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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Isaiah 9

Verse 1

Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.

Nevertheless, the dimness (shall) not (be) such as (was) in her vexation - rather, For darkness shall not (continually) be on it (Hebrew, lah; i:e., the land) on which (Hebrew, laasher) there is (now) distress' (Hengstenberg and Maurer). The for refers, not to the words immediately preceding, but to the consolations in Isaiah 8:9-10; Isaiah 8:17-18. Do not despair, for, etc. He reverts, from the more distant future of the evil results of the Jews' rejection of Christ (Isaiah 8:21-22), to the nearer future of the offer of the Saviour first to Galilee.

When at the first ... - rather, 'as the former time has brought contempt on [ heeqal (H7043), from qaalal (H7043), brought into light esteem] the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali (namely, the deportation of their iuhabitants under Tiglath-pileser, 2 Kings 15:29, a little before the giving of this prophecy), so shall the after-coming time bring honour to [ hibkiyd (H3513), from kaabad (H3513)] the way of the sea (the district round the lake of Galilee), the land beyond (but Hengstenberg, 'by the side of') Jordan (Perea, east of Jordan, belonging to Reuben, Gad, and half-Manasseh), the circle (but Hengstenberg, 'Galilee') - i:e., region-of the Gentiles, (Maurer, Hengstenberg, etc.) Galil in Hebrew is a circle, circuit, and from it came the name Galilee. Galilee included Naphtali and Zebulun. The northern part of Naphtali (which was north of Zebulun) was inhabited by a mixed race of Jews and Gentiles of the bordering Phoenician race (Judges 1:30; 1 Kings 9:11).

Hence, it was called "Galilee of the Gentiles." Besides the recent deportation by Tiglath-pileser, it had been sorely smitten by Benhadad of Syria 200 years before (1 Kings 15:20). It was after the Assyrian deportation colonized with pagans by Esarhaddon (2 Kings 17:24). Hence, arose the contempt for it on the part of the southern Jews of purer blood (John 1:46; John 7:52). The same region, which was so darkened once, shall be among the first to receive Messiah's light (Matthew 4:13; Matthew 4:15-16). It was in despised Galilee that He first and most publicly exercised His ministry; from it were most of His apostles. Foretold in Deuteronomy 33:18-19; Deuteronomy 33:23, "Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out ... They shall call the people unto the mountain; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness ... O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord." Compare Acts 2:7; Psalms 68:27-28. Jerusalem, the theocratic capital, might readily have known Messiah: to compensate less-favoured Galilee. He ministered mostly there. Galilee's very debasement made it feel its need of a Saviour-a feeling not known to the self-righteous Jews (Matthew 9:13). It was appropriate, too, that He who was "both the Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the Glory of His people Israel," should minister chiefly on the border land of Israel, near the Gentiles.

Verse 2

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light - the whole nation, Judah and Israel.

They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death - the darkest misery of captivity.

Verse 3

Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

Thou hast multiplied the nation - primarily, the rapid increase of Israelites after the return from Babylon: more fully the rapid spread of Christianity at first: ultimately and exhaustively the multiplication of Israel in the last days, when it shall be restored as a nation (Isaiah 66:8-10).

(And) not increased the joy. By a slight change in the Hebrew [ low (H3807a)], its (joy) is substituted by the Qeri' for NOT [ lo' (H3808)], because "not increased the joy" seems opposite to what immediately follows, "they joy," etc. Hengstenberg retains not (the Kethibh reading) thus: 'Thou hast multiplied the nation (whose) joy thou hadst not increased' - i:e., hadst diminished. Others, 'Hast thou not increased the joy?' The very difficulty of the reading not, makes it less likely to be an interpolation. Horsley explains it, The prophet sees in vision a shifting scene, comprehending at one glance the history of the Christian Church to remotest times-a land dark and thinly populated, lit up by a sudden light, filled with new inhabitants, then struggling with difficulties (so the English version, "Thou hast multiplied the nation, and (soon after) not increased the joy"), and again delivered by the utter and final overthrow of their enemies. The influx of Gentile converts (represented here by "Galilee of the Gentiles") soon was to be followed by the growth of corruption and the final rise of Antichrist, who is to be destroyed, while God's people is delivered, as in the case of Gideon's victory over Midian, not by man's prowess, but by the special interposition of God. Some suggest to read hagil, "Thou hast multiplied the joy, Thou hast increased the gladness" (hasimchah), corresponding to the two kindred verbs following, They are glad ("They joy"), samchu and yagilu, "men rejoice." They joy before thee according to the joy in harvest - a phrase taken from sacrificial beasts; the tithe of harvest was eaten before God (Deuteronomy 12:7; Deuteronomy 14:26, "thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shall rejoice, thou, and thine household").

