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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 33

Verses 1-24

Isaiah 33. Denunciation of the Treacherous Foe. Zion’ s Extremity, Yahweh’ s Opportunity.— If Isaiah’ s, the date is apparently 701, and the situation presupposed is Sennacherib’ s demand for unconditional surrender of Jerusalem after he had received an enormous tribute from Hezekiah. This breach of faith would cause the weeping of the ambassadors ( Isaiah 33:7). But the chapter is now usually regarded as post-exilic. The parallels in language are with late Psalms, and the list of non-Isaianic words and senses of words is considerable. Nor is it clear that the historical allusions suit the actual circumstances of Isaiah’ s time. But it would be very precarious in our almost complete ignorance of great stretches of the later history to argue that it must be Maccabean, even if we have reconciled ourselves to the belief that there are Maccabean elements in the Canon of the prophets (p. 425). We must accordingly leave the date indeterminate.

Isaiah 33:1-6 . Woe to the oppressor, retribution awaits him; let Yahweh be gracious to His waiting people in the daily renewal of their trouble. When He arises, the nations flee in dismay, the spoil shall be gathered as locusts gather it. Yahweh is exalted, He has brought about judgment and righteousness in Zion. In true religion the people is strong.

Isaiah 33:2 . their arm: it is simpler to read “ our arm” ( mg.) than to suppose that a line has dropped out containing an antecedent to “ their.”

Isaiah 33:6 . A verse of quite uncertain meaning.

Isaiah 33:7-13 . The ambassadors weep bitterly, for the foe has treacherously broken the agreement, despised the witnesses (so read for “ cities” ); travelling has become unsafe ( Judges 5:6), Nature mourns. Now Yahweh will exalt Himself, the futile plots of the enemy will prove their destruction, their furious rage will devour them, burning them as if to lime.

Isaiah 33:7 . valiant ones: perhaps their Ariels ( Isaiah 29:1 *) or God’ s lions, i.e. picked warriors, but the meaning is quite uncertain.

Isaiah 33:14-24 . Sinners in Zion are terrified at Yahweh’ s judgment, and wonder who can dwell as a guest ( Psalms 15:1 *) with the consuming flame ( Isaiah 31:9), the inextinguishable wrath. The answer is parallel to Psalms 15 and Psalms 26:3-6, and contains a beautiful description of the morality which will win the favour of Yahweh, and secure the safety of the pure and upright. He will be in an impregnable fortress amply provisioned. In that blessed future they will see their king in his splendour, his dominion stretching far and wide. They will think on the time of terror, now for ever passed. Where are the enemy’ s officials, those who collected the taxes and weighed the gold and silver and counted the towers? No longer will they see the foreigner and listen to his unintelligible speech. Zion is at peace, firm as an immovable tent. The river of Yahweh will take the place of the broad rivers and streams which protect other cities; no fleet will attack it, none be needed for defence. The ship of State is disabled, the slack ropes could not support the mast or spread the sail, but the Jews, all incapable of fighting as they seem, divide a great prey. Sickness shall be no more, sin shall be forgiven.

Isaiah 33:18 . counted the towers: perhaps to estimate the strength needed for an attack, perhaps to see which ought to be destroyed. The latter is preferable, since the verse deals not with invaders, but with foreign officials governing the country. Neither is satisfactory. Cheyne reads, “ Where are the tablet writers, where are the measuring clerks.”

Isaiah 33:21 a. Text uncertain; read perhaps, “ But there the river of Yahweh will be with us instead of broad streams.”

Isaiah 33:23 . This hardly suits the context, and may be a gloss.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Isaiah 33". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.