THE BURDEN OF
The series of prophecies which commences with this chapter and continues to the
close of ch.23., is connected together by the word
that the term “burden” is an incorrect translation of
later prophets (Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1; Zechariah 9:1; 12:1; Malachi 1:1); and
that “utterance,” or “prophecy,” would be more suitable (compare Proverbs 30:1;
it is prefixed are generally (in Isaiah always) of a denunciatory character. The
translation may therefore be allowed to stand — at any rate in the present chapter.
It is remarkable that
present catalogue. Dr. Kay supposes the term “
“Asshur-Babel,” and to designate “the Assyro-Babylonian Empire.” He
thinks that “
Tiglath-Pileser and Shalmaneser,
in the van of
neither Isaiah nor any other sacred writer knows of an Assyro-Babylonian
kingdom or empire. Assyria and
Genesis (10:8-12), in II Kings (18-20.), in II Chronicles (20:12.), in Isaiah
(chps. 36-39.) and in Ezekiel (chps. 23 and 30-31.). They had been at war almost
continuously for above seven centuries before the time of Isaiah (‘Records
the Past,’ vol. 5. pp. 81-104).
stronger of the two, and had from time to time for a longer or a shorter
more one than
monarchs. Individually, I can only account for the high position here given
725 B.C.) revealed to him that
— the ultimate destroyer of
carry the Jewish people into captivity.
Which Isaiah... did see (compare ch. 1:1; 2:1, etc.). Isaiah always “sees”
his prophecies, whether they are of the nature of visions (as ch. 6.) or the
contrary. The word is probably used to express the strong conviction that
he has of their absolute certainty.
2 “Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them,
shake the hand, that they may go into the gates of the nobles.”
Lift ye up a banner; rather, a standard - "an ensign," as in ch. 5:26: 11:12.
"Ensigns" were used both by the Assyrians and the Egyptians. "Banners," or flags,
do not seem to have been employed in the ancient world. Upon the high mountain;
rather, upon a bare mountain - one that was clear of trees, so that the signal
might be the better seen from it. God's army having to be summoned against
(1) by a signal or ensign lifted up on a high hill;
(2) by a loud call or shout; and
(3) by waving or beckoning with the hand.
The whole description is, of course, pure metaphor. That they may go into the gates
nobles. Either that they may enter into
the palaces of the grandees in
or that they may take the towns of the tributary princes.
3 “I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty
ones for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness.”
I have commanded my sanctified ones. The pronoun "I" is emphatic –
"I myself." Not only will an external summons go forth, but God will lay
His own orders on them whom He chooses for His instruments, and bid
them come to the muster. All who carry out his purposes are, in a
etc.). Here the Medes and Persians are specially intended (see v. 17).
For mine anger; i.e. "for the purpose of executing my anger." Even them that
rejoice in my highness; rather, my proudly exultant ones (Cheyne,
Rosenmüller, Gesenius). AEschylus calls the Persians ὑπερκόμπους –
huperkompous - ('Persae,' 1. 827); Herodotus, ὑβριστάς – hubristas –
(1. 41). The high spirits, however, natural to gallant soldiers on going
out to war, rather than any special haughtiness or arrogancy, are intended.
4 “The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people;
a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together:
the LORD of hosts mustereth the host of the battle.”
The noise of a multitude in the mountains. I do not know why Isaiah
should not have been "thinking of his geography" (Cheyne). As soon as
the Greeks knew anything of the Persians, they knew of them as a mountain
people, and attributed their valor and their handy habits to the physical
character of their country (Herod., 9. ad fin.). Jeremiah connects the invading
army which destroyed
At any rate, the mention of "mountains" here is very appropriate, both Media
much people - not necessarily of one nation only. The host of the battle; rather,
a host of war; i.e. a multitude of men, armed and prepared for war.
5 “They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the LORD,
and the weapons of His indignation, to destroy the whole land.”
They come from a far country (compare ch. 46:11).
