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the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 24

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



The doleful judgments of God upon the land. A remnant will joyfully praise him. God in his judgments shall advance his kingdom.

Before Christ 715.

THE third book of the prophesies of Isaiah, beginning with this chapter, and extending to the 36th, is divided into three discourses. The FIRST, contained in chap. 24-27. consists of a proposition, wherein is set forth the severe judgments of God upon a corrupt church, and the professed enemies of the true religion, chap. 24. And of the declaration of that proposition; consisting, first, of a twofold doxology, chap. Isaiah 25-26 and secondly, of a prophesy, chap. 27. The SECOND discourse, directed against the Ephraimites and Jews, is divided into three sections: the first respects both the Ephraimites and Jews, chap. 28, the second the Jews at Jerusalem, chap. 29, the third sets forth the fate of each nation, looking to Egypt for help, Isaiah 30—33. The THIRD discourse repeats, and more distinctly relates, the divine sentence against the nations and the prosecutors of the church, and the benefits of grace for the faithful, Isaiah 34-35.

Verse 1

Isaiah 24:1. Behold, &c.— The first section of the first discourse, contained, in this chapter, is twofold: the first member, which properly explains the judgments of God upon a corrupt people, extends to the middle of the 16th verse. The second, wherein also the judgment of God upon the enemies of the church is described, reaches to the end of the chapter. The description of the divine judgment in the former part, is contained in Isa 24:1-12 to which is subjoined a temperament or alleviation of that judgment, Isa 24:13 to middle of 16. The divine judgment, in the latter part, reaches from Isa 24:16-20 to which also is subjoined an alleviation of the punishment inflicted upon the enemies of the church, Isaiah 24:21-23. In describing the judgment of the former part there are six gradations, separated by the interposition of the cause of this judgment, Isaiah 24:5. In the latter part, the cause of the judgment occurs first, Isa 24:16 and then three gradations, with the last of which is mixed the cause of this judgment. Vitringa is of opinion, that this prophesy, in the letter, refers principally to the times of the Maccabees; but, as to its mystical sense, to the tremendous judgment of God to be passed upon the enemies of his church, at the latter times of the gospel-state, or at the opening of the sixth seal. See Revelation 6:12. It is doubtful when this prophesy was delivered; but from various circumstances we may conclude that it was not delivered before the death of Ahaz, or the beginning of the reign of Hezekiah. If, with Vitringa, we refer this prophesy to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, or the Maccabees, the earth, or rather the land here spoken of, must mean Judaea, which, by a total confusion of things both civil and ecclesiastical, was to undergo a grievous and sudden change, to be laid waste, spoiled, and deprived of its inhabitants, and that by the immediate judgment of the Lord; and this was remarkably the case with the land of Judaea in the times referred to. See 1Ma 1:26, &c. and 1Ma 2:49. Vitringa renders the verse,

Behold, the Lord exhausteth the land, and emptieth it, and turneth up its face, and scattereth the inhabitants thereof.

Verse 3

Isaiah 24:3. The land shall be utterly emptied, &c.— As the public calamities coming upon the land were to be repeated at various times, and in various manners, the sacred writer has accommodated his discourse to these calamities, and divided it into various articles and gradations, whereof this is the second; and it seems most probably to relate to the destruction of the temple, and the desolation of Judaea, by Antiochus Epiphanes; concerning which the reader may refer to his history in Josephus, Antiq. lib. xii. c. 7 and for the better understanding of this prophesy, we will beg leave to recommend a perusal and general comparison of the first book of Maccabees.

Verse 4

Isaiah 24:4. The earth mourneth and fadeth away The earth and the world, here spoken of, mean Judaea and the land of Syria. Heathen writers frequently speak of particular provinces and countries under the name of orbis, orbis habirabilis, and orbis terrarum. The haughty people of the land, or the height of the people, means the priests and magistrates, they who are highly exalted above others; concerning whom, and the mournful state of the land in general, hear the history: Therefore there was great mourning, in Israel, in every place where they were; so that the princes and the elders mourned, 1Ma 1:25-26. Vitringa.

Verse 5

Isaiah 24:5. The earth also is defiled, &c.— This verse describes, as in a parenthesis, the causes of the divine judgment upon the land, and shews us the true scene of the prophesy: the principal cause is the shedding of innocent blood, as well of their brethren, as of the professors of the true religion, against all laws human and divine, and the common rights of nature and nations; for this is the import of the expression, The earth is foully polluted under the inhabitants thereof. See Num 35:33 and ch. Isaiah 26:21. This was remarkably the case in the period referred to. See 1Ma 1:15 and 2Ma 8:2-4.

