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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Isaiah 2

 

 

Verse 1

Isaiah 2:1. The word that Isaiah saw — The matter, or thing, as the Hebrew word, הדבר, commonly signifies; the prophecy or vision. He speaks of the prophecy contained in this and the two following chapters, which makes one continued discourse. “The first five verses of this chapter foretel the kingdom of the Messiah, the conversion of the Gentiles, and their admission into it. From the 6th verse to the end of this second chapter is foretold the punishment of the unbelieving Jews for their idolatrous practices, their confidence in their own strength, and distrust of God’s protection: and, moreover, the destruction of idolatry in consequence of the establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom. The whole third chapter, with Isaiah 2:1, of the fourth, is a prophecy of the calamities of the Babylonian invasion and captivity; with a particular amplification of the distress of the proud and luxurious daughters of Sion. Isaiah 4:2-6, promises to the remnant, which shall have escaped this severe purgation, a future restoration to the favour and protection of God. This prophecy was probably delivered in the time of Jotham, or, perhaps, in that of Uzziah, to which time not any of his prophecies (and he prophesied in their days) is so applicable as that of these chapters.” — Bishop Lowth.


Verse 2

Isaiah 2:2. And — Or rather, now, it shall come to pass in the last days — The times of the Messiah, which are always spoken of by the prophets as the last days, because they are the last times and state of the church, Christ’s institutions being to continue to the end of the world. See Joel 2:28, compared with Acts 2:17; Micah 4:1, compared with Hebrews 1:1; 1 Peter 1:20. The Jews, it must be observed, divided the times or succession of the world into three ages or periods: the first, before the law; the second, under the law; the third, under the Messiah: which they justly considered as the last dispensation, designed of God to remain till the consummation of all things. “Accordingly St. Paul tells us, that Christ appeared επι συντελεια των αιωνων, at the consummation of the ages, or several periods of the world, Hebrews 9:26; and, speaking of his own times, saith, τελη των αιωνων, the ends of the world, or conclusion of the ages, are come, 1 Corinthians 10:11. The mountain of the Lord’s house — Mount Moriah, on which the Lord’s house stood, or rather, the Lord’s house upon that mount, shall be established upon the top of the mountains — Shall be raised above, be rendered more conspicuous than, and shall be preferred before, all other mountains on which houses are built, and altars erected and dedicated to any god or gods. The prophet speaks figuratively. He means, that the worship of the true God should be established on the ruins of idolatry, that the true religion should swallow up all false religions, and the church of God, typified by the temple at Jerusalem, become most eminent and conspicuous, as a city on a high mountain: and shall be exalted above the hills — Above all churches, states, and kingdoms in the world, and all that is excellent and glorious therein. The stone cut out of the mountain, without hands, shall become itself a mountain, and shall fill the whole earth, Daniel 2:34-35. And all nations — Even the Gentile nations; shall flow unto it — Shall come in great abundance and with great eagerness to embrace the true religion, and become members of the true church, like broad streams, or mighty rivers, flowing swiftly and impetuously toward the ocean, as the word נהרי, here used, signifies. Now, it is well known, this was not the case with respect to the Jewish Church at Jerusalem, or the worship there established. It never happened, during the ages that intervened between the time of Isaiah and the destruction of their city and temple, and the dispersion of their nation by the Romans, that their religion was so exalted, or made such great account of, by any nations remote or near, as is here expressed: much less did whole nations flow unto them, or unite themselves with them in the service of God, and in church fellowship. But this prophecy has been in a great measure fulfilled with regard to the Christian Church, which has so drawn to it the greater part of the civilized nations, that it has far, very far, surpassed all other religious institutions, whether Jewish, heathen, or Mohammedan: and when the last of the four kingdoms, spoken of Daniel 2:35; Daniel 2:40-45; Daniel 7:19-27, shall be destroyed, and thereby all obstructions removed, it shall be fully and perfectly accomplished, and the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the Most High. For the Messiah shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth: yea, all kings shall fall down before him, and all nations shall serve him, Psalms 72:8; Psalms 72:11.


Verse 3

Isaiah 2:3. And many people shall go — Shall not only have some weak desires of going, but shall take pains, and actually go; and say, Come, &c. — Yea, such shall be their zeal, that they shall not only go themselves, but shall persuade and press others to go with them. And we will walk in his paths — Thus they show the truth of their conversion, by their hearty desire to be instructed in the way of worshipping and serving God acceptably, and by their firm purpose of practising the instructions given. For out of Zion shall go forth the law — The new law, the doctrine of the gospel, which is frequently called a law, because it hath the nature and power of a law, obliging us no less to the belief and practice of it than the old law did; and the word of the Lord — For the accomplishment of this promise, see Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; Romans 10:18. This last clause shows the reason why the people should be so forward to go, and to invite others to go with them.


