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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Isaiah 33

 

 

Verse 1

V.—THE FIFTH WOE

Isaiah 33

1. THE GLORIUS TURNING POINT: THE WOE UPON ISRAEL BECOMES A WOE UPON ASSYRIA

Isaiah 33:1

1 Woe to thee that spoilest and thou wast not spoiled;

And dealest treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with thee!

When thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled;

And when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

שׁודד and בוגד conjoined as in Isaiah 21:2.—The primary meaning of בָּגַד is “to cover;” hence בֶּגֶד “the cover, garment.” Hence the secondary meaning of perfidious, treacherous doing [like the secondary meaning of the English word “to cloak.”—Tr.].—On the inf. כהתמך see Ewald, § 114 a, Green, § 141, 3.—כַּנְּלֹתְךָ stands for כְּהַנְלֹתְךָ, comp. Isaiah 3:8; the Dag. f. in the נ is because of the Masorets assuming a synkope, whereas, properly, there Is an elision.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

The season of preparation for withstanding the Assyrian foe, that Israel has spent in so perverse a fashion, is past. The enemy is at hand (comp. Isaiah 33:7). But now, too, is the time when God will fulfil His word that He would smite the Assyrian ( Isaiah 30:18 sqq.; 31sqq.; Isaiah 31:8 sq.). Now, therefore, the Prophet turns the woe against Assyria. This power, hitherto unconquered, will be overthrown ( Isaiah 33:1). This is the principal thought of the chapter, which the Prophet puts at the head Isaiah 33:1, as a theme. But as a stone thrown into the water makes wave-lines that extend in concentric circles wider and wider, so the Prophet joins on to this primary theme three declarations which, enlarging in extent and contents, state the particulars of the condition, the completion and consequence of that act of deliverance. This woe follows as a fifth those of Isaiah 28:1; Isaiah 29:1; Isaiah 30:1; Isaiah 31:1. But unlike the preceding, which are directed against Israel, this is against Assyria (comp. Isaiah 10:1; Isaiah 10:5). For, according to the contents of the chapter, none but Assyria can be the desolater. This announcement of its destruction is opposed to that audacious presumption that regarded itself as invincible ( Isaiah 10:5-14).


Verses 2-6

2. THE PRAYER OF FAITH QUICKLY HEARD

Isaiah 33:2-6

2 O Lord, be gracious unto us; [FN1] we have waited for thee:

Be thou their arm every morning,

Our salvation also in the time of trouble.

3 At the noise of the tumult the people [FN2] fled;

At the lifting up of thyself the nations [FN3] were scattered.

4 And your spoil shall be gathered like the gathering of the caterpillar;

As the running to and fro of the locusts shall he run upon them.

5 The Lord is exalted; for he dwelleth on high:

He [FN4] hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness.

6 And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of the times,

And strength of [FN5]Salvation:

The fear of the Lord is his [FN6] treasure.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

Isaiah 33:2. הננו comp. Psalm 123:3; Psalm 57:2; Psalm 51:3, etc.—קִוָּה often in the Psalm, mostly with the Accusat. With ל referring to God it occurs only Psalm 119:95, compare Psalm 69:21. But Isaiah often construes the word thus: Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 25:9; Isaiah 60:9.

Isaiah 33:3. נָֽפְצוּ is from נָפַץ (Niph. of פָּצַץ) inflected like the Kal. נפץ, perhaps because פצץ does not occur except in this and in two analogous Niphal forms ( Genesis 9:19; 1 Samuel 13:11).

Isaiah 33:4. אֹסֶף may not be taken passively (with Cappellus, Doederlein, Drechsler, etc.), as appears from the image itself, and from גבים (ἅπ. λεγ. comp. גּוֹב Nahum 3:17; גּבַֹי Amos 7:1, certainly a name of the locust, although of uncertain derivation and meaning. Comp. Herz. R. Enc„ VI. p70). This latter word is expressly active.—On אֻסַּף אֹסֶף comp. Isaiah 24:22. אֹסֶף is here as Isaiah 32:10 a noun ( Micah 7:1). As to construction, it is to be regarded as in the acc. modalis.—חסיל only here in Isaiah; see Joel 1:4; Joel 2:25.שׁקק ( Isaiah 29:8) used in the same sense Joel 2:9.—מַשָּׁק, “descursitatio” ἅπ. λεγ.—בּוֹ refers to the camp, not before named, yet ideally present.

Isaiah 33:5. נשׂגב, Isaiah 2:11; Isaiah 2:17; Isaiah 12:4.—שׁכן מרום again only Isaiah 57:16; comp. Isaiah 33:16.—מִלֵּא Piel, again Isaiah 23:2; Isaiah 65:11; Isaiah 65:20.

Isaiah 33:6. The Plural עתים occurs principally in later books; still also Job 24:1. Only here in Isa.: comp. Psalm 31:16.—אמונת עתיך is predicate, the following substantives to דעת are subject.—חֹסֶןopes, thesaurus” only here in Isaiah comp. Proverbs 15:6; Proverbs 27:24;

Jeremiah 20:5; Ezekiel 22:25.—יְשׁוּעֹת Isaiah 26:18, elsewhere only in the Psalm 18:51; 28:8; 42:6, 12; 43:5, etc.—The suffix in אוצרו relates to the same subject as the suffix in עתיך Interchange of person often occurs in Isaiah, but it is not always so easily traced to its motive as in Isaiah 33:2. See below in Exeget. and Crit.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. The first wave-circle! In grand, rapid flight the Prophet’s gaze hastens through three stages: he shows what must precede the overthrow of Assyria, then this itself, then its contrast in the remote future. For having by a prayer intimated that believing trust in Jehovah is the condition of salvation ( Isaiah 33:2), he describes the immediately consequent overthrow of Assyria ( Isaiah 33:3-4). But on this present earthly salvation follows for the Prophet at once the Messianic future with its blessings, of which the deliverance from Assyria is a type.

