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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 14

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob.

'It moves in lengthened elegiac measure, like a song of lamentation for the dead, and is full of lofty scorn.' (Herder).

For the Lord ... will yet choose Israel - set His choice upon. A deliberate predilection (Horsley). Their restoration is grounded on their election (see Psalms 102:13-22).

And the strangers shall be joined with them - proselytes (Esther 8:17; Acts 2:10; Acts 17:4; Acts 17:17). Tacitus, a pagan ('History,' 5: 5), attests the fact of numbers of the Gentiles having become Jews in his time. An earnest of the future effect on the pagan world of the Jews' spiritual restoration (Isaiah 60:4-5; Isaiah 60:10; Micah 5:7; Zechariah 14:16; Romans 11:12).

Verse 2

And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the LORD for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.

The people of Babylon primarily by the command of Cyrus (Ezra 1:4) Of the whole Gentile world The people - of Babylon, primarily, by the command of Cyrus (Ezra 1:4). Of the whole Gentile world ultimately (Isaiah 49:22; Isaiah 66:20; Isaiah 60:9).

Shall take them, and bring them to their place - Judea (Ezra 1:4; Ezra 7:21).

Israel shall possess them ... for servants - shall receive them in possession.

And they shall take them captives, whose captives they were. The Israelites shall take the Gentiles captive, not by physical, but by moral might; the force of love, and regard to Israel's God, (Isaiah 60:14, "The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee," etc.)

Verse 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,

In the day that the Lord shall give thee rest from thy sorrow ... fear, and ... hard bondage - (Deuteronomy 28:65-67; Isaiah 28:12; Ezekiel 28:25-26).

Verses 4-8

That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!

-A CHORUS OF JEWS EXPRESS THEIR JOYFUL SURPRISE AT BABYLON'S DOWNFALL: the whole earth rejoices: the cedars of Lebanon taunt him.

Verse 4. Thou shalt take up this proverb. The Orientals, having few books, embodied their thoughts in weighty, figurative, briefly-expressed gnomes; Hebrew, mashal: cf. Introduction to Proverbs. Here a taunting song of triumph (Micah 2:4; Habakkuk 2:6).

Against the king of Babylon - the ideal representative of Babylon: perhaps Belshazzar, (Daniel 5:1-31.) The mystical Babylon is ultimately meant.

How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city! Or else, the exactress of gold (Maurer). [ Madheebaah (H4062), from the Aramaic dªhab (H1722), the same as zaahaab (H2091), gold.] The English version accords with Daniel 2:32; Daniel 2:38, "Thou (King of Babylon) art this head of gold." Also Jeremiah 51:7, "Babylon hath been a golden cup in the Lord's hand." So called because of its wealth. But the old translators read differently in the Hebrew, oppression [ marheebaah (H4062)], which the parallelism favours (cf. Isaiah 3:5). Verse 5. The Lord hath broken the staff - not the sceptre (Psalms 2:9), but the staff with which one strikes, as he is speaking of more tyrants than one (Isaiah 9:4; Isaiah 10:24; Isaiah 14:29) (Maurer).

The sceptre of the rulers - tyrants, as the parallelism, "the wicked," proves (cf. Isaiah 13:2, note on "nobles").

Verse 6. He who smote the people - the peoples subjected to Babylon,

Is persecuted. The Hebrew is rather active, "which persecuted them, without any to hinder him" (The Vulgate, Jerome, and Horsley).

Verse 7. They - the once subject nations of the whole earth.

Break forth into singing. Houbigant places the stop after, "fir trees" (Isaiah 14:8), 'The very fir trees break forth,' etc. But the parallelism is better in the English version.

Verse 8. The fir trees - now left undisturbed. Probably a kind of evergreen.

Rejoice at thee - (Psalms 96:12.) At thy fall (Psalms 35:19; Psalms 35:24).

Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us - as formerly, when thou wast in power (Isaiah 10:34; Isaiah 37:24).

Verses 9-11

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.

-The scene changes from earth to hell-Sheol or Hades, the unseen abode of the departed. Some of its tenants, once mighty monarchs, are represented by a bold personification as rising from their seats in astonishment at the descent among them of the humbled King of Babylon. This proves, in opposition to Warburton, 'Divine Legation,' that the belief existed among the Jews that there was a Sheol or Hades, in which the "Rephaim," or manes of the departed, abode.

