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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 2

 

 

Verse 1

1. The word — Though seen in spiritual vision, “the word,” here, is spoken of as something actually existing. It was a message, a speech, to Judah and Jerusalem. See 1 Samuel 3:1 and Jeremiah 18:18 as to how the terms “word” and “vision” are used in the sense of prophecy.


Verses 1-5

A MESSIANIC OUTLOOK, Isaiah 2:1-5.

Here commences a prophetic section, which ends, perhaps, with chapter 4, though some are of the opinion that chapter 5, and others still that chapter 6, should be included. From the character of its contents, the message seems properly to include only chapters 2-4. Its date is unknown. Its early place in the collection of Isaiah’s prophecies is inexplicable, if it be not of King Uzziah’s time, and one of Isaiah’s earliest writings.


Verse 2

2. In the last days — Literally, in the end, or latter part, of the days; the entering upon the Messianic period, including even its onward, indefinite continuance. Such is the sense of this prophetic formula of “the last days.”

The mountain of the Lord’s house — Generally used to designate Mount Zion, though Moriah was the mount on which the temple stood. Purified Jerusalem, as a whole, was the type of the glorious Church of Christ.

Shall be established — That is, permanently settled.

In the top of the mountains — So that its view shall overlook all hills, or hitherto dominating mountains, around. The image, here, is of converted Gentile nations. Zion shall be superior.

And all nations shall flow unto it — The attractive power of the Church shall draw the nations ever upward to it.

John 12:20.


Verses 2-4

2-4. The section begins with a consoling message respecting a coming Messianic period. The language has some appearance of being a borrowed prophecy. Micah 4:1-4 has the same. As to which is the original author, or whether both quoted from an older prophet, commentators differ. It is generally agreed that Isaiah delivered these words in Uzziah’s time, consequently before 758 B.C. of our chronology. Micah began in the reign of Jotham, (Micah 1:1,) and Jeremiah, says Micah, (Jeremiah 26:18,) gave a certain prophecy, found in Micah 3:12, (just one verse preceding this passage in question,) in the reign of Hezekiah. These facts sufficiently indicate that Isaiah was prior to Micah in the use of this passage.


Verse 3

3. Shall go and say — With missionary zeal they shall in multitudes gather other multitudes to be taught.

Mountain of the Lord — Zion again, where Jehovah dwells.

The house… Jacob — Second phrase, more familiar than the first, and so explains the first. See Psalms 20:1.

Of his ways — “Of” is loosely partitive. We can know only in part, (1 Corinthians 13:1,) yet sufficient to walk in God’s “ways” and be saved.

The law — The true religion as a rule of duty.

Word of the Lord — The true religion as a revelation.


Verse 4

4. He shall judge — That is, He from whom “the law” of the third verse goes forth.

Among — Rather, between.

The nations — God, by his law, instructs his own people; by his providences, the Gentiles. He impresses and informs the conscience, and inclines the masses of humanity to peace. They shall follow the peaceful pursuits of agriculture rather than war.

Swords into ploughshares — In the East, the latter resemble the short sword, and not much smithery is required for the transformation.

Pruninghooks — The “pruninghook” is like a sickle. The metallic part of the spear needs only to be a little flattened, and bent into a sickle form, and sharpened. The imagery, here, is of calm rural life, belonging to a perfectly wholesome civilization.

Learn war any more — The allusion is quite plain. Uzziah’s reign, in which this was written, was marked by the invention of new weapons of war. 2 Chronicles 26:14-15. The prophet sees all this cease in the glorious Messianic times, when the Holy Spirit shall with effect rebuke, and lovingly reprove, Jews and Gentiles, and cause their tendencies to join and flow together toward mutual peace and general salvation.


Verse 5

5. And by this bright vision of outside nations pouring into Zion, the prophet attempts to move the people around him to steadfast fidelity to Jehovah.

House of Jacob — The family of Israel, the Church, or chosen people.

Let us walk — Hortatory appeal, with himself included in it.

Light of the Lord — A glorious revelation, shining on the path of truth and duty. Proverbs 6:23; Psalms 119:105; 2 Corinthians 4:4.

Need enough there was for this exhortation to the people, because, as the next verse shows, they were walking directly into an opposite course — all this time preferring darkness to light.


Verse 6

A PRAYERFUL SIGH, Isaiah 2:6-9.

6. Therefore כי, not “therefore,” but for, or because, as if a sad ellipsis precedes, like this: “Well may I earnestly exhort this people.”

Thou hast forsaken… the house of Jacob — This God had before often done, yet with hope, as perhaps he now had hope, of their reform. Romans 2:5. “The house of Jacob” is the family or nation of Israel. In later days, after the first deportations to Assyria of the Israelites, the names Israel and Judah, as now the names Israel and Jacob, were used interchangeably.

