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What joy shall be in the midst of afflictions, by the kingdom and birth of Christ. The judgments upon Israel for their pride, for their hypocrisy, and for their impenitency.
Before Christ 740.
Isaiah 9:1-2. Nevertheless the dimness, &c.— The prophet having said, in the 20th verse of the preceding chapter, that they who directed not themselves according to the canon of the divine law should have no light; two things were involved in his discourse: The first, that there would be very many among the Jews, to whom the Messiah, arising with his new light, would be an offence; who would reject his salutary doctrine, and should therefore fall into the most grievous calamities, and thick darkness. And secondly, that there would be others to whom the Messiah would truly appear with the light of grace and consolation, and who would receive him with the greatest joy, as attaining the summit of their hope and desire. The two preceding verses contain the description of the former: see also Isa 9:15 of that chapter. The description of the latter is contained in the first seven verses of this chapter, where the prophet confirms and illustrates his consolatory doctrine, concerning the rising of the light, or the morning, (chap. Isaiah 8:20.) and the Messiah as the Jehovah, the future sanctuary, and illustrious teacher. See chap. Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 8:16-18. This is the connection of the discourse, and of the particle לא כי ki lo, rendered nevertheless, which is to be referred to the 20th verse of the preceding chapter. With respect to this period, it is two-fold: The first part comprehends a prophesy, concerning the rising of this great teacher, and the place of his rising,—in these two verses; the latter sets forth the consequence of this rising, the joy of the pious, with a new declaration of the benefit, Isaiah 9:3-7. The first verse is extremely difficult. Vitringa renders it thus: But thick darkness shall not be upon her that was in distress. In former times, he debased the land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali; but in after-times, he honoured her by the way of the sea beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. After the prophet had described the infelicity of those who should reject the Messiah, he here changes his style, to describe the felicity of those on whom the Sun of Righteousness should arise, setting forth their joy and the cause of it. He had before his eyes the illustrious teacher to be manifested in Judea; and, foreseeing that this light of the nation would arise in Galilee, he speaks thus in prophetic rapture, There shall not be thick darkness to that people who were in distress, beyond all the inhabitants of the land of Ephraim; for the Galileans, that is to say, the people of Zebulun, Naphtali, and Asher, were carried away by Tiglath-pileser before the other Ephraimites; and in all the wars which the Ephraimites waged with the Syrians, or northern enemies, they were always the first and most exposed to injuries. Of this land, therefore, so much distressed in former times, the prophet affirms that the darkness shall not be thick in future time, but that God, though he seemed heretofore to have neglected Zebulun and Naphtali, yet hereafter would remarkably honour this part of Canaan; since here that great light of instruction and salvation, expected for so many ages, should arise; and that great and illustrious teacher, whom the prophet accurately describes, should illuminate and relieve the oppressed part of the land. The quotation and application of this passage by St. Matthew evidently prove the propriety of this interpretation. See Matthew 13:15, and Vitringa.
Isaiah 9:3. Thou hast multiplied the nation, &c.— The prophet, in the remainder of this discourse, sets forth, First, A consequence of this great benefit, that is, the joy of the pious for so great a blessing, vouchsafed to them; and secondly, He enumerates three causes of this joy; Isaiah 9:4-6. With respect to the first, there seems to be no doubt but the verse should be read as follows, Thou hast advanced the nation; hast heightened upon her the joy, &c. which is Vitringa's version; who observes very judiciously, that instead of לא la, not; לו lo, to her or it, should be read; which is agreeable to many of the ancient versions. The meaning is, "Thou hast advanced, amplified, or increased this nation with a very great benefit, and therefore prepared for it the highest joy; joy which, as the angel says to the shepherd, shall be to all people; true joy, arising from the consolations of the Gospel." See Luke 2:10. Zechariah 2:10. The prophet, in the subsequent part of the verse, makes use of two expressions to denote the highest degree of joy. See Psalms 4:7; Psalms 119:62.
Isaiah 9:4. For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden— His burdensome yoke. The following discourse illustrates the preceding; for it sets forth the great and mighty benefits connected with the appearance of the Messiah, among which the first mentioned is a taking off of the yoke from the shoulders of the people of Christ, and the giving them true liberty, after the example of the deliverance formerly obtained by Gideon, though proceeding from God alone without any human aid. See Jer 23:6 and Luk 1:70-71 where Zechariah seems to have had this passage in view. The yoke here spoken of means the yoke of sin, which occasioned the yoke and servitude of the law, (Galatians 3:19. Acts 15:10.) and the oppressor seems most probably to refer to that strong man, whose power Christ broke and destroyed. The general meaning of the verse is, that Christ destroyed the power of sin and Satan: Hebrews 2:14-15. 1 John 3:8. We may just observe, that as all the great deliverances in the church were figurative of that through Christ, so this of Gideon has by most writers been understood as remarkably figurative of the Christian redemption. See Vitringa.
