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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

Isaiah 51

Verses 1-3

The prophetic address now turns again from the despisers of the word, whom it has threatened with the torment of fire, to those who long for salvation. “Hearken to me, ye that are in pursuit of righteousness, ye that seek Jehovah. Look up to the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hollow of the pit whence ye are dug. Look up toe Abraham your forefather, and to Sara who bare you, that he was one when I called him, and blessed him, and multiplied him. For Jehovah hath comforted Zion, comforted all her ruins, and turned her desert like Eden, and her steppe as into the garden of God; joy and gladness are found in her, thanksgiving and sounding music.” The prophecy is addressed to those who are striving after the right kind of life and seeking Jehovah, and not turning from Him to make earthly things and themselves the object of their pursuit; for such only are in a condition by faith to regard that as possible, and in spirit to behold that as real, which seems impossible, and in spirit to behold that as real, which seems impossible to human understanding, because the very opposite is lying before the eye of the senses. Abraham and Sarah they are mentally to set before them, for they are types of the salvation to be anticipated now. Abraham is the rock whence the stones were hewn, of which the house of Jacob is composed; and Sarah with her maternal womb the hollow of the pit out of which Israel was brought to the light, just as peat is dug out of a pit, or copper out of a mine. The marriage of Abraham and Sarah was for a long time unfruitful; it was, as it were, out of hard stone that God raised up children to Himself in Abraham and Sarah. The rise of Israel was a miracle of divine power and grace. In antithesis to the masculine tsūr , bōr is made into a feminine through maqqebheth , which is chosen with reference to n e qēbhâh . to חצּבתּם we must supply ממּנּוּ ... אשׁר , and to &#נקּרתּם ממּנּה ... אשׁר . Isaiah 51:2 informs them who the rock and the hollow of the pit are, viz., Abraham your forefather, and Sarah t e chōlelkhem , who bare you with all the pains of childbirth: “ you,” for the birth of Isaac, the son of promise, was the birth of the nation. The point to be specially looked at in relation to Abraham (in comparison with whom Sarah falls into the background) is given in the words quod unum vocavi eum (that he was one when I called him). The perfect קראתיו relates the single call of divine grace, which removed Abraham from the midst of idolaters into the fellowship of Jehovah. The futures that follow (with Vav cop.) point out the blessing and multiplication that were connected with it (Genesis 12:1-Exodus :). He is called one ( ' echâd as in Ezekiel 33:24; Malachi 2:15), because he was one at the time of his call, and yet through the might of the divine blessing became the root of the whole genealogical tree of Israel, and of a great multitude of people that branched off from it. This is what those who are now longing for salvation are to remember, strengthening themselves by means of the olden time in their faith in the future which so greatly resembles it. The corresponding blessing is expressed in preterites ( nicham , vayyâsem ), inasmuch as to the eye of faith and in prophetic vision the future has the reality of a present and the certainty of a completed fact. Zion, the mother of Israel (Isaiah 50:1), the counterpart of Sarah, the ancestress of the nation-Zion, which is now mourning so bitterly, because she is lying waste and in ruins - is comforted by Jehovah. The comforting word of promise (Isaiah 40:1) becomes, in her case, the comforting fact of fulfilment (Isaiah 49:13). Jehovah makes her waste like Eden (lxx ὡς παράδεισον ), like a garden, as glorious as if it had been directly planted by Himself (Genesis 13:10; Numbers 24:6). And this paradise is not without human occupants; but when you enter it you find joy and gladness therein, and hear thanksgiving at the wondrous change that has taken place, as well as the voice of melody ( zimrâh as in Amos 5:23). The pleasant land is therefore full of men in the midst of festal enjoyment and activity. As Sarah gave birth to Isaac after a long period of barrenness, so Zion, a second Sarah, will be surrounded by a joyous multitude of children after a long period of desolation.