Replenished — Or, abound in.

From the east — From Syria, and Chaldea, and Persia, and Arabia. To speak generally, any or all these regions may explain the phrase “from the east.” מקדם, mikkedem, may be rendered “from the east,” or, “more than the east,” or, “from of old time.” A marginal reading has the second, and the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and other Versions, have the last. This meaning is plausible. Then the thought is, They abound, as in old time, in soothsayers; or, have become themselves “soothsayers,” like those in old time.

Like the Philistines — Foreigners in the southwestern part of Palestine, who, by contiguity and association, corrupted the people of Israel.

And they please themselves — They clap their hands in joy of such association; or, they join or strike hands (Gesenius and Delitzsch) with these corrupting neighbours, and form compacts with them.

The question is of much interest how idolatry, under kings so hostile to it as were Uzziah and Jotham, should have had such hold on the people. Doubtless the evil was not legally tolerated, but it pandered to natural passions; and unregenerate individuals, among whom were many men in court circles, were involved in it. Prophets zealously inveighed against the evil, as do preachers of this day against intemperance and licentiousness, because both are certain death to all true religion and political morality.


Verse 7

7. Another effect of the intercourse with foreign peoples which the prophet inveighed against, was foreign money and foreign troops.

Their land — The land of Judah, a rich agricultural land, under great cultivation, (for Uzziah loved husbandry, 2 Chronicles 26:10,) and produced abundant commerce, and a great influx of gold and silver at this time.

Silver and gold — It was not for gold as such, but the love of it for forbidden luxury, that is lamented.

Horses… chariots — The law of Moses against the multiplication of these, (Deuteronomy 17:16,) was clearly to encourage peaceful agricultural habits among the people. “Chariots” and “horses,” however, became very common. But how about highways for chariots? At the present time no such roads exist in Palestine — nor can they be made, except at very large expense, over parts of the main bridle-path thoroughfares: neither have they ever prevailed there under Mohammedan rule. Civilization, in the Bible ages of Palestine, must have been vastly in advance of the present.


Verse 8

8. Land… is full of idols — It is scarcely to be supposed that the idolatry mentioned here was public. The “idols” were a private possession of individuals and of families, like the teraphim in Jacob’s family. Genesis 31:34. The word rendered “idols” properly signifies unrealities, nonentities, of no avail as deities or any thing else. Such is the prophet’s view of them. Psalms 46:5.

Their own fingers have made — This expresses still deeper contempt of them. So, also, in Isa 41-67.


Verse 9

9. Mean man… great man — All classes, both common people and the upper ranks, were involved in this kind of idolatry — that is, in harbouring household penates and the like.

Boweth down… humbleth himself — Most commentators believe these expressions to refer both to bowing in worship to idols, and to the punishment following.

Forgive them not — Not necessarily a wish of the prophet, except so far as he desired the proper vindication of the rights of Jehovah. The Hebrew tense is future; hence it amounts to a prediction: Thou wilt not forgive them. See note on Isaiah 1:24.


Verse 10

10. Enter into the rock — Natural and artificial caves are very numerous in the soft cretaceous rocks of Palestine. Into these people fled on the approach of an invading army. To the shelter afforded by these the people are now exhorted to fly, that they may, if possible, avoid the wrath coming upon them. Occasion for fright is the greater now that Jehovah is coming in judgment.

Hide thee in the dust — In Isaiah 2:19 is the mention of “caves of the earth,” or “dust,” gathered during ages in the cave-bottoms. This probably is what is meant here. Yet allusion may be made to the storms of dust common in the East. The blasts of Jehovah’s fiery judgment may be meant, and the direction may be to fall to the ground with face downward, as travellers do in sand storms, till the heated blast has spent itself. If this is meant, the imagery is beautiful. It matters little which allusion was intended, either illustrates well.

For fear — Hebrew, “From the face of the terror of the Lord.” That is, Do what is directed to escape from the terror, etc., or the punishment which God will cause to sweep over the land. And for the glory, etc. — See Isaiah 2:19-21.


Verse 11

11. The terror which was approaching, Isaiah 2:10, is now seen as past. In Hebrew poetry scenes suddenly shift; a spirit of restlessness and non-repose characterizes it; it darts from object to object with lightning rapidity; it is alert with antitheses, and is never to be judged by rules governing the ancient Greek and modern dramatic poetry. The preceding verse sees judgment approaching; this verse describes the effect of it when passed. The haughty airs of men shall be humbled — in the Hebrew, are “humbled” — are brought low. Past, present, and future run into each other to express permanent effect.

