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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 30

Verse 1


A few months later, when plans of stricter alliance with Egypt, conceived by the rulers at Jerusalem with the greatest secrecy, (see Isaiah 29:15,) were matured, this prophecy was uttered.

1. Woe to the rebellious children The woe to these rulers, so disobedient as darkly to cover that is, to keep secret intricate plans, and to mature them without consulting Jehovah, is equivalent to saying that such plans are an exasperating folly and failure. No help can come from sending ambassadors to Egypt, from taking refuge in her resources against Assyria. Every successive thought thereof is adding sin to sin.

Verses 2-4

2-4. That walk to go down into Egypt “Going in the descent of Egypt,” by their ambassadors. Trusting in the shadow of Egypt in her protection rather than in the protection of Jehovah is most disgraceful. Their trust in Pharaoh’s protection shall, however, prove to be to them a shame, a confusion. The folly has already gone so far that ambassadors are already at Zoan, (the present Tsan,) the royal seat in lower northeastern Egypt, and at Hanes, (a name perhaps contracted from Tahpanhes, so Grotius thinks,) another royal seat in middle Egypt, to both of which it may be assumed applications were made.

Verse 5

5. They were all ashamed That is, the ambassadors, probably because their application for alliance and aid was not entertained.

Verses 6-7

6, 7. Burden of the beasts of the south Animals carrying southward to Egypt treasures to buy an alliance.

Land of trouble and anguish Egypt, so called either because it was such once to the children of Israel, or because it was such to its present subjects, or because of present confusion to the Jews from rejecting their application. In every conceivable sense Egypt was a “trouble.”

The south By this term is here meant the interjacent land on the way to Egypt. What a bootless errand, to carry presents over this stretch of desert land to Egypt! Has Israel forgotten her desert horrors? Is she again desirous to go among lions, adders, and leaping serpents, to seek for help and protection? Egypt will not help.

Egypt is רהב , ( rahab,) a “braggart, sitting still,” (Gesenius,) boasting in promises, but doing nothing. Beginning with warnings at folly so great, the prophet ends with ridicule.

Verse 8

8. Go, write it… in a table On a waxen tablet. Having delivered the foregoing prophecy, the prophet is bidden to make record of it, for a witness on its fulfilment of its truth.

Note it in a book The tablet is for a witness to the disbelieving people, on the prediction coming to pass; the parchment is probably for the prophet’s school archives a witness to all coming time.

Verses 9-11

9-11. The thing witnessed to is, that this is a rebellious people, lying children, etc. See note on Isaiah 1:2. They were a people unwilling to know any thing about the will of Jehovah; who desired their prophets to speak flatteries, not truths: or to adopt another line of thought, such as should encourage worldly plans, and utter no more of the eternal din, (as they wickedly deem it,) about the Holy One of Israel.

Cause the Holy One… to cease They would that the prophet should “cease” troubling them with God’s denunciations.

Verses 12-14

12-14. Instead of complying with their desires see above the prophet again repeats the message from the very holy Name they so much dread to hear. Because they reject this word, “the law” of Jehovah, (Isaiah 30:9,) the consequence to them is utter ruin; unseen, indeed, in its oncoming, yet rapidly approaching with sudden and crushing disaster.

As a breach… swelling out The similes are striking, like an unseen “breach” causing a hitherto unnoticed swell in the outward high wall, till suddenly the whole breaks and tumbles into ruin irretrievable; like the poor man’s pot broken with so complete a smash that not a serviceable piece remains for holding a coal of fire or a drop of water in domestic uses. The broken piece of a potter’s vessel is more commonly in our version called a potsherd.

Verses 15-17

15-17. The same Holy One continues. On condition alone of your turning back from Egypt and resting in my commands and counsels, can you be saved.

In returning… shall ye be saved This means change of mind from relying on Egypt and a “returning” to their duty to God.

In quietness Resting in calm trust on Jehovah alone… Herein is your strength… ye said, No Utter rejection of Jehovah’s proposition. They aspired for the glory of conquest after the manner of other nations. To the horses of Egypt, then, Go ye, was the reply; their swift steeds ye may have; not as the pursuers, but as the pursued as the routed and overwhelmed, shall ye have them. One thousand of you shall flee from before the threatening attitude of even one, and your whole fleeing army shall scatter wide before even five of the enemy; so that because of the fewness of the number left they may be compared to a solitary beacon or tree on the top of a mountain.

