorm, nor the beating of hail that dashes where it alights; rather like small rain, the softer it falls the deeper it sinks; or like the dew, the more insinuating it is, the more fertilising and lastingly effective.
(A. H. Drysdale, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.