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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah

- Isaiah

by Daniel Whedon

COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT.

Intended for Popular Use

VOL. VII. ISAIAH, JEREMIAH, and the LAMENTATIONS OF JEREMIAH.

BOOK OF ISAIAH,

BY H. BANNISTER, D.D.

BOOKS OF JEREMIAH AND OF THE LAMENTATIONS.

BY F.D. HEMENWAY

D.D. D.D. WHEDON, LL.D., EDITOR.

NEW YORK: HUNT & EATON.

ClNCINNATI: CRANSTON & STOWE.

Copyright, 1886, by PHILLIPS & HUNT, NEW YORK.

PUBLISHERS’ NOTE.

THE present volume of Whedon’s Commentary is issued to the world without the editorial endorsement of its late honored projector. Very soon after the work was in type, and before the final reading of its proofs, Dr. Whedon was called from toil to reward. So, also, with both the richly endowed authors of the volume. They have all entered into their final rest: the results of their labor are the heritage of the Church. Two more volumes the Pentateuch, and Ezekiel, Daniel, and the Minor Prophets are well advanced.

ISAIAH

INTRODUCTION.

PROPHECY, considered as a fact, demands three things to be conceded: first, that there is One personal divine Being God almighty, all-wise, and infinite in goodness; second, that in virtue of such predicates he is the primal cause and supporter of the universe and its intelligent occupants, between whom and himself there exist relations involving free-will and accountability in man; and third, that man becomes conscious, on misuse of his freedom, of guilt, and need of pardon pardon not attainable through any means he can himself command.

In this exigency the question arises inevitably, Will the all-wise and benevolent Creator provide a remedy, and restore his fallen creature again to a right relation on conditions suitable to divine wisdom and goodness?

So far as is humanly presumable, he will. No antecedent reason in the divine torture appears against it; and human convictions, inborn or acquired, earnestly respond that he must do so.

A revelation, then, must be made to man of such a remedy, else God’s system in relation to man would seem an abortion, conceived, as humanly seen, in unwisdom and injustice. Far be it, however, from any finite mind to entertain a conclusion so direful.

But there must accompany such a revelation accredited marks that it is truly from God. Not that divine power, wisdom, and goodness can collectively be fully made known in every message sent; but sufficient must be shown reasonably to convince that its origin is not human, but divine. The marks or criteria in question here are, that the contents of these messages show, when brought to the bar of the universal moral sense, signs of truth, purity, holiness, and goodness; and attested by other signs in their delivery, signs of miracle or prophecy, or both, as authoritative credentials. Confined to very brief remarks, we have to deal here, and that only for a moment, with the latter of these Prophecy.

Prophecy is authoritative instruction. It requires and evinces in the one who exercises the function a state of the human faculties wholly subject to the promptings and guidance of a higher Power. To this state the will is fully gained; its consent is cordial and earnest; the conscience also is active and critical. When God calls one thus, he inspires just the mood that is suited to the duty to be performed; gives sagacity, comprehensiveness, and foresight, and confers the confidence of peremptory enforcement and these to a superhuman degree.

Inspiration in prophecy apparently ran in degrees. One prophet seemed quickened to a higher grade of prophetic faculty than another. If not so, then the differences we find among prophets in the Bible are due to difference in natural faculty, idiosyncrasy, moral and emotional tendency, etc., in each, with only an equal amount of divine inspiration upon each and all.

Scarcely do the original terms designating the Hebrew prophet sustain the latter view. They are Nabhi, Roeh, and Chozeh. The first denotes rather the manner in which some of the prophets were exercised, namely, an ecstatic manner, from a verb meaning to bubble up, as from a gushing fountain.

This was a differentiating name; and it became a name for prophet, also, in the general sense, because the exercise it denotes, together with all symbolic actions, was a common one in the schools of the prophets, where Saul himself caught the infection when inquiring for his lost asses. Hence the phrase, “Saul among the prophets.” However, not all who ultimately were called Nabhiim were exercised by ecstasy in the delivery of their messages. The other terms, Roeh and Chozeh, marked as well their modes of prophesying.

