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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Isaiah 9

 

 

Verses 1-21

EXPOSITION

Isaiah 9:1-7

THE TROUBLES OF ISRAEL SHALL END THROUGH THE BIRTH OF A MARVELOUS CHILD. The section of the prophecy commencing with Isaiah 7:1 terminates in this glorious burst of glad and gracious promise. The gist of the whole section is: "Israel shall not suffer from Pekah and Rezin; her oppressors shall be Assyria and Egypt, more especially the former; Assyria shall overwhelm her, crush her, lay her low; she shall remain awhile in gloom and darkness; but at length the darkness shall be dispelled; a 'great light' shall shine forth, first in the north, then over all the land; 'the rod of the oppressor' shall be broken; a Child shall be born, who shall bear marvelous names, and shall rule over the full kingdom of David in justice and righteousness forever." God has spoken, and God will perform this.

Isaiah 9:1

Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when, etc. Our translators have misconceived the construction, and consequently missed the sense. The first two clauses, which they run together, are entirely separate and distinct. Translate, Nevertheless there shall be no (more) darkness to her who was in affliction. As at the former time he brought contempt upon the land of Zebulon, etc. Contempt was brought on the more northern part of the Holy Land, first when it was overrun and ravaged by the Syrians (1 Kings 15:20) under Ben-hadad, and more recently when it bore the brunt of the Assyrian attack (2 Kings 15:29) under Tiglath-Pileser. At the first … and afterward; rather, at the former time in the latter time. The contrast is between two periods of Israel's history, the existing period and the Messianic. And afterward did more grievously afflict her. This is altogether wrong. Translate, So in the latter time he hath brought honor on the way of the sea. The perfect is a "prophetic perfect," and the reference is to the honor that would be done to the northern districts, "the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali," by the Messiah dwelling there (comp. Matthew 4:14-16). The way of the sea; i.e. the district about the sea of Tiberias, called "the sea of Kinnereth" (equivalent to "Gennesareth") in Numbers 34:11, and "the sea of Galilee" in John 6:1. Beyond Jordan; i.e. the tract east of the sea and of the upper Jordan, where the five thousand were fed, and where our Lord was transfigured. Galilee of the nations. The name "Galilee" seems to have been given to the outlying circuit, or zone, on the north, which was debatable ground between the Israelites and their neighbors (see 1 Kings 9:10; Joshua 20:7; Joshua 21:32). The word means "circuit," or "ring." Though claimed as theirs by the Israelites, it was largely peopled by "Gentiles."

Isaiah 9:2

The people that walked in darkness (comp. Isaiah 8:22). All the world was "in darkness" when Christ came; but here the Jews especially seem to be intended. It was truly a dark time with them when Christ came. Have seen; rather, saw. The "prophetic" preterit is used throughout the whole passage. A great light. "The Light of the world," "the Sun of righteousness," "the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world, "first broke on man in that northern tract" by the way of the sea, "when Jesus came forward to teach and to preach in "Galilee of the Gentiles." For thirty years he had dwelt at Nazareth, in Zebulon. There he had first come forward to teach in a synagogue (Luke 4:16-21); in Galilee he had done his first miracles (John 2:11; John 4:54); at Capernaum. "Upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim," he commenced his preaching of repentance (Matthew 4:13-17). The "light" first streamed forth in this quarter, glorifying the region on which contempt had long been poured.

Isaiah 9:3

Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy. Dr. Kay defends this reading, and supposes a contrast of time between this clause and the next; he renders, "Thou didst multiply the nation" (i.e. in the days of Solomon and again in those of Uzziah) "and not increase the joy; but now," etc. The objection is that the verbs are all in the same tense, the simple preterit, and that there is nothing in the original corresponding to "but now." Almost all other recent commentators accept the solution offered by the Masoretic reading ( לו for לא), which makes the passage simple and easy: "Thou hast multiplied the nation; its joy thou hast increased; they joy before thee," etc. According to the joy in harvest. "The joy in harvest" was to the Jews the joy of the Feast of Tabernacles, or in gathering (Exodus 23:16), held when the last fruits were brought in. But the prophet is perhaps taking a wider view, and thinking of the many harvest festivals prevailing throughout Western Asia, all of them originating in gratitude to the Giver of all good, and many of them comprising manifestations of joy more jubilant than those habitual to his sedater countrymen.

Isaiah 9:4

Thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, etc. The coming of the Messiah sets the Israelites free, removes the yoke from off their neck, breaks the rod wherewith their shoulders were beaten, delivers them from bondage into the "glorious liberty of the children of God." Not, however, in an earthly sense, since the Messiah's kingdom was not of this world. The "yoke" is that of sin, the "oppressor" is that prince of darkness, who had well-nigh brought all mankind under his dominion when Christ came. His oppressor; literally, his task-master—the same word which is used of the Egyptian taskmasters in Exodus 5:6. As in the day of Midian. The "day of Midian" is probably the time of Israel's deliverance from the Midianite oppression by Gideon ( 7:19-25). The special characteristic of the deliverance was, as Dr. Kay well observes, "that it was accomplished without military prowess by a small body of men selected out of Israel, selected expressly in order that Israel might not vaunt itself against the Lord, saying, My own hand hath saved me ( 7:2)."

Isaiah 9:5

For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise; rather, for all the armor of him that armeth noisily (Knobel, Vance Smith); or, perhaps, "every hoof of him that trampeth noisily" (Gesenius, Cheyne). The noun and participle, which are cognate words, occur only in this passage. And garments, etc. Translate, And every garment that is rolled in blood, shall be for burning, even fuel for fire. All military accoutrements shall be committed to the flames, that the reign of peace and justice may commence (comp. Isaiah 2:4; Psalms 46:9).

Isaiah 9:6

Unto us a child is born (comp. Isaiah 7:14-16, where the promise of "a child," "a son," is first made—a child who was, like this Child, to be "God with us"). The government shall be upon his shoulder. The word translated "government" (misrah) occurs only hero and in Isaiah 9:7. It is probably to be connected with sat, "prince," and Israel. Government was regarded as a burden, to be born on the back or shoulders, and was sometimes symbolized by a key laid upon the shoulder (Isaiah 22:22). Vizier means "burdened." The Latin writers often speak of the civil power as borne on the shoulders of magistrates (Cic; 'Orat. pro Flacc,' § 95; Plin; 'Paneg.,' § 10). As God, our Lord governed all things from the beginning; as man, he set up a "kingdom" which he still governs—upon the earth. His name shall be called. It is perhaps not very important whether we view what follows as one name or several. Isaiah does not really mean that the "Child" should bear as a name, or names, any of the expressions, but only that they should be truly applicable to him. Wonderful, Counselor. It has been proposed to unite these two expressions and translate, "Wondrous Counselor" (compare "wonderful in counsel," Isaiah 28:29). But Dr. Kay is probably right in saying that, if this had been the meaning, it would have been expressed differently. Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Delitzsch, and Vance Smith agree with Dr. Kay in taking the words separately. Wonderful. The Messiah would be "wonderful" in his nature as God-Man; in his teaching, which "astonished" those who heard it (Matthew 7:28); in his doings (Isaiah 25:1); in the circumstances of his birth and death; in his resurrection, and in his ascension. "Wonder" would be the first sentiment which his manifestation would provoke, and hence this descriptive epithet is placed first. As the Word, as Wisdom itself, as he who says, "Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am Understanding" (Proverbs 8:14), he is well named "Counselor." None will ever seek his counsel in vain, much less repent of following it. The mighty God; rather, perhaps, Mighty God; but the difference is not great, since El, God, contains within itself the notion of singularity, which is given to ordinary nouns by the article. The term El, God, had been previously applied to the Messiah only in Psalms 45:6. It denotes in Isaiah always (as Mr. Cheyne observes) "divinity in an absolute sense; it is never used hyperbolically or metaphorically." The Everlasting Father; rather, Everlasting or Eternal Father. But here, again, there is a singularity in the idea, which makes the omission of the article unimportant; for how could there be more than one Everlasting Father, one Creator, Preserver, Protector of mankind who was absolutely eternal? If the term "Father," applied to our Lord, grates on our ears, we must remember that the distinction of Persons in the Godhead had not yet been revealed. The Prince of Peace; literally, Prince of Peace. A "Prince of Peace" had been long shadowed forth, as in Melchizedek, "King of Salem," i.e. "of Peace;" and again in Solomon, "the peaceful one;" and Isaiah himself had already prophesied the peacefulness of the Messiah's kingdom (Isaiah 2:4). Compare the song of the angels at our Lord's birth (Luke 2:14). If the peacefulness has not vet very clearly shown itself, the reason would seem to be that our Lord's kingdom has yet to come into the hearts of most men.

