Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Isaiah 13:12

I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold And mankind than the gold of Ophir.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Gold;   Ophir;   Thompson Chain Reference - Gold;   Ophir;   The Topic Concordance - Day of the Lord;   Earthquakes;   Heaven/the Heavens;   Punishment;   World;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Babylon;   Gold;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Babylon;   Isaiah;   Ophir;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Gold;   Ophir;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Isaiah;   Ophir;   Uphaz;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Isaiah, Book of;   Peter, Second Epistle of;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Babylon ;   Ophir ;   Thessalonians, Epistles to the;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Medes;   Ophir;   Rebels;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Babylon;   Messiah;   Ophir;   Smith Bible Dictionary - O'phir;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Christ;   Old - golden;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom of Judah;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Fine;   Gold;   Isaiah;   Ophir;   Wedge of Gold;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Gold;   Ophir;   Poetry;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for February 20;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

I will make a man more precious than fine gold-wedge of Ophir - The Medes and Persians will not be satisfied with the spoils of the Babylonians. They seek either to destroy or enslave them; and they will accept no ransom for any man - either for אנוש enosh, the poor man, or for אדם adam, the more honorable person. All must fall by the sword, or go into captivity together; for the Medes, ( Isaiah 13:17;), regard not silver, and delight not in gold.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:12". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/isaiah-13.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

I will make a man … - I will so cut off and destroy the men of Babylon, that a single man to defend the city will be more rare and valuable than fine gold. The expression indicates that there would be a great slaughter of the people of Babylon.

Than fine gold - Pure, unalloyed gold. The word used here (פז pâz ) is often distinguished from common gold Psalm 19:11; Psalm 119:127; Proverbs 8:19.

Than the golden wedge of Ophir - The word (כתם kethem ) rendered ‹wedge‘ means properly “gold;” yellow gold; what is hidden, precious, or hoarded; and is used only in poetry. It indicates nothing about the shape of the gold, as the word, wedge would seem to suppose. ‹Ophir was a country to which the vessels of Solomon traded, and which was particularly distinguished for producing gold; but respecting its particular situation, there has been much discussion. The ‹ships of Tarshish‘ sailed from Ezion-geber on the Red Sea, and went to Ophir 1 Kings 9:26; 1 Kings 10:22; 1 Kings 22:48. Three years were required for the voyage; and they returned freighted with gold, peacocks, apes, spices, ivory, and ebony (1 Kings 9:28; 1 Kings 10:11-12; compare 2 Chronicles 8:18). The gold of that country was more celebrated than that of any other country for its purity. Josephus supposes that it was in the East Indies; Bruce that it was in South Africa; Rosenmuller and others suppose that it was in Southern Arabia. It is probable that the situation of Ophir must ever remain a matter of conjecture. The Chaldee Paraphrase gives a different sense to this passage. ‹I will love those who fear me, more than gold in which people glory; and those who observe the law more than the tried gold of Ophir.‘ (On the situation of Ophir the following works may be consulted: The “Pictorial Bible,” vol. ii. pp. 364-369; Martini Lipenii, “Dissert. de Ophir;” Joan. Christophori Wichmanshausen “Dissert. de Navig. Ophritica:” H. Relandi, “Dissert. de Ophir;” Ugolini, “Thes. Sac. Ant.” vol. viii.; and Forster “On Arabia.”)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:12". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/isaiah-13.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Isaiah 13:12

I will make a man more precious than fine gold

Dearth of men a judgment from God

When God caused His scythe to swing through the harvests of Babylon it was not expected that a single ear would be left in the devastated field.
Thus the utterance is a menace, a judgment; it is not part of a lecture upon the dignity of human nature, it is an illustration of the vastness of the sweep of the judgments of God
. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The worth of man

Our text is a promise in the guise of a threat. It is a threat to one nation, but a promise to mankind.

1. A true prophetic insight led to the insertion of this poem in the story of the troubles of Assyria. Babylon was in her full career of conquest when Assyria was trembling to her fall. But the history of Babylon was already written; in that contempt of man, which at the first her pride and lust of possession revealed, was hidden her own doom. The nation so lavish of human life was to die utterly out; the empire which sets no value on men, for lack of men shall perish.