Verse 4

Isaiah 2:4. He shall judge among the nations — He shall set up and exercise his authority, in and over all nations, not only giving laws to them, as other rulers do, but doing that which no others can do, convincing their consciences, changing their hearts, and ordering their lives; and shall rebuke many people — By the power of his word, compared to a two- edged sword in Scripture, and by the grace of his Spirit, convincing the world of sin: as also by the remarkable judgments which he will execute on those that are incorrigible, and especially on those of his implacable enemies who set themselves to oppose the propagation of his gospel. They shall beat their swords into plough-shares — This description of a well- established peace is very poetical. The Prophet Joel hath reversed it, and applied it to war prevailing over peace; beat your plough-shares into swords, and your pruning-hooks into spears, Joel 3:10. And so likewise the Roman poet: —

“Non ullus aratro Dignus honos, squalent abductis arva colonis,

Et curvæ rigidum falces conflantur in ensem.” Virg. Georg. 1:506.

“The peaceful peasant to the wars is press’d;

The fields lie fallow in inglorious rest.

The plain no pasture to the flock affords,

The crooked scythes are straightened into swords.” Dryden.

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation — Peace is frequently mentioned in Scripture as the distinguishing character of Christ’s kingdom, and he himself is called the prince of peace. The design and tendency of his gospel are to produce a peaceable disposition in mankind, by subduing their pride, and various passions and lusts, which are the causes of wars and contentions, and by working in them humility, meekness, self-denial, and true and fervent love to all men, from whence peace necessarily follows. And the gospel actually does produce this effect in those that rightly receive it. It disposes them, as much as in them lieth, to live peaceably with all men. And as to that dissension and war which the preaching of the gospel has sometimes occasioned, as it was foretold it would do, Matthew 10:21-22, it was wholly accidental, arising from men’s corrupt lusts and interests, which the gospel opposes; and it was not among those who received the truth in the love of it, but between them and those who were either open enemies, or false friends to them and to the gospel. But this passage foretels that even an external and general peace will be established in the world under the reign of the Messiah, which undoubtedly, in due time, will take place, namely, when the fulness of the Gentiles shall be brought in, and all Israel shall be saved, and both Jews and Gentiles shall be united together in one fold, under Christ their great Shepherd.


Verse 5

Isaiah 2:5. O house of Jacob, come ye — Since the Gentiles will be thus ready and resolved to seek and serve the Lord, and to excite one another so to do, let this oblige and provoke you, O ye Israelites, to join with, or rather to go before them in this good work. “The prophet,” says Lowth, “addresses himself to those Jews of later times, that should live when the glad tidings of the gospel should be published; and exhorts them to make use of those means of grace which God would so plentifully afford them, and not continue stubborn and refractory, like their forefathers, which disobedience of theirs had provoked him to forsake them, as it follows, Isaiah 2:6. And let us walk in the light of the Lord — Take heed that you do not reject that light, which will be so clear, that even the blind Gentiles will discern it.”


Verse 6

Isaiah 2:6. Therefore — For the following causes; thou hast forsaken thy people — Or, wilt certainly forsake and reject them. The house of Jacob — The body of that nation. The prophet here begins his complaint of the state of the Jewish nation, and “assigns the reason of God’s withdrawing his kindness from those of the present age, (as there would be a more remarkable rejection of them under the gospel,) because of their following the corrupt manners of the idolatrous nations round about them, in seeking to soothsayers and wizards, which God had solemnly and expressly forbidden, Deuteronomy 18:14.” — Lowth. Because they are replenished from the east — Or, as the margin reads it, more than the east, which Dr. Waterland interprets, They are fuller of sorceries than the east; and Bishop Lowth, They are filled with divination from the east. The general meaning seems to be, that their land was full of the impious, superstitious, and idolatrous manners of the eastern nations, the Syrians and Chaldeans, and perhaps also they had encouraged these heathen to settle among them, that they might learn their customs. And are soothsayers — Undertaking to discover secret things, and to foretel future, contingent events, by observing the stars, or the clouds, or the flight of birds, and in other ways of divination; like the Philistines — Who were infamous for those practices; of which see one instance, 1 Samuel 6:2. They please themselves in the children of strangers — They delight in their company and conversation, making leagues, and friendships, and marriages with them. Dr. Waterland renders the clause, They please themselves in the conceptions, or productions, of strangers.