Verse 18

18. Therefore Alexander deems this a term of conclusion. Better thus than moreover, (Gesenius, Lowth, Barnes, Delitzsch, et al.) The sense is, You should, if rightly dealt with, be at once punished; yet, as God will mercifully wait for your return to him, “therefore” is your salvation still conditionally awaiting your decision to return. This doctrine is everywhere to be found in the Old Testament. The patience and compassion of Jehovah are on every page. God’s pronounced mercifulness throughout cannot be overlooked except by wilfully blinded eyes.

Judgment Jehovah is a God of “judgment.” What! to punish and destroy? Yes, even this, when it is right for him to do so; and he alone knows when it is right, for being of mingled love and justice, he can make no mistake. The words, then, mean simply, Jehovah is a God of right doing. His ways “are true and righteous altogether.”

Verses 19-26

19-26. Having opened thus the ever-pleasing thought of the prophet namely, the divine forbearance the way is prepared now for comfort to the devout class of people in Jerusalem.

The people shall dwell in Zion He yearns for all to become devout, which, if they will, safety is a sure thing for the whole nation. The nation is between two fires Egypt and Assyria. Worldly court partisans waver as to policy between these. The religious party denounce every object of trust but Jehovah. The prophet is their uncompromising leader. He encourages in no faint terms. The nation is kept down by the powers on either side, but he claims it is not extinct, with Mount Zion in their midst. Jehovah is ready to reinstate the nation in its true glory. Weeping shall cease! Crying to Jehovah shall be heard as soon as uttered! The prophet uses soaring words. He addresses the future as well as the present.

Though This is not in the Hebrew, yet the complete sense requires it, else neither member of the sentence is intelligible.

Bread of adversity, and the water of affliction Expressions for doled out bread and water, as is customary in sieges because of their scarcity: but on condition of return to Jehovah, these shall pass away, and plenteousness take their place.

Shall not thy teachers be removed Their “teachers,” or true prophets, were also often removed, or obliged to hide themselves, in times when the idolatrous anti-reformers were in complete power, but this evil should also come to an end.

A word behind thee “Behind thee” may be a figure drawn from shepherd life, and seems to intimate that some of the flock, instead of strictly following the shepherd as is the Eastern custom, had gone in front, and were wandering aside of the true way, when the shepherd’s voice “behind them” is heard in warning.

Defile… images The true people are seen by the prophet in the glorious times, putting away idolatry as a polluted abomination. Ahaz had not been slow in filling Jerusalem with it. The images thus worshipped are to be cast away with utter disgust, as is also expressed in the final words,

Get… hence. Then shall he [Jehovah] give the rain of thy seed The rains needed to insure an ample harvest the first rains in autumn, after seed sowing, the latter in the spring. Earthly images of this sort are figures of grand spiritual blessings to the people of Israel.

Fat and plenteous Fatness, fertility, plenty for man and beast, and every thing contributing to these, yield, in the Old Testament, the richest descriptions for conceptions spiritual.

Light… sun… sevenfold The sevenfold increase of the light of heaven’s luminaries, and the concentrated light of seven days into one, represent the advanced spiritual state of the children of Jehovah.

Verses 27-28

27, 28. The transition here is sudden.

The name The “name” of Jehovah is Jehovah himself, that is, Jehovah in absolute and distinctive personality as revealed in word and act.

Cometh from far The revelation of God’s righteousness cometh from all his works and providences. Manifestations of divine judgments are everywhere. God is judge. Nations are brought before him. Evil doing is condemned, and monuments thereof cover the world. The judgments now to be rendered are upon Assyria, the persecutor of Judah. The storm, ready to burst, is hovering over the world-power, but the description applies in principle to all judgment scenes. Jehovah comes in deliverance to all his trusting people through awful but necessary calamities to his enemies.

His anger His felt moral outrage against defiant independence of him.

Burden… is heavy Literally, Grievous is the flame. Possibly this means, “Tremendous is the bursting lightning which darts from the blackened heavens.”

And his breath His Spirit moving, now gently, now in tornado force, as occasion calls; in this action it is violent, destructive.

As an overflowing stream Rushing forth as such a stream rushes.

Neck Or, divides at the neck. Only the head is yet out of peril. Perhaps meaning Assyria, not yet completely doomed.