2. How often has this story been repeated! The Italian Campagna was once the home of a multitude of farmers; the conquests of Rome demanded that legions should be hurled against the barbarian tribes. Because there were not men to till the ground, the Campagna has become a foul marshland, the haunt of fevers, desolate and uninhabitable. Spain sent out her brave and stalwart sons to ravage the lands of the Indians, to seize on Mexican and Peruvian gold; and Spain has never since been able to produce and nourish the men who should enable her to hold her place among the foremost nations.

3. There are other ways in which want of regard for men is evinced beside that of conquest, and the doom is ever the same. “Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war”; the victories are, alas! too often equally immoral, equally fatal. In the heat of business competition, professed philanthropists, and men personally humane--these two expressions do not always mean the same thing--become as reckless of lives as the general in the field. We feel a man to be more precious than gold in the face of sickness and suffering; if we did but habitually recognise it, much sickness and suffering would be spared. The ladders are reared against a burning house; one after another of the inmates is rescued; and when the fire is at its fiercest, and all are supposed to be out of danger, the frightened face of a child appears at an upper window. There are tears among the crowd, and wringing of hands. “A thousand pounds,” says someone, “to him who will rescue that child!” A few years after, the child is an engine driver, and, drowsy through long hours of work, he misreads a signal, wrecks his train, and dies, himself the involuntary instrument of an appalling calamity. And it may be that the very man who offered the reward, and would have doubled it, made it fivefold, for the saving of the child, is a director of the railway company whose increasing exaction of toil from its servants has been the cause of the disaster. And we all are responsible for these things; we keep up the pressure which compels directors, managers, merchants, to work their business at full strain. We humane Englishmen need to he scourged into habitual practical humanity. God has, by His judgments, to “make a man more precious than fine gold.”

4. In our discussions of what we call “the population question,” there is a great deal of unconscious inhumanity which will assuredly entail its curse upon our country. The population of these islands is ever pressing more and more on the means of the people’s support. In two ways the pressure may be lightened. Emigration is one of them. But we might do much by the amendment of our laws, by alteration of our social customs and personal habits, by a check on extravagant expenditure, and by a juster distribution of the strain of living, to lighten the pressure at home. It is an anxious question whether we are encouraging emigration in the best and wisest mode. Consider whom we are sending out and the result on our future.

5. Our text is prophetic, moreover, of the doom and discipline of the exclusive spirit. Tennyson has given us a parable of this in the “Palace of Art.” Browning, too, in his story of Paracelsus, the gifted man who degenerated into a quack, has marked it as one of the sins of that strangely complex soul that he would be a philanthropist, but without sympathy, without dependence upon others. No life of pride or self-sufficiency or exclusiveness is possible to us, either in the Church or the nation. Nothing on earth is valuable when man has lost his value. The worth of wealth is what you can do with it for your fellows. The loftiest prince would gladly mate with the humblest beggar were they cast alone on some desert island.

6. How wonderful is the fulfilment of our text in the Gospel! It is the worth of lost humanity which is revealed to us in the redemption by Christ. Christ will not let us love Him if we love not our brethren for whom He died. If men are not more precious to us than gold, Christ becomes to us of none effect.

7. The passion which Christian humaneness becomes in the heart of Christians is the final earthly fulfilment of our text. The first feeling of the saved man is gratitude for the grace of God which saved him; and it is a feeling that abides. To it is added, in the maturity of Christian life, an abounding confidence that the grace which saved him can save any and every man. (A. Mackennal, B. A.)

The value of human life

Probably it is not true that human life is held more dear in times of war; but some sense of the value of the lives sacrificed is apt to dawn upon the people after the war is over, when the nation finds its resources wasted, and the people sit desolate in their homes, waiting for the strong and the brave who shall return no more. It is a hard school in which to learn this lesson of the preciousness of man; but if it can be learned in no other way it may well be enforced upon the world, even by such fiery tuition. (W. Gladden, D. D.)

“How much is he worth?”