Roeh means a Seer; one who is moved in action and words by exalted sagacity, foresight, and comprehensiveness. Samuel was a prophet in this sense. He used his natural faculties in things secular, political, religious; but he was aided by special insight, supernaturally inspired. Chozeh also means a Seer; a seer into the unseen depths; into events unrevealed to others; into new truths and new applications of truth; into larger areas connected with the divine mediatorial providence of God. This seeing was by visions; often in dreams; sometimes, by “face to face” communications with heavenly visitants; not unfrequently, by deepest spiritual insight without the aid of visions abnormal. Doubtless not a few of the old life-long representative prophets were one time or another divinely wrought upon in all the methods above named.

The patriarchs and early worshippers of Jehovah, being aided by visions and dreams, were on some occasions favoured with imparted foresight, and thus were added sporadic revelations to the early meager stock of divinely-revealed truths. They thus took grade as prophets, perhaps somewhat higher than that of Samuel. But Moses arose to a rank undoubtedly the highest of the Old Testament prophets. Samuel ranked with him chiefly in life-long devotement to his work, and in supplementing the law of Moses with an organized prophetic system of intense ethical instruction. Moses, again, was the highest in that God talked with him “face to face,” not in dreams and visions. This honour he shared with Christ, of whom, in many delineations, he was the pre-eminent type.

In thus citing examples, the endeavour is in some sort to define prophecy by specifying the varied modes in which divine revelations came through prophecy. Samuel ministered in instruction (often predictive) and organization; Moses, in all methods and to all ends, instruction, organization, and prediction. The common notion has been, that prediction was the ordinary work of the prophet. On the contrary, though a high gift perhaps the highest prediction was exercised sparingly, and only as important crises called for it. Just when and only as God saw it needful did he impart this power. The conscientious prophet like the great Master in the matter of miracles was never vain of his gift of foretelling future events. He pretended nothing of it as from himself. If bestowed occasionally, he never used it to indulge idle curiosity. His chief aim was to instruct the people in religion and ethics as taught by Moses; to relieve God’s true worshippers of their difficulties, doubts, discouragements; to raise within them firmer hopes and trust in Jehovah; to rebuke fearlessly kings and their sycophants when inclined to stray from Jehovah’s policy with Israel, as laid down by Moses. The predicting prophets were pre-eminently Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Micah, and Malachi; the predictions of such prophets were startling and monumental, exhibiting to this day the great evidential value of prophecy.

Not to deal, however, with specific single instances of predictive prophecy, it may be said in truth that its conspicuous value as evidence is to be found throughout organic revelation, whose chief characteristic is that of prediction. From the fatal act of the first Adam in Genesis, bringing deathly injury to the race, unto the last glance in the Apocalypse, closing the scene of the healing of the nations, is to be seen prophecy in its vastest scale and scope, the evidence of which, when reasonably pondered, must overthrow every cavil possible to be raised by the stoutest skepticism. Conspicuously for all intelligences interested must this grand body of prophecy be a study to continue unto the ages of the ages.

The modes observed in instructing and predicting were not greatly varied. Usually the mode was that of plain, didactic, ofttimes impassioned, discourse, given in person by the prophet among the people in temple-courts, or within the royal palace itself, when the reform called for was not heeded. Sometimes prophecy was delivered in symbolic acts a mode having intended concealed meaning doubtless, when it was less expedient or safe, perhaps, to be more explicit; a mode in effect much like Christ’s teaching by parables.

The arrangement is ancient by which the prophecies here in question were classed into major and minor prophets; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel constituting the one class, the remaining twelve the other. In the first list Isaiah has the chief prominence, because the older of the four, and because he occupies the foremost place, whether we estimate the extent or the subject-matter of his writings. There is in his discourses a surpassing loftiness, as well as depth in his spirit as it peered into the present and the future, and explained the whole in the light of divine truth. His subjects were the sovereign rule of the Holy One of Israel; the downfall of every thing selfishly high and great on earth; the calling to the law and to the testimony of sinners living in security; encouragement to lowly and depressed ones, by displaying the unending glory and fullness of Jehovah’s salvation, as it was to arise on the remnant of Israel God’s true Israel embracing Jew and Gentile; and it was for the great richness and minuteness of Messianic prophecy abounding in his writings that he has been called the Evangelist of the Old Testament.

