Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
It is probable that the prophecy in this chapter was delivered about the same time as that in the previous chapter, and on the same general occasion. It is evident that it refers to the time of Hezekiah, when the Jews were alarmed by an apprehended invasion of the king of Assyria. Hezekiah had revolted from the king of Assyria Kg2 18:7; and it is probable that many of the leaders of the Jews began to be alarmed at the prospect that their land would be invaded by him, especially as it was known that it was the intention of Sennacherib to make war on Egypt, and that he could easily take Judea in his way. In such circumstances it was natural that they should propose an alliance with the Egyptians, and seek to unite their forces with theirs to repel the common danger. Instead of looking to God, and relying on his aid, they had probably entered into such an alliance, offensive and defensive Isa 31:1. To see the impropriety of such a league, it is to be remembered that God had promised to be the protector of his people, and that he had prohibited alliances with the surrounding nations; that it was a leading part of the Jewish policy, as instituted by Moses, to keep them a distinct and independent people; and that special care had been exercised to keep them from returning to the customs, or depending on the aid of the Egyptians. This alliance had been formed unquestionably contrary to the solemn counsel and warning of Isaiah Isa 20:1-6, and he now reproves them for it, and endeavors to recall them again to confidence in God.
The following is a summary of the contents of the chapter:
I. The prophet denounces 'wo' on them for seeking the aid of Egypt Isa 30:1-2.
II. He assures them that Egypt would be unable to help them, and that the effect would be that they would yet be ashamed themselves of the alliance Isa 30:3-7.
III. The prophet is directed to make a solem record that the prevailing character of the Jews was that of a rebellious people Isa 30:8-11.
IV. The judgment of God is denounced against them for forming this alliance, under the image of a wall that is ready to fall on them, and destroy them Isa 30:12-14.
V. The prophet tells them of the true way in which they may have peace and confidence, and that is, by putting their trust in God, and assures them that God waits to become their defender Isa 30:15-18.
VI. God "would" yet bless them. The people would see the vanity of their reliance on Egypt, and would turn unto God, and their turning to him would be attended with most rich and valuable blessings. These blessings are described in highly figurative and beautiful language Isa 30:19-26)
VII. Yahweh would show himself the protector of his people; and would, in a signal and sudden manner, overthrow and destroy the Assyrian, and deliver his people Isa 30:27-33.
The scope, therefore, of the chapter is to lead them to look away from Egypt, and to put confidence in God, at whose hand they were about to experience so signal a deliverance from the much dreaded invasion of Sennacherib.
Wo, - (see the note at Isa 18:1).
To the rebellious children - To those whom he had nourished as children, and who had rebelled against him (see the note at Isa 1:23).
That take counsel, but not of me - They look to Egypt, and depend on a human arm.
And that cover with a covering - The idea here, according to our translation, is, that they seek protection or a covering from the impending calamity. Lowth renders this, 'Who ratify covenants;' supposing that the reference is to the fact that in ancient times compacts were formed by offering sacrifices, and by pouring out libations. The Hebrew, according to Lowth, means, 'who pour out a libation.' So the Septuagint renders it, Συνθήκας sunthēkas - 'And thou hast made covenants.' The Syriac renders it, 'Who pour out libations.' The Hebrew word נסך nâsak properly conveys the idea of pouring out, and is applied:
(1) to the act of pouring out wine as a drink offering, or as a libation to God Gen 35:14; Exo 30:9; Ch1 11:18; Hos 9:4;
(2) to the act of pouring out oil, that is, to anointing kings and rulers Psa 2:6; Dan 11:8;
(3) to the act of pouring out melted metals, that is, to cast them Isa 40:19; Isa 44:10.
The word also may have a meaning kindred to סכך sâkak and denote "to cover," as in Isa 25:7. Various derivatives from the word are rendered 'to cover withal' Num 4:7; 'the covering' Isa 28:20; 'the web,' that is, that which is woven for a covering Jdg 16:13-14. The idea, however, which best suits the connection here is probably that suggested by Lowth, in accordance with the Septuagint, and the Syriac, and adopted by Rosenmuller, Gesenius, and others, "to make a libation;" that is, to ratify a covenant, or compact.
But not of my Spirit - It was not such as was suggested by his Spirit, and not such as he would approve.
That they may add sin to sin - They add to the sin of rebellion against God that of forming an alliance. Sins do not usually stand alone. When one is committed, it is often necessary to commit others in order to carry out and complete the plan which that contemplated.
That walk to go down to Egypt - Hebrew, 'Going in the descent to Egypt.' That is, they do it by their ambassadors Isa 30:4. The journey to Egypt from Palestine is always represented as going down Gen 12:10; Gen 42:3; Gen 43:15; Num 20:15; Deu 10:22.
To strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh - To form an alliance with Pharaoh, that thus they might be able to repel the threatened invasion. Pharaoh was the general name of the kings of Egypt, in the same manner as Caesar was the common name of the emperors of Rome.
To trust in the shadow of Egypt - A 'shadow' (צל tsêl) is an emblem of protection and defense, as a shade is a protection from the burning rays of the sun (see the note at Isa 4:6).
Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame - (see the note at Isa 20:5).
Your confusion - Hebrew, 'For reproach.' It would either occur that the Egyptians "would" not enter into an alliance; or that if they did, they "could" not defend them, and in either case it would be the source of deep regret and shame.
For his princes - The sense of this verse seems to be this. The prophet is stating the fact that the Jews would be ashamed of their attempted alliance with Egypt. In this verse, and the following, he states the manner in which they would be made sensible of their folly in seeking this alliance. He therefore enumerates several circumstances in regard to the manner in which the alliance had been sought, and the disappointment that would follow after all their vain confidence. He therefore states Isa 30:4, that the Jews had employed persons of the highest respectability and honor, even princes, to secure the alliance; that they had gone to Egypt with much difficulty - through a land where lions, and vipers, and fiery serpents abounded; that they had at much hazard taken their treasures down to Egypt in order to secure the alliance Isa 30:5-6, and that after all, the Egyptians could not aid them. The phrase 'his princes,' refers to the princes of Judah, the ambassadors that the Jews sent forth, and the idea is, that they regarded the alliance as of so much importance that they had employed their most honorable men - even their princes - to secure it.
Were at Zoan - Had come to Zoan, or were there on the business of their embassy. On the situation of Zoan, see the notes at Isa 19:11, Isa 19:13. It was the residence of the kings in Lower Egypt, and would be the place to which the ambassadors would naturally resort to negotiate an alliance.