One who listens to the talk of the street and the shops, might easily get the impression that the value of man is a subject of general interest. “How much is he worth?” is a question often heard. What answers do you hear? He is worth five thousand dollars; ten thousand; a million; ten millions. And of one and another it is said with a mixture of pity and contempt, “He is not worth anything!” Before the war men and women were actually bought and sold for money. How much is he or she worth, was then in some quarters a question simply commercial; a question to which a perfectly literal answer could be given. May it not be well to go a little deeper than the common usage goes into the meaning of this phrase, and ask, with all seriousness, not concerning this man or that man, but concerning man, any man, every man, “How much is he worth?”

I. MAN IS WORTH MORE THAN HIS INSTITUTIONS. Many persons have supposed that the chief end of man was to support certain institutions. We get many a hint of this error in our study of the people whose history is contained in the Bible. They thought that their ceremonial law was vastly more sacred than the men who worshipped by means of it. If their ritual obstructed human growth, crippled virtue, or killed charity, no matter; these must stand back and let the ritual be exalted. And when Christ told them that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath--that men were of more account than all this ritual machinery, they were astonished and scandalised; they called Him a blasphemer. This is no singular phenomenon. History is full of the outworking of this tendency. All over the world, all along the ages, men have been made the slaves of systems. When Christ came, His teachings were so entirely out of harmony with this notion that the people were fairly bewildered by them. What has been said of religious systems is equally true of political systems. There is now and always has been a prevalent notion that people were made for governments, and not governments for people; that it is more important that certain dynasties should reign, or that certain political institutions should be kept intact, or that certain parties should remain in power, or that certain policies should be adopted, than that men should be free and wise and good and prosperous. It is not true that human institutions are of no value; they are often of great value. But they are not ends; they are instruments. It follows that those systems are best which best assist the development of manhood.

II. MAN IS WORTH MORE THAN HIS COSTLIEST POSSESSIONS. This is another of those truths, often on our lips, but not more than half believed. Evidence of this is visible in the respect paid to wealth, even when it is joined to one who is but a caricature of manhood; even when it is the spoil that has been won by the debasement of manhood. How plain are the proofs before our faces every day that the multitudes do not believe a man to be more precious than gold! It is not the rich alone whose judgment in this matter goes astray; the poor fall into the same error. They say that money does not make the man, say it angrily and bitterly, not seldom; but their conduct often shows that they think, after all, that money does make the man. Their envy of the rich convicts them. Are there not in our own conduct, sometimes, clear illustrations of this fact? Do we not often find ourselves preferring gold to manhood; labouring more diligently to enlarge our possessions than to improve ourselves? It is not true that property is of no consequence; man’s belongings are good just in proportion as they assist in the development of his character.

III. IT IS BECAUSE OF HIS KINSHIP TO GOD THAT MAN IS OF SUCH ILLUSTRIOUS WORTH. And nothing seems more certain than that these powers may, by disuse or misuse, be impaired and finally lost. And so cut off by his own act from the source of all light and love, he is deserted by all generous impulses, by all holy aspirations, and is left to grovel in the mire of selfishness and carnality. “How much was he worth when he died? “some man may ask. What if the seer must answer: “He was the heir of immortality, but he sold his birthright for a song.” (W. Gladden, D. D.)

The end of civilisation

The end of civilisation is not money, but men. (Hugh Black, M. A.)

The true history of a man

The true history of a man is the history not of his wars and conquests, not even of his commerce; the true history of a man is the history of his conscience, the history of his moral development; for only that can give permanence and security to his other achievements in science, art, invention, thought. (Hugh Black, M. A.)

Faulty civilisation

If, in Bacon’s phrase, the “breed and disposition of the people be not stout,” its civilisation is a dismal failure. (Hugh Black, M. A.)

