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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 31

 

 

Introduction

Isaiah 28-31.—In the main these chapters belong to the period before Sennacherib's invasion in 701 (pp. 59, 71f.). Special prominence is given to the project of an alliance with Egypt, which was strenuously opposed by Isaiah but carried through in spite of him, though the attempt was made to keep it from his knowledge, a signal proof that his opposition was feared by its promoters. Several recent critics have regarded much in these chapters as post-exilic, in some cases on cogent, in others on more flimsy grounds. The transitions from gloom to radiance, from predictions of doom to glowing descriptions of the happy future, are in some cases very abrupt; the phraseology is sometimes non-Isaianic, and the ideas have more affinity with those in the post-exilic period than in the age of Isaiah. We must be on our guard, however, against pressing the argument from theological ideas too far, in view of the scantiness of the earlier prophetic literature now extant, and, remembering that Isaiah held the doctrine of the happy future as well as the doctrine of a terrible judgment, we should not too readily condemn the optimistic sections, especially when they are happy endings, as necessarily later insertions.


Verses 1-9

Isaiah 31. The Folly of Reliance on Egypt. Jerusalem will be Protected, and Assyria Overthrown.

vv. Isaiah 31:6 f. seems to be an interpolation. Isaiah 31:4 f. creates serious difficulties. Isaiah 31:4 apparently represents Yahweh as attacking (mg.) Zion, undismayed by its rulers as a lion is undismayed by the shepherds, whereas Isaiah 31:5, with an abrupt change of metaphor, represents Him as Jerusalem's protector. By drastic measures we can remove the discrepancy; the passage then represented Yahweh either as hostile to Jerusalem or as its protector. Of the two the latter is preferable, but it involves the omission of "so shall. . . . As birds fly." If we keep the text as it stands, the meaning seems to be that Yahweh will wrest Jerusalem from its present rulers, but will protect it from falling into the hands of the Assyrians, who are the instruments of His judgment. This is continued in Isaiah 31:8 f., which represents the Assyrians as smitten down by His power rather than by human antagonists.

Woe to those who trust in Egypt and her cavalry and not in Yahweh. For Yahweh is wise as well as the sapient politicians, and His threat of evil will certainly be fulfilled. For Egypt, weak and perishable, is no match for Yahweh, who is spirit, and will involve helper and helped in one common disaster. When He descends to fight against Zion, the Egyptians will be as powerless to rescue it as the shepherds to rescue the prey from the dauntless lion. Yahweh will protect Jerusalem as birds protect their young. Let the disobedient turn to Him. In the day of deliverance all will cast away their idols. The Assyrian shall fall by no human hand, he shall flee in panic.

Isaiah 31:3. A classical passage for the OT sense of "flesh." It is the weak and mortal in contrast with the immortal and omnipotent. Flesh stands not for the lower element in human nature in contrast with the higher (as in Romans 7:7-25), but for man as a whole as contrasted with the immortals (Genesis 6:3).

Isaiah 31:8 b. This modification of 8a may be an insertion.

Isaiah 31:9. his rock: the parallelism suggests that this means the Assyrian king. This is improbable; AV renders "and he shall pass over to his strong hold for fear." Duhm2 renders "his rock by reason of terror shall he pass by," i.e. the hunted animal in its terror passes by its usual shelter. Duhm3 emends, reading, "and his heroes shall be dislodged from the siege works."

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Isaiah 31:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/isaiah-31.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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