Verses 4-5

But the great work of the future extends far beyond the restoration of Israel, which becomes the source of salvation to all the world. “Hearken unto me, my people, and give ear unto me, O my congregation! for instruction will go forth from me, and I make a place for my right, to be a light of the nations. My righteousness is near, my salvation is drawn out, and my arms will judge nations: the hoping of the islands looks to me, and for mine arm is their waiting.” It is Israel which is here summoned to hearken to the promise introduced with kı̄ . לאוּמּי is only used here of Israel, like גּוי in Zephaniah 2:9; and the lxx ( καὶ οἱ βασιλεῖς ) have quite misunderstood it. An address to the heathen would be quite out of harmony with the character of the whole prophecy, which is carried out quite consistently throughout. עמי and לאומי , therefore, are not plurals, as the Syriac supposes, although it cannot be disputed that it is a rare thing to meet with the plural form apocopated thus, after the form of the talmudic Aramaean; and see also at Psalms 45:9). What Isaiah 42:1. describes as the calling of the servant of Jehovah, viz., to carry out justice among the nations, and to plant it on the earth, appears here as the act of Jehovah; but, as a comparison of מאתּי with מצּיּון (Isaiah 2:3) clearly shows, as the act of the God who is present in Israel, and works from Israel outwards. Out of Israel sprang the Saviour; out of Israel the apostleship; and when God shall have mercy upon Israel again, it will become to the whole world of nations “life from the dead.” The thorâh referred to here is that of Sion, as distinguished from that of Sinai, the gospel of redemption, and m ishpât the new order of life in which Israel and the nations are united. Jehovah makes for this a place of rest, a firm standing-place, from which its light to lighten the nations streams forth in all directions. הרגּיע as in Jeremiah 31:2; Jeremiah 50:34, from רגע , in the sense of the Arabic rj‛ , to return, to procure return, entrance, and rest; a different word from רגע in Isaiah 51:15, which signifies the very opposite, viz., to disturb, literally to throw into trembling. צדק and ישע , which occur in Isaiah 51:5, are synonyms throughout these prophecies. The meaning of the former is determined by the character of the thorah, which gives “the knowledge of salvation” (Luke 1:77), and with that “the righteousness of God” (Romans 1:17; cf., Isaiah 53:11). This righteousness is now upon the point of being revealed; this salvation has started on the way towards the fullest realization. The great mass of the nations fall under the judgment which the arms of Jehovah inflict, as they cast down to the ground on the right hand and on the left. When it is stated of the islands, therefore, that they hope for Jehovah, and wait for His arm, the reference is evidently to the remnant of the heathen nations, which outlives the judgment, and not only desires salvation, and is susceptible of it, but which actually receives salvation (compare the view given in John 11:52, which agrees with that of Isaiah, and which, in fact, is the biblical view generally, e.g., Joel 3:5). To these the saving arm (the singular only was suitable here; cf., Psalms 16:11) now brings that salvation, towards which their longing was more or less consciously directed, and which satisfied their inmost need. Observe in Isaiah 51:5 the majestic and self-conscious movement of the rhythm, with the effective tone of y e yachēlûn .

Verse 6

The people of God are now summoned to turn their eyes upwards and downwards: the old world above their heads and under their feet is destined to destruction. “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens will pass away like smoke, and the earth fall to pieces like a garment, and its inhabitants die out like a nonentity; and my salvation will last for ever, and my righteousness does not go to ruin.” The reason for the summons follows with kı̄ . The heavens will be resolved into atoms, like smoke: nimlâchū from m âlach , related to m ârach , root mal , from which comes m âlal (see at Job 14:2), to rub to pieces, to crumble to pieces, or mangle; Aquila, ἠλοήθησαν , from ἀλοᾶν , to thresh. As m e lâchı̄m signifies rags, the figure of a garment that has fallen to pieces, which was then quite ready to hand (Isaiah 50:9), presented itself from the natural association of ideas. כּמו־כן , however, cannot mean “in like manner” (lxx, Targ., Jerome); for if we keep to the figure of a garment falling to pieces, the figure is a very insipid one; and if we refer it to the fate of the earth generally, the thought which it offers is a very tame one. The older expositors were not even acquainted with what is now the favourite explanation, viz., “as gnats perish” (Hitzig, Ewald, Umbreit, Knobel, Stier, etc.); since the singular of kinnı̄m is no more kēn than the singular of בּיצים is בּיץ . The gnat (viz., a species of stinging gnat, probably the diminutive but yet very troublesome species which is called akol uskut , “eat and be silent,” in Egyptian) is called kinnâh , as the talmudic usage shows, where the singular, which does not happen to be met with in the Old Testament, is found in the case of kinnı̄m as well as in that of bētsı̄m .

