“This chapter is a mixture of light and darkness. The chapter changes
from the ecstasy of the kingdom to the punishment of hell. Satan and
the problem of evil are brought before us.” - from Thru the Bible
vs. 1-23. — THE RESTORATION OF
followed by the restoration of
by their exercising rule over their late oppressors (vs. 1-2). In this time
rest and refreshment they will sing a song of triumph over
song extends from vs. 4-23. It consists of five stanzas, or strophes,
each comprising seven long lines, after which there is a brief epode, or
epilogue, of a different character. This epode is comprised in vs. 22 and 23.
the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose
them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they
shall cleave to the house of Jacob.” For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob.
God's purpose of
to have mercy on
prolonged (see ch. 13:22). Will yet choose
restoration was a fresh "choice" of them out of all the nations of the world,
a free act of grace on His part; to which they had no claim or right whatsoever.
And set them in their own land; or, on their own ground. The land that once
was theirs, but which they had forfeited by their disobedience, could only
become "their own" again by a fresh gift from God. The strangers shall be
joined with them; rather, the stranger shall join himself to them. On the return
from the Captivity, there would be an influx of proselytes from the nations,
who would voluntarily join themselves to those whom they saw favored both
by God and man (compare Esther 8:17). Though the Jews did not commonly
seek proselytes, they readily received such as offered themselves. A further
fulfillment of the prophecy took place when the Gentiles flocked into the
2 “And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the
and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they
were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.” And the people shall
take them; rather, peoples shall take them. The heathen nations among whom
they have dwelt shall rejoice at the restoration of
and even escort them in a friendly spirit to their borders (compare Ezra 1:4,6;
Nehemiah 2:7-9). Some shall go so far as voluntarily to become their
were. This can scarcely have been intended literally. The Jews were at no time
a conquering people, nor one that set itself to "take captives." The true
meaning is that Jewish ideas shall penetrate and subdue the nations generally,
and among them those with whom
did become very powerful and numerous both in Assyria and
about the first century after Christ, and
formed in Mesopotamia, Adiabene,
3 “And it shall come to pass in the day that the LORD shall give thee rest from
thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast
made to serve.” The hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve (compare
ch. 47:6). We have no detailed account of the Babylonian, as we have of the
Egyptian, servitude; but it was probably well-nigh as grievous. A few, of royal
descent, might be eunuchs in the palace of the great king (II Kings 20:18;
Daniel 1:3), and hold offices of trust; but with the bulk of the nation it was
otherwise. Psalm 137, has the plaintive ring which marks it as the utterance
of a sorely oppressed people. And there are passages of Ezekiel which
point in the same direction (see especially Ezekiel 34:27-29).
4 “That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of
How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!” Thou shalt take up
this proverb; rather, this parable, as the word is translated in Numbers 23, and 24;
Habakkuk 2:6; or "this taunting speech," as our translators render in the margin.
The golden city. There are two readings here - mad-hebah and marhebah. The latter
reading was preferred anciently, and is followed by the Septuagint, the Syriac and
Chaldee Versions, the Targums, Ewald, Gesenius, and Mr. Cheyne. It would give the
meaning of “the raging one." Madhebah, however, is preferred by Rosenmüller,
Vitringa, and Dr. Kay. It is supposed to mean "golden," from d'hab, the Chaldee
form of the Hebrew zahob, gold. But the question is pertinent - Why should a
Chaldee form have been used by a
Hebrew writer ignorant of Chaldee and
5 “The LORD hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the scepter of the rulers.”
The staff... the scepter. Symbols of Babylonian power (compare ch. 10:5).
6 “He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the
nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth.” He who smote the people;
rather, which smote the peoples. The participle translated "he who smote"
refers to "staff" or "scepter." With a continual stroke; i.e. incessantly, one war
following another without pause or stop. He that ruled, etc.; rather, which ruled
the nations in anger with a persecution that held not back.
7 “The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing.”
At rest... singing.
The first result of the fall of
quiet; then the nations, recognizing the blessedness of the change, burst out into
a song of rejoicing. The peace did not really continue very
up the role of conqueror which
Cambyses and Darius Hystaspis, produced as much stir and disturbance as had
been caused by Babylon., Still, there was an interval of about eleven years
between the conquest of
by Cambyses against
8 “Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying,
Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us.”