Verse 7

Isaiah 2:7. Their land also is full of silver, &c. — They have heaped up riches immoderately, and still are greedily pursuing after more. Lowth thinks the prophet is especially reproving those who, in the midst of the public calamities, made no conscience of enriching themselves by oppression and injustice. Their land also is full of horses — Which even their kings were forbidden to multiply, (as they were also forbidden to multiply gold and silver,) and much more the people. In the original this verse consists of a stanza of four lines, in which the construction of the two members is alternate, the first line answering to the third, and the second to the fourth.


Verse 8-9

Isaiah 2:8-9. Their land also is full of idols — Every city had its god, (Jeremiah 11:13,) and, according to the goodness and fertility of their lands, they made goodly images, Hosea 10:1. They worship the work of their own hands — They gave that worship to their own creatures, to the images which their own fancies had devised, and their own fingers had made, which they denied to JEHOVAH their Creator, than which nothing could be more impious or more absurd. And the mean man boweth down, &c. — Men of all ranks, both high and low, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, fall down and worship idols. The corruption is universal, and the whole land is given to idolatry. Therefore forgive them not — Thou wilt not forgive them, the imperative being put for the future, as we have seen it frequently is in the Psalms. Vitringa, however, Dr. Waterland, and Bishop Lowth, with many others, consider this verse, not as describing their idolatry, but as a predicting the punishment which God was about to bring upon them for it; and therefore translate it, in perfect consistency with the Hebrew, in the future tense, thus: Therefore the mean man shall be bowed down, and the mighty man shall be humbled; and thou wilt not forgive them. “They bowed themselves down to their idols, therefore shall they be bowed down, and brought low, under the avenging hand of God.” — Bishop Lowth. According to this interpretation, “the prophet begins here to describe the imminent severe judgments of God, wherewith he would punish the pride of these men, and their alienation from the true worship of God and their disobedience to his law.”


Verse 10-11

Isaiah 2:10-11. Enter into the rock, &c. — Such calamities are coming upon you, that you will be ready to hide yourselves in rocks and caves of the earth, for fear of the glorious and terrible judgments of God. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled — The eyes that looked high; the countenance, in which the pride of the heart had showed itself, shall be cast down in shame and despair. The haughtiness of men shall be bowed down — Judicially, as they prostrated themselves before their idols voluntarily, the punishment being suited to their sin. And the Lord alone shall be exalted — The justice and power of Jehovah shall be magnified, and the impotence and vanity of all other gods shall be detected, at the same time that the self-confidence, self-sufficiency, and vain glory of man are abased and vilified.


Verses 12-16

Isaiah 2:12-16. For the day of the Lord — The time of God’s taking vengeance on sinners; shall be upon every one that is proud — To mortify and bring him down to the dust; and upon all the cedars of Lebanon, &c. — In these and the following words, to Isaiah 2:17, the prophet is considered, by most commentators, as speaking metaphorically, according to the symbolical language of the Egyptian hieroglyphics. The cedars of Lebanon, and oaks of Bashan, are supposed to mean princes and nobles, who carried themselves high, and behaved themselves insolently; high mountains and hills, to signify states and cities; high towers and fenced walls, those who excelled in ingenuity, wisdom, and strength; and the ships of Tarshish, &c., (Isaiah 2:16,) the merchants who confided in their wealth and splendour. Thus Bishop Lowth: “These verses afford us a striking example of that peculiar way of writing, which makes a principal characteristic of the parabolical, or poetical style of the Hebrews, and in which their prophets deal so largely: namely, their manner of exhibiting things divine, spiritual, moral, and political, by a set of images taken from things natural, artificial, religious, historical, in the way of metaphor or allegory. Thus, you will find in many other places, besides this before us, that cedars of Libanus and oaks of Bashan are used, in the way of metaphor and allegory, for kings, princes, potentates, of the highest rank; high mountains and lofty hills, for kingdoms, republics, states, cities; towers and fortresses, for defenders and protectors, whether by counsel or strength, in peace or war; ships of Tarshish, and works of art and invention employed in adorning them, for merchants, men enriched by commerce, and abounding in all the luxuries and elegancies of life, such as those of Tyre and Sidon; for it appears from the course of the whole passage, and from the train of ideas, that the fortresses and ships are to be taken metaphorically, as well as the high trees and lofty mountains.” Some, however, it may be observed, incline to understand this whole passage literally, remarking, that the judgment was to be so universal and terrible, as not only to reach to men, but to things also, whether natural or artificial, in all which there would be manifest tokens of God’s displeasure against the land. “Ships of Tarshish,” adds Bishop Lowth, “are in Scripture frequently used by a metonymy for ships in general, especially such as are employed in carrying on traffic between distant countries; as Tarshish was the most celebrated mart of those times, frequented of old by the Phenicians, and the principal source of wealth to Judea and the neighbouring countries. The learned seem now to be perfectly agreed that Tarshish is Tartessus, a city of Spain, (near Cadiz, now called Tariffa,) at the mouth of the river Bœtis, (now named Guadalquiver, running through Andalusia,) whence the Phenicians, who first opened this trade, brought silver and gold, (Jeremiah 10:9; Ezekiel 27:12,) in which that country then abounded; and, pursuing their voyage still further to the Cassiterides, the islands of Sicily and Cornwall, they brought from thence lead and tin.”