(Note: Kinnâm , in Exodus 8:13-2 Chronicles :, whether it be a collective plural or a singular, also proves nothing in support of kēn , any more than m iddâh in Job 11:9 (which see) in favour of mad , in the sense of measure. It does not follow, that because a certain form lies at the foundation of a derivative, it must have been current in ordinary usage.)

We must explain the word in the same manner as in 2 Samuel 23:5; Numbers 13:33; Job 9:35. In all these passages kēn merely signifies “so” ( ita , sic); but just as in the classical languages, these words often derive their meaning from the gesture with which they are accompanied (e.g., in Terence's Eunuch: Cape hoc flabellum et ventulum sic facito). This is probably Rückert's opinion, when he adopts the rendering: and its inhabitants “like so” ( so wie so ) do they die. But “like so” is here equivalent to “like nothing.” That the heavens and the earth do not perish without rising again in a renewed form, is a thought which may naturally be supplied, and which is distinctly expressed in Isaiah 51:16; Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22. Righteousness ( ts e dâqâh ) and salvation ( y e shū‛âh ) are the heavenly powers, which acquire dominion through the overthrow of the ancient world, and become the foundations of the new (2 Peter 3:13). That the ts e dâqâh will endure for ever, and the y e shū‛âh will not be broken ( yēchath , as in Isaiah 7:8, confringetur , whereas in Isaiah 51:7 the meaning is consternemini ), is a prospect that opens after the restoration of the new world, and which indirectly applies to men who survive the catastrophe, having become partakers of righteousness and salvation. For righteousness and salvation require beings in whom to exert their power.

Verses 7-8

Upon this magnificent promise of the final triumph of the counsel of God, an exhortation is founded to the persecuted church, not to be afraid of men. “Hearken unto me, ye that know about righteousness, thou people with my law in the heart; fear ye not the reproach of mortals, and be ye not alarmed at their revilings. For the moth will devour them like a garment, and the worm devour them like woollen cloth; and my righteousness will stand for ever, and my salvation to distant generations.” The idea of the “servant of Jehovah,” in its middle sense, viz., as denoting the true Israel, is most clearly set forth in the address here. They that pursue after righteousness, and seek Jehovah (Isaiah 51:1), that is to say, the servants of Jehovah (Isaiah 65:8-1 Samuel :), are embraced in the unity of a “people,” as in Isaiah 65:10 (cf., Isaiah 10:24), i.e., of the true people of God in the people of His choice, and therefore of the kernel in the heart of the whole mass - an integral intermediate link in the organism of the general idea, which Hהvernick and, to a certain extent, Hofmann eliminate from it,

(Note: Hävernick, in his Lectures on the Theology of the Old Testament, published by H. A. Hahn, 1848, and in a second edition by H. Schultz, 1863; Drechsler, in his article on the Servant of Jehovah, in the Luth. Zeitschrift, 1852; V. Hofmann, in his Schriftbeweis, ii. 1, 147. The first two understand by the servant of Jehovah as an individual, the true Israel personified: the idea has simply Israel as a whole at its base, i.e., Israel which did not answer to its ideal, and the Messiah as the summit, in whom the ideal of Israel was fully realized. Drechsler goes so far as to call the central link, viz., an Israel true to its vocation, a modern abstraction that has no support in the Scriptures. Hofmann, however, says that he has no wish to exclude this central idea, and merely wishes to guard against the notion that a number of individuals, whether Israelites generally or pious Israelites, are ever intended by the epithet “servant of Jehovah.” “The nation,” he says himself at p. 145, “was called as a nation to be the servant of God, but it fulfilled its calling as a church of believers.” And so say we; but we also add that this church is a kernel always existing within the outer ecclesia mixta , and therefore always a number of individuals, though they are only known to God.)

