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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Isaiah 9

 

 

Verse 1

Isaiah 9:1 Nevertheless the dimness [shall] not [be] such as [was] in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict [her by] the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.

Ver. 1. Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such.] Dimness of anguish had been forethreatened. [Isaiah 8:22] Now this is added for an allay, as being a promise of a mitigation of their misery, and yet further of Christ’s incarnation, which is the sum of all the good news in the world. Evangelistam hic agit Isaias, non prophetam, saith one, (a) i.e., Isaiah here acteth the part of an evangelist rather than of a prophet. He foretelleth, saith another interpreter, (b) that as the Assyrians preyed upon Samaria and Galilee, so shall the Lord Christ also prey upon them spiritually, and for their greatest good. [Isaiah 9:2] And as Tiglathpileser first carried away a few out of Galilee, lightly afflicting the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, and then Shalmaneser, more grievously afflicting her, carried captive those and all the rest of the ten tribes; similarily Christ, first preaching in Galilee, converted and called from there various of his disciples, and afterwards, when he was lifted up from the earth, he drew all men unto him. [John 12:32] He rode upon his white horse, the apostles, conquering the world, and to conquer. [Revelation 6:2] And hence that sincere joy in the hearts of his servants, far exceeding that of harvest, which is not without great toil, or that of soldiers dividing the spoil, which is not achieved without confused noise and garments rolled in blood. [Isaiah 9:2-3; Isaiah 9:5] (c)

By the way of the sea.] The sea of Tiberias, [John 21:1] or lake of Genesareth. [Luke 5:1]

Beyond Jordan.] Or, Beside Jordan.

In Galilee of the Gentiles.] {See Trapp on "Matthew 4:15"}


Verse 2

Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Ver. 2. The people that walked in darkness.] Liberationis lucem promittit. {See Trapp on "Matthew 4:16"}


Verse 3

Isaiah 9:3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, [and] not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, [and] as [men] rejoice when they divide the spoil.

Ver. 3. Thou hast multiplied the nation.] Or, "Never since thou multipliedst this people, didst thou give them such joy" - i.e., such matter of joy as now thou intendest to do. Or thus, "Thou wilt multiply this nation, thou wilt increase their joy"; especially by sending thy Son, who is called "the gift," [John 4:10] "the benefit," [1 Timothy 6:2] such as wherein all discontents are soon swallowed up. Everlasting joy shall be upon the heads of the Lord’s ransomed ones, they "shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." [Isaiah 35:10]

They joy before thee.] Pleasure there must be in the ways of God, because therein men let out their souls into God, the fountain of all good. Christ’s chariot is paved with love. [Song of Solomon 3:9-10]

According to the joy in harvest.] And a great deal more. [Psalms 4:7] They do "over abound exceedingly with joy." [2 Corinthians 7:4] Joys they have "unspeakable, and full of glory." [1 Peter 1:8]

And as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.] Wherein the pleasure is usually more than the profit, [Psalms 119:162] and yet the profit oft very great too, {as 2 Chronicles 20:25} and as at the sack of Constantinople, at the wealth whereof the Turks themselves wondered, and derided their folly that possessing so much they would bestow so little in the defence of themselves and their country. (a)


Verse 4

Isaiah 9:4 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.

Ver. 4. For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden,] i.e., Thou hast disenthralled and delivered thy people from the burdenous yokes of their enemies, both corporal and spiritual; that taking thine easy yoke, thy light burden upon them, they might "serve thee without fear in holiness and righteousness before thee all the days of their lives." [Luke 1:74] The Jewish doctors expound all this of Sennacherib’s tyranny, and their deliverance therefrom. But the prophet intendeth a further matter [Isaiah 9:6-7]

And the staff of his shoulder.] Wherewith he was beaten and bastinadoed. {thrashed} See Isaiah 14:5.

The rod of his oppressor.] Metaphora ab agasonibus, a metaphor from horse drivers, who lay on without mercy. Whipping among the Turks hath been usually inflicted even upon the greatest bashaws of the court upon the least displeasure of the tyrant, especially if they be not natural Turks born. (a) The poor captives met with hard measure this way at Babylon; but Satan’s slaves with much harder. Christ fitly noteth here that the rod wherewith the devil whippeth sinners is their own lusts and passions; yea, herewith they punish themselves, by his instigation, as the lion beateth himself with his own tail.

