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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Isaiah 5




Judgment of Devastation upon the Vineyard of Jehovah - Isaiah 5

The foregoing prophecy has run through all the different phases of prophetic exhortation by the time that we reach the close of Isaiah 4:1-6; and its leading thought, viz., the overthrow of the false glory of Israel, and the perfect establishment of true glory through the medium of judgment, has been so fully worked out, that chapter 5 cannot possibly be regarded either as a continuation or as an appendix to that address. Unquestionably there are many points in which chapter 5 refers back to chapters 2-4. The parable of the vineyard in Isaiah 5:1-7 grows, as it were, out of Isaiah 3:14; and in Isaiah 5:15 we have a repetition of the refrain in Isaiah 2:9, varied in a similar manner to Isaiah 2:17. But these and other points of contact with chapters 2-4, whilst they indicate a tolerable similarity in date, by no means prove the absence of independence in chapter 5. The historical circumstances of the two addresses are the same; and the range of thought is therefore closely related. But the leading idea which is carried out in chapter 5 is a totally different one. The basis of the address is a parable representing Israel as the vineyard of Jehovah, which, contrary to all expectation, had produced bad fruit, and therefore was given up to devastation. What kind of bad fruit it produced is described in a six-fold “woe;” and what kind of devastation was to follow is indicated in the dark nocturnal conclusion to the whole address, which is entirely without a promise.

Verse 1-2

The prophet commenced his first address in chapter 1 like another Moses; the second, which covered no less ground, he opened with the text of an earlier prophecy; and now he commences the third like a musician, addressing both himself and his hearers with enticing words. Isaiah 1:1 . “Arise, I will sing of my beloved, a song of my dearest touching his vineyard.” The fugitive rhythm, the musical euphony, the charming assonances in this appeal, it is impossible to reproduce. They are perfectly inimitable. The Lamed in (lı̄dı̄dı̄) is the Lamed (objecti). The person to whom the song referred, to whom it applied, of whom it treated, was the singer's own beloved. It was a song of his dearest one (not his cousin, patruelis, as Luther renders it in imitation of the Vulgate, for the meaning of (dōd) is determined by (yâdid), beloved) touching his vineyard. The Lamed in (l'carmo) is also Lamed (objecti). The song of the beloved is really a song concerning the vineyard of the beloved; and this song is a song of the beloved himself, not a song written about him, or attributed to him, but such a song as he himself had sung, and still had to sing. The prophet, by beginning in this manner, was surrounded (either in spirit or in outward reality) by a crowd of people from Jerusalem and Judah. The song is a short one, and runs thus in Isaiah 1:1 , Isaiah 1:2: “My beloved had a vineyard on a fatly nourished mountain-horn, and dug it up and cleared it of stones, and planted it with noble vines, and built a tower in it, and also hewed out a wine-press therein; and hoped that it would bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.” The vineyard was situated upon a (keren), i.e., upon a prominent mountain peak projecting like a horn, and therefore open to the sun on all sides; for, as Virgil says in the Georgics, “apertos Bacchus amat colles.” This mountain horn was (ben-(shemen), a child of fatness: the fatness was innate, it belonged to it by nature ((shemen) is used, as in Isaiah 28:1, to denote the fertility of a nutritive loamy soil). And the owner of the vineyard spared no attention or trouble. The plough could not be used, from the steepness of the mountain slope: he therefore dug it up, that is to say, he turned up the soil which was to be made into a vineyard with a hoe ((izzēk), to hoe; Arab. (mi‛zak), (mi‛zaka)); and as he found it choked up with stones and boulders, he got rid of this rubbish by throwing it out (sikkēl), a privative piel, lapidibus purgare, then operam consumere in lapides, sc. ejiciendos, to stone, or clear of stones: Ges. §52, 2). After the soil had been prepared he planted it with (sorek), i.e., the finest kind of eastern vine, bearing small grapes of a bluish-red, with pips hardly perceptible to the tongue. The name is derived from its colour (compare the Arabic (zerka), red wine). To protect and adorn the vineyard which had been so richly planted, he built a tower in the midst of it. The expression “and also” calls especial attention to the fact that he hewed out a wine-trough therein ((yekeb), the trough into which the must or juice pressed from the grapes in the wine-press flows, (lacus) as distinguished from (torcular)); that is to say, in order that the trough might be all the more fixed and durable, he constructed it in a rocky portion of the ground ((Châtsēb) (bo) instead of (Chătsab) (bo), with a and the accent drawn back, because a Beth was thereby easily rendered inaudible, so that (Châtsēb) is not a participial adjective, as Böttcher supposes). This was a difficult task, as the expression “and also” indicates; and for that very reason it was an evidence of the most confident expectation. But how bitterly was this deceived! The vineyard produced no such fruit, as might have been expected from a (sorek) plantation; it brought forth no (‛anâbim) whatever, i.e., no such grapes as a cultivated vine should bear, but only (b'ushim), or wild grapes. Luther first of all adopted the rendering wild grapes, and then altered it to harsh or sour grapes. But it comes to the same thing. The difference between a wild vine and a good vine is only qualitative. The vitis vinifera, like all cultivated plants, is assigned to the care of man, under which it improves; whereas in its wild state it remains behind its true intention (see Genesis, §622). Consequently the word (b'ushim) (from (bâ'ash), to be bad, or smell bad) denotes not only the grapes of the wild vine, which are naturally small and harsh (Rashi, (lambruches), i.e., grapes of the (labrusca), which is used now, however, as the botanical name of a vine that is American in its origin), but also grapes of a good stock, which have either been spoiled or have failed to ripen.

(Note: In the Jerusalem Talmud such grapes are called (ūbshin), the letters being transposed; and in the Mishnah (Ma'aseroth i. 2, Zebî'ith iv 8) הבאישׁ is the standing word applied to grapes that are only half ripe (see Löwy's Leshon Chachamim, or Wörterbuch des talmudischen Hebräisch, Prag 1845). With reference to the wild grape ( τὸ ἀγριόκλημα ), a writer, describing the useful plants of Greece, says, “Its fruit ( τὰ ἀγριοστάφυλα ) consists of very small berries, not much larger than bilberries, with a harsh flavour.”)

These were the grapes which the vineyard produced, such as you might indeed have expected from a wild vine, but not from carefully cultivated vines of the very choicest kind.

Verse 3-4

The song of the beloved who was so sorely deceived terminates here. The prophet recited it, not his beloved himself; but as they were both of one heart and one soul, the prophet proceeds thus in Isaiah 5:3 and Isaiah 5:4: “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between me and my vineyard! What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it? Wherefore did I hope that it would bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes?” The fact that the prophet speaks as if he were the beloved himself, shows at once who the beloved must be. The beloved of the prophet and the lover of the prophet ((yâdid) and (dōd)) were Jehovah, with whom he was so united by a union mystica exalted above all earthly love, that, like the angel of Jehovah in the early histories, he could speak as if he were Jehovah Himself (see especially Zechariah 2:12-13). To any one with spiritual intuition, therefore, the parabolical meaning and object of the song would be at once apparent; and even the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the men of Judah (yoosheeb and iish are used collectively, as in Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 9:8; Isaiah 22:21, cf., Isaiah 20:6) were not so stupefied by sin, that they could not perceive to what the prophet was leading. It was for them to decide where the guilt of this unnatural issue lay - that is to say, of this thorough contradiction between the “doing” of the vineyard and the “doing” of the Lord; that instead of the grapes he hoped for, it brought forth wild grapes. (On the expression “what could have been done,” quid faciendum est, (mah) -(la'asoth), see at Habakkuk 1:17, Ges. §132, Anm. 1.) Instead of למה (למּה) we have the more suitable term מדּוּע, the latter being used in relation to the actual cause (Causa efficiens), the former in relation to the object (Causa finalis). The parallel to the second part, viz., Isaiah 50:2, resembles the passage before us, not only in the use of this particular word, but also in the fact that there, as well as here, it relates to both clauses, and more especially to the latter of the two. We find the same paratactic construction in connection with other conjunctions (cf., Isaiah 12:1; Isaiah 65:12). They were called upon to decide and answer as to this what and wherefore; but they were silent, just because they could clearly see that they would have to condemn themselves (as David condemned himself in connection with Nathan's parable, 2 Samuel 12:5). The Lord of the vineyard, therefore, begins to speak. He, its accuser, will now also be its judge.