As men rejoice when they divide the spoil - referring to the judgments on the enemies of the Lord and His people, which usually accompany revelations of His grace. The future joy of the elect nation because of its deliverance from its oppressors.

Verse 4

For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden - The occasion of the "joy," the deliverance not only of Ahaz and Judah from the Assyrian tribute (2 Kings 16:8), and of Israel's Ten tribes from the Assyrian oppressor (2 Kings 15:19), but of the Jewish Christian Church from its last great enemy.

Hast - the past time for the future: in prophetic vision, it expresses the certainty of the event.

The yoke of his burden - the yoke with which he was burdened.

And the staff of his shoulder - the staff which strikes his (Israel's) shoulder (Maurer); or the wood, like a yoke, on the neck of slaves, the badge of servitude (Rosenmuller).

The rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian - (Judges 7:8-22.) As Gideon with a handful of men conquered the hosts of Midian, so Messiah, the "child" (Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 7:14-16), shall prove to be the "Prince of Peace," and the small Israel under Him shall overcome the mighty hosts of Antichrist. Compare Micah 5:2-5, "Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little ... yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting ... And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God ... and this man shall be the Peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land." This passage of Isaiah contains the same contrast between Messiah's seeming smallness as a child and His omnipotence as the Everlasting One, and alludes also to "the Assyrian," the then enemy of the Church, as here in Isaiah the type of the last great enemy. For further analogies between Gideon's victory and the Gospel, cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7 with Judges 7:22. As the 'dividing of the spoil' (Isaiah 9:3) was followed by that which was 'not joy,' the making of the idolatrous ephod (Judges 8:24-27), so the Gospel victory was soon followed by apostasy at the first, and shall be so again after the millennial overthrow of Antichrist (Revelation 20:3; Revelation 20:7-9), previous to Satan's last doom (Revelation 20:10).

Verse 5

For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.

For every battle of the warrior (is) with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but (this) shall be with burning (and) fuel of fire - or else, 'every greave [ cª'own (H5430)] of (the warrior who is) armed with greaves in [bª-] the din of battle, and the martial garment (or cloak, called "sagum" by the Latins) rolled in [bª-] blood, shall be for lª- burning, (and) fuel for fire' (Hengstenberg). All warlike accoutrements shall be destroyed, as no longer required in the new era of peace (Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 11:6-7; Psalms 46:9; Ezekiel 39:9; Micah 5:5; Micah 5:10; Zechariah 9:9-10). But Calvin and Grotius support the English version, which the context's reference to Midian favours. Isaiah contrasts the victory which God will give Israel with all human victories. Theirs are with confused din and bloodshed; but this of the Lord shah be, as in the victory over Midian, with His own hand alone, and by 'burning fire' from heaven. So Isaiah 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, "the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God," etc. So the Assyrian type of Antichrist was not destroyed by human battle and bloodshed, but by divine interposition. (Isaiah 37:36: cf. Isaiah 30:30-33). Compare Malachi 4:1 as to the burning up of the wicked.

Verse 6

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

For - the ground of these great expectations.

Unto us - for the benefit of the Jews first (Israel is here the speaker), and then the Gentiles (cf. "unto you," Luke 2:11).

A child is born (the Immanuel, child of the Virgin, Isaiah 7:14-16), unto us a son is given (Psalms 2:7) - God's gratuitous gift, on which man had no claim (John 3:16; Romans 6:23).

And the government shall be upon his shoulder. The ensign of office used to be worn on the shoulder, in token of sustaining the government (Isaiah 22:22). Here the government on Messiah's shoulder is in marked antithesis to the 'yoke and staff' of the oppressor on Israel's "shoulder" (Isaiah 9:4). He shall receive the kingdom of the earth from the Father, to vindicate it from the misrule of those to whom it was entrusted to hold it for and under the Most High, but who sought to hold it in defiance of His right. The Father asserts his right by the Son, the "Heir of all things," who will hold it for Him (Daniel 7:13-14).