Verse 9. Hell from beneath is moved - put into agitation.

For thee - i:e., at thee; toward thee: explained by "to meet thee at thy coming."

It stirreth up the dead for thee, (even) all the chief ones - literally, goats: so rams, leaders of the flock: princes (Zechariah 10:3). The idea of wickedness on a gigantic scale is included (Ezekiel 34:17; Matthew 25:32-33). Magee derives Rephaim (the English version, "the dead") from a Hebrew root, raapah (H7503), to resolve into first elements: so the deceased (Isaiah 26:14), ghosts (Proverbs 21:16). These being magnified by the imagination of the living into gigantic stature, gave their name to giants in general (Genesis 6:4; Genesis 14:5; Ezekiel 32:18; Ezekiel 32:21). "Rephaim" is translated in the Septuagint, giants (cf. note, Job 26:5-6). Thence, as the giant Rephaim of Canaan were notorious even in that guilty land, enormous wickedness became connected with the term. So the Rephaim came to be the wicked spirits in Gehenna, the lower of the two portions into which Sheol is divided. Gesenius connects the national Rephaim with an Arabic root, 'tail.' This may have been the original idea. Then giants in guilt, whose place is in Gehenna with fallen spirits. So the "manes" in general.

Verse 10. They taunt him, and derive from his calamity consolation under their own (Ezekiel 31:16).

Art thou also become weak as we? - as a shade bereft of blood and life. Rephaim, "the dead," may come from a Hebrew root, raapaah (H7497), meaning, similarly, feeble, powerless. The speech of the departed closes with next verse.

Verse 11. Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols. "Pomp" and music, the accompaniment of Babylon's former feastings (Isaiah 5:12; Isaiah 24:8), give place to corruption and the stillness of the grave (Ezekiel 32:27).

The worm is spread under thee - "the worm" ( rimaah (H7415)) that is bred in putridity.

And the worms - properly, those from which the crimson dye is obtained. The same word as in Isaiah 1:18, towlee`aah (H8438). Appropriate here; instead of the crimson coverlet, over thee shall be "worms." Instead of the gorgeous couch, "under thee" shall be the maggot.

Verses 12-15

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!

-The Jews address him again as a fallen once-bright star. The language is so framed as to apply to the Babylonian king primarily, and at the same time to shallow forth, through him, the great final enemy, the man of sin of Paul, the Antichrist of John, and the little horn and blasphemous self-willed king of Daniel. He alone shall fulfill exhaustively all the lineaments here given.

Verse 12. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer - day- star. A title truly belonging to Christ: Revelation 22:16, "the bright and morning star," and therefore hereafter to be assumed by Antichrist, of whom Babylon is a type; also applied to the angelic "sons of God," "the morning stars" (Job 38:7). Gesenius, however, renders the Hebrew [ heeyleel (H1966), imperative Hiphil of yaalal (H3213)], here as in Ezekiel 21:12; Zechariah 11:2, "howl." So Syriac. But the Septuagint, Vulgate, Chaldaic, and Arabic, as the English version (from the Hebrew, haalal (H1984), to shine), which is preferable because of the parallelism. The fall of Babylon as a self-idolizing power, the type of mystical Babylon in the Apocalypse (Revelation 17:4-5), before the providence of God, is described in language drawn from the fall of Satan himself, the spirit that energized the pagan world-power, and now energizes the apostate Church, and shall hereafter energize the last secular Antichrist. Thus Lucifer has naturally come to be applied to Satan (Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:8-9; Jude 1:6).

(How) art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken - prostrate. (How) art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken - prostrate.

The nations - as in Exodus 17:13, "discomfit (defeat);" Hebrew, chaalash (H2522).

Verse 13. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. In Daniel 8:10, "stars" express earthly civil and religious potentates. "The stars" are often also used to express heavenly principalities (Job 38:7).

I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation - the place of solemn meeting between God and His people, in the temple on Mount Zion at Jerusalem. In Daniel 11:37 ("Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god, because he shall magnify himself above all") and 2 Thessalonians 2:4 ("Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God") this is attributed to Antichrist.