2. O Lord—His treasure.

Isaiah 33:2-6. This short prayer, that unexpectedly interrupts the prophecy, is assuredly not an involuntary sigh, but it occupies a place in the discourse chosen with deliberation. The Prophet intends two things by it. First he would present to the people what they must do on their part to obtain deliverance. They must believe and confide in the Lord, according to the words “if ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established” ( Isaiah 7:9), and “he that believes will not yield” ( Isaiah 28:16). But as the Prophet gives, not a warning to pray merely, but an example of it, and himself intercedes, he gives on the one hand an example to men, and on the other hand a proof to God that there are still righteous men in Israel (comp. Genesis 18:24 sqq.) that love the people and trust in God. A people from which issues such prayer is no dead heap of ashes. There is a glow in them that can be kindled up again ( Isaiah 42:3). The prayer has the form of those in the Pss. (comp12).

The (suffix of the) third person in זרעם “their arm,” that occurs in such harsh dissonance with (the suffixes of) the first person preceding and following, is to be explained, it seems to me, by the word זְרֹעַ “arm” itself. The Prophet means here those called to protect city and state with the power of their arm. He and many others do what they can with heart, and head and otherwise. But when it concerns defence against an outward enemy, then those that serve with the arm are very important. Therefore the prayer that the Lord Himself might be the arm of those who have devoted their arm to the country. Comp. Psalm 83:9; Psalm 89:11; Psalm 89:22, etc.לבקרים comp. Psalm 73:14; Psalm 101:8. אַף comp. Isaiah 26:9; Psalm 16:6; Psalm 18:49, etc. Also ישׁועה is very frequent in the Psalm 68:20; Psalm 35:3; Psalm 62:2, etc.בעת צרה, see Psalm 37:39; comp. Psalm 20:2; Psalm 50:15.

In Isaiah 33:3-4 is announced the hearing of the prayer. In very drastic form, but, with all its brevity, still vivid, the flight of the Assyrian and the plundering of their camp are depicted. The enemy hear a loud tumult like the onset of an army. But it is no human army: for, as appears from מרממתך and from Isaiah 29:6; Isaiah 30:30 sq, the Lord effects that noise. He brings about a panic among them by letting them hear a tumult that has no actual existence (comp. Psalm 53:6; Exodus 14:24 sq.; Exodus 15:16; Judges 4:15; Judges 7:22; 1 Samuel 7:10). The fleeing nations are of course those of Assyria. The Lord arises (comp. Isaiah 33:10; Isaiah 30:18; Psalm 21:14; 46:11, etc.), to smite the enemy, The expression is anthropomorphic, Hebrews, so to speak, raises himself high aloft. In Isaiah 33:4 the Prophet addresses the Assyrian. He sees the Israelites plundering his camp, gathering the spoil with a celerity like locusts clearing off a field. Seeing in this coming victory a type of the final, crowning triumph of Jehovah over the world-power, he contemplates his glory in Isaiah 33:5, chiefly from its inner side. He would intimate that the treasures of salvation, that Israel will then acquire, will, because of a spiritual sort, be more glorious than the goods found in the Assyrian camp (comp. Isaiah 33:23; Isaiah 37:36, comp. 2 Kings 7:16). On account of this typical relation, the two periods are treated as a connected whole, without regard to their temporal disconnection. In this the Prophet does not contradict what he had said Isaiah 32:15 of the continuance of the desolation till the initiation of the great regeneration of the last time. For that period of the desolation falls precisely in the period that the Prophet over-leaps from the stand-point of his manner of regarding the matter. He thus sees the Lord elevated on high and withdrawn from every hostile attack because enthroned on high. From this height the Lord fills Zion with right and righteousness, which plainly recalls Isaiah 32:15-16. Likewise Isaiah 33:6 recalls Isaiah 32:17; the very beginning with והוה coincides. But “the stability of thy times” corresponds to what in Isaiah 32:17 sq, is called “peace, assurance, sure dwelling, quiet resting place.” Thus we must give אמונה here the meaning “security,” a condition that guarantees peace, tranquility, confidence ( Isaiah 33:16). When the times are such that there is no disturbance of the public welfare apprehended, then they have the quality of אמונה, then one may speak of an אמונת עתים. But of course אמונה occurs only here in this sense (comp. נֶאֶֽמָן Isaiah 33:16). As in Isaiah 32:16 the security appears as the fruit of moral in workings, so here also. Fulness of salvations, wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability,etc. As in the familiar declaration l’empire c’est la paix the copula has a tropical sense, so here there is the trope of the metonymy, since two things that actually stand related as cause and effect are, apparently, identified in expression. Thus the security of those times is the effect of the treasure, the wealth in treasures of salvation. It will not rest on subjective human possessions, as the women at ease ( Isaiah 32:9) suppose, but upon objective, God-given treasures of salvation. The kind is declared in what follows, viz.: inward, spiritual goods: wisdom and knowledge (on these notions comp. Isaiah 11:2). “The fear of the Lord” is named last, although it is the beginning of wisdom ( Proverbs 1:7). But it seems to me the Prophet would distinguish between אוֹצָר and חֹסֶן. The fear of the Lord is the treasure-house (אוצר as e.g. Joel 1:17; 2 Chronicles 11:11, etc., = בֵּית הָאוֹצָר, Jeremiah 50:25, etc.), that hides that treasure in itself. Our passage recalls Isaiah 11:2 in many ways: also in this that, rightly counted, seven spiritual goods are named: 1) judgment, 2) righteousness, 3) security, 4) riches of salvations, 5) Wisdom of Solomon, 6) knowledge, 7) the fear of the Lord.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - we wait.

FN#2 - flee.

FN#3 - are.

FN#4 - fills.

FN#5 - Heb. Salvations.

FN#6 - treasure-house.


Verses 7-12

3. WHERE NEED IS GREATEST HELP IS NEAREST

Isaiah 33:7-12

7 Behold, their [FN7]valiant ones shall cry without:

The ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly.