Isaiah 9:7

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. The Messiah's kingdom shall ever increase more and more; there shall be no limits to it; ultimately it shall fill the world (comp. Matthew 28:18, Matthew 28:19). The continual spread of Christianity tends to the accomplishment of this prophecy. Upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom. That the Messiah is to sit on the throne of David, suggests, but does not absolutely imply, his Davidic descent. That descent is, however, announced with sufficient clearness in Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah 11:10. To order it, and to establish it. A gradual establishment of the kingdom would seem to be implied, such as is taught also in the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven. From henceforth even forever. The kingdom is to be both universal in respect of extent (see the first note on the verse), and in respect of duration eternal. The zeal; or, jealousy. God's jealousy of his own honor, which is bound up with the prosperity and final triumph of his people over all their enemies, will assure the performance of all that is here prophesied.

Isaiah 9:8-21

THE PROPHET RETURNS TO THREATS AND WARNINGS, ADDRESSED CHIEFLY TO THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL. The remainder of this chapter, together with the first four verses of the next, seems to have formed originally a distinct and separate prophecy. The passage is a poem in four stanzas, with the same refrain at the end of each: "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." A somewhat early date has been assigned to the prophecy, as; for instance, "some period in the reign of Jotham" (Cheyne); but the internal evidence only proves that it was written before the destruction of Samaria by the Assyrians.

Isaiah 9:8

Jacob … Israel. These words do not show that the prophecy is directed against the kingdom of Israel only. "Jacob" designates Judah rather than Israel in Isaiah 2:3, Isaiah 2:5, Isaiah 2:6; and the expression, "both the houses of Israel," in Isaiah 8:14, shows that the term "Israel" embraces both kingdoms. Tim distinctive names by which Isaiah ordinarily designates the northern kingdom are "Ephraim" and "Samaria."

Isaiah 9:9

Even Ephraim; rather, especially Ephraim. The prophecy is no doubt mainly directed against the northern kingdom. That say in the pride and stoutness of heart; rather, in the pride and stoutness of heart, wherein they say.

Isaiah 9:10

The bricks are fallen down, etc.; i.e. we have suffered a moderate damage, but we will more than make up for it; all our losses we will replace with something better. Bricks were the ordinary material for the poorer class of houses in Palestine; stone was reserved for the dwellings of the rich and great (Amos 5:11). Sycamore wood was the commonest sort of timber, cedar the scarcest and most precious, having to be imported from Phoenicia (1 Kings 5:6; 2 Chronicles 2:3; Ezra 3:7). Cut down. The Israelites probably alluded to damage done by Tiglath-Pileser in his first invasion. The Assyrians were in the habit of actually cutting down trees in foreign countries, in order to injure and weaken them; but the present passage is, perhaps, rather intended to be figurative.

Isaiah 9:11

Therefore the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him. "Against him" means "against Ephraim," or the kingdom of Israel. "The adversaries of Rezin" could only be the Assyrians; but these seem precluded by the next verse, which mentions only "Syrians" and Philistines." Hence many critics accept the variant reading of several manuscripts sarey for tsarey—which gives the sense of "the princes of Rezin" (so Lowth, Ewald, Houbigant, Weir, Cheyne).

Isaiah 9:12

The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; or, the Syrians from the east, and the Philistines from the west. The Semitic races regarded the world as looking to the rising sun, and used for the east the preposition signifying "in front," for the west that signifying "behind." Syria seems to have been hostile to Samaria until the league was formed between Rezin and Pekah, and may have become hostile again after Pekah's death (2 Chronicles 28:23). We read of a Philistine invasion of Judah in Chronicles (2 Chronicles 28:18), but not of their attacking Israel. Still, it was as easy for them to attack the one as the other. They abutted on the territory of Israel towards the southwest, as Syria did towards the north-east. For all this his anger is not turned away; since Israel continued impenitent. It would have ceased had they repented and turned to God (see Isaiah 9:13). His hand is stretched out; not to save, but to smite.

Isaiah 9:13

The people. The people of Israel, as distinct from the people of Judah. The particular judgment announced in Isaiah 9:11, Isaiah 9:12 is clearly to fall on them. Neither do they seek the Lord of hosts. Israel had set itself to seek after Baal from the time of Ahab (1 Kings 16:31). The reform of Jehu (2 Kings 10:28) had gone but skin-deep. Baal was still "sought to," rather than Jehovah, when the final judgment came (2 Kings 17:16; Hosea 2:13).

Isaiah 9:14

Head and tail, branch and rush; i.e. the whole nation, from the highest to the lowest. The "branch" intended is the "palm branch," at once lofty in position and the most glorious form of vegetable life (Psalms 92:12; So Psalms 7:7, Psalms 7:8, etc.); the "rush" is the simple "sedge" that grows, not only low on the ground, but in the "mire" (Job 8:11). The same expression occurs again in Isaiah 19:15.

Isaiah 9:15

Some suppose this verse to be a gloss, or marginal note, which has crept into the text; but it is too pointed and sarcastic for a mere gloss. There is no reason to doubt its being Isaiah's. Having spoken of "the tail," he takes the opportunity of lashing the false prophet, who claimed to be among the "honorable," but was really the lowest of the low, worse than his dupes, the true "tail" (comp. Isaiah 28:7; Isaiah 29:10; Isaiah 30:10).

Isaiah 9:16

The leaders of this people cause them to err (comp. Isaiah 3:12). Both the peoples were led into idolatry by their rulers, but Israel especially. Jeroboam, the first king, introduced the calf-worship, and his successors from first to last persisted in his sin. Ahab added the still grosset idolatry of Baal. Those who held high position under the kings were equally bad examples to the people (see above, Isaiah 1:2 :3). Are destroyed. First, morally corrupted and debased, then physically given over to destruction—slaughtered by Philistines, Syrians, and Assyrians.

Isaiah 9:17

The Lord shall have no joy in their young men. "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy" (Psalms 147:11). He can have no joy or delight in evil-doers, or idolaters, or in those whose speech is profanity. Neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows. The widow and the orphan are objects of God's tenderest love and compassion (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 10:18; Deuteronomy 14:29; Isaiah 1:17, etc.); but when the wickedness of a land provokes him to send any one of his "four sore judgments" upon it, the widow and the fatherless must suffer with the other inhabitants. God pities them, doubtless, but his justice and his righteous anger force him to restrain his pity, and carry out his judgment in spite of it. Every one is an hypocrite; or, corrupt; compare, "They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Psalms 14:3). A certain allowance must be made for the natural hyperbole of strong feeling. Every mouth speaketh folly. The word translated here (and generally) "folly" is rendered "villany" in Isaiah 32:6 and Jeremiah 29:23. Its proper meaning seems to be "lewdness' or "profligacy."

Isaiah 9:18

Wickedness burneth as the fire; i.e. the contagion of wickedness overspreads a whole nation in the same rapid way that fire spreads over a field of stubble or a forest. They shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke; rather, they—i.e; the forest thickets—shall be whirled upward with the uplifting of smoke. The burning thickets shall mount up with the volumes of smoke into the air, and hang there as a murky but lurid pall. The flames of wickedness give no light to a land, but lunge it in heavy, hopeless gloom.

Isaiah 9:19

Is the land darkened; rather, burst up ( συγκέκαυται, LXX.). The root used occurs in Arabic in this sense. It is not used elsewhere in Scripture. The people shall be as the fuel of the fire. Though the general ravage, devastation, and desolation of the laud, with its buildings, its trees, and its other vegetable products, is included in the image of the fire devouring the thorny brakes and tangled thickets of a dense forest, yet the threat is intended still more against the Israelite people, who were the true "fuel of the fire," since the ravage would go on until the land should be depopulated. No man shall spare his brother. We have here a new feature. Not only shall foreign enemies—Syrians and Philistines—dew, up Israel, but the plague of civil war will also be let loose upon them (comp. Isaiah 9:21, and see 2 Kings 15:30, where we find that Pekah fell a victim to a conspiracy headed by Hoshea).

Isaiah 9:20

He shall snatch; rather, one shall devour. A man, i.e; shall plunder and ravage in one quarter, and yet not be satisfied; then he shall do the same in another, and still desire more. "Increase of appetite shall grow by what it feeds on." There shall be no sense of satiety anywhere. The flesh of his own arm. In a civil war, or a time of anarchy, each man is always "eating the flesh of his own arm"—i.e. injuring his neighbor, who is his own natural protector and defender.

Isaiah 9:21

Manasseh, Ephraim. These two are mentioned as the two principal tribes of the northern kingdom. It is not to be supposed that civil discord was confined to them. Probably there was a general disorganization. Still, all the tribes would at any time willingly unite "together against Judah" (see 2 Kings 15:37; 2 Chronicles 28:6-8).

HOMILETICS

Isaiah 9:6

The significancy of the names of Christ.

