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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Isaiah 5

Verse 1

Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:

IISA. 5:1-30. A new prophecy, entire in itself. Probably delivered about the same time as Isaiah 2:1-22; Isaiah 3:1-26, in Uzziah's reign. Compare Isaiah 5:15-16 with Isaiah 2:17; and Isaiah 5:1 with Isaiah 3:14. However, the close of the chapter alludes generally to the still distant invasion of Assyrians in a later reign (cf. Isaiah 5:26 with Isaiah 7:18; and Isaiah 5:25 with Isaiah 9:12). When the time drew nigh, according to the ordinary prophetic usage, he handles the details more particularly (Isaiah 7:1-25; Isaiah 8:1-22) - namely, the calamities caused by the Syro-Israelite invasion, and subsequently by the Assyrians whom Ahaz invited to his help.

Now will I sing to my well-beloved - to lª-, rather, concerning (Gesenius), for; i:e., in the person of my beloved, as His representative (Vitringa). Or for - i:e., in honour of God, my Beloved (Grotius), on whose account I am jealous lest the Israelites should transfer their affection to another (Calvin). Isaiah gives a hint of the distinction and yet unity of the Divine Persons (cf. He with I, Isaiah 5:2-3).

A song of my beloved - inspired by Him. Compare Deuteronomy 31:19; Deuteronomy 31:21, "write ye this song for you ... that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel;" so Deuteronomy 32:1 is referred to in Isaiah 1:2, The Pentateuch is the basis of prophecy. 'The Beloved' is Yahweh, the Second Person, the "Angel" of God the Father, not merely in His character as incarnate Messiah, but as God of the Jews (Exodus 23:20-21; 33:34; Exodus 33:14

). The phrase "my beloved," is drawn from Canticles. Christ is the Beloved of the Father, and the Beloved of the Church, the Bride (Matthew 3:17; Song of Solomon 1:13-14).

My well-beloved hath a vineyard (Isaiah 3:14; Psalms 80:8, etc) - the Jewish covenant people, separated from the nations for His glory, as the object of His special care (Matthew 20:1; Matthew 21:33). Jesus Christ in the "vineyard" of the New Testament Church is the same as the Old Testament Angel of the Jewish covenant.

In a very fruitful hill - literally, a horn (peak, as the Swiss shreckhorn) of the son of oil; poetically, for very fruitful. Suggestive of isolation, security, and a sunny aspect. Isaiah alludes plainly to the Song of Solomon (Song of Solomon 6:3; Song of Solomon 8:11-12) in the words "His vineyard," and "my beloved." Other instances of like allusions occur cf. Isaiah 26:20; Isaiah 61:10, with Song of Solomon 1:4; Song of Solomon 4:10). The transition from "branch" (Isaiah 4:2) to "vineyard" here is not unnatural.

Verse 2

And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.

He fenced it - digged and trenched the ground to prepare it for planting the vines (Maurer). But Buxtorf as the English version. God with His protection fenced Israel from the inroads of neighbouring states.

And planted it with the choicest vine - Hebrew, soreequ. It perhaps takes its name from Sorek, mentioned And planted it with the choicest vine - Hebrew, soreequ. It perhaps takes its name from Sorek, mentioned in Judges 16:4, not far from Eshcol, which was famed for its grapes. The name of The Sorek grape appears still in Morocco, serki. The grapes had scarcely perceptible stones; the Persian kishmish or bedana, i:e., without seed (Genesis 49:11). God planted holy patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and the Judges in the land. The blame of the wildness of The grapes cannot be laid on the seed from which they spring.

And built a tower - to watch the vineyard against the depredations of man or beast, and for the use of the owner (Matthew 21:33).

And also made a winepress - including the wine-fat: both hewn, for coolness, out of the rocky undersoil of the vineyard.

It brought forth wild grapes. The Hebrew [ waya`as (H6213), to putrefy], Beushim expresses offensive putrefaction, answering to the corrupt state of the Jews. Fetid fruit of the wild vine (Maurer), instead of 'choicest' grapes. Of the poisonous monkshood (Gesenius). The Arabs call the fruit of the nightshade 'wolf-grapes' (Deuteronomy 32:32-33; 2 Kings 4:39-41). Jerome tries to specify the details of the parable: the 'fence,' angels; and the law (Origen), the 'stones gathered out,' idols; the "tower," the temple "in the midst" of Judea; the "winepress," the altar.