but not without thereby destroying the typical mirror in which the prophet beholds the passion of the One. The words are addressed to those who know from their own experience what righteousness is as a gift of grace, and as conduct in harmony with the plan of salvation, i.e., to the nation, which bears in its heart the law of God as the standard and impulse of its life, the church which not only has it as a letter outside itself, but as a vital power within (cf., Psalms 40:9). None of these need to be afraid of men. Their despisers and blasphemers are men ( 'ĕnōsh ; cf., Isaiah 51:12, Psalms 9:20; Psalms 10:18), whose pretended omnipotence, exaltation, and indestructibility, are an unnatural self-convicted lie. The double figure in Isaiah 51:8, which forms a play upon words that cannot well be reproduced, affirms that the smallest exertion of strength is quite sufficient to annihilate their sham greatness and sham power; and that long before they are actually destroyed, they carry the constantly increasing germ of it within themselves. The sâs , says a Jewish proverb, is brother to the ‛ âsh . The latter (from ‛ âshēsh , collabi , Arab. ‛aththa , trans. corrodere ) signifies a moth; the former (like the Arabic sūs , sūse , Gr. σής ) a moth, and also a weevil, curculio . The relative terms in Greek are σής (Armen. tzetz ) and κίς . But whilst the persecutors of the church succumb to these powers of destruction, the righteousness and salvation of God, which are even now the confidence and hope of His church, and the full and manifest realization of which it will hereafter enjoy, stand for ever, and from “generation to generation,” l e dōr dōrı̄m , i.e., to an age which embraces endless ages within itself.

Verses 9-11

But just as such an exhortation as this followed very naturally from the grand promises with which they prophecy commenced, so does a longing for the promised salvation spring out of this exhortation, together with the assurance of its eventual realization. “Awake, awake, clothe thyself in might, O arm of Jehovah; awake, as in the days of ancient time, the ages of the olden world! Was it not thou that didst split Rahab in pieces, and pierced the dragon? Was it not thou that didst dry up the sea, the waters of the great billow; that didst turn the depths of the sea into a way for redeemed to pass through? Ad the emancipated of Jehovah will return, and come to Zion with shouting, and everlasting joy upon their head: they grasp at gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing flee away.” The paradisaical restoration of Zion, the new world of righteousness and salvation, is a work of the arm of Jehovah, i.e., of the manifestation of His might. His arm is now in a sleeping state. It is not lifeless, indeed, but motionless. Therefore the church calls out to it three times, “Awake” ( ‛ūrı̄ : to avoid monotony, the milra and milel tones are interchanged, as in Judges 5:12).

(Note: See Norzi and Luzzatto's Grammatica della Lingua Ebr. §513.)

It is to arise and put on strength out of the fulness of omnipotence ( lâbhēsh as in Psalms 93:1; cf., λαμβάνειν δύναμιν Revelation 11:17, and δύσεο ἀλκήν , arm thyself with strength, in Il. 19:36; 9:231). The arm of Jehovah is able to accomplish what the prophecy affirms and the church hopes for; since it has already miraculously redeemed Israel once. Rahabh is Egypt represented as a monster of the waters (see Isaiah 30:7), and tannı̄n is the same (cf., Isaiah 27:1), but with particular reference to Pharaoh (Ezekiel 29:3). אתּ־היא , tu illud , is equivalent to “thou, yea thou” (see at Isaiah 37:16). The Red Sea is described as the “waters of the great deep” ( t e hōm rabbâh ), because the great storehouse of waters that lie below the solid ground were partially manifested there. השּׂמה has double pashta; it is therefore m ilel, and therefore the third pr. = שׂמה אשׁר (Ges. §109, Anf.). Isaiah 35:10 is repeated in Isaiah 51:11, being attached to גּאוּלים of the previous verse, jut as it is there. Instead of נסוּ ישּׂיגוּן , which we find here, we have there ונסוּ ישּׂיגוּ ; in everything else the two passages are word for word the same. Hitzig, Ewald, and Knobel suppose that Isaiah 51:11 was not written by the author of these addresses, but was interpolated by some one else. But in Isaiah 65:25 we meet with just the same kind of repetition from chapters 1-39; and in the first part we find, at any rate, repetitions in the form of refrains and others of a smaller kind (like Isaiah 19:15, cf., Isaiah 9:13). And Isaiah 51:11 forms a conclusion here, just as it does in Isaiah 35:10. An argument is founded upon the olden time with reference to the things to be expected now; the look into the future is cleared and strengthened by the look into the past. And thus will the emancipated of Jehovah return, being liberated from the present calamity as they were delivered from the Egyptian then. The first half of this prophecy is here brought to a close. It concludes with expressions of longing and of hope, the echo of promises that had gone before.