Five names of the Redeemer are here declared by Isaiah, in addition to the name given him in Isaiah 7-8; viz. Immanuel. Names of Christ are always worthy of the deepest and most attentive consideration, for each reveals some portion of his nature, each exhibits some aspect of him, so to speak, which is distinct from other aspects; and it is only by meditating upon all, that we approximate to a full and complete conception of his manifold excellences. Very specially worthy of consideration are the five names here put forth, which may be viewed either separately or in their connection. And first separately—

I. THE NAME OF "WONDERFUL."

1. Wonderful is the Son in his eternal relation to the Almighty Father, an unchanging relation of mutual love and tenderness, differenced by the fact of derivation, and the sense on the one hand of bestowal, and on the other of acceptance and dependence. Wonderful, wholly transcending our utmost reach of thought, is that eternity of pre-existence which he enjoyed with the Father and the Holy Spirit, not only before the world was, but before it had pleased the Divine Nature to bring into existence any other being besides itself.

2. Wonderful, again, is he in that repeated act of creation, so clearly assigned to him (John 1:31; Hebrews 1:2), whereby he brought out of nothing (Hebrews 11:3) the entire existing universe—angels and archangels, principalities and powers, cherubim and seraphim; matter arranged and unarranged; sun, moon, stars, planets, satellites, nebulae; man, animals;—all of them "the work of his hands," created by him out of non-existence.

3. Even more wonderful is he in his dealings with the children of men—in his patience with them, his regard for them, his mediatorial office towards them, his inward revelation of himself to them, his constant presence with them, his sacramental communication of himself to them, all unworthy as they are.

4. Wonderful is he in his life on earth, which even unbelievers cannot but admire; wonderful in his triumph over death and the grave; wonderful in his ascension into heaven in the sight of men; wonderful in his appearances to St. Paul and St. Stephen; wonderful in the might wherewith he still sustains his Church, so that even the very "gates of hell" cannot prevail against it.

II. THE NAME OF "COUNSELLOR" As the "Loges," or "Reason," no less than the "Word" of God, the Son was identified by the ancient Fathers with the "Wisdom" of the Book of Proverbs, of whom it is said, "I Wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge …. Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding …. The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was when he appointed the foundations of the earth, then I was by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him" (Proverbs 8:12-30). He was thus, in some sort, the Counselor of the Triune Synod which presided over the world and directed all its affairs. But, further, he was the Counselor of man. The Loges was "the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9). Our natural reason and conscience come from him, for he has implanted them in us, to counsel us aright. All revealed light is also from him, for he is the Word and the Truth. He counsels us from within, by the inward monitor who tells us what is right; he counsels us from without, by his apostles, his evangelists, his Church, his living ministers. Do we lack wisdom generally? let us ask of him, and he will pour light into our souls. Do we need counsel on any special matter? Let us take it to him, and he will show us the wisest and best course.

III. THE NAME OF "MIGHTY GOD." The Son of God is himself God, and if God, then certainly "mighty"—nay, "almighty." What the Messiah was to do, could be done by none less than God. He was to redeem mankind; he was to vanquish death and sin; he was to triumph over Satan; he was to be a meritorious Sacrifice. "God with us" had already been declared to be one of his names (Isaiah 7:14). Now he is announced as "God the Mighty One." It is to the last degree uncritical to compare this assignment of so august a name, coming from the mouth of an intense theist, with the ascription of Divine titles to the Egyptian kings by themselves, or by their subjects, when both king and subjects were polytheists. Isaiah could not have intended to call a mere man "God;" he must have recognized, as David had done (Psalms 45:6), that the Messiah would be more than man, would in some way or other be a partaker of the Divine nature. Jeremiah did the same when he announced the Messiah as "Jehovah our Righteousness." The prophets may not have been aware of the doctrine of the Trinity, but they could conceive an incarnation of God. The name of "Mighty God" in Isaiah's list must be accepted as a distinct announcement of the true Divinity of the Messiah, just as the words "child" and "son," which had been previously applied to him (verse 6), were announcements of his true humanity.

IV. THE NAME OF "EVERLASTING FATHER." When the Messiah is called a "Father," we must understand the word as meaning primarily "Protector." So Job was a "father to the poor" (Job 29:16), and Eliakim a "father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (Isaiah 22:11). The idea of protection, however, implied in "Father" does not exhaust the connotation of the word. It contains also the notions of "Creator" and "Preserver, "of one whom we are bound to love, honor, and obey. "Have we not all one father?" says Malachi. "Hath not one God created us?" "If I be a Father," says Jehovah by his mouth, "where is my honor?" The Messiah was to be "Father" in all these senses. As the Second Person in the Holy Trinity, he created man; as "God with us," he preserves him; as the typical Man, the Head of the redeemed human race, he will ever keep and protect him. The prophet calls him "Everlasting Father," first, to show that he is no mere human protector, like Job or Eliakim; but also, further, to indicate by an additional phrase his Divinity, since God alone is "everlasting," or "eternal." His people are assured by the epithet that he will never cease to be their Protector, will never desert them, or weary of interposing for them. No; "he ever liveth to make intercession for us" (Hebrews 7:25). He is "Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, the First and the Last" (Revelation 1:8). He "will not fail us, nor forsake us" (Deuteronomy 31:6).

V. THE NAME OF "PRINCE OF PEACE." So long as there is evil, there must be war between good and evil. The Messiah is "Prince of Peace," "especially, because he comes to convert the world;" to "turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God;" to destroy sin, and "bring in everlasting righteousness" (Daniel 9:24). When there is universal righteousness, there will be universal peace. Certainly, the time is not yet come. The Prince of a peaceful kingdom, whose servants may not seek to advance his kingdom by violence, has not annihilated evil, has not swept all the wicked from the world. And so the fight goes on; evil men still stir up wars and tumults, and good men are forced to resist them. But the "Prince of Peace" shows his power and justifies his name,

Taken in connection, the five names would seem to teach

Isaiah 9:8-21

Persistent impenitence brings repeated chastisements.

One would naturally expect that so weak a creature as man, when chastised by the Divine anger, would readily and at once "humble himself under the almighty hand of God," accept the chastisement as deserved, and entreat for mercy and forgiveness. But, weak as he is, man is unwilling to acknowledge his weakness, and, faulty as he is, dislikes nothing so much as acknowledging his faults. God's judgments he will net allow to be judgments, but attributes them to any cause but God; as, for instance,

God brought upon Israel four great chastisements, placing intervals between them, so that after each they might have repented and turned to him, had they so willed. But they would not. These chastisements were—

I. THE ASSYRIAN INVASION UNDER TIGLATH-PILESER. This was a comparatively "light affliction," as God's earlier judgments commonly are. It fell, not on the whole land, but only on a portion—"the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali;" and it resulted in the loss, not of national life or national independence, but only of a province or two not very highly valued. "Galilee of the Gentiles" was overrun and annexed by Assyria; but Ephraim and Manasseh, the great tribes which formed the heart of the nation, were untouched. Still, the invasion was a warning which a wise nation would have taken to heart. When dismemberment begins, it is apt to be continued; each fresh act of spoliation is easier than the last. And the aggressor is encouraged by his success, and tempted to repeat his aggression. But Israel was not wise. She consoled herself by "pride and stoutness of heart," making light of her losses, and boasting that she would easily repair them (verse 10). Her pride and impenitence provoked God to inflict a second chastisement.

II. THE COMBINED PHILISTINE AND SYRIAN ATTACK. Of this we know no more than what is told us in the present chapter. Attack was made "before" and "behind"—from the east and from the west. Jehovah "joined the enemies of Israel together" (verse 11), and caused them to make a combined, or at any rate a simultaneous, invasion. Both enemies were formidable, and Israel was unable to meet either with her full force. Consequently they were successful, and "devoured Israel with open mouth." Could not this second chastisement arouse the nation from its mistaken feeling of security, and bring it to cast itself down before God? Alas! no. The people "turned not to him that had smitten them, neither did they seek the Lord of hosts" (verse 13). The result was that a third chastisement fell.