Both Media and
countries" to the Hebrews,
that they knew of any countries more remote towards the East. Hence the
expression which follows, "from the end of heaven" - the heaven being
supposed to end where the earth ended. Isaiah, like the other sacred writers,
conforms his language on cosmical subjects to the opinions of his
day. Even the Lord. With a most effective anthropomorphism, Jehovah is
made to march with the army that He has mustered (v. 4) against the land
that has provoked His wrath - i.e.
Jeremiah 50:25; 51:20). To destroy the whole land. Many critics would render
ha-arets by "the earth" here. It may be granted that the language of the
prophecy goes beyond the occasion in places (especially vs. 11 and 13),
and passes from
but, where the context permits, it seems better to restrict than to expand the
meaning of the words employed.
6 “Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction
from the Almighty.” Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand (compare
Joel 1:15); literally, the expression used in both passages is a day of Jehovah.
The idiom would not, however, allow the use of the article, so that the phrase
is ambiguous. "The day of Jehovah" is properly "that crisis in the history
of the world when Jehovah will interpose to rectify the evils of the present,
bringing joy and glory to the humble believer, and misery and shame to the
proud and disobedient" (Cheyne). But any great occasion when God passes judgment
on a nation is called in Scripture "a day of the Lord." "a coming of Christ." And
so here the day of the judgment upon
as a destruction from the Almighty. Isaiah is thought to quote from Joel (Joel 1:15)
here; but perhaps both prophets quoted from an earlier author. Shaddai (equivalent
to "Almighty') is an ancient name of God, most rarely used by the prophetical
by either Isaiah or Joel. It has generally been said to mean "the Strong One;"
but recently the theory has found favor that it meant originally "the Sender of
storms," from the Arabic sh'da - jecit, effudit. However this may be, the
word is certainly used in the later times mainly to express God's power
to visit and punish, and the present passage might perhaps be best translated,
"It shall come as a destruction from the Destroyer (k'shod mish-Shaddai yabo)."
(I recommend Genesis 17 – Names of God – El Shaddai by Nathan Stone – # 320 this website – CY –
7 “Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt:”
Therefore shall all hands be faint (compare Jeremiah 1:43; Ezekiel 7:17;
Zephaniah 3:16). There shall be a general inaction and apathy. Recently
discovered accounts of the capture of
want of activity and vigor on the part of the defenders. (Remember
the slogan of the Sixties – “Make love, not war.” CY – 2020) Every man's
The general inaction will spring from a general despondency. This
statement agrees much better with the recently discovered documents than
does the statement of Herodotus, that, safe within their walls, the
Babylonians despised their assailants, and regarded themselves as perfectly
8 “And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them;
they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed
one at another; their faces shall be as flames.” They shall be afraid;
rather, dismayed. Pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; literally,
they shall take hold of pangs and sorrows. They shall be amazed; rather,
look aghast. Their faces shall be as flames. I know no better explanation
than that of Dr. Kay, that a sudden transition is intended from despondency
to extreme excitement.
9 “Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and
fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and He shall destroy the sinners
thereof out of it.” The day of the Lord (see the comment on v. 6).
Cruel; i.e. severe and painful, not really "cruel." To lay the land desolate.
As in v. 5, so here, many would translate ha-arets by "the earth,"
and understand a desolation extending far beyond
is not necessary.
10 “For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give
their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the
moon shall not cause her light to shine.” The stars of heaven... shall
not give their light. Nature sympathizes with her Lord. When He is
angry, the light of the heavens grows dark. So it was at the crucifixion
of Christ (Matthew 27:45); so it will be at the end of the world
(Matthew 24:29). So it is often, if not always, at the time
of great judgments. The constellations; literally, the Orions.
Kesil, the Fool, was the Hebrew name of the constellation of Orion,
who was identified with Nimrod, the type of that impious folly which
contends against God. From its application to this particular group
to constellations in general. The BabyIonians very early marked
out the sky into constellations.