Christianity dignifies man: agnosticism tends to decade him

In the teaching of Christ man is so dignified by his connection with God and by his immortal destiny, that everyone who really believes this creed must feel himself condemned if he treats his brother ill. But strip man, as agnosticism does, of all the greatness and mystery with which Christianity invests him--cease to believe that he comes from God, that he is akin to beingsgreater than himself who care for him, and that his soul is of infinite worth because it has before it an unending development--and how long will it be possible to cherish for him the reverence which wins him consideration and help? The brevity of man’s existence gives him, according to the present teaching of agnosticism, a pathetic claim to instant help; but who knows whether in a society given over to unbelief the argument might not tell the other way, the selfish heart reasoning that sufferings which must end so soon do not matter? It was in the generation preceding the French Revolution that atheistic philosophy took its rise. The prophets of the time were predicting an age of peace and brotherhood, when selfish passion should disappear and cruelty and wrong no more vex the world. But, when their teaching had done its work, its fruit appeared in the Revolution itself, whose unspeakable inhumanities afforded our race such glances into the dark depths of its own nature as can never be forgotten. It is painful to recall that Rousseau himself, the most eloquent and, in some respects, the noblest apostle of the new faith, while preaching universal brother hood, sent his own children one by one, as they were born, to the Foundling Hospital, to save himself the trouble and expense of their support. The Revolution did much destructive work for which the hour had come; but it was a gigantic proof that the love necessary for the work of reconstruction must be sought in a superhuman source. (J. Stalker, D. D.)

John Ruskin on the value of manhood

With this accords the great lesson of John Ruskin’s teaching and of his life--one of the greatest of Englishmen, greatest of all as a political teacher, with somewhat of the passion and power of a prophet. He never wearied of insisting upon this distinction between money and men. It is at the root of all his economical writings. He has been rated as a fanatic, as opposed to machinery and railways and it is not necessary to accept his teachings on money on all points; all this is but a misunderstanding of him by unthinking and casual readers. The best of his thought is just a protest against the prevailing materialistic creed. He lived and died protesting that man is more precious than discoveries or engineering appliances or electrical contrivances. He said in his noble language: “It may be discovered that the true bases of wealth are spiritual and not in rock but in flesh. Perhaps even the time will come when it will be seen that the consummation of all wealth is in producing as many as possible full-blooded, bright-eyed human creatures. In some far-away extremity I can even imagine that England can cast all thoughts of possessing wealth back to barbaric nations, and that while the suns of Indus may flash from the turban of the slave, she as a Christian mother may at last attain to the virtues and treasures of the heathen one, and be able to lead forth her sons, saying, ‘These are my jewels.’” (Hugh Black, M. A.)

Men more valuable than money

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,

Where wealth accumulates and men decay.

(O. Goldsmith.)

Money for men

The preacher was promising a day of trouble for great Babylon. “Behold,” he cried, “the day of the Lord cometh, cruel,” etc. Then he came to the very abyss and extremity of their desolation. Bad enough to have the land shorn of its harvests, and all the standing grain trampled under the feet of war horses; bad enough to have the consuming fire lay hold upon its houses; bad enough to have pride turned into shame, wealth into poverty, power into captivity. But, thus far, hope was left, for men were left. Leave us men, and we may live. Leave us men, and you may do your worst; the day will pass, and tomorrow we will repair the damage, and begin over again, and get our revenge upon you yet. But there shall be no men. The widows and fatherless children shall search about the ruined streets, and a man shall be as rare a sight as a purse of gold. The text sets the emphasis, not on money, but on men. And that is Christianity. That is what the Master taught. What we all need, whether we have great possessions or small possessions, is to be interested in men. The part of a Christian man or woman is to set about making somebody’s life better. The best good is got when one helps one; when a man goes to his neighbour and gets acquainted with him, and becomes his personal friend, and sympathises with him, and uplifts him. You won’t have to go very far to find somebody who is worse off than you are. Take that somebody up. Interest yourself in that unhappy life. Perhaps it will take money; perhaps it will take time; perhaps it will take yourself. Give yourself, anyhow, and as much else as you need to. But, above all, be generously interested. One of the most helpful people I know lives in a back, street, in an unpleasant neighbourhood, in a small house. Everybody in that neighbourhood knows her, and she knows them and their children. They go to her in their troubles, and she gives them her sympathy. As for money, she would give that too if she had any to give. She gives herself. The whole street is better because she lives in it. But if she had the means which some have, what would she do, I wonder? Would she fall before the temptation of a comfortable life? Would she get, perhaps, to thinking that because she had plenty of butter on her bread, so had everybody else? and because she was contented, all the mutterings of discontented people were but needless grumblings? Anyhow, it is true that the kindest, most thoughtful, most helpful people, quickest to bear the hardest inconveniences for a neighbour, readiest to lift up those that are down, are the poor. It is not your money that we want so much as your interest. We want your own personal, hand to hand and heart to heart endeavour. The best use that can be made of money is to use it for the uplifting of men. (George Hedges, D. D.)