Came to Hanes - Respecting the situation of this place there has been much diversity of opinion among interpreters. The Chaldee renders it by the more full word "Tahpanhes;" and Grotius supposes that the word is contracted from Tahpanhes Jer 43:7-8, and that the name was sometimes abbreviated and written חנס chânēs. Vitringa supposes that it was Anusis, situated in the Delta of the Nile, and the residence of the king of the same name. Herodotus (ii. 137) mentions a city of that name, Ἄνυσίς Anusis. Anusis was a king of Egypt before the irruption of the Ethiopians, and it was not uncommon for a king to give his own name to a city. Probably Anusis is the city intended here; and the sense is, that they had come to the royal residence for the purpose of negotiating an alliance. It is known that in the time of Jeremiah (588 years before Christ) "Tahpanhes" was the capital of the nation (see Jer 43:9).
They were all ashamed - That is, all the legates or ambassadors. When they came into Egypt, they found them either unwilling to enter into an alliance, or unable to render them any aid, and they were ashamed that they had sought their assistance rather than depend on God (compare Jer 2:36).
The burden of the beasts of the south - The word 'south' here refers doubtless to the country to the south of Judea; and particularly to Egypt. Thus it is used in Dan 11:5-6. The phrase 'beasts of the south,' here refers to the animals that were traveling to Egypt. Isaiah, in vision, sees the caravan heavily laden with treasures pursuing a southern direction on its way to Egypt. The word 'burden' is used in two senses, to denote that which is borne, a heavy burden; or an oracle, a solemn prophetic message (see the notes at Isa 15:1; Isa 17:1; Isa 19:1). Many understand the word here in the latter sense, and regard this as the title of a prophetic message similar to those in Isa 15:1; Isa 17:1; Isa 19:1. But the word is doubtless used here in its ordinary signification, to denote the load which is borne on animals, and here especially the treasures which were borne down to Egypt, for the purpose of securing their friendly alliance. The prophet sees the caravan, or the beasts of the ambassadors heavily laden with rich treasures, traveling southward toward Egypt, and cries out, 'O the heavy burden, the load of treasures going to the south!'
Into the land of trouble and anguish - Egypt; so called either because it was the land where the Hebrews had formerly suffered so severe oppressions; or because it was a land where the subjects were now grievously oppressed, and borne down with cruel laws; or because it was yet to be a land of trouble, from which the Jews could expect no aid. The general idea is, that Egypt was not a land of liberty and happiness, but a country where cruelty, oppression, and woe abounded. One source of trouble, as emblematic of all, the prophet immediately mentions when he designates that it abounded with venomous reptiles.
The viper - (אפעה 'eph‛eh). Septuagint, Ἀσπίδες Aspides 'asps' (see Isa 59:5). This is a well-known species of serpent. It is probably the same as the El-Effah of the Arabs which is thus described by Mr. Jackson: 'It is remarkable for its quick and penetrating poison; it is about two feet long and as thick as a man's arm, beautifully spotted with yellow and brown, and sprinkled over with blackish specks, similar to the horn-nosed snake. They have a wide mouth, by which they inhale a great quantity of air, and when inflated therewith they eject it with such force as to be heard at a considerable distance.' It is well known that Egypt produced venomous reptiles in abundance. Cleopatra destroyed herself with the bite of an asp which she had concealed for that purpose.
And fiery flying serpent - (מעופף שׂרף s'ârâph me‛ôpēp). Septuagint, Ἔκγονα ἀσπίδων περομένων Ekgona aspidōn petomenōn. This is the flying serpent so often referred to in the Scriptures. See a description of it in the notes at Isa 14:29. It is known to have abounded in the Arabian deserts, and was doubtless found also in Egypt as being in the same latitude, and infested with similar reptiles. Niebuhr thus describes a species of serpent which answers to this account. 'There is at Bakra a sort of serpents which they call Heie Sursurie, or Heie Thiare. They commonly keep upon the date trees; and as it would be laborious for them to come down from a very high tree in order to ascend another, they twist themselves by the tail to a branch of the former, which, making a spring, by the motion they give it, throw themselves to the second. Hence, it is that the modern Arabs call them the flying serpents - Heie Thiare. Lord Anson, as quoted by Niebuhr, also speaks of them as follows: 'The Spaniards informed us that there was often found in the woods a most mischievous serpent, called the flying snake, which, they said, darted itself from the boughs of trees on either man or beast that came within its reach, and whose sting they took to be inevitable death.' There was a species of serpent which the Greeks called Αξοντίας Acontias, and the Roman Jaculus, from their swift darting motion, and perhaps the same species is here referred to which Lucan calls Jaculique volucres. That these venomous reptiles abounded in Egypt is expressly testified by profane writers. Thus Ammianus says (xxii. 15), that 'Egypt nourishes innumerable serpents, basilisks, and twoheaded serpents (amphisbaenas), and the seytalus (a serpent of a glistening color), and the acontias (Latin, Jaculus), and adders, and vipers, and many others.'
They will carry their riches - Presents, designed to induce the Egyptians to enter into the alliance. That it was a common custom to make presents when one king sent an embassy to another, whether the design was to show friendship or civility, or to form an alliance, is well known in regard to all the nations of the East. The custom prevails at the present day, and is often referred to in Scripture (see Kg1 15:19; Kg2 16:8; Kg2 18:14-15).
For the Egyptians shall help in vain - That is, if they enter into the alliance, they shall not be able to defend you from the invader. The other member of the sentence would seem to imply that they would make promises of aid, and would even boast of being able to deliver them, but that they would fail in their promises.
Therefore have I cried - Therefore have I the prophet cried, that is, I do call her so.
Concerning this - Concerning this country; that is, Egypt. Some have understood this as referring to Jerusalem, but the connection requires us to understand it of Egypt.
Their strength is to sit still - This is evidently designed to be an expressive appellation of Egypt. The word rendered here, without much propriety, 'strength' (רהב râhab) is a proper name of Egypt, and is several times applied to it; Isa 51:9 :
Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab
And wounded the dragon?
In this passage there can be no doubt that it refers to Egypt. So in Psa 87:4; Psa 89:10 (see the margin). Why it was given to Egypt is unknown, and can only be conjectured. Bochart ("Geog. Sacra," i. 4. 24) supposes that it is derived from the word ῥιβι ribi, which singifies "a pear," and that it was given to the Delta or Lower Egypt on account of its form, as somewhat resembling a pear. But there is not clear evidence that such was the meaning of the word, and there is no reason why we should forsake the usual sense of the Hebrew word. The verb רהב râhab means to urge, press on, attack Pro 6:3; to be highspirited, fierce, full of courage; to behave proudly Isa 3:5; and has, in most instances, a relation to pride, to arrogance, to boasting Job 9:13; Psa 40:4. The noun "Rahab" indicates ferocity, haughtiness, boasting, insolence; and the name was doubtless given to Egypt on account of its insolence and pride. It is used here because Egypt would be full of self-confidence, and would boast that she could aid the suppliant Jews, and deliver them from the threatened invasion. The phrase rendered 'to sit still,' is a part of the name which the prophet gave to her. Though she boasted, yet would she sit still; she would be inefficient, and would do nothing; and the whole name, therefore, may be rendered, 'I call her, the blusterer that sitteth still;' that is, 'they are courageous in talking; cowards in acting.' (Taylor)
Now go - This is a direction to the prophet to make a permanent record of the character of the Jewish people. The fact to be recorded was, that they were rebellious Isa 30:9; the design for which the record was to be made was to show to future times that this had been the uniform character of the nation. The record was to be preserved that it might be a proof of the care of God toward the nation even in the midst of their long-continued and obstinate perverseness.