Verses 12-15

In the second half the promise commences again, but with more distinct reference to the oppression of the exiles and the sufferings of Jerusalem. Jehovah Himself begins to speak now, setting His seal upon what is longed and hoped for. “I am your comforter: who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a mortal who will die, and of a son of man who is made a blade of grass; that thou shouldst forget Jehovah thy Creator, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth; that thou shouldst be afraid continually all the day of the fury of the tormentor, as he aims to destroy? and where is the fury of the tormentor left? He that is bowed down is quickly set loose, and does not die to the grave, and his bread does not fail him; as truly as I Jehovah am thy God, who frighteneth up the sea, so that its waves roar: Jehovah of hosts is His name.” הוּא after אנכי אנכי is an emphatic repetition, and therefore a strengthening of the subject ( αὐτὸς ἐγώ ), as above, in Isaiah 51:10, in אתּ־היא . From this major, that Jehovah is the comforter of His church, and by means of a minor, that whoever has Him for a comforter has no need to fear, the conclusion is drawn that the church has no cause to fear. Consequently we cannot adopt Knobel's explanation, “How small thou art, that thou art afraid.” The meaning is rather, “Is it really the case with thee (i.e., art thou then so small, so forsaken), that thou hast any need to fear” (fut. consec., according to Ges. §129, 1; cf., ki , Exodus 3:11; Judges 9:28)? The attributive sentence tâmūth (who will die) brings out the meaning involved in the epithet applied to man, viz., 'ĕnōsh (compare in the Persian myth Gayomard, from the old Persian gaya meretan , mortal life); &#חציר כּחציר (Psalms 37:2; Psalms 90:5; Psalms 103:15; compare above, Isaiah 40:6-Ruth :) is an equation instead of a comparison. In Isaiah 51:12 the address is thrown into a feminine form, in Isaiah 51:13 into a masculine one; Zion being the object in the former, and (what is the same thing) Israel in the latter: that thou forgettest thy Creator, who is also the almighty Maker of the universe, and soarest about in constant endless alarm at the wrath of the tormentor, whilst he is aiming to destroy ( pichad , contremiscere , as in Proverbs 28:14; ka'ăsher as in Psalms 66:7; Numbers 27:14, lit., according as; kōnēn , viz., his arrows, or even his bow, as in Psalms 11:2; Psalms 7:13, cf., Isaiah 21:13). We must not translate this quasi disposuisset , which is opposed to the actual fact, although syntactically possible (Job 10:19; Zechariah 10:6). The question with which the fear is met, “And where is the fury of the tormentor?” looks into the future: “There is not a trace of him to be seen, he is utterly swept away.” If hammētsı̄q signifies the Chaldean, Isaiah 51:14, in which the warning passes into a promise, just as in the first half the promise passed into a warning, is not to be understood as referring to oppression by their own countrymen, who were more heathenish than Israelitish in their disposition, as Knobel supposes; but tsō‛eh (from tsâ‛âh , to stoop or bend) is an individualizing description of the exiles, who were in captivity in Babylon, and some of them actually in prison (see Isaiah 42:7, Isaiah 42:22). Those who were lying there in fetters, and were therefore obliged to bend, hastened to be loosed, i.e., would speedily be set at liberty (the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus may be referred to here); they would not die and fall into the pit ( constr. praegnans), nor would their bread fail; that is to say, if we regard the two clauses as the dissection of one thought (which is not necessary, however, though Hitzig supports it), “he will not die of starvation.” The pledge of this is to be found in the all-sufficiency of Jehovah, who throws the sea into a state of trembling (even by a threatening word, g e ârâh ; רגע is the construct of the participle, with the tone upon the last syllable, as in Leviticus 11:7; Psalms 94:9: see Bär's Psalter, p. 132, from râga‛ , tremefacere ), so that its waves roar (cf., Jeremiah 31:35, and the original passage in Job 26:12).

