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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 30

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3279. B.C. 725.

The prophecy of this chapter, like that of the preceding, relates to the approaching danger of Jerusalem by Sennacherib’s invasion.

(1,) Those who, in that distress, trusted to the Egyptians for help, and were in haste to fetch succours from thence, are reproved and threatened, Isaiah 30:1-7 .

(2,) A terrible threatening is denounced against those who slighted the important advice given them by the prophets in the name of God, Isaiah 30:8-17 .

(3,) A gracious promise is made to those who trusted in God, that they should not only be brought out of their troubles, but should see happy days after them, in the enjoyment of both temporal and spiritual blessing’s, Isaiah 30:18-26 .

(4,) A prophecy of the total ruin of the Assyrian army, which should be an occasion of great joy, and an introduction to those happy times, Isaiah 30:27-33 .

Verses 1-5

Isaiah 30:1-5. Wo to the rebellious children The Jews, who called themselves God’s children, though they were rebellious ones, as was said Isaiah 1:2. That take counsel That consult together, and resolve what to do; but not of me Not following nor asking my advice, which I encouraged and commanded them to do. And cover with a covering Seek protection; but not of my Spirit Not such as by my Spirit, speaking in my word, I have directed and required them to seek; that they may add sin to sin That unto all their other sins, by which they have deserved and provoked my judgments, they may add distrust of my power and mercy, and put confidence in an arm of flesh. That walk to go down into Egypt That send ambassadors to Egypt for succour, which the Jews were prone to do upon all occasions, and did now upon the invasion of the king of Assyria, chap. 20:5, 6; and have not asked at my mouth Either by the priests or prophets, as they were commanded to do in weighty cases. The strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame Not only unprofitable, but mischievous to you. For his princes The princes of Judah; were at Zoan Sent thither by the king, or by their brethren. His ambassadors came to Hanes An eminent city of Egypt, called more largely Tahapanes. They were all ashamed Both the messengers and they who sent them; of a people that could not profit them For, though the Egyptians, in conjunction with the Ethiopians, did so far assist the Jews as to give a diversion to Sennacherib’s forces; yet, being entirely routed, they became rather a burden than a help to the Jews, and are therefore ( Isa 36:6 ) compared to a broken reed, which not only fails the hand that leans upon it, but pierces and wounds it.

Verses 6-7

Isaiah 30:6-7. The burden of the beasts of the south The burden of riches or treasures, carried upon beasts travelling southward. In these verses the prophet has before his eyes “the ambassadors of the Jews, or, as some think, also of Hosea, and the Ephraimites, (see 2 Kings 17:4,) bearing their splendid and sumptuous presents on asses and camels into Egypt; and perceiving that they would reap no advantage from this proud and sumptuous embassy, and that the whole would be fruitless, or rather would raise the indignation of the Assyrians, he cannot refrain, but exhibits, to the life, the whole scheme of this imprudence, folly, and incredulity, as it was immediately presented to his prophetic sight, with its shameful and sorrowful event.” Into the land of trouble and anguish Into Egypt and Ethiopia, for both were joined together in this matter, (see chap. 20.,) whose land seems to be called a land of trouble, &c., prophetically, because they should distress and not help those that applied to and trusted in them, as was said of the Assyrians in the like case, 2 Chronicles 28:20. Bishop Lowth, who supposes that the deserts are here meant, which the Israelites passed through when they came out of Egypt, renders it, by, or through a land of distress, &c. But it seems more likely, as it certainly was more important, that the land to which, than that through which, they went, should be spoken of. Besides, the direct road from Judea to Egypt was not through such a country as is here described. From whence come the young and old lion, &c. This may be understood literally, for “Egypt, at this time, joined to Ethiopia, was, of all countries, most fertile of every fierce and wild creature, which the nature of man abhors, both terrestrial and aquatic.” See Boch. Hieroz., p. 2:1. 3. c. 13. The words, however, may have a higher and mystical meaning, and by these wild and savage creatures may be designed the craft and cruelty of the Egyptians and Ethiopians, and the danger and injury the Jews, or Israelites, would bring upon themselves by a confederacy with them. Therefore have I cried concerning this This counsel, or practice; their strength is to sit still It is safer and better for them to stay quietly at home, seeking to God for help, than to go or send to Egypt for it.