Verse 5

“Now then, I will tell you what I will do at once to my vineyard: take away its hedge, and it shall be for grazing; pull down its wall, and it shall be for treading down.” Before “now then” ((vattâh)) we must imagine a pause, as in Isaiah 3:14. The Lord of the vineyard breaks the silence of the umpires, which indicates their consciousness of guilt. They shall hear from Him what He will do at once to His vineyard (Lamed in (l'carmi), as, for example, in Deuteronomy 11:6). “I will do:” (ani) ('ōeh), fut. instans, equivalent to facturus sum (Ges. §134, 2, b). In the inf. abs. which follow He opens up what He will do. On this explanatory use of the inf. abs., see Isaiah 20:2; Isaiah 58:6-7. In such cases as these it takes the place of the object, as in other cases of the subject, but always in an abrupt manner (Ges. §131, 1). He would take away the (mesucah), i.e., the green thorny hedge (Proverbs 15:19; Hosea 2:8) with which the vineyard was enclosed, and would pull down the (gârēd), i.e., the low stone wall (Numbers 22:24; Proverbs 24:31), which had been surrounded by the hedge of thorn-bushes to make a better defence, as well as for the protection of the wall itself, more especially against being undermined; so that the vineyard would be given up to grazing and treading down (lxx καταπα'τημα ), i.e., would become an open way and gathering-place for man and beast.

Verse 6

This puts an end to the unthankful vineyard, and indeed a hopeless one.”And I will put an end to it: it shall not be pruned nor digged, and it shall break out in thorns and thistles; and I will command the clouds to rain no rain over it.” “Put an end:” (bâthâh) (= (battâh): Ges. §67, Anm. 11) signifies, according to the primary meaning of (bâthath) (בּוּת, בּהת, see at Isaiah 1:29), viz., abscindere, either abscissum = locus abscissus or praeruptus (Isaiah 7:19), or abscissio = deletio. The latter is the meaning here, where (shı̄th) (bâthâh) is a refined expression for the more usual כלה עשׂה, both being construed with the accusative of the thing which is brought to an end. Further pruning and hoeing would do it no good, but only lead to further disappointment: it was the will of the Lord, therefore, that the deceitful vineyard should shoot up in thorns and thistles ((âlâh) is applied to the soil, as in Isaiah 34:13 and Proverbs 24:31; (shâimr) (vâshaith), thorns and thistles, are in the accusative, according to Ges. §138, 1, Anm. 2; and both the words themselves, and also their combination, are exclusively and peculiarly Isaiah's).

(Note: Cassel associates (shâmir) as the name of a plant (saxifraga) with σμὐρις , and (shaith) with sentis ἄκανθα ; but the name (shâmir) is not at all applicable to those small delicate plants, which are called saxifraga (stone-breakers) on account of their growing out of clefts in the rock, and so appearing to have split the rock itself. Both (shâmir) (vâshaith) and (kōts) (v'dardar), in Genesis 3:18, seem rather to point to certain kinds of rhamnustogether with different kinds of thistles. The more arid and waste the ground is, the more does it abound, where not altogether without vegetation, in thorny, prickly, stunted productions.)

In order that it might remain a wilderness, the clouds would also receive commandment from the Lord not to rain upon it. There can be no longer any doubt who the Lord of the vineyard is. He is Lord of the clouds, and therefore the Lord of heaven and earth. It is He who is the prophet's beloved and dearest one. The song which opened in so minstrel-like and harmless a tone, has now become painfully severe and terribly repulsive. The husk of the parable, which has already been broken through, now falls completely off (cf., Matthew 22:13; Matthew 25:30). What it sets forth in symbol is really true. This truth the prophet establishes by an open declaration.

Verse 7

“For the vineyard of Jehovah of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the plantation of His delight: He waited for justice, and behold grasping; for righteousness, and behold a shriek.” The meaning is not that the Lord of the vineyard would not let any more rain fall upon it, because this Lord was Jehovah (which is not affirmed in fact in the words commencing with “for,” (Ci)), but a more general one. This was how the case stood with the vineyard; for all Israel, and especially the people of Judah, were this vineyard, which had so bitterly deceived the expectations of its Lord, and indeed “the vineyard of Jehovah of hosts,” and therefore of the omnipotent God, whom even the clouds would serve when He came forth to punish. The expression “for” ((Ci)) is not only intended to vindicate the truth of the last statement, but the truth of the whole simile, including this: it is an explanatory “for” ((Ci) explic.), which opens the epimythion. “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts” ((Cerem Jehovah Zebaoth)) is the predicate. “The house of Israel ((Beth Yisrâel)) was the whole nation, which is also represented in other passages under the same figure of a vineyard (Isaiah 27:2.; Ps 80, etc.). But as Isaiah was prophet in Judah, he applies the figure more particularly to Judah, which was called Jehovah's favourite plantation, inasmuch as it was the seat of the divine sanctuary and of the Davidic kingdom. This makes it easy enough to interpret the different parts of the simile employed. The fat mountain-horn was Canaan, flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 15:17); the digging of the vineyard, and clearing it of stones, was the clearing of Canaan from its former heathen inhabitants (Psalm 54:3); the sorek-vines were the holy priests and prophets and kings of Israel of the earlier and better times (Jeremiah 2:21); the defensive and ornamental tower in the midst of the vineyard was Jerusalem as the royal city, with Zion the royal fortress (Micah 4:8); the winepress-trough was the temple, where, according to Psalm 36:9 (8.), the wine of heavenly pleasures flowed in streams, and from which, according to Psalm 42:1-11 and many other passages, the thirst of the soul might all be quenched. The grazing and treading down are explained in Jeremiah 5:10 and Jeremiah 12:10. The bitter deception experienced by Jehovah is expressed in a play upon two words, indicating the surprising change of the desired result into the very opposite. The explanation which Gesenius, Caspari, Knobel, and others give of (mispâch), viz., bloodshed, does not commend itself; for even if it must be admitted that (sâphach) occurs once or twice in the “Arabizing” book of Job (Job 30:7; Job 14:19) in the sense of pouring out, this verbal root is strange to the Hebrew (and the Aramaean). Moreover, (mispâch) in any case would only mean pouring or shedding, and not bloodshed; and although the latter would certainly be possible by the side of the Arabic (saffâch), (saffâk) (shedder of blood), yet it would be such an ellipsis as cannot be shown anywhere else in Hebrew usage. On the other hand, the rendering “leprosy” does not yield any appropriate sense, as (mispachath) ((sappachath)) is never generalized anywhere else into the single idea of “dirt” (Luzzatto: sozzura), nor does it appear as an ethical notion. We therefore prefer to connect it with a meaning unquestionably belonging to the verb ספח (see kal, 1 Samuel 2:36; niphal, Isaiah 14:1; (hithpael), 1 Samuel 26:19), which is derived in יסף, אסף, סוּף, from the primary notion “to sweep,” spec. to sweep towards, sweep in, or sweep away. Hence we regard (mispach) as denoting the forcible appropriation of another man's property; certainly a suitable antithesis to (mishpât). The prophet describes, in full-toned figures, how the expected noble grapes had turned into wild grapes, with nothing more than an outward resemblance. The introduction to the prophecy closes here.
The prophecy itself follows next, a seven-fold discourse composed of the six-fold woe contained in vv. 8-23, and the announcement of punishment in which it terminates. In this six-fold woe the prophet describes the bad fruits one by one. In confirmation of our rendering of (mispâch), the first woe relates to covetousness and avarice as the root of all evil.

