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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Isaiah 30

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XXX.

The prophet threateneth the people for their confidence in Egypt, and contempt of God's word. God's mercies toward his church. God's wrath and the people's joy in the destruction of Assyria.

Before Christ 713.

THE third section of this discourse is contained in the four following chapters, and is of nearly the same argument with the preceding sections. The scene of it is to be placed at the time when Hosea, the last king of the Ephraimites, having shaken off the yoke of the king of Assyria, by a solemn message and presents implored the help of the Egyptians. See 2 Kings 17:4; 2 Kings 17:41. The discourse in the present chapter is two-fold; the first part continuing reproof, Isaiah 30:1-18.; the latter part consolation, Isaiah 30:19-33. The former part is again two-fold; its first member respects the Ephraimites, Isaiah 30:1-7.; its second, both Ephraimites and Jews: in the first member, we have a reproof of the Ephraimites for seeking aid from Egypt, Isaiah 30:1-2 and a prediction of the unhappy event of that purpose, which is proposed, Isaiah 30:3 and more largely declared, Isaiah 30:4-7. In the latter member, we have a sharp conviction of the incredulity and irreverence towards the prophetic declarations, in the people not only of Ephraim, but of Judah, as well those who at this time favoured the counsel of the Ephraimites, as those who should hereafter follow it; Isaiah 30:8-11 and a denunciation of the grievous judgment of God, which should bring destruction to both states, Isaiah 30:12-18. The consolatory part is also two-fold; the first member contains the benefits to be conferred upon the church after its deliverance, Isaiah 30:19-26.; the latter, the grievous judgment of God to be executed on the Assyrian: Isaiah 30:27-33. The benefits comprehended in the first member are, the restoration of the state, Isaiah 30:19 abundant and pure instruction, Isaiah 30:20-21.; sanctification, Isaiah 30:22.; pure and spiritual pasture joined with temporal blessings, Isaiah 30:23-25.; wonderful illumination of the saints, and great glory to the church, Isaiah 30:26. The judgment of the Assyrian is comprised in two articles, each of which exhibits the judgment and its consequences; in the former article, the judgment, Isaiah 30:27-28.; its consequences, Isaiah 30:29.: in the latter, the judgment, Isaiah 30:30-31.; its consequences, Isaiah 30:32-33.


Verse 1-2

Isaiah 30:1-2. Woe to the rebellious children, &c.— These two verses contain the proposition of the discourse, exhibiting the carnal counsel of the Ephraimites condemned by God, which makes the basis of this prophetical declamation. The Ephraimites are addressed as refractory children, more strongly to mark their impiety. See Deuteronomy 21:18; Deuteronomy 21:23. Hosea 4:16 and Jeremiah 2:18. To cover with a covering, but not of God's Spirit, is to seek help to themselves from the persuasion of false prophets, in opposition to the convictions and denunciations of true prophets, teaching them that their purposes are very displeasing to God.


Verse 3

Isaiah 30:3. Therefore, &c.— The prophet here foretels the unfortunate event of their enterprize; namely, that their reliance on the strength of So, the Pharaoh or king of Egypt, should avail them nothing, but turn out to their confusion. See 2 Kings 17:4. This is more fully set forth in the subsequent verses.


Verses 4-7

Isaiah 30:4-7. For his princes were at Zoan When his princes—to Hanes, Isaiah 30:5 they were, &c. Isaiah 30:6 as to the burden of the beasts southward, unto a land—from whence come the lioness and stout lion—ver. 7. Therefore have I called her, Rage to rest; or Pride [Rahab, a name of Egypt] be still. Vitringa. It is plain from these words of the prophet, that the ambassadors of the king Hosea, after they came into Egypt, should find every thing there unprepared, and averse to their wishes; and so, covered with shame, should soon understand from the state of things, that they could receive little or no benefit at all from this alliance, Isaiah 30:4-5. In the next verses the prophet more fully explains this: for, seeing as it were immediately before his eyes the ambassadors of this peoples otherwise sufficiently exhausted, bearing their splendid and sumptuous presents on camels and asses into Egypt, a country of invidious name, to the injury and contempt of the God of Israel, and perceiving that they would reap no advantage from this proud and sumptuous embassy; that the whole would be fruitless, or rather would raise the indignation of the Assyrians, and hasten the destruction of Samaria (as we learn from history was really the case); he cannot refrain, but exhibits to the life the whole scheme of this imprudence, folly, and incredulity, as it was immediately presented to his prophetic sight, with its shameful and sorrowful event; and teaches, in the end, that it should come to pass that Egypt, which is called רהב Rahab—fierceness, pride, rage, should be entirely still, and so rest, as to be unable to help at all. This is the meaning of the passage, as it appears more plainly from the translation given by Vitringa. Egypt, at this time joined to Ethiopia, was of all countries most fertile of every fierce and wild creature which the nature of man abhors, both terrestrial and aquatic. See Boch. Hieroz. p. ii. lib. iii. c. 13. and Leo Africanus, Hist. Afr. c. ii. Vitringa observes, that there can be no doubt but Isaiah 4:6 has a higher and mystical reference, which may be collected from Nahum 2:12-13.