Christ discovered the human soul

I have heard that one of the diamond fields of South Africa was discovered on this wise. A traveller one day entered the valley and drew near to a settler’s door, at which a boy was amusing himself by throwing stones. One of the stones fell at the stranger’s feet, who picked it up and was in the act of laughingly returning it, when something flashed from it which stopped his hand and made his heart beat fast. It was a diamond. The child was playing with it as a common stone; the peasant’s foot had spurned it; the cart wheel had crushed it; till the man who knew saw it and recognised its value. Was it not the same careless treatment the soul was receiving when Jesus arrived in the world and discovered it? A harlot’s soul, sunk in the mud and filth of iniquity! why, a Pharisee would not stain his fingers to find it. A child’s soul! the scribes used to discuss in their schools whether or not a child had a soul at all. (J. Stalker, D. D.)

Manhood more than belongings

Have you ever seen the Apollo Belvedere? It is the statue of a man, chiselled out of marble, one of the noblest figures that art has ever produced. Do you think that this statue would be made any nobler or more beautiful if men should put gold rings on its fingers and gold bracelets on its wrists, and strings of gold beads upon its neck, and should trick it out with ribbons and buttons and fringes! Would not these tawdry ornaments detract from the simple dignity and majesty of that model of manly grace and strength! Well, the accidents of wealth and rank and office and station cannot add much more of ornament or value to a true man than could trinkets like these to the beauty of the Belvedere Apollo. His manhood itself, to all clear insight, is something infinitely grander and diviner than these belongings. (W. Gladden, D. D.)

The wealth of manhood

A Highland chieftain on a visit to England was taunted with the poverty of his country, at the table of his host, the occasion being when the large silver candlesticks were lighted in the spacious hall of the English castle, and in a gust of mistaken patriotism (common enough in a Scot) the Highlander declared he had seen better candlesticks in his own castle in Scotland. A wager was put up, and he could not draw back. The laird’s brother, who understood the terrific fix his brother was in, placed at the table on either side a gigantic Highlander holding in his right hand a drawn sword and in his left a blazing torch, and ere the strangers had recovered from their surprise, he said, “Behold the chandeliers of my brother’s house! Not one of these men knows any law but loyalty. Would you compare to these the riches of gold? How say you, cavaliers, is your wager won or lost?” (H. Black, M. A.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 13:12". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/isaiah-13.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"I will make a man more rare than fine gold, even a man than the pure gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens to tremble, and the earth shall be shaken out of its place, in the wrath of Jehovah of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger. And it shall come to pass, that as the chased roe, and as sheep that no man gathereth, they shall turn every man to his own people, and shall flee every man to his own land. Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and everyone that is taken shall fall by the sword. Their infants also shall be dashed in pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be rifled, and their wives ravished."

These verses recount the atrocities that were common in the fall of ancient cities. Horrible as such cruelties were, they were the common procedures when any enemy of that ancient era overcame a city they attacked.

Isaiah 13:14 here speaks of a time when, "The forces of the king of Babylon, destitute of their leader and all of his auxiliaries, collected from Asia Minor and other distant countries, shall disperse and flee to their respective homes."[11] Exactly the same things were prophesied of Nineveh (Nahum 1-3), especially Nahum 2:8).