Write it before them - Before the Jews themselves, that they may see the record, and may have it constantly before them.
In a table - Or ON a table. The word לוח lûach denotes a tablet either of stone to engrave upon Deu 9:9; Exo 31:18; or of wood Kg1 7:36. It is not improbable that this was to be exposed to public view in some conspicuous place near the temple.
And note it - Engrave it; that is, record it.
In a book - On parchment, or in the usual way of writing (see the note at Isa 8:1).
For the time to come - Hebrew as Margin, 'The latter day.' It was to be made in order that future ages might know what had been the character of that people, and what had been the patience and forbearance of God in regard to them.
That this is a rebellious people - (see the note at Isa 1:2).
Lying children - They had promised in solemn covenant to take Yahweh as their God, but they had been unfaithful to their vows.
Which say to the seers - The prophets (see the note at Isa 1:1).
See not - They desire not that they should communicate to them the will of Yahweh.
Prophesy not unto us right things - It is not probable that they "openly" demanded of the prophets that they should declare falsehood and deceit, but their conduct was as if they had required that. The sense is, they bore with impatience the theatenings and commands of the true prophets; they were offended at their plainness and their reproofs of their vices; and they preferred the false prophets, who fell in with their prejudices, and who did not denounce the judgment of God for their crimes.
Speak unto us smooth things - That is, those things which are in accordance with our feelings, prejudices, and desires; which assure us of prosperity and success, and which will not disturb us with the apprehension of punishment. This was spoken particularly of their desire to make a league with Egypt, an enterprise for which the true prophets threatened them with the divine displeasure, but which probably the false prophets encouraged.
Prophesy deceits - Not that they would openly and avowedly demand to be deceived, but they demanded that which the prophet says would be deceits. No man "professedly" desires to be deceived; but many a man is willing to put himself under that kind of teaching which is deceit, and which he might know to be falsehood if he would examine it.
Get ye out of the way - Or, rather, 'Recede from the way;' or 'Turn aside from the way.' The words "way" and "path" are used to denote the true religion, or the true doctrines of God Mat 7:14; Mat 22:16; Joh 14:4; Act 18:26; Act 19:9, Act 19:23; Pe2 2:15. The request here was that the true prophets would recede from the stern and true precepts of religion, and turn to the ways of falsehood and deceit.
Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us - The sense of this is, 'Let us hear no more of this name. We are weary of constantly hearing it, as if there was nothing else but the ceaseless repetition of the name "The Holy One of Israel.'" It is to be remembered that the prophets spoke in this name, and often commenced their prophecies with the announcement, 'thus saith the Holy One of Israel.' No one more frequently used this than Isaiah (see Isa 30:12, Isa 30:15; compare Isa 1:4; Isa 5:19, Isa 5:24; Isa 10:20; Isa 12:6; Isa 17:7; Isa 29:19; Isa 31:1; Isa 41:14). It is probable that a reference constantly to the fact that he was holy, was that which most troubled them. How descriptive of the feelings of sinners! How striking an illustration of the fact that they do not wish to hear of the name or laws of the Holy Lord God! And what a melancholy proof of depravity is it when people pursue such a course that they do not wish to hear of Him, and desire no more to be troubled with His name and laws!
Wherefore thus saith the Holy One - Yahweh. There may be some reference here to the fact adverted to in Isa 30:11, that they were weary of the name of the Holy One of Israel, and of the perpetual reiteration of his commands. Isaiah, as if to show them how little he was disposed to comply with their prejudices, again makes an appeal to that name, and urges the authority of Yahweh. It is often proper to "repeat" the very doctrine to which sinners object, and which has given them offence. That they are offended, shows that their minds are "awake" to the truth, and gives some indication that their consciences trouble them. Ministers of God should never shrink from their duty because people oppose them; they should never cease to speak in the name and by the authority of the Holy One of Israel, because that name may excite opposition and disgust.
Ye despise this word - That is, the word or message of Yahweh Isa 28:13-14; or perhaps it means the word 'Holy One of Israel.' The sense is, that they did not trust in the promise and protection of Yahweh, but relied on human aid.
And trust in oppression - Margin, 'Fraud.' The word עשׁק ‛osheq properly denotes oppression, or extortion Ecc 5:7; Eze 22:7, Eze 22:12; then, that which is obtained by extortion, and also by fraud Lev 6:4; Psa 62:11; Ecc 7:7. It may refer here to the fact that they had, by unjust and oppressive exactions, obtained the treasures referred to in Isa 30:6, by which they hoped to conciliate the favor of Egypt; or it may mean that they trusted in their fraudulent purposes toward God, that is, to a false and perfidious course, by which they were unfaithful to him.
Perverseness - A crooked, perverse, rebellious course. They refused submission to Yahweh, and relied on the aid of strangers.
Therefore this iniquity - That is, this refusing to trust in Yahweh, and this intention to seek the alliance of Egypt. The general sense of the figure here is, that their depending on Egypt would involve them ultimately in complete and awful ruin - ruin that should come upon them as suddenly as when a wall that had been long swelling out gives way.
As a breach ready to fall - Like a breaking forth, or a bursting in a wall.
Swelling out in a high wall - That is, where the foundation is not firm, and where one part of the wall sinks, and it inclines to one side until it suddenly bursts forth. A similar figure is used by the Psalmist Psa 62:3 :
Ye shall be slain all of you
As a bowing wall shall ye be, and as a tottering fence.
Whose breaking cometh suddenly - Though it has been long leaning and swelling, yet the actual bursting forth would be in an instant. So would it be with the destruction that would come upon the Jews. Though by their sins they had been long preparing for it, yet it would come upon them by a sudden and tremendous crash. So it will be with all sinners. Destruction may seem to be long delayed - as a wall may be long inclining, and may seem to prepare imperceptibly to fall; but in due time it will come suddenly upon them, when too late to obtain relief.
And he shall break it as the breaking - That is, its breaking shall be like the breaking of a potter's vessel. The Septuagint reads it, 'And its fall (τὸ πτῶμα to ptōma) shall be like the breaking of an earthen vessel,'
As the breaking of the potter's vessel - That is, as an earthen, fragile vessel, which is easily dashed to pieces. The image here is all drawn from the bursting forth, or the complete ruin of the swelling wall; but the sense is, that the Jewish republic would be entirely broken, scattered, demolished.