Verses 8-11

Isaiah 30:8-11. Now go, write it before them, &c.— See the analysis. The Spirit of God, about to convict the degenerate people of the foolishness of their counsels, pierces into the inmost source of their errors, namely, their irreverence and disregard of the true word of God, and the faithful teachers of that word, and their contempt of the counsels suggested to them, in the name and by the authority of the Lord. He therefore places in the present period this most corrupt disposition of the people in full light, and paints it in strong colours, commanded by the Spirit of God to write it in a book, that it might be a monument to future ages, as well of the care and providence of God towards his people, as of their depraved disposition and foolish counsels, whereby they hastened their destruction. See Deuteronomy 31:19.


Verses 12-14

Isaiah 30:12-14. Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel The consequence of the fault is here exhibited by the prophet in two sentences; the former in these verses, the latter in Isaiah 30:15-18. The prophet in this place declares, that their punishment shall be the entire destruction of their state, set forth under two chosen and apt figures; to which the prophet premises an introduction, thereby to conciliate authority to his words, in the name of that God whom the degenerate Israelites despised, and at the same time to set forth the principal crimes which had drawn down this punishment, Isaiah 30:12. The first metaphor (Isaiah 30:13.) is taken from a breach or a bulging in the lower part of a wall, which every moment threatens to burst forth, and consequently bring down the whole wall with it: the second, from the utter breaking of a potter's vessel: and the meaning of each figure is, that the state of both nations, Ephraimites and Jews, should be totally and entirely dissolved. The event fully proves the truth of the prediction. See Isaiah 3; Isaiah 4; Isaiah 9. &c. Ezekiel 5 and Jeremiah 44:11-12. Perhaps the 13th and 14th verses might be rendered better thus, Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a falling breach, a bulging in a high wall, whose breaking down cometh suddenly,—in an instant: Isaiah 30:14 and its breaking down shall be as the breaking of a potter's vessel, which is so broken that nothing is spared; that in its breaking there is not found a sherd. See Vitringa.


Verses 15-18

Isaiah 30:15-18. For thus saith the Lord The second sentence contains a judicial reproof and denunciation, wherein the punishment to be inflicted upon the disobedient and badly advised, is distinctly compared with the crime; for the Almighty, wonderful in all his ways, generally puts carnal men to shame by those very things wherein they place their confidence. Their crime here again is twice proposed; namely, their pertinacious struggle against the counsel suggested to them by the prophets of God, and their contempt of that counsel, Isaiah 30:15-16. Its consequence; first, the disappointment of their hope, and the destruction of their evil consultations, Isaiah 30:17. And then the slowness of God, and his desire to be gracious before he exerts his judgments, Isaiah 30:18. The meaning of the whole period is this, that if the Ephraimites and Jews, in the uncertain state of their affairs, would abstain from all care and endeavours to defend themselves by foreign aid, and would commit themselves to the care and providence of God with a settled mind, in faith and hope, they should then be safe, and avoid the calamities which threatened them: which salutary counsel the prophet shews that they obstinately despised, and would despise; that, on the contrary, they were determined to seek for deliverance from the yoke of the Assyrians or Chaldees in the help of the Egyptians, who were remarkable for their swift and fine horses, Isaiah 30:16 on which account they should meet with the calamities decreed for them; so that, seized with panic fear, when they came to the point, they should turn their backs upon their enemies, and fly with that swiftness with which they had thought to make their enemies fly; insomuch, that very few of them should escape the common destruction:—middle of Isaiah 30:16-17. And although God had determined not to deny his grace and help to them in affliction, when reduced to the last extremity, and after they had experienced the vanity of their own counsels, yet would he bestow that mercy slowly, with delay; because the enormity of their offence required a severity of punishment agreeable to the laws of justice. However, he would not fail the hope of those who believed on him; on the contrary, all they that should wait for him should be blessed. The word שׁובה shubah, rendered returning, in the 15th verse, is rendered, and, as it seems, very properly, by Vitringa, conversion, or change of council. Instead of your strength, he reads, your victory; and in the 18th verse he reads the first clause, And therefore the Lord will delay to be gracious, &c. See the first verse of the next chapter.


