Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The limits of this address are very obvious. The end of Isa 4:1-6 connects itself with the beginning of chapter 2, so as to form a circle. After various alternations of admonition, reproach, and threatening, the prophet reaches at last the object of the promise with which he started. Chapter 5, on the other hand, commences afresh with a parable. It forms an independent address, although it is included, along with the previous chapters, under the heading in Isa 2:1 : "The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw over Judah and Jerusalem." Chapters 2-5 may have existed under this heading before the whole collection arose. It was then adopted in this form into the general collection, so as to mark the transition from the prologue to the body of the book. The prophet describes what he here says concerning Judah and Jerusalem as "the word which he saw." When men speak to one another, the words are not seen, but heard. But when God spoke to the prophet, it was in a supersensuous way, and the prophet saw it. The mind indeed has no more eyes than ears; but a mind qualified to perceive what is supersensuous is altogether eye.
The manner in which Isaiah commences this second address is altogether unparalleled. There is no other example of a prophecy beginning with והיה. And it is very easy to discover the reason why. The praet. consecutivum v'hâyâh derives the force of a future from the context alone; whereas the fut. consecutivum vay'hi (with which historical books and sections very generally commence) is shown to be an aorist by its simple form. Moreover, the Vav in the fut. consecut. has almost entirely lost its copulative character; in the praet. consec., on the other hand, it retains it with all the greater force. The prophet therefore commences with "and"; and it is from what follows, not from what goes before, that we learn that hayah is used in a future sense. But this is not the only strange thing. It is also an unparalleled occurrence, for a prophetic address, which runs as this does through all the different phases of the prophetic discourses generally (viz., exhortation, reproof, threatening, and promise), to commence with a promise. We are in a condition, however, to explain the cause of this remarkable phenomenon with certainty, and not merely to resort to conjecture. Isa 2:2-4 do not contain Isaiah's own words, but the words of another prophet taken out of their connection. We find them again in Mic 4:1-4; and whether Isaiah took them from Micah, or whether both Isaiah and Micah took them from some common source, in either case they were not originally Isaiah's.
(Note: The historical statement in Jer 26:18, from which we learn that it was in the days of Hezekiah that Micah uttered the threat contained in Mic 3:12 (of which the promise sin Mic 4:1-4 and Isa 2:2-4 are the direct antithesis), apparently precludes the idea that Isaiah borrowed from Micah, whilst the opposite is altogether inadmissible, for reasons assigned above. Ewald and Hitzig have therefore come to the conclusion, quite independently of each other, that both Micah and Isaiah repeated the words of a third and earlier prophet, most probably of Joel. And the passage in question has really very much in common with the book of Joel, viz., the idea of the melting down of ploughshares and pruning-hooks (Joe 3:10), the combination of râb (many) and âtsum (strong), of gephen (vine) and te'enah (fig-tree), as compared with Mic 4:4; also the attesting formula, "For Jehovah hath spoken it" (Chi Jehovah dibber: Joe 3:8), which is not found in Micah, whereas it is very common in Isaiah - a fact which makes the sign itself a very feeble one (cf., Kg1 14:11, also Oba 1:18). Hitzig, indeed, maintains that it is only by restoring this passage that the prophetic writings of Joel receive their proper rounding off and an appropriate termination; but although swords and spears beaten into ploughshares and pruning-hooks form a good antithesis to ploughshares and pruning-hooks beaten into swords and spears (Joe 3:10), the coming of great and mighty nations to Mount Zion after the previous judgment of extermination would be too unprepared or much too abrupt a phenomenon. On the other hand, we cannot admit the force of the arguments adduced either by E. Meier (Joel, p. 195) or by Knobel and G. Baur (Amos, p. 29) against the authorship of Joel, which rest upon a misapprehension of the meaning of Joel's prophecies, which the former regards as too full of storm and battle, the latter as too exclusive and one-sided, for Joel to be the author of the passage in question. At the same time, we would call attention to the fact, that the promises in Micah form the obverse side to the previous threatenings of judgment, so that there is a presumption of their originality; also that the passage contains as many traces of Micah's style (see above at Isa 1:3) as we could expect to find in these three verses; and, as we shall show at the conclusion of this cycle of predictions (chapters 1-6), that the historical fact mentioned in Jer 26:18 may be reconciled in the simplest possible manner with the assumption that Isaiah borrowed these words of promise from Micah. (See Caspari, Micha, p. 444ff.))
Nor was it even intended that they should appear to be his. Isaiah has not fused them into the general flow of his own prophecy, as the prophets usually do with the predictions of their predecessors. He does not reproduce them, but, as we may observe from the abrupt commencement, he quote them. It is true, this hardly seems to tally with the heading, which describes what follows as the word of Jehovah which Isaiah saw. But the discrepancy is only an apparent one. It was the spirit of prophecy, which called to Isaiah's remembrance a prophetic saying that had already been uttered, and made it the starting-point of the thoughts which followed in Isaiah's mind. The borrowed promise is not introduced for its own sake, but is simply a self-explaining introduction to the exhortations and threatenings which follow, and through which the prophet works his way to a conclusion of his own, that is closely intertwined with the borrowed commencement.