Of the person of Isaiah, and of the circumstances of his life, incidental intimations occur in the early part and in the course of the commentary following. Very little of his personal history has come down to us. He was the son of Amoz; but who the latter was is not known. Isaiah lived in Jerusalem, was married, had at least two sons, (Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 8:3; Isaiah 8:18,) and prophesied under the kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. (See note on chap. Isaiah 1:1.) His prophecies continued to be delivered probably into the last years of Hezekiah. (See notes on chapter 40.) It is barely possible Isaiah reached the first years of Manasseh, and under that wicked king shared the cruel martyrdom of being sawn asunder, which tradition assigns to him; but in such case his prophetic career was of unexampled length.

Our prophet lived midway between Moses and Christ. This gave his mission as prophet a high significance; the more so, as Drechsler says, “that it was the earliest preliminary and typical realization of the threatenings which the Lord had expressed by Moses against Israel in the event of their unfaithfulness.” The points of the crises can here be only just touched. One was the result to the theocracy when ungodly Ahaz came near to upsetting the national faith of Judah in compromises with idolatrous Syria and with rebellious Israel. The disaster was foiled. The other was, when Sennacherib invaded Judah, and pious Hezekiah’s faith in Jehovah issued in the annihilation of the Assyrian host. Experiences like these were the key to the courage and fidelity of the prophet and of Hezekiah, whose counsellor he was during the best part of his career.

The structure of the book of Isaiah seems to have its best solution in its apparent chronological arrangement. Five notes of time occur: namely, the last year of Uzziah, Isaiah 6:1; the expedition of Rezin, early in the reign of Ahaz, Isaiah 7:1; the year of the death of Ahaz, Isaiah 14:28; the expedition of Tartan, Isaiah 20:1; and the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, Isaiah 36:1. Difficulties exist, however, but not inextricable. For example, the first chapter seems to speak of present ravages of the country by strangers. But this chapter was probably not the first written, but is of after composition, as an introduction to the whole body of visions, expressing the average of the whole prophetic scene. Chapter vi reads like the prophet’s first commission. But see comments, in loco. It looks backward and forward, as of a series of visions all in course of fulfilment. Difficulties similar may be sought out, if one pleases; but possibly all may be quite as easily explained.

During the lifetime of Isaiah the Assyrian power rose to its height, scourged the nations, made Israel captive, afflicted Judah, defiantly dashed itself against the rock of divine promise against Zion and the house of David then lost its grip and went to decay, its place being taken for the time by the Chaldean power. Through the gathering thunder-cloud the prophet lived, saw its early bursts over his country, announced the fall of the destroyer, survived till just before or after Hezekiah’s peaceful close, and filled up his own last quiet years with the glorious post-Assyrian predictions of chapters 40-66.

In the course of these chapters the idea of Messiah is merged in the conception of Israel, because he concentrates in himself the very being of Israel; then he is called the servant of Jehovah because he is to ascend through death and the grave to glory. See chaps. 53 and Isaiah 49:3, “Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

Our prophet was filled with the certainty that the omnipotence of the Holy One of Israel was to execute destruction first on Judah at the hands of a heathenish world-power, and then on that world-power itself. Under the hard oppression of Babylon he saw humbled Israel emerging into a liberty and glory like to that its own Messiah was to institute a kingdom of peace and salvation which was to cover the whole earth. In detailed vision he saw the dawn of the world’s long looked-for salvation in the downfall of Babylon, and in Israel’s deliverance by Cyrus, the anointed of Jehovah. Truth and knowledge appeared in the scene an overmatch for the inanities of idolatry. Jehovah’s SERVANT led out at first as a lamb for the slaughter gained at length world-wide adequacy to blot out the sins of the people, and to gather and lead them from every quarter of the globe up to Zion to Zion embosomed in a new heavens and a new earth, and filled with the divine glory.