Verses 8-11

Isaiah 30:8-11. Now go, write it before them Write this prophecy and warning, which I have now delivered, in their presence; in a table, and in a book So it was to be written twice over, once in a table, to be hung up in some public place, that all present might read it; and again in a book, that it might be kept for the use of posterity. That it may be for the time to come As a witness for me and against them, that I have given them fair warning, and that they have wilfully run upon their own ruin. That they are lying children Who profess one thing, and practise another; that will not hear the law of the Lord The commands of God, either contained in the Scriptures, or delivered by the mouth of the prophets, whereby these practices were expressly forbidden them. Which say to the seers, See not, &c. This they said in effect, in that they were not willing to know and do the will of God. They loved darkness rather than light. Prophesy not unto us right things The prophets told them of their faults, and warned them of their misery and danger, but they could not bear it. They wanted smooth things to be spoken to them, things that would give them no pain, but please their corrupt minds, and flatter them in their sins. Get ye out of the way In which you now walk, out of your present course of preaching unpleasing and frightful things; or, out of our way. For the prophets stood in their way, like the angel in Balaam’s road, with the sword of God’s wrath drawn in their hands, so that these sinners could not proceed on in their sinful practices without terror; and this they took heinously. Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us Do not trouble us with harsh and repeated messages from God, as you use to do.

Verses 12-14

Isaiah 30:12-14. Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression In the wealth which you have gotten by oppression, whereby you now think to procure Egyptian succours; and perverseness In your perverse and rebellious course of sending to Egypt for help. This iniquity shall be to you as a breach, &c. Like a wall, which is high, and seems to be strong, but, swelling out in some parts, upon the least accident falleth down suddenly to the ground. Such shall be the issue of your high and towering confidence in Egypt. And he shall break it Namely, God, or the enemy whom God will send against you.

Verses 15-17

Isaiah 30:15-17. In returning From your present purpose of sending to Egypt; or, as the LXX., the Syriac, and Arabic understand it, in returning to God; shall ye be saved Preserved from the power of your enemies. In quietness and confidence In a calm and quiet submission to the divine will, and a confidence placed on his mercy, power, and faithfulness; shall be your strength Your support under your troubles, and your ability to withstand your invaders. But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; on the swift We will have swift horses from Egypt, that, in case of danger, we may escape from our enemies. It is probable many of the richer sort intended to flee, and perhaps did actually flee into Egypt, having sent their treasures thither before them. Therefore shall ye flee Your sin shall be your punishment: you will flee, and you shall flee. One thousand at the rebuke of one You shall be so dispirited and enervated by your fears, that, instead of one of you chasing a thousand, as God promised you should do, if you were obedient, a thousand of you shall be chased by one of your enemies. At the rebuke, or assault, of five Of a comparatively small number; shall ye flee All of you, however numerous; till ye be left, &c. Till ye be generally destroyed, and but a few of you left. “The meaning of the whole period is, that if the Jews, in the uncertain state of their affairs, would abstain from all endeavours to defend themselves by foreign aid, and would commit themselves to the care and providence of God, with settled minds, in faith and hope, they should then be safe, and avoid the calamities which threatened them.” But this they would not do; they were determined to seek for preservation or deliverance from the yoke of the Assyrians in the help of the Egyptians, and therefore it is foretold they should meet with the calamities here mentioned; and “should be seized with such a panic fear that, when they came to the point, they should turn their backs on their enemies, and flee with that swiftness wherewith they had thought to make their enemies flee, insomuch that very few of them should escape the common destruction.”

Verse 18

Isaiah 30:18. And therefore Because of your great misery: for the misery of God’s people is frequently mentioned in Scripture as a motive to God’s mercy: or, notwithstanding, as לכן may be rendered; will the Lord wait Patiently expect your repentance, and stop the course of his proceedings against you, that you may have an opportunity of making your peace with him, and of preventing your utter ruin. He will be exalted He will lift up himself, and exert his power gloriously in your behalf; that he may have mercy upon you That he may show his mercy in your deliverance. For the Lord is a God of judgment That is, he is wise and just in all the dispensations of his providence, acting toward his people with equity and moderation. Blessed are all they that wait for him In the way of their duty, with faith and patience; that will not take any indirect course to extricate themselves out of their straits, but patiently expect God to appear for them in his own way and time: which is a much surer way to safety and happiness than having recourse to mere human aids, and placing confidence in the arm of flesh.