And his name shall be called - His essential characteristics shall be.

Wonderful - (note, Isaiah 8:18; Judges 13:18, margin; 1 Timothy 3:16.) His whole manifestation is a wonder or miracle: and great as have been the past wonders which He performed for His people in Egypt at the Red Sea and the Jordan, He shall work still greater wonders for their deliverance hereafter (Isaiah 43:18-19; Exodus 15:11; Psalms 77:11; Psalms 77:14; Psalms 78:12; Daniel 12:6). Counsellor - (Isaiah 11:2; Micah 4:9; Psalms 16:7; Romans 11:33-34; 1 Corinthians 1:24; Colossians 2:3.)

The mighty God - (Isaiah 10:21; Psalms 24:8; Titus 2:13.) Horsley translates, 'God the mighty Hero,' or 'Warrior,' 'Eel (H410) gibowr (H1368): the character in which He will manifest Himself against the anti-Christian enemy (Revelation 19:11-15). "Unto us ... God" is equivalent to "Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).

The everlasting Father. This marks Him as "Wonderful," that He is "a child," yet the "everlasting Father" (John 10:30; John 14:9) - literally, 'The Father of eternity' [ `ad (H5704)]. The Septuagint ( pateer (G3962) tou (G5120) mellontos (G3195) aioonos (G165)), 'Father of the age to come' (Hebrews 2:5) - the Messianic age-the kingdom which shall have "no end" (Isaiah 9:7): the Author of eternal life to all that believe. Earthly kings leave their people after a short reign; He will reign over and bless them forever.

The Prince of Peace - (note, Isaiah 9:5; Genesis 49:10: Shiloh, 'The Tranquillizer.') Finally, Hosea 2:18. Even already He is "our peace" (Luke 2:14; Ephesians 2:14). The antitype to King Solomon (the Peaceful, as the name means). The earlier Rabbins, the Chaldaic Targum, Beresheth Rabba, and Ben Sira, etc., all took the Messianic view of this prophecy.

Verse 7

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Of the increase of (his) government and peace (there shall be) no end - His princely rule shall perpetually increase and be unlimited (Daniel 2:44). The "peace" of the type Solomon soon came to an end, and was only partial in extent while it lasted; but the peace which Messiah brings in His kingdom is universal and forever.

Upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it. This can only be at Christ's second coming: for the sceptre passed from Judah at His first coming: and His spiritual throne now in the heavens is not the throne of David, but is Messiah's throne as being the Son of God. His reign unseen in the Church (mainly Gentile) cannot either be the promised "reign over the house of Jacob forever" (Luke 1:32-33). It can only be at His coming to reign over restored Israel (1 Kings 8:25; Psalms 2:6; Psalms 132:11; Jeremiah 3:17-18; Ezekiel 34:23-26; Ezekiel 37:16; Ezekiel 37:22; Acts 2:30).

With judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. It is not a kingdom of mere might, and triumph of force over enemies, but of righteousness (Isaiah 42:21; Psalms 45:6-7), attainable only in and by Messiah.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this - zeal for the vindication of His truth, His promise, and His oppressed people-including not only Christ's hidden spiritual victory over Satan at the first coming, but the open one accompanied with "judgments" on Antichrist and every enemy at the second coming (Isaiah 59:17-21, "He ... was clad with zeal as a cloak ... the Redeemer shall come to Zion ... this is my covenant with them ... My Spirit ... shall not depart ... henceforth and forever" (Psalms 9:6-8).

Delivered a little later than the previous one. The chapters 9:and 10: ought to have been so divided. The present division into chapters was made by Cardinal Hugo, in A.D. 1250 AD; and into verses, by Robert Stephens, the famous printer of Paris, in 1551. After the Assyrian invasion of Syria, that of Ephraim shall follow (2 Kings 16:9). Isaiah 9:8-11; Isaiah 9:17-20 foretell the intestine discords in Israel after Hoshea had killed Pekah (739 AD), i:e., just after the Assyrian invasions by Tiglath-pileser (and Pul previously), when for seven years it was stripped of magistrates and torn into factions. There are four strophes, each setting forth Ephraim's crime and consequent punishment, and ending with the formula, "For all this His anger is not turned away," etc. (Isaiah 9:12; Isaiah 9:17; Isaiah 9:21, and Isaiah 10:4).