In the sides of the north - namely, the sides of Mount Moriah, on which the temple was built; north of Mount Zion (Psalms 48:2). However, the parallelism supports the notion that the Babylonian king expresses himself according to his own, and not Jewish opinions (so in Isaiah 10:10); thus, "mount of the congregation" will mean the northern mountain (perhaps in Armenia) fabled by the Babylonians to be the common meeting-place of their gods. "Both sides" (Hebrew, yarkªthayim (H3411)) imply the angle in which the sides meet, and so the expression comes to mean 'the extreme parts of the north.' So the Hindus place the Meru, the dwelling-place of their gods, in the north, in the Himalayan mountains. So the Greeks, in the northern Olympus. The Persian followers of Zoroaster put the Al-bordsch in the Caucasus north of them. The allusion to "the stars" harmonizes with this-namely, those near the North Pole, the region of the brilliant aurora borealis: whence the Northern regions were regarded as the seat of special manifestations of the divine glory (cf. note, Job 23:9; Job 37:22). Maurer and the Septuagint, 'I will sit upon the lofty mountains to the north;' Syriac. The Chaldaic paraphrases, 'I will set the throne of my kingdom above the people of God, and will sit in the mount of the covenant in the bounds of the north.'

Verse 14. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds - Hebrew, the cloud, singular. Perhaps there is a reference to the cloud, the symbol of the divine presence (Isaiah 4:5; Exodus 13:21). So this tallies with 2 Thessalonians 2:4, "above all that is called God:" as here, "above ... the cloud:" and as the Shekinah-cloud was connected with the temple, there follows, "he as God sitteth in the temple of God," answering to "I will be like the Most High" here.

Verse 15. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell - to Sheol (Isaiah 14:6): thou who hast said, "I will ascend into heaven" (Matthew 11:23).

To the sides of the pit - antithetical to the "sides of the North" (Isaiah 14:13). Thus, the reference is to the sides of the sepulchre, round which the dead were ranged in niches. But Maurer here, as in Isaiah 14:13, translates, 'the extreme,' or innermost parts of the sepulchre; as in Ezra 32:23 (cf. 1 Samuel 24:3).

Verses 16-20

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; -The passers by contemplate with astonishment the body of the King of Babylon cast out, instead of lying in a splendid mausoleum, and can hardly believe their senses that it is he.

Verse 16. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee - to be certain they are not mistaken.

And consider - `meditate upon' (Horsley).

Verse 17. That opened not the house of his prisoners. But Maurer, as margin, 'did not let his captives loose, so as to go homewards' [baaytaah].

Verse 18. All the kings of the nations - i:e., this is the usual practice.

Lie in glory - in a grand mausoleum.

Every one in his own house - i:e., sepulchre, as in Ecclesiastes 12:5, "man goeth to his long home;" "grave" (Isaiah 14:19). To be excluded from the family sepulchre was a mark of infamy (Isaiah 34:3; Jeremiah 22:19; 1 Kings 13:22; 2 Chronicles 21:20; 2 Chronicles 24:25; 2 Chronicles 28:27).

Verse 19. Thou art cast out of thy grave - not that he had lain in the grave, and was then cast out of it, but 'cast out without a grave,' such a grave as might have been expected by thee ("thy").

Like an abominable branch - a useless sucker, starting up from the root of a tree, and cut away by the farmer.

And as the raiment of those that are slain. Such a raiment, covered with gore, and regarded with abhorrence as unclean by the Jews, was cast away usually. Or else, 'clothed (i:e., covered) with the slain,' as Job 7:5, "My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust" (Maurer). So Vulgate and Chaldaic. But the Syriac and Arabic, as the English version.

Thrust through - i:e., 'the slain who have been thrust through,' etc.

That go down to the stones of the pit - whose bodies are buried in sepulchres excavated amidst stones, though their bloody raiment is cast away, whereas the King of Babylon is an unburied 'carcass, trodden under foot,' like the cast-away raiment (cf. Numbers 19:14; Numbers 19:16).

Verse 20. Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial. Whereas the princes slain with thee shall be buried, thou shalt not.

Because thou hast destroyed thy land. Belshazzar (or his joint- partner on the throne, Nabonahit, as the name is read in the inscriptions: cf. notes, Daniel 5:1-31:) oppressed his land with wars and tyranny, so that he was much hated (Xenophon, 'Cyrop.' 4: 6, 3; 7: 5, 32.)