Verse 16

The promise, as the pledge of which Jehovah has staked His absolute power, to which everything must yield, now rises up to an eschatological height, from the historical point at which it began. “And I put my words into thy mouth, and in the shadow of my hand have I covered thee, to plant heavens, and to found an earth, and to say to Zion, Thou art my people.” It is a lofty calling, a glorious future, for the preparation and introduction of which Israel, although fallen as low as Isaiah 51:7 describes, has been equipped and kept in the shadow of unapproachable omnipotence. Jehovah has put His words into the mouth of this Israel - His words, the force and certainty of which are measured by His all-determining absoluteness. And what is the exalted calling which it is to subserve through the medium of these words, and for which it is preserved, without previously, or indeed at any time, passing away? We must not render it, “that thou mayest plant,” etc., with which the conclusion does not harmonize, viz., “that thou mayest say,” etc.; for it is not Israel who says this to Israel, but Jehovah says it to Israel. The planter, founder, speaker, is therefore Jehovah. It is God's own work, to which Israel is merely instrumentally subservient, by means of the words of God place din its mouth, viz., the new creation of the world, and the restoration of Israel to favour; both of them, the former as well as the latter, regalia of God. The reference is to the last times. The Targum explains it thus: “to restore the people of whom it is said, They will be as numerous as the stars of heaven; and to perfect the church, of which it is said, They will be as numerous as the dust of the earth.” Knobel understands by this a completion of the theocracy, and a new arrangement of the condition of the world; Ewald, a new spiritual creation, of which the liberation of Israel is the first corner-stone. But the prophecy speaks of a new heaven and a new earth, in something more than a figurative sense, as a new creation of God (Isaiah 65:17). Jehovah intends to create a new world of righteousness and salvation, and practically to acknowledge Zion as His people. The preparation for this great and all-renewing work of the future is aided by the true Israel, which is now enslaved by the heathen, and disowned and persecuted by its own countrymen. A future of salvation, embracing Israel and the heaven and the earth, is implied in the words placed by Jehovah in the mouth of His church, which was faithful to its calling. These words in their mouth are the seed-corns of a new world in the midst of the old. The fact that the very same thing is said here of the true spiritual Israel, as in Isaiah 49:2 of the one servant of Jehovah, may be explained in the same manner as when the apostles apply to themselves, in Acts 13:47, a word of God relating to the one Servant of Jehovah, by saying, “So hath the Lord commanded us.” The One is, in fact, one with this Israel; He is this Israel in its highest potency; He towers above it, but only as the head rises above the members of the body, with which it forms a living whole. There is no necessity, therefore, to assume, as Hengstenberg and Philippi do, that Isaiah 51:13 contains an address from the One who then stood before the mind of the prophet. “There is no proof,” as Vitringa affirms, “of any change in the object in this passage, nor any solid reason for assuming it.” The circumference of the idea is always the same. Here, however, it merely takes the direction towards the centre, and penetrates its smaller inner circle, but does not go back to the centre itself.

Verses 17-23

Just as we found above, that the exclamation “awake” ( ‛ūrı̄ ), which the church addresses to the arm of Jehovah, grew out of the preceding great promises; so here there grows out of the same another “awake” ( hith‛ōr e rı̄ ), which the prophet addresses to Jerusalem in the name of his God, and the reason for which is given in the form of new promises. “Wake thyself up, wake thyself up, stand up, O Jerusalem, thou that hast drunk out of the hand of Jehovah the goblet of His fury: the goblet cup of reeling hast thou drunk, sipped out. There was none who guided her of all the children that she had brought forth; and none who took her by the hand of all the children that she had brought up. There were two things that happened to thee; who should console thee? Devastation, and ruin, and famine, and the sword: how should I comfort thee? Thy children were benighted, lay at the corners of all the streets like a snared antelope: as those who were full of the fury of Jehovah, the rebuke of thy God. Therefore hearken to this, O wretched and drunken, but not with wine: Thus saith thy Lord, Jehovah, and thy God that defendeth His people, Behold, I take out of thine hand the goblet of reeling, the goblet cup of my fury: thou shalt not continue to drink it any more. And I put it into the hand of thy tormentors; who said to thy soul, Bow down, that we may go over; and thou madest thy back like the ground, and like a public way for those who go over it.” In Isaiah 51:17, Jerusalem is regarded as a woman lying on the ground in the sleep of faintness and stupefaction. She has been obliged to drink, for her punishment, the goblet filled with the fury of the wrath of God, the goblet which throws those who drink it into unconscious reeling; and this goblet, which is called qubba‛ath kōs ( κύπελλον ποτηιρίου , a genitive construction, though appositional in sense), for the purpose of giving greater prominence to its swelling sides, she has not only had to drink, but to drain quite clean (cf., Psalms 75:9, and more especially Ezekiel 23:32-Nahum :). Observe the plaintive falling of the tone in shâthı̄th m âtsı̄th . In this state of unconscious stupefaction was Jerusalem lying, without any help on the part of her children; there was not one who came to guide the stupefied one, or took her by the hand to lift her up. The consciousness of the punishment that their sins had deserved, and the greatness of the sufferings that the punishment had brought, pressed so heavily upon all the members of the congregation, that not one of them showed the requisite cheerfulness and strength to rise up on her behalf, so as to make her fate at any rate tolerable to her, and ward off the worst calamities. What elegiac music we have here in the deep cadences: m ikkol - bânı̄m yâlâdâh , m ikkol - bânı̄m giddēlâh ! So terrible was her calamity, that no one ventured to break the silence of the terror, or give expression to their sympathy. Even the prophet, humanly speaking, is obliged to exclaim, “How ( mı̄ , literally as who, as in Amos 7:2, Amos 7:5) should I comfort thee!” He knew of no equal or greater calamity, to which he could point Jerusalem, according to the principle which experience confirms, solamen miseris socios habuisse malorum . This is the real explanation, according to Lamentations 2:13, though we must not therefore take mı̄ as an accusative = b e mı̄ , as Hitzig does. The whole of the group is in the tone of the Lamentations of Jeremiah. There were two kinds of things (i.e., two kinds of evils: m ishpâchōth , as in Jeremiah 15:3) that had happened to her ( &#קרא קרה , with which it is used interchangeably even in the Pentateuch) - namely, the devastation and ruin of their city and their land, famine and the sword to her children, their inhabitants.