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:12". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/isaiah-13.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

I will make a man more precious than fine gold,.... Which may denote either the scarcity of men in Babylon, through the slaughter made of them; so things that are scarce and rare are said to be precious, 1 Samuel 3:1 or the resolution of the Medes to spare none, though ever so much gold were offered to them, they being not to be bribed therewith, Isaiah 13:17 or that such should be the fear of men, that they would not be prevailed upon to take up arms to defend themselves or their king, whatever quantity of gold, even the best, was proposed unto them, a man was not to be got for money:

even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir; which designs the same thing in different words. The Targum gives another sense of the whole, paraphrasing it thus,

"I will love them that fear me more than gold, of which men glory; and those that keep the law more than the fine gold of Ophir;'

understanding it of the Israelites, that were in Babylon when it was taken, and who were precious and in high esteem with the Medes and Persians, more than gold, and whose lives they spared. Jarchi interprets it particularly of Daniel, and of the honour that was done him by Belshazzar, upon his reading and interpreting the writing on the wall, Daniel 5:29. This is interpreted by the Jews also of the King Messiah; for in an ancient writingF7Zohar in Gen. fol. 71, 1. of theirs, where having mentioned this passage, it is added, this is the Messiah, that shall ascend and be more precious than all the children of the world, and all the children of the world shall worship and bow before him. Some take "Phaz", the word for fine gold, to be the name of a place from whence it came, and therefore was so called; and that the kingdom of Phez, in Africa, has its name from hence; and Ophir is taken to be Peru in America; though others place it in India; and the Arabic version renders it, "a man shall be more precious than a little stone that is" brought "from India"; and the Septuagint version is, "than a stone in", or "of sapphire".

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:12". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/isaiah-13.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

I will make a l man more rare than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.

(l) He notes the great slaughter that will be, seeing the enemy will neither for gold or silver spare a man's life as in (Isaiah 13:17).
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Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:12". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/isaiah-13.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

man … precious — I will so cut off Babylon‘s defenders, that a single man shall be as rare and precious as the finest gold.

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/isaiah-13.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.

More precious — The city and nation shall be so depopulated.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:12". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/isaiah-13.html. 1765.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

MONEY FOR MEN

‘I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.’

Isaiah 13:12

What Isaiah really wrote was this: ‘I will make man more rare than fine gold.’

The preacher was promising a day of trouble for great Babylon. ‘Behold,’ he cried, ‘the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate.’ And then he came to the very abyss and extremity of their desolation. Bad enough to have the land shorn of its harvests, and all the standing grain trampled under the feet of war-horses; bad enough to have the consuming fire lay hold upon its houses; bad enough to have pride turned into shame, and wealth into poverty, and power into captivity. All that was bad enough. But thus far hope was left, for men were left. Leave us men and we may live. Leave us men and you may do your worst: the day will pass, and tomorrow we will repair the damage, and begin over again, and get our revenge upon you yet. But there shall be no men. The widows and the fatherless children shall search about the ruined streets, and a man shall be as rare a sight as a purse of gold. ‘I will make a man more precious than fine gold, even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.’ That was what Isaiah said.

I. ‘I will make a man more precious than fine gold.’—I will so bring it about that a man shall be of more value than a bar of gold. I will make men love their brother-men more than they love their money. Isaiah never said that; but God said it, and says it still. This is a sentence out of the Word of God. Isaiah said a great many things in his day, and is dead. But God is not dead. And God says this to-day. In the Bible or out of the Bible, this is the voice of God. This word is true with all the truth of God Almighty.

On one side a man, on the other side a bar of gold. On one side a man, on the other side a herd of swine. That, you remember, was at Gadara, beyond the Lake of Galilee.

I will make a man more precious than a herd of swine, or than a purse of gold, or than the golden wedge of Ophir. There is no question as to Christ’s comparative valuation of a man and money. Men were not for money, in His estimation, but money for men.

The text sets the emphasis, not on money, but on men. And that is Christianity. That is what the Master taught.

II. What we all need, whether we have great possessions or small possessions, is to be interested in men.—The part of a Christian man or a Christian woman is to set about making somebody’s life better. I believe that preaching does some good. But I know that the most good is done when the preacher goes down out of the pulpit, and talks quietly and privately and personally to one man or one woman. I believe, too, that some good is done by the general distribution of charity, by putting money into church alms basins, and writing figures in subscription lists. But I know that the best good is got at when one helps one; when a man goes to his neighbour and gets acquainted with him, and becomes his personal friend, and sympathises with him, and uplifts him. What men and women want is honest interest, real, human, brotherly and sisterly interest. They look into your eyes as you take their hand, and they read there whether to you a man is more precious than fine gold or not.

