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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 9

 

 

Verses 1-7

1. RV 'But there shall be no gloom to her that was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time hath he made it glorious, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the nations.' By the contempt brought upon the land of Zebulun and Naphtali the prophet signifies the spoiling of the country and deportation of the inhabitants by Tiglath-pileser (narrated 2 Kings 15:29). Galilee of the nations] lit. 'the circuit,' or 'district of the nations.' The region indicated lay in the extreme N. of Naphtali and received its name, probably, from the intermixture in that locality of Israelites with the former inhabitants. The term Galil later became the proper name Galilee.

2. Walked in darkness] as described in Isaiah 8:21, Isaiah 8:22. Have seen] The light of the new age to which the prophet looked forward was of course in the future, but to his vision it is so assured that he describes it as having already dawned. Such use of the past tense (prophetic perfect) is frequent in the prophetic writings. Dwell] RV 'dwelt': the tense being parallel to 'walked' in the preceding clause.

Isaiah 9:1-2 are referred to in Matthew 4:15-16 as fulfilled in our Lord's Galilean ministry. We need not suppose that Isaiah had this distinctly in mind. He only speaks in these verses in general terms of the light of the new and glorious age shining upon that district which should be the first to suffer the affliction of conquest and captivity. When Christ, the true Sun of Righteousness, illumined that very same district it was natural that the Evangelist should see the ultimate fulfilment of the prophecy which Isaiah, unconscious of the wonderful fulfilment which awaited his words, had uttered.

3. And not increased the joy] So Heb. written text, ancient Greek versions and Vulg. But Heb. traditional reading, Syr., and LXX give 'increased the joy to it,' RV 'increased their joy'; and this reading is demanded by the context, where figures are multiplied to indicate excessive joy. The past tenses (prophetic perfect, see Isaiah 9:2) are again used to describe what is yet in the future. Before thee] appearing as worshippers before Jehovah in His sanctuary (Deuteronomy 12:12).

4. Staff of his shoulder] i.e. with which he is beaten by the taskmaster. The dominion of Assyria shall be broken. As in the day of Midian] referring to the memorable victory of Gideon (Judges 7, 8).

5. Read, 'For all the armour of the armed man in the tumult, and the garments rolled in blood, shall be for burning, for fuel of fire.' After the great victory over the oppressor the weapons of war are burnt (Ezekiel 39:9) as a prelude to the era of peace which is to follow.

6. From a general description of the future reign of peace the prophet goes on to picture the king upon whom it depends, and whom he apparently identifies with the child of Isaiah 7:14. Then he proceeds to indicate, the features of his rule by a series of majestic titles. Wonderful, Counsellor] RM 'Wonderful Counsellor,' or 'Wonder-Counsellor.' The title implies that the future king's rule shall be guided by a divinely-inspired wisdom (Isaiah 11:2-4) which shall command the awe with which men regard the counsel of God. The word 'wonderful' (with its cognates) is constantly used of the divine action (Exodus 15:11; Judges 13:19; Psalms 118:23), and is applied to the divine name (Judges 13:18). The mighty God] The word 'God' has been explained by some in the sense of 'ruler' or 'king.' The plural of the same word is sometimes so employed (Exodus 21:6; Psalms 82:1, Psalms 82:6). Isaiah, however, here uses the singular, and directly applies the very same title to Jehovah elsewhere (Isaiah 10:21 cp. Deuteronomy 10:17; Jeremiah 32:18). It should be noted also, (1) that the significance of the word 'God' (El)"as a title of Jehovah was at this time in the prophet's thoughts in the name Immanuel; and (2) the titles that precede and follow this one seem to have a mysterious divine significance. For such direct ascription of a divine title to the Messianic King the nearest parallel is Psalms 45:6 : cp. Zechariah 12:8; 1 Chronicles 29:23. The everlasting Father] Father because of the protecting care exercised by him over his people. Everlasting because his kingdom is to be for ever (Isaiah 9:7). Prince of Peace] peace being regarded as a prominent feature of that great future (Isaiah 2:2-4) which the Messiah is to inaugurate (Micah 5:5; Zechariah 9:10).