He shall not spare in the bursting of it - Figuratively in the bursting of the wall; literally in the destruction of the Jewish state and polity.
A sherd - A piece of pottery; a fragment.
To take fire from the hearth - Large enough to carry coals on.
Or to take water withal out of the pit - Out of the fountain, or pool; that is, it shall be broken into small fragments, and the ruin shall be complete - as when a wall tumbles down and is completely broken up. The sense is, that the republic of Israel would be completely ruined, so that there should not be found a man of any description who could aid them. The prophet does not specify when this would be. It is not necessary to suppose that it would occur on the invasion of Sennacherib, or that it would be the immediate consequence of seeking the aid of Egypt, but that it would be a consequence, though a remote one. Perhaps the figure used would lead us to look to some remote period. A high wall will begin to give way many years before its fall. The swell will be gradual, and perhaps almost imperceptible. For some time it may appear to be stationary; then perhaps some new cause will produce an increase of the projecting part, until it can no longer sustain itself, and then the ruin will be sudden and tremendous. So it would be with the Jews. The seeking of the alliance with Egypt was "one" cause - though a remote one - of their final ruin. Their forsaking God and seeking human aid, was gradually but certainly "undermining" the foundations of the state - as a wall may be gradually undermined. Frequent repetitions of that would more and more impair the real strength of the republic, until, for their accumulated acts of want of confidence, the patience of God would be exhausted, and the state would fall like a mighty, bursting wall. The prophecy was fulfilled in the invasion of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans; it had a more signal and awful fulfillment in its destruction by the Romans.
For thus saith the Lord God - The design of this verse is to give a reason for the destruction that should come upon them. That reason was, that God had indicated to them the path of truth and safety, but they chose not to follow it, and refused to put confidence in him.
In returning - In returning to God; that is, if you are converted to him.
And rest - That is, by calmly reposing on God for assistance, and not seeking the alliance of Egypt (see Exo 14:13).
In quietness - In a collected, quiet state of mind.
In confidence - By putting simple trust in God.
Shall be your strength - You shall be safe; your enemies shall not be able to overcome and subdue you.
But ye would not - When Jerusalem was threatened by Sennacherib, Hezekiah did put this confidence in God, and reposed calmly and securely on his promises Isa 36:15, Isa 36:18, Isa 36:21; but it is not improbable that when the city was first threatened, and Hezekiah heard of the preparations made by the Assyrians, he had joined with the party in Jerusalem who proposed an alliance with Egypt, and that this was known to Sennacherib Isa 36:6. Probably, however, before the invasion had actually commenced he had seen the impropriety of this, either because the aid of Egypt could not be secured, or because Isaiah had warned him of this, and had been brought to put his trust entirely in Yahweh. Yet the offence had been "committed" of refusing to put implicit confidence in Yahweh, and of seeking the aid of Egypt, and for that the punishment is threatened in this chapter Isa 30:16-17.
But ye said, No - Ye who proposed an alliance with Egypt.
For we will flee upon horses - The word 'flee' (נוּס nûc), usually signifies to flee before or from any person or thing. But here it seems to have the notion of making a rapid motion in general, and not to refer to the fact that they expected to flee "from" their enemy, for it does not seem to have been a part of their expectation. The idea seems to be that by their alliance with Egypt they would secure the means of "rapid motion," whatever might be the necesity or occasion for it, whether against or from an enemy. The sense is, 'we will by this alliance secure the assistance of cavalry;' and, doubtless, the design was to employ it in the attack and discomfiture of their foes. It will be recollected that Moses Deu 17:16 strictly forbade that the future monarch of the Jews should 'multiply horses to himself, to cause the people to return to Egypt,' and that consequently the employment of cavalry was against the laws of the nation. For the reasons of this prohibition, see the note at Isa 2:7. The attempt, therefore, in the time of Hezekiah to call in the aid of the cavalry of Egypt, was a violation of both the letter and the spirit of the Jewish institutions (compare Isa 31:1; Hos 14:4).
Therefore shall ye flee - You shall fly before your enemies; you shall be defeated and scattered.
We will ride upon the swift - That is, upon fleet horses or coursers. Arabia was celebrated, and is still, for producing fleet coursers, and the same was formerly true of Egypt (see the note at Isa 2:7).
One thousand ... - The sense of this is, that you shall be easily alarmed and overcome by those who are inferior in numbers and strength. The number 'one thousand,' is put for a large indefinite number; probably meaning all.
At the rebuke of one - The number one here is put to denote a very small number; a number in the ordinary course of warfare entirely disproportionate to those who would be vanquished. There is probably a reference here to the prediction in Deu 32:30 :
How should one chase a thousand,
And two put ten thousand to flight,
Except their Rock had sold them
And Yahweh had shut them up?
At the rebuke of five - Of a very small number.
Till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain - The word rendered 'beacon' (תרן toren), (Greek ἱστὸς histos, "a mast"), denotes properly the mast of a ship Isa 33:23; Eze 27:5; then anything resembling a mast, a flagstaff, or a beacon of any kind. It may refer to a staff or mast erected on a promontory to warn sailors, or to be a landmark - as it is not improbable that the masts of ships would be employed for that purpose; or it may refer to a flagstaff, erected on a conspicuous place, to which the nation could rally in time of war. On the sea coasts of America such beacons are often erected. Those which I have seen consist of a pole erected on an eminence or rising ground, with a cask or barrel painted white on the top. The idea seems to be, that of a long pole erected for any purpose, and which was standing alone, stripped of its leaves and branches, and without ornament. So would be the few, solitary, and scattered Jews when driven before their enemies.
And as an ensign on a hill - (see Isa 5:26, note; Isa 11:12, note). The idea is, that those who should escape would be few in number, and would stand alone, as a beacon in view of all the nations, to admonish them of the justice of God, and the truth of his threatening - like an ensign floating on a hill that can be seen from afar. What a striking description is this of the condition of the Jews in our times, and indeed in all ages since their dispersion! Their strength, and influence, and power as a people are gone. They stand as beacons to warn the nations of the evils of a want of confidence in God, and of his justice.
And therefore - The sense of the words rendered 'and therefore,' may be better expressed by the phrase, 'yet moreover,' meaning, that notwithstanding their sins, and the necessity of punishing them, Yahweh would be longsuffering, and would yet bring the nation to repentance.
And therefore will he be exalted - Lowth renders this in accordance with a conjecture of Houbigant, 'Shall he expect in silence, by reading ידוּם yâdûm instead of ירוּם yârûm. But there is no authority for this except a single MS. Rosenmuller supposes it means, in accordance with the interpretation of Jarchi, that he would delay, that is, that his mercy would be "long" or his judgment remote. But the sense seems to be, that God would be so forbearing that his character would be "exalted," that is, that people would have more elevated conceptions of his truth, mercy, and faithfulness.
