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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 33



Verse 2

2. Be gracious unto us — As the prophet puts it, the prayer is calm, but full of assurance. There is no vagueness or uncertainty of hope.

Their arm — Thy people’s and my own (Isaiah’s) “arm,” every morning: for danger presses every additional day of the invasion.

Our salvation — That is, our complete deliverance.

Verse 3-4

3, 4. The prophet is not left in doubt. He sees the answer. The deliverance is yet future, but he sees it as if it were past, or now transpiring.

At the noise of the tumult the people (Assyrian) fled; at the lifting up of thyself — Words figuratively expressing the silent power of Jehovah in destroying the enemy. See Isaiah 37:36-37. A demonstration of thunder and great noise from the heavens is unnecessarily assumed by some.

Your spoil — That of the destroyed and routed armies.

Shall be gathered — By the inhabitants of Jerusalem going to the evening’s abandoned camps, and, like hungry locusts and caterpillars, (as they sweep clean every thing on which they light,) hastily seizing every thing they find.

Verse 5-6

5, 6. The Lord is exalted — A paean of joy. It suits the connexion well to regard these verses as forming a chorus opened by the Jews. They praise Jehovah for their remarkable deliverance.

Filled Zion with judgment — Destroying the Assyrian is the same as to fill Jerusalem with reverence for His name.

Thy times — Is supposed by some to mean the time of Hezekiah; by others, that of the Messiah; and by still others, the sincere believer’s times. It matters little which, as in any case the sense is quite the same.

Verse 7

7. Notwithstanding the great occasion looked for in the choral strain above, there is occasion also for grief.

Their valiant ones — The lion-like heroes, messengers sent to Sennacherib or his officers (see 2 Kings 17:14) with the silver and the gold demanded as condition of peace, but which availed nothing with the truce-breaker. These deplore the state of things that would follow, namely, Jerusalem’s destruction, to all earthly view most probable.

Verse 8-9

8, 9. The highways lie waste — In disregard of his covenant the enemy still would ravage the country, render impassable the usual highways, cut off travel, break up villages and cities, and show mercy to none. Such treachery called for the world’s detestation and Heaven’s speediest retribution; this is a sense in which the earth, or the land, mourneth; in which Lebanon, noble in its cedars and towering heights, blushes in very shame; in which Sharon, the Shephala, or flowery plain on the sea, wilts to desolation; in which the east Jordanic Bashan, with its rich pastures and oaks, and

Carmel — the synonyme for greatest fertility — forget their rightful glory and hide away through mortification at such stupendous treachery.

Verses 10-12

10-12. This iniquity is now full. The day of judgment to Assyria has come. As though indifferently sitting still, Jehovah has looked on long enough, and says,

Now will I rise… now… be exalted; now… lift up myself — The thrice repeated “now” denotes earnest business. On hearing this the prophet knows what is to come, and cries out as if to the enemy, Ye… conceive chaff, ye… bring forth stubble — Your vainglorious swell and threat amounts to utter nothing. Your furious, snorting menace is turned back to you, an inward, self-consuming flame. God’s purpose is to make the nations here represented in this your devouring army to become utterly consumed, as the burnings of lime; speedily consumed, as thorns, or dead brushwood, cut and dried for immediate heating.

Verses 13-16

13-16. And then, as if this judgment were accomplished, the prophet turns to the sinners by whom himself, as counsellor to the pious king, has been so long baffled in Jerusalem. These he addresses as the near ones; those living to witness the power of the Almighty in breaking the Assyrian yoke. Hitherto they had scouted Isaiah’s theory of deliverance from such a source, and they sought aid from Egypt. The far-off peoples are also called to witness this almighty power in behalf of Israel. The sinners in Jerusalem are now struck dumb, and they are forced to say,

Who among us shall — rather, can dwell with the devouring fire… everlasting burnings — That is, in such a fire as that which has so signally destroyed the Assyrian forces? The parallel member states the same thing, only with more intense emotion. The answer is, in substance, the same as Psalms 15. He that walketh righteously, etc., in all the relations of life; despiseth the gain of oppressions, hazarding every thing to be just, absolutely just, etc: only such can endure the presence and power of a just God, and they, seeking to be entirely righteous, shall, in all events, be secure. Spiritual plenty shall abound to them. Those who are of this character in Jerusalem now realize their own more exultant fortune over the sinners that have counselled opposition in civil affairs in Judah.

Verse 17

17. The good king, Hezekiah, hitherto so depressed by apparently inevitable destruction before him, puts on an aspect humble, yet cheerful and gladsome, and thine eyes — all eyes in Jerusalem — shall see him thus elevated to grander faith through Jehovah’s victory wrought for him and the people.

The land that is very far off — Possibly a typical view, this, of the future oppressed Messiah’s victory and of the glorious land of promise yet to be seen extended over all lands, all cleared of enemies, and the sovereignty of Messiah remaining undisputed.

Verse 18-19

18, 19. Meditate terror — So joyous may the people now be, that the dreadful past is a fact to be thought of (meditated upon) as long since having transpired, and to be recalled by effort of memory. Thoughts recently so engrossing about the scribe, or manager of funds for the war — about the receiver, or the weigher of the moneys — or about him who counted, that is, examined the strength of the towers — are now all vanished amid the present joy.

Not see a fierce people… stammering tongue — No more are the rough Assyrians, a people of barbarous dialect, or a wretched, ill sounding Semitic patois, to be seen around Jerusalem.

Verses 20-22

20-22. But Zion in her victory and glory may be seen, and the command is to look upon her, now a quiet habitation, where religious worship may be resumed in peace. A tabernacle… not to be taken down — The figure of the tent is applied — a symbol of simple, holy, old patriarchal life — well pitched against storms, and secure against marauders.

There — That is, in Jerusalem, the Lord is ever present, glorious in spiritual agency and results — like to physical and civil affairs, to broad, fertilizing streams all around, upon which no galley with oars, nor staunch war ship, shall venture — but the scene shall be evermore one of peace, plenty, and security. For the Lord, our judge, lawgiver, and king, shall save us.

Verse 23-24

23, 24. Thy tacklings are loosed — By curious prophetic association again, the intuition of war galley and ship turns the mind back, as it were, to the wrecked Assyrian ship, which, with its broken ropes, (“tacklings,”) and loosened mast-base, can no more spread sail. But the Jews now have their opportunity. The heretofore plunderer is now the thoroughly plundered one. All the spoil of his ships the wreckers may seize. This is the view of most interpreters, but not of Drechsler or Delitzsch. The Jews need not now say I am sick; the oldest and most infirm may go after the enemy’s abandoned spoil and be enriched thereby. They may do so freely and with impunity, for their iniquities are forgiven. The calamities of the invasion are overpast.



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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 33:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 30th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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