The subject of the borrowed prophecy is Israel's future glory: "And it cometh to pass at the end of the days, the mountain of the house of Jehovah will be set at the top of the mountains, and exalted over hills; and all nations pour unto it." The expression "the last days" (acharith hayyamim, "the end of the days"), which does not occur anywhere else in Isaiah, is always used in an eschatological sense. It never refers to the course of history immediately following the time being, but invariably indicates the furthest point in the history of this life - the point which lies on the outermost limits of the speaker's horizon. This horizon was a very fluctuating one. The history of prophecy is just the history of its gradual extension, and of the filling up of the intermediate space. In Jacob's blessing (Gen 49) the conquest of the land stood in the foreground of the acharith or last days, and the perspective was regulated accordingly. But here in Isaiah the acharith contained no such mixing together of events belonging to the more immediate and the most distant future. It was therefore the last time in its most literal and purest sense, commencing with the beginning of the New Testament aeon, and terminating at its close (compare Heb 1:1; Pe1 1:20, with 1 Cor 15 and the Revelation). The prophet here predicted that the mountain which bore the temple of Jehovah, and therefore was already in dignity the most exalted of all mountains, would. one day tower in actual height above all the high places of the earth. The basaltic mountains of Bashan, which rose up in bold peaks and columns, might now look down with scorn and contempt upon the small limestone hill which Jehovah had chosen (Psa 68:16-17); but this was an incongruity which the last times would remove, by making the outward correspond to the inward, the appearance to the reality and the intrinsic worth. That this is the prophet's meaning is confirmed by Eze 40:2, where the temple mountain looks gigantic to the prophet, and also by Zac 14:10, where all Jerusalem is described as towering above the country round about, which would one day become a plain. The question how this can possibly take place in time, since it presupposes a complete subversion of the whole of the existing order of the earth's surface, is easily answered. The prophet saw the new Jerusalem of the last days on this side, and the new Jerusalem of the new earth on the other (Rev 21:10), blended as it were together, and did not distinguish the one from the other. But whilst we thus avoid all unwarrantable spiritualizing, it still remains a question what meaning the prophet attached to the word b'rosh ("at the top"). Did he mean that Moriah would one day stand upon the top of the mountains that surrounded it (as in Psa 72:16), or that it would stand at their head (as in Kg1 21:9, Kg1 21:12; Amo 6:7; Jer 31:7)? The former is Hofmann's view, as given in his Weissagung und Erfllung, ii. 217: "he did not indeed mean that the mountains would be piled up one upon the other, and the temple mountain upon the top, but that the temple mountain would appear to float upon the summit of the others." But as the expression "will be set" (nacon) does not favour this apparently romantic exaltation, and b'rosh occurs more frequently in the sense of "at the head" than in that of "on the top," I decide for my own part in favour of the second view, though I agree so far with Hofmann, that it is not merely an exaltation of the temple mountain in the estimation of the nations that is predicted, but a physical and external elevation also. And when thus outwardly exalted, the divinely chosen mountain would become the rendezvous and centre of unity for all nations. They would all "flow unto it" (nâhar, a denom. verb, from nâhâr, a river, as in Jer 51:44; Jer 31:12). It is the temple of Jehovah which, being thus rendered visible to nations afar off, exerts such magnetic attraction, and with such success. Just as at a former period men had been separated and estranged from one another in the plain of Shinar, and thus different nations had first arisen; so would the nations at a future period assemble together on the mountain of the house of Jehovah, and there, as members of one family, live together in amity again. And as Babel (confusion, as its name signifies) was the place whence the stream of nations poured into all the world; so would Jerusalem (the city of peace) become the place into which the stream of nations would empty itself, and where all would be reunited once more. At the present time there was only one people, viz., Israel, which made pilgrimages to Zion on the great festivals, but it would be very different then.
