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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 31

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

Verse 1

Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!

Stay on horses, and trust in chariots. In their level and fertile plains horses could easily used and fed (Exodus 14:9; 1 Kings 10:28). In hilly Palestine horses were not so easily had or available. The Jews were therefore the more eager to get Egyptian chariots as allies against the Assyrian cavalry. In Assyrian sculptures chariots are represented drawn by three horses, and with three men in them (see Isaiah 36:9; Psalms 20:7.)

Verse 2

Yet he also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity.

Yet he also is wise - as well as the Egyptian priests, so famed for wisdom (Acts 7:22), but who are "fools" before Him (Isaiah 19:11).

And will not call back his words. He not only devises, but executes what He devises, without 'calling back His words' (Numbers 23:19).

House of the evil-doers - the whole race.

The help - the Egyptian succour sought by the Jews.

Verse 3

Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down, and they all shall fail together.

Not spirit - not of divine power (Psalms 56:4; Psalms 146:3; Psalms 146:5; Zechariah 4:6).

Both he that helpeth shall fall - Egypt.

And he that is holpen - Judah.

Verse 4

For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof.

Like as the lion - (Isaiah 42:13; Hosea 11:10.)

Roaring on his prey - growling over his prey.

He will not ... abase himself - be disheartened or fightened.

Verse 5

As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.

As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem. As in the image of "the lion" the point of comparison is the fearless might of Yahweh, so in that of the birds it is His solicitous affection (Deuteronomy 32:11; Psalms 91:4; Matthew 23:37).

Flying - or, which defend their young with their wings: to fly is a secondary meaning of the Hebrew [ `uwp (H5774)] (Maurer). But the Septuagint, Chaldaic, Vulgate, Arabic, and Syriac support the English version. The allusion is to the same image employed in the Assyrian's threat against Jerusalem, Isaiah 10:14, "My hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing" - namely, in defense. Here Yahweh engages to defend Jerusalem like the parent birds, hovering over their young to defend them from the hawk or vulture.

Passing over - as the destroying angel passed over (Hebrew, pasoach), so as to spare the blood-marked houses of the Israelites on the first Passover (Exodus 12:13; Exodus 12:23; Exodus 12:27). He passed, or leaped forward (Lowth), to destroy the enemy and to spare His people.

Verse 6

Turn ye unto him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted.

Turn ye unto (him). The power and love of Yahweh, just mentioned are the strongest incentives for returning to Him (Ezekiel 16:62-63; Hosea 6:1).

Ye ... Israel. The change of person marks that when they return to the Lord He will address them in more direct terms of communion, in the second person; so long as they were revolters, God speaks of them as more at a distance, in the third person, rather than to them.

Verse 7

For in that day every man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made unto you for a sin.

In that day every man shall cast away his idols - in the day of trial the idols will be found to render no help, and will therefore be cast away. Compare as to the future restoration and conversion of Israel simultaneously with the interposition of Yahweh in its defense, Zechariah 12:9-14; Zechariah 13:1-2.

Which your own hands have made unto you (for) a sin - i:e., whereby especially you contracted guilt (1 Kings 12:30).

Verse 8

Then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword, not of a mighty man; and the sword, not of a mean man, shall devour him: but he shall flee from the sword, and his young men shall be discomfited.

Then shall the Assyrian fall. Sennacherib is representative of some powerful head of the ungodly in the latter ages.

With the sword, not of a mighty man ... not of a mean man - but by the unseen sword of God.

He shall flee. Sennacherib alone fled homewards after his army had been destroyed (Isaiah 37:37).

His young men - the flower of his army.

Shall be discomfited - shall be liable to tribute; i:e., personal service (Deuteronomy 20:11; Joshua 9:21) (Maurer). But the Hebrew [ laamac (H4522)] is from macac (H4549), to melt away, and so may mean as the English version, shall melt away. The historical fact is against the translation 'tributary' here (though it is a use of the Hebrew elsewhere). For the Assyrians did not become tributary to the Jews, though, in the antitypical reference to the subjection of all nations to the King of the Christian Church, and of Israel, it holds good (Psalms 72:8-11). The primary reference is doubtless to the Assyrian king, as in Isaiah 10:18, where the very same Hebrew word is used, which confirms the English version here: "They (the Assyrians) shall be as when a standard-bearer fainteth" - literally, melteth ( kimcoc (H4549)). So Byron:

`And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword, Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord.'

The Vulgate translates, 'tributary;' but the Septuagint, 'shall be defeated;' Chaldaic, 'destroyed;' so the Arabic.

Verse 9

And he shall pass over to his strong hold for fear, and his princes shall be afraid of the ensign, saith the LORD, whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem.

He shall pass over to his strong hold for fear - rather, 'he shall pass beyond his strongholds;' he shall not stop to take refuge in it through fear (Jeremiah 48:28) (Gesenius); Literally, 'and through fear he shall pass his rock'-namely, his border strongholds in his own land, on the line of march from Judea to Nineveh (Judges 20:47). The English version makes Nineveh "his strong hold." Margin, as the Septuagint, Vulgate, Chaldaic, and Syriac make, "his rock' - i:e., his army, which was his rock-like dependence-`shall pass away through fear;' or, as the Chaldaic, by a fearful miracle.

And his princes shall be afraid of the ensign - the banner of Yahweh protecting the Jews. Saith the Lord, whose fire (is) in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem - light and fire; namely, of Yahweh's altar at Jerusalem (Isaiah 29:1). Perhaps "furnace," as distinguished from "fire," may mean that His dwelling place (His hearth) was at Jerusalem (cf. Isaiah 4:5); He shah be as a fiery furnace awaiting all the enemies who shall attack Jerusalem.

Remarks: The strength of "horsemen" in battle is but a poor substitute for the strength and "help" of Yahweh. Yet men will look to earthly helps, while they will 'not look unto the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord.' They forget, with all their worldly wisdom, that not to have the Lord for them is to have Him against them. He has 'wisdom' which will convict all "evil-doers" of the most utter folly. Once that He hath spoken against them, He "will not call back his words;" "when the Lord shall stretch out His hand" to punish, what can sinners, who are but "flesh," do against Him who is the Almighty "Spirit."

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 31". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/isaiah-31.html. 1871-8.
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