For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send to Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing.…
A magnificent apostrophe. Yet this is no mere rhetoric. There is a terrible reality in the phenomenon to which attention is directed. Chittim, the general name of the islands and coast of the eastern Mediterranean, stands for the extreme west; and Kedar, the general name of the Arabs of the desert for the extreme east of the "world," with which the prophet and his hearers were familiar. Our "from China to Peru" would represent its meaning to us.
I. THE CONSIDERATIONS THAT MAKE IT MARVELLOUS. The people themselves were but dimly conscious of the strangeness of their apostasy. The prophet seeks to rouse their better nature by the most striking comparisons and illustrations.
1. He compares it with the general fixedness of heathen systems. A tendency to subdivide and stereotype life in the family, society, and the state is shown by idolatry. Idolatries reflect and pamper human desires and ideas, and enter into the whole constitution of the people. They undermine the moral life and spiritual strength, and flourish upon the decay they have made. Their victims are helpless because they are moribund or dead. The words of Isaiah are justified in such a case; "from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it," etc. This is the reason of the perpetuation of error and superstition; but the fact is there all the same, and it is in striking contrast to the vacillation and apostasy of God's people. That which only appears to be good is clung to with reverence and tenacity from age to age. That which is acknowledged to be best, and in part realized to be so, is east aside repeatedly.
2. Look too at the character of him who is forsaken. He has already told them a little of God's doings (vers. 5-7). Now it is sufficient to describe him as the "Glory" of Israel. The heavens, which look at everything all the world over, are to wonder and to be horror-struck at this unheard-of ingratitude and folly.
3. Disadvantage and dissatisfaction must evidently result. The action of the apostate is twofold - negative and positive. Describe the figure. How great the labor of worldliness; and its disappointment!
II. How SUCH CONDUCT CAN BE ACCOUNTED FOR. If it were the result of genuine and honest experience, it might be fatal to the claims of Jehovah. But it is explained by:
1. The influence of the near and sensible. The physical side of our nature is more developed than the spiritual. Our need appeals to us first and most strongly on that side. Abraham, who pleaded for Sodom, lied for Sarah. Jacob, the dreamer of Bethel, is the craven at Penuel. How unaccountable the yielding of the man of God to the false prophet (1 Kings 13.)! After David's signal escapes and deliverances, he yet said in his heart, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines." Elijah, after all his miracles and testimonies, sighs out, "Let me die." Peter, upon whoso witness Christ was to found his Church, is addressed as he is ready to sink at the vessel's side, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" Paul, who had withstood them "that seemed to be pillars," quails beneath the "thorn in the flesh."
2. The demands made by true religion. Self has to be denied. The whole carnal life is condemned. Diligence is insisted upon. We have to "pray without ceasing," to labor and not faint. We have to "press toward the mark for the prize." Patience is demanded, and the Christian profession commits us to indefinite sacrifice. - M.
Parallel VersesKJV: For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing.
WEB: For pass over to the islands of Kittim, and see; and send to Kedar, and consider diligently; and see if there has been such a thing.