Verse 19

Isaiah 30:19. For, &c. “The consolatory part of this discourse begins here, which is connected with the preceding part by the last clause of the former verse, Blessed, &c. Here follows, therefore, a series of excellent blessings, to be conferred by God after these judgments. And the prophet hath so ordered his style in setting them forth, that when he seems to promise only temporal blessings to the church, he would be understood mystically under these figurative emblems.” Vitringa. The people shall dwell in Zion, &c. This is the first of these blessings, the restoration of their state upon their repentance and earnest prayers: as if he had said, Although the time is coming when the people shall be banished from Jerusalem and carried into captivity; yet after a set time they shall return and have a fixed and comfortable abode in Jerusalem, the seat of their religion, and metropolis of their republic. This was in part fulfilled upon their return from Babylon, “when the tears which they had shed in their banishment were wiped away, and God heard the prayers and vows of his people, after the time of his indignation was expired.” But it was more fully accomplished in the times of the gospel, when many of them were, and the whole body of them shall be, brought into Christ’s church, often called Zion and Jerusalem.

Verses 20-21

Isaiah 30:20-21. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity Although in that time and state of the church you will be subject to many outward straits and afflictions, which was the case with the Jews after their restoration from Babylon, and which was also the lot of the first converts to Christianity; yet shall not thy teachers be removed, &c. As they have been in former times, both in Israel and Judah, when the godly prophets, and other instructers of the people, were but few, and when they were persecuted and banished by their wicked rulers. The Jews, after their return from Babylon, were blessed with many excellent instructers, as appears from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, at the head of which we must place these two eminent servants of God. In the times of the New Testament, however, God provided still better for his church, sending his Son, the great teacher of his people, into the world; and pouring forth the gifts and graces of the Spirit in abundance, increasing the number of faithful ministers, and promising a continued succession of them to the end of the world. This is the second great benefit predicted by the prophet to follow these judgments. Thine eyes shall see thy teachers They shall be present in your assemblies, instructing, exhorting, warning, and encouraging you from time to time. The original word, מורים , here used, means ordinary teachers, and not those of an extraordinary kind, such as the prophets or seers were. And thine ears shall hear a word, &c. As often as need shall require, thou shalt hear the voice of God’s word and Spirit directing thee in thy course: behind thee A metaphor, borrowed either from shepherds, who used to follow their sheep, and to recall them when they went out of the way; or from travellers, who, if they go out of the right way, are ofttimes admonished of their error, and recalled by some other passenger or person behind them.

Verse 22

Isaiah 30:22. Ye shall also To show your contempt of it; defile the covering of thy graven images The leaves or plates, wherewith their wooden images were frequently covered: and the ornament of thy molten images Or, the coat, or covering; Hebrew, אפדת , the ephod, as the word is rendered, Exodus 28:8; and Exodus 39:5; which was a costly and glorious robe. The images also were of gold: for the idolaters spared no cost in the making and adorning of their idols. Thou shalt cast them away, &c. Thou shalt so deeply abhor idolatry that thou shalt cast away, with indignation, all the monuments and instruments thereof. This prophecy was fulfilled in some measure even before the Assyrian invasion, as we learn from 2 Chronicles 31:1; Hezekiah inciting the people to destroy idolatry out of the land. Probably it was fulfilled still more upon the deliverance of Jerusalem from Sennacherib’s army, which, doubtless, would convince thousands of individuals of the almighty power of Jehovah, of the impotence of idols, and the sin and folly of worshipping them. But it was verified in the whole body of the Jewish nation, at their return from their captivity in Babylon, for they abhorred idols ever after. Add to this, it is accomplished daily in the conversion of souls, by the power of divine grace, from spiritual idolatry, to the fear and love of God. This deliverance from the love and practice of idolatry is the third blessing here represented as being conferred on the people, after the forementioned judgments. In the two following verses we have a fourth.

Verses 23-24

Isaiah 30:23-24. Then shall he give thee the rain of thy seed Or rather, to, or for thy seed, namely, when thou hast newly sown it, which was called the former rain; or, such as thy seed requires, which may include both the former and the latter rain. Their sins, the cause of all God’s judgments, being removed by their sincere repentance and God’s gracious pardon, God showers down his blessings upon them. “When he gives them their teachers,” says Henry, “and they give him their hearts, so that they begin to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, then all other things are added unto them.” And bread of the increase of the earth Which shall be the fruit of thy own land and labour. And it shall be fat and plenteous Excellent for quality, which is called fat, Deuteronomy 32:14, and abundant for quantity. This promise, by the special blessing of God, was remarkably fulfilled after the defeat of Sennacherib, (Isaiah 37:30,) God thus repairing the losses they sustained by that devastation. The oxen likewise, &c., shall eat clean provender There shall be such plenty of corn that the very beasts, instead of straw, shall eat corn; and that not in the ear, or with the straw, but the pure grain. Vitringa, with some other commentators, thinks it appears plainly, from the next two verses, that the prophet is to be understood in this passage as speaking, not so much literally as figuratively, and that the words contain a splendid promise of pure and abundant spiritual provision, made by the Lord for his people, in the ministry of the word, the spiritual sowing; the effusions of his Spirit, the rain of the seed; and in the due administration of his various ordinances, the large pastures in which his flock feeds.

