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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Isaiah 29


The temple and city of Jerusalem destroyed, Isaiah 29:1-6.

Her enemies unsatiable, Isaiah 29:7,Isaiah 29:8;

their senselessness, Isaiah 29:9-12,

and deep hypocrisy, Isaiah 29:13-17.

The scorner and oppressor being cut off, the rest shall be converted, Isaiah 29:18-24.

Verse 1

Woe to Ariel! this word signifies a strong lion, or the lion of God; and is used concerning lion-like men, as it is rendered, 1 Chronicles 11:22; and of God’s altar, as it is rendered, Ezekiel 43:15,Ezekiel 43:16, which seems to be thus called, because it devoured and consumed the sacrifices put upon it, as greedily and as irresistibly as the lion doth his prey. If the altar be here meant, it is put synecdochically for the temple, and the words may be rendered, Woe to Ariel, to Ariel of or in the city! or, and the city; for that conjunction is sometimes understood, as Isaiah 22:6; Habakkuk 3:11. And so the threatening is denounced both against the temple and against Jerusalem. But he seems rather to understand it of Jerusalem, as may be gathered,

1. From the next words, which seem to be added by way of apposition, to explain what he meant by that obscure and ambiguous term,

Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, even to the city!

2. From the following verses, which plainly declare that this Ariel is the place which God threatens that he would distress and fill with heaviness, Isaiah 29:2; and lay siege against her, Isaiah 29:3; and that the nations should fight against her, Isaiah 29:7; all which expressions agree much better to Jerusalem than to the altar. And this city might be called Ariel, or the strong lion, either,

1. For its eminent strength in regard of its situation and fortifications, by reason whereof it was thought almost impregnable, both by themselves and others, Lamentations 4:12. Or,

2. For its lionlike fierceness and cruelty, for which she is called the bloody city, Ezekiel 7:23; Ezekiel 22:2, and, in effect, Isaiah 1:15; Isaiah 59:3; Jeremiah 19:4; and for which her princes are called lions, Ezekiel 19:2; Zephaniah 3:3. Or,

3. In respect of the altar of God, which was erected in and confined to that city, and in which the strength and glory of that city did chiefly consist.

The city where David dwelt; the royal city, and seat of David and his posterity; which is here mentioned as the ground of their confidence; and withal, it is implied that their relation to David, and their supposed interest in the promises made to him and to his seed, should not secure them from the destruction here threatened.

Add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices; go on in killing sacrifices from time to time, one year after another, whereby you think to appease me, and to secure yourselves; but all shall be in vain.

Verse 2

Yet, notwithstanding all your sacrifices,

I will distress Ariel, by bringing and strengthening her enemies against her.

It shall be unto me as Ariel: the sense is either,

1. I will treat her like a strong and fierce lion, which, the people among whom it is endeavour by nets, or pits, and all other ways, to take and to destroy; or,

2. I will make Ariel the city like Ariel the altar, filling it with sacrifices, even with men, whom I will slay in my anger; which act of God’s is called his sacrifice, Ezekiel 39:17,Ezekiel 39:19.

Verse 3

By those enemies whom I will assist and enable to destroy thee. This was fulfilled either,

1. By Sennacherib, as some learned men think. But what is here affirmed of these enemies is expressly denied concerning Sennacherib, Isaiah 37:3. Or rather,

2. By the Chaldeans, 2 Kings 25:1, &c.

Verse 4

Thy speech shall be low out of the dust; thou who now speakest so loftily and scornfully against the Lord’s prophets and others, shalt be humbled and confounded, and afraid and ashamed to speak aloud, and shalt in a submissive manner, and with a low voice, beg the favour of thine enemies.

Thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground; who, that they might possess the people with a kind of reverence and horror, used to speak and deliver their answers with a low voice, either out of their bellies, or from some dark cave under the ground.

Verse 5

Of thy strangers; either,

1. Of the strangers that encamp and fight against thee. Or,

2. Of the Egyptians, and other strangers, whom thou hast hired to assist thee, as indeed they did, when the Chaldeans came against them. This exposition seems to agree best, as with the phrase, thy strangers, so with the scope of the place, and with the whole context, especially the foregoing verses; which plainly shows that this is not a promise to Jerusalem, but a threatening against it.

Like small dust; quickly blown away with the least wind, by comparing this with the following clause.

Of the terrible ones; of thy great commanders and stoutest soldiers.

It shall be; this dissipation and destruction of thy strangers and terrible ones shall come to pass.

Verse 6

Thou, O Ariel or Jerusalem, of or to whom this whole context manifestly speaks, shalt be visited with dreadful judgments, which are frequently expressed in the prophets by these and such-like metaphors.

Verse 7

Wherein it shall be so is explained in the next verse.