Verse 6

Isaiah 24:6. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth This verse contains the fourth gradation, and is well illustrated by Zechariah 5:1; Zechariah 5:11. The phrase are burned, refers to the internal consumption and decay. See Job 30:30. Psalms 69:3. The meaning of the prophet is, that the principal inhabitants of the land should waste away, be gradually consumed, and perish; whether dispersed by the public calamities, or reduced to poverty by the spoiling of their goods; so that few of them should remain, and they only of the poorer sort; and this was the face of things in Judaea at the time referred to.

Verses 7-9

Isaiah 24:7-9. The new wine mourneth In this fifth gradation we have a fine and pathetic description of a once flourishing land, entirely ruined and desolated by a destructive enemy. There is no difficulty in the words, nor in the fact, which is most notorious from history; for at this period, says the author of the book of Maccabees, there was so great mourning in Israel, that even every bridegroom took up lamentation, and she that sat in the marriage-chamber was in heaviness: Joy was taken from Jacob, and the pipe with the harp ceased. 1Ma 1:27; 1Ma 3:45.

Verses 10-12

Isaiah 24:10-12. The city of confusion, &c.— We have here the sixth gradation, which requires no other comment than to be compared with the history, 1Ma 3:45, &c. See also ch. Isa 16:8-10 which will explain the phrase, There is a crying for wine in the streets. Wine here denotes the matter of joy and mirth, as appears from the next words; There is a crying for want of wine; i.e. for the want of that joy and mirth which is produced by wine. See Vitringa.

Verses 13-15

Isaiah 24:13-16. When thus it shall be Or, But yet thus shall it be in the middle of the land among the people, like as upon the threshing of the olive, and as the gleaning of grapes, &c. [see chap. Isaiah 17:6.] Isaiah 24:14. They shall lift up their voice; they shall sing, for the majesty of Jehovah, &c.

Isaiah 24:15. Wherefore in the distant coasts glorify ye Jehovah, &c. [See 1Ma 1:53; 1Ma 2:31, &c.]

Verse 16

Isaiah 24:16. From the extremity of the land we hear songs, "To the righteous glory." These words contain the alleviation of the preceding judgment; and their reference to the history of the Maccabees is abundantly plain. The sum of them is this, "It shall come to pass, that while the whole land of Judaea, at this time part of Syria, shall be laid waste, its inhabitants in general being either killed or carried into captivity, or scattered by flight into the islands of the Mediterranean sea, or Egypt itself, and others lurking in dens and caves, in the extremities of southern Judaea,—Judas Maccabeus, with his brothers, shall arise, a captain and a leader, who, after having conquered, by the divine help, the enemies of his country in several battles, and purified the temple for three years deserted, and spread far and wide the same of his exploits, shall shine as an unexpected light upon the Jews, the lovers of their country and religion; who, whether they had fled to Cyprus, Cilicia, Egypt, or the isles of the Mediterranean sea, or whether they yet fearfully lurked in the dens and caves of Judaea, shall all unite to praise the supreme grace and power of God, and to acknowledge the virtues of Judas Maccabeus and his brothers." We have seen from former parts of the Jewish history, particularly that of David, an account of the remarkable caverns with which Judaea abounded; and which, we learn from the history of the Maccabees, were much frequented in those disastrous times.

Isaiah 24:16. But I said, My leanness, my leanness But I said, Leanness to me, leanness to me! The latter part of the first section begins at this verse, which contains the prophet's introduction, together with the cause of a new judgment, which he was about to denounce. Having set forth, in the former verses, the pleasing appearances of restoration to the people of God, a new calamity presents itself before him, namely, the mournful death of Judas Maccabeus, with its melancholy consequences: upon which he bursts forth into words strongly expressive of the perturbation of his mind, Leanness to me, leanness to me: as much as to say, that upon the appearance of this new calamity, he was full of horror and trembling; whatever was florid in his flesh fell, and grew pale; his limbs became flaccid, and his former appearance was lost and changed (Comp. ch. Isaiah 10:16. Psalms 109:24.). The following words are so constructed, as to raise in us a sense of the highest perfidy and injustice with which that pious people, who had just now been raised to better hopes, should be oppressed. See Jeremiah 12:1. The history of the period here referred to will very much elucidate the prophet. See 1Ma 7:1; 1Ma 7:18; 1Ma 9:20-27.

Verses 17-18

Isaiah 24:17-18. Fear, and the pit, and the snare The prophet proceeds to set forth the judgment itself, with its various gradations, the first of which is contained in these verses. The meaning is, that it should be a time of extreme straits and difficulties in which every one should be so surrounded with various dangers, that if he escaped one, he would easily fall into another, and undoubtedly perish. See Jer 48:43 and Amos 5:19. There is a remarkable elegance in the original of the 17th verse, and great sublimity in the latter clause of the 18th, where the ideas and expressions are taken from the deluge, and are strongly expressive of that deluge of divine wrath which should fall upon, and totally overwhelm the apostate enemies of their religion and country. See Josephus, and the history of those times.

