Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Strophe 4. "Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and to the writers who prepare trouble to force away the needy from demanding justice, and to rob the suffering of my people of their rightful claims, that widows may become their prey, and they plunder orphans! And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the storm that cometh from afar? To whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye deposit your glory? There is nothing left but to bow down under prisoners, and they fall under the slain. With all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still." This last strophe is directed against the unjust authorities and judges. The woe pronounced upon them is, as we have already frequently seen, Isaiah's Ceterum censeo. Châkak is their decisive decree (not, however, in a denominative sense, but in the primary sense of hewing in, recording in official documents, Isa 30:8; Job 19:23); and Cittēb (piel only occurring here, and a perfect, according to Gesenius, 126, 3) their official signing and writing. Their decrees are Chikekē 'aven (an open plural, as in Jdg 5:15, for Chukkē, after the analogy of גללי, עממי, with an absolute Chăkâkim underlying it: Ewald, 186-7), inasmuch as their contents were worthlessness, i.e., the direct opposite of morality; and what they wrote out was ‛âmâl, trouble, i.e., an unjust oppression of the people (compare πόνος and πονηρός).
(Note: The current accentuation, ומכתבים mercha, עמל tiphchah, is wrong. The true accentuation would be the former with tiphchah (and metheg), the latter with mercha; for ‛âmâl cittēbu is an attributive (an elliptical relative) clause. According to its etymon, ‛âmâl seems to stand by the side of μῶλος, moles, molestus (see Pott in Kuhn's Zeitschrift, ix. 202); but within the Semitic itself it stands by the side of אמל, to fade, marcescere, which coincides with the Sanscrit root mlâ and its cognates (see Leo Meyer, Vergleichende Grammatik, i. 353), so that ‛âmâl is, strictly speaking, to wear out or tire out (vulg. to worry).)
Poor persons who wanted to commence legal proceedings were not even allowed to do so, and possessions to which widows and orphans had a well-founded claim were a welcome booty to them (for the diversion into the finite verb, see Isa 5:24; Isa 8:11; Isa 49:5; Isa 58:5). For all this they could not escape the judgment of God. This is announced to them in Isa 10:3, in the form of three distinct questions (commencing with ūmâh, quid igitur). The noun pekuddah in the first question always signifies simply a visitation of punishment; sho'âh is a confused, dull, desolate rumbling, hence confusion (turba), desolation: here it is described as "coming from afar," because a distant nation (Asshur) was the instrument of God's wrath. Second question: "Upon whom will ye throw yourselves in your search for help then" (nūs ‛al, a constr. praegnans, only met with here)? Third question: "Where, i.e., in whose hand, will ye deposit your wealth in money and possessions" (câbōd, what is weighty in value and imposing in appearance); ‛âzab with b'yad (Gen 39:6), or with Lamed (Job 39:14), to leave anything with a person as property in trust. No one would relieve them of their wealth, and hold it as a deposit; it was irrecoverably lost. To this negative answer there is appended the following bilti, which, when used as a preposition after a previous negation, signifies praeter; when used as a conjunction, nisi (bilti 'im, Jdg 7:14); and where it governs the whole sentence, as in this case, nisi quod (cf., Num 11:6; Dan 11:18). In the present instance, where the previous negation is to be supplied in thought, it has the force of nil reliquum est nisi quod (there is nothing left but). The singular verb (câra‛) is used contemptuously, embracing all the high persons as one condensed mass; and tachath does not mean aeque ac or loco (like, or in the place of), as Ewald (217, k) maintains, but is used in the primary and local sense of infra (below). Some crouch down to find room at the feet of the prisoners, who are crowded closely together in the prison; or if we suppose the prophet to have a scene of transportation in his mind, they sink down under the feet of the other prisoners, in their inability to bear such hardships, whilst the rest fall in war; and as the slaughter is of long duration, not only become corpses themselves, but are covered with corpses of the slain (cf., Isa 14:19). And even with this the wrath of God is not satisfied. The prophet, however, does not follow out the terrible gradation any further. Moreover, the captivity, to which this fourth strophe points, actually formed the conclusion of a distinct period.
