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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Isaiah 29

Verse 1

Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices.

This chapter opens the series of prophecies as to the invasion of Judea under Sennacherib, and its deliverance.

Woe to Ariel - Jerusalem; Ari-el means Lion of God - i:e., the city rendered by God invincible: the lion is emblem of a mighty hero (2 Samuel 23:20, "two lion-like men" - Hebrew, lions of God). Otherwise, Hearth (Ari in Arabic) of God - i:e., the place where the altar-fire continually burns to God (Isaiah 31:9; Ezekiel 43:15-16).

Add ye year to year - ironically; suffer one year after another to glide on in the round of formal, heartless "sacrifices." All will not avail to avert the invasion; your sacrifices and feasts shall come to an end (Lamentations 1:4; Jeremiah 7:4; Jeremiah 7:14). Or the prophet is hereby marking the limit within which the invasion by Sennacherib will take place-namely, in one year added upon a second; i:e., in two years (Grotius). Let a year elapse and a little more, (Isaiah 32:10, margin.)

Let them kill sacrifices. Or (as the Hebrew may also mean: chagiym (H2282) yinqopuw (H5362), 'let the feasts (of another whole year) go round' - i:e., within the completion of two years 'I will distress Ariel.'

Verse 2

Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel.

Yet - rather, Then.

I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow. There is a play on like sounds in the Hebrew ( ta'ªniyaah (H8386) wa'ªniyaah (H592)), groaning and moaning.

As Ariel - either, 'the city shall be as a lion of God' - i:e., it shall emerge from its dangers unvanquished; or, 'it shall be as the altar of burnt offering,' consuming with fire the besiegers (Isaiah 29:6; Isaiah 30:30; Isaiah 31:9; Leviticus 10:2); or, best, as the next verse continues the threat, and the promise of deliverance does not come until Isaiah 29:5, 'it shall be as a hearth of burning' - i:e., a scene of devastation by fire. The prophecy probably contemplates ultimately, besides the affliction and deliverance in Sennacherib's time, the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome, the dispersion of the Jews, their restoration, the destruction of the enemies that besiege the city (Zechariah 14:2), and the final glory of Israel (Isaiah 29:17-24).

Verse 3

And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee.

I - Yahweh, acting through the Assyrian, etc., my instruments (Isaiah 10:5).

Will camp against thee round about. Since Sennacherib did not encompass the city "round about" (literally, like a round ball or circle: kaduwr (H1754)), the ulterior reference is to the Babylonian and Roman sieges. (Luke 19:43; Luke 21:20).

A mount - an artificial mound formed to out-top high walls (Isaiah 37:33). Else a station-namely, of warriors, for the siege.

Forts - siege towers (Deuteronomy 20:20).

Verse 4

And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.

Thy speech shall be low out of the dust ... as of one that hath a familiar spirit. Jerusalem shall be as a captive, humbled to the dust. Her voice shall come from the earth, as that of the spirit-charmers or necromancers (Isaiah 8:19), faint and shrill, as the voice of the dead was supposed to be: ventriloquism was doubtless the trick used to make the voice appear to come from the earth (Isaiah 19:3). An appropriate retribution that Jerusalem, which, consulted necromancers, should be made like them.

Verse 5

Moreover the multitude of thy strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly.

Moreover - rather, But: Yet in this extremity held shall come, and the enemy be scattered.

The multitude of thy strangers - i:e., of thy foreign enemies, thy invaders (Isaiah 25:2).

Shall be like small dust ... as chaff - (Job 21:18.)

It shall be - namely, the destruction of the enemy shall be.

At an instant - in a moment (Isaiah 30:13).

Verse 6

Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.

Thou - the Assyrian army.

Shalt be visited ... with thunder ... - not literally fulfilled in the case of the Assyrians (Isaiah 37:36); but figuratively, in their case, for an awful judgment (Isaiah 30:30; Isaiah 28:17). The ulterior fulfillment in the case of the Jews' foes in the last days may be more literal (see as to "earthquake," Zechariah 14:4).

Verse 7

And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision.

Her munition - her fortress.