Verse 19

Isaiah 30:19. For the people shall dwell The consolatory part of this discourse begins here, which is connected with the preceding part by the last clause of the former verse, Blessed are all they that wait for him: here follows, therefore, a series of excellent blessings, to be conferred by God upon his church, after these judgments. The prophet has so ordered his style in setting forth these benefits, that when he seems to promise only temporal blessings to the church, he would be understood mystically under these figurative emblems. The first of these is the restoration of the state, upon the repentance and earnest prayers of the people, who are promised that they shall dwell again at Jerusalem, the seat of their religion, and the metropolis of the people of God. This prophesy refers to the restoration of the people from Babylon, when the tears which they had shed in banishment were wiped away, and God heard the prayers and vows of his people after the time of his indignation was expired. See Psalms 137:1; Psalms 137:9. Daniel 9:20-21; Daniel 9:27 and Vitringa.


Verse 20-21

Isaiah 30:20-21. And though the Lord give you, &c.— The prophet here, setting forth the second benefit, tells them, that though at the time of the restoration of their state they should by no means be free from various afflictions, (as Daniel also foretels, Daniel 9:25.) yet these temporal afflictions should be compensated and exceeded by the spiritual blessing by which God would then bless his church: which should be an abundance of instruction from their true teachers, for that is the meaning of the original word מורים morim. The metaphor in the 21st verse is taken from a father or instructor, who follows carefully the children going before him, committed to his care; and when he perceives them turning from the way wherein they should go, teaches and instructs them. The same metaphor is used Psalms 25:4; Psalms 5:8. It is very certain, from the history of that period, that the Jews, after their restoration from Babylon, were a long time in great straits, though they were blessed with many remarkable and excellent instructors, at the head of whom we may conceive Ezra, like a father of a family leading and instructing his people. See Nehemiah 8:2; Nehemiah 8:18. And herein the church had a prelude of that more copious and spiritual instruction, to be diffused by the ministers of the Gospel, under the oeconomy of Jesus Christ.


Verse 22

Isaiah 30:22. Ye shall defile also the covering, &c.— The meaning of these words is, that the people, at the period of time here marked out, should refrain from idolatry; not public only, but private and domestic also, which seems here particularly to be described; for the Jews, prone to idolatry even when it was publicly prohibited, did not fail to retain in their houses those little images of divination, which the Latins called Penates, and the Hebrews anciently תרפים Teraphim. It is remarkable, as we have before observed, that after their return from Babylon they never relapsed into idolatry. The beginning of this verse might be rendered, And you shall deem unclean, every one of you, the covering of his graven images, &c.