Fir trees...cedars. We may detect a double meaning here - one literal, the
other metaphorical. Literally, the trees of
ranges would be spared, since, while both the Assyrian and Babylonian
kings cut timber in the Syrian forests for building purposes, the Persians
had no such practice; metaphorically, the firs and cedars are the kings and
nobles of the countries (compare Ezekiel 31:16), who likewise had a respite.
Since thou art laid down; rather, since thou liest low. The first stanza here ends,
and the second begins with the next verse.
9 “Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming:
it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth;
it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.”
Hell from beneath. The Hebrew Sheol corresponded nearly to the Greek Hades,
and the Latin Inferi. It was a dismal region in the center of the earth, whither
departed souls descended, and where they remained thenceforth. There were
various depths in it, each apparently more dismal than the preceding; but
there is no evidence that it was considered to contain any place of happiness,
until after the return from the Captivity. The prophet here represents Sheol
as disturbed by the advent of the Babylonian monarch, and as rousing itself to
receive him. The great ones of the earth, and the kings, who are kings even
in Hades, and sit upon thrones, are especially moved by the occasion, and
prepare to meet and greet their brother. Personal identity and continued
consciousness of it after death are assumed; and the former earthly
rank of the inmates seems to be recognized and maintained. It stirreth
up the dead. Hell in the aggregate - the place personified - proceeds to
arouse the individual inmates, who are called re-phaim - the word
13:12, etc.), but meaning properly "feeble ones." The shades or ghosts of
the departed were regarded as weak and nerveless, in comparison
with living men (compare the Homeric εἴδωλα καμόντων). All the chief ones;
Raised up from their thrones; i.e. "caused to rise up from their thrones,"
and stand in eager expectation of what was about to happen.
10 “All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we?
art thou become like unto us? Art thou also become weak as we? rather,
So thou also art made weak as we! (On the supposed weakness of the dead, see
the comment on v. 9.)
11 “Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols:
the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.”
The noise of thy viols. (On the fondness of the Babylonians for music, and
the number and variety of their musical instruments, see Daniel 3:7, 10, etc.)
The word here translated "viol" is more commonly rendered "psaltery."
(On the probable character of the instrument intended, see note on
ch. 5:12.) The worm is spread under thee, etc.; rather, beneath thee is
spread the maggot, and the worm covereth thee. The thought of the grave
brings the thought of corruption with it. For cushion and for coverlet
the royal corpse has only the loathsome creatures which come with
putrescence. At this point the second stanza terminates.
12 “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art
thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer!
compared, with great force and beauty, to the (seeming) fall of a star
from heaven. The word translated "Lucifer" means properly "shining one," and
no doubt here designates a star; but whether any particular star or no is uncertain.
The Septuagint translated by ἑωσφόρος – heosphoros - whence our "Lucifer."
The subjoined epithet, "son of the morning" or "of the dawn," accords well with
this rendering. How art thou cut down to the ground! One of Isaiah's favorite
changes of metaphor. It is a favorite metaphor also to which he reverts - that of
representing the destruction of a nation by the felling of a tree or of a
rather, which didst prostrate the nations. The word used is one of great force
13 “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt
my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the
congregation, in the sides of the north:” For thou hast said; rather, and thou –
thou saidst; i.e. weak as thou art now shown to have been, it was thou that didst
Isaiah represents rather the thoughts of the Babylonian monarch than his actual
words. The Babylonian inscriptions are full of boasting egotism; but they do not
contain anything approaching to impiety. The king may regard himself as, in a
certain sense, Divine; but still he entertains a deep respect and reverence for
those gods whom he regards as the most exalted, as Merodach, Bel, Nebo, Sin,
Shamas. He is their worshipper, their devotee, their suppliant (see 'Records of the
Past,' vol. 5. pp. 111-148). The Babylonian monarchs may have believed that
after death they would mount up to heaven and join the "assembly of the
great gods" (ibid., vol. 3. p. 83); but we scarcely know enough as yet of
the religions opinions of the Babylonians to state positively what their
belief was on the subject of a future life. I will sit also upon the
mount of the congregation. The early commentators explained this of
which is used of the temple hill in Psalm 48:2. But it is well objected that
Babylonians, who had made it a desolation; and that no Babylonian monarch
would have desired to "sit" there. Moreover, the "mountain" of this passage
must be one which is "above the heights of the clouds" and "above the stars
of God," which the most imaginative poet could not have
therefore seen to be intended, even before the times of cuneiform decipherment
(Rosenmüller, Michaelis, Knobel). Now that the Babylonian inscriptions
can be read, it is found that there was such a mountain, called "Im-Kharsak,"
which is described as "the mighty
whose head rivals heaven, whose root is the holy deep," and which
"was regarded as the spot where the ark had rested, and where the gods had
their seat" ('Records of the Past,' vol. 11. p. 131, with the comment of
Mr. Sayce, p. 130). In Babylonian geography this mountain was identified,
either with the
In the sides of the north. Both El-wend and Rowandiz are situated to the
northeast of Babylou - a position which, according to ancient ideas, might
be described indifferently as "north" or "east."