III. THE INTERNAL ANARCHY AND DISTURBANCE. Hostility to the kindred tribe of Judah lay at the base of Israel's existence as a nation, and was cherished by statesmen as a patriotic feeling. But it was impossible to keep the feeling as closely confined as statesmen would have wished. Within Israel itself one tribe grew jealous of another; and, under the diminished strength of the central authority caused by the external troubles of the time, jealousy led on to open conflict, "no man sparing his brother" (verse 19). As Rome perished by her own strength, when faction became arrayed against faction in the forum and the field, so it seems to have been with Israel. Internal quarrel supervened upon foreign attack; and the weakened state, when a fresh assault from without came, necessarily succumbed to it. Repentance, even at this advanced hour, might have caused God to avert the danger and turn the current of Assyrian conquest in some other direction; but once more, there was no submission, no sign of any change of heart. And at last the dread fiat went forth for Samaria's final destruction. The fourth and last chastisement was—

IV. THE CONQUEST OF SAMARIA, AND CARRYING AWAY OF ISRAEL INTO CAPTIVITY, BY THE ASSYRIANS UNDER SHALMANESER AND SARGON. The same instrument, Assyria, was employed for the first chastisement and the last. Shalmaneser, the successor of Tiglath-Pileser, towards the middle of his short reign, having "found conspiracy in Hoshea"—who-had murdered Pekah and succeeded him—"came up throughout all the land of Israel, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years" (2 Kings 17:5). At the end of the three years the city fell, about the same time that Sargon, having murdered Shahnaneser at Nineveh, caused himself to be proclaimed supreme ruler of the Assyrian empire. Sargon, following a recognized Assyrian practice, deported the principal part of the population, and settled it partly in Upper Mesopotamia, partly in the cities of Media (2 Kings 17:6). The life of the nation thus came to an end. God had borne with it for two centuries and a half—tried it, tested it, sent it prophets and seers (2 Kings 17:13), chastened it, corrected it; but all in vain. Notwithstanding all that he could do and did, "they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, and rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, and left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger" (2 Kings 17:14-17). Nothing, therefore, remained but to "remove them out of his sight"—to sweep them away with the besom of destruction.

The fate of Israel is a warning, primarily, to nations; but also, secondarily, to individuals. God lays his chastisements on them too, for the purpose of bringing them to repentance. If they resist and are impenitent, he follows up blow with blow. If they remain obdurate, he breaks their pride and crushes them.

HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON

Isaiah 9:1-7

Vision of future glory.

In bright contrast to the preceding gloomy outlook, bursts the enrapturing view of future glory on the prophet's soul.

I. COMPENSATION FOR PAST SUFFERING. Not forever is the land to lie darkened. A great light of deliverance is to appear. The prophet's glance rests on the northern and eastern portions of the kingdom of Ephraim. They had been conquered by Assyria, and the people carried away captive (2 Kings 15:29). But "as the former time brought shame to Zebulon and Naphtali, the latter also bringeth honor towards the sea, beyond the Jordan, towards the heathen-march." The depopulated land will bask in the sunshine of restored prosperity. Assembling "before Jehovah," i.e. in his sacred place, they will rejoice as at a harvest ingathering, or at a division of spoil after victory. For the Assyrian yoke will be broken, and crushing will be the defeat of the foes of the nation, like that of Midian in days of yore. Every trace of war and barbarity will be placed under a ban, and be destroyed by fire—the boot that had clanked on the heel of the foreign soldier, and the red battle-garment.

II. THE EVERLASTING KINGDOM OF PEACE. The pledge of its establishment is the promise of the wondrous Child.

1. His names. Not only Immanuel, God with us, is he to be called; but other names bespeak his attributes as a great Prince. Wonderful Counselor: against whose deep providence no plots can contend, and conspiracies of short-sighted craft will be in vain. Hero-God: invincible in battle. Everlasting Father: maintaining and fostering his people, educating them by law and by love. Prince of peace: who will cause wars to cease to the ends of the earth. "The empire is peace," was the noted word of a potentate of one time, that charmed the ear for the moment, only to deceive men's hopes. None but the Messiah can assure peace to the nations, as nothing but the fellowship of the truth and of justice can disincline the nations to war.

2. The nature of his government. It is for "endless wealth." It is to resume, in the deepest and best sense, the well-remembered glories of David's kingdom. It is to be supported, not by countless battalions ("The Lord delighteth not in the legs of a man"), but by "justice and righteousness henceforth and forever." Its spread will include the spread of true religion. Hence it may be confidently expected that the "zeal of Jehovah," the ever-burning energy of Divine love, will bring to pass these happy results.

"The great Shepherd reigns,

And his unsuffering kingdom yet will come."

—J.

Isaiah 10:4

Oracles concerning Samaria.

I. CONCERNING ITS INFATUATED PRIDE. (Isaiah 10:8-12.) The word of menace is to fall like a heavy weight upon the nation, a "burden" especially to be felt by the kingdom of the ten tribes (cf. Zechariah 9:1). It has been made tributary to the Assyrians, yet imagines it will recover its former power by violence and predatory raids. In their bravado they exclaim, "Though the bricks fall down, we will build with freestone; and though sycamores are felled, we will make cedars spring up instead!" To punish this insolence, Jehovah has armed its smaller enemies against it—Syrians in the north-east, Philistines in the south-west; and severer judgments are to follow. The cup is not yet full; the avenging hand is still stretched out. The strophe gives us a picture of infatuation, leading to obstinate resistance and incurring accumulation of punishment. We may be reminded of that fine picture in Homer of Ate, the spirit of error or bewilderment, who with soft feet walks above men's heads, and who would lead all astray to their ruin ('Iliad,' 19.91, sqq.). Yet neither the nation nor the individual falls a prey to such temptations without guilt, though where the guilt begins it may be difficult to trace. The temper of insolence and bravado is a symptom of this aberration creeping on. What need have we to pray that the "eyes of our mind may be opened," that we may never have the light of discernment between the "spirit of truth and the spirit of error" put out in our bosom!

II. CONCERNING ITS OBSTINATE IMPENITENCE. The nation "turns not to him that smote it." It hears not the rod and who hath appointed it. Suffering either changes the disposition and bends the will upon new objects, or it rouses the temper to determined perseverance in the evil course. Men must know the time to retreat and turn back no less than to go forward in a given course. For, as patient continuance in well-doing is blessed with highest promises, the harshness of the impenitent heart treasures up against itself a store of wrath. In this case a visible destruction has come upon Israel. A day of battle has taken place; "hexad and tail, palm and rush," officers and privates in the army alike, have been cut off. For the leaders of Israel have proved misleaders, and their blind followers have perished. And the prophet represents Jehovah as looking sternly on, neither rejoicing in the youth of the nation, nor pitying its disasters. Suffering unrelieved by pity, woes over which Heaven frowns rather than expands with infinite smiles of hope,—such things follow impenitence and willfulness.

III. CONCERNING ITS FLAGRANT INIQUITIES. We say flagrant, and this word exactly fits the prophet's description: "Wrong burning like fire, devouring thorn and thistle, and kindling the thickets of the forest, so that they curl up in columns of smoke." Covetousness devours and ravages like a famine or a pest. Every one begins to devour his own arm in insatiate greed; that is, one tribe its brother-tribe. Not content with mutual rapacity, Manasseh against Ephraim, and Ephraim against Manasseh, the two turn against Judah. And so again and again the deep warning reverberates: "His anger is not turned away; his hand is stretched out still."

IV. CONCERNING JUDICIAL WICKEDNESS AND THE FINAL ISSUE. Here the prophet seems to turn to Judah. As one of Jehovah's noblest attributes is that of Father of the fatherless, and as justice is his delight, so nothing can more darkly designate offense against him than the spoliation of the widow and the orphan. Here, then, the climax of denunciation is reached. And the prophet has now only to hint the future judgment and overthrow. What will they do in the day of visitation? What refuge will be open? What retreat in which a false glory may be hidden? They will cringe as prisoners, and as slain they will fall Better to have the troubled heart, which nevertheless finds its refuge in God, than the reckless self-confidence which invites his anger. Poverty of spirit—against this no prophetic doom is hurled; and adversity with honesty is no real adversity, for the hand of Jehovah is here stretched out, not to smite, but to help.—J.

HOMILIES BY W.M. STATHAM

Isaiah 9:2

The dawn of gospel day.

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." The glory which God revealed then through the prophet was but a prelude to that greater glory which the Incarnation made manifest. So much so that these words are used in Matthew 4:16, and relate to Jesus leaving Nazareth and coming to Capernaum, upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim, that so the prophecy might be fulfilled.

I. THE GREAT DARKNESS. History attests that of which prophecy foretells. There was moral darkness. Look at Corinth—so much so that to Corinthianize was to play the wanton. Look at Ephesus. Look at Rome, with its lust and license; its terrible realism in the cruel sports of the amphitheatre, stained with the massacre of beasts and with the gladiators' blood. Think of the intellectual darkness, when even the city of philosophy, proud Athens, erected an altar—which was a monument of its failure in the search after wisdom—"to the unknown God."

II. THE SOMBRE SHADOW. "The land of the shadow of death." This language does not apply alone to the article of death itself. Every hopeless sorrow is a shadow of the grave. Death reigned supreme over human thought. There was no "looking forward" which could comfort the weary heart of man in its bereavements and griefs. Over city and throne, over the groves of philosophy and the gardens of pleasure, the same shadow brooded. So that the gloom came not alone when life drew near to its close, but the long dark shadow fell over all the pursuits and hopes of human life. As we think of all this we shall understand what the prophet means by a "great" light. For the wondrous glory of the Savior's revelation of "life and immortality" none of us can overestimate. It changed the face of society, and turned the weeping eyes of a weary world to glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life.