8 The highways lie waste,

The wayfaring man ceaseth:

He hath broken the covenant, he hath despised the cities,

He regardeth no man.

9 The earth mourneth and languisheth:

Lebanon is ashamed and [FN8] hewn down:

Sharon is like a wilderness;

And Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits.

10 Now will I rise, saith the Lord;

Now will I be exalted;

Now will I lift up myself.

11 Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble:

Your breath, as fire, shall devour you.

12 And the people shall be as the burnings of lime:

As thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

Isaiah 33:7. The LXX. have somehow derived אראלם from יָרֵא “to be afraid,” for they translate: “ἔν τᾡ φοβῳ ὑμῶν αὐτοὶ φοβηθήσονται” The other ancient versions refer the word to ראה. Thus the Vulg. ecce videntes clamabunt foris. Symm. and Theod. “ὀφθήσομαι αὐτοῖς” Aquila:ὁραθήσομαι. It appears that they read אֶרְאֶלָּם as if it were אֵרָאֶלָּם (syncopated from אֵרָאֶה לָּהֶם, like מַלַּכֶם from מַה לָּכֶם). Similarly the Chald. and Syr. (comp. Gesen. in loc). But these derivations and explanations are ungrammatical and do not suit the context. In 2 Samuel 23:30 אֲרִיאֵל seems to serve as designation for heroes, and in fact as nom. propr. though still retaining its fundamental appellative meaning, since it reads there שְׁנֵי אֲרִיאֵל and not אֲרִיאֵלִים or אֲרְיִיִ אֵל. But from אֲרִיאֵל may be derived either אַרְאֵל (like אַבְנֵר from אֲבִינֵר 1 Samuel 14:50), and this form underlies the patronymic אַרְאֵלִי ( Genesis 4:16; Numbers 26:17); or אֶרְאֵל like e.g., אֶבְיָסָף ( 1 Chronicles 6:8; 1 Chronicles 6:22) from אֲבִיאָסָף ( Exodus 6:24), אֶבְיָתָר from אֲבִי יָתָר ( 1 Samuel 22:20 sq, etc.). From אֶרְאֵל comes our present word. אֲרִיאֵל=“God’s lion,” i.e., hero, a designation that occurs also in the Arabic and Persian (comp. asadallah and schir-choda. Bochart Hieroz. II, p7, ed. Rosenmueller, and Gesen. Thes., p147). But this does not explain the daghesh forte in the ל. I would side with those that read אַרְאֵלִם or אַרְאֵלִם or אַרְאֵלָם, as eight codices actually have אַרְאֵלִים. Taking אֶרְאֵלָם as the mean between the Masoretic reading and what is otherwise demanded, we must in addition construe it as collective (ihre Heldenschaft).—מַר (comp. Isaiah 5:20; Isaiah 38:15; Isaiah 38:17) is as accusative to be regarded as dependent on יבכיון: “they weep bitterness,” i.e., bitter tears (comp. Zephaniah 1:14).—The form יבְכָּיוּן occurs again only Job 31:38; comp. Isaiah 21:12; Isaiah 31:3.

Isaiah 33:8. מָאַם with following accusative Job 9:21; with בְּ, Judges 9:38; Job 19:18. Comp. Psalm 89:39, where מָאַם is used in the same sense as זָנַח.

Isaiah 33:9. אָבַל in the masculine as a prepositive and remote predicate. Comp. Isaiah 24:4; Isaiah 24:7; Isaiah 26:8; Isaiah 19:8.—החפיר, direct causative Hiphil=pudorem producit. Isaiah 54:4.—קָמַל only again Isaiah 19:6. Pattahh in pause, Gr. § 65 a.

Isaiah 33:10. אֵרוֹמָם stands for אֶתְרוֹמָם, see Green’s Gr., § 82,5 a.

Isaiah 33:11. הָרָה with the accusative of fulness: comp. Isaiah 59:4; Psalm 7:15.—חֲשַׁשׁ see Isaiah 5:24.—קַשׁ see Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 41:2; Isaiah 47:14.

Isaiah 33:12. קוצים comp. on Isaiah 32:13.—כָּסַח is desecare, abscindere: the word only here in Isaiah. Comp. Psalm 80:17.—יצַּתּוּ, comp. Isaiah 9:17; Jeremiah 41:58; Jeremiah 49:2, Green’s Gram., § 24, c, 149, 1.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. The second wave-circle. It is broader as to I extent than the foregoing, but as regards intensity it is narrower. For it issues from the same point as the first, but extends only to the eve of the saving act. The distress occasioned by the hostile Assyrian is portrayed concretely and visibly, and just as visibly then do we see the Lord, as it were provoked by the intolerable distress, come to the rescue. A respectable embassy that Hezekiah had sent with a ransom had returned without accomplishing anything ( Isaiah 33:7). They could only say that the Assyrian had indeed accepted the ransom, but spite of that ravaged the land ( Isaiah 33:8-9). This is the overweening בָּגַד spoken of in Isaiah 33:1. Then Jehovah declares that now He will arise against the enemy ( Isaiah 33:10). He threatens them that their plan shall come to naught, yea that it shall turn to their own destruction ( Isaiah 33:11), and that they shall burn up like limestone, yea like dry brushwood ( Isaiah 33:12).