11 “And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their
iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and
will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.” I will punish the world
for their evil. Here the prophecy certainly goes beyond the destruction
countries. Each country is to feel that its turn will come. Punishment
will fall especially on the unjust, the proud, and the haughty
12 “I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the
golden wedge of Ophir.” I will make a man more precious than fine gold
(compare ch. 4:1). Population shall be so diminished that man shall be
the most highly esteemed of commodities. The more scanty the supply
of a thing, the greater its value. The golden wedge of Ophir; rather,
pure gold of Ophir. Ophir is mentioned as a gold-region in I Kings 9:28;
have been considered especially pure.
13 “Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove
out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day
of His fierce anger.” I will shake the heavens (compare Joel 3:16;
connection with the end of the world, when a "new heaven and a
21:1). Isaiah may, perhaps, pass here from signs connected with the
"day of the Lord" being, as already observed, a type of the final
and great day (see the comment on v. 6). Or, possibly, the
allusion may be to some "shaking" by God of a supra-mundane
kingdom as preliminary to His passing judgment on
(so Dr. Kay; compare ch. 24:21).
14 “And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man
taketh up: they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee
every one into his own land.” It shall be as the chased roe. When the
visitation comes on
ties between her and the subject nations. Her armies shall disband
themselves, the pressed soldiers from foreign countries deserting,
and hastening with all speed to their several homes. A flight of
the foreign traders and visitors may also be glanced at.
As a sheep that no man taketh up; rather, as sheep with none
to gather them.
15 “Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is
joined unto them shall fall by the sword.” Every one that is found... every
one that is joined unto them; i.e. all the population, both native and foreign.
16“Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their
houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.” Their children also shall
be dashed to pieces. In the barbarous warfare of the time, even children were not
by assault, they were ruthlessly slaughtered. When spared, it was only to be
dragged off as captives, and to become the slaves of their captors in a foreign
land. Assyrian sculptures often illustrate this latter practice. Their wives
17 “Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver;
and as for gold, they shall not delight in it.” Behold, I will stir up the Medes
against them. Isaiah's knowledge that the Medes should take a leading part
in the destruction of
other in the entire range of prophetic foresight, or insight, as set before us in
Scripture. The Medes were known to Moses as an ancient nation of some
importance (Genesis 10:2); but since his time had been unmentioned by
any sacred writer; and, as a living nation, had only just come within the
range of Israelite vision, by the fact that, when Sargon deported the
(II Kings 17:6). The Assyrians had become acquainted with them somewhat
more than a century earlier, and had made frequent incursions into their
country, finding them a weak and divided people, under the government
of a large number of petty chiefs. Sargon had conquered a portion of the
tribes, and placed prefects in the cities; at the same time planting colonists
in them from other parts of the empire. That, when the weakness of Media
was being thus made apparent, Isaiah should have foreseen its coming
greatness can only be accounted for by his having received a Divine
communication on the subject. Subsequently, he had a still more exact
and complete communication (ch. 21:2). Which shall not regard silver.
The Medes were not a particularly disinterested people; but in the attack
and the extension of dominion. The main treasures of
the great temple of Bolus - were not carried off by Cyrus, as appears both
from his own inscriptions, and from Herodotus (1. 181-183).
18 “Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have
no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children.”
Their bows (compare Jeremiah 50:9,14). Both the Medes and the Persians were
skilled archers. Herodotus tells us that every Persian youth was taught three
things - "to ride, to draw the bow, and to speak the
truth" (1. 136). At
Medes and Persians are alike represented as carrying bows and quivers.
AEschyius regards the contest between the Persians and the Greeks as one
between the arrow and the spear ('Persae,' 11. 135, 136).
shall be as when God overthrew
The "glory" of
1. In her antiquity. She had been the head of a great empire long before
rose to power.
2. In her origination of literature, architecture, and the other arts, which all
passed from her to
Assyria, and thence to the other nations of
3. In her magnificence and the magnificence of her kings, which provoked
the admiration of the Assyrians themselves ('Records of the Past,' vol. 9. p. 15).