Verses 23-25

Isaiah 30:23-25. Then shall he give the rain of thy seed And he shall give rain for thy seed. Lowth. It appears very plainly from the latter end of the 25th verse, and from the 26th, that the prophet here is not to be understood literally, but figuratively, and that the words contain a splendid promise of pure and abundant spiritual pasture; which is exhibited in four articles, and closed with a sign of the time when this benefit should be conferred upon the church. The first article is, that the Lord would give rain for the seed sown, and a great increase of bread; where, though the literal sense may not be excluded, yet the figurative meaning is, that God would supply the spiritual sowing, (that is to say, pure and sound instruction in the word of righteousness, to be made by spiritual sowers, teachers properly furnished from the word of truth) with a copious blessing, and the heavenly grace of his Holy Spirit, so that a great produce of all spiritual graces should follow from it. See ch. Isaiah 32:15 and Zechariah 10:1; Zechariah 14:17. The next article is, that the cattle in those times should feed in large pastures. The literal meaning is plain: the mystical is, that the flock of the Lord should find an abundance to exercise themselves in the undertaking and search after spiritual things; not only for the necessities of their spiritual life, but for their delight and satisfaction in that word of God especially, where there is sufficient for the spiritual repast of every true believer. The third article still runs in the same metaphor; the oxen likewise, &c. See ch. Isaiah 32:20. The word עבדי obedei, rendered ear in this verse signifies to plough or till, which was done in those countries by oxen or asses. See Boch. Hieroz. pars i. lib. ii. c. 3. Instead of clean, Vitringa prefers savoury provender; such as was of a choicer kind, and either mixed with salt, or some kind of herbs, which rendered it more palatable to the animals. The mystical signification is, that the ministers labouring in the word and doctrine, both of superior and inferior order, should be honestly supported, and themselves find abundant supply of sound and wholesome words for the work of the ministry. See 1 Corinthians 9:9; 1 Corinthians 9:27. 1 Timothy 5:17-18. The fourth article is, Isaiah 30:25 that there should be upon every high mountain, &c. rivers and streams of water; which cannot be understood literally: the mystical meaning is, that in all the more celebrated places, whether of kingdoms or cities, there should be synagogues, public schools, or oratories, in which the word of God, and the doctrine of pure religion, should be copiously taught; so that the lovers of true wisdom might there quench their thirst, and apply the waters of sound instruction to their use. So the metaphor is used, ch. Isaiah 35:6, Isaiah 41:18. The time in which these benefits should be conferred upon the church is denoted by this character, Isaiah 30:25. In the day of the great slaughter, when the towers shall fall; whereby a certain remarkable period is denoted, in which God would take severe vengeance upon the enemies of his church, with the destruction of many, and those the chief and greatest personages; for all interpreters are agreed, that these are metaphorically understood by towers. See ch. Isaiah 2:15. The period, in its first and literal sense, is to be applied to the times of the Maccabees; but, in its secondary and full sense, to the kingdom of Jesus Christ. See Vitringa.


Verse 26

Isaiah 30:26. Moreover, the light of the moon, &c.— The images of light and darkness are made use of in almost all languages, to represent prosperity and adversity; but the Hebrews make use of them more frequently than any other nation, insomuch that they scarce ever omit them when the subject will bear them. They may thereby be referred to the parabolic style, wherein they are used with greater boldness and luxuriance than in any other: for the Hebrews do not confine themselves to the images of the spring, of the day-break, or of a cloudy night; but describe the sun and stars, rising as it were out of a new creation, with re-doubled splendor, or immerged a second time into chaos and primeval darkness. Does the prophet promise a renewal of the divine favours, and a revival of every kind of felicity to his people? With what dazzling colours does he paint the event, which no version can convey, nor indeed any totally obscure! The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, &c. There is nothing difficult in the literal meaning of these words, which informs us of the fifth illustrious benefit to be conferred upon the church, together with the sign of the time in which it should be conferred. The emblem made use of by the prophet is singly designed to express the great and exuberant plenty of light with which the people of God should be blessed at that time; and the sum of what he says is, that God would copiously and gloriously illuminate his church by his Spirit, and that the church should be sanctified and rejoiced by his glory, Exodus 29:43 insomuch that if the former times were compared, its measure and abundance should be as much more as seven exceeds one, or as the collected light of seven days exceeds the light of one day, or as the light of the sun exceeds that of the moon. See Zechariah 12:8. The sign of the time in which this event should happen, is said to be in the day when the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, &c. that is to say, when he restores the Jews, utterly ruined and overthrown, and with them the church, miserably afflicted and fallen by its idolatry, vices, and hypocrisy, and gives again to religion its honour and beauty. Compare Isaiah 30:13-14 and ch. Isaiah 1:5-6. The time here pointed out must necessarily be the same with that mentioned in the preceding note, for the subject is the same. See 1 Maccabees 13:41 and 1 Peter 1:8. 2 Corinthians 4:6. Vitringa, and Bishop Lowth's 4th Prelection.