The seed of evil-doers shall never be renowned - rather, 'shall not be named forever: the Babylonian dynasty shall end with Belshazzar: his family shall not be perpetuated (Horsley).

Verse 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 - charge to the Medes and Persians, as if they were God's conscious instruments.

For his children - Belshazzar's.

For the iniquity of their fathers - (Exodus 20:5.)

That they do not rise - to occupy the places of their fathers, nor fill the face of the world with cities. Maurer translates, 'enemies;' as the Hebrew [ `aariym (H5892)] means in 1 Samuel 28:16; Psalms 139:20 - namely, lest they inundate the world with their armies. So the Chaldaic, Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic similarly translate, 'fill the earth with wars.' Like thorns, they choke the earth, and are enemies of the human race: God, therefore, is consulting for the safety of all in sweeping them utterly away. Vitringa translates, 'disturbers.' In the English version, which the Vulgate favours, the meaning is, 'lest they fill the land with such cities' of pride as Babylon was.

Verse 22

For I will rise up against them, saith the LORD of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the LORD.

I will rise up against them - the family of the King of Babylon.

And cut off from Babylon the name - all the male representatives, so that the name shall become extinct (Isaiah 56:5; Ruth 4:5).

And remnant, and son, and nephew - all that is left of them. The dynasty shall cease (notes, Daniel 5:2; Daniel 5:28-31). Compare as to Babylon in general, Jeremiah 51:62.

Verse 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. I will also make it a possession for the bittern (Hebrew, qipod (H7090)) - rather, the hedgehog (Septuagint Vulgate, Chaldaic, Arabic, and Gesenius). But the context favours an aquatic bird, solitary, and loving marshes rather than a quadruped. The Arabic has Al-houbara, a bird the size of a capon. The bittern answers to the conditions. Its scientific name is Butaurus or Ardea stellaris. It strikes its beak in the mud or sand, and makes a shrill noise. The context in Isaiah 34:11 refers to birds that frequent solitary places: so also Zephaniah 2:14. Strabo (16: 1) states that enormous hedgehogs were found in the islands of the Euphrates.

And pools - owing to Cyrus turning the waters of the Euphrates over the country.

I will sweep it with the besom - sweep-net (Maurer). (1 Kings 14:10; 2 Kings 21:13.)

Verses 24-27

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:

-CONFIRMATION OF THIS BY THE HERE-FORETOLD DESTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIANS UNDER SENNACHERIB; a pledge to assure the captives in Babylon that He who, with such ease, overthrew the Assyrian, could likewise effect His purpose as to Babylon. The Babylonian king, the subject of this prediction, is Belshazzar, as representative of the kingdom, (Daniel 5:1-31.)

This would comfort the Jews when captives in Babylon, being a pledge that God, who had by that time fulfilled the promise concerning Sennacherib (though now still future), would also fulfill His promise as to destroying Babylon, Judah's enemy.

Verse 24. Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass. The Lord's thought (purpose) stands in antithesis to the Assyrian's thoughts Isaiah 10:7 "neither doth his heart think so (namely, to fulfill God's purposes); but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few" - namely, for his own self-glorification. See Isaiah 46:10-11, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure ... I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it;" 1 Samuel 15:29; Malachi 3:6.

Verse 25. That - my purpose, namely, "that," etc.

I will break the Assyrian in my land - in Judea.

His yoke depart - (Isaiah 10:27 .) upon my mountains. Sennacherib's army was destroyed on the mountains near Jerusalem (Isaiah 10:33-34). God regarded Judah as peculiarly His.

Tread him under foot - even as he "trod" my people "down like the mire of the streets" (Isaiah 10:6).

Verse 26. This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth - a hint that the prophecy embraces the present world of all ages in its scope, of which the purpose concerning Babylon and Assyria, the then representatives of the world-power, is but a part.

This is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations - namely, in punishment (Isaiah 5:25).

Verse 27. His hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back? - "None can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest thou?" (Daniel 4:35.)

To comfort the Jews, lest they should fear that people; not in order to call the Philistines to repentance; since the prophecy was probably never circulated among them. They had been subdued by Uzziah or Azariah (2 Chronicles 26:6); but in the reign of Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:18) they took several towns in Southern Judah. Now Isaiah denounces their final subjugation by Hezekiah.

