Dreadful judgments impending over the people of God, 1-4. Particular enumeration of the horrid impieties which provoked the Divine vengeance, 5,6. Great political wretchedness of the transgressors, 7-12. The calamities shall be so great that only a small remnant shall be left in the land, as it were the gleanings of the vintage, 13. The rest, scattered over the different countries, spread there the knowledge of God, 14-16. Strong figures by which the great distress and long captivity of the transgressors are set forth, 17-22. Gracious promise of a redemption from captivity; and of an extension of the kingdom of God in the latter days, attended with such glorious circumstances as totally to eclipse the light and splendour of the previous dispensation, 23.
From the thirteenth chapter to the twenty-third inclusive, the fate of several cities and nations is denounced: of Babylon, of the Philistines, Moab, Damascus, Egypt, Tyre. After having foretold the destruction of the foreign nations, enemies of Judah, the prophet declares the judgments impending on the people of God themselves for their wickedness and apostasy, and the desolation that shall be brought on their whole country.
The twenty-fourth and the three following chapters seem to have been delivered about the same time: before the destruction of Moab by Shalmaneser; see Isaiah 25:10, consequently, before the destruction of Samaria; probably in the beginning of Hezekiah's reign. But concerning the particular subject of the twenty-fourth chapter interpreters are not at all agreed: some refer it to the desolation caused by the invasion of Shalmaneser; others to the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar; and others to the destruction of the city and nation by the Romans. Vitringa is singular in his opinion, who applies it to the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes. Perhaps it may have a view to all of the three great desolations of the country, by Shalmaneser, by Nebuchadnezzar, and by the Romans; especially the last, to which some parts of it may seem more peculiarly applicable. However, the prophet chiefly employs general images; such as set forth the greatness and universality of the ruin and desolation that is to be brought upon the country by these great revolutions, involving all orders and degrees of men, changing entirely the face of things, and destroying the whole polity, both religious and civil; without entering into minute circumstances, or necessarily restraining it by particular marks to one great event, exclusive of others of the same kind.-L.
Notes on Chapter 24
The world languisheth
The world is the same with the land; that is, the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, orbis Israeliticus. See Clarke on Isaiah 13:11.
The laws-"The law"
torah, singular: so read the Septuagint, Syriac, and Chaldee.
Are burned-"Are destroyed"
For charu, read charebu. See the Septuagint, Syriac, Chaldee, and Symmachus.
The mirth, sheon, the noise. geon, the pride, is the reading of three of De Rossi's MSS., with the Septuagint and Arabic.
Strong drink-"Palm wine"
This is the proper meaning of the word shechar, σικερα. See Clarke on Isaiah 5:11. All enjoyment shall cease: the sweetest wine shall become bitter to their taste.
All joy is darkened-"All gladness is passed away"
For arebah, darkened, read aberah, passed away, transposing a letter. Houbigant, Secker. Five of Dr. Kennicott's and five of De Rossi's MSS., several ancient, add col, all, after mesos: the Septuagint adds the same word before it.
They shall lift up their voice-"But these shall lift up their voice"
That is, they that escaped out of these calamities. The great distresses brought upon Israel and Judah drove the people away, and dispersed them all over the neighbouring countries: they fled to Egypt, to Asia Minor, to the islands and the coasts of Greece. They were to be found in great numbers in most of the principal cities of these countries. Alexandria was in a great measure peopled by them. They had synagogues for their worship in many places, and were greatly instrumental in propagating the knowledge of the true God among these heathen nations, and preparing them for the reception of Christianity. This is what the prophet seems to mean by the celebration of the name of JEHOVAH in the waters, in the distant coasts, and in the uttermost parts of the land. mayim, the waters; υδωρ, Sept.; υδατα, Theod.; not miyam from the sea.
In the isles of the sea-"In the distant coasts of the sea."
For beurim, in the valleys, I suppose we ought to read beiyim, in the isles, which is in a great degree justified by the repetition of the word in the next member of the sentence, with the addition of haiyam, the sea, to vary the phrase, exactly in the manner of the prophet. iyim is a word chiefly applied to any distant countries, especially those lying on the Mediterranean Sea. Others conjecture biorim, beharim, beummim, beammim, bechorim, beurim, a bar, illustrate-Le Clerc. Twenty-three MSS. of Kennicott's, many of De Rossi's, and some of my own, read beorim, in the valleys. The Septuagint do not acknowledge the reading of the text, expressing here only the word iyim, ενταιςνησοις, in the islands, and that not repeated. But MSS. Pachom. and I. D. II. supply in this place the defect in the other copies of the Septuagint thus, διατουτοηδοξακυριουεσταιενταιςνησοις τηςθαλασσηςενταιςνησοιςτοονοματουκυριουθεουισραηλ ενδοξονεσται "Therefore the glory of the Lord shall be in the isles of the sea: in the islands shall the name of the Lord God of Israel be glorified." Kimchi says, that by beurim, in the valleys, is meant the cities, because they were generally built in valleys. The Vulgate has in doctrinis, and so my old MS., in techingis. Coverdale translates, Praise the name of the Lord God of Israel in the valleys and in the floodis. It should not be rendered in the fires; none of the ancient Versions understood it thus. According to which the Septuagint had in their Hebrew copy beiyim, repeated afterwards, not beurim.