14 “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”
I will be like the Most High (compare ch. 47:8). It is a mistake to say that
"the Assyrians gave the name of God to their monarchs" (Kay), or, at any rate,
there is no evidence that they did. Nor does any king, either Assyrian or
Babylonian, ever assume a Divine title. There is a marked difference in
this respect between the Egyptian and the Assyro-Babylonian religions.
Probably Isaiah only means that Babylonian monarchs thought of themselves
as gods, worked their own wills, were wrapped up in themselves, did not in
heart bow down to a higher Power.
(See Isaiah 14 – The Origin of Satan and Evil by J. Vernon
McGee) – this web site
15 “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.”
Thou shalt be brought down; rather, thou art brought down (compare
vs. 9-11). The sides of the pit; or, the recesses - the "lowest parts" of the pit.
With those words the third stanza terminates.
16 “They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee,
saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;”
They that see thee. Dr. Kay well observes that "here the scene of the parable is
changed back to earth. The corpse of the mighty conqueror is lying unburied."
Shall narrowly look upon thee. Like the inhabitants of hell (v. 10), those of
earth also shall scarcely believe their eyes. They shall look close to see if it
is indeed the great king that is slain.
17 “That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that
opened not the house of his prisoners?” That opened not the house of his
prisoners; literally, that loosed not his prisoners homewards. The long
imprisonment of Jehoiachin by Nebuchadnezzar (thirty-six years, II Kings 25:27)
is an illustration; but perhaps it is rather the retention in captivity of the entire
Jewish people that is brought to the prophet's cognizance.
18 “All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his
own house.” All the kings of the nations, etc.; i.e. the other kings, speaking
generally, died in peace, and had an honorable burial, each one in the sepulcher
that he had prepared for himself as his final abode or "house" (compare ch. 22:16).
The care taken
to prepare tombs was not confined to
obtaining its greatest development. Among others, the Persian kings certainly
prepared their own sepulchers; and probably the practice was general.
19 “But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as
the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go
down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet.”
But thou art cast out (see v. 13). Again "thou" is emphatic. Translate, But thou –
thou art cast out. The Babylonian monarch did not rest in the tomb which he
had prepared for himself. His body was "cast out" - left, apparently,
where it fell in battle. If there is allusion to any individual, it is probably
to Belshazzar (Daniel 5:30). Like an abominable branch. As a shoot from a
tree, which is disapproved, and so condemned and cut away. As the raiment
of those that are slam. The garments of the slain, soaked in blood (ch. 9:5),
were useless, and were consequently flung away or left to rot uncared for.
So was it with the corpse of the great king. That go down to the stones of the pit.
This clause is thought to be misplaced. It deranges the meter and damages the
sense. Corpses were not interred on fields of battle in the East (Herod., 3:26).
They were left to be "trodden underfoot." It is best, with Ewald and Mr. Cheyne,
to transfer the clause to the commencement of the next verse. Thus the fourth
stanza is relieved, and the fifth properly filled out.
20 “Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed
thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.”