As in the day of Midian.] Beaten by Gideon. [ 7:21] So "the day of Gibeah." [Hosea 9:9] "The day of Jerusalem." [Psalms 137:7] The battle of Agincourt, the Sicilian vespers, &c. Gideon, by the sound of trumpet and shining of lamps out of earthen broken vessels, overcame those Midianites; so by the trumpet of his Word and light of the gospel, carried through the world by weak instruments, hath Christ confounded his adversaries, [1 John 2:14] as one fitly maketh the comparison. See it largely prosecuted in sixteen particulars in Cornelius A Lapide upon the text.


Verse 5

Isaiah 9:5 For every battle of the warrior [is] with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but [this] shall be with burning [and] fuel of fire.

Ver. 5. For every battle of the warrior, &c.] Great is the woe of war; when death hews its way through a wood of men, in a minute of time, from the mouth of a murdering piece, when fire and sword waste at pleasure. The birth of Christ comforteth against all the miseries of war; whereunto therefore it is opposed both here, and Micah 5:1-2; {See Trapp on "Micah 5:1"} {See Trapp on "Micah 5:2"} Now, then, as the Israelites frighted and flighted the Midianites with saying, Hic Gideon, Here’s Gideon; so may we our spiritual enemies by crying Hic Iesus; Hoc in signo vincemus. This is Jesus, lets us conquer under his standard. Here’s Jesus; we are "more than conquerors through him that loved us."

But this shall be with burning,] i.e., With the fire of the Holy Ghost, saith Oecolampadius, burning up our corruptions, {as Isaiah 4:4} and moulding us into a new man. Diodate senseth it thus: The world shall be filled with blood and wars, and at last shall be consumed with fire at the day of judgment.


Verse 6

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Ver. 6. For unto us a child is born.] That child foretold of. [Isaiah 7:14] Christ shall be born in the fulness of time, as sure as if he were born already. This was "good tidings of great joy to all people." [Luke 2:10] The Hebrew besher, for good tidings, cometh of bashar, for flesh; because, say some critics, there should be a taking of flesh, God manifested in the flesh, which should be the best tidings. Angels first brought it, and were glad of such an errand. Still they pry into this mystery, Trono capite et propenso collo [1 Peter 1:12] and can never sufficiently wonder to see that μεγας Yεος should be μικρον Bρεφος, the "great God, a little child"; regens sidera, sugens ubera; that he who ruleth the stars should be sucking at the breast; that the eternal Word should not be able to speak a word; that he that should come in the clouds should appear in clouts (a) [Luke 2:12] in vilibus et veteribus indumentis, saith Ludolphus, in old tattered rags, in such clouts as we cover wounds and beggars’ sores withal, say others. Well might Synesius call Christ viscerum ingentium partum, the birth of huge bowels. For the time of his birth, Christ living just thirty-six years and a half, saith one, and dying at Easter, it must needs follow that he was born about the middle of the month Tisri, which answereth to part of our September, at the Feast of Tabernacles, &c., to which feast the word εσκηνωσεν, in John 1:14 probably alludeth.

Unto us a Son is given.] That "only begotten Son of God." [John 3:16] begotten of the substance of his Father before all beginnings, after an unspeakable manner. The Scripture speaketh of it usually by way of circumlocution, [Colossians 1:15 Revelation 19:12] or giveth us only some glimpse by way of similitude. {as Hebrews 1:3} This eternal Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, assumed our nature. [Hebrews 2:17] He "overtook" it, as the Greek word signifieth, as the shepherd doth his sheep that has run astray. A shepherd with a sheep upon his shoulder engraved upon the communion cup in the primitive times of the gospel, imported the same notion.

