Adam Clarke Commentary
This chapter contains an illustrious prophecy of the Messiah. He is represented under the glorious figure of the sun, or light, rising on a benighted world, and diffusing joy and gladness wherever he sheds his beams, Isaiah 9:1-3. His conquests are astonishing and miraculous, as in the day of Midian; and the peace which they procure is to be permanent, as denoted by the burning of all the implements of war, Isaiah 9:4, Isaiah 9:5. The person and character of this great Deliverer are then set forth in the most magnificent terms which the language of mankind could furnish, Isaiah 9:6. The extent of his kingdom is declared to be universal, and the duration of it eternal, Isaiah 9:7. The prophet foretells most awful calamities which were ready to fall upon the Israelites on account of their manifold impieties, Isaiah 9:8-21.
Dimness “Accumulated darkness” - Either מנדחה (menuddechah), fem. to agree with אפלה (aphelah); or אפל המנדח (aphel hammenuddach), alluding perhaps to the palpable Egyptian darkness, Exodus 10:21.
The land of Zebulun - Zebulun, Naphtali, Manasseh, that is, the country of Galilee all round the sea of Gennesareth, were the parts that principally suffered in the first Assyrian invasion under Tiglath-pileser; see 2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26. And they were the first that enjoyed the blessings of Christ‘s preaching the Gospel, and exhibiting his miraculous works among them. See Mede‘s Works, p. 101, and 457. This, which makes the twenty-third verse of chap. 8 in the Hebrew, is the first verse in chap. 9 in our authorized version. Bishop Lowth follows the division in the Hebrew.
And not increased the joy “Thou hast increased their joy” - Eleven MSS. of Kennicott‘s and six of De Ross‘s, two ancient, read לו (lo), it, according to the Masoretical correction, instead of לא (lo), not. To the same purpose the Targum and Syriac.
The joy in harvest - כשמחת בקציר (kesimchath bakkatsir). For בקציר (bakkatsir) one MS. of Kennicott‘s and one of De Rossi‘s have קציר (katsir), and another הקציר (hakkatsir), “the harvest;” one of which seems to be the true, reading, as the noun preceding is in regimine.
Every battle of the warrior “The greaves of the armed warrior” - שאון שאון (seon soen). This word, occurring only in this place, is oaf very doubtful signification. Schindler fairly tells us that we may guess at it by the context. The Jews have explained it, by guess I believe, as signifying battle, conflict: the Vulgate renders it violenta praedatio. But it seems as if something was rather meant which was capable of becoming fuel for the fire, together with the garments mentioned in the same sentence. In Syriac the word, as a noun, signifies a shoe, or a sandal, as a learned friend suggested to me some years ago. See Luke 15:22; Acts 12:8. I take it, therefore, to mean that part of the armor which covered the legs and feet, and I would render the two words in Latin by caliga caligati.The burning of heaps of armor, gathered from the field of battle, as an offering made to the god supposed to be the giver of victory, was a custom that prevailed among some heathen nations; and the Romans used it as an emblem of peace, which perfectly well suits with the design of the prophet in this place. A medal struck by Vespasian on finishing his wars both at home and abroad represents the goddess Peace holding an olive branch in one hand, and, with a lighted torch in the other, setting fire to a heap of armor. Virgil mentions the custom: -
See Addison on Medals, Series 2:18. And there are notices of some such practice among the Israelites, and other nations of the most early times. God promises to Joshua victory over the kings of Canaan. “To-morrow I will deliver them up all slain before Israel: thou shalt hough their horses, and burn their chariots with fire,” Joshua 11:6. See also Nahum 2:13. And the psalmist employs this image to express complete victory, and the perfect establishment of peace: -
עגלות (agaloth), properly plausira, impedimenta, the baggage-wagons: which however the Septuagint and Vulgate render scuta, “shields;” and the Chaldee, “round shields,” to show the propriety of that sense of the word from the etymology; which, if admitted, makes the image the same with that used by the Romans.