Verse 8

“Woe unto them that join house to house, who lay field to field, till there is no more room, and ye alone are dwelling in the midst of the land.” The participle is continued in the finite verb, as in Isaiah 5:23; Isaiah 10:1; the regular syntactic construction is cases of this kind (Ges. §134, Anm. 2). The preterites after “till” (there are to such preterites, for ('ephes) is an intensified אין enclosing the verbal idea) correspond to future perfects: “They, the insatiable, would not rest till, after every smaller piece of landed property had been swallowed by them, the whole land had come into their possession, and no one beside themselves was settled in the land” (Job 22:8). Such covetousness was all the more reprehensible, because the law of Israel and provided so very stringently and carefully, that as far as possible there should be an equal distribution of the soil, and that hereditary family property should be inalienable. All landed property that had been alienated reverted to the family every fiftieth year, or year of jubilee; so that alienation simply had reference to the usufruct of the land till that time. It was only in the case of houses in towns that the right of redemption was restricted to one year, at least according to a later statute. How badly the law of the year of jubilee had been observed, may be gathered from Jer 34, where we learn that the law as to the manumission of Hebrew slaves in the sabbatical year had fallen entirely into neglect. Isaiah's contemporary, Micah, makes just the same complaint as Isaiah himself (vid., Micah 2:2).

Verse 9-10

And the denunciation of punishment is made by him in very similar terms to those which we find here in Isaiah 5:9, Isaiah 5:10: “Into mine ears Jehovah of hosts: Of a truth many houses shall become a wilderness, great and beautiful ones deserted. For ten yokes of vineyard will yield one pailful, and a quarter of seed-corn will produce a bushel.” We may see from Isaiah 22:14 in what sense the prophet wrote the substantive clause, “Into mine ears,” or more literally, “In mine ears is Jehovah (Zebaoth),” viz., He is here revealing Himself to me. In the pointing, בּאזני is written with tiphchah as a pausal form, to indicate to the reader that the boldness of the expression is to be softened down by the assumption of an ellipsis. In Hebrew, “to say into the ears” did not mean to “speak softly and secretly,” as Genesis 23:10, Genesis 23:16; Job 33:8, and other passages, clearly show; but to speak in a distinct and intelligible manner, which precludes the possibility of any misunderstanding. The prophet, indeed, had not Jehovah standing locally beside him; nevertheless, he had Him objectively over against his own personality, and was well able to distinguish very clearly the thoughts and words of his own personality, from the words of Jehovah which arose audibly within him. These words informed him what would be the fate of the rich and insatiable landowners. “Of a truth:” אם־לא (if not) introduces an oath of an affirmative character (the complete formula is (Chai) (ani) ('im-(lo'), “as I live if not”), just as ('im) (if) alone introduces a negative oath (e.g., Numbers 14:23). The force of the expression ('im-(lo') extends not only to (rabbim), as the false accentuation with (gershayim) (double-geresh)would make it appear, but to the whole of the following sentence, as it is correctly accentuated with rebiain the Venetian (1521) and other early editions. A universal desolation would ensue: (rabbim) (many) does not mean less than all; but the houses ((bâttim), as the word should be pronounced, notwithstanding Ewald's objection to Köhler's remarks on Zechariah 14:2; cf., Job 2:1-13:31) constituted altogether a very large number (compare the use of the word “many” in Isaiah 2:3; Matthew 20:28, etc.). מאין is a double, and therefore an absolute, negation (so that there is not, no inhabitant, i.e., not any inhabitant at all). Isaiah 5:10, which commences, with (Ci), explains how such a desolation of the houses would be brought about: failure of crops produces famine, and this is followed by depopulation. “Ten (zimdē) (with dagesh lene, Ewald) of vineyard” are either ten pieces of the size that a man could plough in one day with a yoke of oxen, or possibly ten portions of yoke-like espaliers of vines, i.e., of vines trained on cross laths (the vina jugata of Varro), which is the explanation adopted by Biesenthal. But if we compare 1 Samuel 14:14, the former is to be preferred, although the links are wanting which would enable us to prove that the early Israelites had one and the same system of land measure as the Romans;

(Note: On the (jugerum), see Hultsch, Griechische und römische Metrologie, 1862. The Greek (plethron), which was smaller by two and a half, corresponded to some extent to this; also the Homeric (tetraguon), which cannot be more precisely defined (according to Eustathius, it was a piece of land which a skilful labourer could plough in one day). According to Herod. ii. 168, in the Egyptian square-measure an a'roura was equal to 150 cubits square. The Palestinian, according to the tables of Julian the Ashkalonite, was the (plethron). “The (plethron),” he says, “was ten perches, or fifteen fathoms, or thirty paces, sixty cubits, ninety feet” (for the entire text, see L. F. V. Fennersberg's Untersuchungen über alte Langen-, Feld-, und Wegemaase, 1859). Fennersberg's conclusion is, that the (tzemed) was a (plethron), equal in length to ten perches of nine feet each. But the meaning of the word (tzemed) is of more importance in helping to determine the measure referred to, than the tables of long measure of the architect of Ashkalon, which have been preserved in the imperial collection of laws of Constantine Harmenopulos, and which probably belong to a much later period.)

nevertheless Arab. (fddân) (in Hauran) is precisely similar, and this word signifies primarily a yoke of oxen, and then a yoke (jugerum) regarded as a measure of land. Ten days' work would only yield a single bath. This liquid measure, which was first introduced in the time of the kings, corresponded to the (ephah) in dry measure (Ezekiel 45:11). According to Josephus (Ant. viii. 2, 9), it was equal to seventy-two Roman sextarii, i.e., a little more than thirty-three Berlin quarts; but in the time of Isaiah it was probably smaller. The (homer), a dry measure, generally called a (Cor) after the time of the kings, was equal to ten Attic (medimnoi);

(Note: Or rather 7 1/2 Attic (medimnoi) = 10 Attic (metretoi) = 45 Roman modia (see Böckh, Metrologische Untersuchungen, p. 259).)

a (medimnos) being (according to Josephus, Ant. xv 9, 2) about 15-16ths of a Berlin bushel, and therefore a little more than fifteen pecks. Even if this quantity of corn should be sown, they would not reap more than an (ephah).The harvest, therefore, would only yield the tenth part of the sowing, since an (ephah) was the tenth part of a (homer), or three (seahs), the usual minimum for one baking (vid., Matthew 13:33). It is, of course, impossible to give the relative measure exactly in our translation.

Verse 11

The second woe, for which the curse about to fall upon vinedressing (Isaiah 5:10 ) prepared the way by the simple association of ideas, is directed against the debauchees, who in their carnal security carried on their excesses even in the daylight. “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning to run after strong drink; who continue till late at night with wine inflaming them!” (Boker) (from (bâkar), (bakara), to slit, to tear up, or split) is the break of day; and (nesheph) (from (nâshaph), to blow) the cool of the evening, including the night (Isaiah 21:4; Isaiah 59:10); 'ichër, to continue till late, as in Proverbs 23:30: the construct state before words with a preposition, as in Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 28:9, and many other passages (Ges. §116, 1). (Shēcâr), in connection with (yayin), is the general name for every other kind of strong drink, more especially for wines made artificially from fruit, honey, raisins, dates, etc., including barley-wine ( οἶνος κρίθινος ) or beer ( ἐκ κριθῶν μέθυ in Aeschylus, also called βρῦτον βρυτόν ζῦθος ζύθος , and by many other names), a beverage known in Egypt, which was half a wine country and half a beer country, from as far back as the time of the Pharaohs. The form (shēcâr) is composed, like ענב (with the fore-tone (tsere)), from (shâcar), to intoxicate; according to the Arabic, literally to close by stopping up, i.e., to stupefy.

(Note: It is a question, therefore, whether the name of sugar is related to it or not. The Arabic (sakar) corresponds to the Hebrew (shecâr); but sugar is called (sukkar), Pers. ('sakkar), ('sakar), no doubt equivalent to σἀκχαρι (Arrian in Periplus, μἐλι τὸ καλἀμινον τὸ λεγὀμενου σἀκχαρι ), (saccharum), an Indian word, which is pronounced (Carkarâ) in Sanscrit and (sakkara) in Prakrit, and signifies “forming broken pieces,” i.e., sugar in grains or small lumps (brown sugar). The art of boiling sugar from the cane was an Indian invention (see Lassen, Indische Alterthumskunde, i. 269ff.). The early Egyptian name for beer is (hek) (Brugsch, Recueil, p. 118); the demotic and hieratic name (henk), the Coptic (henke). The word ζῦθος ζὐθος ) is also old Egyptian. In the Book of the Dead (79, 8) the deceased says, “I have taken sacrificial cakes from the table, I have drunk (seth-(t) in the evening.” Moses Stuart wrote an Essay upon the Wines and Strong Drinks of the Ancient Hebrews, which was published in London (1831), with a preface by J. Pye Smith.)