Verses 19-20

Isaiah 24:19-20. The earth is utterly broken down The prophet here, in the most chosen metaphorical expressions, describes a mighty earthquake, by which the land of Asia, Syria, Judaea, depressed by the divine judgments, should be vehemently shaken. The 20th verse should be rendered in the present tense, like the 19th. The land reels to and fro like a drunkard, and is shaken like a cottage in a garden; [chap. Isaiah 1:8.] because the transgression thereof is heavy upon it, and it falls, and shall not rise again. Earthquakes, metaphorically taken in Scripture, denote those great and hurtful changes which happen in the world or the church. We learn, however, that at the period here referred to there was a remarkably great earthquake, by which, as Justin informs us, lib. 40: cap. 2 a hundred and seventy thousand men and many cities were destroyed.

Verses 21-22

Isaiah 24:21-22. And it shall come to pass in that day The prophet continues to describe the terrible judgments of God, whereby the profane, the hypocrites, and the persecutors of the true religion, should be punished about the same time wherein we fix the scene of this prophesy. By the host of the high ones on high, some understand the kings of Assyria; but Vitringa thinks that it is plain beyond dispute, particularly from Daniel 8:10; Dan 8:27 that the profane and apostate priests are here meant, as the kings are spoken of in the next clause. See on Isaiah 24:4. The phrase, After many days shall they be visited, at the end of the 22nd verse, signifies, that many days, or a long time, after the delivery of this prophesy, the patrons here spoken of should be punished according to the prediction; as appears from the same phrase used in this sense, Ezekiel 38:8. The history of the times fully confirms this exposition, as appears from the unhappy end of Jason, Menelaus, Antiochus Epiphanes, and many others. See 2Ma 5:8-9. 1Ma 9:55-56, &c.

Verse 23

Isaiah 24:23. Then the moon shall be confounded In this verse we have the alleviation or consequence of this judgment, with respect to the church. The simple sense of the words is plain, namely, that at the time, or after the time, wherein God should take vengeance upon the enemies of his people, his kingdom, restored and reformed, should shine more gloriously than the sun and moon in their orbs, when they appear in the greatest splendor and majesty to the eyes of men; which was remarkably the case under the Asmonean princes. The interior and recondite sense is, that at the time in which God should take the kingdom, not typically, but truly, it should come to pass that a certain mystical sun, and mystical moon, should be obscured, and cease to shine. See Joel 2:31. Rev 6:13 and Matthew 24:29. The sun, and moon, and stars, &c. in the mystical language of Scripture, signify political rulers of states, as we have had occasion to observe before. The mystical explication of this prophesy is to be drawn from that part of the revelation to which we have before referred, and which shall be enlarged upon when we come to that part of the New Testament.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The immediate subject of this prophesy is Judaea; but in its most extensive sense may include the constant desolations which, by wars, are made in the earth; and may foretel the ruin of antichrist.

1. The earth, either the land of Judaea in particular, or the world in general, is represented in such confusion and desolation, as in its chaotic state; emptied of inhabitants, as a vessel turned upside down, without distinction of age, sex, station, or office, utterly spoiled and wasted, mourning under the judgments inflicted, fading like a flower, languishing as one under a severe disease, burnt up as with fire, and so desolate that few men remain. The proud and haughty are laid low before the heavy scourge. The fruit of the vine is destroyed by the inclement seasons, or the trees cut down by the ravagers; and those who spent in jollity the day, now sigh out their inconsolable sorrows. All joyful sounds are banished, and music is forgotten amid the dreary scene. The songs of the board of feasting are at an end, and strong drink no longer pleasant, when mingled with their tears, or become tasteless through their sickness and diseases. The city of confusion is broken down, the houses empty, the inhabitants slain by famine or the sword, and none remaining. Reduced to the deepest distress, their stores fail them in the siege, their joys are fled, their hopes desperate. Desolation reigns through the city, and the defences are ruined. If this be applied to Judaea, it paints the terrible destruction made by Antiochus, or, as some will have it, by Nebuchadnezzar; if to the fall of antichrist, we may see the like judgments predicted, Revelation 18:0. It should teach us, [1.] The vanity of the creature, and the necessity of seeking a better portion than that which is so transitory and uncertain. [2.] Death is continually making its ravages, we need be always ready. [3.] We should rejoice as if we rejoiced not, when we stand thus daily in jeopardy of having our joy turned into mourning. [4.] If the priest join the people in their iniquities, he will be the first and deepest in the punishment which God threatens to inflict.