For the Lord is a God of judgment - He will do what is right. He will spare the nation still; and yet establish among them the true religion, and they shall flourish.
Blessed are all they that wait for him - This seems to have been recorded to encourage them, when the threatened calamities should come upon them, to put their confidence in God, and to trust that he would yet appear and restore the nation to himself. This verse is the commencement of the annunciation of the blessings which should yet be conferred on them. The description of these blessings is continued to Isa 30:26.
For the people shall dwell in Zion - (see the note at Isa 1:8). The language here is evidently adapted to a return from the captivity. The whole design of the passage Isa 30:19-26 is to describe a future state of prosperity by images mainly drawn from the idea of temporal enjoyment. The sense is, that in some period subsequent to the calamities that would befall them for their improper reliance on the aid of Egypt Isa 30:16-17, there would be prosperity, peace, and joy in Jerusalem. The order of events, as seen by the prophet in vision, seems to be this. He sees the people threatened with an invasion by Sennacherib. He sees them forget their reliance on God and seek the aid of Egypt. He sees, as a consequence of this, a long series of calamities resulting in the downfall of the republic, the destruction of the city, and the captivity at Babylon. Yet he sees, in the distant prospect, prosperity, happiness, security, piety, the blessing of God, and rich and abundant future mercies resting on his people. That the blessings under the Messiah constitute a part of this "series" of mercies no one can doubt who attentively considers the language in Isa 30:25-26.
Thou shalt weep no more - (see the note at Isa 25:8).
He will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry - When in your calamities you shall cry unto him for deliverance, he shall hear you, and restore you to your own land. This is in accordance with the statements in Isa 26:8-9 (see the notes at these verses), that in their captivity in Babylon they would seek God.
He will answer thee - (see Jer 29:12-14).
And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity - The bread that is eaten in a time of calamity; that is, he would bring upon them sore distress and want.
The water of affliction - Margin, 'Oppression.' That is, water drank in times of affliction and oppression, or in the long and weary days of captivity.
Yet shall not thy teachers - Your public instructors and guides Psa 74:9; Isa 43:27; Dan 12:3; Amo 8:11-12. This refers to "all" those who would be the true guides and teachers of the people of God in subsequent times; and relates, therefore, not only to prophets and pious men whom God would raise up under their own dispensation, but also to all whom he would appoint to communicate his will. It is a promise that the church of God should never want a pious and devoted ministry qualified to make known his will and defend his truth.
Be removed into a corner - The word used here (יכנף yikânēp from כנף kânap) occurs nowhere else in the Scriptures. It is probably derived from כנף kânâp, "a wing;" and in the Syriac and Chaldee, it means to collect together. The Septuagint renders this, 'And they who deceived thee shall no more come near unto thee.' The Syriac, 'And he (that is, the Lord) shall no more collect thy seducers.' The Chaldee, 'And he shall no more take away his own glory from the house of his sanctuary.' Rosenmuller, in accordance with Schultens, renders it, 'And thy teachers shall no more hide themselves,' referring to the fact that the wing of a fowl furnishes a hiding-place or shelter. This would accord with the general idea that they should not be removed from public view. Lowth, singularly, and without authority from versions or manuscripts, renders it,
'Yet the timely rain shall no more be restrained.'
The general idea is, evidently, that they should be no more taken away; and probably the specific idea is that proposed by Taylor ("Heb. Con."), that thy teachers shall no more, as it were, be winged, or fly away; that is, be removed by flight, or as a flock of birds moving together rapidly on the wing.
And thine ears shall hear a word - A command or admonition. You shall not be left without spiritual guides and directors.
Behind thee - That is, says Vitringa, the voice of conscience, as an "invisible" guide, shall admonish you. The idea, however, seems to be that if they were ignorant of the way, or if they were inclined to err, they should be admonished of the true path which they ought to pursue. The idea is taken either from the practice of teachers who are represented as "following" their pupils and admonishing them if they were in danger of going astray (Grotius; or from shepherds, who are represented as following their flocks, and directing them when they wandered. The Jews understand this voice 'from behind' to be the כל בת bath kol - 'the daughter of the voice;' a divine admonition which they suppose attends the pious. The essential thought is, that they would not be left without a guide and instructor; that, if they were inclined to go astray, they would be recalled to the path of truth and duty. Perhaps there is the idea, also, that the admonition would come from some "invisible" influence, or from some unexpected quarter, as it is often the case that those who are inquiring on the subject of religion receive light from quarters where they least expected, and from sources to which they were not looking. It is also true that the admonitions of Providence, of conscience, and of the Holy Spirit, seem often to come from "behind" us. that is, they "recall" us from the path in which we were going, and restrain us from a course that would be fraught with danger.
When ye turn to the right hand ... - When you shall be in danger of wandering from the direct and straight path. The voice shall recall you, and direct you in the way in which you ought to go.
Ye shall defile also - That is, you shall regard them as polluted and abominable. This is language which is often used respecting their treatment of the images and altars of idolatry when they became objects of abomination, and when they were induced to abandon them (see Kg2 23:8, Kg2 23:10, Kg2 23:16). It is not improbable that before destroying them they would express their abhorrence of them by some act of polluting or defiling them, as significant of their contempt for the objects of degraded idolatry (see the note at Isa 2:20). The sense of the whole passage is, that the effect of the judgments which God was about to bring upon the nation would be, to turn them from idolatry, to which as a nation they had been signally prone.
The covering - The images of idols were usually made of wood or clay, and overlaid with gold. That gold and silver were used "to plate" them is apparent from Deu 7:25; and the whole process of making them from wood, and then of overlaying them with plates of gold and silver is described with graphic power and severity of irony in Isa 40:19-20; Isa 41:6-7.
Thy graven images of silver - Margin, 'The graven images of thy silver.' Probably the construction in the text is correct, as meaning that the images were not made of entire silver, but of wood or clay, plated with silver.
And the ornament - The golden plates or the covering of the images.
Thy molten images - The word 'molten' refers to those which were made by "casting" (see the notes at Isa 40:19-20).
Thou shalt cast them away - (see the note at Isa 2:20). This would be in accordance with the express direction of Moses; Deu 7:25 : 'The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire; thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein, for it is an abomination unto the Lord thy God.'
Then shall he give the rain of thy seed - That is, he shall send rain on the seed which is sown. You will be allowed to cultivate the soil without molestation, and God will give you fruitful seasons and abundant harvests. This is a poetic description of a happy or golden age, when there would be peace and prosperity (compare the notes at Isa 11:6-7).
And bread of the increase of the earth - And bread which the ground shall produce.