III. THE WELCOME LIGHT. Light makes all things beautiful. And light from "above" transfigures the lot of man. It turns his afflictions into momentary tribulations, and makes him to look, not on' the things which are seen and temporal, but on those which are unseen and eternal. It is related, therefore, to human life as well as spiritual life. Heaven is not only "the rest that remaineth;" its spirit pervades the entire sphere of our earthly history. Everywhere that blessed light shines; and whilst it makes us patient and hopeful in adversity, it gives cheerfulness to our pursuits and sacredness to our friendships—inasmuch as we are his disciples who said, "Let not your heart be troubled … I go to prepare a place for you."—W.M.S.

HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON

Isaiah 9:1, Isaiah 9:2

Great light in deep darkness.

In wrath God remembers mercy; be makes us to "sing of mercy and of judgment." He "will not always chide, nor keep his anger forever." Even unto disobedient and perverse Israel he will manifest his Divine pity, his redeeming power. Respecting this promise we may note—

I. ITS HISTORICAL FULFILMENT. This, in the literal and primary sense, is involved in no slight obscurity (see Exposition). The difficulty in determining the period when these regions saw the light of liberty and plenty after the time of darkness and desolation is painfully suggestive of the fact that it is a very difficult thing to find any instances of a nation that has once lost its place and power recovering its position. Even those which have had the best opportunities of so doing have failed to use them; witness Egypt, Greece, Rome. It seems as if nations could "find no place of repentance." The fact may well stir every patriotic feeling in our breasts, and make us resolute to infuse into all our laws, customs, institutions, the purifying and preserving influences of Christian truth.

II. ITS SUPREME ILLUSTRATION. (Matthew 4:15, Matthew 4:16.) Undoubtedly this passage finds its culminating fulfillment in the advent and the work of Christ. "That was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlighteneth every one."

1. The era when Jesus was born was one of peculiar darkness. Ignorance, vice, superstition, violence, fanaticism, unbelief, despair,—these abounded as never before.

2. He became the Light of the world.

III. ITS REALIZATION IN THE CHRISTIAN ERA.

1. Among peoples. Many are the communities, larger or lesser, which, found in gross darkness, have been enlightened by the gospel of the grace of God. Beside the various European nations and our own islands, there are such places as Greenland, the islands of Polynesia, Madagascar, etc.

2. In individual men. Down into the human soul, into the mind dark with unbelief or crusted over with worldliness, or blinded by prejudice and consequent misconception, or beguiled and led astray by evil passion or some strong, spiritual hallucination, there has shone the light of Christian truth, a "healing ray from heaven;" and he that walked "in the shadow of death" now dwells in the light of God, and will dwell in his glory.

Isaiah 9:6

Spiritual empire.

"And the government shall be upon his shoulder."

I. THE ACHIEVEMENT WHICH LAY OUTSIDE THE PURPOSE or THE SON OF GOD. For what end was that wondrous Child born, that holy Son given? He came not to restore a fallen human dynasty. The most ardent and eager hopes of his countrymen were directed to the overthrow of the Roman power and to the re-establishment of the kingdom of David in all, and more than all, its pristine glory. Jesus Christ distinctly disavowed any such purpose as this. His kingdom, he said, was not "of this world."

II. THE SPIRITUAL EMPIRE WHICH HE CAME TO ESTABLISH. We shall see what and how truly great this was if we consider:

1. In what condition Christ found the world when he came. He found it

2. What he came to accomplish in regard to it. He came to undo all this; to expel this blighting error; to uproot this pride, cruelty, and selfishness; to abolish this iniquity and enormity; to plant and nourish in the mind and heart and life of man the beautiful and admirable opposites of all this—truth, humility, love, righteousness; and so to exercise a beneficent and transcendent power, and so to take the government of the world upon his shoulder.

3. The only way by which he could gain his end. Christ knew that the one way to exert this renovating power, to wield this victorious influence, was by winning the world's devotion to himself through his own dying love. Therefore he deliberately entered and determinately pursued the path which led to Gethsemane and to Calvary. Lifted up before the eyes of a wondering and believing world, he would draw all men unto himself, and thus to truth, to holiness, to God.

4. The extent to which he has succeeded. In spite of the miserable corruptions which have dishonored and enfeebled his Church, and in spite of the languor and inactivity by which large periods of its history have been marked, we find that

The thought of Jesus Christ is taking possession of the human mind; his principles are reaching and regulating human life; his Spirit is changing the human world; the government is being laid upon his shoulder.

Isaiah 9:6

The wonderful Lord.

"His name shall be called Wonderful." And well may he have been named Wonderful, whose words, whose works, and whose love were such as those of Jesus Christ. We look at—

I. THE MARVEL OF HIS TEACHING.

1. It struck his contemporaries with awe and with astonishment (see Matthew 5:28, Matthew 5:29; Matthew 13:54; Matthew 22:22).

2. It strikes us with wonder still. That a Jew, brought up at Nazareth, receiving a very slight education, having no intercourse with men of other nations, acted upon by the narrowing and stiffening influences which were prevalent and powerful in his land and time, should teach as he taught about

II. THE WONDER OF HIS POWER.

1. This also excited the astonishment of his contemporaries.

2. It calls forth our reverent admiration still. We wonder and adore as we realize that

III. HIS KNOWLEDGE-PASSING LOVE. (See Ephesians 3:19.)

1. On one occasion, at least, the people were powerfully impressed with the fervor of his love (John 11:36; see also John 13:1).

2. The love of Christ is far more astonishing to us who can better recognize its greatness. Now that the facts of the Incarnation and the purpose of his sufferings and his death have been illumined by the teaching of the Divine Spirit, we know how surpassingly great, how wonderful, were

Isaiah 9:6

Chief counsels of Christ.

"His name shall be called Counselor." If we approach Jesus Christ as a Divine Counselor, i.e. as One that has unerring wisdom to impart to us respecting the chief good of human life, the secret of true success, the way to reach the goal and secure the prize, we shall find from him these principal counsels—

I. THAT IF WE WOULD FIND THE TRUTH WE SEEK WE MUST COME AS A CHILD TO ITS SOURCE. Into the "kingdom of God, "which is the kingdom of truth and joy, he tells us emphatically and repeatedly we must enter as a little child, that has everything to learn, and is willing to be taught by its heavenly Father, by its one great Teacher.

II. THAT NOT HUMAN HONOR AND WORLDLY WEALTH, BUT THE LIKENESS AND THE FAVOR OF GOD ARE THE TRUE OBJECTS OF PURSUIT. (See Matthew 5:45; Matthew 6:19, Matthew 6:20; Luke 12:15; Luke 4:4; John 5:44; John 14:23.)

III. THAT NOT BY SELF-ASSERTION, BUT BY SELF-RENUNCIATION ARE OUR REAL INTERESTS SECURED. (See Matthew 10:37-39; John 12:25.)

IV. THAT IN CLOSE AND LIVING UNION WITH HIMSELF WE ATTAIN OUR HIGHEST HERITAGE. The chief counsel of Christ was that, with our sins, our sorrows, our struggles, our aspirations, we should come into intimate union with himself, the Savior, the Friend, the Master, the Leader, of mankind. In clearest, strongest, tenderest tones he says ever to us all, "Come unto me; abide in me; follow me; and ye shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of Life."—C.

Isaiah 9:6

Christ in relation to time.

"The Everlasting Father." If we take the words in their literal rendering, "the Father of Eternity," we gain a meaning which is more consonant with the scriptural teaching respecting the Messiah, the Son of man. He is One who has much to do with eternity; he is an (or the) Eternal One. This attribution to Jesus Christ suggests to us—

I. THE BRIEF SPACE OF TIME WINCH HIS LIFE OCCUPIES AS A MATTER OF HISTORY. Only "a little while" had they the Light of the world with them. Parts of three years, a space of time to be counted by months,—this was all the interval between his coming and his going; it was a lightning-flash between the long spaces of darkness.

II. ITS LONG BACKWARD LOOK. It looks back

III. ITS LONG FORWARD LOOK. The scribes and Pharisees thought, when they saw him die on the cross, that his would be but an ephemeral career; that his influence would quickly die, and his name be soon forgotten. But we know that

1. Let us reverence him while we trust and love him. Our Friend with whom we have such happy fellowship is One in very closest connection with the Divine; he is the "Father of eternity, "though manifested in time, and with us for so brief a day.

2. Let us trust him while we work for him. We may be disappointed at the smallness of results, at the apparent distance of the goal; we may be impatient in spirit, and we may be hurried or even unchristian in the methods we adopt, in the weapons we employ. Let us be steadied, calmed, righted, as we remember that he whom we serve is not one who is shut up to a few years or decades, or even a few centuries, in which to work out his mission of love; he is the "Father of Eternity;" he is Lord of all future time; he will cause his Word to be fulfilled; we may patiently wait, while we earnestly and faithfully work.—C.