And the government shall be upon his shoulders.] The power and majesty of the kingdom is committed to him by his Father, [Isaiah 22:22 Matthew 28:18] and he hath strength enough to manage it. Princeps est baiulus Reip. The Hebrews call a prince Nassi, because, Atlas-like, he is to bear up the commonwealth, and not to overload his subjects. Christ, both as prince of his Church, and as high priest also, beareth up and beareth out his people, "helping their infirmities." [Romans 8:26] {See Trapp on "Romans 8:26"}

And his name shall be called.] Heb., He shall call his name; (1.) God his Father shall; or, (2.) Every true believer shall call him and count him all this. And sure it is, had we but skill to spell all the letters in this name of Christ, it would be "a strong tower" [Proverbs 18:10] unto us, better than that of David builded for an armoury, and completely furnished. [Song of Solomon 4:4] Compare this text with 1 Corinthians 1:30, and see all our doubts answered. Are we perplexed? He is our "Wonderful, Counsellor," and "made unto us of God wisdom." Are we in depths of distress? He is "the mighty God," our "redemption." Want we grace and his image? He is the "everlasting Father," our "sanctification." Doth the guilt of sin sting us? He is the "Prince of peace," our "righteousness."

Wonderful.] Heb., A miracle or wonder, (b) viz., in all his counsels and courses, especially for his; glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders. [Exodus 15:11]

Counsellor.] The Septuagint here calleth him "the Angel of the great Council." He is set forth as clothed with a "garment down to the foot," [Revelation 1:13] which is the dress of counsellors at law, who are therehence called gentlemen of the long robe. [Revelation 3:17 Proverbs 8:14 Jeremiah 32:19] But because counsellors are but subjects, it is added in Christ’s style,

The mighty God.] Able to effect his own counsels for the behoof of his subjects. St Paul calleth him "the great God," [Titus 2:13] and "God above all to be blessed for ever." [Romans 9:5] God the potentate, so the Septuagint renders this text: God the giant, so Oecolampadius.

The everlasting Father.] The Father of eternity; "the King eternal, immortal." [1 Timothy 1:17] Ferdinand the emperor, on his deathbed, would not acknowledge the title Invictissimus, most unconqerable, but commanded his counsellor to call him Ferdinand without more addition. Christ is also the Author of eternity to all his people whom he hath begotten again to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for them. [1 Peter 1:3-4]

The Prince of peace.] Pacis omnimodae, of all kinds of peace, outward, inward, or of country and of conscience, temporal and eternal. Of all these he is the Prince, as having full power to bestow them; for he is Son to the "God of peace"; [Romans 16:20] he was brought from heaven with that song of peace; [Luke 2:14] he himself purged our sins, and made our peace; [Hebrews 1:3 Ephesians 2:14] returned up to heaven with that farewell of peace; [John 14:27] left to the world the gospel of peace; [Ephesians 2:17] whose ministers are messengers of peace; [Romans 10:15] whose followers are the children of peace. [Luke 10:6-9] Wherefore Christ doth far better deserve than our Henry VII did, to be styled the "Prince of peace." Especially since,


Verse 7

Isaiah 9:7 Of the increase of [his] government and peace [there shall be] no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Ver. 7. Of the increase of his government there shall be no end.] Here the mere final in the middle of the word Lemarbeh hath occasioned some to give many guesses at the reason of it; {Hebrew Text Note} yea, to conceit many mysteries, where wiser men can find no such matter. It is a good note which one giveth here, viz., that the more Christ’s government increaseth in the soul, the more peace there is. See Isaiah 32:17, Psalms 119:136.

To establish it.] Or, Support it, uphold it. Bασιλευς as if Bασις του λαου. A king hath his name in Greek from being the foundation of the people. This King of kings is only worthy of that name; he is not maintained and supported by us and our subsidies, but we by him, and by the supplies of his Spirit. [Philippians 1:19] All our springs are in him. [Psalms 87:7]

The zeal of the Lord of hosts,] i.e., The philanthropy [Titus 3:4] and free grace of God. (a) Dilexisti me, Domine, magis quam te, You love me, oh God, more than yourself, saith a father. Let us reciprocate, by being zealous of good works, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. And when Satan telleth us of our no merits, tell we him that the "zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do it" notwithstanding.


Verse 8

Isaiah 9:8 The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.

Ver. 8. The Lord sent a word into Jacob.] He sent it as a shaft out of a bow, that will be sure to hit. God loves to forewarn; but woe be to those that will not be warned. The Septuagint render it, The Lord sent a plague, or death, into Jacob; and indeed after the white horse followeth the red and the black. [Revelation 6:2; Revelation 6:4-5] Like as Tamerlane, that warlike Scythian, displayed first a white flag in token of mercy; and then a red, menacing and threatening blood; and then, lastly, a black flag, the messenger and ensign of death, was hung abroad.