Verse 27-28

Isaiah 30:27-28. Behold, the name of the Lord cometh Lo! the name of JEHOVAH cometh from afar; his wrath burneth, and the shame rageth violently: his lips are filled with indignation; and his tongue is as a consuming fire. His spirit is like a torrent overflowing; it shall reach to the middle of the neck: he cometh to toss the nations with the van of perdition, &c. Bishop Lowth. This exquisitely fine and most sublime passage refers, according to Vitringa, to the formidable judgment of God upon the Assyrian, as a type of other powerful enemies, who in the various ages of the church should arise up against it. It is thus connected with the argument and scope of the whole discourse, wherein the prophet convinces the Ephraimites of the folly and vanity of their counsels, in imploring the aid of the Egyptians against the Assyrians, to the utter neglect of their duty towards God; and foretels that the event of this counsel would be the entire subversion of their state, as we have seen, Isaiah 30:3; Isaiah 30:13-14. This period concerning the judgment of the Assyrian, is connected with and answers to each part of this argument: for it teaches that they had no need to fly to Egypt in a doubtful case, since God was sufficient to defend them, and had determined the destruction of the Assyrian. For a similar connection, see chap. Isaiah 31:3-4. Besides, the prophets having foretold the subversion of the Ephraimites by the Assyrians, subjoins the judgment upon the Assyrian, to inform true believers that nothing of this happened without the will of God; so we find, in chap. 9: and 10: after the subversion of Ephraim had been foretold, the destruction of the Assyrian is immediately subjoined, Isaiah 30:5, &c. More immediately this passage connects with the latter part of the 25th verse, where having mentioned the fall of the towers, or of the powerful enemies of the church, a remarkable example thereof in the Assyrian is given in these verses, wherein the prophet, speaking humano more, (after the manner of men) introduces God as an enraged prince, prepared to take vengeance on his enemies, and to pour upon them the severity of his indignation. The reader, by referring to the destruction of Sennacherib, and the character of that proud and insolent prince, will see still more beauty and emphasis in this passage. The meaning of the last phrase in the 28th verse is, that God, according to the secret ways of his wonderful providence, would lead the Assyrian with his great army, as it were with a bridle, to his utter destruction, while he was vainly proposing to himself the most ample success. See the passage remarkably explained, ch. Isaiah 37:29.


Verse 29

Isaiah 30:29. Ye shall have a song, &c.— The consequence of God's judgment upon the Assyrian, the prophet here declares, should be great rejoicing in the Jewish church, celebrated with hymns and songs on that night in which their haughty enemy should be destroyed: such songs as the Israelites used when delivered from Egypt, and on other occasions. See Exodus 15:1; Exodus 15:27. Judges 5:1; Judges 5:31. The holy solemnity seems to mean the passover, when the great הלל hallel was sung. The other figure is taken from the custom of bringing the first-fruits with the sound of the pipe to the temple. See Deuteronomy 26:1-2; Deuteronomy 26:19 and Lightfoot on the Ministry of the Temple, ch. 16 sect. 5. This verse might be better rendered, Ye shall have a song [in that night] as in the night when the festival is sanctified, and joy of heart like his who moveth to the sound of the pipe, when going to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel. See Vitringa.


Verse 30-31

Isaiah 30:30-31. And the Lord shall cause, &c.— The prophet resumes the thread of his narration from Isaiah 30:28 and having hinted, not obscurely, in the preceding verse, the time of the execution of the judgment, he describes in the present verse the manner of it; which, from this and the parallel passage, ch. Isaiah 29:6 we conceive to be thus; that it should come to pass, that a mighty and terrible temper should be raised up by God, in which thunders, lightnings, showers, hail, and scattering winds, should be so mixed, that all mortals should understand the just God was descending in clouds to punish his enemies and avenge his glory; which tempest raging, the angel of the Lord, either by lightnings and hail-stones, as may seem probable, or by some other method, should beat down the best and most flourishing part of the Assyrian army, whose rod or staff had for a long time been grievous to the people of God. See chap. Isaiah 37:36 and Psalms 18:12-14.