Verse 8

His soul is empty; his appetite or desire (as the soul is taken, Psalms 41:4; Psalms 78:18, and elsewhere) is unsatisfied. Or, his stomach or body (as the soul is used, Psalms 16:10) is empty.

So shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against Mount Zion; no less unsatisfied and unsatiable shall the enemies of the Jews be, with all the cruelties which they have committed against you; and they shall be always thirsting after more of your blood, as if they had never tasted any of it.

Verse 9

Stay yourselves, and wonder; pause upon it, and you will see cause to wonder at the stupidity of this people, of which he is now about to speak. He directeth his speech, either to the religious part of the people, or to those particular persons who heard him when he delivered this prophecy.

Cry ye out, and cry; cry out again and again, either in way of supplication for them; or rather through astonishment and horror. Or, they take pleasure or sport themselves, (as this word most commonly signifies,) and riot; in the midst of all these threatenings and dangers, they are secure, and give up themselves to sensuality; which is matter of just wonder.

They are drunken, but not with wine; but either,

1. With drinking the cup of God’s fury, wherewith they are said to be made drunk, Isaiah 51:17,Isaiah 51:20. And then, they are drunk, is put for, they shall be drunk, after the manner of the prophets. Or,

2. With the spirit of giddiness or stupidity, which makes them like drunken men, insensible of their danger, and not knowing what to do.

Verse 10

Hath poured out upon you; which phrase notes the plenty and vehemency of this judgment.

The spirit of deep sleep; hardness of heart, and insensibleness of your danger and misery, which God is said to send, because he denies or withdraws his fight and grace, which alone can cure those maladies. The prophets and your rulers, the seers; your magistrates and ministers, whose blindness or stupidity is a great curse and plague to the people. Or, the prophets, even the chief (for the head is oft put for the chief of persons or things, as Exodus 30:23; 1 Chronicles 12:18, and elsewhere) of your seers. Hath he covered with the veil of ignorance and stupidity, or as to their eyes, which is understood out of the former clause. And this last clause is and may be rendered thus, The eyes (which may be repeated out of the foregoing clause) of your prophets, and of, or even of, your principal seers, (or, and of your most intelligent rulers,) hath he covered.

Verse 12

The vision of all; of all your prophets, whether the true or false ones. As the words of a book that is sealed; in which no man can read whilst it is scaled up, as books then sometimes were, 1 Kings 21:8; Esther 3:12,Esther 3:13, being made in the form of rolls, which was convenient for that purpose.

The book is delivered to him that is not learned; unsealed and opened, as the following clause implies. God so orders the manner of delivering this book, that neither the learned nor unlearned could read and understand it.

Verse 13

Draw near me, to wit, in acts of worship,

with their mouth and with their lips; with outward devotions, and the profession of religion.

But have removed their heart far from me; they do not pay me that love, and fear, and obedience which I require, and prefer before all sacrifices and external services.

Their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men; they worship me not in such way and manner as I have commanded and prescribed, but according to their own and other men’s inventions, preferring the devices and traditions of their false prophets before my institutions. For this was a common error among the Jews, as we learn from Jeremiah 7:31; Hosea 5:11, and many other scriptures; and thus our blessed Saviour expounds this very place, Matthew 15:7-9.

Verse 14

Shall disappear and vanish; for this answers to,

shall perish, in the former clause. A veil shall be east upon the eyes of their minds; they shall give no evidences or proofs of their wisdom, but their folly shall be made manifest. And this was indeed a wonderful thing for their wise men to be made fools.

Verse 15

That seek deep, Heb. that make deep. A metaphor from men who use to dig deep into the earth, that they may hide any thing there which they would keep safe and unknown.

To hide their counsel from the Lord; vainly imagining that they can keep all their hypocrisy and secret wickedness out of God’s sight, and that they can deceive, not only man, but God, by their external professions and services. Their works are in the dark; their wicked counsels are contrived, and their idolatry is practised, in secret and dark places, of which see Ezekiel 8:12.

Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? we act so cunningly, that neither God nor man can discover us.

Verse 16

Your turning of things upside down; all your subtle devices, by which you turn yourselves into all shapes; and turn your thoughts hither and thither, and pervert the order which God hath appointed.

Shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay; it is no more to me than the clay is to the potter, who can not only discern it thoroughly, but alter and dispose it as he seeth fit.

Shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not, & c.? and no less absurd and ridiculous is your conceit, that I, your Maker and supreme Governor, cannot discover and control all your artifices at my pleasure.