Verse 8

It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion.

As when an hungry man dreameth ... - their disappointment in the very height of their confident expectation of taking Jerusalem shall be as great as that of the hungry man who in a dream fancies he eats, but awakes to hunger still (Psalms 73:20); their dream shall be dissipated on the fatal morning (Isaiah 37:36).

Verse 9

Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink.

Stay yourselves - `Stand in astonishment:' Hebrew, hithmahmehu-literally, linger or tarry; hence, that state of mind in which one stops, fixed to the spot with amazement at some strange and unexpected event. The root is the Hebrew interrogative mah?-`what?' for one lingering is wont to ask, What if so and so should happen? Expressing the stupid and amazed incredulity with which the Jews received Isaiah's announcement.

And wonder - the second imperative, as often (Isaiah 8:9), is a threat; the first is a simple declaration of a fact, 'Stand astounded, since you choose to be so, at the prophecy, soon you will be amazed at the sight of the actual event' (Maurer).

Cry ye out, and cry, [ hishta`ash`uw (H8173) waasho`uw (H8173)] - cry out at the prophecy, and ye shall have reason to cry at the event: from a root shaawa` (H7768) or shuwa` (H7769), 'to cry.' Maurer, after Castalio and the Tigurine version, takes it from a root [ shaa`a` (H8173)], to smear over the eye; Chaldee, shua`: or the Hebrew [ shaa`aah (H8159)], to shut (Isaiah 6:10; Isaiah 32:3). 'Be ye blinded (since you choose to be so, though the light shines all round you), and soon ye shall be blinded' in good earnest, to your sorrow. Gesenius takes it in the sense, 'Take your pleasure,' as in Psalms 94:19, "delight" is the translation of the same Hebrew. Irony, as in Ecclesiastes 11:9: cf. margin. Maurer's view is best, if the English version be rejected: as Isaiah 6:10 (the same Hebrew, "shut their eyes") favours it. Also next verse, "the Lord ... hath closed your eye."

Drunken, but not with wine - but with spiritual paralysis (Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 51:21).

Ye ... they - the change from speaking to, to speaking of them, intimates that the prophet turns away from them to a greater distance, because of their stupid unbelief.

Verse 10

For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.

The spirit of deep sleep. Yahweh gives them up judicially to their own hardness of heart (cf. Zechariah 14:13). Quoted by Paul, with variations, from the Septuagint (Romans 11:8). See Isaiah 6:10; Psalms 69:23.

The prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered with a veil of darkness. The prophets and seers at that time had obtained for themselves a kind of rule over the people (Jeremiah 5:31; Jeremiah 26:8.) "Your ruler" - literally, your heads (margin: see also Isaiah 3:2). 'He hath covered;'-the Orientals cover the head to sleep. Thus "covered" is parallel to "closed your eyes" (Judges 4:19). Covering the face was also preparatory to execution (Esther 7:8). Here the covering is the prelude to God's judgments on them. This cannot apply to the time when Isaiah himself prophesied, but to subsequent times.

Verse 11

And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:

And the vision of all - of all the prophets. Vision (chazuth) is the same here as revelation or law. In Isaiah 28:15 the same Hebrew word is translated covenant. Translate (as the article in hakol (H3605) stands for a suffix), 'the law, the whole of it' (Maurer). I prefer the English version. The true prophets, in the plural ("of all"), stand in contrast to the blinded "prophets" of the people (Isaiah 29:10).

Is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed - (Isaiah 8:16.) God seals up the truth so as that even the learned, because they want believing docility, cannot discern it (Matthew 13:10-17; Matthew 11:25). Prophecy remained comparatively a sealed volume (Daniel 12:4; Daniel 12:9) until Jesus, who "alone is worthy," "opened the seals" (Revelation 5:1-5; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 6:1).

Verse 12

And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.

He saith, I am not learned. The unlearned succeed no better than the learned, not from want of human learning, as they fancy, but from not having the teaching of God (Isaiah 54:13; Jeremiah 31:34; John 6:45; 1 Corinthians 2:7-10; 1 John 2:20).