And it hath lighted upon Israel.] (1.) They were not ignorant of such a word; [Isaiah 9:9] (2.) They could neither avert nor avoid his wrath.


Verse 9

Isaiah 9:9 And all the people shall know, [even] Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart,

Ver. 9. And all the people shall know.] Know it they do already; but they shall know it by woeful experience. He that trembleth not in hearing, shall be crushed to pieces in feeling, said Mr Bradford, martyr.

That say in pride and stoutness of heart.] The poet could say of his Ajax - αγηνορια δι μιν εκτα - His pride undid him. So doth it many a man; especially when come to that height that it fighteth against God, as here. When earthen pots will needs be dashing against the "rock of ages," and doing this or that al despito di Dio, as that profane Pope once said, whether God will or no; divine vengeance dogs at heels such desperadoes.


Verse 10

Isaiah 9:10 The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change [them into] cedars.

Ver. 10. The bricks are fallen down.] Not thrown down by Providence, but fallen down by fate or blind fortune. God is not so far honoured as once to be owned by these atheists, who think they can make their party good against him, and mend what he had marred, whether he would or not. Thus this giant-like generation; and the like impiety is in the corrupt nature of us all. For "as in water face answereth to face, so doth the heart of a man to a man," saith Solomon. [Proverbs 27:19]

The sycamores are cut down, &e.] Another proverbial speech to the same purpose. Sycamores were then very common in that country, and little set by. [1 Kings 10:27] Now they are not to be found there, saith Jerome, as neither are cedars in Lebanon.


Verse 11

Isaiah 9:11 Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together;

Ver. 11. Therefore the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin.] In whom ye trust. He shall shortly be destroyed by the Assyrian, [2 Kings 16:9] and then your hopes shall hop headless, and make you ashamed.

And join his enemies together.] Heb., Mingle them - viz., in confederacy and agreement against him, though otherwise at odds among themselves.


Verse 12

Isaiah 9:12 The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand [is] stretched out still.

Ver. 12. The Syrians before.] Under the conduct of the Assyrian, who hath slain their King Rezin, and made them his vassals.

And the Philistines behind.] Or from the west - westward.

And they shall devour Israel with open mouth.] The enemies of God’s people are more savage and ravenous than wild beasts. Hence they are called in Scripture boars, bears, lions, leopards, unicorns, tigers, wolves, &c. Let us therefore bless us out of their bloody jaws, which having escaped, let us sing, "Blessed be God, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth." [Psalms 124:6] The poor Indians cried out that it had been better their country had been given to the devils of hell than to those cruel Spaniards.

For all this his wrath is not turned away.] He still frowneth, and hath his hand up to smite, as angry people use to do.


Verse 13

Isaiah 9:13 For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts.

Ver. 13. For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them.] This were the only way to escape God, viz., to run in to him. There is no standing before a lion, no bearing up sail in a storm, no stouting it out with God Almighty. [Amos 4:6-11] {See Trapp on "Amos 4:6"} {See Trapp on "Amos 4:7"} {See Trapp on "Amos 4:8"} {See Trapp on "Amos 4:9"} {See Trapp on "Amos 4:10"} {See Trapp on "Amos 4:11"}


Verse 14

Isaiah 9:14 Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day.

Ver. 14. Head and tail,] i.e., High and low (a) {as Isaiah 9:15} Here he compareth Israel, non sine morsu, to a beast with a long tail, for the perverseness of their practices. Or else to the serpent amphisbaena, which stingeth both with head and tail.

Branch and rush.] Strong and feeble. A "branch," or bough, hath some tack in it; a "rush" is a spongy, unsubstantial substance.


Verse 15

Isaiah 9:15 The ancient and honourable, he [is] the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he [is] the tail.

Ver. 15. The ancient and honourable is the head.] Thus the Scripture frequently expoundeth itself. In a general calamity all fare alike, lords and losels.

And the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.] Such, like dogs, do cauda adblandiri, soothe and smooth men up in their sins, and are the vilest of men. Quid enim contemptius et abiectius animo fingi potest quam assentari divitibus, linguamque venalim habere? Such also, as serpents, glide smoothly over the body, but sting with their tails.