Sieve of vanity Divine judgment sifts the nations, and what remains is emptiness, nothingness, destruction. Lowth calls it the winnowing fan of destruction.

Bridle In the jaws of unwilling nations, leading them into ways they did not intend. See Assyrian inscriptions.

Here are metaphors jumbled, but of striking force and of clear meaning. The figures melt into each other. A storm is conceived rising from the farthest horizon; the black cloud is turned into a sea of fire, or lightnings consuming where they strike, and raising volumes (burden) of smoke, all of which symbolizes the divine wrath, swelling as it were into a stream, covering men up to the neck, the same as in chap. Isaiah 8:8, which see. The judicial effect is the same as sifting chaff to the winds by the winnowing fan, common to this day in Palestine. All that is worth saving is left, the rest cast utterly away. Nations are destroyed, or diminished and held as by a “bridle” from pursuing and compassing their utterly selfish ends.

Verse 29

29. Ye shall have a song The “song,” as indicated by the emphatic article in Hebrew. It shall commemorate divine deliverances as does the song at the holy passover solemnities. If it be the destruction of Sennacherib’s army in one night (2 Kings 19:35-37,) which here flits across the prophet’s mind, how appropriate is this song occasion! How would all Jerusalem have resounded with hallelujahs the whole night long had the people known the work of destruction then going on in the plains toward Egypt! But it is the same always. Isaiah here pictures what is ever true of God’s people in extremities. They “shall have a song,” celebrating Jehovah’s grand deliverances.

Verses 30-31

30, 31. Isaiah 30:27-28; Isaiah 30:27-28, depict the approach of the great judge; here the description of the judgment begins.

Voice… heard God’s “voice” is “heard,” also, as the delivered ones shout their song, and the action of his arm is seen image of corporal chastisement.

Indignation… anger Manifested as fury, under figure of an animal snorting, with flames bursting from its nostrils, leaving behind a scattering, the work of a tempest, and stones of hail. Here, again, our prophet overrides modern rhetorical refinement, and mixes fire and hail together. The Assyrian can stand no such a rush of destructive forces.

Which smote with a rod That is, the hitherto persecuting Assyrian. The smiter is now himself smitten with a vengeance.

Verse 32

32. The grounded staff This rendering is generally rejected as unintelligible. It is generally agreed by scholars that it means “rod of doom,” that is, the rod appointed to punish. The text may read thus: And it shall be that every passage [stroke, Henderson] of the rod of doom which Jehovah shall lay [cause to rest] on him [the Assyrian] shall be with tabrets and harps [accompanied with music on the part of the delivered ones] and shakings of wars, [or shocks of war, conducted in judgment by Jehovah.] While God visits furious judgments upon all defiant peoples, his own people are to join in songs of thanksgiving and fidelity to their deliverer. God governs the world. In all cases divine care “turns the tables” in behalf of the good and against the enemies of the good.

Tabrets Drums of one head, or tambourines, beaten to music sung at festival entertainments, and many other occasions.

Verse 33

33. Tophet This word occurs here possibly because “tabret” had just been used, from a habit of our prophet of indulging in paronomasia. Both words are from the same root, or from roots nearly identical. Originally “tophet” probably meant a music grove, or a place where the tambourine was prominent in the music. The king’s garden, near by in the deep valley, just southeast of Jerusalem, may have had some relation to the music grove or tophet. The place afterward became abominable by being made the place for consuming the offals of animals offered in sacrifice on the altar. The worshippers of Moloch are also said to have made it still more abominable by the sacrifice of children in the burning furnace into which the huge image of Moloch in that place had been constructed. The perpetual burning loathsomeness, from the consuming offal, made the place an image of eternal torture in the New Testament associations of the spot. Its name in Greek is gehenna, from the Hebrew word rendered valley of Hinnom. For a full description see SMITH’S Bible Dictionary.

The figure here is, that “tophet” has been prepared to receive the king of Assyria; that for this purpose it has been enlarged, made deep and broad, with a mouth vast enough to swallow up his whole army. Wood has been massed for a huge burning; the breath of Jehovah is to fire this mass; which, like a stream of brimstone, is to burn with an intense and inextinguishable heat. The figures of Revelation 21:8; Revelation 21:10 are hence derived, to signify the everlasting torments of hell.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 30". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.