Verse 3

And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.

And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem... judge. Appeal of God to themselves, as in Isaiah 1:18; Micah 6:3. So Jesus Christ, in Matthew 21:40-41, alluding in the very form of expression to this, makes them pass sentence on themselves, "When the Lord of the vineyard cometh, what will He do unto those farmers? They say unto Him He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out His vineyard unto other farmers, which shall render Him the fruits in their seasons." God condemns sinners "out of their own mouth" (Deuteronomy 32:6; Job 15:6; Luke 19:22; Romans 3:4).

Verse 4

What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

What could have been done more to my vineyard. God has done all that could be done for the salvation of sinners, consistently with His justice and goodness.

Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? The God of nature is, as it were, amazed at the unnatural fruit of so well-cared a vineyard.

Verse 5

And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:

Now go to - i:e., attend to me [ naa' (H4994)]: come now, I pray you.

I will take away the hedge ... (and) break down the wall - it had both-a proof of the care of the owner.

It shall be trodden down by wild beasts (enemies) now (Psalms 80:12-13).

Verse 6

And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. The parable is partly dropped, and Yahweh, as in Isaiah 5:7, is implied to be the Owner; for He alone, not an ordinary farmer (Matthew 21:43; Luke 17:22), could give such a "command."

No rain - antitypically, the heaven-sent teachings of the prophets (Amos 8:11). Not accomplished in the Babylonian captivity; for Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Haggai, and Zechariah prophesied during or after it; but in Gospel times.

Verse 7

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

Isaiah here applies the parable. It is no mere human owner, nor a literal vineyard that is meant.

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts (is) the house of Israel - His only one (Exodus 19:5; Amos 3:2).

And the men of Judah his pleasant plant - `the plant of his delight;' just as the farmer was at pains to select the Sorek, or "choicest vine" (Isaiah 5:2), so God's election of the Jews.

He looked for judgment - justice.

But behold oppression. The play upon words is striking in the Hebrew. 'He looked for Mishpat (H4941), but behold mispaach (H4939)' (bloodshed).

For righteousness, but behold a cry - for tsªdaaqaah (H6666), but behold tsª`aaqaah (H6818), the cry that attends anarchy, covetousness, and dissipation (Isaiah 5:8; Isaiah 5:11-12). Compare the cry of the rabble by which justice was overborne in the case of Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:23-24).

Verse 8

Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!

Woe unto them that join house to house ... field to field - (Leviticus 25:13-16; Micah 2:2) The jubilee restoration of possessions was intended as a guard against avarice.

Till (there be) no place - left for anyone else.

That they may be placed - Hebrew, and ye be placed ( huwshabtem (H3427)).

In the midst of the earth - the land. In righteous retribution there was but a scanty few, one here and one there, to be "left" by the enemy 'in the midst of the land,' (Isaiah 7:22, margin)

Verse 9

In mine ears said the LORD of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant.

Irony. They shall get their wish, in the sense that survivors shall be 'alone in the midst of the land,' for the land and the houses, however 'many' they be, shall be "without inhabitant."

In mine ears (said) the Lord of hosts. The Lord has revealed it to me in secret, as in Isaiah 22:14.

Of a truth (Hebrew, 'If not,' may I not be Yahweh: a solemn assertion) many houses shall be desolate - literally, a desolation; namely, on account of the national sins. Great and fair - houses.

Verse 10

Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah.

Ten acres - literally, yokes as much as one yoke of oxen could plow in a day.

Shall yield one - only.

Bath - of wine; seven and a half gallons.

The seed of an homer shall yield an ephah. Eight bushels of seed would yield only three pecks produce (Ezekiel 45:11). The ephah and bath were each one-tenth of an homer.

Verse 11

Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!

Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning (that) they may follow strong drink - when it was regarded especially shameful to drink (Acts 2:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:7). Banquets for revelry began earlier than usual (Ecclesiastes 10:16-17).

Strong drink - Hebrew, sekar, sheekaar (H7941), or shikowr (H7910), implying intoxication.