7. David] The mention of David implies that the ideal king is to be of the lineage of David. The v. might be explained as a promise that the dynasty of the great king whom the prophet has in mind should reign in undisputed possession of the kingdom, and should not fail. The prophecy would in that case be parallel to those earlier ones which promise a lasting dominion to the House of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Hosea 3:5; Amos 9:11); but the title, 'Everlasting Father,' which has just preceded, makes it more likely that the promise is one of personal sovereignty to the individual king of whom the prophet is thinking. To order it, and to establish it] RV 'to establish it, and to uphold it.'

Justice] RV 'righteousness.' The zeal, etc.] the jealous love of God for His people is a guarantee of this.


Verses 1-21

(continued)

8. Jacob.. Israel] Both names here stand for the northern kingdom, as is made clear by what follows in the next v.

9. Shall know] i.e. shall be taught by experience (Numbers 14:34).

10. If the language is to be understood literally, the allusion is to the way in which the people set themselves to repair, and more than make up for, the devastation caused by invasion. But it is more likely that the prophet refers in a figure to the frequent changes of dynasty in the N. kingdom; no sooner is one dynasty overthrown than another rises up to take its place in vain self-confidence. This interpretation is suggested by the word 'we will change,' which literally signifies, 'we will make cedars to succeed.' The Arabic Caliph, meaning successor (of the prophet Mohammed), is from the same Semitic root.

11. The adversaries of Rezin] Perhaps we should read (with some Heb. MSS) 'the princes of Rezin'; the meaning would then be that the Syrian allies of Israel (Isaiah 7:1-2) will turn against it. This suits the context, for we read in the next v. the Syrians before. Join his enemies together] RV 'stir up his enemies.'

12. Before] EM 'on the east.' Behind] EM 'on the west.' The point is that Israel is attacked on all hands.

14. Branch] EV 'palm branch': 'palm-branch and rush'—a proverbial expression signifying high and low (Isaiah 19:15).

15. Explanatory of the metaphorical language in Isaiah 9:14 : cp. Isaiah 9:20, Isaiah 9:21.

18. Briers and thorns] figuratively put for evil men (2 Samuel 23:6).

19. Darkened] RV 'burnt up.'

20. He shall] RV 'one shall': not to be taken literally as indicating the approach of famine, but a figurative prophecy of the ruin of the nation through anarchy and civil strife, as is made clear by the first part of Isaiah 9:21.

Isaiah 10:1. And that write, etc.] RV 'and to the writers that write perverseness,' referring to the registering of unjust and oppressive legal decisions by the scribes. There is thus a double reference (a) to unjust legislation, and (b) to unjust administrations of the law.

3. Glory] i.e. wealth and possessions, in which the people take pride. See the same word in the same sense Genesis 31:1.

4. Without me they shall bow down] rather, RV 'except they bow down,' or 'they shall only bow down.' Ironical—men's only safety will be with the wretched train of captives, or beneath the corpses on the battle-field.


Verse 8


Divine Judgments on the Kingdom of Israel

This section relates throughout to the kingdom of Israel. It belongs to the same period as the chapters immediately preceding, and treats of the ruin which Isaiah foresaw would shortly overtake the kingdom of the Ten Tribes: cp. Isaiah 7:16; Isaiah 8:4. The prophet traces the fall of Israel to the moral and social condition of its people. His prophecy was speedily fulfilled in the conquest of Syria and Israel by the Assyrian armies. The prophecy falls into four parts, each closing with the refrain, 'For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.' As the same phrase occurs in Isaiah 5:25, many commentators are of opinion that the short section Isaiah 5:25-30 is connected in date and subject with this prophecy.

Isaiah 9:8-21. Because of its pride and self-confidence foes are stirred up against Israel on all hands, and sudden calamity shall overtake it, followed by internal anarchy.

Isaiah 10:1-4. The kingdom being hopelessly corrupt cannot stand when attacked.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 9:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/isaiah-9.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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