Verse 13

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

Precept of men - instead of by the precepts of God, given by His prophets; also worship external, and by rule, not heartfelt worship, such as God requires (John 4:24). Compare Christ's quotation of this verse, agreeing in the main with the Septuagint, Matthew 15:8-9,

Verse 14

Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.

A marvelous work - (Habakkuk 1:5; Acts 13:41.) The "marvelous work" is one of unparalleled vengeance on the hypocrites (cf. "strange work," Isaiah 28:21).

The understanding of their prudent (men) shall be hid - the judgment will visit the wise in that respect in which they most prided themselves; their wisdom shall be "hid" - i:e., shall no longer appear, so as to help the nation in its distress (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:19).

Verse 15

Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?

That seek deep to hide - rather, 'that seek to hide deeply,' etc. (cf. Isaiah 30:1-2). The reference is to the secret plan which many of the Jewish nobles had of seeking Egyptian aid against Assyria, contrary to the advice of Isaiah. At the same time the hypocrite in general is described, who, under a plausible exterior, tries to hide his real character, not only from men, but even from God.

Verse 16

Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?

Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay. So the Hebrew accents require. But Lowth, etc., translate, 'Ah! your perverseness! or, your turning of things upside down.) Should [ 'im (H518)] the potter be esteemed as the clay?' 'Ye invert (turn upside down) the order of things, putting yourselves instead of God,' and vice versa, 'just as if the potter should be esteemed as the clay' (Horsley). Isaiah 45:9; Isaiah 64:8) The Arabic, Syriac, Chaldaic, and Septuagint support the English version, which means, 'In your turning of things upside down ye shall be esteemed (by God) as the potter's clay:' a good sense, and therefore not to be rejected, when the Hebrew accents support it. The Hebrew im often means "surely."

Verse 17

Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?

Lebanon shall be turned - As contrasted with your 'turnings of things upside down' (Isaiah 29:16), there shall be other and better turnings or revolutions-the outpouring of the Spirit in the latter days (Isaiah 32:15); first, on the Jews, which shall be followed by their national restoration (note, Isaiah 29:2; Zechariah 12:10); then on the Gentiles (Joel 2:28).

A fruitful field - literally, a Carmel (note, Isaiah 10:18). The moral change in the Jewish nation shall be as great as if the wooded Lebanon were to become a fruitful field, and vice versa. Compare Matthew 11:12, Greek, 'the kingdom of heaven forces itself' [ biazetai (G971)], as it were, on man's acceptance: instead of men having to seek Messiah, as they had John in a desert, He presents Himself before them with loving invitations. Thus men's hearts, once a moral desert, are reclaimed so as to bear fruits of righteousness. And the fruitful field - vice versa, the ungodly who seemed prosperous, both in the moral and literal sense, shall be exhibited in their real barrenness.

Verse 18

And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.

Deaf ... the blind shall see - (cf. Matthew 11:5.) The spiritually blind, etc., are chiefly meant; "the book," as Revelation is called preeminently, shall be no longer "sealed," as is described, Isaiah 29:11, but the most unintelligent shall hear and see (Isaiah 35:5).

Verse 19

The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

The meek, [ `ªnaawiym (H6035)] - the afflicted godly: the idea is, virtuous suffering (Isaiah 61:1; Psalms 25:9; Psalms 37:11) (Barnes). So Chaldaic, 'those who have suffered injury.' But the Vulgate as the English version. The meek under suffering seems to me the sense.

The poor among men - i:e., the poorest of men; namely, the pious poor.

Shall rejoice - when they see their oppressors punished (Isaiah 29:20-21) and Yahweh exhibited as their protector and rewarder (Isaiah 29:22-24; Isaiah 41:17; James 2:5).

Verse 20

For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off:

The terrible one - namely, the persecutors among the Jewish nobles.

The scorner is consumed - (Isaiah 28:9; Isaiah 28:14; Isaiah 28:22.) All that watch for iniquity - not only commit iniquity, but watch for opportunities of committing it, and make it their whole study (see Micah 2:1; Matthew 26:59; Matthew 27:1).