Verse 28

In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden.

In the year that king Ahaz died - 726 BC Probably it was in this year that the Philistines threw off the yoke put on them by Uzziah.

Verse 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.

Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina - Hebrew, Pelesheth, from Palash, to wander, or migrate: literally, the land of sojourners.

Because the rod of him that smote thee is broken. The yoke imposed by Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:6) was thrown off under Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:18).

For out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice - the stock of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1). Uzziah was doubtless regarded by the Philistines as a biting "serpent." But though the effects of his bite have been gotten rid of, a more deadly viper, or "cockatrice" (an adder or basilisk: Hebrew, tsepa` (H6848): note, Isaiah 11:8; as Philistia would regard him) - namely, Hezekiah-awaits you (2 Kings 18:8).

Verse 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 first-born of the poor - Hebraism, for the most abject poor; the first-born being the foremost of the family. So "first-born of death" (Job 18:13) for the most fatal death. The Jews, heretofore exposed to Philistine invasions and alarms, shall be in safety. Compare Psalms 72:4, "children of the needy," expressing those 'needy in condition.'

Shall feed - image from a flock feeding in safety.

I will kill thy root - radical destruction.

And he shall slay thy remnant - Yahweh shall. The change of person, He after I, is a common Hebraism.

Verse 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 - i:e., ye who throng the gate; the chief place of concourse in a city.

There shall come from the north - Judea, north and east of Philistia.

A smoke - from the signal fire, whereby the hostile army was called together. The Jews' signal-fire is meant here, the "pillar of cloud and fire" (Exodus 13:21; Nehemiah 9:19); or else "a smoke" from the region devastated by fire (Maurer). Gesenius less probably, refers it to the cloud of dust raised by the invading army.

None shall be alone in his appointed times - rather, 'there shall not be a straggler among his (the enemy's) levies.' The Jewish host shall advance on Palestine in close array; none shall fall back or lag from weariness (Isaiah 5:26-27) (Lowth). Maurer thinks the Hebrew [mow`ad] will not bear the rendering, levies or armies. He translates, 'there is not one (of the Philistine watchguards) who will remain alone (separated from his fellow-soldiers, and exposed to the enemy) at his post,' through fright. One Rabbi similarly refers it to the Philistines. Not one of them will dare to remain in their strongholds when the Jewish soldiery burst in: as when "smoke" of fire assails a house, all go out. On "alone," cf. Psalms 102:7; Hosea 8:9. The Hebrew, mow`ad (H4151), means an assembly, the time and the place of which has been appointed. The English version is thus appropriate. None shall separate himself "alone" from the rest: all the Jewish volunteers shall come with alacrity to the place and at the times appointed by Hezekiah. Not one that shall not be full of alacrity, not one shall remain in his tent.

Verse 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 the messengers of the nation? When messengers come from Philistia to inquire as to the state of Judea, the reply shall be, that the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people (Isaiah 14:30 ; Zephaniah 3:12 ) shall trust in it - (Psalms 87:1; Psalms 87:5; Psalms 102:16.)

Remarks: The coming deliverance of Israel from her oppressor is grounded on God's sovereign choice. "The house of Israel shall" yet "take them" as willing "captives, whose captives they were." "Strangers shall cleave to the" restored "house of Jacob," constrained by love and religious obligations, the most powerful of all ties. How blessed it is when the bond-servant of the world, the flesh, and Satan has become a member of the true Israel, and has, by the Lord's gift of grace, obtained "rest from the fear and hard bondage wherein" heretofore "he was made to serve!" The spiritual Israel, as well as the literal, shall hereafter "take up" a song of triumph over the fallen Babylon, the apostate Church, in the language of the Apocalypse (Revelation 18:20), "Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets, for God hath avenged you on her." Great as is the might of oppressors now, their bodies shall soon lie in the grave powerless to hurt, having, instead of the crimson coverlet, "worms" over them, and the maggots "spread under" them. Once powerful for evil, they shall be among the "goats" set on the left of the Judge, and shall be doomed to eternal separation from the sheep on the right hand. Worldly "pomp," and "the noise" of carnal revelry and music shall soon give place to the disfigurement and the stillness of death. Let us therefore estimate them at their true worthlessness.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 14". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/isaiah-14.html. 1871-8.
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