Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, June 15th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 10

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

1. Decree unrighteous decrees Unjust lawmakers. “Making of Eastern decrees differs from ours. They are first written, then the magistrate authenticates or annuls them.” So is the Arab manner. “When an Arab wanted a favour of the Emir he applied to the secretary, who drew up a decree according to the request of the party. If the Emir granted the favour he printed his seal upon it; if not, he returned it torn to the petitioner.” Sir John Chardin, in Harmer. The above may help to explain the remainder of the verse.

That write grievousness… prescribed Iniquitous decisions prescribing oppression, injustice, and the like.

Verses 1-4

1-4. Is not this last strophe the moral of the previous three? It is directed against unjust authorities and judges. The prophet had stood, as it were, at the end of the calamities he had described as befalling the nation of Israel for sins such as he here inveighs against. A woe is uttered against framers of decrees to defraud the needy, the widows, and the fatherless, and the question is asked in the third verse, What will be the result to these wicked authorities in the visitations already described? The answer is plain, as given in Isaiah 10:4.

Verse 2

2. This verse specifies some of those decisions. See further on chapter Isaiah 29:21.

To take away Or, tear away, the right. Or, as rendered in Ecclesiastes 5:8, violent perverting.

Verse 3

3. Day of visitation Jeremiah 13:21. A coming inspection with a view of ascertaining the character of the case.

And in the desolation In the sudden loud crash of ruin. Proverbs 1:27.

Come from far But certainly and swiftly.

Where… leave… glory So as to find it again. “Glory,” here, means that which is weighty and valuable: money, possessions, any thing placed on deposit for safety. The answer implied is, nowhere.

Verse 4

4. Without me Apart from my help. The moral is, Leave all else, and flee to me. There is no other door to safety.

They shall bow down Sinking for very shame and self-reproach lower than other captives, or even to lie beneath the slain in war. The refrain is again chanted, and the series of strophes pointing to the captivity of Israel closes. But black as the prophecy is for Israel, it becomes blacker for Assyria, its foe and captor, in the next piece recited by Isaiah. However dark the shades settle on Israel God’s own chosen but erring ones somehow they retire, measurably in virtue of a better few still preserved among them.

Verse 5


5. The pieces of prophecy beginning here and closing with chap. 12 are with fair reason thought to belong to the period of Ahaz. The objections to this, found in Isaiah 10:9-11; Isaiah 10:28-32, will be considered in the comments there. High and miraculous prophetic power in our seer is assumed throughout, of course, as hitherto.

Judgment upon Israel has been fearfully depicted as seen in vision; and now upon Assyria, the instrument of Israel’s calamities, (Isaiah 10:15,) like judgments are denounced.

O Assyrian Woe to, or, as some suppose, Ho, what ho! address in the second person rather than in the third.

Rod of mine anger The instrument to execute it.

The staff in their hand The sceptre he wields over punishment-deserving Israel is the sign of my indignation. The general term “Assyrian” includes king and people.

Verse 6

6. Against Or, upon.

A hypocritical nation Israel is meant, but Judah is not to escape. The Assyrian knew not that God sends him, or allows him, with far different purpose from his own, to invade his fallen people, the people of his wrath who have persistently become objects of divine disfavour.

To take… spoil… prey Literally, To spoil spoil, and to prey prey. The Hebrew has a strong, though meagre, vocabulary.

To tread them down Hebrew, To lay them a treading. Psalms 18:42.

Verse 7

7. He meaneth not so The Assyrian is unconsciously God’s instrument in inflicting punishment. He thinks only to build himself up. No thanks to him for executing the divine judgments. Woe to him, rather. His motives are worldly, selfish, and impure.

Verse 8

8. For he saith He fully exhibits what his spirit is absolutely that of worldly ambition.

My princes Satraps, vicegerents, generals. Are they not equal to the greatest of kings elsewhere? Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia were great empires, consisting of great numbers of provinces far and near, over which were placed governors called satraps.