But I said
The prophet speaks in the person of the inhabitants of the land still remaining there, who should be pursued by Divine vengeance, and suffer repeated distresses from the inroads and depredations of their powerful enemies. Agreeably to what he said before in a general denunciation of these calamities:-
"Though there be a tenth part remaining in it; Even this shall undergo a repeated destruction." Isaiah 6:13. See the note there.-L.
My leanness, my leanness-Or, my secret; so the Vulgate, Montanus, and my old MS; razan has this meaning in Chaldee; but in Hebrew it signifies to make lean, to waste. This sentence in the Hebrew has a strange connexion of uncouth sounds: Vaomer, razi li razi li, oi li, bogedim bagadu, ubeged bogedim bagadu. This may be equalled by the translation in my Old MS. Bible: And I seide, my priveye thinge to me: my priveye thinge to me: woo to me: The lawe breykynge thei breken: and in lawe brekynge of the overdon thingis, they breken the lawe. The treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously-"The plunderers plunder"
See Clarke on Isaiah 21:2.
Fear, and the pit-"The terror, the pit"
If they escape one calamity, another shall overtake them.
"As if a man should flee from a lion, and a bear should overtake him: Or should betake himself to his house, and lean his hand on the wall, And a serpent should bite him." Amos 5:19.
"For," as our Saviour expressed it in a like parabolical manner, "wheresoever the carcass is there shall the eagles be gathered together," Matthew 24:28. The images are taken from the different methods of hunting and taking wild beasts, which were anciently in use. The terror was a line strung with feathers of all colours, which fluttering in the air scared and frightened the beasts into the toils, or into the pit which was prepared for them. Nec est mirum, cum maximos ferarum greges linea pennis distincta contineat, et in insidias agat, ab ipso effectu dicta formido. Seneca de Ira, ii. 12. The pit or pitfall, fovea; digged deep in the ground, and covered over with green boughs, turf, order to deceive them, that they might fall into it unawares. The snare, or toils, indago; a series of nets, inclosing at first a great space of ground, in which the wild beasts were known to be; and then drawn in by degrees into a narrower compass, till they were at last closely shut up, and entangled in them.-L.
For mikkol, a MS. reads mippeney, as it is in Jeremiah 48:44, and the Vulgate and Chaldee. But perhaps it is only, like the latter, a Hebraism, and means no more than the simple preposition mem. See Psalms 102:6. For it does not appear that the terror was intended to scare the wild beasts by its noise. The paronomasia is very remarkable; pachad, pachath, pach: and that it was a common proverbial form, appears from Jeremiah's repeating it in the same words, Jeremiah 48:43,44.
Out of the midst of the pit-"From the pit"
For mittoch, from the midst of, a MS. reads min, from, as it is in Jeremiah 48:44; and likewise the Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate.
The earth-"The land"
haarets, forte delendum he, ut ex praecedente ortum. Vid. seqq.-Secker. "Probably the he, in haarets, should be blotted out, as having arisen from the preceding."
Like a cottage-"Like a lodge for a night"
See Clarke on Isaiah 1:8.
On high-upon the earth.
That is, the ecclesiastical and civil polity of the Jews, which shall be destroyed. The nation shall continue in a state of depression and dereliction for a long time. The image seems to be taken from the practice of the great monarchs of that time; who, when they had thrown their wretched captives into a dungeon, never gave themselves the trouble of inquiring about them; but let them lie a long time in that miserable condition, wholly destitute of relief, and disregarded. God shall at length revisit and restore his people in the last age: and then the kingdom of God shall be established in such perfection, as wholly to obscure and eclipse the glory of the temporary, typical, preparative kingdom now subsisting.
Before his ancients gloriously
In the sigt of their olde men he schal ben glorified. Old MS. BIBLE.
"The figurative language of the prophets is taken from the analogy between the world natural and an empire or kingdom considered as a world politic. Accordingly the whole world natural, consisting of heaven and earth, signifies the whole world politic, consisting of thrones and people; or so much of it as is considered in prophecy: and the things in that world signify the analogous things in this. For the heavens and the things therein signify thrones and dignities, and those who enjoy them; and the earth with the things thereon, the inferior people; and the lowest parts of the earth, called hades or hell, the lowest or most miserable part of them. Great earthquakes, and the shaking of heaven and earth, are put for the shaking of kingdoms, so as to distract and overthrow them; the creating a new heaven and earth, and the passing away of an old one, or the beginning and end of a world, for the rise and ruin of a body politic signified thereby. The sun, for the whole species and race of kings, in the kingdoms of the world politic; the moon, for the body of the common people, considered as the king's wife; the stars, for subordinate princes and great men; or for bishops and rulers of the people of God, when the sun is Christ: setting of the sun, moon, and stars, darkening the sun, turning the moon into blood, and falling of the stars, for the ceasing of a kingdom." Sir I. Newton's Observations on the Prophecies, Part I., chap. 2.
These observations are of great consequence and use, in explaining the phraseology of the prophets.