"And peoples in multitude go and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; let Him instruct us out of His ways, and we will walk in His paths." This is their signal for starting, and their song by the way (cf., Zac 8:21-22). What urges them on is the desire for salvation. Desire for salvation expresses itself in the name they give to the point towards which they are travelling: they call Moriah "the mountain of Jehovah," and the temple upon it "the house of the God of Jacob." Through frequent use, Israel had become the popular name for the people of God; but the name they employ is the choicer name Jacob, which is the name of affection in the mouth of Micah, of whose style we are also reminded by the expression "many peoples" (ammim rabbim). Desire for salvation expresses itself in the object of their journey; they wish Jehovah to teach them "out of His ways," - a rich source of instruction with which they desire to be gradually entrusted. The preposition min (out of, or from) is not partitive here, but refers, as in Psa 94:12, to the source of instruction. The "ways of Jehovah" are the ways which God Himself takes, and by which men are led by Him - the revealed ordinances of His will and action. Desire for salvation also expresses itself in the resolution with which they set out: they not only wish to learn, but are resolved to act according to what they learn. "We will walk in His paths:" the hortative is used here, as it frequently is (e.g., Gen 27:4, vid., Ges. 128, 1, c), to express either the subjective intention or subjective conclusion. The words supposed to be spoken by the multitude of heathen going up to Zion terminate here. The prophet then adds the reason and object of this holy pilgrimage of the nations: "For instruction will go out from Zion, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem." The principal emphasis is upon the expressions "from Zion" and "from Jerusalem." It is a triumphant utterance of the sentiment that "salvation is of the Jews" (Joh 4:22). From Zion-Jerusalem there would go forth thorah, i.e., instruction as to the questions which man has to put to God, and debar Jehovah, the word of Jehovah, which created the world at first, and by which it is spiritually created anew. Whatever promotes the true prosperity of the nations, comes from Zion-Jerusalem. There the nations assemble together; they take it thence to their own homes, and thus Zion-Jerusalem becomes the fountain of universal good. For from the time that Jehovah made choice of Zion, the holiness of Sinai was transferred to Zion (Psa 68:17), which now presented the same aspect as Sinai had formerly done, when God invested it with holiness by appearing there in the midst of myriads of angels. What had been commenced at Sinai for Israel, would be completed at Zion for all the world. This was fulfilled on that day of Pentecost, when the disciples, the first-fruits of the church of Christ, proclaimed the thorah of Zion, i.e., the gospel, in the languages of all the world. It was fulfilled, as Theodoret observes, in the fact that the word of the gospel, rising from Jerusalem "as from a fountain," flowed through the whole of the known world. But these fulfilments were only preludes to a conclusion which is still to be looked for in the future. For what is promised in the following v. is still altogether unfulfilled.
"And He will judge between the nations, and deliver justice to many peoples; and they forge their swords into coulters, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation lifts not up the sword against nation, neither do they exercise themselves in war any more." Since the nations betake themselves in this manner as pupils to the God of revelation and the word of His revelation, He becomes the supreme judge and umpire among them. If any dispute arise, it is no longer settled by the compulsory force of war, but by the word of God, to which all bow with willing submission. With such power as this in the peace-sustaining word of God (Zac 9:10), there is no more need for weapons of iron: they are turned into the instruments of peaceful employment, into ittim (probably a synonym for ethim in Sa1 13:21), plough-knives or coulters, which cut the furrows for the ploughshare to turn up and mazmeroth, bills or pruning-hooks, with which vines are pruned to increase their fruit-bearing power. There is also no more need for military practice, for there is no use in exercising one's self in what cannot be applied. It is useless, and men dislike it. There is peace, not an armed peace, but a full, true, God-given and blessed peace. What even a Kant regarded as possible is now realized, and that not by the so-called Christian powers, but by the power of God, who favours the object for which an Elihu Burritt enthusiastically longs, rather than the politics of the Christian powers. It is in war that the power of the beast culminates in the history of the world. This beast will then be destroyed. The true humanity which sin has choked up will gain the mastery, and the world's history will keep Sabbath. And may we not indulge the hope, on the ground of such prophetic words as these, that the history of the world will not terminate without having kept a Sabbath? Shall we correct Isaiah, according to Quenstedt, lest we should become chiliasts? "The humanitarian ideas of Christendom," says a thoughtful Jewish scholar, "have their roots in the Pentateuch, and more especially in Deuteronomy. But in the prophets, particularly in Isaiah, they reach a height which will probably not be attained and fully realized by the modern world for centuries to come." Yet they will be realized. What the prophetic words appropriated by Isaiah here affirm, is a moral postulate, the goal of sacred history, the predicted counsel of God.
Isaiah presents himself to his contemporaries with this older prophecy of the exalted and world-wide calling of the people of Jehovah, holds it up before them as a mirror, and exclaims in Isa 2:5, "O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of Jehovah." This exhortation is formed under the influence of the context, from which Isa 2:2-4 are taken, as we may see from Mic 4:5, and also of the quotation itself. The use of the term Jacob instead of Israel is not indeed altogether strange to Isaiah (Isa 8:17; Isa 10:20-21; Isa 29:23), but he prefers the use of Israel (compare Isa 1:24 with Gen 49:24).With the words "O house of Jacob" he now turns to his people, whom so glorious a future awaits, because Jehovah has made it the scene of His manifested presence and grace, and summons it to walk in the light of such a God, to whom all nations will press at the end of the days. The summons, "Come, let us walk," is the echo of Isa 2:3, "Come, let us go;" and as Hitzig observes, "Isaiah endeavours, like Paul in Rom 11:14, to stir up his countrymen to a noble jealousy, by setting before them the example of the heathen." The "light of Jehovah" ('or Jehovah, in which the echo of v'yorenu in Isa 2:3 is hardly accidental; cf., Pro 6:23) is the knowledge of Jehovah Himself, as furnished by means of positive revelation, His manifested love. It was now high time to walk in the light of Jehovah, i.e., to turn this knowledge into life, and reciprocate this love; and it was especially necessary to exhort Israel to this, now that Jehovah had given up His people, just because in their perverseness they had done the very opposite. This mournful declaration, which the prophet was obliged to make in order to explain his warning cry, he changes into the form of a prayerful sigh.