That continue until night - drinking all day until evening.

Verse 12

And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands.

And the harp - kinowr (H3658 ). Music was common at ancient feasts (Isaiah 24:8-9; Amos 6:5-6). And the harp - kinowr (H3658 ). Music was common at ancient feasts (Isaiah 24:8-9; Amos 6:5-6).

And the viol - an instrument with, twelve strings, nebel (H5035) (Josephus, 'Antiquities,' 8: 10).

The tabret - Hebrew, top (H8596), from the use of which, in drowning the cries of children sacrificed to Moloch, Tophet received its name. Arabic, duf. A kettle-drum or tambourine.

And pipe - flute or flageolet, chaaliyl (H2485), from a Hebrew root, chaalal (H2490), to bore through; or else, to dance (cf. Job 21:11-15).

But they regard not the work of the Lord - a frequent effect of feasting (Job 1:5; Psalms 28:5).

The work ... the operation of his hands - in punishing the guilty (Isaiah 5:19; Isaiah 10:12).

Verse 13

Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.

Therefore my people are gone into captivity - the prophet sees the future as if it were before his eyes.

Because (they have) no knowledge - because of their foolish recklessness and willful ignorance as to God, His law, and His visitations of Providence, chastisement, and grace (Isaiah 5:12; Isaiah 1:3; Hosea 4:6, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because thou hast rejected knowledge ... thou hast forgotten the law of thy God;" Luke 19:44).

Their honourourable men (are) famished - awful contrast to their luxurious feasts (Isaiah 5:11-12); Hebrew, 'their glory (are) men (literally, mortals) of famine.'

And their multitude - plebeians, in contradistinction to the "honourable men" or nobles.

Dried up with thirst - (Psalms 107:4-5.) Contrast to their drinking (Isaiah 5:11). In their deportation and exile they shall hunger and thirst.

Verse 14

Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it. Therefore hell - the grave; Hebrew, Shª'owl (H7585); Greek, Hadees (G86), the unseen world of spirits. Not here the place of torment.

Hath enlarged herself. Poetically, it is represented as enlarging itself immensely, in order to receive the countless hosts of Jews which should perish (Numbers 16:30).

Their glory, and their multitude - i:e., of the Jewish people.

And he that rejoiceth - the drunken reveller in Jerusalem.

Shall descend into it.

Verse 15

And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled:

And the mean man (Hebrew, 'aadaam (H120 )) shall be brought down and the mighty man ( 'iysh (H376 )) shall be humbled. Compare Isaiah 2:9; Isaiah 2:11; Isaiah 2:17. All ranks, "mean" and "mighty" alike: so "honourable" and "multitude" (Isaiah 5:13).

Verse 16

But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.

But the Lord of hosts shall be exalted in judgment. God shall be "exalted" in man's view, because of His manifestation of His "justice" in punishing the guilty.

And God, that is holy, shall be sanctified in righteousness - shall be reverenced and worshipped as holy, by reason of His 'righteous' dealings.

Verse 17

Then shall the lambs feed after their manner, and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat.

Then shall the lambs feed after their manner - kªdaabªraam (H1699); literally, according to their own word, i:e., at will. Otherwise, as in their own pasture (Gesenius); so the Hebrew, in Micah 2:12, hadaabªrow (H1699), 'in the midst of their fold,' or else pasture. The lambs of the Scenite (tent-dwellers, Jeremiah 35:7). Arab shepherds in the neighbourhood shall roam at large, the whole of Judea being so desolate as to become a vast pasturage.

And the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat - the deserted lands of the rich (Psalms 22:29, "All they that be fat"), then gone into captivity, "strangers," i:e., nomadic tribes, shall make their flocks to feed on. Figuratively, "the lambs" are the pious; "the fat ones," the impious. So tender disciples of Jesus Christ (John 21:15) are called "lambs," being meek, harmless, poor, and persecuted. Compare Ezekiel 39:18, where the fatlings are the rich and great (1 Corinthians 1:26-27). The "strangers" are in this view the "other sheep not of" the Jewish "fold" (John 10:16), the Gentiles whom Jesus Christ shall "bring" to be partakers of the rich privileges (Romans 11:17) which the Jews, the fat ones, fell from (Ezekiel 34:16, "I will destroy the fat and the strong"). Thus "after their (own) manner" will express that the Christian Church should worship God in freedom, released from legal bondage (John 4:23; Galatians 5:1).