R. D. Kimchi, on this verse says this refers simply to the destruction of the Assyrians. Other battles are fought man against man, and spear against spear; and the garments are rolled in blood through the wounds given and received: but this was with burning, for the angel of the Lord smote them by night, and there was neither sword nor violent commotion, nor blood; they were food for the fire, for the angel of the Lord consumed them.
The government shall be upon his shoulder - That is, the ensign of government; the scepter, the sword, the key, or the like, which was borne upon or hung from the shoulder. See note on Isaiah 22:22.
And his name shall be called - אל גבור (El gibbor), the prevailing or conquering God.
The everlasting Father “The Father of the everlasting age” - Or אבי עד (Abi ad), the Father of eternity. The Septuagint have μεγαλης βουλης Αγγελος , “the Messenger of the Great Counsel.” But instead of אבי אד (Abi ad), a MS. of De Rossi has אבעזר (Abezer), the helping Father; evidently the corruption of some Jew, who did not like such an evidence in favor of the Christian Messiah.
Prince of Peace - שר שלום (sar shalom), the Prince of prosperity, the Giver of all blessings.
Of the increase - In the common Hebrew Bibles, and in many MSS., this word is written with the close or final למרבה ם. But in twelve of Kennicott‘s MSS., and twelve of De Rossi‘s, it is written with the open מ (mem); but here it is supposed to contain mysteries, viz., that Jerusalem shall be shut up, closed, and confined, till the days of the Messiah.
This whole passage reduced to its proper and entire form, and healed of the dislocation which it suffers by the absurd division of the chapters, makes a distinct prophecy, and a just poem, remarkable for the regularity of its disposition and the elegance of its plan. It has no relation to the preceding or following prophecy; though the parts, violently torn asunder, have been, on the one side and the other, patched on to them. Those relate principally to the kingdom of Judah, this is addressed exclusively to the kingdom of Israel. The subject of it is a denunciation of vengeance awaiting their crimes. It is divided into four parts, each threatening the particular punishment of some grievous offense - of their pride, of their perseverance in their vices, of their impiety, and of their injustice. To which is added a general denunciation of a farther reserve of Divine wrath, contained in a distich, before used by the prophet on a like occasion, Isaiah 5:25, and here repeated after each part. This makes the intercalary verse of the poem; or, as we call it, the burden of the song.
Lord “Jehovah” - For אדני (Adonai), thirty MSS. of Kennicott‘s, and many of De Rossi‘s, and three editions, read יהוה (Yehovah).
Pride and stoutness of heart “Carry themselves haughtily” - וידעו (veyadeu), “and they shall know;” so ours and the Versions in general. But what is it that they shall know? The verb stands destitute of its object; and the sense is imperfect. The Chaldee is the only one, as far as I can find, that expresses it otherwise. He renders the verb in this place by ואתרברבו (veithrabrabu), “they exalt themselves, or carry themselves haughtily; the same word by which he renders גבהו (gabehu), Isaiah 3:16. He seems, therefore, in this place to have read ויגבהו (vaiyigbehu), which agrees perfectly well with what follows, and clears up the difficulty. Archbishop Secker conjectured וידברו (vayedabberu), referring it to לאמר (lemor), in the next verse, which shows that he was not satisfied with the present reading. Houbigant reads וירעו (vaiyereu), et pravi facti sunt, they are become wicked, which is found in a MS.; but I prefer the reading of the Chaldee, which suits much better with the context.
The bricks - “The eastern bricks,” says Sir John Chardin, (see Harmer‘s Observ. I., p. 176), “are only clay well moistened with water, and mixed with straw, and dried in the sun.” So that their walls are commonly no better than our mud walls; see Maundrell, p. 124. That straw was a necessary part in the composition of this sort of bricks, to make the parts of the clay adhere together, appears from Exodus 5. These bricks are properly opposed to hewn stone, so greatly superior in beauty and durableness. The sycamores, which, as Jerome on the place says, are timber of little worth, with equal propriety are opposed to the cedars. “As the grain and texture of the sycamore is remarkably coarse and spongy, it could therefore stand in no competition at all (as it is observed, Isaiah 9:10) with the cedar, for beauty and ornament.” - Shaw, Supplement to Travels, p. 96. We meet with the same opposition of cedars to sycamores, 1 Kings 10:27, where Solomon is said to have made silver as the stones, and cedars as the sycamores in the vale for abundance. By this mashal, or figurative and sententious speech, they boast that they shall easily be able to repair their present losses, suffered perhaps by the first Assyrian invasion under Tiglath-pileser; and to bring their affairs to a more flourishing condition than ever.