"For Thou hast rejected Thy people, the house of Jacob; for they are filled with things from the east, and are conjurors like the Philistines; and with the children of foreigners they go hand in hand." Here again we have "for" (Chi) twice in succession; the first giving the reason for the warning cry, the second vindicating the reason assigned. The words are addressed to Jehovah, not to the people. Saad., Gecatilia, and Rashi adopt the rendering, "Thou has given up thy nationality;" and this rendering is supported by J. D. Michaelis, Hitzig, and Luzzatto. But the word means "people," not "nationality;" and the rendering is inadmissible, and would never have been thought of were it not that there was apparently something strange in so sudden an introduction of an address to God. But in Isa 2:9; Isa 9:2, and other passages, the prophecy takes the form of a prayer. And nâtash (cast off) with âm (people) for its object recals such passages as Psa 94:14 and Sa1 12:22. Jehovah had put away His people, i.e., rejected them, and left them to themselves, for the following reasons: (1.) Because they were "full from the east" (mikkedem: min denotes the source from which a person draws and fills himself, Jer 51:34; Eze 32:6), i.e., full of eastern manners and customs, more especially of idolatrous practices. By "the east" (kedem) we are to understand Arabia as far as the peninsula of Sinai, and also the Aramaean lands of the Euphrates. Under Uzziah and Jotham, whose sway extended to Elath, the seaport town of the Elanitic Gulf, the influence of the south-east predominated; but under Ahaz and Hezekiah, on account of their relations to Asshur, Aram, and Babylon, that of the north-east. The conjecture of Gesenius, that we should read mikkesem, i.e., of soothsaying, it a very natural one; but it obliterates without any necessity the name of the region from which Judah's imitative propensities received their impulse and materials. (2.) They were onenim (= meonenim, Mic 5:11, from the poelonen: Kg2 21:6), probably "cloud-gatherers" or "storm-raisers,"
(Note: There is no force in the explanation "concealing," i.e., practising secret arts; for the meaning "cover" or "conceal" is arbitrarily transferred to the verb onen, from gânan and Cânan, which are supposed to be cognate roots. As a denominative of ânân, the cloud, however (on this name for the clouds, see at Isa 4:5), onen might mean "he gathered auguries from the clouds." Or if we take onen as a synonym of innen in Gen 9:14, it would mean "to raise storms," which would give the rendering νεφοδιῶκται, tempestarii, storm-raisers. The derivation of onen from Ny(i, in the sense of the Arabic 'âna (impf. ya ı̄nu), as it were to ogle, oculo maligno petere et fascinare, founders on annen, the word used in the Targums, which cannot possibly be traced to Ny(i. From a purely philological standpoint, however, there is still another explanation possible. From the idea of coming to meet we get the transitive meaning to hold back, shut in, or hinder, particularly to hold back a horse by the reins (inân), or when applied to sexual relations, 'unna ('unnina, u'inna) )an el-mar'ati, "he is prevented (by magic) from approaching his wife," Beside the Arabic 'innı̄n and ma'nūn (to render sexually impotent by witchcraft), we find the Syriac 'anono used in the same sense.)
like the Philistines (the people conquered by Uzziah, and then again by Hezekiah), among whom witchcraft was carried on in guilds, whilst a celebrated oracle of Baal-Zebub existed at Ekron. (3.) And they make common cause with children of foreigners. This is the explanation adopted by Gesenius, Knobel, and others. Sâphak with Cappaim signifies to clap hands (Job 27:23). The hiphil followed by Beth is only used here in the sense of striking hands with a person. Luzzatto explains it as meaning, "They find satisfaction in the children of foreigners; it is only through them that they are contented;" but this is contrary to the usage of the language, according to which hispik in post-biblical Hebrew signifies either suppeditare or (like saphak in Kg1 20:10) sufficere. Jerome renders it pueris alienis adhaeserunt; but yalde nâc'rim does not mean pueri alieni, boys hired for licentious purposes, but the "sons of strangers" generally (Isa 60:10; Isa 61:5), with a strong emphasis upon their unsanctified birth, the heathenism inherited from their mother's womb. With heathen by birth, the prophet would say, the people of Jehovah made common cause.
