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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Isaiah 2

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. II.

Isaiah prophesieth the coming of Christ's kingdom. Wickedness is the cause of God's forsaking his people: he exhorteth to fear, because of the powerful effects of God's majesty.

Before Christ 760.


Verse 1

Isaiah 2:1. The word that Isaiah—saw The construction of the second sermon, which is comprehended in this, the third and fourth chapters, is excellent. It was the design of the prophet, or of the holy Spirit speaking by the prophet, to convince the Jews in this discourse of their neglect and contempt of the divine law, and their holy religion; and of their base propensity to profane and foreign superstitions; as also of other vices gaining ground among the people, while the nation was yet in a flourishing state. To this purpose, while he seems in the beginning of his prophecy to treat of something quite different, he directs the exordium of his discourse with the greatest art to his intended subject. Rapt into a divine extacy, or vision, by the Spirit, a kind of school or celebrated academy is exhibited to him, over which Jehovah himself presided as ruler and teacher; which school is supposed to be founded on the top of mount Sion, raised aloft above all other mountains, that it might be seen, as it were, by the whole world. The prophet beholds many and great nations, after the fame of this seat of wisdom had spread itself every where, hastening to this celestial academy, and despising their ancient religions; drawing thence the precepts of salutary and evangelical doctrine, to be delivered at the end of time by the Messiah, the supreme teacher, and to be disseminated throughout the whole world; whose effect should be, the peace and concord of the people, and of those who embraced that faith. Thus far every thing was grateful, joyful, and consolatory to the minds of the pious; but observe how suddenly he changes his style: For when he seemed about to proceed in this pleasing and delightful discourse, and more fully to describe the felicity of those times, he stops, and, turning his discourse to God, by complaints of the unhappy state of the church in his time, he describes the manners of his contemporaries, who were cold to, and regardless of, the study of the divine law, and on the contrary warm and zealous for profane and foreign discipline; drawing, from this beautiful and consolatory vision, an argument to convince them of this and their other vices, and if possible to bring them back to duty from this comparison of future times. However, almost despairing of this, he places before their eyes that illustrious day of the divine judgment, when vengeance will be taken of the proud and idolatrous; repeating afterwards those crimes of theirs which would bring upon their nation the severity of divine wrath; yet softening the harshness of his discourse by a clear promise of the future Messiah, who should appear to the remains of them with all grace and an abundance of salutary blessings for the church. This discourse, besides the title and inscription, is threefold. Its first part comprehends the promise of some remarkable blessing in future times, when mount Sion, for the sake of true religion, shall be elevated far above all other places and schools in which religion is professed, together with the consequences of that benefit; from Isaiah 2:2-5. The second an exhortation of the people to repentance, with a bitter complaint of their corrupt state, and a denunciation of the divine judgments impending; from Isaiah 2:2 to chap. Isaiah 4:2. The third describes the flourishing state of the remainder of the Jewish people; which, under the care and the shade of the Branch of Jehovah, the true Messiah, should rejoice in all the benefits of divine grace and true consolation, Isaiah 2:2 to the end. This prophecy, it is most probable, was delivered before the time of Ahaz, under Jotham; or, what is more likely, in the most flourishing state of the Jewish nation under Uzziah. It is thus to be literally applied; but, no doubt has a farther spiritual and mystical interpretation. Vitringa.


Verse 2

Isaiah 2:2. And it shall come to pass We have in this period an august and fine image of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. It contains, first, a proposition of a certain admirable event in future time, in which the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be exalted above all mountains, and nations shall flow to it from all parts; Isaiah 2:2-3. Secondly, A declaration of the cause of that conflux, the divine instruction delivered from this mountain;—end of the third verse. Thirdly, Its consequences; 1. The kingdom of Christ among the Gentiles by the word of the gospel. 2. The universal peace of the Gentiles; Isaiah 2:4. See Vitringa.


Verse 5

Isaiah 2:5. O house of Jacob, &c.— The second part of this discourse contains an exhortation to the people to repent, with a complaint of their corrupt state, and a denunciation of the divine judgment: In which we have, first, a transition from one scene to the other, Isaiah 2:5. Secondly, a new scene is opened, and the present state of the Jewish people is described: Isaiah 2:6-9. Thirdly, The most severe penal judgment of God, to be inflicted upon these men at an appointed time, is set forth from Isaiah 2:9 to Isaiah 2:8 of chap. 3: Fourthly, this judgment of God is explained and justified, chap. Isaiah 3:8 to chap. Isaiah 4:2. The present verse is to be understood as an address of the prophet to the men of his time to turn from their evils, and apply themselves above all things to the study of the divine law, here meant by the light of the Lord, including also the light of the Spirit of God illuminating the Word.