The law of contrast prevails in prophecy, as it does also in the history of salvation. When distress is at its height, it is suddenly brought to an end, and changed into relief; and when prophecy has become as black with darkness as in the previous section, it suddenly becomes as bright and cloudless as in that which is opening now. The hoi (woe) pronounced upon Israel becomes a hoi upon Asshur. Proud Asshur, with its confidence in its own strength, after having served for a time as the goad of Jehovah's wrath, now falls a victim to that wrath itself. Its attack upon Jerusalem leads to its own overthrow; and on the ruins of the kingdom of the world there rises up the kingdom of the great and righteous Son of David, who rules in peace over His redeemed people, and the nations that rejoice in Him: - the counterpart of the redemption from Egypt, and one as rich in materials for songs of praise as the passage through the Red Sea. The Messianic prophecy, which turns its darker side towards unbelief in chapter 7, and whose promising aspect burst like a great light through the darkness in Isaiah 8:5-9:6, is standing now upon its third and highest stage. In chapter 7 it is like a star in the night; in Isaiah 8:5-9:6, like the morning dawn; and now the sky is perfectly cloudless, and it appears like the noonday sun. The prophet has now penetrated to the light fringe of Isa 6:1-13. The name Shear-yashub, having emptied itself of all the curse that it contained, is now transformed into a pure promise. And it becomes perfectly clear what the name Immanuel and the name given to Immanuel, El gibbor (mighty God), declared. The remnant of Israel turns to God the mighty One; and God the mighty is henceforth with His people in the Sprout of Jesse, who has the seven Spirits of God dwelling within Himself. So far as the date of composition is concerned, the majority of the more recent commentators agree in assigning it to the time of Hezekiah, because Isa 10:9-11 presupposes the destruction of Samaria by Shalmanassar, which took place in the sixth year of Hezekiah. But it was only from the prophet's point of view that this event was already past; it had not actually taken place. The prophet had already predicted that Samaria, and with Samaria the kingdom of Israel, would succumb to the Assyrians, and had even fixed the years (Isa 7:8 and Isa 8:4, Isa 8:7). Why, then, should he not be able to presuppose it here as an event already past? The stamp on this section does not tally at all with that of Isaiah's prophecy in the times of Hezekiah; whereas, on the other hand, it forms so integral a link in the prophetic cycle in chapters 7-12, and is interwoven in so many ways with that which precedes, and of which it forms both the continuation and crown, that we have no hesitation in assigning it, with Vitringa, Caspari, and Drechsler, to the first three years of the reign of Ahaz, though without deciding whether it preceded or followed the destruction of the two allies by Tiglath-pileser. It is by no means impossible that it may have preceded it.
The prophet commences with hoi (woe!), which is always used as an expression of wrathful indignation to introduce the proclamation of judgment upon the person named; although, as in the present instance, this may not always follow immediately (cf., Isa 1:4, Isa 1:5-9), but may be preceded by the announcement of the sin by which the judgment had been provoked. In the first place, Asshur is more particularly indicated as the chosen instrument of divine judgment upon all Israel. "Woe to Asshur, the rod of mine anger, and it is a staff in their hand, mine indignation. Against a wicked nation will I send them, and against the people of my wrath give them a charge, to spoil spoil, and to prey prey, to make it trodden down like street-mire." "Mine indignation:" za‛mi is either a permutation of the predicative הוּא, which is placed emphatically in the foreground (compare the אתּה־הּוּא in Jer 14:22, which is also written with makkeph), as we have translated it, though without taking הוּא as a copula (= est), as Ewald does; or else בידם הוּא is written elliptically for בידם הוּא אשׁר, "the staff which they hold is mine indignation" (Ges., Rosenmller, and others), in which case, however, we should rather expect הוא זעמי בידם ומטה. It is quite inadmissible, however, to take za‛mi as a separate genitive to matteh, and to point the latter with zere, as Knobel has done; a thing altogether unparalleled in the Hebrew language.
