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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 33

Verses 1-24

Isaiah 33:1 . Woe to thee, thou spoiler, who hast not been spoiled;

And thou plunderer, who hast not been plundered.

When thou hast ceased to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled;

When thou art weary of plundering, they shall plunder thee. LOWTH.

Here is a very remarkable sentence against Assyria, in four striking forms. The apostrophes are full of beauty, and the figures most impressive. the connection between the crimes and the punishment being of long continuance, the sentence is against the empire, rather than against any one of the oppressors.

It is very remarkable, that the time of her visitation is fixed to the time when she should cease to spoil, and be weary of plundering. After her conquests had been circumscribed by the four surrounding seas, the Indian, the Caspian, the Euxine, and the Mediterranean. After Babylon had become the golden and the rejoicing city, and the martial spirit had subsided into the effeminacy super-induced by immensity of opulence; then the helpless became a prey to the nations she had oppressed. A guilty people revelling in luxury, like cattle before the time of slaughter. God sent upon them a spirit of slumber; they had no effective army; they had allowed Dejoces king of Media to throw off the yoke; they had never opposed Cyrus till he actually arrived on the plains of Babylon, and then her armies marched out for slaughter rather than for battle.

Isaiah 33:4 . Your spoil shall be gathered, and carried away as clean as the caterpillar and the locust eat up all the vegetation of the fields. This was the case with regard to the spoil left behind by Sennacherib’s army, and with regard to Babylon; the allied nations under Cyrus seized the treasures of Babylon as the reward of their service.

Isaiah 33:5 . The Lord is exalted he hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness. The invasion caused the people to learn righteousness: Isaiah 26:20. They left their sins, they crouded the temple and the synagogues; they scattered alms among the poor. The terrors of the Lord developed the hearts of the people.

Isaiah 33:7 . The valiant ones cry without. Hezekiah sent out his first generals to treat with Rabshakeh; but nothing would do. The unconditional surrender of the city was required, and the removal of the inhabitants to distant lands. On hearing this, the ambassadors of peace wept bitterly. Hezekiah rent his robe and wept also. Isaiah, like St. Paul in the tempest, seemed the only man that had a soul: while they were weeping, he was composing a song of triumph for the virgins.

Isaiah 33:8-9 . The highways lie waste. Torpor is on the whole land. Lebanon falls by the invaders’ axe; the beauty of Sharon fades away; the bulls of Bashan, and the sheep of Carmel, are seen no more. Gloom, like a mantle, covers the land, and despair is seen on every face.

Isaiah 33:10 . Now will I arise, saith the Lord. The cries of the people, the tears and prayers of the king, who rent his robe at blasphemy, and spread the letter of Sennacherib before the Lord, moved at length the divine compassion: the Lord will not chide for ever.

Isaiah 33:12 . The people shall be as the burnings of lime. Some understand this of the anger of God against Jerusalem, burning them as lime to dust and death. Others consider it as referring to the appearance of the bodies of the Chaldeans, as though their breath had scorched their throats and tongues with fire, and have therefore thought they were destroyed by the sirocco or hotwind, as described in Job 27:21. Psalms 48:7. Be that as it may, the stroke was immediately inflicted by the angel of the Lord, and in answer to prayer.

Isaiah 33:13 . Hear, ye that are far off, wide as the nations which compose the Assyrian empire, and far as the winds shall blow the ships of Tarshish. The Lord hath made bare his arm; his enemies have slept the sleep of death. In the morning they had armour, but no hands.

Isaiah 33:14 . The sinners in Zion are afraid. They lose all their strength, the spirit of fortitude departs, the consciousness of guilt under the more tremendous visitations of heaven deprives them of energy. Those were the men that mocked the prophets while danger was at a distance.

Fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Tremour and shaking seize them; they are not only wicked, but as the LXX and the Chaldaic read, impious. They said in the terrors of their conscience, who can dwell with devouring fire? God is angry with us; he is a consuming fire. And if such be his present wrath, who can dwell in Gehenna with everlasting burnings? Such were the sentiments of men who had gone to daring lengths of crime, and had offered, or joined with those who had offered, children to Molech. Their guilty fears said, we shall soon see Jerusalem in flames, like the conquered cities of neighbouring nations.

Isaiah 33:15 . He that walketh righteously. The obedience of the law is here summed up in six precepts; but no man could obtain the righteousness of God, without faith in the promised Messiah.

Isaiah 33:17 . Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty, in the peaceable worship of the temple restored. This was the one thing that David desired, that he might dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and enquire in his temple. But the intervals of Israel’s peace were only glimmerings of that day, when the sun of Zion should set no more. The prophet Ezekiel saw a glory come and fix his throne in the sanctuary; then the tabernacle of God shall be with men, and he will dwell with them for ever. Ezekiel 43:0. Till that happy time we must pray, saying, Isaiah 33:20 . Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities. Thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, an unshaken tabernacle, whose stakes shall not be plucked up for ever, and whose cords shall not be broken. These promises are applied to the multitude of gentile nations converted to the crucified Redeemer: chap. 53, 54. There is no age, nor state of the church, to which they can otherwise be applied. Then the Lord, the glorious Lord, will be to us a place of confluent streams, of broad rivers, where no ship with oars, fitted for war, shall pass. Then Messiah will break the bow of Ephraim, and publish peace to the heathen. Then the inhabitants shall not say, I am sick; for the people that dwell there shall be forgiven their iniquities, with the full remission of all chastisements.


The first object which strikes us here is, the retributive character of divine justice on Babylon: her punishment came in kind, the strokes were the reaction of her own rod. The spoiler must be spoiled, the robber robbed. The feasting city must fall at a feast, and her nocturnal revellings must be the very hour, as stated in Ezra 1:0., when God would inflict the blow. She had led nations to captivity, now she must go into captivity. She had left their cities in ruins, now the queen of the earth must subside as into her own morass, and be utterly forsaken. Surely there is a God that judgeth in the earth.

We see also the awful visitations of the sword. The land mourns, the high ways are forsaken, the cattle are carried off from the pastures, and the flocks from the hills; torpor and despair seize the people. David was wise in preferring the pestilence to the sword. At the same time, it should be known, that the Chaldeans had their commission signed and sealed in heaven; the Lord had said to the sword, “Go through the land.”

But though past ages have been cut down, and punished for their long reign of crimes, and the new generations have become as wicked as their fathers, yet we have the hope and the promise of better times from the Lord. We expect rivers of grace to wash, to change, and regenerate the heart. We expect in some more glorious manner than the Jews ever knew, to see the king in his beauty, and for wars to cease to the ends of the earth. The wars in past ages punished crimes, but applied no remedy to the heart. But in the happier ages to come, we expect the leaves of the tree of life to heal the nations; to see the earth full of people, and the christian Zion crowned with all the glory of the latter day.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 33". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.