Verse 18

Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope:

Woe unto them that draw iniquity - guilt, incurring punishment. The third woe-against obstinate perseverance in sin, as if they wished to provoke divine judgments.

With cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope. Rabbis say, 'An evil inclination is at first like a fine hair-string, but the finishing like a cart rope.' The antithesis is between the slender cords of sophistry, like the spider's web (Isaiah 59:5; Job 8:14), with which one sin draws on another, until they at last bind themselves with great guilt as with a cart-rope. They strain every nerve in sin.

Vanity - wickedness.

Sin - substantive, not a verb; they draw on themselves "sin" and its penalty recklessly.

Verse 19

That say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!

That say, Let him make speed, (and) hasten his work - vengeance (Isaiah 5:12). Language of defiance to God. So Lamech's boast of impunity (Genesis 4:23-24: cf. Jeremiah 17:15; 2 Peter 3:3-4).

Let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come - God's threatened purpose to punish.

That we may know it. They deny all knowledge which is matter of faith, and cannot be demonstrated to the senses

Verse 20

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil. Fourth woe against those who confound the distinctions of right and wrong. Compare Romans 1:28, "even as they did not like [ ouk (G3756) edokimasan (G1381),] to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind" [ adokimon (G96) noun (G3563)]: "reprobate," Greek, indiscriminating; in just retribution the moral perception darkened.

That put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. Sin is bitter (Jeremiah 2:19; Jeremiah 4:18; Acts 8:23; Romans 3:14; Hebrews 12:15), though it seem sweet for a time (Proverbs 9:17-18). Religion is sweet (Psalms 119:103).

Verse 21

Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

Woe unto (them that are) wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight. Fifth woe against those who were so "wise in their own eyes" as to think they knew better than the prophet, and who therefore rejected his warnings (Isaiah 29:14-15).

Verses 22-23

Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:

Woe unto (them that are) mighty to drink wine ... Which justify the wicked for reward. Sixth woe against corrupt judges, who, "mighty" in drinking "wine" (a boast still not uncommon), if not in defending their country, obtain the means of self-indulgence by taking bribes ("reward"). The two verses are closely joined. And men of strength to mingle strong drink - not with water, but spices, to make it intoxicating (Proverbs 9:2; Proverbs 9:5; Song of Solomon 8:2).

Verse 23. Which ... take away the righteousness of the righteous from him - set aside the just claims of those having a righteous cause.

Verse 24

Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Therefore, as the fire devoureth the stubble - literally, as the tongue of fire devoureth (Acts 2:3).

And the flame consumeth the chaff - rather, the withered grass, or straw [ chªshash (H2842), from chuwsh (H2363), to hasten; whatever hastily takes fire: or from qaashash (H7197), to collect; or formed from the sound] falleth [ yirpeh (H7503), the Qal of raapah (H7503), to fail] before the flame (Matthew 3:12).

(So) their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom - entire decay; both the hidden source and outward manifestation of prosperity perishing (Job 18:16; Malachi 4:1).

Because they have cast away the law - in its spirit, while retaining the letter.

Verse 25

Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

Therefore is the anger of the Lord kindled. Josiah and Huldah had this passage in sight in 2 Kings 22:13; 2 Kings 22:17. The fundamental passage is Deuteronomy 29:27

The hills did tremble. This probably fixes the date of this chapter as it refers to the earthquake in the days of Uzziah (Amos 1:1; Zechariah 14:5). The earth trembled as if conscious of the presence of God (Jeremiah 4:24; Habakkuk 3:6).

And their carcases were torn, [ kacuwchaah (H5478), is taken by the English version as Pual, from kaasach, to cut off or tear. But the pointing is opposed, because the first letter has patach with dagesh, not shªwa following. Also the verb "were" ( tªhiy (H1961)) is not usually put before the participle Pual, as it would be here in this view (Piscator). There take the kª- as the particle like, as, and suchah, dung] - rather, were as dung (Psalms 83:10). So the Septuagint, Vulgate, Chaldaic, Arabic, and Syriac (cf. Lamentations 3:45).