These chapters are denied by not a few to be Isaiah’s, and are handed over to an unknown person as author in the age of the exile, mostly on the ground that supernatural prophecy is impossible. The burden of proof lies with the assumption; and, except for its apparent honesty and fallacious persistence, it were not worth the while to give it the least attention. This persistence is doubtless due to the prevalence of the anti-supernatural notion in this positivistic age; a notion already showing waning force, and not unlikely to diminish more and more. The denial is partly based also on critical grounds. These generally are to be respected, as they have been by the ablest and most candid critics in rejoinder; yet some are found to be frivolous, and all are more or less afterthoughts, or levied to the support of the main assumption anti-supernaturalism.

Not a few of these objections have been noticed in the comments, and in introductory remarks prefacing the fortieth chapter. More attention to them could scarcely have been given, considering requirements upon the work to be brief in extent and popular in presentation. Regret is hereby acknowledged, that on this most intricate book of the Scriptures more space could not well be allotted to difficulties needing thoroughly-sifting inquiry. Not display of learning, but the obtaining of the most important results in briefest expression of exegesis upon Isaiah, has been the aim of the comments. To obtain these, the author has been in consultation throughout with the works of the most eminent scholars in this field, such as the following: Gesenius, Alexander, Drechsler, Delitzsch, Lowth, Barnes, Ewald, Stier, Hitzig, Cheyne, Cowles, Kay, Birks, Noyes, Furst, Davies, Hengstenberg, and many subsidiary monographs and standard side-authorities. STRUCTURE OF ISAIAH.*

[* Immense difficulty has been raised by various editors and critics on this subject in respect to points Historical and Chronological. The subject cannot be cleared of difficulty. The Analysis here given, with modifications, is from Delitzsch.]

First Half of the Collection of Visions, chaps. 1-39.

PART FIRST.

First Cycle. Chapters 1-4.

OPENING WORDS OF THE COLLECTION Isaiah 1:0

COURSE OF ISRAEL FROM FALSE GLORY TO THE TRUE Isaiah 2-4

DEVASTATING JUDGMENT ON JEHOVAH’S VINEYARD CLOSING WORDS OF FIRST CYCLE Isaiah 5:0

Temple Vision Isaiah’s Commission as Prophet. Isaiah 6:0.

THE PROPHET’S ACCOUNT OF THEOPHANY Isaiah 6:1-12 THE PROMISE TO THE REMNANT Isaiah 6:13

PART SECOND.

Consolation of Immanuel amid Syrian Oppression. Chapters 7-12.

DIVINE SIGN, NAMELY: A VIRGIN’S WONDROUS SON Isaiah 7:0

TWO OMEN’S OF THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE Isaiah 8:1-4

Esoteric Addresses. Isaiah 8:5-12.

IMMANUEL’S CONSOLATION AND THREATENING DARKNESS Isaiah 8:5 to Isaiah 9:6

JEHOVAH’S OUTSTRETCHED HAND Isaiah 9:7 to Isaiah 10:4

IMPERIAL WORLD-KINGDOM TO BE DESTROYED, AND JEHOVAH’S KINGDOM REARED IN ITS STEAD IN HIS ANOINTED Isaiah 10:5-12

JUDGMENT OF THE ASSYRIAN SCOURGE Isaiah 10:5-34

THE PROMISE OF THE SON OF DAVID Isaiah 11:12

PART THIRD.

Collection of Oracles Concerning the Nation. Chapters 13-23.