2. Behold their valiant ones—burned with fire.

Isaiah 33:7-12. By צעקו and יבכיון the Prophet intends to express contrasts. Heroes raise a loud cry of lament; messengers of peace, that should bring and feel joy, weep. Almost all commentators agree that the Prophet means by these heroes and messengers of peace the ambassadors that Hezekiah sent to the Assyrian king to Lacish ( 2 Kings 18:14). They were to purchase the withdrawal of the Assyrians at the cost of subjection and a heavy ransom. Both were accepted. But after the prodigious sum of300 talents in silver and30 talents in gold was paid, the Assyrians still would not retire, but demanded beside the surrender of the capital. The ambassadors came back with this sad news, that was afterwards confirmed by the message of Rabshakeh, and with news of all the ruin that the Assyrians had wrought in the land. In verses8, 9 they give information of the condition of the land as they had found it in consequence of these desolations. The roads lay desolate (comp. Judges 5:20;) passengers along them had ceased ( Psalm 8:9; Isaiah 23:2; Lamentations 1:12; Lamentations 2:15); there was no commerce over them. Hebrews, i.e., the king of Assyria had broken covenant, in that, spite of the ransom he had accepted, he still did not retire, but made further demands. He treated the cities lightly, that Isaiah, not he despised them, but he captured them by his superior force that enabled him to make little account of their resistance. The words contain an intimation of the capture of the cities of Judah of which Isaiah 36:1; 1 Kings 18:13; 2 Chronicles 32:1, speak. Moreover he does not regard man; i.e., he sacrifices human life unsparingly (comp. Isaiah 2:22; Isaiah 13:17).

To this point the discourse is prose. Now it becomes poetry. For Isaiah 33:9 the Prophet personifies things of nature. The general notion earth is specified by naming the particular parts distinguished by their vegetation. First Lebanon, to the north of the Holy Land, is named. It is ashamed, withered. Sharon, rich in flowers, the plain between Cæsarea and Joppa, has become like a steppe ( Isaiah 65:10). The two fruitful elevations east and west, Bashan and Carmel, especially noted for their forests ( Isaiah 2:13) autumnlike shake off their leaves ( Isaiah 52:2, comp. Exodus 14:27; Psalm 136:15). The sad news of the embassy is at an end. It bows the hearts of the Israelites down deep, but for the Lord it is the signal that now has come the moment to interfere. But with Him the interference is bitter earnest. This appears in the three-membered sentence with its thrice repeated self-summons, Isaiah 33:10. The Lord announces to the Assyrians the vanity of their purpose, yea its ruin to themselves. “Ye shall conceive hay,” i.e., your plans shall be like hay; not fresh, full of life, but utterly dry, without strength or sap; and hence when they come to the light they shall prove to be dry, dead stubble. That they shall prove their own destruction the Prophet expresses by saying: your puffing (comp. Isaiah 45:4; Isaiah 30:28) shall be a fire to devour you ( Isaiah 1:31; Isaiah 9:17). This is characterized by a two-fold image ( Isaiah 33:12). The first is burning lime. Water poured on lime causes it to sink away without flame (comp. Jeremiah 34:5; Deuteronomy 27:2; Deuteronomy 27:4; Amos 2:1). But thorns burn with a bright flame, a loud crackling and much smoke. It seems to me the Prophet would say that, in the overthrow of the Assyrians, many nations would disappear in the great conflagration unnoticed and leaving no trace, whereas the fall of others (he means, doubtless, the greater and better known) will make the world wonder at the grand spectacle they present.

Footnotes:

FN#7 - Or, messengers.

FN#8 - Or, withered away.


Verses 13-22

4. THE ALARM OF SINERS; THE COMFORT OF THE PIOUS

Isaiah 33:13-22

13 Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done;

And, ye that are near, acknowledge my might.

14 The sinners in Zion are afraid;

Fearfulness hath surprised the [FN9] hypocrites.

Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?

Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?

15 He that walketh [FN10] righteously, and speaketh [FN11] uprightly

He that despiseth the gain of [FN12] oppressions,

That shaketh his hands from holding of bribes,

That stoppeth his ears from hearing of [FN13]blood,

And shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;

16 He shall dwell on [FN14] high:

His place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks:

[FN15] Bread shall be given him;

His waters shall be sure.

17 Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty:

They shall behold [FN16] the land [FN17] that is very far off.

18 Thine heart shall meditate terror.

Where is the scribe? where is the [FN18] receiver?

Where Isaiah 19 he that counted the towers?

19 Thou shalt not see [FN20] a fierce people,

A people of deeper speech than thou canst perceive:

Of a [FN21] stammering tongue, that thou canst not understand.

20 Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities:

Thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation,

A tabernacle that [FN22] shall not be taken down;

Not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed,

Neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.

21 But there the glorious Lord will be unto us

[FN23] A place [FN24] of broad rivers and streams;

Wherein shall go no galley with oars,

Neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.

22 For the Lord is our Judges, the Lord is our [FN25] lawgiver,

The Lord is our king; he will save us.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

Isaiah 33:14. רעדה only here in Isaiah. Comp. Psalm 2:11; Psalm 48:7; Job 4:14.—גּוּר with accus. loc. comp. Judges 5:17; Psalm 5:5; Psalm 120:5. Elsewhere Isaiah construes גּוּר with prepositions; Isaiah 11:6; Isaiah 16:4; Isaiah 54:15.—לָנוּ is the so called dativus ethicus. Though elsewhere this dative refers to the actual subject (comp. Genesis 21:16; Genesis 31:41; Isaiah 2:22; Isaiah 31:8; Isaiah 36:9, etc.), according to which it would need to read here מִי יָגוּר לוֹ it is in this place related to the ideal subject, i.e., to the speakers, who properly affirm of themselves this inability to dwell with Jehovah. This dative everywhere represents a phrase that affirms an intensive relation to the interests of the speaker: in this place say: who will dwell (we say this in relation to ourselves, in our own interest) with devouring fire, etc.?—מוקד again only Psalm 102:4.—מִי יָגוּר is the beginning of Psalm 15. Moreover the words הולך צ׳ וד׳ מישׂ׳׳ Isaiah 33:15 recall Psalm 15:2.