Verse 8

The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.

The Lord sent a word into Jacob - (Isaiah 9:8-12), the first strophe.

Into Jacob ... - against the Ten tribes (Lowth).

And it hath lighted upon Israel - fallen from heaven by divine revelation (Daniel 4:31).

Verse 9

And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart,

All the people shall know - to their cost: experimentally (Hosea 9:7).

Ephraim, and the inhabitants of Samaria - the capital of Ephraim (cf. as to the phrase, Isaiah 1:1).

Verse 10

The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.

The bricks are fallen down. In the East bricks are generally sun-dried, and therefore soon dissolved by rain. Granting, say the Ephraimites to the prophet's threat, that our affairs are in a ruinous state, we will restore them to more than their former magnificence. Self-confident unwillingness to see and to repent under the judgments of God (Isaiah 26:11).

Hewn stones - (1 Kings 5:17).

The sycamores are cut down - growing abundantly on the low lands of Judea, and, though useful for building on account of their antiseptic property (which induced the Egyptians to use them for the cases of their mummies), not very valuable.

But we will change them into cedars. The cedar, on the other hand, was odorous, free from knots, durable, and precious (1 Kings 10:27). 'We will replace cottages with palaces.'

Verse 11

Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together;

Therefore the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him - the Assyrians, who shall first attack Damascus, shall next advance "against him" (Ephraim.) This is the punishment of Ephraim's pride in making light (Isaiah 9:10) of the judgment already inflicted by God through Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 15:29). A second Assyrian invasion (note on the beginning of Isaiah 7:1-25) shall follow. The reading 'princes' (sarse) for "adversaries" (tzaree) is uncalled for.

And join, [ yªcakceek (H5526), from caakak (H5526), to mix together like thorns (Mercer): akin to sowk]. But the primary meaning is to cover. Translate, arm; cover with armour (Maurer). But cf. in favour of the English version Nahum 1:10, "folden together as thorns:" only that there the mingling of the peoples for together is for their own destruction; but here for Ephraim's.

His enemies together - "his," Ephraim's enemies (Isaiah 9:9), as Isaiah 9:12 shows; for the "Syrians" were not Rezin's enemies, but his subjects.

Verse 12

The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

The Syrians before - the Syrians on the Northeast. Though now allies of Ephraim, after Rezin's death they shall join the Assyrians against Ephraim. "Together," in Isaiah 9:11, refers to this. Conquering nations often enlist in their armies the subject races (Isaiah 22:6: cf. 2 Kings 16:9; Jeremiah 35:11) (Aben-Ezra and Gensenius). Horsley, less probably, takes "Syrians before" as the Syrians to the East; i:e., not Rezin's subjects, but the Assyrians: "Aram" being the common name of Syrians and Assyrians. And the Philistines - of Palestine.

Behind - from the West: in marking the points of the compass Orientalists face the East, which is before them: the West is behind. The right hand is the South; the left, the North.

And they shall devour Israel with open mouth - as a ravenous beast (Isaiah 1:20; Jeremiah 10:25; Jeremiah 30:16; Numbers 14:9).

For all this his anger is not turned away ... - the burden of each strophe.

Verse 13

For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts.

For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of hosts - the design of God's chastisements. Not fulfilled in their case: a new cause for punishment (Jeremiah 2:30; Jeremiah 5:3). So 2 Chronicles 28:22, "in the time of his distress did he trespass yet more against the Lord: this is that King Ahaz." Compare Revelation 16:10-11.

Verse 14

Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day.

Head and tail - proverbial for the highest and lowest (Deuteronomy 28:13; Deuteronomy 28:44).

Branch and rush - another image for the same thought (Isaiah 19:15). The branch is elevated on the top of the tree; the rush is coarse and low.

Verse 15

The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.

The ancient - the older.

Honourable - the man of rank. The prophet that teacheth lies, he (is) the tail. There were many such in Samaria (1 Kings 22:6; 1 Kings 22:22-23; cf. as to "tail," Revelation 9:19).