The clauses after the two participles are circumstantial clauses (Ewald, §341, b), indicating the circumstances under which they ran out so early, and sat till long after dark: they hunted after mead, they heated themselves with wine, namely, to drown the consciousness of their deeds of darkness.

Verse 12

Isaiah 5:12 describes how they go on in their blindness with music and carousing: “And guitar and harp, kettle-drum, and flute, and wine, is their feast; but they regard not the work of Jehovah, and see not the purpose of His hands.” “Their feast” is so and so (משׁתּיהם is only a plural in appearance; it is really a singular, as in Daniel 1:10, Daniel 1:16, and many other passages, with the (Yod) of the primary form, משׁתּי = משׁתּה, softened: see the remarks on עלה at Isaiah 1:30, and עשׂיה at Isaiah 22:11); that is to say, their feast consisted or was composed of exciting music and wine. Knobel construes it, “and there are guitar, etc., and wine is their drink;” but a divided sentence of this kind is very tame; and the other expression, based upon the general principle, “The whole is its parts,” is thoroughly Semitic (see Fleischer's Abhandlungen über einige Arten der Nominalapposition in den Sitzungsberichten der sächs. Gesellschaft der Wissenschaft, 1862). (Cinnor) (guitar) is a general name for such instruments as have their strings drawn (upon a bridge) over a sounding board; and (nebel) (the harp and lyre) a general name for instruments with their strings hung freely, so as to be played with both hands at the same time. (Toph) (Arab. (duff)) is a general name for the tambourin, the drum, and the kettle-drum; (Chaill) (lit. that which is bored through) a general name for the flute and double flute. In this tumult and riot they had no thought or eye for the work of Jehovah and the purpose of His hands. This is the phrase used to express the idea of eternal counsel of God (Isaiah 37:26), which leads to salvation by the circuitous paths of judgment (Isaiah 10:12; Isaiah 28:21; Isaiah 29:23), so far as that counsel is embodied in history, as moulded by the invisible interposition of God. In their joy and glory they had no sense for what was the most glorious of all, viz., the moving and working of God in history; so that they could not even discern the judgment which was in course of preparation at that very time.

Verse 13

Therefore judgment would overtake them in this blind, dull, and stupid animal condition. “Therefore my people go into banishment without knowing; and their glory will become starving men, and their tumult men dried up with thirst.” As the word “therefore” ((lâcēn), as in Isaiah 1:24) introduces the threat of punishment, (gâlâh) (go into captivity) is a prophetic preterite. Israel would go into exile, and that “without knowing” ((mibb'li-(da'ath)). The meaning of this expression cannot be “from want of knowledge,” since the min which is fused into one word with (b'li) is not causal, but negative, and (mibb'li), as a preposition, always signifies “without” (absque). But are we to render it “without knowing it” (as in Hosea 4:6, where (hadda'ath) has the article), or “unawares?” There is no necessity for any dispute on this point, since the two renderings are fundamentally one and the same. The knowledge, of which Isaiah 5:12 pronounces them destitute, was more especially a knowledge of the judgment of God that was hanging over them; so that, as the captivity would come upon them without knowledge, it would necessarily come upon them unawares. “Their glory” ((Cebōdō)) and “their tumult” ((hamono)) are therefore to be understood, as the predicates show, as collective nouns used in a personal sense, the former signifying the more select portion of the nation (cf., Micah 1:15), the latter the mass of the people, who were living in rioting and tumult. The former would become “men of famine” ((mĕthē) (rââb): מתי, like אנשׁי in other places, viz., 2 Samuel 19:29, or בּני, 1 Samuel 26:16); the latter “men dried up with thirst” ((tsichēh) (tsâmâh): the same number as the subject). There is no necessity to read מתי (dead men) instead of מתי, as the lxx and Vulgate do, or מזי (מזה) according to Deuteronomy 32:24, as Hitzig, Ewald, Böttcher, and others propose (compare, on the contrary, Genesis 34:30 and Job 11:11). The adjective (tzicheh) (hapax leg) is formed like (Chirēsh), (Cēheh), and other adjectives which indicate defects: in such formations from verbs Lamed - (He), instead of e we have an ae that has grown out of ay (Olshausen, §182, b). The rich gluttons would starve, and the tippling crowd would die with thirst.

Verse 14

The threat of punishment commences again with “therefore;” it has not yet satisfied itself, and therefore grasps deeper still. “Therefore the under-world opens its jaws wide, and stretches open its mouth immeasurably wide; and the glory of Jerusalem descends, and its tumult, and noise, and those who rejoice within it.” The verbs which follow (lâcēn) (therefore) are prophetic preterites, as in Isaiah 5:13. The feminine suffixes attached to what the lower world swallows up do not refer to (sheol) (though this is construed more frequently, no doubt, as a feminine than as a masculine, as it is in Job 26:6), but, as expressed in the translation, to Jerusalem itself, which is also necessarily required by the last clause, “those who rejoice within it.” The withdrawal of the tone from ועלז to the penultimate (cf., (Châphētz) in Psalm 18:20; Psalm 22:9) is intentionally omitted, to cause the rolling and swallowing up to be heard as it were. A mouth is ascribed to the under-world, also a (nephesh), i.e., a greedy soul, in which sense (nephesh) is then applied metonymically sometimes to a thirst for blood (Psalm 27:12), and sometimes to simple greediness (Isaiah 56:11), and even, as in the present passage and Habakkuk 2:5, to the throat or swallow which the soul opens “without measure,” when its craving knows no bounds (Psychol. p. 204). It has become a common thing now to drop entirely the notion which formerly prevailed, that the noun (sheol) was derived from the verb (shâal) in the sense in which it was generally employed, viz., to ask or demand; but Caspari, who has revived it again, is certainly so far correct, that the derivation of the word which the prophet had in his mind was this and no other. The word (sheol) (an infinitive form, like (pekōd)) signifies primarily the irresistible and inexorable demand made upon every earthly thing; and then secondarily, in a local sense, the place of the abode of shades, to which everything on the surface of the earth is summoned; or essentially the divinely appointed curse which demands and swallows up everything upon the earth. We simply maintain, however, that the word (sheol), as generally sued, was associated in thought with (shâal), to ask or demand. Originally, no doubt, it may have been derived from the primary and more material idea of the verb שׁאל, possibly from the meaning “to be hollow,” which is also assumed to be the primary meaning of שׁעל.

(Note: The meaning “to be hollow” is not very firmly established, however; as the primary meaning of שׁעל, and the analogy sometimes adduced of hell = hollow (Hölle= Höhle), is a deceptive one, as Hölle(hell), to which Luther always gives the more correct form Helle, does not mean a hollow, but a hidden place (or a place which renders invisible: from hëln, to conceal), Lat. celans (see Jütting, Bibl. Wörterbuch, 1864, pp. 85, 86). It is much more probable that the meaning of sheol is not the hollow place, but the depression or depth, from של, which corresponds precisely to the Greek χαλᾶν so far as its primary meaning is concerned (compare the talmudic (shilshêl), to let down; (shilshul), sinking or depression, Erubin 83b; (shul), the foundation, fundus): see Hupfeld on Psalm 6:6. Luzzatto on this passage also explains sheol as signifying depth, and compares the talmudic (hishchil) = (hēshil), to let down (or, according to others, to draw up - two meanings which may easily be combined in the same word, starting from its radical idea, which indicates in a general a loosening of the previous connection). Fürst has also given up the meaning cavitas, a hollow, and endeavours to find a more correct explanation of the primary signification of (shâ'al) (see at Isaiah 40:12).)