Verse 25

Isaiah 30:25. On every high mountain, and every high hill Which are commonly dry and barren; shall be rivers and streams of water Fertilizing and refreshing blessings, showered down by God upon his church and people. This verse certainly cannot be understood literally, and the mystical meaning, according to Vitringa and some others, is, “that in all the more celebrated places, whether of kingdoms or cities, there should be synagogues, public schools, or oratories, in which the word of God, and the doctrine of pure religion, should be copiously taught, and the waters of sound instruction poured out,” so that the lovers of true wisdom, piety, and virtue, might there quench their thirst. The time in which these benefits should be conferred upon the church is denoted by this character, namely, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers shall fall That is, when God should take severe vengeance upon the enemies of his people. Perhaps the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple, with the subversion of the Jewish state, and the slaughter of immense multitudes of Jews, events connected with the calling of the Gentiles, and the extensive propagation of the gospel, might be first in the prophet’s view. The words may further refer to the overthrow of the pagan, persecuting Roman empire, and the great slaughter that preceded or accompanied it. But, undoubtedly, the words ultimately refer to the destruction of all the antichristian powers, the subversion of the fortresses and towers of Satan’s kingdom, making way for the universal diffusion of divine truth and spread of true religion. “This shall be remarkably fulfilled,” says Lowth, “at the time when there shall be a terrible destruction of God’s enemies, (Revelation 14:20; Revelation 19:21,) and when the great ones of the earth shall fall, denoted here by high towers, or the fortifications of mystical Babylon.”

Verse 26

Isaiah 30:26. The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun For constancy and brightness, which, as also the following clause, is to be understood metaphorically, of that glorious and happy state of the church which should take place in future times. And the light of the sun seven- fold, as the light of seven days As if the light of seven days were combined together in one. Its light shall then be transcendently more bright and glorious than ever it was before. Which magnificent expressions seem evidently to be too high for the deliverance of the Jews, either from Sennacherib or out of Babylon; and do much better agree to the times of the gospel, in which the light is far more clear, and the grace of God conferred on his people much more abundant, than ever it was in former times. In the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, &c. When God shall effectually cure the wounds and breaches of his people, first making up the breach between himself and them, then making Israel and Judah to be one, and making Jews and Gentiles to be one fold under one shepherd.

Verses 27-28

Isaiah 30:27-28. Behold, &c. Here begins the last part of the discourse contained in this chapter, in which the prophet gives an earnest of those greater blessings promised, for times to come, by assuring his people of the approaching destruction of the Assyrian forces. “It is an exquisitely fine and sublime passage, and closely connected with the argument and scope of the whole discourse, in that it teaches that the Jews and Israelites had no need to flee to Egypt for help against the Assyrians, to the neglect of their duty toward God, since God was perfectly sufficient to defend them, and had determined to destroy the Assyrian.” Vitringa. The name of the Lord is here put for the Lord himself, and he is said to come from far, either as coming unexpectedly, or as having for a long time appeared to withdraw his presence, and withhold his help from his people; burning with anger Determined to take signal vengeance on his enemies. And the burden thereof is heavy The punishment which he will inflict will prove very grievous and intolerable. His lips are full of indignation He hath pronounced a severe sentence against them, and will give command for the execution of it. And his breath His anger, or rather, the effects thereof; (the expression is borrowed from men’s discovering their anger by strong and vehement breathing; see on Job 4:9;) as an overflowing stream Coming from him as vehemently as a mighty torrent of waters; shall reach to the midst of the neck Shall bring the Assyrian into a most dangerous condition, as a man, who is in waters which reach to his neck, is in great danger of being drowned; see on Isaiah 8:8. To sift the nations with the sieve of vanity To shake and scatter, as it were, with a sieve, the Assyrian army, made up of the people of different nations. “Vanity,” says Lowth, “sometimes signifies destruction: so Isaiah 57:13. Vanity shall take them, that is, they shall be destroyed. And here the sieve of vanity is such a one as doth not separate the chaff in order to save the corn, but makes an entire riddance, as when chaff is scattered before the wind.” Bishop Lowth translates the clause, To toss the nations with the van of perdition, judging that נפה rather signifies a van than a sieve, and observing from Kimchi, “The use of the van is to cleanse the corn from the chaff and straw: but the van with which God will winnow the nations, will be the van of emptiness or perdition; for nothing useful shall remain behind, but all shall come to nothing, and perish. In like manner a bridle is designed to guide the horse in the right way; but the bridle which God will put in the jaws of the people, shall not direct them aright, but shall make them err, and lead them into destruction.”