Verse 16

For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.

For the leaders ... - see margin, 'they that call them blessed,' and note, Isaiah 3:12.

Verse 17

Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows: for every one is an hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men. The parallelism-

Neither shall have mercy on their fatherless - shows that this means, He shall have no such delight in their youthful warriors, however much they be the nation's delight and reliance, as to save them from the enemy's sword (Isaiah 31:8: cf. Jeremiah 18:21).

Fatherless and widows - not even the usual objects of His pity (Psalms 10:14; Psalms 10:18; Psalms 68:5; Jeremiah 49:11; Hosea 14:3) shall be spared.

For everyone is an hypocrite ( chaaneep (H2611)) - rather, a libertine, polluted (Horsley).

And every mouth speaketh folly - wickedness (Psalms 14:1).

His hand is stretched out still - notwithstanding all these judgments, more remain.

Verse 18

For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke. For wickedness burneth as the fire - maketh consumption, not only spreading rapidly, but also consuming like fire. sin is its own punishment.

It shall devour the briers and thorns - emblem of the wicked: especially those of low rank (Isaiah 27:4; 2 Samuel 23:6).

And shall kindle in the thickets of the forest - from the humble shrubbery the flame spreads to the vast forest; it reaches the high, as well as the low.

They shall mount up (like) the lifting up of smoke. There is no Hebrew for "like:" translate, therefore, 'they (the thickets of the forest) shall lift themselves proudly aloft [the Hebrew, 'aabak, is from a Syriac root, a cock, expressing stateliness of motion, from his strutting gait, Horsley] in (in passing into) volumes of ascending smoke.' There is strong irony in representing those who once lifted themselves up in pride and wickedness being now, in just retribution, made to lift themselves up as volumes of ascending smoke while they are being consumed.

Verse 19

Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother.

Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts is the land darkened - namely, with smoke (Isaiah 9:18). The Septuagint and Chaldaic render it, is burnt up; so Maurer [ ne`ªtam (H6272)], from an Arabic root meaning suffocating heat.

No man shall spare his brother - intestine discord snapping asunder the dearest ties of nature.

Verse 20

And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm:

And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry - not literally. The Hebrew for snatch ( gaazar (H1504)) means to cut. So, to snap at with the teeth (DeDieu). Kimchi supports the English version. The parallel, "he shall eat," supports 'snap at' with the teeth. Image from unappeasable hunger, to picture internal factions, reckless of the most tender ties (Isaiah 9:19), and insatiably spreading misery and death on every side (Jeremiah 19:9).

Eat - not literally, but destroy (Psalms 27:2; Job 19:22, "ye are not satisfied with my flesh.") Eat - not literally, but destroy (Psalms 27:2; Job 19:22, "ye are not satisfied with my flesh.")

They shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm - these nearest akin: "arm" means their former support (helper) (Isaiah 33:2) (Maurer).

Verse 21

Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: and they together shall be against Judah. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh - the two sons of Joseph. So closely united as to form between them but one tribe; but now about to be rent into factions, thirsting for each other's blood.

(And) they together (shall be) against Judah. Disunited in all things else, but united "together against their brother Judah" (2 Kings 15:10; 2 Kings 15:30). Contrast Isaiah 11:13, in the happy day to come.

Remarks: It is the divine way often to choose places and persons that are despised of men to be honoured of God. Galilee, which had become a name of contempt among the Jews, because of its connection with the Gentiles, was chosen as the favoured resort of Jesus of Nazareth. The region by the Sea of Galilee, which had been the tint to suffer from the Assyrian enemy, was the first to hear the message of spiritual deliverance. They who had dwelt "in the land of the shadow of death" were selected as the foremost 'upon whom shined the light of Him who is the Light to lighten the Gentiles.' The multiplication Gentile converts to the Christian Church, though a matter of joy at first, soon proved to be attended with the development of corruption from within, out of which Antichrist takes his rise. But Antichrist must at last fall utterly and forever before Messiah. As Gideon with a few men overthrew the countless hosts of Midian by the mighty interposition of Yahweh, so shall Messiah give Israel literal and spiritual, in its weakness, complete deliverance from the yoke of the oppressor.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.