Verse 6

Isaiah 2:6. Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people The prophet here begins his complaint of the present state of the Jewish nation; which contains, First, His proposition of its present state, as forsaken by God;—in this verse. Secondly, A demonstration of it from the vices which reigned in this nation; which were, a desire of foreign instructions, Isaiah 2:6. Pride and covetousness, Isaiah 2:7. Idolatry, Isaiah 2:8. The proposition is a kind of apostrophe, or complaint,—the prophet turning his discourse to God,—to teach, that God's forsaking them was a consequence of the vices reigning among them. Vitringa. It is well known how much sooth-saying prevailed in the east.


Verse 7

Isaiah 2:7. Their land also is full of silver, &c.— In the original, this consists of a stanza of four verses, in which the construction of the two members is alternate; their land is full of silver, answering to their land is full of horses; as, neither is there any end of their treasures, does to neither is there any end of their chariots. The express orders of Moses against multiplying horses were intended to prevent the Israelites from having any commerce with Egypt, remarkable for its horses, and the source of idolatry: We therefore find, that when Solomon had opened a trade for horses, his kingdom likewise was therefore notorious for idolatry; in allusion to which, the prophet here, after saying, there is no end of their chariots, adds, their land also is full of idols. See Deuteronomy 17:16.


Verse 9

Isaiah 2:9. And the mean man boweth down, &c.— And the mean man shall be brought down, and the great man shall be humbled; and thou wilt not forgive them. Vitringa. This rendering is not only agreeable to the 11th and 17th verses of this chapter, and 15th of the fifth, but also to the scope of the argument; for the prophet begins here to describe the imminent severe judgment of God, wherewith he would punish the pride of these men, and their alienation from the true worship of God and the study of the divine law. This part of his discourse contains, first, a general proposition of the immediate judgment of God,—in this verse. Secondly, a declaration of it; Isaiah 2:10-22 with an exhortation adjoined agreeable to his discourse: Isaiah 2:22. Thirdly, a more special confirmation and elucidation of this judgment; from Isaiah 2:1 chap. 3: to Isaiah 2:8. The particle ו vau, rendered and, in the beginning of the present verse, often retains the signification of the future; and might here be rendered then or now. See Vitringa and Noldius.


Verse 10

Isaiah 2:10. Enter into the rock The prophet's discourse is here most sublime, in order to fill the mind with the highest ideas of the divine judgment impending. We have a preface concerning the greatness of this judgment, Isaiah 2:10-11 a more clear exposition of it with respect to the subjects to be humbled by God, with the consequences of it; Isaiah 2:12-21 and an admonition is subjoined at the end, Isaiah 2:22. The preface is figurative; and its aim is, to teach, that in the revelation of God's judgments against the wicked, there will be the brightest display of the divine majesty and glory, which scarcely any mortal will be able to sustain; much less the impious and idolaters, the condemners of God and his law. He therefore exhorts them to hide themselves in the rocks and caves, that they might not be consumed by the fire of the divine majesty. The emblem is elegant, and seems to me to be taken from the circumstances in the history of Moses and Elijah, mentioned Exodus 33:22 and 1 Kings 19:13. See Vitringa.


Verse 12

Isaiah 2:12. For the day of the Lord of hosts The prophet had declared what was in the designs of the divine court. He now proceeds to explain circumstantially what would be the objects of that judgment; which he lays down metaphorically; designing, first, kings, princes, nobles, kingdoms, republics, cities; Isaiah 2:12-17. Secondly, idols, with which the Israelites had committed whoredom; Isaiah 2:18-21. This judgment is thought to refer to that which God exercised upon the Jews by means of Nebuchadnezzar. See Ezekiel 30:3.; Amos 5:20.


Verse 13

Isaiah 2:13. And upon all the cedars of Lebanon Lebanon is one of the images which is frequently made use of in the writings of the Hebrews. It was one of the remarkable mountains of Palestine, celebrated for its loftiness, and the tallness, largeness, and abundance of the cedars which shaded its top. Hence, agreeably to the symbolical hieroglyphics of the Egyptians, we find them making use of these images to denote any thing elate with pride, as well as whatever was august and sublime. In this place the cedars of Lebanon, and the oaks of Bashan, mean the kings, princes, and nobles, who carried themselves high, and behaved themselves insolently; and so, agreeably to the same metaphorical style, which is very usual with the prophets, the high mountains and hills, in the next verse, signify kingdoms, cities, and states: See Jeremiah 25:17; Jeremiah 25:38. The high towers and fenced walls, in the 15th verse, signify those who excelled in ingenuity, wisdom, and strength; and the ships of Tarshish, &c. in the 16th verse, signify the merchants, who confided in their wealth and splendour. Vitringa renders the last words of the 16th verse, all desirable fabrics; which is supposed to refer to the ornaments of their ships, in which the Tyrians were remarkably curious and superb. The 17th verse expresses, literally, what is delivered metaphorically in the preceding verse.


