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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 9

 

 

Verse 1

Isaiah 8:19 to Isaiah 9:1. Some Fragmentary Utterances.—These fragments are of uncertain date and authorship, corrupt in text and obscure in sense. The first, Isaiah 8:19 f., is a warning against necromancers. Probably the words of those who advocate consulting them continue to the end of Isaiah 8:19. We should render Isaiah 8:19 b, "should not a people seek unto their elohim? on behalf of the living should they not seek unto the dead?" The elohim are the spirits of the dead, so described in 1 Samuel 28:13. Possibly Isaiah 8:20 gives the reply which is to be made. They must bring the sorcerers to the test of the teaching and testimony (Isaiah 8:16); if they do not conform to this, no morning will dawn after their night of distress. But the translation and sense are quite uncertain. The revival of necromancy was due to the circumstances of the time. When the small states were falling before the irresistible power of a great empire, the national deities seemed powerless in face of the new foe. In such a collapse of faith some would resort for help to other powers, especially occult powers such as the spirits of the dead. In a well-ordered State of antiquity such practices were sternly repressed as inimical to the welfare of the State which had a religion of its own. But when this religion received these severe blows, old superstitions which had maintained an underground life came once more to the surface.

In Isaiah 8:21 f. we have the picture of a man (the pronouns are singular) driven by distress and famine to desperate straits. He goes "through it," i.e. the land, which was no doubt mentioned in the context from which this was taken, vainly seeking relief. In his agony he curses God (mg.) because He will not, and the king because he cannot, help (Revelation 16:9; Revelation 16:11; Revelation 16:21)—a blasphemy punishable with death (1 Kings 21:9-13). He looks up to heaven, then down to earth, but wherever he looks there is nought but trouble. Isaiah 9:1 is a connecting link with what follows. The first sentence is obscure. The next affirms that the parts which bore the brunt of invasion will in the latter time be made glorious. For "the way of the sea" cf. p. 29.


Verses 2-7

Isaiah 9:2-7. Israel's Deliverer.—This famous passage on the Messianic King is now by several regarded as late. The question is too large to be discussed, but it seems more difficult to explain its origin in the post-exilic period than under the monarchy. This was present as a starting-point, and Isaiah would not expect it to be eliminated. The bursting of the enemy's yoke and the establishment of a righteous rule were quite in line with his aspirations. In the later period other themes would have been added such as the bringing back of the dispersed exiles. The passage does not describe a state of things which has already come into existence. The tenses are "prophetic"; they are written while the people still dwell in the land of deep darkness (mg.). But the poet's vision has already seen the glorious dawn. Yahweh has multiplied their exultation; it is like the joy of harvest home or division of the spoil after victory. He has broken the oppressor's yoke and snapped the rod with which he smote his victim's shoulder, as when Gideon overthrew Midian (Judges 6-8). The boot (mg.) worn in the battle tumult, the garments stained with the wounds of war, will be consumed. For a child has been born who shall wear the royal dignity on his shoulder. He bears a fourfold name, expressive of his marvellous wisdom, his prowess in war, his overwhelming victory, his reign in untroubled peace. He will sit on the throne of David, ruling a wide domain in peace and righteousness. Dark the prospect may be, yet the zeal of Yahweh will secure the accomplishment of this prophecy.

Isaiah 9:3. Read, "Thou hast multiplied the exultation (hagglah for haggoy l), thou hast increased the joy."

Isaiah 9:6. EV wrongly throws the emphasis on "unto us" rather than on "child" and "son." Render, "For a child is born unto us, a son is given unto us."—The names are four (mg.), not five.—Mighty God: perhaps better "God of a hero," referring to his exceptionally heroic character.—Everlasting Father: one who will always be a Father to his people. But we may also render "Father of booty." We thus get a progress in thought; the Messiah is a mighty hero, who takes great spoil from his enemies, and reigns hereafter in unbroken peace.


Verses 8-21

Isaiah 9:8 to Isaiah 10:4. Yahweh Smites Ephraim with Stroke after Stroke.—It is generally agreed that Isaiah 5:26-29 formed the closing strophe of this poem (p. 440). The date is probably before the coalition of Syria and Ephraim (Isaiah 9:11 f.), i.e. between 740 and 735. It is one of Isaiah's earliest prophecies. It is very uncertain whether the whole is a prediction of the future, or whether, with the exception of the conclusion, it describes calamities that have already overtaken the people. On the whole the former view is preferable. It is that adopted in RV, the tenses being taken as prophetic perfects, the alternative view being given in the margin.

Isaiah 9:8-12. Yahweh has sent crashing into Israel His word with its power of self-fulfilment, which will soon teach the boastful Ephraimites another lesson. For they believe that the state of things temporarily overthrown by disaster was mean and fragile in comparison with the splendour and stability they will soon attain. So Yahweh will incite the Syrians and Philistines against them. Yet His anger is not turned away, His hand is still stretched out to smite.

Isaiah 9:10. To the present day houses in Palestine are generally built of sun-dried bricks and beams of sycomore, since they are the cheapest material. Hewn stone and cedar would be reserved for the rich (p. 109).

Isaiah 9:11. adversaries of Rezin: since the Syrians are Israel's enemies, and Rezin was king of Syria, we must correct the text, reading probably "his adversaries."

Isaiah 9:13-17. Since this will have no salutary effect, Yahweh will in one day destroy both small and great. He will not spare the sturdiest or the most helpless; the whole nation is evil. Nor yet does this exhaust His wrath.

Isaiah 9:14. palm-branch and rush: the lofty and the low.

Isaiah 9:15 f. An insertion. Isaiah 9:15 contains an incorrect explanation of Isaiah 9:14; for Isaiah 9:16 cf. Isaiah 3:12.

Isaiah 9:17. rejoice over: "spare" (yiphsah for yismah) would give a better parallel.

Isaiah 9:18-21. Wickedness is like a fire, which first lays hold on the briers, and, gaining strength, sets alight the whole dense forest. The land will be visited by Yahweh's wrath, the people will be like cannibals, the land rent by a ruthless civil war. Yet His hand is still stretched out.

Isaiah 9:19. burnt up: of quite uncertain meaning.—as the fuel of fire: we should probably read "like cannibals."

Isaiah 9:20. his own arm: read, "his neighbour" (rç‘ô for zerô‘ô); cf. Jeremiah 19:9.

Isaiah 10:1-4. This section differs in several ways from the rest of the poem, and may be derived from another context. It is probably Isaianic. It attacks unjust judges, who deprive the poor and defenceless of justice, that they may defraud them. What will they do when the storm of vengeance sweeps on them from afar? To whom can they turn?

Isaiah 10:3. glory: wealth.

Isaiah 10:4. Very difficult; the text must be corrupt. A re-division of the consonants gives "Beltis crouches, Osiris is broken" (Lagarde). This may be correct, but we have no evidence for the worship of these deities in Palestine at this time. The meaning would be, "You can flee to no one, for your false gods will be buried under heaps of slain." Gray reads, "To avoid crouching under the prisoners."

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Isaiah 9:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/isaiah-9.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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