Verse 21

That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.

That make a man an offender for a word (Hebrew, bªdaabaar (H1697)) - Who arraign a man for a word which he hath spoken, and which they were watching for to make it a plea for accusing him. This accords with Isaiah 29:20, "that watch for iniquity." So "the Pharisees took counsel how they might entangle Jesus in His talk" (Matthew 22:15: cf. especially Luke 11:53-54), and accused Him for His words, that He might be condemned to death. Compare as to Jeremiah the type, Jeremiah 18:18; Jeremiah 20:10. But Gesenius translates, 'Who make a man guilty in his cause' - i:e., unjustly condemn him. "A man" is, in the Hebrew ( 'aadaam (H120), not 'iysh (H376)), a poor man, upon whom such unjust condemnations might be practiced with more impunity than on the rich: cf. Isaiah 29:19, "the meek ... the poor."

And lay a snare for him that reproveth. Compare Amos 5:10, "They hate him that rebuketh in the gate." They lay plots for slandering the prophet, and they entrap into false decisions the judge that would reprove them publicly for their iniquity, by bribes and misrepresentations; and also they lay snares so as to baffle a suitor against them who reproves them in court.

In the gate - the place of concourse in a city, where courts of justice were held (Ruth 4:11; Proverbs 31:23; Amos 5:12), and where the prophets, as Jeremiah, were often directed to rebuke the people for sin (Jeremiah 7:2; Jeremiah 17:19).

The just - one who has a just cause; or, Jesus Christ, "the Just One" (Horsley).

For a thing of nought - literally, by emptiness ( batohuw (H8414)); "without a (just) cause" (Psalms 69:4; Proverbs 28:21); 'by a decision that is null in justice.' Compare as to Christ, Matthew 26:15; Matthew 26:60-66; Acts 3:13-14; Acts 8:33,

Verse 22

Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale.

Thus saith the Lord ... Join "saith ... concerning the house of Jacob."

Redeemed - out of Ur, a land of idolaters (Joshua 24:3). Not now - after the moral revolution described, Isaiah 29:17, the children of Jacob shall no longer give cause to their forefathers to blush for them.

Neither ... wax pale - with shame and disappointment at the wicked degeneracy of his posterity, and fear as to their punishment.

Verse 23

But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.

But when he - Jacob.

His children, the work of mine hands - spiritually, as well as physically (Isaiah 19:25; Isaiah 60:21; Ephesians 2:10). By Yahweh's agency Israel shall be cleansed of its corruptions, and shall consist wholly of pious men (Isaiah 54:13-14; Isaiah 52:1).

In the midst of him - i:e., of his land. Or else, "His children" are the Gentiles adopted so as to be among the Israelites, his lineal descendants (Romans 9:26; Ephesians 3:6) (Horsley).

Verse 24

They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.

They also that erred - (Isaiah 28:7.)

Shall learn doctrine - rather, shall receive discipline or instruction. "Complaining" was the characteristic of lsrael's rebellion against God (Exodus 16:8; Psalms 106:25). This shall be so no more. Chastisements, and, in Horsley's view, the piety of the Gentiles provoking the Jews to holy jealousy (Romans 11:11; Romans 11:14), shall then produce the desired effect.

Remarks: No 'round' of ceremonial services from "year to year" can avert "distress" from those who incur God's displeasure by sin. The proud shall be brought "low" to "the dust." But God, though he chastises His people, will net give them over to be destroyed by the enemy. Nay, the Anti-Christian multitude which, like Sennacherib's great army of old, threatens to overwhelm the Church and Israel, shall itself "as chaff," in the moment of its greatest might 'pass away at an instant suddenly.' 'The Lord of hosts shall visit them with earthquake, storm, and the flame of devouring fire.' Sennacherib's expectation of making Jerusalem an easy prey, proved to be as fallacious as the 'dream' of the "hungry" man who fancies "he eateth," but awakes to find himself starving for want of food (Isaiah 29:8). 'So shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against himself starving for want of food (Isaiah 29:8). 'So shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Zion.'

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 29". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.