Verse 17-18

Isaiah 2:17-18. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down — Here the prophet expresses literally what he had delivered metaphorically in the preceding verses. The same things were asserted Isaiah 2:11, but they are here repeated, partly to assure the people of the certainty of them, and partly to fix them more deeply in their minds, because men are very backward to believe and consider things of this nature. And the idols he shall utterly abolish — He will discover the impotency of idols to succour their worshippers, and thereby destroy the worship of them in the world.


Verse 19

Isaiah 2:19. And they — The idolatrous Israelites; shall go into the holes of the rocks, &c. — Their usual places of retreat in cases of danger; see Joshua 10:16; 6:2; 1 Samuel 13:6. The idea is taken from the nature of the land of Canaan; which was full of caves and dens; for fear of the Lord, and the glory of his majesty, &c. — “The meaning is, that there should be, at this time, a great and most bright display of the divine majesty and justice, which the impious and hypocritical could not bear; and that, struck with the terror of the divine judgment, they should consult for their safety, with the utmost terror and consternation, in caves, dens, and holes of the earth.” “The Prophet Hosea hath carried the same image further, and added great strength and spirit to it, Hosea 10:8. They shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us; which image, together with these of Isaiah, is adopted by the sublime author of the Revelation 6:15-16.” See Dodd and Bishop Lowth.


Verse 20

Isaiah 2:20. In that day a man shall cast his idols, &c., to the moles and to the bats — Shall cast them into the meanest and darkest places, in which moles and bats have their abode; whereas before they set them up in high and honourable places, where they might be seen and worshipped. Or, as Bishop Lowth thinks the meaning may be. “They shall carry their idols with them into the dark caverns, old ruins, or desolate places, to which they shall flee for refuge; and so shall give them up, and relinquish them to the filthy animals that frequent such places, and have taken possession of them as their proper habitation.” The wasting of Judah by the Syrians and Israelites in the time of Ahaz, might be here first in the prophet’s view, when, besides a great multitude that were partly slain, and partly carried captive to Damascus by the Syrians, the king of Israel slew in Judah one hundred and twenty thousand in one day, and carried away captive, of men, women, and children, two hundred thousand, taking away also much spoil, 2 Chronicles 28:5-6; 2 Chronicles 28:8. The prophecy may refer, secondly, to the invasion of the country by Sennacherib; but, undoubtedly, the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, and the Babylonish captivity, are chiefly intended, for then idolatry was entirely abolished among the Jews, and never practised by them afterward.


Verse 22

Isaiah 2:22. Cease ye from man — “The prophet here subjoins an admonitory exhortation to the men of his own and of all times, to dissuade them from placing any confidence in man, however excellent in dignity, or great in power; as his life depends upon the air which he breathes through his nostrils, and which, if it be stopped, he is no more; and therefore, if you abstract from him the providence and grace of God, and consider him as left to himself, he is worthy of very little confidence and regard: see Psalms 146:3-4. Vitringa is of opinion, that the prophet here alludes immediately to the kings of Egypt: see Isaiah 31:3. And he adds, that the mystical interpretation of the period from the twelfth to this verse, may refer also to other days of the divine judgment, of which there are four peculiarly noted in Scripture, as referring to the new economy. 1st, The day of the subversion of the Jewish republic; 2d, The day of vengeance on the governors of the Roman empire, the persecutors of the church, in the time of Constantine; 3d, The future day of judgment hereafter to take place upon Antichrist and his crew; of which the prophets, and St. John in the Revelation particularly, have spoken; and, 4th, The day of general judgment. It is to this third day that he thinks the present period more immediately refers: see 2 Thessalonians 2:2; Revelation 16:14.” — Dodd.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 2:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/isaiah-2.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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