In Isa 2:7, Isa 2:8 he describes still further how the land of the people of Jehovah, in consequence of all this (on the future consec. see Ges. 129, 2, a), was crammed full of objects of luxury, of self-confidence, of estrangement from God: "And their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end of their treasures; and their land is filled with horses, and there is no end of their chariots. And their land is filled with - idols; the work of their own hands they worship, that which their own fingers have made." The glory of Solomon, which revived under Uzziah's fifty-two years' reign, and was sustained through Jotham's reign of sixteen years, carried with it the curse of the law; for the law of the king, in Deu 17:14., prohibited the multiplying of horses, and also the accumulation of gold and silver. Standing armies, and stores of national treasures, like everything else which ministers to carnal self-reliance, were opposed to the spirit of the theocracy. Nevertheless Judaea was immeasurably full of such seductions to apostasy; and not of those alone, but also of things which plainly revealed it, viz., of elilim, idols (the same word is used in Lev 19:4; Lev 26:1, from elil, vain or worthless; it is therefore equivalent to "not-gods"). They worshipped the work of "their own" hands, what "their own" fingers had made: two distributive singulars, as in Isa 5:23, the hands and fingers of every individual (vid., Mic 5:12-13, where the idols are classified). The condition of the land, therefore, was not only opposed to the law of the king, but at variance with the decalogue also. The existing glory was the most offensive caricature of the glory promised to the nation; for the people, whose God was one day to become the desire and salvation of all nations, had exchanged Him for the idols of the nations, and was vying with them in the appropriation of heathen religion and customs.
It was a state ripe for judgment, from which, therefore, the prophet could at once proceed, without any further preparation, to the proclamation of judgment itself."Thus, then, men are bowed down, and lords are brought low; and forgive them - no, that Thou wilt not." The consecutive futures depict the judgment, as one which would follow by inward necessity from the worldly and ungodly glory of the existing state of things. The future is frequently used in this way (for example, in Isa 9:7.). It was a judgment by which small and great, i.e., the people in all its classes, were brought down from their false eminence. "Men" and "lords" (âdâm and ish, as in Isa 5:15; Psa 49:3, and Pro 8:4, and like άνθρωπος and ανήρ in the Attic dialect), i.e., men who were lost in the crowd, and men who rose above it - all of them the judgment would throw down to the ground, and that without mercy (Rev 6:15). The prophet expresses the conviction (al as in Kg2 6:27), that on this occasion God neither could nor would take away the sin by forgiving it. There was nothing left for them, therefore, but to carry out the command of the prophet in Isa 2:10 : "Creep into the rock, and bury thyself in the dust, before the terrible look of Jehovah, and before the glory of His majesty." The glorious nation would hide itself most ignominiously, when the only true glory of Jehovah, which had been rejected by it, was manifested in judgment. They would conceal themselves in holes of the rocks, as if before a hostile army (Jdg 6:2; Sa1 13:6; Sa1 14:11), and bury themselves with their faces in the sand, as if before the fatal simōm of the desert, that they might not have to bear this intolerable sight. And when Jehovah manifested Himself in this way in the fiery glance of judgment, the result summed up in Isa 2:11 must follow: "The people's eyes of haughtiness are humbled, and the pride of their lords is bowed down; and Jehovah, He only, stands exalted in that day." The result of the process of judgment is expressed in perfects: nisgab is the third pers. praet., not the participle: Jehovah "is exalted," i.e., shows Himself as exalted, whilst the haughty conduct of the people is brought down (shâphel is a verb, not an adjective; it is construed in the singular by attraction, and either refers to âdâm, man or people: Ges. 148, 1; or what is more probable, to the logical unity of the compound notion which is taken as subject, the constr. ad synesin s. sensum: Thiersch, 118), and the pride of the lords is bowed down (shach = shâchach, Job 9:13). The first strophe of the proclamation of judgment appended to the prophetic saying in Isa 2:2-4 is here brought to a close. The second strophe reaches to Isa 2:17, where Isa 2:11 is repeated as a concluding verse.
The expression "that day" suggests the inquiry, What day is referred to? The prophet answers this question in the second strophe. "For Jehovah of hosts hath a day over everything towering and lofty, and over everything exalted; and it becomes low." "Jehovah hath a day" (yom layehovah), lit., there is to Jehovah a day, which already exists as a finished divine thought in that wisdom by which the course of history is guided (Isa 37:26, cf., Isa 22:11), the secret of which He revealed to the prophets, who from the time of Obadiah and Joel downwards proclaimed that day with one uniform watchword. But when the time appointed for that day should arrive, it would pass out of the secret of eternity into the history of time - a day of world-wide judgment, which would pass, through the omnipotence with which Jehovah rules over the hither as well as lower spheres of the whole creation, upon all worldly glory, and it would be brought low (shaphel). The current accentuation of Isa 2:12 is wrong; correct MSS have על with mercha, כל־נשׂא with tifcha. The word v'shâphel (third pers. praet. with the root-vowel ee) acquires the force of a future, although no grammatical future precedes it, from the future character of the day itself: "and it will sink down" (Ges. 126, 4).