In that day — In that sweep of time during which the principles of divine retribution have their full manifestation. No doubt the full result is seen in the overthrow of the State and the captivity at Babylon. It is idle to seek, with laborious literalness, fulfilments of predictions so generally expressed.


Verse 12

12. The day, etc. — The solemn emphasis and reiteration given to these words are an intimation of some unusual event being about to occur. The shock of an earthquake, perhaps. See Isaiah 2:19.


Verses 12-17

12-17. The lesson of these verses is, that Jehovah antagonizes among his chosen people every thing that compromises the holiness of his law.


Verse 13

13. Cedars — Majestic trees in the Lebanon range, unsurpassed for beauty, strength, and building utility; often used as symbols of the great men in war and civil power.

Oaks of Bashan — They abound on the east of the Jordan. The metaphor applies to men in Israel strong in their self-conscious independence and power. Before Jehovah their pride is to have a fearful fall.


Verse 14

14. High mountains… hills — Even these do not afford defence when Jehovah arises to avenge. The loftiest crags and fastnesses cannot then protect.


Verse 15

15. High tower — Uzziah had filled the land with these, and with fenced walls of cities and towns; at Jerusalem especially. 2 Chronicles 26:9; Deuteronomy 28:52; Hosea 8:14.


Verse 16

16. Ships of Tarshish — Meaning, perhaps, large and strong ships, suitable for distant voyages. “Tarshish” is supposed to be Tartessus, in the southwest of Spain. But it denotes, by way of figure, commerce in general.

Pleasant pictures Deuteronomy 4:15-18. It is not known that the Jews indulged in paintings. Whatever represented splendour may be all that is meant — a parallel sentence, a rhythmical effect merely. Jehovah is to destroy every thing in which the pride of man has indulged.


Verse 17

17. The proposition of Isaiah 2:11 is here resumed, as if to say, The case is made out. “So sinks the loftiness of man, and so bows the pride of man, and Jehovah alone is exalted.”


Verse 18

18. The idols… abolish — As for them, they all shall pass away. Emphatic and sarcastic; a prediction fulfilled to the letter, by the captivity at Babylon. Before this event the Jews were madly prone to idolatry — but never since. Zechariah 13:2. Query: In the line of what natural causation did the Almighty Providence effect such an utter change?


Verse 19

19. Holes of the rocks — In Isaiah 2:10 similar language is used as a warning, but here it is a direct prediction. Idols, the whole mass of them, shall pass away into their natural utter nothingness.

When he ariseth — Literally, In his arising; in God’s addressing himself with terribly obvious purpose.

Shake… earth — The intimation seems to be a recent earthquake, and all this prophetic speech may have taken advantage of the event when the worldly indifference of the people was for the time arrested. Amos speaks of the great earthquake in Uzziah’s reign. Amos 1:1. God is the immediate cause of all physical phenomena, and he makes the physical serve the moral. In all his great comings to “shake terribly the earth,” he uses the one phenomenon as the means to engage serious attention, the other, as the end, to wit, to secure moral reformation.


Verse 20

20. In that day — The day of his specific coming herein detailed, in which his coming was a process culminating in the breaking up of the nation.

[image]

To the moles — The precise animal here meant, in genus and species, is not known. Its home was in the ground, with holes to the surface.

Bats — “Bats” are numerous in Palestine. They chiefly inhabit caves and the recesses of ruins, where they may be found hanging from the roofs of the habitations. Layard says, that on the occasion of a visit to a cavern, these noisome creatures compelled him to retreat. Their bodies are covered with a pale fur. Moles and bats are virtually blind, and dwell in dark places — places just despicable enough to cast therein these miserable nothings called gods. The more costly the idols, the more significant is the hurling away of them in the fright and alarm of their former worshippers.


Verse 21

21. The warning begun in Isaiah 2:10 continues.

To go — This is an infinitive of purpose — that these frightened idol worshippers may go into hiding-places away from the coming terror of Jehovah.

It is easy to conceive our prophet as delivering this fearful message in the temple courts at Jerusalem, or even in the royal courts, with his disciples about him (for it is presumable that he had a school of young prophets within or near Jerusalem) furnishing the choral refrains at Isaiah 2:11; Isaiah 2:17; Isaiah 2:19; Isaiah 2:21.


Verse 22

22. Thus far the warning has been Abjure idols: now it is, Depend not on man.

Cease… from — Let him alone. Human strength is impotent.

Whose breath is in his nostrils Genesis 2:7. Whose life is transitory, precarious.

Wherein — On what grounds, or, At what rates.

Is he to be accounted of — That is, to be valued? No protection from man can be relied on. He is an entity, it is true, yet for actual source of help he is of but little more avail than senseless idols.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 2:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/isaiah-2.html. 1874-1909.

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Friday, May 24th, 2019
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