For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. This burden of the prophet's strains with dirge-like monotony, is repeated at Isaiah 9:12; Isaiah 9:17; Isaiah 9:21; Isaiah 10:4. With all the past calamities, still heavier judgments are impending; which he specifies in the rest of the chapter, (Leviticus 26:14, etc.)

Verse 26

And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly:

He will lift up an ensign to the nations from far - to call together the hostile nations to execute his judgments on Judea (Isaiah 10:5-7; Isaiah 45:1). But for mercy to it, in Isaiah 11:12; Isaiah 18:3. Even in announcing judgments He uses the very language which He employs to announce the subsequent visitation of His people in everlasting mercy.

And will hiss unto them - (Isaiah 7:18.) Bees were drawn out of their hives by the sound of a flute, or by hissing, or whistling. God, will collect the nations round Judea 'like bees' (Deuteronomy 1:44,; Psalms 118:12). Yet afterward Yahweh will 'hiss for' His people to "gather them, for He hath redeemed them" (Zechariah 10:8).

From the end of the earth - the widely distant subject races of which the Assyrian army was made up (Isaiah 22:6). The ulterior fulfillment took place in the siege under the Roman Titus. Compare "end of the earth," Deuteronomy 28:49 etc. So the pronoun is singular in the Hebrew for "them," "their," "whose" (him, his, etc.), Isaiah 5:26-29; referring to some particular nation and person (Horsley).

Verse 27

None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken:

None shall be weary - with long marches (Deuteronomy 25:18).

None shall slumber - requiring little or no rest: so energetic shall they be in their invasion.

Neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed - with which the ancient loose robes used to be girded for action: ever ready for march or battle.

Nor the latchet of their shoes be broken. The soles were attached to the feet, not by upper leather, as with us, but by straps. So securely clad that not even a strap of their sandals gives way, so as to impede their march.

Verse 28

Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses' hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind:

All their bows bent - ready for battle.

Their horses' hoofs ... flint. The ancients did not shoe their horses; hence, the value of hard hoofs for long marches.

Their wheels - the wheels of their chariots. The Assyrian army abounded in cavalry and chariots (Isaiah 22:6-7; Isaiah 36:8).

Verse 29

Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it.

Their roaring - their battle-cry.

Verse 30

And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof.

Sorrow, and the light is darkened - otherwise, distress and light (i:e., hope and fear) alternately succeed (as usually occurs in an unsettled state of things), and darkness arises in, etc. (Maurer).

In the heavens - literally, clouds; i:e., its sky is rather 'clouds' than sky [`ªriypiym, from `aarap (H6201), to drop] (Deuteronomy 33:28). Otherwise, as margin, from the same Hebrew, root, in the sense to break or behead (Hosea 10:2) 'in its destructions,' or ruins. Horsley takes 'sea, if one look unto the land,' as, a new image taken from mariners in a coasting vessel (such as all ancient vessels were), looking for the nearest land, which the darkness of the storm conceals: so that darkness and distress alone may be said to be visible (Isaiah 13:10; Amos darkness of the storm conceals: so that darkness and distress alone may be said to be visible (Isaiah 13:10; Amos 8:9).

Remarks: Great privileges entail great responsibilities. Where much has been given, there much will be required. The Israelite Church was separated from the rest of the world. No loving pans were spared on the part of the Lord to secure its well-being and its fruitfulness. To Israel pertained the adoption, the Shekinah-glory, the covenants, the Law, the temple service, the promises, and the fathers in whose seed, even Christ, all families of the earth are to be, blessed. But Israel abused her high trust; so God took from her that which she only seemed to have. The present Christian Church is called to still higher privileges. Therefore still greater fruits are required from her than were from Israel of old. Does Christendom then produce fruits such as are acceptable in the eyes of the Lord of the vineyard? There is doubtless an elect remnant who bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in some measure, and who are accordingly the object of the Lord's delight. But if we try the vast majority of professing Christians by the tests herein set forth, the conclusion must be respecting the outward Church, "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting."

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.