The prophet then proceeds to enumerate all the high things upon which that day would fall, arranging them two and two, and binding them in pairs by a double correlative Vav. The day of Jehovah comes, as the first two pairs affirm, upon everything lofty in nature. "As upon all the cedars of Lebanon, the lofty and exalted, so upon all the oaks of Bashan. As upon all mountains, the lofty ones, so upon all hills the exalted ones." But wherefore upon all this majestic beauty of nature? Is all this merely figurative? Knobel regards it as merely a figurative description of the grand buildings of the time of Uzziah and Jotham, in the erection of which wood had been used from Lebanon as well as from Bashan, on the western slopes of which the old shady oaks (sindiân and ballūt) are flourishing still.
(Note: On the meaning of the name of this region, Bashan (Basanitis), see Comm. on Job, Appendix, Eng. Tr.)
But the idea that trees can be used to signify the houses built with the good obtained from them, is one that cannot be sustained from Isa 9:9 (10.), where the reference is not to houses built of sycamore and cedar wood, but to trunks of trees of the king mentioned; nor even from Nah 2:4 (3.), where habberoshim refers to the fir lances which are brandished about in haughty thirst for battle. So again mountains and hills cannot denote the castles and fortifications built upon them, more especially as these are expressly mentioned in Isa 2:15 in the most literal terms. In order to understand the prophet, we must bear in mind what the Scriptures invariably assume, from their first chapter to the very close, namely, that the totality of nature is bound up with man in one common history; that man and the totality of nature are inseparably connected together as centre and circumference; that this circumference is affected by the sin which proceeds from man, as well as by the anger or the mercy which proceeds from God to man; that the judgments of God, as the history of the nations proves, involve in fellow-suffering even that part of the creation which is not free; and that this participation in the "corruption" (phthora) and "glory" (doxa) of humanity will come out with peculiar distinctness and force at the close of the world's history, in a manner corresponding to the commencement; and lastly, that the world in its present condition needs a palingenesia, or regeneration, quite as much as the corporeal nature of man, before it can become an object of good pleasure on the part of God. We cannot be surprised, therefore, that, in accordance with this fundamental view of the Scriptures, when the judgment of God fell upon Israel, it should also be described as going down to the land of Israel, and as overthrowing not only the false glory of the nation itself, but everything glorious in the surrounding nature, which had been made to minister to its national pride and love of show, and to which its sin adhered in many different ways. What the prophet foretold began to be fulfilled even in the Assyrian wars. The cedar woods of Lebanon were unsparingly destroyed; the heights and valleys of the land were trodden down and laid waste; and, in the period of the great empires which commenced with Tiglath-pileser, the Holy Land was reduced to a shadow of its former promised beauty.
The glory of nature is followed by what is lofty and glorious in the world of men, such as magnificent fortifications, grand commercial buildings, and treasures which minister to the lust of the eye. "As upon every high tower, so upon every fortified wall. As upon all ships of Tarshish, so upon all works of curiosity." It was by erecting fortifications for offence and defence, both lofty and steep (bâzur, praeruptus, from bâzar, abrumpere, secernere), that Uzziah and Jotham especially endeavoured to serve Jerusalem and the land at large. The chronicler relates, with reference to Uzziah, in 2 Chron 26, that he built strong towers above "the corner-gate, the valley-gate, and the southern point of the cheesemakers' hollow," and fortified these places, which had probably been till that time the weakest points in Jerusalem; also that he built towers in the desert (probably in the desert between Beersheba and Gaza, to increase the safety of the land, and the numerous flocks which were pastured in the shephelah, i.e., the western portion of southern Palestine). With regard to Jotham, it is related in both the book of Kings (Kg2 15:32.) and the Chronicles, that he built the upper gate of the temple; and in the Chronicles (Ch2 27:1-9) that he fortified the 'Ofel, i.e., the southern spur of the temple hill, still more strongly, and built cities on the mountains of Judah, and erected castles and towers in the forests (to watch for hostile attacks and ward them off). Hezekiah also distinguished himself by building enterprises of this kind (Ch2 32:27-30). But the allusion to the ships of Tarshish takes us to the times of Uzziah and Jotham, and not to those of Hezekiah (as Psa 48:7 does to the time of Jehoshaphat); for the seaport town of Elath, which was recovered by Uzziah, was lost again to the kingdom of Judah during the reign of Ahaz. Jewish ships sailed from this Elath (Ailath) through the Red Sea and round the coast of Africa to the harbour of Tartessus, the ancient Phoenician emporium of the maritime region watered by the Baetis (Guadalquivir), which abounded in silver, and then returned through the Pillars of Hercules (the Straits of Gibraltar: vid., Duncker, Gesch. i. 312-315). It was to these Tartessus vessels that the expression "ships of Tarshish" primarily referred, though it was afterwards probably applied to mercantile ships in general. The following expression, "works of curiosity" (sechiyyoth hachemdah), is taken in far too restricted a sense by those who limit it, as the lxx have done, to the ships already spoken of, or understand it, as Gesenius does, as referring to beautiful flags. Jerome's rendering is correct: "et super omne quod visu pulcrum est" (and upon everything beautiful to look at); seciyyâh, from sâcâh, to look, is sight generally. The reference therefore is to all kinds of works of art, whether in sculpture or paintings (mascith is used of both), which delighted the observer by their imposing, tasteful appearance. Possibly, however, there is a more especial reference to curiosities of art and nature, which were brought by the trading vessels from foreign lands.