At any rate, this derivation answers to the view that generally prevailed in ancient times. According to the prevalent idea, Hades was in the interior of the earth. And there was nothing really absurd in this, since it is quite within the power and freedom of the omnipresent God to manifest Himself wherever and however He may please. As He reveals Himself above the earth, i.e., in heaven, among blessed spirits in the light of His love; so did He reveal Himself underneath the earth, viz., in (Sheōl), in the darkness and fire of His wrath. And with the exception of Enoch and Elijah, with their marvellous departure from this life, the way of every mortal ended there, until the time when Jesus Christ, having first paid the λὐτρον , i.e., having shed His blood, which covers our guilt and turns the wrath of God into love, descended into Hades and ascended into heaven, and from that time forth has changed the death of all believers from a descent into Hades into an ascension to heaven. But even under the Old Testament the believer may have known, that whoever hid himself on this side the grave in Jehovah the living One, would retain his eternal germ of life even in (Sheōl) in the midst of the shades, and would taste the love of God even in the midst of wrath. It was this postulate of faith which lay at the foundation of the fact, that even under the Old Testament the broader and more comprehensive idea of (Sheōl) began to be contracted into the more limited notion of hell (see Psychol. p. 415). This is the case in the passage before us, where Isaiah predicts of everything of which Jerusalem was proud, and in which it revelled, including the persons who rejoice din these things, a descent into Hades; just as the Korahite author of Ps 49 wrote (Psalm 49:14) that the beauty of the wicked would be given up to Hades to be consumed, without having hereafter any place in the upper world, when the upright should have dominion over them in the morning. Hades even here is almost equivalent to the New Testament (gehenna).

Verse 15-16

The prophet now repeats a thought which formed one of the refrains of the second prophetic address (Isaiah 2:9, Isaiah 2:11, cf., Isaiah 2:17). It acquires here a still deeper sense, from the context in which it stands. “Then are mean men bowed down, and lords humbled, and the eyes of lofty men are humbled. And Jehovah of hosts shows Himself exalted in judgment, and God the Holy One sanctifies Himself in righteousness.” That which had exalted itself from earth to heaven, would be cast down earthwards into hell. The consecutive futures depict the coming events, which are here represented as historically present, as the direct sequel of what is also represented as present in Isaiah 5:14: Hades opens, and then both low and lofty in Jerusalem sink down, and the soaring eyes now wander about in horrible depths. God, who is both exalted and holy in Himself, demanded that as the exalted One He should be exalted, and that as the Holy One He should be sanctified. But Jerusalem had not done that; He would therefore prove Himself the exalted One by the execution of justice, and sanctify Himself ((nikdash) is to be rendered as a reflective verb, according to Ezekiel 36:23; Ezekiel 38:23) by the manifestation of righteousness, in consequence of which the people of Jerusalem would have to give Him glory against their will, as forming part of “the things under the earth” (Philemon 2:10). Jerusalem has been swallowed up twice in this manner by Hades; once in the Chaldean war, and again in the Roman. But the invisible background of these outward events was the fact, that it had already fallen under the power of hell. And now, even in a more literal sense, ancient Jerusalem, like the company of Korah (Numbers 16:30, Numbers 16:33), has gone underground. Just as Babylon and Nineveh, the ruins of which are dug out of the inexhaustible mine of their far-stretching foundation and soil, have sunk beneath the ground; so do men walk about in modern Jerusalem over the ancient Jerusalem, which lies buried beneath; and many an enigma of topography will remain an enigma until ancient Jerusalem has been dug out of the earth again.

Verse 17

And when we consider that the Holy Land is at the present time an extensive pasture-ground for Arab shepherds, and that the modern Jerusalem which has arisen from the dust is a Mohammedan city, we may see in this also a literal fulfilment of Isaiah 5:17: “And lambs feed as upon their pasture, and nomad shepherds eat the waste places of the fat ones.” There is no necessity to supply an object to the verb ורעוּ, as Knobel and others assume, viz., the waste lands mentioned in the second clause; nor is (Cedâbrâm) to be taken as the object, as Caspari supposes; but the place referred to is determined by the context: in the place where Jerusalem is sunken, there lambs feed after the manner of their own pasture-ground, i.e., just as if they were in their old accustomed pasture ((dober), as in Micah 2:12, from (dâbar), to drive). The lambs intended are those of the (gârim) mentioned in the second clause. The (gârim) themselves are men leading an unsettled, nomad, or pilgrim life; as distinguished from (gêrim), strangers visiting, or even settled at a place. The lxx have ἄρνες , so that they must have read either (Cârim) or (gedâim), which Ewald, Knobel, and others adopt. But one feature of the prophecy, which is sustained by the historical fulfilment, is thereby obliterated. (Chârboth) (mêchim) are the lands of those that were formerly marrowy, i.e., fat and strutting about in their fulness; which lands had now become waste places. Knobel's statement, that (âcăl) is out of place in connection with (gârim), is overthrown by Isaiah 1:7, to which he himself refers, though he makes he-goats the subject instead of men. The second woe closes with Isaiah 5:17. It is the longest of all. This also serves to confirm the fact that luxury was the leading vice of Judah in the time of Uzziah-Jotham, as it was that of Israel under Jeroboam II (see Amos 6:1-14, where the same threat is held out).

Verse 18

The third woe is directed against the supposed strong-minded men, who called down the judgment of God by presumptuous sins and wicked words. “Woe unto them that draw crime with cords of lying, and sin as with the rope of the waggon.” Knobel and most other commentators take (mâshak) in the sense of attrahere(to draw towards one's self): “They draw towards them sinful deeds with cords of lying palliation, and the cart-rope of the most daring presumption;” and cite, as parallel examples, Job 40:24 and Hosea 11:4. But as (mâshak) is also used in Deuteronomy 21:3 in the sense of drawing in a yoke, that is to say, drawing a plough or chariot; and as the waggon or cart ((agâlâh), the word commonly used for a transport-waggon, as distinguished from (mercâbâh), the state carriage or war chariot is expressly mentioned here, the figure employed is certainly the same as that which underlies the New Testament ἑτεροζυγεῖν (“unequally yoked,” 2 Corinthians 6:14). Iniquity was the burden which they drew after them with cords of lying ((shâv'h): see at Psalm 26:4 and Job 15:31), i.e., “want of character or religion;” and sin was the waggon to which they were harnessed as if with a thick cart-rope (Hofmann, Drechsler, and Caspari; see Ewald, §221,a). Iniquity and sin are mentioned here as carrying with them their own punishment. The definite העון (crime or misdeed) is generic, and the indefinite הטּאה qualitative and massive. There is a bitter sarcasm involved in the bold figure employed. They were proud of their unbelief; but this unbelief was like a halter with which, like beasts of burden, they were harnessed to sin, and therefore to the punishment of sin, which they went on drawing further and further, in utter ignorance of the waggon behind them.

Verse 19

Isaiah 5:19 shows very clearly that the prophet referred to the free-thinkers of his time, the persons who are called fools ((nabal)) and scorners ((lētz)) in the Psalms and Proverbs. “Who say, Let Him hasten, accelerate His work, that we may see; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near and come, that we may experience it.” They doubted whether the day of Jehovah would ever come (Ezekiel 12:22; Jeremiah 5:12-13), and went so far in their unbelief as to call out for what they could not and would not believe, and desired it to come that they might see it with their own eyes and experience it for themselves (Jeremiah 17:15; it is different in Amos 5:18 and Mal 2:17-3:1, where this desire does not arise from scorn and defiance, but from impatience and weakness of faith). As the two verbs denoting haste are used both transitively and intransitively (vid., Judges 20:37, to hasten or make haste), we might render the passage “let His work make haste,” as Hitzig, Ewald, Umbreit, and Drechsler do; but we prefer the rendering adopted by Gesenius, Caspari, and Knobel, on the basis of Isaiah 60:22, and take the verb as transitive, and Jehovah as the subject. The forms (yâchishâh) and (taboâh) are, with Psalm 20:4 and Job 11:17, probably the only examples of the expression of a wish in the third person, strengthened by the (âh), which indicates a summons or appeal; for Ezekiel 23:20, which Gesenius cites (§48, 3), and Job 22:21, to which Knobel refers, have no connection with this, as in both passages the (âh) is the feminine termination, and not hortative (vid., Comm. on Job, at Job 11:17, note, and at Job 22:21). The fact that the free-thinkers called God “the Holy One of Israel,” whereas they scoffed at His intended final and practical attestation of Himself as the Holy One, may be explained from Isaiah 30:11: they took this name of God from the lips of the prophet himself, so that their scorn affected both God and His prophet at the same time.