It is not your money that we want so much as your interest. We want your own personal, hand-to-hand and heart-to-heart endeavour. Do you not remember in the old story how Elisha sent his servant with his staff to bring back life to the dead, and the dead stayed dead? And then he came himself, and the still heart began to beat. We want you to come yourself. Don’t send your servant! Come yourself!

‘Who gave Himself.’ That is the secret of the power of Jesus Christ over the hearts of men to-day. Jesus Christ was more interested in men than He was in anything else on earth or in heaven. He cared not for reputation, cared not for the comforts of a sheltered life, cared not for Himself, but He did care for men. And He loved us and gave Himself for us.

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:12". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/isaiah-13.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Isaiah 13:12 I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.

Ver. 12. I will make a man more precious.] Quod rarum, carum. Men shall be reduced to a small number, not nobles only, sed triobolares homunciones, but peasants; nor shall any money be taken in exchange for lives.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:12". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/isaiah-13.html. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Isaiah 13:12

I. The text is a promise in the guise of a threat. It is a threat to one nation, but a promise to mankind. The text is speaking of the devastation of war men shall be so scarce that gold itself shall lose its preciousness. The overthrow of a nation is predicted here; the destruction of the mighty Babylonian empire. In that contempt of man, which at the first her pride and lust of possession revealed, was hidden Babylon's doom. The nation so lavish of human life was to die utterly out; the empire which sets no value on men for lack of men shall perish.

II. Our text is prophetic of the doom and discipline of the exclusive spirit. "Godlike isolation" is an inhuman thing; nay, isolation is not Godlike, for God is love. It is the Divine in man to which the prophecy of our text is spoken. To man, as to God, there is naught on earth so precious and so dear as man.

III. How wonderful is the fulfilment of our text in the Gospel! The doctrine of a common redemption has awakened in the Christian consciousness the sense of a vast human kin, unfavoured, unblessed, left to themselves, like sheep not having a shepherd. It is the worth of lost humanity which is revealed to us in the redemption by Christ, and which the Gospel will not let us forget. Christ welcomed the forgotten people, the wretched, the neglected, the sin-stricken, to Himself, and forced them into the society of His people. He calls them His own; He says that to forget them is to forget Himself. He has opened the eyes of His followers by touching their hearts.

A. Mackennal, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi, p. 248.


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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:12". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/isaiah-13.html.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The city and nation shall be so depopulated, that few men shall be left in it.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 13:12". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/isaiah-13.html. 1685.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Precious. Rare, (Worthington) or sought after for destruction, ver. 17.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:12". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/isaiah-13.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

man. Hebrew. adam. App-14.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:12". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/isaiah-13.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.

I will make a man more precious than fine gold - I will so cut off Babylon's defenders, that a single man shall be as rare and precious as the finest gold.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/isaiah-13.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(12) I will make a man more precious.—Both the words for man (e̓nosh and a̓dam) express, as in Psalms 8:2, the frailty of man’s nature. The words may point to the utter destruction, in which but few men should be left. The “gold of Ophir” (the gold coast near the mouth of the Indus) was proverbial for its preciousness (Job 22:24; Job 28:16; 1 Chronicles 29:4; 1 Kings 9:28; 1 Kings 22:48).

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:12". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/isaiah-13.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.
15-18; 4:1; 24:6; Psalms 137:9
Reciprocal: Genesis 10:29 - Ophir;  Joshua 7:19 - give;  1 Samuel 3:1 - the word;  1 Kings 9:28 - Ophir;  1 Chronicles 1:23 - Ophir;  Job 22:24 - Ophir;  Job 28:16 - the gold

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:12". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/isaiah-13.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

12.I will make a man more precious than pure gold. Here he describes in a particular manner how cruel and savage will be the war that is carried on against Babylon. In like manner believers, instructed by these predictions, implore in the spirit of prophecy what is the utmost exertion of the cruelty exercised in wars, that the Persians and Medes may tear the infants from their mothers’ breasts, and dash them against the stones. (Psalms 137:9.) The general meaning is, that Babylon will not only be destroyed, but will be devoted to utter extermination; for when he says that the life of a man shall be more precious than gold, he asserts that the enemies will be so eager to shed blood, that it will be impossible to rescue a man out of their hands at any price, because they will choose rather to kill than to accept a ransom.