Isaiah 9:6

Christian peace.

"The Prince of Peace." Before considering what is the peace which is distinctively Christian, it may be well to remark:

1. That the first, incidental result of the coming of Christ is not peace, but discord (see Matthew 10:34-36). The first consequence of the introduction or the revival of Christian truth is persecution. For this the Christian faith is not responsible; it is due to the fact that error is so blind, bigotry so pitiless, sin so cruel.

2. That everything is not gained for Christ when a superficial smoothness has been secured. It will take much more than a cessation of "war," a dismantling of forts and a disbanding of troops, to arrive at the peace which is of Christ. It is a Christian poet who writes—

"I love no peace which is not fellowship,

And which includes not mercy;

I would have, Rather, the raking of the guns across

The world."

Better, in Christ's name and in his cause, the stern and even the sanguinary struggle which seeks to establish righteousness than the hollow peace which is satisfied with slavery, serfdom, or servility.

3. That the peace which the Messiah came to bring was not that of the conquering sword, but the prevailing Spirit; that which is won, not on the battle-field, but in the depths of the human heart—first in the heart of the Son of man himself, and then in the souls of all the children of men. Of this spiritual rest which the Prince of Peace imparts, we may say that it includes—

I. PEACE WITH GOD. Sin separates between us and our Divine Father; it produces condemnation on his part, dread on our part; it ends in an unnatural and deplorable alienation. In Christ is mercy, restoration, peace. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God," etc. (Romans 5:1; see Romans 8:1).

II. INWARD REST. Sin is the great disturber, the constant troubler of the human heart. It is the source of all disorder, and therefore of all distress. It casts down that which should be uppermost—conscience, reason, holy aspiration, etc.; it enthrones that which should be in subjection—passion, self, temporal interests, etc. The Prince, of Peace secures to the human soul its right condition; he restores the true order; he redresses, re-establishes, revolutionizes; he "makes all things new" within. And when the spiritual nature is thus reset, all its powers taking their proper place and discharging their rightful functions, there is a "great calm" within; they who repair to the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, have "rest unto their souls" (Matthew 11:28-30).

III. SOCIAL CONCORD. Christian love (John 13:34, John 13:35), Christian magnanimity (Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:18-20); Christian reconciliation (Matthew 5:25), Christian generosity (Romans 12:10; Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:3), Christian courtesy (1 Peter 3:8; 1 Peter 5:5), Christian patience (1 Thessalonians 5:14),—these are the conditions and the sources of true and abiding peace among men.—C.

Isaiah 9:8-12

The evil spirit of defiance.

The spirit which is here rebuked is that of a guilty defiance of God. Jehovah had visited Israel with the signs of his displeasure—had humbled and impoverished her. What attitude should she now assume? That of humility and amendment? Nothing was further from her mind. She would contend in her own strength against her fate, against the Lord who had abased her; she would show to him the futility of his correction. The bricks might be fallen down; it was of no consequence—they would build with hewn stones. The sycamores were felled; it was all the better—they would put cedars in their place (Isaiah 9:10). They would, in their proud independence, convert Divine chastisements into a national advantage. Thus they breathed the very spirit of defiance. Respecting this arrogant temper, we mark—

I. ITS COMMON COURSE.

1. First comes some serious departure from God or from his service on the part of the nation, the Church, the family, or the individual man.

2. Then comes the Divine correction. This may be in the form of prophetic, or parental, or pastoral rebuke, or of some serious reverse in temporal affairs, or of bodily sickness, or of painful bereavement.

3. Then comes the resentment and revolt of the human will against the Divine. Instead of hearkening, heeding, and repenting, the nation (or the individual) determines to act in a spirit of defiance. In its (his) own strength, it will rise above its present circumstances; it will make good its position; it will brave the worst perils; it will endure extremest hardships, the greatest losses; it will turn its fallen bricks into massive stones that will not fall; it will exchange its feeble sycamores that are cut down for strong cedars which the wildest gales will spare.

II. ITS GUILT. The guilt of cherishing such a spirit is of a very aggravated character.

1. It goes beyond the ordinary sin of inattention. To be heedless when God is speaking, by whatever voice he may address us, is surely iniquitous enough; but to act in deliberate defiance of the Almighty is, by many degrees, worse.

2. It amounts to a positive rebelliousness on the part of the human will against that of the Divine. It is man resolving that, with his puny strength, he will match himself against his Maker and will prevail. It is sin which Contains the elements of insubmission, determined opposition, arrogance.

III. ITS FOLLY. In the case of Israel it was to be followed with fearful penalty. That guilty nation was

The nation (or the individual) that indulges in this evil spirit of defiance will find, in time, what a disastrous mistake it (he) has made. For the defiance of God

1. Inextricable difficulty. The being surrounded on every hand by enemies; for sin leads on and down to cruel captivities of many kinds, from which the soul struggles vainly to disengage itself.

2. Waste. The being devoured by adversaries; time lost; strength impaired; the soul ravaged; reputation despoiled.

3. Fear of the future. A dread of the outstretched hand of Divine retribution which has more strokes to deal.—C.

Isaiah 9:14-17

Man in God's view.

There are three classes among mankind in reference to whom we here learn the thought and feeling of God. We infer from what is stated in the text—

I. HIS SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE YOUNG. Things had come to such a state, the natural order of things was so reversed, that "the Lord would have no joy in their young men" (Isaiah 9:17). Hence we may fairly argue that the common and normal condition is that in which God has joy in the young. It is a strange and unnatural thing to him, that which is altogether alien to his own disposition, to take no deep and Divine interest in them. God has the young people in his thought, in his affection; they are the objects of his peculiar regard and tender interest. He is seeking their true welfare; he is addressing himself to them in the terms and the tones of fatherly love. There is nothing more pleasing in his eyes than the response which the young heart makes to his inviting voice.

II. HIS PECULIAR TENDERNESS TOWARD THE AFFLICTED. It is a sign of the very extremity of the Divine displeasure that the Lord will not even "have mercy on the fatherless and widows." The rebelliousness of Israel must have been great indeed, her iniquity heinous and aggravated indeed, to bring about a conclusion so startling and so strange as that. For it is the most wide departure from the constant thought and habit of the Most High. It is in his heart of pity to show peculiar kindness to his afflicted children. Those who are in sorrow commonly receive the precious sympathy of their fellow-men; this may fail, but it is certainly insufficient. Then the wounded spirit finds refuge in the sympathy of Christ; it has the strongest assurance of his presence, his pity, his succor (Psalms 103:13; Hebrews 4:15, etc.).

III. HIS SEVERITY TOWARD THE FALSE. The prophet regarded himself as being at the head of the nation, and expected to be so regarded by others. But not so did the Lord regard him if he were false to his vocation. In the Divine view he was not the distinguished bough waving from the top of the palm tree; he was the coarse reed that grew in the rank marshes (see Isaiah 9:14, Isaiah 9:15).

1. Any and every dissembler is hateful to God. He denounces the hypocrite, wherever he is found (Isaiah 9:17).

2. But the false teacher is the object of especial Divine displeasure. "The prophet that teacheth lies is the tail." Be it remembered that the prophet is now, what he was then, the man who professes to speak for God; that if, making this profession, we publish that which is error rather than truth, we do two things which are most deplorable. In the first place we draw down on ourselves the awful anger of the righteous Ruler; and in the Second place we slay those whom we pretend to heal: they "that are led (misled) of us are destroyed" (Isaiah 9:16). To receive religious error into the soul is to be poisoned with a deadly drug; guilty indeed is the hand that administers it.—C.

Isaiah 9:18-21

Sin suicidal.

From this declaration of judgment against a guilty nation we may gather some principles which are applicable to men as well as nations elsewhere, and indeed everywhere. We learn—

I. THAT SIN IS A WASTING POWER. "Wickedness burneth as a fire" (Isaiah 9:18):, Where sin abounds there desolation abounds. The longer a man (or nation) has lived under its dominion the more has power withered and possession decreased, the more has heritage been wasted and lost.

1. Sin first destroys the less valuable. "The brier and the thorn it shall consume"—the visible, the temporal, the pecuniary, the material, the fleshly.

2. Then the more valuable. "It shall kindle in the thickets of the grove." The reputation, the intelligence, the character, the influence for good,—these disappear under the consuming fires of sin.

3. Then it amounts to a conspicuous disaster. "They shall mount up in volumes of rising smoke." The ruin is so striking that attention is commanded; all surrounding nations must observe it; all neighbors must remark it.

II. THAT IT TURNS ITS HAND UPON ITSELF. Of the fire of human sin humanity itself is the fuel (Isaiah 9:19). This is palpably and painfully true:

1. Of the individual. He that sins against God wrongs his own soul, first and most (Proverbs 8:36). It is not only the drunkard and the debauchee who injure themselves by their iniquities. Look on far enough, or look down deep enough, and you will find that every transgressor is putting his own most precious interests, as fuel, into the devouring flame; every such man "eats the flesh of his own arm" (Isaiah 9:20).