Isa 2:17 closes the second strophe of the proclamation of judgment appended to the earlier prophetic word: "And the haughtiness of the people is bowed down, and the pride of the lords brought low; and Jehovah, He alone, stands exalted on that day." The closing refrain only varies a little from Isa 2:11. The subjects of the verbs are transposed. With a feminine noun denoting a thing, it is almost a rule that the predicate shall be placed before it in masculine (Ges. 147, a).
The closing refrain of the next two strophes is based upon the concluding clause of Isa 2:10. The proclamation of judgment turns now to the elilim, which, as being at the root of all the evil, occupied the lowest place in the things of which the land was full (Isa 2:7, Isa 2:8). In a short v. of one clause consisting of only three words, their future is declared as it were with a lightning-flash. "And the idols utterly pass away." The translation shows the shortness of the verse, but not the significant synallage numeri. The idols are one and all a mass of nothingness, which will be reduced to absolute annihilation: they will vanish Câlil, i.e., either "they will utterly perish" (funditus peribunt), or, as Câlil is not used adverbially in any other passage, "they will all perish" (tota peribunt, Jdg 20:40) - their images, their worship, even their names and their memory (Zac 13:2).
What the idolaters themselves will do when Jehovah has so completely deprived their idols of all their divinity, is then described in Isa 2:19 : "And they will creep into caves in the rocks, and cellars in the earth, before the terrible look of Jehovah, and before the glory of His majesty, when He ariseth to put the earth in terror." Meârâh is a natural cave, and mechillah a subterraneous excavation: this is apparently the distinction between the two synonyms. "To put the earth in terror:" lârotz hâ-aretz, a significant paronomasia, which can be reproduced in Latin, thus: ut terreat terram. Thus the judgment would fall upon the earth without any limitation, upon men universally (compare the word hâ-âdâm in Isa 2:20, which is scarcely ever applied to a single individual (Jos 14:15), excepting, of course, the first man, but generally to men, or to the human race) and upon the totality of nature as interwoven in the history of man - one complete whole, in which sin, and therefore wrath, had gained the upper hand. When Jehovah rose up, i.e., stood up from His heavenly throne, to reveal the glory manifested in heaven, and turn its judicial fiery side towards the sinful earth, the earth would receive such a shock as would throw it into a state resembling the chaos of the beginning. We may see very clearly from Rev 6:15, where this description is borrowed, that the prophet is here describing the last judgment, although from a national point of view and bounded by a national horizon.
Isa 2:20 forms the commencement to the fourth strophe: "In that day will a man cast away his idols of gold and his idols of silver, which they made for him to worship, to the moles and to the bats." The traditional text separates lachpor peroth into two words,
(Note: Abulwali=d Parchon and others regard the double word as the singular of a substantive, applied to a particular bird (possibly a woodpecker), as a pecker of fruit (peroth). Kimchi would rather take lachpor as an infinitive (as in Jos 2:2), to dig pits; and compares with it the talmudic word pēr, a pit or grave. No one adopts the rendering "into mouse-holes," simply because pērah, a mouse (from an Arabic word fa'ara, to dig, or root up), was not a Hebrew word at all, but was adopted at a later period from the Arabic (hence the Hebraeo-Arabic purah, a mousetrap).)