Verse 16

Isaiah 9:16 For the leaders of this people cause [them] to err; and [they that are] led of them [are] destroyed.

Ver. 16. For the leaders of this people cause them to err.] By their ill counsel and example. Exempla enim non ibi consistunt, ubi cceperunt. The ancients placed the statues of their princes and patriots near the fountains, to show that they were the spring heads of good or evil to the public. Some read the words thus: Those that bless this people, viz., the false prophets, have been misleaders: ductoresfuerunt seductores. Pope Plus II hath this memorable saying, Nihil excellenter malum in Ecclesia, Catholica patratur cuius prima origo a sacerdotibus non dependeat, in forte occulto quodam Dei concilio fiat. (a) Nothing exceedingly bad is done in the Catholic Church, unless it is first started by the priests, it becomes hidden in the plan of God.

And they that are led of them.] Or, Blessed by them.

Are destroyed.] Or, Swallowed up; or, Blindfolded. (b)


Verse 17

Isaiah 9:17 Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows: for every one [is] an hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand [is] stretched out still.

Ver. 17. Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men.] Nay, he shall laugh at their destruction. [Proverbs 1:26]

Neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows.] They are deceived therefore that, being unregenerate, hope to find favour with God merely for their adversity; and because they have their hell, as they call it, here, think to have heaven hereafter.

Because every one is an hypocrite and an evildoer.] That facies hypocritica of our nation is facies hippocratica, saith one; a mortal complexion, a sad prognostic.

And every mouth speaketh folly.] Or, Villany. Sapless, worthless, rotten, and stinking stuff. [Ephesians 4:29]


Verse 18

Isaiah 9:18 For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up [like] the lifting up of smoke.

Ver. 18. For wickedness burneth as a fire.] God will burn up these wicked Israelites, as once he did those sinful Sodomites; for unregenerate Israel is to him as Ethiopia, [Amos 9:7] when once scelera abierunt in mores, and there is a general defection of all sorts and states, God will make an utter riddance of them; he will fire the whole forest.


Verse 19

Isaiah 9:19 Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother.

Ver. 19. Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts is the land darkened,] viz., By that pride of smoke, or vast pillar of smoke, mentioned Isaiah 9:18. Tristem et miseram rerum faciem designat.

No man shall spare his brother.] Wickedness is cruel, and a man had as good deal with a cannibal as with a truly covetous wretch.


Verse 20

Isaiah 9:20 And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm:

Ver. 20. And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry.] Inexplebilem illorum avaritiam et rapacitatem notat. They shall rape and scrape by right or wrong, and yet as sick of a bulimy, or under the curse of dissatisfaction, they shall never have enough. [Ecclesiastes 5:10] {See Trapp on "Ecclesiastes 5:10"}

They shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm.] That is, They shall make a prey (a) of their nearest allies. Some understand the text of civil wars, which indeed are most unnatural; and concerning which one saith well, Dissidia nostra sunt amicorum dispendia, hostium compendia, et publica irae divinae incendia.


Verse 21

Isaiah 9:21 Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: [and] they together [shall be] against Judah. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand [is] stretched out still.

Ver. 21. Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh.] Snarling at and intertearing one another, as dogs, about the kingly dignity, or some other reasonless reason. Thus the prophet exemplifieth what he had spoken.

And they together shall be against Judah.] So Herod and Pilate could unite against Christ, [Luke 23:7-9] and those that were at greatest enmity among themselves against the Church. [Psalms 83:5; Psalms 83:8] So in Julian the apostate’s time Jews and Gentiles combined against Christians; and in our days Papists and Lutherans against Calvinists. (a) How unworthily and impotently do the Lutherans of Suevia rail upon that holy man Oecolampadius, whose note it is upon this text, that these last dangerous times were foretold by St Paul. [2 Timothy 3:1-2] Annon eosdem describunt Paulus et Iesaias? saith he: Do not Paul and Isaiah describe the same men? Bullinger observeth concerning the Anabaptists of Germany, that as they are at great odds among themselves, so they all agree against goldly ministers of the truth, to despise and disparage them to the utmost.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 9:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/isaiah-9.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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