2. Of the community. It is sin, the departure from the Divine will, which brings about

Often, in its ultimate outworkings, it becomes remorseless and insatiable. "No man will spare his brother;" he "eats and is not satisfied" (Isaiah 9:19; see Galatians 5:15).

III. THAT THE WASTE OF SIN IS ITS DIVINELY APPOINTED PENALTY. "Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts is the land darkened." It seems to be in the very nature of things that sin, whether in the individual or the community, should consume and destroy; but so much has the Lord of hosts to do with the nature of things that those who thus suffer the consequences of their guilt may well feel that the punitive hand of God is laid upon them. And they will also do well to feel—

IV. THAT GOD HAS SOMETHING MORE TO SAY THAN HE HAS YET SPOKEN. "For all this," etc.—C.

HOMILIES BY R. TUCK

Isaiah 9:2

Light in darkness.

Cheyne's translation brings out the meaning and reference of this passage. "Surely there is (now) no (more) gloom to her whose lot was affliction. At the former time she brought shame on the land of Zebulun, and on the land of Naphtali, but in the latter he hath brought honor on the way by the sea, the other side of Jordan, the district of the nations." The historical facts to which allusion is made are:

1. The despoiling of Upper and Lower Galilee by Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 15:29; comp. Zechariah 10:10). This part of the country was attacked first, and it suffered most and longest.

2. The Messiah, the Savior, the great Light shining on the darkness, came in the part of Galilee belonging to Zebulun. It is here noted, as a characteristic of the Divine dealings, that those who suffer most are graciously considered first, and that Divine restorings come most tenderly where there have been Divine woundings and smitings.

I. THE DARKNESS OF BONDAGE MAKES BEAUTIFUL THE LIGHT OF LIBERTY. This district had been the first to fall under the yoke of Assyria. As the border country, its sufferings under bondage had been extreme. This may be taken to represent the bondage of men under sin. "Whosoever committeth sin is the bond-slave of sin." Christ came to bring liberty for such captives. And the more bitterly the yoke of sin is felt, the more glorious seems that breaking of bonds and letting prisoners go free, which was the work of the spiritual Redeemer.

II. THE DARKNESS OF SUFFERING SHOWS UP THE LIGHT OF LIFE. The distress of the country resulted in prevailing diseases of singularly painful types, such as the demoniacal possessions. In view of these how gracious was his work who came healing all the diseases of the people, and casting out the evil spirits! Life for the stricken! Life for the maimed, blind, deaf, dumb, dead! Life even for those "dead in trespasses and sins." "In him was life, and the life was the light of men."

III. THE DARKNESS OF LONELINESS GLORIFIES THE LIGHT OF LOVE. Galilee was a despised, neglected region. "Can any good thing come out of Galilee?" Christ, the Lord of love, finds out the neglected one and comes first to it; honors it, brings to it the joy unspeakable of being cared for and loved. The sinner, in the sense of his sin, feels lonely—nobody cares for him. It is light, hope, the dawn of bliss, when it comes right home to a sinner's heart, "Jesus cares for me." The light has risen on your dark Galilee; but the grave question is—Have you seen the light? Have you welcomed the light? Are you walking in the light?—R.T.

Isaiah 9:3

The joy of men in a Redeemer.

"They joy before thee," in view of the Redeemer thou hast sent. There can be no joy like that men feel in the acceptance of God's "unspeakable gift." Illustrate by the song and chorus of the angels at Bethlehem: "Unto you is born a Savior;" "Glory to God in the highest." And by the triumph-song of the redeemed ones in the glory: "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, "etc. There had been times of great rejoicing in the history of Israel, such as in the days of Solomon (2 Kings 4:20; 2 Kings 22:13); and of riotous feasting, as in days of Uzziah (Isaiah 5:11-14). But such joy was merely passing excitement; it was as the "crackling of thorns under a pot" compared with the deep, lasting joy of the time when Jesus, the Redeemer from sin and all its consequences, bowed the heavens, came down, and dwelt among men. We ask

I. WHY MEN SHOULD CHIEFLY REJOICE IN A REDEEMER.

1. Because the one thing man needs above all others is redemption; not science, not revelation, not civilization, not morality, not social elevation. Man is in one condition whose interests are, to him, supreme—he is a sinner, and so his supreme need is a Savior. With the need and the supply the Word of God fully deals. It is the Divine message to man, the sinner. Its voice may be translated thus: "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thy help found."

2. Because this one thing, redemption, is wholly beyond man's attainment. We are amazed at what man ear, do, in overcoming material obstacles and yoking to his service the giant forces of nature. Bat at redemption from sin man is arrested; there his power ceases. "No man can redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him." God is represented as saying, "I looked, and there was no man … therefore mine own arm brought salvation."

3. Because man had no reason to expect redemption, and could make no claim to Divine intervention. Redemption is a sovereign device, a display of infinite mercy, a work of unbought love. Its root is, "God is love."

II. WHAT KIND OF JOY THEIRS SHOULD BE WHO HAVE PROVED HOW HE CAN REDEEM. There are two figures blended in the text. Joy of harvest. Joy of victors on dividing the spoil of battle-fields. They suggest—

1. The joy of possession—a harvest of supply for coming needs, spoil from the tents of the foe.

2. The joy of triumph. To possess the enemy's camp is proof that the foe is wholly vanquished. Jesus, as our Redeemer, has "led captivity captive, and received gifts for men."—R.T.

Isaiah 9:6

The fatherhood of God revealed in Messiah.

The word "Everlasting Father," or "Father of Eternity," is applied to Messiah as the Revealer of God to men. That the passage can only refer to Messiah is agreed by all devout students. God designed to reveal himself at last and fully to his creatures through a man's earthly life. God can only reveal himself to a creature in the lines of that nature which he has given to the creature. When God was dealing with man, he set forth the manhood of his Messiah most prominently; but when man comes to know his gift, he finds he has received his God, and learned the name by which he may be called. Arguing may not always convince of the Deity of Christ. It is rather like trying to prove to a man that it is the spring-time of the year. Spring is in the atmosphere—in the balmy breathing of the air, in the quickening power of the sunshine, in the lengthening days, and in the bursting life of leaf and flower everywhere around us. So the very atmosphere of Christ is the atmosphere of God. Everywhere, and in everything, we feel that he is God. Our text is striking in the contrasts it presents—contrasts which were realized in the human life of the Messiah. Everywhere in his story we find the blended God and man. He was the outcast babe for whom there was no room in the inn, and yet angels heralded his birth, and Magi offered to him the worship due to a king. He was a simple child of twelve years old, and yet the temple doctors were astonished at his understanding and answers. He submits to John's baptism of water, and yet the Holy Ghost descends upon him, and the voice of "most exceeding peace" gives testimony to him as the Divine Son. He weeps the tears of human friendship at the grave of Lazarus, and yet he speaks the words which call the dead to life. He dies in agony and shame, as only a man could die; he rises in triumph and glory, as only a God could rise. So in this prophecy of Isaiah. The "coming One" is a child, but the "key of government is upon his shoulder." He is a child, and yet he is "Wonder-Counselor, God-Mighty-One, Prince of Peace." He is the Son, and yet it can be said of him that he is the" Everlasting Father." This last assertion seems to be the most astonishing of them all. "The Son is the Father." Christ sustained this view: "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." Every man's work is to find the Father in Christ. No man has truly seen Christ who has not found in him the Father, and learned from him the fatherhood of God.

I. MAY WE THINK OF GOD AS FATHER? To show himself to man, God must come into man's sphere, not as a cherub or as an angel, but as a man. "Verily, he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham." He must also show himself in some particular form of man. Men are kings, or prophets, or judges, or husbands, or fathers, or sons, or brothers, and God must make choice of the form that may most worthily represent him. Some say we must think of God chiefly as a King. But few of us are stirred at heart by the relations of a king. He is a person to be feared, obeyed, and served. If he is to be loved it is only with a patriotic, it is not with a personal, affection. In the pages of history we can scarcely find a king whose character and career help us to a worthy idea of God. Think of the kings of Eastern nations. Think of so-called Christian kings. There rise before the mind scenes of barbarity, Blood-guiltiness, tyranny, debauchery, and cruelty which make us ashamed to set the thought of God and of earthly kings together. On the other hand, there never has been age or nation in which the dearest thoughts and tenderest associations and most reverent feelings did not gather round the word "father." Everywhere, even in benighted heathendom, fathers have been men's ideals of the pure, the revered, and the good. God comes nearest to men if he can be shown to them as the "Everlasting Father." Love is the supreme glory of fatherhood; but it is only primus inter pares, the equals of "authority," "justice," "holiness." It would not be fair to say of any good earthly father, "He is all love, all indulgence; there is in him no justice, no reverence, no government." We never want to bolster up the authority of our earthly father by deluding ourselves into the notion that he is a king; and we can yield our fullest allegiance to God as our "Everlasting Father." We need not force ourselves to conceive of him as that mysterious thing, a moral Governor, for which we can find no human model. What is God to you when you can fully receive the revelation that he is the Father? Is there any less reverence for him? Is your sense of justice, righteousness, law, or authority weakened when you call him "Father?" Let Christ teach us the true God and the eternal life. He shows us a weeping prodigal child pressing his face into a father's bosom, heart beating to heart, the one in all the anguish of penitence, the other in all the anguish of pitying, fatherly love. The father's arms are round the restored boy; and who shall say that all highest law is not vindicated when that father wipes away the tears, and calls for music and dancing, the best robe, and the fatted calf? Who ever saw weeping rebels on kings' bosoms? Who ever saw kings shedding tears over returning subjects? We must go deeper, far deeper, into the very heart of the truth about God when we say, "He is our Father."