Verse 20

The fourth woe: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who give out darkness for light, and light for darkness; who give out bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.” The previous woe had reference to those who made the facts of sacred history the butt of their naturalistic doubt and ridicule, especially so far as they were the subject of prophecy. This fourth woe relates to those who adopted a code of morals that completely overturned the first principles of ethics, and was utterly opposed to the law of God; for evil, darkness, and bitter, with their respective antitheses, represent moral principles that are essentially related (Matthew 6:23; James 3:11), Evil, as hostile to God, is dark in its nature, and therefore loves darkness, and is exposed to the punitive power of darkness. And although it may be sweet to the material taste, it is nevertheless bitter, inasmuch as it produces abhorrence and disgust in the godlike nature of man, and, after a brief period of self-deception, is turned into the bitter woe of fatal results. Darkness and light, bitter and sweet, therefore, are not tautological metaphors for evil and good; but epithets applied to evil and good according to their essential principles, and their necessary and internal effects.

Verse 21

The fifth woe: “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight.” The third woe had reference to the unbelieving naturalists, the opponents of prophecy ((nebuâh)); the fourth to the moralists, who threw all into confusion; and to this there is appended, by a very natural association of ideas, the woe denounced upon those whom want of humility rendered inaccessible to that wisdom which went hand in hand with prophecy, and the true foundation of which was the fear of Jehovah (Proverbs 1:7; Job 28:28; Ecclesiastes 12:13). “Be not wise in thine own eyes,” is a fundamental rule of this wisdom (Proverbs 3:7). It was upon this wisdom that that prophetic policy rested, whose warnings, as we read in Isaiah 28:9-10, they so scornfully rejected. The next woe, which has reference to the administration of justice in the state, shows very clearly that in this woe the prophet had more especially the want of theocratic wisdom in relation to the affairs of state in his mind.

Verse 22-23

The sixth woe: “Woe to those who are heroes to drink wine, and brave men to mix strong drink; who acquit criminals for a bribe, and take away from every one the righteousness of the righteous.” We see from Isaiah 5:23 that the drinkers in Isaiah 5:22 are unjust judges. The threat denounced against these is Isaiah's universal ceterum censeo; and accordingly it forms, in this instance also, the substance of his sixth and last woe. They are heroes; not, however, in avenging wrong, but in drinking wine; they are men of renown, though not for deciding between guilt and innocence, but for mixing up the ingredients of strong artistic wines. For the terms applied to such mixed wines, see Psalm 75:9; Proverbs 23:30, Song of Solomon 7:3. It must be borne in mind, however, that what is here called (shecâr) was not, properly speaking, wine, but an artificial mixture, like date wine and cider. For such things as these they were noteworthy and strong; whereas they judged unjustly, and took bribes that they might consume the reward of their injustice in drink and debauchery (Isaiah 28:7-8; Proverbs 31:5). “For reward:” (ēkeb) (Arab. (‛ukb); different from (âkēb), a heel, = (‛akib)) is an adverbial accusative, “in recompense,” or “for pay.” “From him” ((mimmennu)) is distributive, and refers back to (tsaddikim) (the righteous); as, for example, in Hosea 4:8.

Verse 24

In the three exclamations in Isaiah 5:18-21, Jehovah rested contented with the simple undeveloped “woe” ((hoi)). On the other hand, the first two utterances respecting the covetous and the debauchees were expanded into an elaborate denunciation of punishment. But now that the prophet has come to the unjust judges, the denunciation of punishment bursts out with such violence, that a return to the simple exclamation of “woe” is not to be thought of. The two “therefores” in Isaiah 5:13, Isaiah 5:14, a third is now added in Isaiah 5:24: “Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours stubble, and hay sinks together in the flame, their root will become like mould, and their blossom fly up like dust; for they have despised the law of Jehovah of hosts, and scornfully rejected the proclamation of the Holy One of Israel.” The persons primarily intended as those described in Isaiah 5:22, Isaiah 5:23, but with a further extension of the range of vision to Judah and Jerusalem, the vineyard of which they are the bad fruit. The sinners are compared to a plant which moulders into dust both above and below, i.e., altogether (cf., Malachi 4:1, and the expression, “Let there be to him neither root below nor branch above,” in the inscription upon the sarcophagus of the Phoenician king Es'mun'azar). Their root moulders in the earth, and their blossom (perach, as in Isaiah 18:5) turns to fine dust, which the wind carries away. And this change in root and blossom takes place suddenly, as if through the force of fire. In the expression (Ce'ecol kash leshon 'ēsh) (“as the tongue of fire devours stubble”), which consists of four short words with three sibilant letters, we hear, as it were, the hissing of the flame. When the infinitive construct is connected with both subject and object, the subject generally stands first, as in Isaiah 64:1; but here the object is placed first, as in Isaiah 20:1 (Ges. §133, 3; Ewald, §307). In the second clause, the infinitive construct passes over into the finite verb, just as in the similarly constructed passage in Isaiah 64:1. As (yirpeh) has the intransitive meaning (Collabi), to sink together, or collapse; either (lehâbâh) must be an acc. loci, or (Chashash) (lehâbâh) the construct state, signifying flame-hay, i.e., hay destined to the flame, or ascending in flame.

(Note: In Arabic also, (Chashı̄sh) signifies hay; but in common usage (at least in Syriac) it is applied not to dried grass, but to green grass or barley: hence the expression (yachush) there is green fodder. Here, however, in Isaiah, (Chashash) is equivalent to (Chashish yâbis), and this is its true etymological meaning (see the Lexicons). But (kash) is still used in Syro-Arabic, to signify not stubble, but wheat that has been cut and is not yet threshed; whereas the radical word itself signifies to be dry, and (Châshash) consequently is used for mown grass, and (kash) for the dry halm of wheat, whether as stubble left standing in the ground, or as straw (vid., Comm. on Job, at Job 39:13-18).)

As the reason for the sudden dissolution of the plantation of Judah, instead of certain definite sins being mentioned, the sin of all sins is given at once, namely, the rejection of the word of God with the heart ((mâ'as)), and in word and deed ((ni'ēts)). The double ('ēth) (with yethib immediately before pashta, as in eleven passages in all; see Heidenheim's Imspetehate'amim, p. 20) and (v'êth) (with (tebir)) give prominence to the object; and the interchange of Jehovah of hosts with the Holy One of Israel makes the sin appear all the greater on account of the exaltation and holiness of God, who revealed Himself in this word, and indeed had manifested Himself to Israel as His own peculiar people. The prophet no sooner mentions the great sin of Judah, than the announcement of punishment receives, as it were, fresh fuel, and bursts out again.