2. The cause of this judgment is sin, provoking most justly the divine wrath and indignation. They have transgressed God's laws, changed his ordinances and worship in opposition to his prescribed appointment, and broken the everlasting covenant, and therefore the curse of God terribly descends. This was fully verified in the Jews, whose disobedience to God's laws, and instituted ordinances of worship, brought on their ruin, and forfeited all the mercies promised in the everlasting covenant of grace. Nor less applicable is it to the Romish church, where dispensations for sin gave a licence for iniquity, and all the ordinances of Christ are corrupted, or mutilated, and the Scriptures themselves perverted.
2nd, In the midst of the desolations threatened, a few escape the general ruin.
1. They are like the berries left on the olive tree, after it has been shaken; and like the gleaning grapes, one here and there, which escaped observation when the rest were gathered for the vintage. Note; (1.) God has had a people, when iniquity has been most prevalent. (2.) Whatever judgments he inflicts, they shall be hid in the day of his fierce anger.

2. A sense of the mercy manifested in their deliverance will awaken their gratitude and praise. Into whatever distant lands they may have been dispersed, they shall sing for the majesty of the Lord, magnified now in the destruction of their enemies. Note; The people of God will never want matter for their praise. In the days of deepest visitation, to the godly there riseth up light in the darkness.

3. They endeavour to improve these judgments, exhorting each other to glorify the Lord in the fires, or the vallies, in the sharpest pangs of sorrow, and the lowest state of abasement; acknowledging their suffering to be the just desert of their sins, and humbling themselves for them before God, in the most distant isles of the sea, whither they fled. Note; (1.) They who are God's people cannot but be zealous for his glory. (2.) When we are in the furnace of affliction, we have a peculiar call to consider our ways, and turn unto the Lord. (3.) We glorify God especially, when in our deepest distresses we trust his promises.

This may be evidently applied to the Jewish people; among whom, in the worst times, God had a few who feared and loved him; and when he turned their captivity under Cyrus, and when they conquered under Judas Maccabeus, they saw their oppressors fallen, and, in the places whither they had been dispersed, glorified God for his mercy remembered in the midst of judgment. But it may also regard the faithful, under the oppression of antichrist, preserved for God, Rev 18:4 rejoicing at the fall of Rome, Rev 19:1-3 whereof the isles of the sea, and our own particularly, will be glad, and glorify God for his righteous judgments.

3rdly, The words from Isa 24:16 th to the conclusion of the chapter may be well applied to the ruin of Babylon, and the joy of the Jews on their return thence; but more particularly refer to the conquests of the Maccabees over the armies of Antiochus; or, which seems still an infinitely more noble view of the prophesy, to the triumphs of the saints, when Christ shall have subdued every foe, and shall reign over his ancients gloriously in the new Jerusalem.

1. The joy of the faithful in all lands is heard, giving glory to the righteous, to the Lord Jesus Christ, for the propagation of his Gospel, and the subdual of the enemies of the Christian name, Rev 19:1-7 or saying glory to the righteous ones, who, oppressed and persecuted as they had been, now will shine as stars in the firmament for ever and ever.

2. The prophet mourns on the prospect of the evil days which should precede the coming of Christ, when such perfidy would reign among men, and so general a departure from God prevail, that he should scarcely find faith in the earth. Note; The true prophets cannot behold a wicked world without feeling distress for their impending miseries.

3. The perplexity and distress of men's minds, Luk 21:25-35 at the approach of the day of Christ, are described by an elegant paronomasia. פחד Pachad, פחת pachath, פח pach; fear, the pit, the snare are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth; no place affords shelter or refuge for the sinner's soul. Note; When the day of the Lord cometh, it will be too late to fly, and impossible to escape. The way to prevent our terrors is, now to fly to the arms of Jesus for pardon and grace, that then we may confidently appear before our Judge.

4. The destruction of the world may be considered as represented here. It is utterly shaken in pieces, and reduced to its chaotic state of confusion, removed as a cottage, and doomed to eternal desolations, for the heavy iniquity which lies thereon, Revelation 20:11. Note; Sin is the burden under which the world groans; to this origin may every evil we suffer be traced, for this is the curse upon the earth.

5. As an introduction to that great day, God will punish the hosts of the high ones that are on high, the king of Babylon, the kings of Assyria, and all the apostate priests; and also the man of sin, who exalteth himself above all that is called God, surrounded by an army of monks and friars, his champions: and the kings of the earth, who have subjected themselves under his dominion, and make war against the saints, to support the usurpations of the idolatrous church of Rome, Rev 17:2-14 being vanquished and subdued, they shall be shut up as prisoners in the pit, reserved in chains of darkness to the judgment of the great day, when they shall finally receive their doom.

6. The glorious triumphs of the Redeemer will appear, when all the powers of earth are fallen before him, represented by the sun and moon. Then will he reign before his ancients gloriously, or his ancients in glory, reigning with him, and made to sit down together on his eternal throne. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such, the second death hath no power. See Revelation 20:0.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 24". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/isaiah-24.html. 1801-1803.
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