Verses 29-31

Isaiah 30:29-31. Ye shall have a song, &c. You shall have occasion of great joy, and of singing songs of praise for your stupendous deliverance from that formidable enemy; as in the night, &c. He mentions the night, either because the Jewish feasts began in the evening, and were celebrated with great joy during a part of the night, as well as on the following day; or because he has a particular respect to the solemnity of the passover, in which they spent some considerable part of the night in rejoicing, and singing sacred songs before the Lord. As when one goeth, &c. Like the joy of one that is going up to the solemn feasts with music. The Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard His thunder, metaphorically taken for a terrible judgment. “This destruction shall be from the immediate hand of God, in which he shall as evidently appear as if he had discomfited the army by a tempest of thunder, and lightning, and hail-stones, as he formerly destroyed the Canaanites and Philistines.” Lowth. And show the lighting down of his arm Upon the Assyrian, whom he will smite with a deadly blow in the face of the world; with the indignation of his anger With great wrath; which is signified by heaping so many words of the same signification together. The Assyrian, who smote with a rod Who was the rod wherewith God smote his people and other nations: he who used to smite others shall now be smitten himself.

Verse 32

Isaiah 30:32. Where the grounded staff shall pass Instead of משׂה מוסדה , the grounded, or founded staff, of which, he says, no one yet has been able to make any tolerable sense. Bishop Lowth, on the authority of two MSS, (one of them ancient,) reads משׂה מופרה , the staff of correction, which Le Clerc also supposes to be the true reading. The bishop, therefore, translates the clause thus: And it shall be, that wherever shall pass the rod of correction, which Jehovah shall lay heavily upon him, it shall be accompanied with tabrets and harps; that is, as the bishop explains it, “with every demonstration of joy and thanksgiving for the destruction of the enemy in so wonderful a manner: with hymns of praise, accompanied with musical instruments.” And in battles of shaking, &c. Or, as it may be better rendered, in fierce or tremendous battles shall he, namely, the Lord, fight against them, that is, against the Assyrians.

Verse 33

Isaiah 30:33. For Tophet is ordained of old “Tophet is a valley very near to Jerusalem, to the southeast, called also the valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna; where the Canaanites, and afterward the Israelites, sacrificed their children, by making them pass through the fire; that is, by burning them in the fire, to Moloch.” It is supposed to have been called Tophet, from the drums, timbrels, or tabrets, which sounded there, to drown the cries of the children thus inhumanly murdered: see notes on Leviticus 18:21; 2 Kings 23:10; and Joshua 15:8. Hence the word “is used for a place of punishment by fire, and by our Saviour in the gospel for hell-fire, as the Jews themselves had applied it.” As the place had been thus polluted by idolatry, Josiah, to render it as despicable and abominable as possible, ordered the filth of the city and dead carcasses to be thrown there, and made it a common burying-place. There also fires were kept continually burning, as the Jews say, to consume dead bodies, bones, and such sordid things. Vitringa justly observes, “that Tophet must be understood here, not in a literal, but in a figurative sense, for the place of punishment to be inflicted upon the Assyrians, by the burning indignation of God; in the same manner as gehenna denotes the place of punishment of the reprobate: that the fire and much wood denote the matter of the punishment destined for the king of Assyria and his army, as well with respect to its nature and effect, as its cause: see Revelation 19:20. The making the valley deep and large, signifies the same as the pile constructed of much wood; namely, the greatness of the destruction to be spread through the extensive army of the Assyrian; and indeed it was necessary this valley and this pile should be large, to contain one hundred and eighty-five thousand men. The meaning of the phrase, ordained of old, is, that God had absolutely fixed and determined this event. It was prepared for the king; whereby the prophet shows, that his army first, and Sennacherib himself afterward, should become obnoxious to the divine judgment. And the last phrase, the breath of the Lord, &c., alludes to the destroying angel, the executors of his judgment: see Isaiah 10:17. This is the literal interpretation of the words, wherein the prophet represents the Assyrian destruction as the type of that of all the enemies and persecutors of the church; and further, these destructions as a figure of the infernal fire, wherein the unbelieving and cruel persecutors of the church shall be tormented for ever, and which is said to be prepared for the devil and his angels,” Matthew 25:41.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 30". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/isaiah-30.html. 1857.
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