Verse 25

“Therefore is the wrath of Jehovah kindled against His people, and He stretches His hand over them, and smites them; then the hills tremble, and their carcases become like sweepings in the midst of the streets. For all this His anger is not appeased, and His hand is stretched out still.” We may see from these last words, which are repeated as a refrain in the cycle of prophecies relating to the time of Ahaz (Isaiah 9:11, Isaiah 9:16; Isaiah 10:4), that the prophet had before his mind a distinct and complete judgment upon Judah, belonging to the immediate future. It was certainly a coming judgment, not one already past; for the verbs after “therefore” ((‛al-(cên)), like those after the three previous (lâcēn), are all prophetic preterites. It is impossible, therefore, to take the words “and the hills tremble” as referring to the earthquake in the time of Uzziah (Amos 1:1; Zechariah 14:5). This judgment, which was closer at hand, would consist in the fact that Jehovah would stretch out His hand in His wrath over His people (or, as it is expressed elsewhere, would swing His hand: Luther, “wave His hand,” i.e., move it to and fro; vid., Isaiah 11:15; Isaiah 19:16; Isaiah 30:30, Isaiah 30:32), and bring it down upon Judah with one stroke, the violence of which would be felt not only by men, but by surrounding nature as well. What kind of stroke this would be, was to be inferred from the circumstance that the corpses would lie unburied in the streets, like common street-sweepings. The reading תּצּות must be rejected. Early editors read the word much more correctly תּצּות; Buxtorf (1618) even adopts the reading תוּצות, which has the Masoretic pointing in Numbers 22:39 in its favour. It is very natural to connect (Cassuchâh) with the Arabic (kusâcha) (sweepings; see at Isaiah 33:12): but (kusâc) is the common form for waste or rubbish of this kind (e.g., (kulâm), nail-cuttings), whereas (Cassuach) is a form which, like the forms (fâōl) (e.g., (Châmōts)) and (fâūl) (compare the Arabic (fâsūs), a wind-maker, or wind-bag, i.e., a boaster), has always an intensive, active (e.g., (Channun)), or circumstantial signification (like (shaccul)), but is never found in a passive sense. The (Caph) is consequently to be taken as a particle of comparison (followed, as is generally the case, with a definite article); and (sūchâh) is to be derived from (sūach) (= verrere, to sweep). The reference, therefore, is not to a pestilence (which is designated, as a stroke from God, not by (hiccâh), but by (nâgaph)), but to the slaughter of battle; and if we look at the other terrible judgment threatened in Isaiah 5:26., which was to proceed from the imperial power, there can be no doubt that the spirit of prophecy here points to the massacre that took place in Judah in connection with the Syro-Ephraimitish war (see 2 Chronicles 28:5-6). The mountains may then have trembled with the marching of troops, and the din of arms, and the felling of trees, and the shout of war. At any rate, nature had to participate in what men had brought upon themselves; for, according to the creative appointment of God, nature bears the same relation to man as the body to the soul. Every stroke of divine wrath which falls upon a nation equally affects the land which has grown up, as it were, with it; and in this sense the mountains of Judah trembled at the time referred to, even though the trembling was only discernible by initiated ears. But “for all this” (Beth, = “notwithstanding,” “in spite of,” as in Job 1:22) the wrath of Jehovah, as the prophet foresaw, would not turn away, as it was accustomed to do when He was satisfied; and His hand would still remain stretched out over Judah, ready to strike again.

Verse 26

Jehovah finds the human instruments of His further strokes, not in Israel and the neighbouring nations, but in the people of distant lands. “And lifts up a banner to the distant nations, and hisses to it from the end of the earth; and, behold, it comes with haste swiftly.” What the prophet here foretold began to be fulfilled in the time of Ahaz. But the prophecy, which commences with this verse, has every possible mark of the very opposite of a vaticinium post eventum. It is, strictly speaking, only what had already been threatened in Deuteronomy 28:49. (cf., Deuteronomy 32:21.), though here it assumes a more plastic form, and is here presented for the first time to the view of the prophet as though coming out of a mist. Jehovah summons the nations afar off: (haggōyim) (mērâchok) signifies, as we have rendered it, the “distant nations,” for (mērâc) is virtually an adjective both here and Isaiah 49:1, just as in Jeremiah 23:23 it is virtually a substantive. The visible working of Jehovah presents itself to the prophet in two figures. Jehovah plants a banner or standard, which, like an optical telegraph, announces to the nations at a more remote distance than the horn of battle ((shophâr)) could possibly reach, that they are to gather together to war. A “banner” ((nês)): i.e., a lofty staff with flying colours (Isaiah 33:23) planted upon a bare mountain-top (Isaiah 13:2). נשׂא alternates with הרים in this favourite figure of Isaiah. The nations through whom this was primarily fulfilled were the nations of the Assyrian empire. According to the Old Testament view, these nations were regarded as far off, and dwelling at the end of the earth (Isaiah 39:3), not only inasmuch as the Euphrates formed the boundary towards the north-east between what was geographically known and unknown to the Israelites (Psalm 72:8; Zechariah 9:10), but also inasmuch as the prophet had in his mind a complex body of nations stretching far away into further Asia. The second figure is taken from a bee-master, who entices the bees, by hissing or whistling, to come out of their hives and settle on the ground. Thus Virgil says to the bee-master who wants to make the bees settle, “Raise a ringing, and beat the cymbals of Cybele all around” (Georgics, iv 54). Thus does Jehovah entice the hosts of nations like swarms of bees (Isaiah 7:18), and they swarm together with haste and swiftness. The plural changes into the singular, because those who are approaching have all the appearance at first of a compact and indivisible mass; it is also possible that the ruling nation among the many is singled out. The thought and expression are both misty, and this is perfectly characteristic. With the word “behold” ((hinnēh)) the prophet points to them; they are approaching (mehērâh) kal, i.e., in the shortest time with swift feet, and the nearer they come to his view the more clearly he can describe them.

Verse 27

“There is none exhausted, and none stumbling among them: it gives itself no slumber, and no sleep; and to none is the girdle of his hips loosed; and to none is the lace of his shoes broken.” Notwithstanding the long march, there is no exhausted one, obliged to separate himself and remain behind (Deuteronomy 25:18; Isaiah 14:31); no stumbling one ((Cōshēl)), for they march on, pressing incessantly forwards, as if along a well-made road (Jeremiah 31:9). They do not slumber ((nūm)), to say nothing of sleeping ((yâshēn)), so great is their eagerness for battle: i.e., they do not slumber to refresh themselves, and do not even allow themselves their ordinary night's rest. No one has the girdle of his armour-shirt or coat of mail, in which he stuck his sword (Nehemiah 4:18), at all loosened; nor has a single one even the shoe-string, with which his sandals were fastened, broken (nittak, disrumpitur). The statement as to their want of rest forms a climax descendens; the other, as to the tightness and durability of their equipment, a climax ascendens: the two statements follow one another after the nature of a chiasmus.

Verse 28

The prophet then proceeds to describe their weapons and war-chariots. “He whose arrows are sharpened, and all his bows strung; the hoofs of his horses are counted like flint, and his wheels like the whirlwind.” In the prophet's view they are coming nearer and nearer. For he sees that they have brought the sharpened arrows in their quivers (Isaiah 22:6); and the fact that all their bows are already trodden (namely, as their length was equal to a man's height, by treading upon the string with the left foot, as we may learn from Arrian's Indica), proves that they are near to the goal. The correct reading in Jablonsky (according to Kimchi's Lex. cf., Michlal yofi) is קשּׁתתיו with dagesh dirimens, as in Psalm 37:15 (Ges. §20, 2, b). As the custom of shoeing horses was not practised in ancient times, firm hoofs ( ὃπλαι καρτεραί , according to Xenophon's Hippikos) were one of the most important points in a good horse. And the horses of the enemy that was now drawing near to Judah had hoofs that would be found like flint ((tzar), only used here, equivalent to the Arabic (zirr)). Homer designates such horses Chalkopodes, brazen-footed. And the two wheels of the war-chariots, to which they were harnessed, turned with such velocity, and overthrew everything before them with such violence, that it seemed not merely as if a whirlwind drove them forward, but as if they were the whirlwind itself (Isaiah 66:15; Jeremiah 4:13). Nahum compares them to lightning (Isaiah 2:5). Thus far the prophet's description has moved on, as if by forced marches, in clauses of from two to four words each. It now changes into a heavy, stealthy pace, and then in a few clauses springs like a wild beast upon its prey.

Verse 29

“Roaring issues from it as from the lioness: it roars like lions, and utters a low murmur; seizes the prey, carries it off, and no one rescues.” The futures, with the preceding לו שׁאגה which is equivalent to a future, hold each feature in the description fast, as if for prolonged contemplation. The lion roars when eager for prey; and such is now the war-cry of the bloodthirsty enemy, which the prophet compares to the roaring of a lion or of young lions ((Cephirim)) in the fulness of their strength. (The lion is described by its poetic name, לביא; this does not exactly apply to the lioness, which would rather be designated by the term לביּה.) The roar is succeeded by a low growl ((nâham), fremere), when a lion is preparing to fall upon its prey.