Isaiah 9:5. For every battle of the warrior, &c.— So that every clashing of the noisy warrior, and the garment rolled in blood, shall be thrown to be burned; fuel for the fire. Vitringa; who observes, that another cause of rejoicing, connected with the former, is peace on earth, Luk 2:14 which should follow the destruction of the enemies of Christ, a remarkable consequence of his appearing in the flesh, and of his kingdom which is described in these words. This is my opinion, says he, though it must be acknowledged that the construction of the passage is extremely difficult, and that it has been very variously interpreted. See Psalms 46:9-10. Vitringa thinks that the words include another sense, and refer to that destruction by fire which is threatened and has fallen upon some of the enemies of the gospel, and particularly upon Jerusalem and the temple. See chap. Isa 30:33 Isaiah 33:12. Rev 18:8. 2 Peter 3:10.
Isaiah 9:6-7. For unto us a child is born, &c.— Though our prophet is every where most excellent, he is peculiarly so in this passage, which contains an emphatical description of the person and kingdom of the Son of God; the kingdom of peace; the eternal and universal kingdom, in which the faithful should have the highest cause for joy; which should bring with it an abolition of the whole yoke of sin and the law, and a destruction of all hostile and adverse powers, whether kings or princes, yea, of sin, Satan, and death itself, with respect to the saints. Who then can wonder at the joy of the church, in so great a light, in so excellent a teacher? But what is the foundation of this joy? The prophet gives the most certain and solid reason; because a child is born, and this child, the son of the living God; about to take the empire and found the kingdom of peace, and that eternal and most ample, and to destroy the whole government of sin; being indued with such properties and virtues as belong to so great a king and governor Vitringa has proved, beyond all controversy, that this passage immediately refers to the Messiah, even our Lord JESUS CHRIST; and that it contains, First, An account of the birth of this illustrious person; Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; where Christ is called a child in respect to his human, a son with respect to his divine nature. See Luke 2:11.Galatians 4:2; Galatians 4:2. Secondly, The office of this illustrious person; The government is upon his shoulder: which refers to the kingdom committed by the Father to Jesus Christ, whereof he himself says, All power is given to me in heaven and earth: Matthew 28:18. See also John 5:22. And of this kingdom and government the prophets and apostles speak largely. The expression is metaphorical, and alludes to the regal robe worn by kings and governors. See Jon 3:6 and chap. Isa 22:22 of this book. Thirdly, We have five qualities, or remarkable properties fitting him for his office. The first is, Wonderful; which seems to refer to the wonderful mystery of the two-fold nature in the Son of God, and is well explained by Rev 19:12 where it is said of this divine person, that he had a name written which no man knew but himself; which name is in the next verse said to be, "The word of God,—the wisdom of God; the only-begotten, the first-begotten; the image of the Eternal Father, the effulgence of the divine glory." Comp. Judges 13:18. Gen 32:29 and Proverbs 30:4. He is secondly called Counsellor; an illustrious name, which, no doubt, respects the prophetic office of Christ. The Hebrew word יועצ ioets, properly signifies, "A person who gives counsel to others;" and Christ is here denoted not only as the lawgiver of his church, but as the king, enforcing those laws by all the modes of persuasion. See chap. Isaiah 11:1, &c. Luke 7:30. The third name is Mighty God: See chap. Isaiah 10:21. This name is to be referred to the divine nature of the Messiah, and that mighty power whereby he subdueth all things to himself; the mighty God is the Messiah, the potent conqueror of Satan, and of all power subject to that great enemy of goodness. See Psa 45:5 and compare Luke 11:22. Joh 16:33. Rom 8:38 with Romans 8:35.Revelation 3:21; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 19:16. The fourth name is Everlasting Father, or Father of Eternity, which Christ may very properly be called, First, As he is the cause of eternal life to all the faithful; Hebrews 5:9. John 3:36; and secondly, As he was the founder of the new and eternal age; that is to say, of the oeconomy which is to endure for ever; for Christ is the father of a new generation to continue through all eternity, the second Adam, father of a new race; the head of a new and everlasting family, in which all the faithful are reckoned. The last appellation, Prince of Peace, is of easy interpretation, and to be explained from what the prophet immediately subjoins concerning the state of his kingdom, from chap. Isaiah 11:6-8. Psalms 72:1; Psa 72:20 and Zechariah 9:9-10. We have, fourthly, the amplitude of this his dignity, and the success of his administration, set forth in the 7th verse; which is fully explained by the parallel places, and particularly Luke 1:33. And in the last place we have the efficient cause of all that is preceding; The zeal of the Lord of Hosts shall perform this: that is, God's desire of promoting and vindicating his glory and majesty, is the principle of all the effects consolatory and tremendous, which concern the church. All things tend to the illustration of his glory and majesty, which God will defend and avenge, and that not faintly, but with zeal; a sign and sacrament of which is his name Jehovah; consolatory to the pious, terrific to the despisers of his covenant. See Luke 21:22. Joh 16:11 and Vitringa.