Isaiah 33:15. The plural צדקות, juste facta occurs again in Isaiah 45:24; Isaiah 64:5.—דבר מישׁרים comp. Proverbs 23:16; the latter word again in Isaiah 26:7; Isaiah 45:19.—בצע (comp. Exodus 18:21) again in Isaiah 56:11; Isaiah 57:17. What sort of בצע is meant is explained by the addition מעשׁקות (oppressiones, again only Proverbs 28:16).—נער see Isaiah 33:9.—The construction with מן is constr. prægnans. For the preposition depends on the notion of refraining ideally present in נער, “to shake.”—שׁחד comp. Psalm 15:5; Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 5:23; Isaiah 45:13.—אֹטֵם אָזְנוֹ with following מן occurs Proverbs 21:13,comp. Proverbs 17:28.—דָּמִים is “bloodshed, murder,” (comp. Exodus 22:1; Isaiah 4:4).—עצם rhyming with אטם, we find here in Kal. with the same meaning that it has in the Piel Isaiah 29:10.—ראה ברע “to look on evil with pleasure.”

Isaiah 33:16. מרומים, plural, in Isaiah only here; comp. Judges 5:18; Proverbs 8:2, etc.—מְצָדוֹת as st. constr. comp. 1 Samuel 24:1.—משׂגב, “asylum,” “refuge,” again only Isaiah 25:12.

Isaiah 33:17. The 2 pers. masc. suffix, as in Isaiah 33:6; Isaiah 33:20, refers to the nation regarded as a unit.

Isaiah 33:18. הָגָה, “to think, consider, meditari” ( Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; Psalm 2:1, etc.; Isaiah 59:13) may relate also to what is past.—אֵימָה, “terror,” only here in Isaiah.—סֹפֵר again Isaiah 36:3; Isaiah 37:2.—שֹׁקֵל as substantive only here in Isaiah; the verb “to weigh out” money Isaiah 46:6; Isaiah 55:2.

Isaiah 33:19. The two halves of this verse contain the antithesis of seeing and hearing. This proves that the explanation of נוֹעָז= לוֹעֵז barbare loquens ( Psalm 114:1), does not agree with the context. That נועז means “mute beckoning” according to the Arab. wa‘asa (Hitzig) is disproved by Gesen. Thes. p607 sq. There remains thus the explanation that takes נוֹעָז as part. Niph. from עָזַז = יָעַז (comp. יָחַם and יָמַשׁ,חָמַם, and יָרַק,מָשַׁשׁ and רָקַק) and that with the meaning “hard, audacious, overweening conduct” (Symm. ἀναιδής, Vulg. impudens). The word, moreover, is ἅπ. λεγ. and for this reason it may be possible that Isaiah hints at some Assyrian word at present unknown to us.

Isaiah 33:20. צָעַן ἅπ. λεγ. Arab. ta‘ana of the roaming of the nomads.

Isaiah 33:21. כי ים corresponds to the negations of Isaiah 33:21.—אדיר in Isaiah again only Isaiah 10:34.—Delitzsch after Luzzatto has proved that מקום is not to be taken=loco, “instead.” The suffixes in בו and יעברנו are manifestly to be referred to מקום—שַׁיִט “oar” (comp. מָשׁוֹט Ezekiel 27:29 and מִשּׁוֹט Ezekiel 27:6) is ἅπ. λεγ.—צִי contracted from צְוִי, cavum, rotundum aliquid, is a great bellied-out ship ( Numbers 24:24; Ezekiel 30:9; Psalm 105:41).

Isaiah 33:22. Since it does not read מוֹשִׁיעֵנוּ ( Isaiah 43:3; Isaiah 47:15, etc.), I would accord with Hitzig, who takes מלכנו, מחקקנו,שׁפטנו, not as predicates but as apposition with יהוה, so that ושׁיענו is the sole predicate of the foregoing three subjects which are comprehended emphatically in the הוא.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. Here we have the final and broadest circuit of waves before us. According to Isaiah 33:10, Jehovah was about to arise and come to the rescue. He has done so. The rescue is accomplished in an astounding fashion. The present passage belongs to time after the rescue. It presupposes it. For it contains glances into the future, that rest upon that deed as their foundation. First the Lord summons those far and near to give proper attention to what He does ( Isaiah 33:13). Then the Prophet describes the effect of what has been done on the sinners in Jerusalem. They are terrified: they would flee the neighborhood of this mighty God, for they are ill-at-ease in it. Hence they ask: who can abide by this devouring fire? ( Isaiah 33:14). To this is replied: this fire is harmless for the pious, the lovers of truth, the righteous ( Isaiah 33:15), for such will dwell in Jerusalem in security and abundance ( Isaiah 33:16); and will see the king of Israel sitting in might and glory at the head of a wide empire ( Isaiah 33:17). As one thinks of something that has disappeared from memory, so shall men reflect on the time of war’s distress ( Isaiah 33:18), and of the terrific presence of the barbaric nation in the land ( Isaiah 33:19). Zion will be a secure fortress, a quiet, abiding place of worship, and no more a shifting tabernacle as in the time of the journey through the wilderness ( Isaiah 33:20). For Jehovah is there Himself in His majesty; protecting waters surround the place ( Isaiah 33:21), and the Lord Himself as Judges, law-giver and king is the deliverer of His people ( Isaiah 33:22).

2. Hear—my might

Isaiah 33:13. The piece begins with the cry of a herald that makes known to the whole world the accomplished mighty act. For the perfect אשׂיתי without doubt designates the act of rescue as accomplished, which verses1, 3, 10 held in prospect; and we must regard גְּבֻרָה (as often in the Books of Kings, where גברה and אשׂה continually stand parallel: 1 Kings 15:23; 1 Kings 16:27; 1 Kings 22:46, etc.), in the concrete sense as a display of power, and, because of אשיתי, as already come to pass. But the herald’s cry would intimate that an event of vast and wide effect has happened, of concern to all men, even to those far remote. For they may know from this who is the true, and therefore also who is their God. For He that did what happened to the Assyrian host in the neighborhood of Jerusalem in Hezekiah’s time must be God over all gods (comp. Isaiah 36:18-20; Isaiah 37:10-13) and Lord over all lords. Those near are plainly the Israelites, who had in great part been witnesses of the deed. These should acknowledge the demonstration of the Lord’s power. According to their inward condition they should draw from it comfort or warning.