Verse 9

9. Is not Calno as Carchemish Rawlinson puts Calno, or Calneh, sixty miles southeast by east from Babylon. Carchemish, he thinks, is not the classical Circesium, but lay higher up the Euphrates.

Hamath… Arpad Both were in Syria; the former is the present Hamah on the Orontes; the latter is not now identified, but it lay probably near Hamath. See Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible.

Samaria as Damascus Both capitals, one of Israel, the other of Syria. The latter was the first to be taken, hence the comparison. All these were easy to take by such an overgrown power. The very question, “Is not Samaria as Damascus?” (that is, is it not as easy to take?) implies the former as yet untaken; hence the time is yet within the reign of Ahaz.

Verses 10-11

10, 11. If Samaria is yet untaken, the conqueror is seen advancing toward it; nor will he stop at that conquest, but will aim to cripple Jerusalem. But Isaiah has once and again assured Ahaz that Jerusalem shall not be harmed if he only will look for help to Jehovah, not to Assyria.

As I have done unto Samaria Only a prophetic past time; the usual commingling of the tenses in facts and events seen in groups, not in time, but in space.

Verse 12

12. To the boastful speech of the Assyrian succeeds a prediction of his fate. The limit of divine permission in inflicting judgments on Israel and Judah is reached. The answer of God to these boastings is, that when Israel, (first in captivity,) and Jerusalem, (next, by a siege,) shall have had due judgment inflicted for disregard of Jehovah, the arrogant Assyrian himself shall suddenly lose, in the case of Jerusalem, the game almost within his grasp, and his haughtiness shall receive its just judgment and rebuke.

Hath performed his whole work Of disciplinary correction.

Zion… Jerusalem People originally intrusted with the true religion, with Jerusalem as its central seat. Israel and Judah are seen in juxtaposition in this expression, and the same may be true of the Assyrian in these passages. That is, in perspective prophecy here the whole historic career of Assyria and Babylon may be in view, though the chief features of Assyria, on its nearer side to the prophet, mostly occupies his mind.

Stout heart His hauteur, pride, and arrogance.

Glory of his high looks This defines the other member of the parallelism.

Verse 13

13. In what he further says, the Assyrian is represented as acting in accordance with his proper character.

By the strength of my hand Being a successful great world-power, Assyria is seen as always confident of her strength.

I have done it All the verbs here are to be taken as expressing customary action the Greek and German imperfect tense. “I do it,” or “I am,” as a habit, as is customary with me, and in accordance with my ability and my character, doing it.

And I have removed Or, and I remove.

Have put down I bring down, as a mighty one, them that are on thrones.

Verse 14

14. The same self-glorifying goes on.

My hand hath found Has only to reach out and seize.

As a nest As easy as an undefended bird’s nest.

Riches of The wealth of the peoples whom I attack, so powerless are they to resist.

Eggs that are left Abandoned by the parent bird.

That moved the wing “None fluttered the wing, or opened the beak, or peeped.” The figure is carried here to eggs hatched, and young birds, which also had abandoned the nest. The word chirped or peeped is the same as in Isaiah 8:19, where it means the low cry of false soothsayers, here it is the cry of young birds whom the spoiler’s hand snatches away. In Isaiah 38:14, the same word means (Authorized Version) the cry or chatter of a swallow or a crane. The boaster means, that such everywhere is the dread of his name there is universal silence. None dare to resist his terrible assaults.

Verse 15

15. The representation next given is that of a most foolish sin. The Assyrian’s bragging is like that of an implement, such as an axe, saw, or stick, against him who uses it.

Him that shaketh it “It,” is the saw.

The verb is Hithpach, and denotes, “moving to and fro.”

No wood One word, not-wood, which is man. God stands to the man as the not-wood, or man, stands to the wood. The boasting Assyrian forgets that he, a small cause, a small power, is placed in a small sphere of free action by Him who is the Cause of all causes, the Power of all powers. Assyria shall certainly fall some day by the sword of Not-man, that is, of one who is very different from man. Deuteronomy 32:21; Jeremiah 5:7.