Isaiah 9:8-12. The Lord sent a word into Jacob— We have here the third section of the fifth discourse, which reaches to the fifth verse of the next chapter; it is divided into four parts, and exhibits so many divine judgments concerning the state of the people of Ephraim, to be solemnly denounced upon them by the prophet. The first, from the present to the 12th verse. The second, from the 12th to the 17th. The third, from the 17th to the 21st. The fourth, from chap. Isa 10:1 st to the 4th verse. The parts are almost all two-fold; wherein first the fault is laid down, and secondly the punishment, except that a third member is added in defence of the divine judgment: In the verses before us, we have first the fault, Isa 9:8-10 namely, the pride and contempt with which the Ephraimites had received the threatenings of the true prophets of God, who had denounced to them the unhappy consequence of their undertakings. Elevated with vain hope, the Ephraimites had declared that they would never desist from their purpose of invading Judaea for any denunciations of the prophets; on the contrary, they had boasted proudly, that strengthened as they were by their present alliance with the king of Assyria, though they had heretofore suffered great loss, they had no doubt of repairing their fortune: Though the bricks were fallen down, they would build with hewn stones, &c. The expression is metaphorically elegant, and denotes the restoration of a fallen state for the better; and the change of a mean and low to a more honourable and excellent situation. For their pride and arrogance, the God who laugheth vain men to scorn, denounces their punishment in the two following verses, and, according to his usual justice, assures them that the union with Rezin, wherein they boasted, should itself prove their destruction. This prophesy was fulfilled by Tiglath-pileser: 2 Kings 16:17. A further threatening is subjoined at the end of the verse. See chap. Isaiah 5:25.
Isaiah 9:13-15. For the people turneth not, &c.— We have here the second crime of this refractory people, who, impenitent and stupid, regarded not the chastisement of the Lord, nor turned to him at his reproof. Therefore, in the 14th and 15th verses, a total subversion of their state and polity is denounced. The reader will observe, that the expressions, though metaphorical, are very plain from the prophet's own exposition. See chap. Isaiah 19:15. This was fulfilled when the people were carried away by Salmanezer.
Isaiah 9:16-17. For the leaders, &c.— We have here a defence of the divine judgment taken from the universal corruption of the people; wherein God sets forth the justice of his proceeding, and shews that not from choice, but for the iniquities of the people, he is compelled to punish.
Isaiah 9:18-21. For wickedness, &c.— For wickedness burneth as a fire, (and it shall devour the briers and thorns) and it burns up the thickets of the forest, and they mount up curled, like, &c. We have here in the 18th verse the third fault, the power of reigning and barefaced impiety, which is said to burn as the fire; the punishment whereof is denounced in the subsequent verses, which, as usual, is assimilated to the vice; namely, destructive factions, which shall overthrow their nation: Having rendered themselves hateful to God by their crimes, they shall perish by those very crimes; and by their dissention and internal factions, arising from the wickedness of their own dispositions, shall fall into mutual destruction; and inflamed by the lust of envy, avarice, and impurity, they shall perish in this very fire, as the prophet speaks in another place, chap. Isaiah 50:11. The latter state of the Israelitish government abundantly proves the exactness of this prophet's prediction. See 2 Kings 6:28; 2 Kings 10:30; 2Ki 17:1; 2 Kings 18:34-35. Jer 19:8 and Vitringa.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The former chapter concluded with a dismal scene of desolations; but here to the righteous there ariseth up light in the darkness, through that glorious Saviour, whose coming, like the sun, should dispel the clouds, and whose power should subdue every foe before him.