3. The sinners—seeing evil.

Isaiah 33:14-15. The Prophet first presents that mighty deed as a warning to the wicked. Such were the idolaters who had no joy in a proof so irrefragable of the sole power and divinity of Jehovah. Therefore these sinners ( Isaiah 1:28; Isaiah 13:9) and the unclean ( Isaiah 9:16; Isaiah 10:6; Isaiah 32:6—there lies in the word a hint at idolatry) in Zion are terrified. Devoid of the right knowledge of God, because they would not, not because they could not have it, the nearness of this almighty, and above all of this holy God is in the highest degree burdensome to these people. Living in Jerusalem where this God has His fire and His furnace ( Isaiah 31:9) is painful to them. Hence they cry: who among us,etc. It is manifest that by the devouring fire they mean Jehovah. By the strages Assyriorum He had proved Himself to be such. And shall they ever remain near this power that is as irresistibly present as it is terrible? The expression is taken from Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 9:3, comp. Isaiah 29:6; Isaiah 30:27; Isaiah 30:30. מוקד designates here the place where the fire burns, “the hearth.” By calling this everlasting they judge themselves: for they show by that a knowledge, that it is a veritable divine fire, that burns there, not an imaginary one. But just with this they will have nothing to do.

The Prophet ( Isaiah 33:15) replies to their inquiry, that one may dwell very well by this burning fire. But with the Holy One, one must live holy. The image He proceeds to draw of a holy life is an Old Testament one. The traits of it are chiefly taken from passages in the Psalm (see Text. and Gram.). Shaking the hands, (thus refraining them) from taking a bribe, is a strong expression for striving to keep and prove the integrity of the hands.

4. He shall dwell——will save us.

Isaiah 33:16-22. This is the confirmation that one may dwell happily with the devouring fire. For these verses show what blessings they shall have who live agreeably to the holy being of God. And since there shall never be wanting such in Zion, the salvation and glory of Zion is assured for all time. Thus these verses contain the same thought uttered by the Prophet already Isaiah 28:16 sqq.; Isaiah 29:22 sqq.; Isaiah 30:15; Isaiah 19 sqq.; Isaiah 31:6 sq.; Isaiah 32:1 sqq, 15 sqq, that Israel’s deliverance depends on an upright and thorough conversion to the Lord; that on this condition, however, it is secure forever. נאמן “what is certain, never deceives expectation, never fails” (comp. Isaiah 33:6; Jeremiah 15:18; Isaiah 22:23; Isaiah 22:25). As happened Isaiah 33:5-6, so here, for the Prophet the salvation of the near present merges into one with the great, final Messianic period. And Song of Solomon, influenced perhaps by the then oppressed look of the king of Judah, he contemplates the latter beaming with the joy of victory, and at the same time as the type of the Messiah, resplendent in the supremest beauty and glory, whose beauty the author of Psalm 45. ( Isaiah 33:3) had also seen prefigured in the appearance of the bridegroom-king whom he celebrated. That the Prophet’s glance penetrates into the Messianic future appears from the expression the land that is very far off ( Isaiah 8:9; Jeremiah 8:19). The expression is too strong to be understood merely of free motion in the land in contrast with the confining siege, or of the normal extending of Israelitish territory according to Deuteronomy 1:7; Deuteronomy 11:24. As royal pomp and beauty adorns the person of the king, so immeasurable extent does his land. ארץ מ׳ is thus not a far distant, but a wide extended land. It is the same thought that meets us Isaiah 2:2 sqq.; Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 25:6 sqq.

The Prophet in Isaiah 33:18-19 connects his glorious image of the future with the mournful condition of the present. For he describes it as a chief blessing of that future, that the bad things of the present will be present to thoughtful contemplation as things that one rejoices to have overcome. Et hoc meminisse juvabit. In his graphic way the Prophet gives prominence to particular terrors that must have left a peculiarly deep impression. The סֹפֵר, “writer,” and the שֹׁקֵל, “weigher,” before whom one had to appear and pay tribute, and who then weighed the valuables received, and made a list of them, were certainly persons of terror from whose mouths they had often had experience of the Vae victis (Livy, 5, 48). [“The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:20, has a sentence so much like this, in the threefold repetition of the question where, and in the use of the word scribe, that it cannot be regarded as a mere fortuitous coincidence.” “It may be regarded as a mere imitation, as to form and diction, of the one before us.”—J. A. Alexander,in loc.]. Again it must have made a terrible impression, when from the walls they saw the enemy taking the first steps toward attacking the city by one of the leaders riding around the walls, regarding the towers, counting them and taking notes of his observations (comp. Psalm 48:13). What happiness to be able to call out: “where are they now those fearful men? They have disappeared forever!” What felicity to be quit of the foreign, repulsive appearance of this enemy; no more to be compelled to see the overweening nation; no more to hear its barbarous sounds! The Israelites will no more hear “the nation too deep of lip to be understood” and “stammering and jabbering with the tongue (comp. on Isaiah 28:11; Isaiah 37:22) without meaning.”