The adversaries of Rezin against him “The princes of Retsin against him” - For צרי (tsarey), enemies, Houbigant, by conjecture, reads שרי (sarey), princes; which is confirmed by thirty of Kennicott‘s and De Rossi‘s MSS., (two ancient), one of my own, ancient; and nine more have צ (tsaddi), upon a rasure, and therefore had probably at first שרי (sarey). The princes of Retsin, the late ally of Israel, that is, the Syrians, expressly named in the next verse, shall now be excited against Israel.
With open mouth “On every side” - בכל פה (bechol peh), in every corner, in every part of their country, pursuing them to the remotest extremities, and the most retired parts. So the Chaldee בכל אתר (bechol athar), in every place.
In one day - Thirteen MSS. of Kennicott and De Rossi read ביום beyond in a day; and another has a rasure in the place of the letter ב (beth).
The Lord “Jehovah” - For אדני (Adonai), a great number of MSS. read יהוה (Yehovah).
For wickedness - Wickedness rageth like a fire, destroying and laying waste the nation: but it shall be its own destruction, by bringing down the fire of God‘s wrath, which shall burn up the briers and the thorns; that is, the wicked themselves. Briers and thorns are an image frequently applied in Scripture, when set on fire, to the rage of the wicked; violent, yet impotent, and of no long continuance. “They are extinct as the fire of thorns,” Psalm 118:12. To the wicked themselves, as useless and unprofitable, proper objects of God‘s wrath, to be burned up, or driven away by the wind. “As thorns cut up they shall be consumed in the fire,” Isaiah 33:12. Both these ideas seem to be joined in Psalm 58:9: -
The green and the dry is a proverbial expression, meaning all sorts of them, good and bad, great and small, etc. So Ezekiel: “Behold, I will kindle a fire, and it shall devour every green tree, and every dry tree,” Ezekiel 20:47. D‘Herbelot quotes a Persian poet describing a pestilence under the image of a conflagration: “This was a lightning that, falling upon a forest, consumed there the green wood with the dry.” See Harmer‘s Observations, Vol. II., p. 187.
The flesh of his own arm “The flesh of his neighbor” - “ Του βραχιονος του αδελφου αυτου , the Septuagint Alexand. Duplex versio, quarum altera legit רעו (reo), quae vox extat, Jeremiah 6:21. Nam רע (rea), αδελφος , Genesis 43:33. Recte ni fallor.” - Secker. I add to this excellent remark, that the Chaldee manifestly reads רעו (reo), his neighbor, not זרעו (zeroo), his arm; for he renders it by קריביה (karibeyh), his neighbor. And Jeremiah has the very same expression: ואיש בשר רעהו יאכלו (veish besar reehu yochelu), “and every one shall eat the flesh of his neighbor,” Jeremiah 19:9. This observation, I think, gives the true reading and sense of this place: and the context strongly confirms it by explaining the general idea by particular instances, in the following verse: “Every man shall devour the flesh of his neighbor;” that is, they shall harass and destroy one another. “Manasseh shall destroy Ephraim, and Ephraim, Manasseh;” which two tribes were most closely connected both in blood and situation as brothers and neighbors; “and both of them in the midst of their own dissensions shall agree in preying upon Judah.” The common reading, “shall devour the flesh of his own arm,” in connection with what follows, seems to make either an inconsistency, or an anticlimax; whereas by this correction the following verse becomes an elegant illustration of the foregoing. - L.
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