Woe to you, O Ariel, Ariel, the city where David camped! Year upon year let your festivals recur.
I. VICISSITUDES OF ARIEL. The name is symbolic, perhaps signifying "God's lion." It was the city where David dwelt. The prophet bids the city enter upon the new year, and run the round of the feasts. The distress will come, and the city, true to her name, will be mourning like a wounded lioness; and yet her prowess will be seen. She will be beleaguered, the mound for the battering-ram will be set up; she will be abased, and her low voice will be like the muttering of a ghost from the under-world. Then a sudden change will occur, and the multitude of foes will be dispersed like dust or chaff in the wind. After the noise as of thunder and earthquake and hurricane, menacing absolute extinction of the city, the vast host will disappear like a dream and vision of the night. They too will dream of conquest, as a hungry and thirsty man dreams of meat and drink; and their hope will melt with the morning light.
II. THE BLINDNESS OF THE PEOPLE. Those who listen are astonished at a prophecy which nothing in the past appears to warrant. The prophet takes occasion to explain the cause of their blindness and stupefaction, and to warn them that they may find this their fixed condition. They are responsible for this state, he seems to imply when he says, "Astonish yourselves!" "Blind yourselves!" Some strange prepossession causes them to act like men intoxicated; their reason reels and staggers. A deep sleep is poured upon them; their eyes are closed, and their hands wrapped up in Oriental fashion. The result is they cannot see the truth. The "vision and the faculty divine," so bright and eminent in the prophet, is not recognized for what it is. His words are like a sealed book in the hands of a reader. He can read, but cannot loose the seals of the book, which is so far like that described in Revelation 5:2. Or again, if a book, though open and legible, be handed to one that cannot read, the result is the same. It may be a large tablet, with large characters, like that in Isaiah 8:1, so that the passer-by, if he can read, may catch the meaning; but what if he cannot read? It is the same as if the writing were non-existent.
1. Seeing truth is like seeing the meaning of what we read. All see something in the book - some little more than that it is a book; some can extract a certain superficial sense from the signs, and are asleep towards the deeper and central meaning. That meaning must be lived out by the whole effort of the reason, the conscience, the heart. It requires an intense effort of will to see any object as it ought to be seen.
2. Absence of spiritual intelligence infers guilt. Men will not see, because the sight is too painful, or some other sight is more pleasurable and more easy to take in. Moral obtuseness is another word for want of conscience, or for inertness of conscience. - J.
Genesis 49:9, 10).
Woe to Ariel.2 Samuel 23:20; Isaiah 33:7; and in the latter it occurs in Ezekiel 43:15, 16 for the brazen hearth of the great altar of burnt offerings, thence commonly called "the brazen," though the rest of it was of stone. There is no doubt that Jerusalem is pointed out by this enigmatical name; and the immediate context, as well as the expression in Isaiah 31:9 — "Jehovah, whose fire is in Zion, and His furnace in Jerusalem" — makes it probable that Isaiah intended to involve both meanings in the word, as though he had said, "Woe to the city of heroes, woe to the city of sacrifices: it shall now be put to the test what God and what man think as to both."
(Sir E. Strachey, Bart.)
(Sir E. Strachey, Bart.)
(J. A. Alexander.)i.e., in the extremity of her need I will enable her to verify her name (Cheyne).
(Prof . S. R. Driver, D. D.)
(Sir E. Strachey, Bart.)
(Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
(H. Melvill, B. D.)I. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE WOE OF JERUSALEM AND JERUSALEM BEING THE CITY WHERE DAVID DWELT. There are other considerations, over and above the general one of the responsibility fastened on a people by the having had a king of extraordinary piety, which go to the explaining why the woe upon Jerusalem should be followed by a reference to David. David was eminent as a prophet of the Lord; he had been commissioned to announce, in sundry most remarkable predictions, the Messiah, of whom, in many respects, he was, moreover, an illustrious type. It was true, there had been others of whom the prophet might think. There is a peculiar appositeness in the reference to David, because his writings were the very best adapted to the fixing themselves on the popular mind. These writings were the national anthems; they were the songs to be chanted in those daily and annual solemnities which belonged to the Jews in their political as much as in their religious capacity, in which the princes were associated with the priests, so that the civil was hardly to be distinguished from the ecclesiastic. So beloved as David was of God, he must have bequeathed a blessing to the nation: for righteous kings, like righteous fathers, entail good on a nation. Indeed, it is evident, from other parts of Isaiah, that the memory of David was still a tower of strength at Jerusalem, so that, for his sake, was evil averted from the city. When Sennacherib and his hosts encamped against the city, and the heart of Hezekiah was dismayed, it was in terms such as these that God addressed Israel, "I will defend this city, to save it for Mine own sake, and for My servant David's sake." Was it not like telling the Jews that they were no longer to be borne with for the sake of David, to pronounce, "Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt"? Was it not declaring, that the period was drawing to a close, during which the conservatism of the monarch's piety could be felt? The prophet might be considered as showing both how just and how terrible those judgments would be. He showed their justice, because the having had amongst them such a king and prophet as David, made the Jews inexcusable in their wickedness: he showed their severity, because it was the city of David which God was about to punish.
II. MAKE AN APPLICATION OF THE SUBJECT. We pass at once to the Reformation, and substitute the reformers for David, and England for Ariel. We must consider what it was that the reformers did for us; from what they delivered us; and in what they instructed us.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)i.e., through My help it will prove itself a hearth of God, consuming its enemies like a fiery furnace, or these enemies finding destruction in Jerusalem, like wood heaped on an altar and set ablaze.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Add ye year to year; let the feasts come round
I. THERE IS AN UNSATISFACTORY WAY OF SPENDING THE YEARS. The implied complaint of the text is that the inhabitants of Jerusalem failed to benefit by their recurring privileges, and that the lapse of time brought them nearer to destruction. The trumpet of the new year in vain called them to a new life; the day of atonement passed leaving them with uncancelled sin; the Feast of Tabernacles and that of Pentecost awoke in them no love, constrained them to no obedience to the Giver of the harvest. Is this not true of thousands of those over whom pass the festivals of the Christian year? They are, indeed, all the worse for the lengthening days and multiplying Opportunities.
II. THERE IS A TRUE WAY OF SPENDING THE YEARS, and that is in enjoying and improving this life in the fear of God and in the light of eternity. Victor Hugo speaks of an old man as "a thinking ruin." Paul the aged was such a "ruin," and he had something grand to think about.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
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