Verse 16

16. Therefore… the Lord Haadon, a term implying supremacy, supreme judge, sovereign ruler.

The Lord of hosts The term denoting commander of all agencies.

Shall… send Will commission one to inflict upon the fat ones, or well-fed Assyrian magnates, (observe the masses of flesh in the men of the Assyrian sculptures,) razon, a withering disease, like a galloping consumption. This word is among the diseases named in Leviticus 26:16; Deuteronomy 28:22.

And under his glory The Assyrian’s glory was his army.

A burning like the burning of a fire The Hebrew alliteration is, Yekad, y’kod, cicodish, painted tones, such as almost makes audible the crackling, spluttering, and hissing of fires burning all within their reach. Storms of lightning, plague, and such like agencies were at God’s command in destroying the Assyrian armies. See 2 Kings 7:6; 2 Kings 19:35.

Verse 17

17. The light of Israel The word “light,” means light, whether literal or figurative. Here it is figurative, and applies to God as the enlightener of Israel by his word and Spirit, and as having possible allusion to the pillar that guided Israel through the desert.

Shall be for a fire While he is a “light” to Israel, he is a “fire” to Assyria.

His Holy One for a flame Israel’s “Holy One,” often called the Holy One of Israel.

Shall burn This fire and flame shall fall in consuming judgment upon his thorns and his briers. (The Assyrian’s army so denoted.)

In one day That is, very suddenly.

Verse 18

18. The glory of his forest The army, compared to a forest for the great number of men, their compact body when in array, and their upraised lances.

His fruitful field Parallel to “forest;” denoting a park stocked with noble trees; or else, antithetic to “forest,” and meaning a cleared and cultivated field, but applied still to the army in its apparently prosperous state, though soon to be destroyed.

Both soul and body Literally, from soul even to the flesh; beginning at the vitals and working to the outward frame; that is, the consumption shall be total.

As when a standardbearer fainteth And in consequence the whole line of battle melts away in panic. ( Kimchi.)

Verse 19

19. And the rest of the trees The few men that are left after the consumption of the army, the “forest” figure being still kept up.

That a child may write them Or, number them. That is, the “trees” are so few as scarcely to exceed the digits; in poetry not an extravagant expression.

Thus much concerning the divine judgments on Assyria in return for its selfish part in the punishments of Israel, but probably a prophetic description in the gross; that is, genuine account of all punishments that ever came on the great world-kingdom in the East. The picture is seen in spaces, with its nearer parts distinct, but its remoter, shaded, yet clear enough for a full and complete end, or limit, to be observed. Still other views of this picture are to be given, and many details presented.

Verse 20

The Remnant of Israel a parenthetic section Isaiah 10:20-23.

20. With the small remnant of an almighty avenging power on Assyria, the prophet now compares the remnant of Israel. Here too is a picture in space of the truly good in the whole of Israel, perhaps prominently of Ephraim, (as with this section of Israel the prophet began this chapter,) but of Judah as well.

The remnant… escaped See 2 Chronicles 30:6. When Ephraim was despoiled as a nation there were still remaining many Israelites whom Hezekiah invited to join in worship at Jerusalem. These may be intended in the above words. Yet Isaiah 11:16 shows that brief period of repentance to be an historical type of a larger restoration.

Stay Depend for support in national emergencies. Israel looked to Syria as against Judah, and was foiled in its object. Had it stayed on Jehovah it would not have had the catastrophe from Assyria. But the lesson is even more important here for Judah at this time. Both the prophetically-seen remnants of Israel and Judah will have so heeded the lesson as no more again to stay upon him that smote them, but henceforth on the Lord.

In truth Honestly, sincerely, never again to be inveigled into disregard of Jehovah. Assyria’s judgment on Israel, and Babylon’s on Judah, yet to come, will thus become Israel’s salvation.