The Prophet having enumerated the bad things, now directs attention to the good that is to be seen in and about Jerusalem. He first describes Zion as the religious centre of the nation. There is the temple; there Jehovah dwells (comp. on Isaiah 33:14); thither the people assemble to worship the Lord and keep His feasts. Thus He calls the city קרית מועדנו (comp. הַר מוֹעֵד14:13, comp. Isaiah 1:14). That he intends an antithesis to אהל מועד appears from Isaiah 33:15. Israel then has no more a tabernacle, a city for festival gathering (of the people with one another, and with Jehovah). As such Zion must be especially looked to. And if one looks more narrowly, then the meaning of this designation appears to be that Jerusalem will be a secure, quiet abode ( Isaiah 32:18), of course still a tabernacle, but no longer so in the original, nomadic sense; not like the travelling tent of the wilderness, but one that does not move about. The Prophet signifies that there shall happen to it neither a voluntary nor a violent breaking up of the tabernacle (נתק means a violent rending, comp. Isaiah 5:27, not the usual striking of a tent). This permanent tabernacle shall be attended with a glorious rest for the people of God in the future that is described, that shall be founded on the presence in the midst of them of Jehovah, the highest Majesty. The Lord is called a place of rivers, of course in a figure. In all this figurative description lies the notion of defence, refuge. Hence “a place of rivers” may as appropriately be used of Jehovah, as “rock, tower, shield, horn of salvation,” ( Psalm 18:3). But commentators are right in saying that the Prophet has in mind cities like Babylon, Nineveh, No-Ammon ( Nahum 3:8), that were defended by great rivers and river canals. The present Jerusalem lacked such defences, but, such is the meaning, Jehovah Himself will be river-defences. נחרים may allude to the cities of Mesopotamia, and יארים to the similarly located cities of Egypt; for הַנָּהָר is κατ’ ’εξοχὴν the Euphrates ( Isaiah 8:7; Isaiah 11:15) and יְאֹר the Nile ( Isaiah 19:7-8; Isaiah 23:10). Those streams and canals that recede right and left, and thus are very broad, are called רחבי ידים (comp. Psalm 104:25; Isaiah 22:18; Genesis 34:21; Judges 18:10; 1 Chronicles 4:10; Nehemiah 7:4). Neither oared-ship, nor sail-ship shall be able to pass these mighty waters. The Prophet ends with rhymes that make the conclusion sound like a hymn. Jehovah, Israel’s judge ( Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 11:3-4), lawgiver (comp. Deuteronomy 33:21), and king, is also its deliverer.

Footnotes:

FN#9 - unclean.

FN#10 - Heb. in righteousness.

FN#11 - Heb. uprightness.

FN#12 - Or, deceits.

FN#13 - Heb. bloods.

FN#14 - Heb. heights, or, high places.

FN#15 - His bread.

FN#16 - a wide extended land.

FN#17 - Heb. of far distances.

FN#18 - Heb. weigher.

FN#19 - the inscriber of the towers.

FN#20 - the audacious.

FN#21 - Or, ridiculous.

FN#22 - that does not wander.

FN#23 - A place of streams, of rivers broad on either side.

FN#24 - Heb. broad spaces, or hands.

FN#25 - Heb. statutemaker.


Verse 23-24

Recapitulation and Conclusion

Isaiah 33:23-24

23 [FN26]Thy tacklings are loosed;

[FN27]They could not well strengthen their mast,

They could not spread the [FN28]sail:

Then is the prey of a great spoil divided;

The lame take the prey.

24 And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick:

The people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

Isaiah 33:23. We must take נטשׁו Niph. as the passive of the notion missum facers, “to slacken” (comp. Exodus 23:11; Proverbs 17:14). Expositors take כֵּן to mean the socket in which the mast sets in the bottom of the ship. But that (the ίστοπέδη) is not held by the cables. And when Vitringa says that the cables malum sustinentes thecae succurrunt, that is even not חִוַּק. For this word denotes adstringere, firmum reddere, and can only relate directly to the mast, as occurs in the text. Hence Drechsler would not take cables but the seamen as subject of יחזקו; in which case the negative expression appears strange. Hence I think that כֵּן here is not the substantive, but the adjective derived from כּוּן, erectus stetit, which means rectus, and would here be taken in its original physical sense, though everywhere else, indeed, it is used in a spiritual or moral sense (unless, perhaps, 1 Kings 7:29; 1 Kings 7:31 form exceptions).—The suffix in תרנם (comp. Isaiah 30:17) is also proof that the cables are subject. For it is their chief aim to hold the mast (comp. Göll, Kulturbilder aus Hellas und Rom. II, p197). This may, therefore, be called their mast. The tangled cables hinder the unfurling of the flag (the ἐπίσημον or παράσημον, (comp. Ezekiel 27:7).—עַד denoting “booty” occurs again only Genesis 49:27; Zephaniah 3:8.

Isaiah 33:24. Isaiah 33:23 and שָׁכֵן make it clear that בָּהּ refers to Jerusalem.—נְשֻּׂא עָוֹן occurs only here; but comp. Psalm 32:1 and Isaiah 3:3; Isaiah 9:14.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. We regarded Isaiah 33:22, in form and contents, as a conclusion of the prophetic perspective that joins on to the act of deliverance spoken of before Isaiah 33:13, and presupposes it. With Isaiah 33:23 the Prophet returns into the immediate present distress from which proceeds the entire prophetic cycle of chaps28–33. At Isaiah 33:23 we stand again in the period before the overthrow of the Assyrians. With few, yet vigorous and clear lines the Prophet portrays, in the first three clauses of Isaiah 33:23, the present distress, using an image suggested by Isaiah 33:21. He compares the kingdom of Judah to a ship whose cables hang loose and hold neither flag nor mast [but see comment below]. For then (i. e., in the great moment referred to, Isaiah 33:1; Isaiah 33:3, whose approach he had announced as immediate Isaiah 33:10, and presupposes Isaiah 33:13 sqq.), in this great moment great booty is distributed, and in fact plunder is so easy that the lame themselves can share in it ( Isaiah 33:23 end). Now Israel is reinvigorated to a healthy, strong life. It has in that deliverance the pledge that God has forgiven its sin, and that is the pledge of all salvation ( Isaiah 33:24). Thus the prophecy concludes with a brief word as it began. And the pith of it is the same fact to which Isaiah 33:1 refers from another side.