ORACLE RESPECTING THE CHALDEAN NATION, THE HEIRS OF THE ASSYRIANS Isaiah 13:1 to Isaiah 14:27

ORACLE CONCERNING PHILISTIA Isaiah 14:28-32

ORACLE CONCERNING MOAB Isaiah 15, 16

ORACLE CONCERNING DAMASCUS AND ISRAEL Isaiah 17:0

ETHIOPIA’S SUBMISSION TO JEHOVAH Isaiah 18:0

ORACLE CONCERNING EGYPT Isaiah 19:0

SEQUEL OF THE ORACLE AND ITS INTERPRETATION Isaiah 20:0

BURDENS OF THE SOUTH Isaiah 21:1 to Isaiah 22:14

ORACLE CONCERNING DESERT OF THE SEA, (Babylon) Isaiah 21:1-10

ORACLE CONCERNING SILENCE OF DEATH, (Dumah, Edom) Isaiah 21:11-12

ORACLE IN THE EVENING, (Against Arabia) Isaiah 21:13-17

ORACLE CONCERNING VALLEY OF VISION, (Jerusalem) Isaiah 22:1-14

AGAINST SHEBNA, (APPENDIX TO TETRALOGY IN Isaiah 20:1 to Isaiah 22:14) Isaiah 22:15-25

ORACLE CONCERNING TYRE Isaiah 23:0

PART FOURTH.

Finale of the Great Catastrophe. Chapters 24-26. ( Eschatological.)

THE JUDGMENT UPON THE EARTH Isaiah 24:0

THE FOURFOLD MELODIOUS ECHO Isaiah 25:1 to Isaiah 27:6

FIRST ECHO: SALVATION OF THE NATIONS AFTER FALL OF THE IMPERIAL CITY Isaiah 25:1-8

SECOND ECHO: HUMILIATION OF MOAB Isaiah 25:9-12

THIRD ECHO: ISRAEL BROUGHT BACK, OR RAISED FROM THE DEAD Isaiah 26:0

FOURTH ECHO: FRUIT-BEARING VINEYARD PROTECTED BY JEHOVAH Isaiah 27:1-6

JEHOVAH’S CHASTISING COURSE TOWARD ISRAEL Isaiah 27:7-13

PART FIFTH.

Book of Woes; or, Discourses Historical, Relating to Assyrian and Egyptian Alliances. Chapters 28-33.

FIRST WOE: JUDGMENT ON SAMARIA AND JERUSALEM, AND CONSOLATION FOR BOTH Isaiah 28:0

SECOND WOE: OPPRESSION AND DELIVERANCE OF ARIEL, (HEARTH OF GOD) Isaiah 29:0

THIRD WOE: MOMENTOUS RESULT OF ALLIANCE WITH EGYPT Isaiah 30:0

FOURTH WOE: FALSE HELP; THE DESPISED ONE PITIED; THE NEW ERA Isaiah 31:1 to Isaiah 32:8

APPENDIX TO FOURTH WOE: AGAINST THE WOMEN OF JERUSALEM Isaiah 32:9-20

THE FIFTH WOE: WOE UPON ASSYRIA; DELIVERANCE AND GLORY OF JERUSALEM Isaiah 33:0

PART SIXTH.

Finale of Judgment on all the World, especially on Edom, and Redemption of Jehovah’s People, or Times of Restitution. Chapters 34, 35.

PART SEVENTH.

Fulfilments of Prophecy, and Prophecies Belonging to Fourteenth Year of Hezkiah’s Reign and the Times Immediately Following. Chapters 36-39.

( Close of the Earlier Visions. The Historical Episode.) THE ASSYRIAN DEFIANCE Isaiah 36:0

ATTEMPT TO COMPEL JERUSALEM’S SURRENDER Isaiah 36:1 to Isaiah 37:7

THE ASSYRIAN OVERTHROW Isaiah 37:8-38

HEZEKIAH’S SICKNESS; ISAIAH’S ASSURANCE OF RECOVERY Isaiah 38:0

BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY THREATENED THROUGH OCCASION OF HEZEKIAH’S IMPOLITIC COURSE Isaiah 39:0

CLOSE OF THE HISTORICAL EPISODE, AND TEXT FURNISHED FOR THE LATER GREAT SERIES OF PROPHECIES Isaiah 39:0

Later Series of Prophecies; or, The Second Half of the Collection, chaps. 40-66.

PART FIRST.

