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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 31

Verses 1-3


Differently presented, and perhaps better, the same subjects respecting alliance with Egypt are here continued. Perhaps a space of time intervened between the two presentations.

1-3. Stay on horses… trust in chariots Horses abounded in Egypt. Solomon had filled his stables from that country. The ancients thought more of cavalry than of infantry in war. The Hebrews, denied of it by their law, on becoming worldly under the monarchy were distressingly uneasy without cavalry. This gives occasion for the prophet to denounce it as a vain help, and he hurls his woes upon it uncompromisingly. He still preaches dependence alone upon Jehovah their God as a sufficient safety. But the princes did not look to him. Hezekiah himself, good king as he was, was timid, at first sight, of the approaching Assyrian strength upon him. The prophet insists that God knows best whether Judah needs foreign aid; that he has the people in his own guidance and care if they will; that he will discomfit all outside aid, and punish Judah for seeking it; that divine help is indispensable; that Egypt is deceitful, weak, and untrustworthy; and that in depending on such help, both the helper and the helped shall be overthrown.

Verses 4-5

4, 5. The prophet, as if from a new assurance from Heaven, reasserts Jehovah as their only protector. He illustrates by two comparisons worthy of Homer. (See HOMER’S Iliad, 18: 161, 162.) In quite close rendering Isaiah says: “As a lion growls, and a young lion, over his prey, against whom a multitude of shepherds is called forth, at their cry is not frightened, and at their noise is not humbled, so will Jehovah of hosts come down to fight upon (or over, or in behalf of) Mount Zion, and upon his hill.” Just so cool and unconcerned will Jehovah be at the loud threats and dashing movements of the approaching Assyrian army upon Mount Zion. Another kind of protection is implied in the other simile: “Like fluttering birds, so will Jehovah of hosts screen Jerusalem, screening and delivering, sparing and setting free.” The weak bird defends its young with courage to the death ere surrendering them. How infinitely more will God defend his people.

Verse 6

6. The children of Israel have deeply revolted The remarks to be made here are: 1) Monotheism was the fundamental idea of their religion. 2) A covenant between Israel and their God was a covenant which the latter never broke. 3) Priests and prophets held the whole nation solemnly and organically bound to that covenant. Based on these facts, the prophets, when they spoke, spoke to the whole nation. None was to be excused. The part of the people who broke the covenant could not be exonerated. They determined the external, national destinies of all. The fate of all hung on them. The external theocracy was overthrown by them. Hence the few who, as individuals, were true to God who never broke covenant constituted the theocracy, the remnant, the true Israel, the only Church in Israel. (See Romans 9:11.) The protection implied in these verses implies a return to God of the revolted children of Israel of the sixth verse. The condition then made, “Turn ye unto him” is responded to. Doubtless the prophet was sure the casting away of idolatry was never likely to take place till the utter overthrow of the nation, and the great trial of the people in captivity. Idolatry never appeared after the great captivity.

Verses 7-8

7, 8. In that day The day of the surrender of idolatry. Idols of silver…

of gold By such means idolatry was raised to precious attractiveness.

Verse 9

9. His strong hold Sennacherib, as some commentators hold, but better, the historic absolute power of Assyria concreted in all her great kings. This is a powerless refuge if Jehovah should rise upon it, as he surely will. The consuming fire of God’s presence in Zion, the burning heat from the great altar-hearth in Jerusalem, shall certainly devour that old boasting foe of Jehovah. God proves himself the only one in whom to trust. He is the only great conqueror. The sword of no mighty man shall subdue Assyria. Jehovah has means for victory which mortal man’s hand cannot command, nor wield if he could.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 31". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.