It may be asked, Was this destruction as cruel as Isaiah here describes it to be? For history gives a different account, and Daniel himself, who was an eye-witness of this destruction, relates that the city was only taken, for the Medes and Persians spared the citizens and inhabitants. This argument has constrained some commentators to apply allegorically to all the reprobate what is here related of Babylon; but in doing so they have overstrained the passage, for shortly afterwards (Isaiah 13:17) the Prophet names the Medes and Persians. Besides, those threatenings which will afterwards follow in their proper order, against the Edomites, Moabites, the inhabitants of Tyre and of Egypt, and other nations, sufficiently show that the present discourse is directed literally against the Chaldeans, to whom the Prophet assigns the first rank; not that their destruction was as close at hand as that of other nations, but because none of the enemies of the Church were more dangerous.

It ought to be observed that Isaiah did not utter this prediction while the monarchy of Nineveh was still flourishing; but all that he predicted against heathen nations, during the whole course of his ministry, was collected into one book. Thus the order of events was not observed, but a similarity of subject was the reason why all these prophecies were put into one place. How comes it that Isaiah takes no notice of Nineveh, since he afterwards mentions that the Assyrians alone attacked the Jews, (for the Babylonians lived at peace with them,) but because he does not relate the history of his own time till the Isaiah 23:1, but prophesies about the judgments of God which happened after his death?

Now, when he declares that Babylon will be utterly destroyed, it is certain that he does not merely describe a single calamity, but includes the destruction which followed long afterwards. After having been subdued by the Persians, Babylon continued to flourish, and held the name and rank of a very celebrated city. And although the city Ctesiphon was founded for the purpose of attracting a portion of its splendor and wealth, yet the convenience of its situation, the costly buildings, and the fortifications of the city, rendered it, with the exception of royal rank, not inferior to Persis. Even after the death of Alexander the Great, when Seleucia was built at no great distance, still it could not obliterate the name and reputation of the ancient city. Hence we conclude that those events which are here foretold cannot be limited to a single period.

It is not without reason, however, that the Prophet pronounces such fearful threatening against them, since the revolution of the empire was the forerunner of the various calamities which followed afterwards. Though the people were not entirely slain, yet as the city was taken by storm, and by a sudden assault at the hour of midnight, while the whole court was carousing in drunken revels, it was impossible but that the Medes and Persians must have slain all that came in their way. There can be no doubt, therefore, that there was a great slaughter before the conquerors extended their protection to the whole of the people as having surrendered at discretion. Who can doubt that this haughty nation was roughly handled by barbarian conquerors, for in no other way could it have been reduced to obedience?

Having been gradually weakened, not long afterwards, Babylon again changed its master, and, after having been governed for a short period by Alexander, king of Macedon, immediately passed under the dominion of Seleucus, who endeavored by every method to degrade it till it was completely ruined. Thus, so long as God permitted the city to remain in existence, it presented a shameful and revolting spectacle to the whole world, that the accomplishment of the prophecy might be more evident and more impressive. Hence the Prophet Isaiah has good reason for asserting that the anger of God will not be appeased till that den of robbers be utterly destroyed.

A mortal and a man. So far as relates to the words, some translators render אנוש (enosh) a warlike or eminent man, and אדם (adam) an ordinary man. But as the etymology does not correspond to this view, and as I do not think that it occurred to the Prophet’s mind, I consider it to be rather a repetition of the same sentiment, such as we know to have been customary among the Hebrews. The word פז, (paz,) which, in common with other translators, I have rendered pure gold, is supposed by some to mean a pearl; but from many passages of Scripture we conclude that it is the purest and finest gold

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:12". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/isaiah-13.html. 1840-57.