(Note: In Arabic, (en-(nehem) is used to signify greediness (see Ali's Proverbs, No. 16).)

And so the prophet hears a low and ominous murmur in the army, which is now ready for battle. But he also sees immediately afterwards how the enemy seizes its booty and carries it irrecoverably away: literally, “how he causes it to escape,” i.e., not “lets it slip in cruel sport,” as Luzzatto interprets it, but carries it to a place of safety (Micah 6:14). The prey referred to is Judah. It also adds to the gloomy and mysterious character of the prophecy, that the prophet never mentions Judah. In the following v. also (Isaiah 5:30) the object is still suppressed, as if the prophet could not let it pass his lips.

Verse 30

“And it utters a deep roar over it in that day like the roaring of the sea: and it looks to the earth, and behold darkness, tribulation, and light; it becomes night over it in the clouds of heaven.” The subject to “roars” is the mass of the enemy; and in the expressions “over it” and “it looks” ((nibbat); the niphal, which is only met with here, in the place of the hiphil) the prophet has in his mind the nation of Judah, upon which the enemy falls with the roar of the ocean - that is to say, overwhelming it like a sea. And when the people of Judah look to the earth, i.e., to their own land, darkness alone presents itself, and darkness which has swallowed up all the smiling and joyous aspect which it had before. And what then? The following words, (tzar) (vâ'ōr), have been variously rendered, viz., “moon (= (sahar)) and sun” by the Jewish expositors, “stone and flash,” i.e., hail and thunder-storm, by Drechsler; but such renderings as these, and others of a similar kind, are too far removed from the ordinary usage of the language. And the separation of the two words, so that the one closes a sentence and the other commences a fresh one (e.g., “darkness of tribulation, and the sun becomes dark”), which is adopted by Hitzig, Gesenius, Ewald, and others, is opposed to the impression made by the two monosyllables, and sustained by the pointing, that they are connected together. The simplest explanation is one which takes the word (tzar) in its ordinary sense of tribulation or oppression, and ('ōr) in its ordinary sense of light, and which connects the two words closely together. And this is the case with the rendering given above: (tzar) (vâ'ōr) are “tribulation and brightening up,” one following the other and passing over into the other, like morning and night (Isaiah 21:12). This pair of words forms an interjectional clause, the meaning of which is, that when the predicted darkness had settled upon the land of Judah, this would not be the end; but there would still follow an alternation of anxiety and glimmerings of hope, until at last it had become altogether dark in the cloudy sky over all the land of Judah ((‛ariphim), the cloudy sky, is only met with here; it is derived from (âraph), to drop or trickle, hence also (arâphel): the suffix points back to (lâ'âretz), (eretz) denoting sometimes the earth as a whole, and at other times the land as being part of the earth). The prophet here predicts that, before utter ruin has overtaken Judah, sundry approaches will be made towards this, within which a divine deliverance will appear again and again. Grace tries and tries again and again, until at last the measure of iniquity is full, and the time of repentance past. The history of the nation of Judah proceeded according to this law until the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. The Assyrian troubles, and the miraculous light of divine help which arose in the destruction of the military power of Sennacherib, were only the foreground of this mournful but yet ever and anon hopeful course of history, which terminated in utter darkness, that has continued now for nearly two thousand years.
This closes the third prophetic address. It commences with a parable which contains the history of Israel in nuce, and closes with an emblem which symbolizes the gradual but yet certain accomplishment of the judicial, penal termination of the parable. This third address, therefore, is as complete in itself as the second was. The kindred allusions are to be accounted for from the sameness of the historical basis and arena. During the course of the exposition, it has become more and more evident and certain that it relates to the time of Uzziah and Jotham - a time of peace, of strength, and wealth, but also of pride and luxury. The terrible slaughter of the Syro-Ephraimitish war, which broke out at the end of Jotham's reign, and the varied complications which king Ahaz introduced between Judah and the imperial worldly power, and which issued eventually in the destruction of the former kingdom - those five marked epochs in the history of the kingdoms of the world, or great empires, to which the Syro-Ephraimitish war was the prelude - were still hidden from the prophet in the womb of the future. The description of the great mass of people that was about to roll over Judah from afar is couched in such general terms, so undefined and misty, that all we can say is, that everything that was to happen to the people of God on the part of the imperial power during the five great and extended periods of judgment that were now so soon to commence (viz., the Assyrian, the Chaldean, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman), was here unfolding itself out of the mist of futurity, and presenting itself to the prophet's eye. Even in the time of Ahaz the character of the prophecy changed in this respect. It was then that the eventful relation, in which Israel stood to the imperial power, generally assumed its first concrete shape in the form of a distinct relation to Asshur (Assyria). And from that time forth the imperial power in the mouth of the prophet is no longer a majestic thing without a name; but although the notion of the imperial power was not yet embodied in Asshur, it was called Asshur, and Asshur stood as its representative. It also necessarily follows from this, that Chapters 2-4 and 5 belong to the times anterior to Ahaz, i.e., to those of Uzziah and Jotham. But several different questions suggest themselves here. If chapters 2-4 and 5 were uttered under Uzziah and Jotham, how could Isaiah begin with a promise (Isaiah 2:1-4) which is repeated word for word in Micah 4:1., where it is the direct antithesis to Isaiah 3:12, which was uttered by Micah, according to Jeremiah 26:18, in the time of Hezekiah? Again, if we consider the advance apparent in the predictions of judgment from the general expressions with which they commence in Chapter 1 to the close of chapter 5, in what relation does the address in chapter 1 stand to chapters 2-4 and 5, inasmuch as Isaiah 5:7-9 are not ideal (as we felt obliged to maintain, in opposition to Caspari), but have a distinct historical reference, and therefore at any rate presuppose the Syro-Ephraimitish war? And lastly, if Isaiah 6:1-13 does really relate, as it apparently does, to the call of Isaiah to the prophetic office, how are we to explain the singular fact, that three prophetic addresses precede the history of his call, which ought properly to stand at the commencement of the book? Drechsler and Caspari have answered this question lately, by maintaining that Isaiah 6:1-13 does not contain an account of the call of Isaiah to the prophetic office, but simply of the call of the prophet, who was already installed in that office, to one particular mission. The proper heading to be adopted for Isaiah 6:1-13 would therefore be, “The ordination of the prophet as the preacher of the judgment of hardening;”
and chapters 1-5 would contain warning reproofs addressed by the prophet to the people, who were fast ripening for this judgment of hardening (reprobation), for the purpose of calling them to repentance. The final decision was still trembling in the balance. But the call to repentance was fruitless, and Israel hardened itself. And now that the goodness of God had tried in vain to lead the people to repentance, and the long-suffering of God had been wantonly abused by the people, Jehovah Himself would harden them. Looked at in this light, Isaiah 6:1-13 stands in its true historical place. It contains the divine sequel to that portion of Isaiah's preaching, and of the prophetic preaching generally, by which it had been preceded. But true as it is that the whole of the central portion of Israel's history, which lay midway between the commencement and the close, was divided in half by the contents of Isaiah 6:1-13, and that the distinctive importance of Isaiah as a prophet arose especially from the fact that he stood upon the boundary between these two historic halves; there are serious objections which present themselves to such an explanation of Isaiah 6:1-13. It is possible, indeed, that this distinctive importance may have been given to Isaiah's official position at his very first call. And what Umbreit says - namely, that Isaiah 6:1-13 must make the impression upon every unprejudiced mind, that it relates to the prophet's inaugural vision - cannot really be denied. but the position in which Isaiah 6:1-13 stands in the book itself must necessarily produce a contrary impression, unless it can be accounted for in some other way. Nevertheless the impression still remains (just as at Isaiah 1:7-9), and recurs again and again. We will therefore proceed to Isaiah 6:1-13 without attempting to efface it. It is possible that we may discover some other satisfactory explanation of the enigmatical position of Isaiah 6:1-13 in relation to what precedes.


Copyright Statement
The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Bibliography Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Isaiah 5:4". 1854-1889.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, September 20th, 2017
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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