1. He is spoken of as the light of his people. There had been grievous vexations and ravages committed by Pul and Tiglath-Pileser, kings of Assyria; and more deplorable ones when Salmanezer carried away the Jews captive into Assyria; but, though the last under the Romans should be most terrible, there should be one alleviation of them, which the former had not. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; Christ the sun of righteousness arisen, who favoured Galilee with so much of his presence, preaching, and miracles: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, in a state of affliction under the Roman yoke, but more especially under the blindness and ignorance of their fallen minds, and exposed to eternal death, by reason of sin, upon them hath the light shined, the light of the glorious gospel, dispensed by Jesus and his Apostles. Note; (1.) In the midst of the deepest distresses, a sense of Christ's presence and love alleviates every burden. (2.) Every man by nature is a child of darkness, and his ways lead down to death and hell, till Christ the light of life arises upon his soul, pardoning, quickening, and leading him into the paths of peace. (3.) We might much better want the light of the sun, than the light of the gospel; for with the gospel the blind may find the way to heaven.
2. As the Saviour of his people, causing them to rejoice in him. Thou hast multiplied the nation; increased the number of faithful converts, either among the Jews in Galilee, or from the nations who dwelt among them; from whose sojourning there it was called, Galilee of the nations; and hast increased the joy of it (we read not increased, but the marginal reading of our English Bibles seems much preferable); the gospel being glad tidings of great joy to all who receive it: they joy before thee, according to the joy of harvest; more delighted with the blessed fruits of gospel grace, than with plenty of corn and wine; and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil of conquered enemies, such as now sin, Satan, death, and hell, are become, through the victory of our Redeemer. For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian; Christ, like the mighty Gideon, by the trumpet of his gospel, and the light of truth committed to earthen vessels, his ministers, hath delivered his people from the yoke of Satan and sin, more burdensome to the soul than the oppression of Midian to Israel. For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood, but this of a different nature, shall be with burning, and fuel of fire, by the power of the Spirit of God, operating like fire upon the sinner's heart, and burning up his vile affections, as fire doth the fuel. Note; (1.) When Christ entered the lists in the behalf of his faithful people, his foes fell as lightning from heaven before him. (2.) Whoever has felt the bitterness and bondage of sin, and groaned under it, being burdened, will hear the glad tidings of salvation, through the Redeemer, with transport. (3.) They who are delivered from the power of sin and Satan, will ascribe the whole of their salvation to the Redeemer's almighty grace; for it is his right hand which hath gotten for us the victory.
3. The glorious person of our Redeemer and Saviour is set forth under a variety of views, expressive of his excellent greatness, and admirably adapted to encourage the faith and hope of his people. For unto us a child is born, one in the human nature, born for our sake, to be a Saviour to the uttermost, unto us a son is given; the Son of God, already appointed by the declarations and promises of God, and as certainly to be incarnate as if he had then been on the earth; and lest the views of his humanity might lessen him in our eyes, the infinitely transcendant dignity of his person is insisted upon; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; invested with all power in heaven and earth, and especially establishing his throne in the hearts of his people: and his name shall be called, Wonderful; his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, are full of wonders; his love, grace, redemption, amazingly great and glorious; and all he is and doeth, justly challenges the admiration of angels as well as men; Counsellor, which may be joined with wonderful: he is of the sacred Three, by whose infinite wisdom all things were created, and by whose providence and grace the whole world, above and beneath, is administered; and to his teaching are his faithful people indebted for their salvation, who, in every difficulty guided by his counsel, are safely brought at last to glory; The mighty God, very God as well as very man, sharing in all the incommunicable attributes of Deity, self-existence, eternity, omnipotence, &c. and mighty therefore to save all that come to him as their Redeemer; The everlasting Father, though in person distinct from God the Father, yet one with him in essence and the unity of the godhead; and particularly the Father of eternity to his faithful people, to whom he is the author of everlasting salvation; The Prince of peace; the procurer of peace between God and man, the giver of it to the troubled conscience; his faithful subjects are all peaceable; and, ruling in their hearts, he keeps them in perfect peace while reposing upon him, and will bring them shortly to everlasting peace and rest in glory. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end; from small beginnings it shall increase more and more, till the ends of the earth remember themselves, and turn unto the Lord; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim; all animosities between his people will subside, and, oh that the time were come for this happy union of all true believers in one heart and one mind! upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, the Redeemer, the Son of David after the flesh, will be exalted, to order it, the kingdom of his Israel, and to establish it with judgment and justice, confirming his people in righteousness and true holiness, and executing judgment on their enemies, henceforth even for ever; for his dominion is that which shall not be destroyed; he ever lives and ever reigns, not only in time, but to eternity: the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this; his faithfulness is engaged to fulfil his promise, his power almighty to accomplish his purposes; and therefore not a jot or tittle shall fail. Happy, therefore, are those souls who are brought under this government of Jesus, and, by experience of his grace, establishing that kingdom within them, which is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, can say with humble confidence, My King and my God.