And it shall be fat and plenteous - It shall be rich and abundant; that is, there shall be prosperity and an ample supply for your needs.
Feed in large pastures - This is a description of security when their cattle should be permitted to roam at large, and have abundant pasturage - an image of prosperity that would be very gratifying to a people whose main conception of wealth consisted in abundance of flocks and herds.
The young donkeys that ear the ground - Hebrew, 'Labouring,' or 'cultivating the ground,' that is, plowing it. The Old English word "ear" (from the Latin aro) meant to till, to cultivate. The word is now obselete, but this is the sense which it has in the Bible Gen 45:6; Exo 34:21; Deu 21:4; Sa1 8:12.
Shall eat clean provender - Margin, 'Leavened,' or 'savory.' The word rendered 'provender' (בליל belı̂yl) is a verbal from בלל bâlal, "to mix, mingle, confuse;" and denotes provender that is made by "mixing" various substances, "maslin" or "farago," a mixture of barley, oats, vetches, and beans, which seem to have been sown together, and reaped at the same time Job 6:5; Job 24:6. The word rendered 'clean,' (חמיץ châmiyts) is not quite so plain in its signification. Kimchi explains it by נקי nâqiy, "pure, clean." Gesenius renders it 'salted,' and supposes that it refers to fodder that was mixed with salted hay. The Septuagint renders it, 'Provender mixed with winnowed barley.' But the real notion of the word is that which is "fermented," from חמיץ châmēts, "to be sour;" to be leavened. Lowth renders it, 'well fermented.' Noyes, 'well seasoned.' The idea seems to be that of a provender made of a mixture of various substances - as of grain, beans, vetches, herbs, hay, and probably salt, which, when mixed, "would" ferment, and which was regarded as nutritious and wholesome for cattle. A similar compound is used by the Arabs still (see Bochart, i. 2, 7; and Faber, and Harmer's "Observations," i. 409).
Which hath been winnowed - That is, which is the pure grain, which is not fed to them as it is sometimes, before it is separated from the chaff. Grain shall be so abundant in that time of prosperity that even the cattle may be fed with grain prepared as it is usually for man.
With the shovel - The large shovel by which the grain in the chaff was thrown up in the wind that the grain might be separated from the chaff.
The fan - This word properly means that by which anything is "scattered" - a shovel by which the grain is thrown or tossed into the wind. 'Those who form their opinion of the latter article by an English fan, will entertain a very erroneous notion. That of the East is made of the fibrous part of the palmirah or cocoa-tree leaves, and measures about a yard each way.' (Roberts).
In the day of the great slaughter - When the enemies of the people of God shall have been destroyed - probably in a time subsequent to the slaughter of the army of the Assyrians.
When the towers fall - The towers of the enemy; perhaps referring here to the towers of Babylon. After they should fall, the Jews would be favored with the time of prosperity to which the prophet here refers.
Moreover - In addition to all the blessings which are enumerated above.
The light of the moon - Light is in the Scriptures an emblem of purity, intelligence, happiness, prosperity; as darkness is an emblem of ignorance, calamity, and sin. This figure is often used by the poets. Thus Horace:
Soles melius nitent.
Carm. liv.: Od. v. 8.
The figure of augmenting light to denote the blessings of religion, and especially of the gospel, is often employed by Isaiah (compare the notes at Isa 2:5; Isa 9:2; Isa 10:17; Isa 13:10; Isa 58:8, Isa 58:10; Isa 60:1, Isa 60:3, Isa 60:19-20). The sense of this passage is, that in those future days the light would shine intensely, and without obscurity; that though they had been walking in the light of the true religion, yet that their light would be greatly augmented, and that they would have much clearer views of the divine character and government. That this refers to the times of the Messiah there can be little or no room to doubt. It is language such as Isaiah commonly employs to describe those times; and there is a fullness and splendor about it which can suit no other period. There is nothing in the connection, moreover, which forbids such an interpretation of the passage.
Shall be as the light of the sun - Shall be clear, bright, intense. The sense is, there shall be a great increase of light, as if the light of the moon were suddenly increased to the brightness of the meridian sun.
Shall be seven-fold - Seven times as intense and clear as usual, as if the light of seven days were concentrated into one. The word 'seven' in the Scriptures often denotes a complete or perfect number; and indicates "completeness" or "perfections." The phrase 'as the light of seven days,' Lowth supposes is a gloss which has been introduced into the text from the margin. The reasons which he adduces for this supposition are, that it is missing in the Septuagint, and that it interrupts the rhythmical construction. But this is not sufficient authority for rejecting the words from the text. No authority of MSS. is adduced for thus rejecting them, and they are found in the Vulgate, the Chaldee, and the Syriac. They are missing, however, in the Arabic.
In the day - Vitringa supposes that this refers to the time of the Maccabees; but although there may be a reference to that time, yet the idea is evidently designed to include the future times of the Messiah. The sense of the prophet is, that subsequent to the great calamities which were to befall them, there would be a time of glorious prosperity, and the design of this was to comfort them with the assurance that their nation would not be wholly destroyed.
Bindeth up the breach of his people - Or the wound. The calamity that should come upon them is thus represented as a wound inflicted on them by the stripes of punishment (see the notes at Isa 1:5). Yahweh would heal it by restoring them to their own land, and to their former privileges.
Behold, the name of the Lord cometh - (compare the notes at Isa 19:1). The verses following, to the end of the chapter, are designed evidently to describe the destruction of the army of Sennacherib. This is expressly declared in Isa 30:31, and all the circumstances in the prediction accord with that event. There is no necessity of supposing that this is the commencement of a new prophecy, for it is connected with the main subject in the previous part of the chapter. The whole prophecy was composed evidently in view of that threatened invasion. In the apprehension of that, they sought the aid of Egypt Isa 30:1-6, for that, the prophet denounces judgment on them (Isa 30:8 ff); in view of these judgments, however, he promises a more happy state Isa 30:18-26; and now, in the close of the chapter, in order to deter them from the alliance, he assures them that, without any foreign aid, the Assyrian would be destroyed by Yahweh himself. The phrase 'name of Yahweh,' is probably another mode of designating Yahweh himself; as the name of God is often put for God himself (see Act 3:6-7, Act 3:12, 30; Act 4:10; Co1 1:10). The idea is, that the destruction of the Assyrian hosts would be accomplished by the immediate power of Yahweh himself without any need of the aid of the Egyptian or of any foreign alliances.
From afar - That is, from heaven (compare the note at Isa 19:1).
Burning with his anger - Or, rather, his anger is enkindled.