2. Thy tacklings—iniquity.

Isaiah 33:23-24. Expositors down to Ewald, whom Drechsler and Delitzsch join [so also Barnes, J. A. Alexander, Birks], understand the image of the ship to refer to Assyria, and to form a continuation of the allegory of Isaiah 33:21 : did the enemy succeed in crossing those trenches, they would be wrecked, and Israel would divide the spoil. The following considerations conflict with this view: 1) Isaiah 33:22 concludes the preceding discourse; 2) according to Isaiah 33:21 the hostile ships will not cross over those water trenches; the mention of them is in respect only of plundering and destruction; 3) the description of Isaiah 33:23 does not suit a vessel disabled in conflict, but only one badly equipped for battles; 4) what is said of the lame plundering implies a locality that such can reach, they cannot be supposed to take part in a sea-fight; 5) the feminine suffix in חבליך refers to Zion. because Assyria is nowhere else made feminine. For in the sole passage quoted in proof that it is ( Isaiah 30:32) the reading is doubtful, and if the reading בָּהּ be correct, still the suffix must refer to the land of Assyria, which is impossible in our text. [The Author hardly does justice to the view he controverts, which, as put by J. A. Alexander,in loc., seems more natural than his own. “There Isaiah, at the beginning of this verse, a sudden apostrophe to the enemy considered as a ship. It was said ( Isaiah 33:21) that no vessel should approach the holy city. But now the Prophet seems to remember that one had done Song of Solomon, the proud ship Assyria. But what was its fate? He sees it dismantled and abandoned to its enemies.”—Tr.]

The ship of the Jewish state presents a desolate spectacle. But patience! Then (i.e., in the moment, that is partly predicted, partly presupposed in what precedes), spoil will be divided, which implies complete victory. The accumulation of words meaning booty ( בז,שׁלל,עד) denotes the rich abundance of it. What is said of the lame intimates plainly enough that the field of plunder must have been near Jerusalem, and that the enemy had fled. For only then could such reach the camp or venture into it. Manifestly the Prophet has in mind the same fact to which he refers Isaiah 33:4 ( 2 Kings 19:35 sqq.; Isaiah 37:36 sqq.). As in Isaiah 33:5-6 the spoiling of the Assyrian is made the pledge of all other displays of divine grace, Song of Solomon, too, here. The nation that has experienced such salvation from God may comfort itself with the assurance of all support both for the body (24a) [comp. Jeremiah 14:18] and for the soul (24b). Both hang closely together (comp. Luke 5:20 sqq.). But forgiving sin is the chief matter: for sin separates God and man; and as soon as it is taken away, both are closely united, and the way is opened for blessing men (comp. Isaiah 33:5-6).

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. On Isaiah 33:1. Per quod quis peccat, per idem punitur et ipse. Jeremiah 30:16; comp. Adonibezek, Judges 1:5 sqq.; Matthew 7:2.

2. On Isaiah 33:10. God alone knows when the proper moment has come for Him to interpose. Till then He waits—but not a moment longer. Till then it is our part to wait with patience. But let the right moment come, and let the Lord once say: “Now will I rise,” then what is not of God falls to pieces, then the nations must despair and kingdoms fall; the earth must pass away when He lets Himself be heard ( Psalm 46:7). Then the hidden truth of things becomes manifest: what appeared strong then appears weak, and the weak strong, that the Lord alone may be high at that time ( Isaiah 2:11; Isaiah 5:15).

3. Isaiah 33:14. Here we get a deep insight into the obstinate and despairing heart of Prayer of Manasseh, and recognize why it will not endure a living and personal God. As Peter said: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful Prayer of Manasseh, O Lord” ( Luke 5:8), so they would turn the living God out of the world, because they feel themselves to be sinful men, who cannot renounce their sins, because they will not; for did they but earnestly will to do Song of Solomon, then they could also. The inmost reason of all practical and theoretical heathenism is the feeling of the natural man that he and the holy God cannot exist side by side in the world. One or other must yield. Instead of adopting the way and means which God reveals, by which from natural and sinful men we may become holy children of God, we rather deny the living God and substitute either demons ( 1 Corinthians 10:20) or abstractions for Him. But the Prophet here awakens the presentiment that we may become holy children of God ( Isaiah 33:15); the Son of God, however, in the new covenant teaches us this with perfect clearness ( 1 Peter 2:9 sqq.).

HOMILETICAL HINTS

1. Isaiah 33:2-6. Help in great distress. 1) On what condition (believing prayer, Isaiah 33:2); 2) Its ground a. the grace of God ( Isaiah 33:2 a); b. the power of God ( Isaiah 33:3 b, Isaiah 5:5 a); 3) Its two sides, in that it is a. corporal ( Isaiah 33:3-4); b. spiritual ( Isaiah 33:5-6).

2. [ Isaiah 33:5. When God’s enemies and ours are overthrown, both He and we are glorified. “1. God will have the praise of it ( Isaiah 33:5 a); 2. His people will have the blessing of it ( Isaiah 33:5 b).” M. Henry].

3. Isaiah 33:10-13. The Lord’s acts of deliverance. 1. They come at the right moment ( Isaiah 33:10). 2. They are thorough in their effects ( Isaiah 33:11-12). 3. They teach us to know and praise God.

4. [ Isaiah 33:14. “1. The hypocrites will be greatly alarmed when they see punishment come upon the open and avowed enemies of God2. In such times they will have none of the peace and quiet confidence which His true friends have3. Such alarm is evidence of conscious guilt and hypocrisy4. The persons here spoken of had a belief in the doctrine of eternal punishment—a belief which hypocrites and sinners always have, else why should they be alarmed? 5. The punishment of hypocrites in the church will be dreadful.” A. Barnes].

5. [The character of a righteous man ( Isaiah 33:15). The reward of the righteous ( Isaiah 33:16 sqq.). See M. Henry and Barnes in loc.—Tr.]

6. Isaiah 33:20-22. Comfort for the church in adversity. The church of the Lord stands fast. For1. It is the last and highest institution of God ( Isaiah 33:20). 2. The Lord Himself is mighty in it, a. as Judges, b. as a Master (Teacher), c. as King ( Isaiah 33:21-22).

Footnotes:

FN#26 - Or, They have forsaken thy tacklings.

FN#27 - They hold not erect their mast.

FN#28 - flag.

 


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 33:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/isaiah-33.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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