Verse 17

The forest of Lebanon, which was a barren mountain and a desolate wilderness, shall by God’s wonderful providence become a fruitful and populous place; and these places, which are now fruitful and populous, shall then become as barren and desolate as that forest. The sense is confirmed by that parallel place, Isaiah 32:15. And from both places compared together, this seems to be a prophecy of the rejection of the wicked and unbelieving Jews, whose sins and marvellous judgments, and particularly infatuation, are declared in the foregoing verses; and of the calling of the Gentiles, of which he speaks in the following verse, as appears further by comparing that verse with Isaiah 35:5. And this opinion may receive some countenance from Matthew 15:7, &c., where Christ expounds the foregoing words, Isaiah 29:13, upon which these have a dependence, of his own times.

Verse 18

The deaf; who were deaf before God by his word and grace did open their ears; even the deaf and blind Gentiles, as was now noted. Compare Isaiah 35:5.

Shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness; being, by God’s grace, brought out of that gross and worse than Egyptian darkness of ignorance and wickedness, in which they formerly lived, unto a clear and saving knowledge of the truth.

Verse 19

The meek; the humble and meek believers, opposed to those proud and scornful Israelites or Jews, of whom he speaks in this and in the foregoing chapter. Shall increase their joy in the Lord; shall greatly rejoice in this, that the Lord and Holy One of Israel is now their God and portion.

The poor; either,

1. Spiritually, of which Matthew 5:3. Or,

2. Outwardly, mean and despicable people, such as the Gentiles were in the opinion of the Jews, and such as the greatest part of the first believing Christians were, Matthew 11:5; 1 Corinthians 1:26; James 2:5.

Verse 20

The terrible one; the proud and potent enemies of those meek and poor believers now mentioned, such as the unbelieving Jews and the heathen potentates were in the first age of Christianity.

The scorner; the scornful opposers of God’s word and people. That watch for iniquity; that early and diligently apply themselves to the practice of wickedness, or to do mischief to others.

Verse 21

That make a man an offender; that condemn and punish a man as if he were a great criminal.

For a word; for a verbal reproof, as appears from the next clause.

For him that reproveth; for God’s faithful prophets and ministers, whose office it is to reprove ungodly men, such as these were.

In the gate, publicly; which they took for a great affront and disgrace; although the reproof ought to be public, where the sin is public and scandalous. He mentions the gate, because there the people used to assemble, both upon civil and sacred accounts, and there prophets used to deliver their prophecies; of which see Jeremiah 7:2; Jeremiah 17:19.

Turn aside, to wit, from judgment, as this phrase is more fully delivered, Isaiah 10:2, or from his right; which is elsewhere called the perverting, or overturning, or overthrowing of a man’s right or judgment, as Deuteronomy 27:19; Proverbs 17:23; Lamentations 3:35.

The just; the faithful prophets and ministers of God, and among others Christ, who is oft called the just or righteous one, both in the Old and New Testament.

For a thing of nought; not for any great advantage, but for a trifle, which is a great aggravation of their injustice. Or, with vanity, i.e. with vain and frivolous pretences, or without any colour of reason or justice.

Verse 22

Who redeemed Abraham from manifold dangers, and especially from that idolatry in which his family and ancestors were generally involved, Joshua 24:2,Joshua 24:3.

Jacob; the Israelites or posterity of Jacob, who are oft called Jacob in Scripture, who had great cause to be ashamed, for their continued infidelity, and for their persecutions of God’s prophets and righteous servants, and for their rejection of their own Messiah; but shall at last be brought back unto the God of their fathers, and to their Messiah.

Neither shall his face now wax pale, through fear of their enemies, who, from time to time, have molested them; but now they shall be delivered from them all, and shall serve God without fear, as is said, Luke 1:74.

Verse 23

When he seeth his children; when the believing seed of Jacob shall see those children, whom they have begotten to God by the preaching of the gospel, even the Gentiles, converted by their ministry.

The work of mine hands; the children, not of the flesh, but of the promise, Romans 9:8, whom I, by my almighty power and grace, have created or regenerated, of stones raising up children to Abraham. In the midst of him; which Gentiles shall be incorporated with the Jews into one and the same body and church.

They shall sanctify my name; they shall not despise and hate the Gentiles, and envy them the grace of God, and an interest in their Messiah, but shall praise and glorify God with them and for them, as the believing Jews did, Acts 11:18.

Verse 24

They also that erred in spirit; those Gentiles whose spirits or minds were ignorant of and erred from God’s truth, and who were led aside by a lying spirit, or by the spirit of error and delusion, to idolatry, and all manner of impiety,

Shall come to understanding; shall come to the knowledge of the truth.

They that murmured shall learn doctrine; they that would not receive the doctrine of God, but murmured at God’s faithful prophets and teachers, who delivered it, which was the practice of divers, both Jews and Gentiles, shall now learn doctrine, and receive God’s truth in the love of it.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 29". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.