And the burden thereof - Margin, 'Grievousness of flame.' Lowth renders it, 'The flame rageth violently.' Noyes, 'Violent is the flame.' The Septuagint renders it, 'A burning wrath' The word משׂאה mas'â'âh, from נשׂא nâs'â' "to bear, lift up, carry," means properly a lifting up Psa 141:2; a burden Zep 3:18; then a mounting up, particularly of a flame or smoke in a conflagration Jdg 20:38. This seems to be the idea here, that the anger of God would be like a heavy, dark column of mingled smoke and flame bursting out, and rising up over a city.
His lips are full of indignation - All this language is of course figurative, and means that he would issue a command to destroy the Assyrians, or that they would be destroyed in such a manner as most effectively to exhibit his displeasure.
And his tongue as a devouring fire - That is, he shall issue a command that shall destroy like a raging and devouring fire.
And his breath - The word רוח rûach properly means "wind," air in motion; then a breathing, an exhalation, a breath; then the soul, spirit, etc. The idea here seems to be that of excited, and rapid, and agitated breathing, as when one is in anger (compare Jdg 8:3; Zac 6:8).
As an overflowing stream - This figure is common to express desolating judgments (see the notes at Isa 8:8; Isa 10:22; Isa 28:17; compare Psa 69:2, Psa 69:15).
Shall reach to the midst of the neck - Isaiah Isa 8:8, in describing the invasion of Sennacherib, and comparing it to an oveflowing torrent, says it would 'reach even to the neck;' that is, it would overflow the land, and even approach the head, the capital, but that that would be spared. By the use of a similar figure, and perhaps referring to that, he here says, that the judgment of God would overflow the army of the Assyrians, but that it would approach only to the neck, the head would still be spared; the commander and sovereign would not be destroyed. In accordance with this prediction, the angel in one night, as with an overflowing flood, cut off the army, and yet spared the sovereign, Sennacherib, who escaped with his life Isa 37:36-37. The word rendered 'shall reach' (רחצה yechĕtseh) properly means "shall divide," or cut into two parts Gen 33:8; Num 31:37, Num 31:42; Jdg 9:43; and the idea here seems to be that a man who is in the water seems to be "divided" into two parts, one part above, and one in the water.
To sift the nations - Doubtless many nations were laid under requisition to furnish an army so large as that of Sennaherib, as the kingdom of Assyria was made up of a number of tributary people and provinces. The word rendered 'to sift' refers to the act of winnowing or fanning grain, in which the grain is "tossed" or thrown from the shovel into the air. As the chaff is driven away by the wind, so the nations in the army of Sennacherib would be scattered.
With the sieve of vanity - That is, of emptiness or perdition; he would so scatter them that nothing would be left.
A bridle in the jaws of the people - The idea is, that he had all these nations as much under his control as a man has a horse with a bridle in his mouth. The same idea the prophet has used in reference to the same subject in Isa 37:29 :
I will put my bridle in thy jaws,
And I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.
Causing them to err - That shall cause them to wander; that is, he would turn them from the path in which they had designed to go. They had purposed to go to Jerusalem, but he would lead them back to their own land, discomfited and disheartened (see Isa 37:29).
Ye shall have a song - That is, ye inhabitants of Jerusalem shall rejoice when the army of the Assyrian is destroyed.
As in the night, when a solemnity is kept - The word 'solemnity' here (חג châg) denotes a festival, or feast; and refers, by way of eminence, to the Passover, which is usually designated as "the feast;" that is, the principal festival of the Jews (see Mat 27:15; Joh 5:1, Joh 5:11, Joh 5:13, Joh 5:23). This festival was kept at first at night, and was required to be so celebrated ever afterward Exo 12:42; Deu 16:1-6.
As when one goeth with a pipe - Music was used in the daily service of the temple, and their processions and celebrations were all with instrumental music. The simple idea is, that the sudden and complete destruction of the army of Sennacherib would be the occasion of the highest joy.
And the Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard - That is, he would give command to destroy them. They could not fail to recognize his voice, and to feel that it was accomplished by him.
The lighting down of his arm - The descent of his arm - alluding to the act of striking, as with a sword, by which an army is cut down.
With the flame - (see the note at Isa 29:6).
And tempest, and hailstones - With us it is rare that a storm of hail would be severe enough to destroy an army. But in oriental countries and in tropical climates, storms of hail are not unfrequently of sufficient violence to do it if the army were encamped in the open field. The following extract of a letter from one of our own countrymen, will show that this would be by no means an improbable occurrence: 'We had got perhaps a mile and a half on our way, when a cloud rising in the west gave indications of approaching rain. In a few minutes we discovered something falling from the heavens with a heavy splash, and with a whitish appearance. I could not conceive what it was, but observing some gulls near, I supposed it to be them darting for fish; but soon after discovered that they were large balls of ice falling. Immediately we heard a sound like rumbling thunder, or ten thousand carriages rolling furiously over the pavement.
The whole Bosphorus was in a foam, as though heaven's artillery had been charged upon us and our frail machine. Our fate seemed inevitable; our umbrellas were raised to protect us, the lumps of ice stripped them into ribbons. We fortunately had a bullock's hide in the boat, under which we crawled and saved ourselves from further injury. One man of the three oarsmen had his hand literally smashed, another much injured in the shoulder, Mr. H. received a blow on the leg, my right hand was somewhat disabled, and all more or less injured. It was the most awful and terrific scene I ever witnessed, and God forbid that I should be ever exposed to another. Balls of ice as large as my two fists fell into the boat, and some of them came with such violence as certainly to have broken an arm or leg, had they struck us in those parts. One of them struck the blade of an oar and split it. The scene lasted perhaps five minutes; but it was five minutes of the most awful feeling I ever experienced.
When it passed over, we found the surrounding hills covered with masses of ice, I cannot call it hail, the trees stripped of their leaves and limbs, and everything looking desolate. The scene was awful beyond all description. I have witnessed repeated earthquakes; the lightning has played, as it were, about my head; the wind roared, and the waves at one moment have thrown me to the sky, and the next have sunk me into a deep abyss. I have been in action, and have seen death and destruction around me in every shape of horror; but I never before had the feeling of awe which seized upon me on this occasion, and still haunts, and I fear forever will haunt me. My porter, the boldest of my family, who had ventured an instant from the door, had been knocked down by a hailstone, and had they not dragged him in by the heels, would have been battered to death. Two boatmen were killed in the upper part of the village, and I have heard of broken bones in abundance. Imagine to yourself the heavens suddenly frozen over, and as suddenly broken to pieces in irregular masses of from half a pound to a pound weight, and precipitated to the earth.' (Commodore Porter's "Letters from Constantinople and its Environs," vol. i. p. 44.)
For through the voice of the - Lord By the command of the Lord; that is, his voice going forth in the manner specified in Isa 30:30.
Which smote with a rod - Who was accustomed to smite as with a rod; that is, his government was tyrannical and severe. As he had been accustomed to smite in that manner, so he would now meet the proper reward of his oppression of the nations.