As time went on, she grew in wealth and splendor. Perhaps it was granted to
Isaiah to see her in ecstatic vision, not merely such as she was in the time of
Sargon under Merodach-Baladan, but such as she became under Nebuchadnezzar,
the greatest of her kings, who raised her to the highest pitch or glory and
eminence. The beauty of the Chaldees' excellency. The Kaldi appear to have
been originally one of the many tribes by which
at an early date, From the expression, "
more than once in Genesis (Genesis 11:28, 31), we may gather that they
were inhabitants of the more southern part of the country, near the coast.
The same conclusion may be drawn from the Assyrian inscriptions, especially
those of Shalmaneser II. - the Black Obelisk king. The term never became a
general name for the Babylonian people among themselves or among the
Assyrians; but, somehow or other, it was accepted in that sense by the Jews,
and is so used, not only by Isaiah, but also by the writers of Kings and
Chronicles, by Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Habakkuk. As when God
20 “It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation
to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the
shepherds make their fold there.” It shall never be inhabited. This part of
the prophecy did not receive its fulfillment till many centuries had gone by.
From the time of
Cyrus to that of Alexander the Great,
the chief cities of the
with the excellence of its situation, that he designed to make it his capital.
It first began
seriously to decline under the Seleucidae, who built
of government at
century after our era (Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 18:9, § 8); and is mentioned as
a place of some consequence in the time of Trajan (Die Cass., 68:27), and
even in that of Severue (Die Cass., 75:9). But after this it went rapidly to
decay. Under the Sassuntans it disappears from sight; and when Benjamin of
Tudela, in the twelfth century, visited the spot, there was nothing to be seen
of the mighty city but those ruins of the Kasr, or palace, which still arrest the
traveler's attention. The site had become, and has ever since remained,
"without inhabitant." Neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there.
A superstitious feeling prevents the Arabs from encamping on the mounds
shall the shepherds make their fold there. The nitrous soil of the Babylonian
mounds allows them to produce nothing but the coarsest and most unpalatable
vegetation. The shepherds consequently do not feed their flocks on them.
21 “But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full
of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.”
Wild beasts of the desert shall lie there. It is not quite clear what particular wild
beasts are intended. Those actually noted on the site of
jackals, and porcupines. These sometimes make their lairs in the ruins (Rich,
'First Memoir,' p. 69; Ker Porter, 'Travels,' vol. 2. p. 342). Doleful creatures; in the
original, okhim. What animal is meant we cannot say, as the word occurs only
in this passage. Mr. Cheyne translates it by "hyenas." Owls shall dwell there;
of the cavities of the Babil Mound there are numbers of owls and bats." Sir A.
Layard," A large grey owl is found in great numbers, frequently in flocks of
nearly a hundred, in the low shrubs among the ruins of
Bab.,' p. 484, note). Satyrs shall dance there. The word translated "satyr"
is, etymologically, "hairy one," and ordinarily means "a goat." Some have
supposed "wild goats" to be here intended, but
they are not found in
The translation "satyr" is defended by many, who think Isaiah might draw
upon current beliefs for some features of his description. Dr. Kay gives
"baboons," since the Moko - a
kind of baboon - is known in
22 “And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and
dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days
shall not be prolonged.” Wild beasts of the islands. In the Hebrew, iyyim,
which means "wailers" or "howlers," probably "jackals." The Revised Version
gives "wolves." In their desolate houses; or, in their castles (Cheyne).
And dragons; i.e. "serpents." These have not been observed recently; but
one of our old travelers notes that "the lande of Baby-lone," in his day,
"was fulle of dragons and grote serpentes, and dyverse other veney-mouse
ecstes alle abouten" (Mandeville, quoted by Ker Porter, 'Travels,' vol. 2. p. 36).
Near to come. About one hundred and eighty years elapsed between the
utterance of this prophecy and the fall of
of a nation.
The teaching of this chapter is the ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that
punishment will overtake the wicked.
“Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O
this unto thee, PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD O
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