In Isaiah 51:20 this is depicted with special reference to the famine. Her children were veiled ( ‛ullaph , deliquium pati , lit., obvelari ), and lay in a state of unconsciousness like corpses at the corner of every street, where this horrible spectacle presented itself on every hand. They lay k e tho' m ikhmâr (rendered strangely and with very bad taste in the lxx, viz., like a half-cooked turnip; but given correctly by Jerome, sicut oryx , as in the lxx at Deuteronomy 14:5, illaqueatus ), i.e., like a netted antelope (see at Job 39:9), i.e., one that has been taken in a hunter's net and lies there exhausted, after having almost strangled itself by ineffectual attempts to release itself. The appositional וגו המלאים , which refers to בני ך , gives as a quippe qui the reason for all this suffering. It is the punishment decreed by God, which has pierced their very heart, and got them completely in its power. This clause assigning the reason, shows that the expression “thy children” ( bânayikh ) is not to be taken here in the same manner as in Lamentations 2:11-2 Kings :; Lamentations 4:3-Numbers :, viz., as referring to children in distinction from adults; the subject is a general one, as in Isaiah 5:25. With lâkhē̄n (therefore, Isaiah 51:21) the address turns from the picture of sufferings to the promise, in the view of which the cry was uttered, in Isaiah 51:17, to awake and arise. Therefore, viz., because she had endured the full measure of God's wrath, she is to hear what His mercy, that has now begun to move, purposes to do. The connecting form sh e khurath stands here, according to Ges. §116, 1, notwithstanding the (epexegetical) Vav which comes between. We may see from Isaiah 29:9 how thoroughly this “drunk, but not with wine,” is in Isaiah's own style (from this distinction between a higher and lower sphere of related facts, compare Isaiah 47:14; Isaiah 48:10). The intensive plural 'ădōnı̄m is only applied to human lords in other places in the book of Isaiah; but in this passage, in which Jerusalem is described as a woman, it is used once of Jehovah. Yârı̄bh ‛ammō is an attributive clause, signifying “who conducts the cause of His people,” i.e., their advocate or defender. He takes the goblet of reeling and wrath, which Jerusalem has emptied, for ever out of her hand, and forces it newly filled upon her tormentors. There is no ground whatever for reading מוני ך (from ינה , to throw down, related to יון , whence comes יון , a precipitate or sediment) in the place of מוגי ( pret. hi. of יגה , ( laborare , dolere ), that favourite word of the Lamentations of Jeremiah (Lamentations 1:5, Lamentations 1:12; Lamentations 3:32, cf., Isaiah 1:4), the tone of which we recognise here throughout, as Lowth, Ewald, and Umbreit propose after the Targum לי ך מונן דהוו . The words attributed to the enemies, sh e chı̄ v e na‛ăbhorâh (from shâchâh , the kal of which only occurs here), are to be understood figuratively, as in Psalms 129:3. Jerusalem has been obliged to let her children be degraded into the defenceless objects of despotic tyranny and caprice, both at home in their own conquered country, and abroad in exile. But the relation is reversed now. Jerusalem is delivered, after having been punished, and the instruments of her punishment are given up to the punishment which their pride deserved.

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Isaiah 51". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. 1854-1889.