Verse 21

21. The remnant They shall return to Jehovah, who in the past was the Mighty One ( El Gibbor, see note on Isaiah 9:7) to Israel. They shall return to God in Christ. See Hosea 3:5, where Jehovah and David’s Son are placed side by side. Isaiah’s son, Shear-jashub the fact of whose birth and the significance of whose name (Isaiah 7:3) no doubt are still familiar brings up this doctrine of the “remnant,” etc., with vividness.

Verse 22

22. The use of the word remnant, though connected with a threatening, is attended with promise.

Though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea So numerous as to be impossible to count them, yet only a “remnant” shall return This is the threatening. But they, the few, shall certainly “return,” and in penitence. This is the promise. A visible Church shall remain, even on the plains of Babylon. And St. Paul (Romans 11:12) reveals a mystery contained in this promise, namely, its enlargement in the upheaval of the Gentile world, whose destiny was so long unexplained. Israel’s abasement becomes thus the occasion of the riches of the Gentiles. Israel revolts. Its consumption is decreed determined on in the divine mind and through the fidelity of the few a great world of new people shall be brought in. The consumption is the result of an overflow with righteousness.

Verse 23

23. Shall make a consumption Rather, a final work, namely, of impenitent Israel.

Even determined The work of cutting off the larger part of Israel for persistent disobedience, is a decisive work; or, as St. Paul interprets it, Romans xi, “it is cut short in righteousness,” or as the principles of eternal justice require.

All the land The “land” of their oppressors, and cutting off at the same time many of the rebellious and captive Jews. The rest of the Jews a small number, but persistently obedient shall return. These last four verses possibly were not a public declaration, but a private one to disciples adhering to Isaiah in his school at Jerusalem. Delitzsch, indeed, regards the whole section from Isaiah 7:5-12, inclusive as esoteric, that is, addresses to disciples merely.

Verse 24

24. More public, probably, was the following encouragement.

O my people… Zion The inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

Be not afraid of the Assyrian As regards the Assyrian, the destinies of Israel and Judah were involved, though differently; the former, to be at once crippled and finally overthrown, the latter to be, for the time being, threatened only. Hence this encouragement.

He shall smite Better, though he smite thee, or inflict partial chastisement as thou deservest.

With a rod… staff These are equivalent figures for oppression.

After the manner of Egypt The best exegetical authorities favour reading this not, as on the way to Egypt, alluding to Sennacherib’s inflicting a blow on Judah when he was on the way to conquer Egypt, but, as in the manner, or after the example of Egypt; the same formula (proverbial) is also found in Amos 4:10.

Verse 25

25. Yet a very little while Time not definite, as in Isaiah 16:14, nor does it date from the present but it is very soon.

The indignation shall cease Whose indignation? the Assyrian’s or God’s? To be parallel with the next clause, it is God’s executed, however, by the Assyrian. Hence the indefinite expression. After due chastisement of Israel and Judah by the hand of the Assyrian, indignation is at an end. Then the anger, of which he was the executioner on others, shall tend, or turn, to the Assyrian’s destruction.

Verse 26

26. The Lord shall stir up a scourge When that “scourge” comes it shall be sudden, like that of the Midianites by Gideon, and like that of Pharaoh in the Red Sea.

The rock of Oreb The place where the Ephraimites slew Oreb, a king of Midian. Judges 7:25. Jehovah is imaged as swinging a whip over Assyria, and as stretching forth his staff or sceptre over the sea of troubles (such, no doubt, is its meaning) into which Israel and Judah were driven; and that sea is seen to divide for escape to Israel and for destruction to Assyria.

After the manner of Egypt That is, just as Pharaoh was overwhelmed in the Red Sea. This is a judgment occurring in prophetic time.

Verse 27

27. In that day That is, the day when this prediction, uttered in ideal time, shall be actually fulfilled.

His burden The imperial subjection on the true Israel.