though without its being possible to discover what they are supposed to mean. The reason for the separation was simply the fact that plurilitera were at one time altogether misunderstood and regarded as Composita: for other plurilitera, written as two words, compare Isa 61:1; Hos 4:18; Jer 46:20. The prophet certainly pronounced the word lachparpâroth (Ewald, 157, c); and Chapharpârâh is apparently a mole (lit. thrower up of the soil), talpa, as it is rendered by Jerome and interpreted by Rashi. Gesenius and Knobel, however, have raised this objection, that the mole is never found in houses. But are we necessarily to assume that they would throw their idols into lumber-rooms, and not hide them in holes and crevices out of doors? The mole, the shrew-mouse, and the bat, whose name (atalleph) is regarded by Schultens as a compound word (atal-eph, night-bird), are generically related, according to both ancient and modern naturalists. Bats are to birds what moles are to the smaller beasts of prey (vid., Levysohn, Zoologie des Talmud, p. 102). The lxx combine with these two words l'hishtachavoth (to worship). Malbim and Luzzatto adopt this rendering, and understand the words to mean that they would sink down to the most absurd descriptions of animal worship. But the accentuation, which does not divide the v. at עשׂוּ־לו, as we should expect if this were the meaning, is based upon the correct interpretation. The idolaters, convinced of the worthlessness of their idols through the judicial interposition of God, and enraged at the disastrous manner in which they had been deceived, would throw away with curses the images of gold and silver which artists' hands had made according to their instructions, and hide them in the holes of bats and in mole-hills, to conceal them from the eyes of the Judge, and then take refuge there themselves after ridding themselves of this useless and damnable burden.
"To creep into the cavities of the stone-blocks, and into the clefts of the rocks, before the terrible look of Jehovah, and before the glory of His majesty, when He arises to put the earth in terror." Thus ends the fourth strophe of this "dies irae, dies illa," which is appended to the earlier prophetic word. But there follows, as an epiphonem, this nota bene in Isa 2:22 : Oh, then, let man go, in whose nose is a breath; for what is he estimated at? The Septuagint leaves this v. out altogether. But was it so utterly unintelligible then? Jerome adopted a false pointing, and has therefore given this marvellous rendering: excelsus (bâmâh!) reputatus est ipse, by which Luther was apparently misled. But if we look backwards and forwards, it is impossible to mistake the meaning of the verse, which must be regarded not only as the resultant of what precedes it, but also as the transition to what follows. It is preceded by the prediction of the utter demolition of everything which ministers to the pride and vain confidence of men; and in Isa 3:1. the same prediction is resumed, with a more special reference to the Jewish state, from which Jehovah is about to take away every prop, so that it shall utterly collapse. Accordingly the prophet exhorts, in Isa 2:22, to a renunciation of trust in man, and everything belonging to him, just as in Psa 118:8-9; Psa 146:3, and Jer 17:5. The construction is as general as that of a gnome. The dat. Commodi לכם (Ges. 154, 3, e) renders the exhortation both friendly and urgent: from regard to yourselves, for your own good, for your own salvation, desist from man, i.e., from your confidence in him, in whose nose (in cujus naso, the singular, as in Job 27:3; whereas the plural is used in Gen 2:7 in the same sense, in nares ejus, "into his nostrils") is a breath, a breath of life, which God gave to him, and can take back as soon as He will (Job 34:14; Psa 104:29). Upon the breath, which passes out and in through his nose, his whole earthly existence is suspended; and this, when once lost, is gone for ever (Job 7:7). It is upon this breath, therefore, that all the confidence placed in man must rest - a bad soil and foundation! Under these conditions, and with this liability to perish in a moment, the worth of man as a ground of confidence is really nothing. This thought is expressed here in the form of a question: At (for) what is he estimated, or to be estimated? The passive participle nechshâb combines with the idea of the actual (aestimatus) that of the necessary (aestimandus), and also of the possible or suitable (aestimabilis); and that all the more because the Semitic languages have no special forms for the latter notions. The Beth is Beth pretı̄, corresponding to the Latin genitive (quanti) or ablative (quanto) - a modification of the Beth instrumenti, the price being regarded as the medium of exchange or purchase: "at what is he estimated," not with what is he compared, which would be expressed by ‛eth (Isa 53:12; compare μετά, Luk 22:37) or ‛im (Psa 88:5). The word is בּמּה, not בּמּה, because this looser form is only found in cases where a relative clause follows (eo quod, Ecc 3:22), and not bama=h, because this termination with ā is used exclusively where the next word begins with Aleph, or where it is a pausal word (as in Kg1 22:21); in every other case we have bammeh. The question introduced with this quanto (quanti), "at what," cannot be answered by any positive definition of value. The worth of man, regarded in himself, and altogether apart from God, is really nothing.
The proclamation of judgment pauses at this porisma, but only for the purpose of gathering fresh strength. The prophet has foretold in four strophes the judgment of God upon every exalted thing in the kosmos that has fallen away from communion with God, just as Amos commences his book with a round of judgments, which are uttered in seven strophes of uniform scope, bursting like seven thunder-claps upon the nations of the existing stage of history. The seventh stroke falls upon Judah, over which the thunderstorm rests after finding such abundant booty. And in the same manner Isaiah, in the instance before us, reduces the universal proclamation of judgment to one more especially affecting Judah and Jerusalem. The current of the address breaks through the bounds of the strophe; and the exhortation in Isa 2:22 not to trust in man, the reason for which is assigned in what precedes, also forms a transition from the universal proclamation of judgment to the more special one in Isa 3:1, where the prophet assigns a fresh ground for the exhortation.