2nd, The same prophetic word which brings tidings of mercy to some, denounces the judgments of God on others. They who disregard his anger shall feel the lighting down of his indignation, and know by dire experience how fearful a thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God. The kingdom of Israel hath her shortly-approaching doom denounced; a moment's respite is in mercy given; before God strikes he warns, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
1. A high charge is brought against them for sundry crimes and misdemeanours against the Majesty of heaven.
(1.) They braved God's threatenings with daring insolence. Though the Assyrians had demolished their houses in the siege, they vaunted how soon they would restore them in greater magnificence, changing the bricks for hewn stone; and when the sycamores were cut down for the besieger's use, to burn, or to facilitate their approaches, they boasted that they would supply their place with cedars. Note; Impenitence under warning providences is a sad symptom of approaching ruin.
(2.) They were incorrigible, nor in their deepest distresses deigned to humble their souls and seek to God. Note; If corrections bring us not to our knees now, God's fierce wrath will be poured out, and prayer come too late to be heard.
(3.) Their magistrates and ministers concurred in hastening the judgment by their ill example and lying promises. The leaders of this people, or they who bless this people, deceive them, encouraging their false hopes, and seeing visions of peace for them when there is no peace. Note; When ministers, instead of zeal against men's sins, suffer them to continue undisturbed, and speak smooth things to flatter them to their ruin, the case is desperate. The sick patient must needs die, if the physician administer poison instead of medicine.
(4.) Hypocrisy and falsehood were reigning sins. They who kept up the form of religion, were as abominable as the profane and abandoned sinner; the one renounced openly all respect to God; the others approached him with their lips, while their hearts were far from him, or, trusting in the meritoriousness of their outward duties and devotions, fatally deceived themselves to their ruin.
2. A heavy punishment is threatened, temporal and eternal.
[1.] The ruin of their country. The adversaries of Rezin, whom Ahaz had hired, 2Ki 16:7-9 succeeding in the reduction of Damascus, and incorporating the Syrian forces with their own, should fall upon Israel on one side, and the Philistines on the other, so that they should be grievously spoiled. Note; God sends lesser judgments first; and if these prove ineffectual, he has heavier in store; for,
[2.] Because, by their continued impenitence, his wrath was not turned away, but his hand stretched out still, he will make more terrible havock among them; neither young nor old, high nor low, priest nor people, should escape: nor would God extend the least compassion to the most miserable object. Note; (1.) When God visits for sin, the highest in station shall be among the first to suffer; crowns themselves plead no privilege at his bar. (2.) The minister, who speaketh lies to curry favour with the great, connives at their sins, or, indolently negligent, is a blind leader of the blind, will shortly appear a character the most detestable and base, and receive a punishment proportioned to his guilt and perfidy. (3.) The wickedness of the poor is as much remembered as the sins of the rich, and their want and wretchedness here will be no exculpation, rather an aggravation, of their sins, that when they had less of this world to ensnare them, they did not more carefully seek a better.
[3.] Intestine broils shall destroy them as well as the sword of the enemy; they should bite and devour one another, and even the nearest relations not spare their own flesh and blood; various instances of which appeared when their desolations drew near, and the ravages that the tribes made on each other opened an easier conquest for their enemies. Note; Nothing so weakens God's church as causeless divisions, and perverse disputes; for in the heat of religious controversy, the power of godliness is usually lost, and Satan reaps the spoil.
[4.] The wrath of God, terrible and eternal, would yet pursue them: their wickedness would kindle a fire of vengeance, which nothing could quench, and the smoke of their torment would ascend up for ever and ever: the darkness and distress of their outward situation were but faint images of their future prospects, when, as fuel for the flames, they should lie down in torment without end: for as in all their temporal judgments their obstinacy provoked a repetition of the strokes, so in the eternal punishment of the wicked God's wrath will never be turned away, but his hand be stretched out still, for his wrath will be for ever wrath to come.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 9". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16