FIRST PROPHECY: CONSOLATORY ADDRESS, AND THE GOD OF CONSOLATION Isaiah 40:0

SECOND PROPHECY: THE GOD OF THE WORLD’S HISTORY AND OF PROPHECY Isaiah 41:0

THIRD PROPHECY: MEDIATOR OF ISRAEL, AND SAVIOUR OF THE GENTILES Isaiah 42:1 to Isaiah 43:13

FOURTH PROPHECY: AVENGING AND DELIVERANCE; OUTPOURING OF THE SPIRIT Isaiah 43:14 to Isaiah 44:5

FIFTH PROPHECY: HEATHEN IDOLS RIDICULED; AND JEHOVAH, GOD OF ISRAEL, MAKES REJOICING FOR HIS PEOPLE Isaiah 44:6-23

SIXTH PROPHECY: CYRUS, THE ANOINTED OF JEHOVAH, AND DELIVERER OF ISRAEL Isaiah 44:24-28

SEVENTH PROPHECY: FALL OF THE GODS OF BABYLON Isaiah 46:0

EIGHTH PROPHECY: BABYLON’S FALL; CAPITAL OF THE WORLD’S EMPIRE DESTROYED Isaiah 47:0

NINTH PROPHECY: DELIVERANCE FROM BABYLON Isaiah 48:0

PART SECOND.

FIRST PROPHECY: SERVANT OF JEHOVAH SELF-ATTESTED; DESPONDENCY OF ZION REPROVED Isaiah 49:0

SECOND PROPHECY: ISRAEL’S SELF-REJECTION; SERVANT OF JEHOVAH’S STEADFASTNESS Isaiah 50:0

THIRD PROPHECY: SALVATION BURSTS FORTH; THE CUP OF WRATH TURNS AWAY Isaiah 51:0

FOURTH PROPHECY: JERUSALEM CHANGES SERVITUDE FOR DOMINION, IMPRISONMENT FOR LIBERTY Isaiah 52:1-12

FIFTH PROPHECY: SERVANT OF JEHOVAH’S EXALTATION OUT OF DEEPEST DEGRADATION Isaiah 52:13-15

SIXTH PROPHECY: GLORY OF JERUSALEM; CHURCH OF THE SERVANT OF JEHOVAH Isaiah 54:0

SEVENTH PROPHECY: EXHORTATION TO COME AND TAKE THE SURE SALVATION OF JEHOVAH Isaiah 55:0

EIGHTH PROPHECY: SABBATIC ADMONITIONS; CONSOLATIONS FOR PROSELYTES AND EUNUCHS Isaiah 56:1-8

NINTH PROPHECY: LEADERS OF ISRAEL WARNED FOR NEGLECT OF DUTY AND ERRORS OF THE PEOPLE Isaiah 56:9-12

PART THIRD.

FIRST PROPHECY: FALSE WORSHIP AND TRUE, WITH PROMISES FOR THE LATTER Isaiah 58:0

SECOND PROPHECY: EXISTING WALL OF PARTITION BROKEN DOWN AT LAST Isaiah 59:0

THIRD PROPHECY: GLORY OF THE JERUSALEM OF THE LAST DAYS Isaiah 60:0

FOURTH PROPHECY: GLORY OF THE OFFICE COMMITTED TO SERVANT OF JEHOVAH Isaiah 61:0

FIFTH PROPHECY: GRADUAL EXTENSION OF JERUSALEM’S GLORY Isaiah 62:0

SIXTH PROPHECY: JUDGMENT UPON EDOM AND ON THE WHOLE WORLD THAT IS HOSTILE TO THE CHURCH Isaiah 63:1-6

Three Closing Prophecies.

FIRST CLOSING PROPHECY: THANKSGIVING, CONFESSION, AND SUPPLICATION FOR THE CHURCH OF THE CAPTIVITY Isaiah 63:7-19

SECOND CLOSING PROPHECY: JEHOVAH’S ANSWER TO THE CHURCH’S PRAYER Isaiah 65:0

THIRD CLOSING PROPHECY: EXCLUSION OF SCORNERS FROM THE COMING SALVATION Isaiah 66:0

PART FIRST.

FIRST COLLECTION. CHAPTERS 1-39.

Prophecies relating to the progress of the mass of the people toward hardening of heart, chapters 1-6.