If we make the alteration suggested in the preceding note, this verse will begin
as follows: "They that have gone down to the stoner of the pit, with these thou
shalt not be joined in burial" - a repetition certainly of the first clause of v. 19,
but with amplification, and with the reason appended. Thou hast destroyed thy
land; i.e. "brought ruin on it by displeasing God, and causing Him to visit it
with a judgment." The seed of evil-doers shall never be renowned; rather,
shall not be named forever (compare Psalm 109:13). The meaning is that they
shall have no seed, or, if they have any, that it shall be early cut off, and the
whole race blotted out. Pretenders rose up under Darius Hystaspis, claiming
descent from Belshazzar's father, Nabenidus; but the claim is characterized
as false, and a false claim would scarcely have been set up had real descendants
21 “Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that
they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.”
Prepare slaughter for his children. Belshazzar had "wives and concubines"
(Daniel 5:2), and therefore probably children. The magnanimity of Cyrus may
have spared them; but neither Cambyses nor Darius Hystaspis had the same
merciful disposition. As soon as there was seen to be danger
revolting, they would almost certainly be put to death. For the iniquity of their
fathers (compare Exodus 20:5). The destruction of their posterity was a part of
the punishment of the fathers. That they do not rise; i.e. "that they do not
recover themselves and become great monarchs once more, and once more
build great cities," such as those which
they were famous for
as city-builders that the Babylonians were especially celebrated (Genesis 10:10;
Daniel 4:30; Herod., 1:178, etc.).
Vs. 22-23. - These verses constitute the epode of the poem. Their main object
is to make it clear that the punishment about in fall on
none other than JEHOVAH whose Name occurs twice in v. 22, and emphatically
closes v. 23. The lines are much more irregular than those of the strophes, or stanzas.
22 “For I will rise up against them, saith the LORD of hosts, and cut off
And cut off from
was to be "cut off" from
old name almost unchanged (Babil), and can scarcely be supposed to have lost it
and afterwards recovered it. Perhaps "name" here means "fame" or "celebrity"
son and grandson, or issue and descendants. The same phrase occurs in the
23 “I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and
I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts.”
A possession for the bittern. Some water-bird or other is probably intended,
since the word used is joined in ch. 34:11 with the names of three other birds,
and is also certainly a bird's name in Zephaniah 2:14; but the identification
with the "bittern" is a mere guess, and rests on no authority. And pools of water.
character of the country about the ruins of
noticed by travelers. It arises from neglect of the dams along the course of
are left stagnant in the hollows between the ruins" ('Travels,' vol. 2. p. 389).
24-27. - A
FURTHER PROPHECY OF DELIVERANCE FROM
From the distant
prospect of an ultimate deliverance from the power of
prophet turns his gaze to a nearer, if not a greater, deliverance. The present
now threatens the independence of
been promised more than once (ch. 10:16-19, 25-27, 33-34); but apparently
the people are not reassured - they still dread the foe who is so near,
and who seems so irresistible. God, therefore, condescends to give them
a fresh prophecy, a fresh assurance, and to confirm it to them by an oath (v. 24).
The Assyrian power shall be broken - her yoke shall be cast off (v. 25);
God has declared His purpose, and nothing can hinder it (v. 27).
24 “The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought,
so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:”
Hath sworn. This is the emphatic word - the new thing in the prophecy.
God but seldom declares His purposes with an oath - never but in condescension
to the weakness of his creatures, who, though they misdoubt His word, can
feel the immutability of an oath (Hebrews 6:17), and yield it the credence
and the confidence which they refuse to a bare assertion. As I have
thought... as I have purposed. A reference to the prophecies previously
given in ch. 10. So shall it come to pass; literally, so it hath been –
a striking instance of the "preterite of prophetic certainty." So shall it stand;
literally, as I have purposed, that shall stand.
25 “That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread
him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden
depart from off their shoulders.” I will break the Assyrian in my land. This is
referred by some critics to the miraculous destruction of Sennacherib's army, and
regarded as a proof that the scene, of that destruction was
that a disaster to the forces of Sargon may be intended (see the comment on
ch. 10:28-32). His yoke shall depart from off them (compare ibid. v. 27).
The Assyrian yoke, imposed by Tiglath-Pileser (II Kings 16:7-10), and
(according to his own inscriptions) again by Sargon, was thrown off by
Hezekiah, who "rebelled against the King of
(ibid. ch. 18:7). It was this rebellion that provoked the expedition of
Sennacherib, described in ibid. vs. 13-16; and it may be this rejection of the yoke
which is here prophesied.