Verse 19

Isaiah 2:19. And they shall go into the holes of the rocks The idea here, as every one must perceive, is taken from the nature of the land of Canaan; which was full of caves and dens. See Judges 6:2. The meaning of the metaphor 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, stricken with the terror of the divine judgment, they should consult for their own safety, with the utmost terror and consternation, in caves, and dens, and holes of the earth. See Hosea 10:10. Revelation 6:16. This refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldees.


Verse 20

Isaiah 2:20. To the moles and to the bats Bats and other vermin haunt old ruinated places. So Thevenot, describing the opened pyramid, tells us, there are a great many bats in it, which sometimes put out the candles that are made use of in examining that most ancient building; that a particular hole, which he describes, had a great quantity of their dung in it; and that they so swarmed there, that a Scotch gentleman who was in the company, and who seems alone to have had the courage to go down into it, was afraid that he should have been eaten up by them. Egmont and Heyman mention the same circumstance, but enrich their account with the addition of owls, snakes, and other reptiles; for which reason they thought it necessary to fire off some pistols before they ventured into the pyramid, these creatures being by that means frighted away to their lurking places. I do not know how accurate they are in mentioning snakes in the pyramid; but it is certain, that in buildings more ruinated than that, such dangerous kinds of reptiles are very common. Thus Rauwolff, in his account of Babylon, tells us, that some of its ruins are so full of vermin, which have bored holes through them, that one may not come near them within half a mile, but only two months in the winter, when they come not out of their holes. Are we not rather to understand the words of the prophet in this place (which seem to signify diggers of holes) of these sorts of animals, rather than of moles, which a single Hebrew term is supposed to express, Leviticus 11:30 and that have no connection, which I know of, with ruins? For the thought of the prophet seems to me to be, that the inhabitants of that country were to go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth to hide themselves from the vengeance of the Lord, to be executed by hostile armies; leaving their temples, with their idols in them, to be demolished by their hands; in which state of desolation these idols should long lie, companions of those animals which are wont to bore holes in ruins, and also of bats, the frequenters of such destroyed places; not that they were to carry their idols into caves and holes of the earth to secrete them from their enemies. See Observations, p. 423.


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; which being stopped, he is no more; and therefore, if you abstract from him the providence, the influx 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 chap. Isaiah 31:3. And he adds, that the mystical interpretation of the period from the 12th to the present verse, may refer to other days of the divine judgment; of which there are four peculiarly noted in scripture, as referring to the new oeconomy. First, The day of the subversion of the Jewish government: Secondly, The day of vengeance on the governors of the Roman empire, the persecutors of the church, in the time of Constantine: Thirdly, 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, Fourthly, The day of general judgment. It is to the third day that he thinks the present period more immediately refers. See Revelation 16:14.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here a glorious prophecy of the establishment of the kingdom and church of Christ in the last days, the days of the Messiah. The gospel is the last dispensation.

1. The mountain of the Lord's house, his church shall be established in the top of the mountains, in Christ, who is the head of all principalities and powers, and, with a superiority over all the kingdoms of the earth, shall be exalted above the hills; the antichristian powers, whether papal, pagan, or Mahometan, being subdued before it. Note, Whatever oppressions the church for a time may groan under, in the end the will see all her enemies at her feet.

2. All nations shall flow unto it; many out of all lands shall be incorporated into it, and, having tasted the blessedness of Christ's service, shall be zealously solicitous to propagate his holy religion, and to engage others to go with them. Many people shall go and say, Come ye along with us, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, his church, and to the house of the God of Jacob, the place he has chosen for his blest abode. And, as an argument to enforce their exhortation, they urge, and he will teach us of his ways, his holy, happy ways of grace, mercy, and peace; and we will walk in his paths, instructed by his word, and strengthened by his spirit. Note, (1.) The Gospel shall have a more glorious and universal spread than ever yet it has had. (2.) They who are Christ's people, are not only willing to follow him themselves, but are zealous to engage others to come and partake of the same blessing. (3.) None can teach us effectually, but God himself. Though the best means may be employed, unless he gives the increase, Paul plants and Apollos waters in vain. (4.) They who would go to the mount of God, must go up, in opposition to corrupt nature, and expect many difficulties in the ascent from the world and Satan; but every pain will be amply repaid, when we shall reach the summit. (5.) They who are taught of God, are obedient to his holy will; their knowledge has a sanctifying influence, engaging them to walk with and please God.

3. The means that God will employ for this purpose. Out of Zion shall go forth the law, or doctrine; the Gospel, the law of the Spirit of life: and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, where the Incarnate Word appeared, and whence he sent forth his apostles to preach the Gospel unto every creature; which has already been done in a measure, and shall still more eminently be the case before the universal reign of Christ takes place in the world.