Verse 32-33

Isaiah 30:32-33. And in every place The prophet here again, as in the 29th verse, subjoins the consequence of the fall of the Assyrian. The sum of the passage is, that in every place which the Assyrian, passing with his formidable army, had left desolate, or where he had rested with his army, his overthrow should be celebrated with the sound of tabrets and harps; since God himself, going forth against the Assyrians, should in such a manner shake and disperse them, that they should utterly disappear; for that this terrible punishment had been for a long time destined by God for this enemy in the land of Canaan: that pile, to be kindled by the anger of God, had been of old prepared for him, into which he was to be cast, as into a terrestrial Gehenna, and there to be utterly consumed. The 32nd verse should be rendered, And every place, where that grounded staff shall have passed, and upon which the Lord shall have laid it, [or caused it to rest] shall be [passed] with tabrets and harps: for in tremendous battles will he fight against them. The Assyrian is here called מוסדה מטה matteh musadah, a grounded staff, baculus fundatus, because the Assyrian empire had, by the permission of the Divine Providence, arrived at that strength and stability, as to be able to execute the divine judgments, as well upon other nations as upon his own people. See chap. Isaiah 14:5 and Habakkuk 1:12 and concerning Tophet, or the valley of Hinnom, Joshua 15:8 and Jeremiah 19:6. Vitringa observes, that Tophet must here be understood not in a literal but in a figurative sense, for the place of punishment to be inflicted upon the Assyrians by the burning indignation of God; in the same manner as Gehenna denotes the place of punishment of the impenitent: and that the fire and much wood denote the matter of the punishment destined for the king of Assyria and his army, as well with respect to its nature and effect, as its cause. The making the valley deep and large, signifies the same as the pile constructed of much wood; namely, the greatness of the destruction to be spread through the extensive army of the Assyrian; and indeed it was necessary that this valley and this pile should be large, to contain 185,000 men. The meaning of the phrase ordained of old is, that God had absolutely fixed and determined this event. It was prepared for the king; whereby the prophet shews, that his army first, and Sennacherib himself afterwards, should become obnoxious to the divine judgment. And the last phrase, the breath of the Lord, &c. alludes to the destroying angel, the executor of his judgment. See ch. Isaiah 10:17. This is the literal interpretation of the words, wherein the prophet represents the Assyrian destruction as the type of that of all the enemies and persecutors of the church; and further, these destructions as a figure of the infernal fire, wherein the unbelieving and cruel persecutors of the church shall be tormented for ever, and which is said to be prepared for the devil and his angels, Matthew 25:41.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, It was the sin and folly of the Jews to leave the rock of ages, to trust on the broken reed of human supports; and they severely smarted for it.

1. A woe is pronounced on the rebellious children of Judah, and the cause of it declared. In the day of danger, instead of applying to God, and seeking his guidance and protection, they placed their confidence in the wisdom of their own measures, and the alliance they sought with Egypt, expecting from them a shelter against the impending storm of the Assyrians: and thus by sin not only provoked God to chastise them, but also, by their disregard of him under their corrections, filled up the measure of their iniquities; his children in profession, but rebels in their practice. Note; (1.) Distrust of God's providence is virtually to deny his government of the world, and to turn rebels; nay, atheists. (2.) If afflictions bring us not nearer to God, they will exceedingly harden, and drive us farther from him.

2. Their confidence would fail them, whatever cost they were at, whatever difficulties they were put to, in order to obtain the alliance of Egypt, or however fair the promises of Pharaoh to support them. God was near to be consulted and to help them, and required nothing from them but an humble and sincere application; yet they rather chose to encounter the dangers of the road which led to Egypt, through desarts abounding with lions and serpents; to burden the weary beasts with their choicest riches, as presents to purchase Pharaoh's aid; to go so far as Hanes and Zoan for help, and, though so long and cruelly their house of bondage, thence to seek relief: justly, therefore, doth God warn them, The strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion, failing and deceiving them, and making them vexed at their own folly, so dearly to purchase an ally, who, instead of help or profit, should be their reproach, chap. Isaiah 36:6. Note; (1.) The self-righteous, like there Jews, grudge no expence or trouble in labouring to establish their own righteousness, which must prove their ruin, instead of accepting of Christ, his merit, intercession, and Holy Spirit, freely offered, and which would never fail them. (2.) When we leave God in our trials to trust on men, we deserve well to rue our folly and sin in shame and disappointment.

3. The prophet warns them of their only method of safety. Their strength is to sit still; instead of sending their ambassadors, or seeking foreign assistance, to keep at home, and patiently expect the salvation of God. Note; If we desire to extricate ourselves from distress, it must not be by the use of undue means, or impatient struggles, but by patient dependance and waiting upon God.

2nd, For a testimony against them, for a warning to others, and to vindicate God's justice in their punishment, the prophet is commanded to write their sins, and threatened destruction, on a table, that it might be hung up in some conspicuous place; and to note it in a book for future times, that this is, or because this is a rebellious people: this was either the substance of the writing, or the cause why God would have it recorded; they were rebels against God, lying children; who bore a relation to God in profession, but in practice they denied him; children that will not hear the law of the Lord, pay no regard to it, but cast the word behind their back. Two heavy charges are particularly laid against them, and each has a terrible threatening annexed thereto.