II. MESSIAH SHOWS GOD TO US AS "EVERLASTING FATHER." The Epistle to the Hebrews opens with a very striking statement: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by Son." God had spoken by creation of a Creator, by prophets of a God, by ambassadors of a King, and now by Son of a Father. Messiah is represented as Son, and Son of God, to enable us to conceive of God as Father. The very person of our Lord Jesus Christ is itself a revelation of the Father. The gospels show us that his supreme effort was to make men know and think well of the Father. He was a Jew, and yet his originality is nowhere felt more than in the word which he uses for God. We find very seldom, almost never, any of the recognized Hebrew terms—El, Elohim, Shaddai, or Jah; Jehovah or God; his word is always "Father." On every page we find the term recurring. Illustrate from the sermon on mount; address on sending the disciples forth for their trial-mission, etc. Conclude by commending this view of God as the first and foundation-truth of the Messianic revelation. We need not be anxious to set it under limitations and restrictions. Christ never fenced it off. He never limited its applications. He never hesitated to preach it everywhere. He expected to waken a new spirit in men, the child-spirit, by telling them of their Father in heaven. If we simply follow Christ, we shall show men the Father-God everywhere in Messiah's life and teaching, seen even in Messiah's death and atonement and sacrifice.—R.T.

Isaiah 9:7

The continuity of a kingdom founded on righteousness.

"A King shall reign in righteousness." "Of the increase of his government and prosperity there shall be no end … To establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever." David's reign, as that of the first and most faithful theocratic king, is the imperfect earthly type of the ideal kingdom, founded on righteousness, and ruled in righteousness. Whatever may have been the personal infirmities of David, officially he was thoroughly loyal and true to the Divine supremacy, and, speaking in human measures, it may be said of him, "Righteousness was the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins." Messiah's spiritual reign is the complete antitype and realization of the righteous kingdom. His people are, ideally, "all holy;" they are called to be holy, pledged to strive after holiness, and Messiah rules them in righteousness.

I. THE FOUNDATION OF THE RIGHTEOUS KINGDOM. That is, the vindication and manifestation of the Divine righteousness, in the obedience, submission, life, and death of the Lord Jesus. He "magnified the Law and made it honorable." In him "righteousness and peace kissed each other." The spiritual kingdom could have no other basis than God's righteousness, and Jesus must clear that righteousness of all misapprehension, and show men how it lies as the corner-stone of the kingdom which he built up.

II. THE INCREASE OF THE RIGHTEOUS KINGDOM. It must be progressive, because it has vitality, which necessarily involves increase and growth; it must be aggressive, because there is a war-spirit in all righteousness; it cannot abide quietly beside evil, or rest until all evil is conquered and won. It is as light, and must conflict with darkness. It must be universal; for, being the kingdom of the one God, it is the kingdom of all men everywhere. There is no end to the labors of the servants of this kingdom, until the very utmost limits of the earth are reached. Men must know the name of God the Savior, from "the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same."

III. THE STABILITY OF THE RIGHTEOUS KINGDOM. It is the kingdom of God, the good, the right; and it is kin with him, and stable as he is. "Who shall harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" Evil can never become so strong as good. Good has always God "at the back of it." And security means peace and prosperity. The first and essential work of all governments is to obtain perfect security for life and for property. Then commerce will flourish, and civilization will advance. Men can trust the government, and adventure their wealth in business enterprise. The righteous kingdom of Messiah gives absolute security to its members. No man in it ever wants to wrong his brother, so no disturbances come to shake its stability.

IV. THE PERPETUITY OF THE RIGHTEOUS KINGDOM. No forces can ever arise in any age to stop it. National sins bring on the destruction of nations. Right must be eternal. It can never be replaced by a better. "Against it the gates of hell cannot prevail." It may, in conclusion, be shown that the rule of righteousness ensures peace, power, prosperity, universal piety towards God, and universal brotherhood amongst men.—R.T.

Isaiah 9:12

The Divine anger.

"For all this his anger is not turned away." The reference of the previous verses is to the calamities which are surely overtaking Rezin of Syria, and Pekah of Israel, as judgments on them, signs of Divine indignation, for their schemes against Judah. Rezin was threatened by Assyria; Pekah was threatened both by his former ally, Israel, and on the other side by the Philistines. As yet, however, these judgments had not proved effectual in humbling Rezin and Pekah, or in leading them to forsake their self-willed ways and seek the help and guidance of Jehovah; so yet more and heavier judgments must come on them, and they must not think, because there seemed a little lull in the storm, that Divine wrath was abated. Divine judgments were exhausted, or God's outstretched hand drawn back.

I. DIVINE ANGER, BEING THAT OF AN INFINITE BEING, CAN NEVER BE AT A LOSS FOR MODES OF EXPRESSION. There are always fresh arrows in his quiver. This should check all carnal security. Clear heavens may but mean gathering storms. Hush in the evening air may but indicate approaching earthquake. The seemingly secure house of prosperity may be within a moment of the lightning-flash. God can always find out how best to smite.

II. DIVINE ANGER, BEING A REMEDIAL FORCE, WILL NOT CEASE UNTIL ITS PURPOSES ARE WROUGHT OUT. It proposed the humbling of Syria and Israel, and the conviction of the sin of their willfulness and ungodliness. Therefore, if Syria and Israel resisted one expression of the anger, another must be found. Since the anger works only towards good, we may well say, "Blessed be God, that he will never cease to be angry until he is enabled to forgive."

III. DIVINE ANGER, BEING THE STERN SIDE OF LOVE, SPENDS ITSELF IN CORRECTIVE DISPENSATIONS. If we ask what Divine love would do for sinners, for rebellious, for persistent sinners, then the answer will tell us what Divine anger would do for them. To the resistant and willful God's dealings take form as anger. To the submissive and humble God's dealings take form as chastisement. The features prominent in Divine dealings we ourselves determine by the response which we make to those dealings.—R.T.

Isaiah 9:16

The sin of leading others astray.

The point of the expression is, that the leaders of the nation are really misleaders. The persons referred to are described in Isaiah 9:15 as "the ancient and honorable, "and as "the prophet that teacheth lies, "evidently including those having influence by reason of their social status, and having influence by reason of their official positions. It is well for us to remember the responsibility of positions as well as of talents. Society is directly affected by the morality, the prevailing tone, the intelligence, and the religiousness of the upper and the learned classes. Leadership is also a talent or endowment, given by God to individual men and women, and so it is to be regarded as, and used as, a Divine trust. A man's power of leadership among his fellow-men is to be laid on God's altar, and used in God's service.

I. EVERYBODY HAS SOME INFLUENCE ON OTHERS; by virtue of:

1. Relationship, as masters, husbands, fathers, etc.

2. Position, one class of society becoming ideals to the class below them.

3. Character, natural and trained.

4. Education, involving superior knowledge and mental control.

II. SOME HAVE VERY SPECIAL POWERS OF LEADERSHIP. Illustrate by the first Napoleon. Some men seem to master our wills, and compel us to do what they wish. We find such persons in all spheres of life. The Power is one of the secrets of success in business. It is often the genius of secretaries, and of teachers. Illustrate from T. Moore's poem in 'Lalla Rookh,' "The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan."

III. SUCH INFLUENCE MAY BE MADE A CURSE. Leadership may cover and excuse wrong-doing. Personal relations may disturb moral distinctions.

IV. SUCH INFLUENCE MAY BE MADE A BLESSING. Leadership may present the example of righteousness and obedience. Personal relations with others may be Christ-like, and so a leading towards goodness and God. Special Divine judgments come on those who determinedly lead others astray. The enticer and seducer who wile into the ways that lead down to the pit, God surely hateth and watcheth. His hand will be heavy on them some day.—R.T.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Isaiah 9:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/isaiah-9.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 25th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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