His yoke The yoke, as borne by oxen, is always in Scripture a metaphor for subjection.

Shall be taken away Shall depart as if spontaneously.

Shall be destroyed Or, shall vanish, as into nonexistence.

Because of the anointing Literally, from before the oil: in the presence of an anointed new king of Israel, of whom David was the type. Chap. 11 treats of these times in more glorious fulness.

Verse 28

28. Meanwhile another episode of the towering cedar the Assyrian in his menacing march upon Jerusalem must come in. All recent commentators admit this to be a scene in vision. It scarcely can be history, for the route described is impassable to so large a body loaded with accoutrements and luggage. The plan of the picture is that of a large army coming as in a straight line from Assyria, spreading terror on the villages near to Jerusalem, and having the city itself quite within its grasp, when suddenly it vanishes out of view, as by the sudden and unseen might of an irresistible providence. Delitzsch says, that esthetically considered, the description is one of the most magnificent human poetry has ever produced.

Verses 29-34

29-34. The towns or villages lay within from two to twelve miles (English) north-northeast from Jerusalem.

“He comes from Ayyath; (Ai, probably ten to twelve miles from Jerusalem;) passes through Migron, (a place not now identified.) In Michmash (two miles south of Ai) he leaves his baggage; (hills and gorges here are impassable to carriages:) they go through a pass. Let Geba be our quarters for the night. (This is a command to the army.) Ramah trembles; Gibeah of Saul flees; (both places are three or four miles bearing north.) Scream aloud, O daughter of Gallim; (twice mentioned in the Old Testament, but site unknown.) Only listen, O Laish. (The course is now doubtless zigzag.) Poor Anathoth! (Jeremiah’s home, a priestly city quite near to Jerusalem.) Madmenah hurries away. The inhabitants of Gebim rescued! He (the Assyrian) still halts at Nob today, (close upon Jerusalem;) swings his hand over the mountain of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem. (Almighty providence now interferes.) Behold, the Lord Jehovah of hosts lops down the branches with terrible force, and those of towering growth are hewn down, and the lofty are humbled.” Branches… lofty… towering growth. (These terms imply the leaders of the army. Some crushing blow is seen to strike down the forest of leaders, nobles, commanders.) And he fells the thickets of the forest with iron. (The “thickets” are the serried battalions, cut down as by the sword of an unseen or unnamed army.) And Lebanon, it falls by a majestic one. (Assyria is the towering cedar, collectively named Lebanon, the mount in the north on which it grows.) Thus the fate of the imperial power of the world is given in this short, quick, and awful description. For geographical names the reader will be instructed by Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible. It is quite the habit of commentators to apply the above picture to Sennacherib, the great Assyrian king. Even those who claim this prophetic section, from chap. 7-12 inclusive, as belonging to and as having been delivered during the period of Ahaz, find it convenient to see Sennacherib as the foremost character in that scene. It may be so. But if so, the prophet overleaps dates and defined periods in the pictures he draws, and makes anachronisms of small account. And this is easy to believe. He sees things perspectively in juxtaposition, yet in some sort of succession, indeed; and some things may loom up and brighten on his vision, though beyond and out of range with the particular period about which in specific detail he may be treating. Sennacherib was in the last years of his troubling Syria and Egypt, and king Hezekiah; according to the canon of Ptolemy, in the last seven years, according to 2 Kings 18:13 and Isaiah 36:1, in the last fifteen years, of Hezekiah’s reign. But it matters little. The chief object of the above picture was not to place Sennacherib as a great figure in it, though the prophet, for aught we know, may have seen him there according to laws of prophetic vision. The great object was illustrative instruction to Israel and Judah to the latter, certainly, to Ahaz and those around him and the remnant, the better few to trust in Jehovah and not to trust in nor fear the Assyrian, who, after his aid to Judah in quelling Syria and Ephraim, had turned to subject Judah to himself.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 10". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/isaiah-10.html. 1874-1909.
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