1. They said to the seers, See not, as if they wanted them to connive at their sins, endeavouring to discountenance the freedom of their reproofs, or to silence them utterly; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, the truths of God's word, the evil and guilt of their conduct, and the threatened judgments; speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits, not the harsh words of wrath and damnation, but visions of peace and prosperity: get ye out of the way, turn aside out of the path, so as not to obstruct them in their sinful courses by remonstrating against their iniquities; cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us, by no more urging their awful mission from him, or prefacing their threatenings with the view of the character of God, as the jealous and sin-avenging Jehovah. Note; (1.) They are in a dangerous way, who are disgusted at the fidelity, plainness, and seriousness with which God's ministers reprove their sins. (2.) Though men's ears are offended at the harsh terms, damnation, hell, eternity of torments, and unquenchable fire, the faithful preacher may not please them by softening those terrors, with which he is commanded to persuade men. (3.) A zealous minister is a burdensome stone in the sinner's way, and robs him of the peace that he seeks in his delusions. (4.) They who prophesy smooth things to lull the sinner asleep, and flatter the confidence of the formal, will be indeed highly acceptable to the world, but must expect from God the doom of perfidy and falsehood. (5.) If a prophet can be seduced to turn aside, sinners then securely transgress, countenanced by such an example.

God denounces their doom; that Holy One of Israel, whose name was burdensome to them, will execute it, and that word which they have despised shall rise in judgment against them; because they rejected his warnings, and trusted in oppression and perverseness, in their wealth got by such wicked methods, or their allies purchased thereby. Their destruction should come sudden and terrible, as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, which rushes suddenly down before the storm, and crushes under its ruins those who fled thither for shelter; and should be as irreparable as the potter's vessel, dashed in pieces by an iron rod, that never can be reunited. Note. (1.) Whether men will hear or whether they forbear, we must not cease to warn them solemnly from God. (2.) The confidence of the sinner, and the self-righteous, is like the tottering wall: in the day of wrath it will overwhelm them, and their damnation be not only unexpected and terrible, but irrecoverable and eternal.

2. They opposed the plainest and most salutary advice. For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, whose burdensome name they could not bear, though his holiness was the great security of his promises, In returning and rest shall ye be saved: this is the path of safety, to return from their evil ways; and instead of trusting on Egypt, to wait patiently on God; in quietness, expecting help from above: and in confidence in the salvation of God shall be your strength; for thus no enemy could prevail against them; and ye would not; they obstinately refused to leave the matter in God's hand. But ye said, No; bent on their own devices; for we will flee upon horses, to secure their persons or treasures, or to seek foreign assistance; therefore shall ye flee, be left to their own folly, and be chased by their foes: and we will ride upon the swift, in hopes to escape, but in vain; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift, and arrest you in your flight. Utterly dispirited, one thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one. See Leviticus 26:7-8 at the rebuke of five; before the most inconsiderable number of enemies shall ye flee, till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill; scattered and solitary, and almost utterly consumed. Note; (1.) When we truly return to God, we may assuredly expect his salvation. (2.) In every trial it should be much more our concern to have our heart brought to quietness and rest in God, than to be anxious about the means of our deliverance. (3.) They who are enabled wholly to place their confidence in Christ can then do all things, he strengthening them. (4.) They who will not make use of the medicine which never fails to cure, deserve to die of their disease. (5.) When the sinner seeks to fly from God's vengeance, he will quickly feel how vain is the attempt.

3rdly, After the former threatenings, consolation is promised to the faithful, though he may a little delay.

1. In the midst of judgment God would remember mercy: and therefore will the Lord wait that he may be gracious unto you* his faithful people, whom, as the word may signify, he pants to deliver out of their troubles; and therefore will ye be exalted, or will exalt his Son as a prince and Saviour in the midst of them, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment, as faithful to his promises as he is just in his corrections; and therefore blessed are all they that wait for him; they will in the issue be made happy in his salvation, and their patient hope be crowned with deliverance. For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem, safe amidst all the threatenings of Sennacherib: thou shalt weep no more, as they did in the day of their distress: he will be very gracious unto thee, exceeding thy most sanguine hopes, at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee, as he did Hezekiah's prayer, when he spread their afflicted case before the Lord. Note; (1.) God waits to be gracious: no sooner does the sinner return, than he is ready to receive him. (2.) Persevering prayer ever brings an answer of peace. (3.) We shall find every trial which has exercised our faith, and quickened our application to God, a rich blessing to us in the issue.

* In general, as I have once before observed, I make it a rule, in my Reflections, to consider the Text according to our common English Translation.

