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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 24



Verse 1

1. Behold — Here, as always with Isaiah, pointing to something future.

The earth — The land of Judah. The prophet plunges into the midst of his subject, seizes its radical idea, and makes it an emblem here of far off events; as it were, those appertaining to the last days. The subject here is judgment.

Verse 2

2. As with the people, so with the priest; as… so, etc. — Judgment is entered upon all alike. There is no favoured class. All fall under the one doom, which is utter and final.

Verse 3-4

3, 4. The earth ארצ, (aretz,) earth, or land, occurs over twelve times in this chapter, and applies to the whole land of Israel. But its parallel, תבל, (tebel,) the inhabited world, may apply to all known nations.

Haughty people — High in social position and proud in spirit. Princes, alike with the lower classes, have no escape.

Verse 5

5. The earth… is defiled — The land consecrated to Jehovah is profaned by practices of the people.

Verse 6

6. Therefore hath the curse — The prophecy moves on from sin to punishment. The curses denounced (see Deuteronomy xxvii and xxviii) fall upon transgressors. If the term earth covers the land of Israel and more, the law covers commands revealed and commands of conscience; it is alike the law written and unwritten.

Verses 7-9

7-9. New wine mourneth Isaiah 5:11. Sensuality is personified to intensify the felt sense of misery. Exhilaration fails; charms of music are quenched; there is gall to the taste; amusement mocks.

Verse 10

10. City of confusion — “Confusion,” not in respect to social order, but external unplacement: thohu, like that in Genesis 1:2, chaos; every thing in amorphous fragments and impalpable ruins. No house to enter, no shelter from sun or storm.

Verse 11

11. Crying for wine — Not to cheer, but to drown thought. Joel 1:5.

Verse 12

12. Desolation — Not a trace being left of the city as it was.

Gate… destruction — The “gate” is the most noted of all city resorts; its “destruction” is a crash. So Gesenius.

Verse 13

13. The people — But little is said, up to this, about “the people.” The picture of so utter a desolation is now touched up with here and there a straggler out of all the once vast population. For the comparison see Isaiah 17:5-6, and note.

Verse 14

14. They shall lift up their voice — Here is another of Isaiah’s lightning-like transitions. The humble gleaned ones — the remnant — the returned escaped ones, of Isaiah 24:13 — the representatives of all the delivered faithful ones of Israel — the sifted and purified Church of Jehovah.

They — In the original the pronoun is locatively emphatic, designating the righteous few as a special class.

They shall sing — Shall celebrate by loud acclamation.

The majesty of the Lord — In overpowering oppressors, and in bringing deliverance to the meek and true children of God — “the remnant.”

They shall cry aloud — This verb is what in Hebrew is called the preterite present. The people have shouted aloud, and do still, as a habit. The verbs preceding this are in the future present: They, from this time on, shall cry, as a habit also.

Cry aloud from the sea — Which may mean for deliverances from the sea, or, more than the sea; that is, than at the sea, namely, the Red Sea, under Miriam:

see Exodus chap. 15; or, from the direction of the sea, that is, from the west. This last is to be preferred, as will be seen from the next verse.

Verse 15

15. Glorify… in the fires — This is a doubtful translation. Better, in the east, or, in the regions of the east. So lexicons by Furst and by Gesenius. Evidently the meaning is: “Wherever ye redeemed, ye tried and delivered friends of Jehovah, come from — whether from the west (Isaiah 24:14) or from the east, shout ye God’s praises.”

Even… isles of the sea — A poetic, but not logical, transposition. In straight prose the sense is: “All ye of the east, and all ye from the isles of the sea in the west,” etc.

Verse 16

16. From… uttermost part of the earth — From every point of the compass, far and near, the shouts of praise are heard. The same strain continues.

But I said — The dark side now looms up to the prophet. In the same instant that he sees glory covering the delivered ones, a new view comes to him of impending calamity on the rejected inhabitants of earth.

My leanness — This is another rejected rendering. It should be, Destruction to me; that is, Woe to me! The Septuagint and Vulgate most unsuitably have it, A secret to me; mistaking the true original word.

Isaiah’s mind suddenly takes in a view of destruction to oppressing nations, Babylon especially, as the phrase treacherous dealers unerringly suggests.

Verses 17-20

17-20. The foundations… do shake — From the statement of these verses it would look as if the new view of the prophet was but a sudden shift in an ecstatic scene. The rush of invaders and the fleeing of the pursued are represented by images taken from the deluge and geologic earthquakes. The final scene is apocalyptic, and the earth is removed from existence.

Verses 21-23

21-23. In these verses the view is also apocalyptic, but the visitation is of punishment to the host of the high ones… on high. Rather more than possibly, this means, fallen angels, acting as guardians to evil powers on earth. The scene is too much lifted from earth to merely mean men, wicked men, distinguished for high position and pride. Alluding to the practice of conquerors with their captives, these are imprisoned — reserved for judgment.

Shall they be visited — But probably for inevitable punishment. Whether wicked angels or wicked men are intended here, the same principle applies: wickedness cannot go unpunished. The vision is of scenes in the heavens antecedent to the day of Messiah’s glory and power. In the presence of such a day all previous light is dim. The apocalyptist of the Old Testament sees here all providential government condensed into one fact, namely: Jehovah enthroned in a new Jerusalem, the Messianic day, with his people surrounding him, before the light and glory of which the white moon turns red, and the glowing sun becomes pale, each being as an unperceived lamp at noonday.

The contest of ages has revealed God’s majesty, justice, and mercy; his Church planted on Zion is jubilant, and a new glory covers her.


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 24:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

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