26 “This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the
hand that is stretched out upon all the nations.” The whole earth...
all the nations. Blows struck against Assyria or
then known nations Each, in its turn, was "the hammer of the whole earth"
(Jeremiah 50:23), and a check received by either caused world-wide disturbance.
No sooner did one subject nation recover her freedom, than an electric shock
ran through all the rest - plots were laid, confederacies formed, revolts
planned, embassies sent hither and thither. The complete destruction of
principal powers -
of the minor ones -
27 “For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and
His hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” His hand is stretched out;
literally, His is the outstretched hand, which is more emphatic.
28-32. - THE
grievously at the hands of
and had retaliated in the reign of Ahaz (ibid. ch. 28:18). It would seem that
after this they were invaded by Tiglath-Pileser,
who penetrated as far as
which lie took ('Records of the Past,' vol. 5. p. 51) and made tributary, as he
also did Ascalon ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. it. p. 399). Tiglath-Pileser died
shortly before Ahaz, and the present "burden" seems to have been uttered
in connection with his death. Isaiah warns
that her rejoicing is premature; Tiglath-Pileser will have successors as powerful
and as cruel as himself, and these successors will carry destruction and ravage
over the whole land.
28 “In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden.” These words introduce
the "burden of
the prophecies from ch. 10:1-14:27 have belonged to the reign of Hezekiah.
Ahaz appears to have died early in B.C. 725.
29 “Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote
thee is broken: for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice,
and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.” Whole Palestina. The Greeks
the country as "whole
made up of a number of principalities (I Samuel 6:18), his message concerned
it in its entirety. The rod of him that smote thee is broken. This can scarcely
refer to the death of Ahaz, since Ahaz did not smite the Philistines, but
was smitten by them (II Chronicles 28:18). It may, however, refer to the
death of Tiglath-Pileser, which took place only a year or two previously.
Out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice; i.e. a more poisonous
serpent (see note on Isaiah 11:8). Shal-maneser can scarcely be meant,
since he does not, appear to have attacked the Philistines. Probably Sargon
is intended, who "took
prisoner ('Records of the Past,' vol. 9. p. 5), and reduced Philtstia generally
to subjection. And his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent. The fruit
of the cockatrice will be even more terrible and venomous. He will
resemble the "fiery flying serpent" of the wilderness (Numbers 21:6).
Sennacherib is, perhaps, this "fruit." He conquered Ascalon ('Ancient
Monarchies,' vol. 2. p. 432) and Ekron (ibid., p. 433), and had the kings
of Gaze and
30 “And the firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in
safety: and I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant.”
The firstborn of the poor shall feed. The "firstborn of the poor" are the very poor
(Jarchi, Rosenmüller). The reference is to the poor Israelites, who will "feed"
and "lie down in
root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant. God kills with famine, man
with the sword (see II Samuel 24:13-14). When the Philistines had resisted
behind their strong walls till hunger had done its work by thinning their
ranks, the Assyrian conqueror would storm their strongholds and slaughter
31 “Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved: for there
shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone in his appointed
times.” Howl, O gate; cry, O city. Each city of
and lament. All will suffer; not one will be spared. Art dissolved;
literally, art melted; i.e. "faintest through fear" (compare Joshua 2:9;
Jeremiah 49:23). There shall come from the north a smoke. The "smoke"
is the Assyrian host, which ravages the country as it advances, burning towns,
and villages, and peasants' cots, and watchmen's towers. It enters the country
north," as a matter of course, where it adjoins upon
coast route, which led through the
followed by Egyptian armies. None shall be alone in his appointed
times; rather, there shall be no straggler at the rendezvous.
32 “What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the
LORD hath founded Zion, and the poor of His people shall trust in it.”
What shall one then answer, etc.? What answer shall be made to the
ambassadors, when they come to
Simply this - that God has founded and will protect
and weak among God's people - whether Jews or Philistines - had better
betake themselves to the shelter of the "city of the great King."
I recommend Spurgeon’s Sermon – Mr. Moody’s Text
(see Isaiah 12 – Spurgeon Sermon – Mr. Moody’s Text)
this web site.
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