2. The Lord will provide them with the rich means of grace, to preserve them in the path of duty. In the times of persecution, probably under Ahaz, their faithful teachers were driven into obscurity; but God promises now to restore them, that they might publicly and quietly enjoy the benefit of their ministrations. And they should hear a voice behind them, the spirit of truth, who should be sent to guide them into all truth, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it; directing them to the written word as their rule, enlightening their minds to see it, and inviting them to follow it, when they turned to the right hand, or the left from the strait way of God's commandments. And this is particularly applicable to the times of Christ, when he raised up his zealous servants; and sent his Spirit to direct his faithful people in the way of life and glory, and to bring them to himself, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Note; (1.) Among the greatest afflictions that God's people lament, and which is worse than a famine of bread and water, is the famine of the word. (2.) Though the church may be under persecution, and faithful ministers especially driven into a corner, yet God will rebuke the storm, and bring them from their concealment again, to the joy of his people. (3.) It becomes us to be attentive to the voice of conscience, and the secret warnings of God, when tempted and in doubt how to act.

3. They should then renounce their idolatry, their besetting and most provoking sin. Their idols now, though made of richest metal, nicely engraved, and curiously adorned, with abhorrence should be cast away, as polluted and nauseous. And this was fulfilled on their deliverance from Sennacherib, see 2 Kings 18:4. 2 Chronicles 29:16 and after the Babylonish captivity this evil was radically cured. Note; (1.) Nothing engages the heart so much to God as a sense of his goodness. (2.) True penitents abhor their sins, and put from them as far as possible whatever they have found a means of temptation to them in the time past.

4. Plenty shall be restored to them. Their ground, watered with the dew of heaven, should yield abundant increase, see chap. Isaiah 37:30. Their cattle should fatten in rich pastures, and eat provender winnowed, such plenty being in the land. The rain descending as rivers from the hills, should make their valleys fruitful, that they might stand thick with corn, and add to the joy of their deliverance from the Assyrian army slaughtered by the sword of the destroying angel. And this may well be applied to the abundance of Gospel grace, which will be dispensed in the latter day, when the high towers of Babylon mystical shall fall, and the earth be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. Note; The minister, like the husbandman, may sow the seed, but it is God alone who giveth the increase; yet this must not supersede, but quicken our labours.

5. Uncommon light and joy would then be diffused. The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be seven-fold, as the light of seven days; expressive of their exultation on the destruction of the Assyrians, when their breaches made by that army should be repaired, and the wounds of their state healed: and may be referred to the day of Christ, at present, when every awakened sinner, brought out of darkness into God's marvellous light, rejoices with joy unspeakable, and full of glory, at seeing the breach which sin had made bound up by the sacrifice of a Redeemer, and experiences the healing of this blessed Saviour's grace in his soul: and perhaps it looks forward to the expected glorious spread of the Gospel, when all afflictions of God's people will be at an end, and the nations of the faithful shall walk in the light of the Lord.

4thly, The happiness of God's people being intimately connected with the destruction of their foes, the prophet foretels the utter ruin of the latter.

The great agent in this, is God himself, from heaven sending forth his terrible wrath against the army of Sennacherib, swallowing up the hosts of Assyria as a deluge, and sifting them in the sieve of vanity; the whole being chaff, dispersed with the breath of his displeasure: his bridle in their jaws should cause them to err, turned backwards from their designs of destroying Jerusalem, as a horse is governed by its rider. At his voice his minister of flame shall go forth armed with lightning, tempest, and hail-stones; and stretching forth his more than mortal arm, spread universal destruction around. The rod which smote God's people, shall now be broken, before the grounded staff; the judgment of God lying so heavy on the Assyrians, that none should be able to withstand it in that night of terror. Tophet, in the valley of the son of Hinnom, where they encamped, is ordained for their slaughterhouse, deep and large; so often defiled with the abominable idolatries of those who passed their children through the fire to Moloch; rendered abominable, as covered with the blood of the corpses of the slain, which the lightning of God scorched; or where the Jews burnt the bodies which they found dead in the morning. Note; (1.) It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (2.) The burnings of Tophet represent the eternal punishment of impenitent sinners. Our Saviour calls the place of the damned, Gehenna, in allusion to this valley of Hinnom; there the greater kings, as well as the meanest slaves, whose guilt provokes the wrath of God, lie down in flames which never can be quenched; and there the multitude of sinners, with the devil and his angels, are tormented day and night in those everlasting burnings, which the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle. Note; However now the wicked triumph, the time is short, and their ruin terrible.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 30:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/isaiah-30.html. 1801-1803.

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