And in every place - Margin, 'Every passing of the rod founded.' Lowth renders it, 'Whenever shall pass the rod of correction.' The whole design of the passage is evidently to foretell the sudden destruction of the army of the Assyrians, and to show that this would be accomplished by the agency of God. The idea seems to be, that in all those places where the rod of the Assyrian would pass, that is, where he would cause devastation and desolation, there would be the sound of rejoicing with instruments of music when he should be overthrown.
The grounded staff - The word 'staff' here, or "rod," seems to refer to that by which the Assyrian smote the nations Isa 30:31; or rather perhaps the Assyrian king himself as a rod of correction in the hand of Yahweh (see Isa 10:5). The word rendered 'grounded' (מוסדה mûsâdâh) has given great perplexity to commentators. Lowth supposes it should be מוסרח ("correction"), according to a conjecture of Le Clerc. Two manuscripts also read it in the same way. But the authority from the MSS. is not sufficient to justify a change in the present Hebrew text. This word, which is not very intelligibly rendered 'grounded,' is derived from יסד yâsad, to "found, to lay the foundation of a building" Ezr 3:12; Isa 54:11; then to establish, to appoint, to ordain Psa 104:8; Hab 1:12. The idea here is, therefore, that the rod referred to had been "appointed, constituted, ordained" by God; that is, that the Assyrian had been designated by him to accomplish important purposes as a rod, or as a means of punishing the nations.
Shall pass - In his march of desolation and conquest.
Which the Lord shall lay upon him - Or rather, as it should be translated, 'upon which Yahweh should lay,' that is, the rod, meaning that in all those places where Yahweh should lay this appointed scourge there would be yet rejoicing.
It shall be with tabrets and harps - Those places where he had passed, and which he had scourged, would be filled with joy and rejoicing at his complete overthrow, and at their entire deliverance from the scourge. For a description of the tabret and harp, see the notes at Isa 5:12.
And in battles of shaking - In the Hebrew there is an allusion here to what is said in Isa 30:28, that he would 'sift,' that is, agitate or toss the nations as in a winnowing shovel.
Will he fight with it - Margin, 'Against them.' Yahweh would fight against the 'rod,' to wit, the Assyrian, and destroy him (see Isa 37:36).
For Tophet - The same idea is conveyed in this verse as in the preceding, but under another form, and with a new illustration. The sense is, that the army of the Assyrians would be completely destroyed, as if it were a large pile of wood in the valley of Hinnom that should be fired by the breath of God. The word (תפתה tâpeteh) with the ה (h) paragogic), denotes properly what causes loathing or abhorrence; that which produces disgust and vomiting (from the Chaldee תיף tūph to spit out); Job 17:6, 'I was an "abhorrence'" (תפת tôpheth), improperly rendered in our version, 'I was among them as a tabret.' The word occurs only in Kg2 23:10; Jer 7:31-32; Jer 19:6, Jer 19:11, Jer 19:13-14, and in this place. It is applied to a deep valley on the southeast of Jerusalem, celebrated as the seat of idolatry, particularly of the worship of Moloch. The name also of 'the valley of Hinnom' was given to it; and hence, the name "Gehenna" γέεννα geenna, Mat 5:22, Mat 5:29-30; Mat 10:28; Mat 18:9; Mat 23:15, Mat 23:33; Mar 9:43, Mar 9:45, Mar 9:47; Luk 12:5; Jam 3:6), as denoting the place of future torments, of which the valley of Hinnom, or Tophet, was a striking emblem.
This valley was early selected as the seat of the worship of Moloch, where his rites were celebrated by erecting a huge brass image with a hollow trunk and arms, which was heated, and within which, or on the arms of which, children were placed as a sacrifice to the horrid idol. To drown their cries, drums were beaten, which were called תף tôph, or תפים tôphiym, and many suppose the name Tophet was given to the place on this account (see Kg2 16:3; Kg2 21:6; Kg2 23:10). The name 'valley of Hinnom,' or Gehenna, was probably from the former possessor or occupier of that name. In subsequent times, however, this place was regarded with deep abhorrence. It became the receptacle of all the filth of the city; and hence, in order to purify the atmosphere, and prevent contagion, it was needful to keep fires there continually burning. It was thus a most striking emblem of hell-fire, and as such is used in the New Testament. Hezekiah was firmly opposed to idolatry; and it is not improbable that he had removed the images of Moloch, and made that valley the receptacle of filth, and a place of abomination, and that the prophet refers to this tact in the passage before us.
Is ordained - Was fitted up, appointed, constituted. The prophet by a figure represents Hezekiah as having fitted up this place as if for the appropriate punishment of the Assyrians.
Of old - Margin, as in Hebrew, 'From yesterday.' This expression may mean simply 'formerly, some time since,' as in Exo 4:10; Sa2 3:17. The idea here seems to be, that Tophet had been formerly, or was already prepared as if for the destruction of Sennacherib and his army. His ruin would be as certain, and as sudden, "as if," in the valley of Tophet, the breath of Yahweh should set on fire the vast materials that had been collected, and were ready to be kindled. It does not mean that Tophet had actually been prepared "for" the army of Sennacherib; it does not mean that his army would actually be destroyed there - for it was on the other side of the city that they were cut off (see the notes at Isa 10:32); it does not mean that they would be consigned to hell-fire; but it means that that place had been fitted up as if to be an emblematic representation of his ruin; that the consuming fires in that valley were a striking representation of the sudden and awful manner in which the abhorred enemies of God would be destroyed.
For the king is prepared - For Hezekiah; as if the place had been fitted up for his use in order to consume and destroy his enemies. It is not meant that Hezekiah actually had this in view, but the whole language is figurative. It was as if that place had been fitted up by Hezekiah as a suitable place in which entirely to destroy his foes.
He hath made it deep and large - Vast; as if able to contain the entire army that was to be destroyed.
The pile thereof - The wood that was collected there to be consumed.
The breath of the Lord - As if Yahweh should breathe upon it, and enkindle the whole mass, so that it should burn without the possibility of being extinguished. The meaning is, that the destruction of the Assyrian would as really come from Yahweh as if he should, by his own agency, ignite the vast piles that were collected in the valley of Hinnom.
Like a stream of brimstone - Brimstone, or sulphur, is used in the Scriptures to denote a fire of great intensity, and one that cannot be extinguished Gen 19:24; Psa 11:6; Eze 38:22; Rev 9:17-18. Hence, it is used to denote the eternal torments of the wicked in hell Rev 14:10; Rev 19:20; Rev 21:8.
Doth kindle it - The army of the Assyrians would be destroyed in a manner which would be well represented by Yahweh'S sending down upon a vast pile collected in the valley of Hinnom, a burning stream of sulphurous flame that should ignite and consume all before it (see the notes at Isa 37:36).