4. The blessing of Christ's government is declared. He shall judge among the nations, holding the reins of universal dominion, and ruling with the most consummate equity; and shall rebuke many people, convince and convert them from the error of their ways by his word and Spirit. Peace then will bless the earth, such as hath never yet been known: They shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. In part we see this fulfilled; so far as the Gospel obtains power and influence on the heart, it leads us to follow peace with all men; but the state of perfect harmony here described remains yet to come, when Christ shall reign over his saints gloriously.

5. The Gentile church addresses the Jewish people, solicitous for their conversion: O house of Jacob, come ye, and join us in the worship and ordinances of the gospel; and let us walk in the light of the Lord, in the light of the Sun of Righteousness, the divine Redeemer, whose word is our bright guide through time unto eternity; and while by faith and love we cleave to him, and look up in prayer for continued support, he will lead us by his counsel, till he shall bring us to his glory.

2nd, We have a reason given for the divine conduct in the rejection of the Jews, and vocation of the Gentiles.

1. Their sins were great: they introduced the magic and sorceries of the east; imitated, in their arts of divination, the Philistines; and preferred the children of strangers to native Israelites. Though God had forbidden them to multiply riches, and chariots, and horses, to appear formidable to their neighbours, yet they anxiously laboured to procure these as their confidence, instead of god's promise and care. Though he had so awfully warned them against idols, they had filled their land with them; and high and low joined in the idolatrous service. This description suits the times in which the prophet spoke, better than their state after their return from Babylon. Some refer this to antichrist and his followers, who call themselves the people of God, but shew the marks of an apostate church. The juggles, tricks, and frauds of Romish priests are well known. They enrich themselves by masses, indulgences, &c. Full of idols; worshipping images of pretended saints, and of many who never existed; and all sunk in the same hateful idolatry: like priest, like people.

2. Their doom was heavy: God had forsaken them, and given them up to a reprobate mind. This was verified in the amazing desolations which the Romans brought upon the Jewish people, when the body of the nation was so terribly destroyed; and shall be more fully accomplished in the eternal ruin of all the impenitently wicked in the day of God.

3rdly, We have the desolations denounced, either upon the Jewish people, or upon the antichristian foes.

1. He bids them enter into the rock, as deriding their vain confidence, and shewing them how unable they will be to escape; when for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his Majesty, they should seek to hide their guilty heads. Note; (1.) At God's bar, the stoutest-hearted sinner will tremble. (2.) Vain will be every refuge in the day of judgment; no rock, no mountain can cover the guilty, when God ariseth to shake terribly the earth.

2. The pride of sinners shall then be laid low, the lofty looks shall sink into dejection and despair, and the haughtiness of the insolent lick the dust; and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day, in his judgments executed upon his enemies, and in his kingdom, which shall be fully established, and never more be disturbed by any antichristian foe. Note; Pride must come down; if we now fall not on our knees in humiliation, we must fall deep into hell under our sins.

3. The particulars of God's judgments upon the proud and lofty are mentioned. Though firm as mountains, and tall as cedars, they will be overturned; though guarded by the strongest fortresses, they cannot stand; all their confidence will fail them, and their glory vanish; their ships be destroyed, their pleasant pictures defaced, their idols abolished. The kings of the earth, and great men, and chief captains, who supported the beast, and the false prophet, and committed fornication with the great whore, will be ruined with her; their armadas, fitted out to war against the saints of God, will be dispersed and destroyed; their curious paintings of Madonas, saints, crucifixes, and the like idolatrous ornaments of their churches, will perish together, and their images, at which they paid their blind devotions, be for ever abolished.

4. The worshippers, convinced of the vanity of their idols, will renounce them, or, despairing of relief, in anger cast them to the moles and the bats, frighted with God's judgments, and flying to the clefts of the rocks for shelter. Note; (1.) Sooner or later the vanity of idols will appear; whether the grosser idolatry of images, or the more refined, yet equally abominable idolatry of inordinate affection placed on gold and silver, or any other creature; none of which will profit in a day of wrath. (2.) Many are driven from their outward sins, who never repent of them; either are so terrified, that conscience deters them; or the inconveniences and sufferings which they sustain withhold them; but still the unmortified love of them remains in their hearts.

5. The Prophet concludes with an exhortation to cease from man; either directed to the Jews, who relied on Egypt for help against the Babylonians; or to the followers of antichrist, who put such trust in the blasphemous pardons and indulgences issued from the papal chair; or in general to all, not to trust in man, even the greatest, for salvation, because he is a worm; for wherein is he to be accounted of? The Egyptians would help in vain, the great vaunts of the man who calls himself Christ's vicar, and God upon earth, are empty boasts of arrogance, and all human excellence nothing, and less than nothing, and vanity. Note; We cannot put too little trust in man, nor too great confidence in God. They who cease from the one, to live wholly upon the other, will find a rock instead of a reed.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 2:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/isaiah-2.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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