(Note: In the Arabic, such a separation does occur as a poetical licence (see De Sacy, Gramm. t. ii. 270).)
The futures in Isa 10:6 are to be taken literally; for what Asshur did to Israel in the sixty year of Hezekiah's reign, and to Judah in his fourteenth year, was still in the future at the time when Isaiah prophesied. Instead of וּלשׂימו the keri has וּלשׂוּמו, the form in which the infinitive is written in other passages when connected with suffixes (see, on the other hand, Sa2 14:7). "Trodden down:" mirmas with short a is the older form, which was retained along with the other form with the a lengthened by the tone (Ewald 160, c).
Asshur was to be an instrument of divine wrath upon all Israel; but it would exalt itself, and make itself the end instead of the means. Isa 10:7 "Nevertheless he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; for it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few." Asshur did not think so (lo'-cēn), i.e., not as he ought to think, seeing that his power over Israel was determined by Jehovah Himself. For what filled his heart was the endeavour, peculiar to the imperial power, to destroy not a few nations, i.e., as many nations as possible, for the purpose of extending his own dominions, and with the determination to tolerate no other independent nation, and the desire to deal with Judah as with all the rest. For Jehovah was nothing more in his esteem than one of the idols of the nations. Isa 10:8-11 "For he saith, Are not my generals all kings? Is not Calno as Carchemish, or Hamath as Arpad, or Samaria as Damascus? As my hand hath reached the kingdoms of the idols, and their graven images were more than those of Jerusalem and Samaria; shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, do likewise to Jerusalem and her idols?" The king of Asshur bore the title of the great king (Isa 36:4), and indeed, as we may infer from Eze 26:7, that of the king of kings. The generals in his army he could call kings,
(Note: The question is expressed in Hebrew phraseology, since sar in Assyrian was a superior title to that of melek, as we may see from inscriptions and proper names.)
because the satraps
(Note: Satrapes is the old Persian (arrow-headed) khshatra (Sanscr. xatra) pâvan, i.e., keeper of government. Pâvan (nom. pâvâ), which occurs in the Zendik as an independent word pavan (nom. pavao) in the sense of sentry or watchman, is probably the original of the Hebrew pechâh (see Spiegel, in Kohler on Mal 1:8).)
who led their several contingents were equal to kings in the extent and splendour of their government, and some of them were really conquered kings (cf., Kg2 25:28). He proudly asks whether every one of the cities named has not been as incapable as the rest, of offering a successful resistance to him. Carchemish is the later Circesium (Cercusium), at the junction of the Chaboras with the Euphrates (see above); Calno, the later Ctesiphon, on the left bank of the Tigris; Arpad (according to Mershid, i. p. 47, in the pashalic of Chaleb, i.e., Aleppo) and Hamath (i.e., Epiphania) were Syrian cities, the latter on the river Orontes, still a large and wealthy place. The king of Asshur had also already conquered Samaria, at the time when the prophet introduced him as uttering these words. Jerusalem, therefore, would be unable to resist him. As he had obtained possession of idolatrous kingdoms (ל מעא, to reach, as in Psa 21:9 : hâ-'elil with the article indicating the genus), which had more idols than Jerusalem or than Samaria; so would he also overcome Jerusalem, which had just as few and just as powerless idols as Samaria had. Observe there that Isa 10:11 is the apodosis to Isa 10:10, and that the comparative clause of Isa 10:10 is repeated in Isa 10:11, for the purpose of instituting a comparison, more especially with Samaria and Jerusalem. The king of Asshur calls the gods of the nations by the simple name of idols, though the prophet does not therefore make him speak from his own Israelitish standpoint. On the contrary, the great sin of the king of Asshur consisted in the manner in which he spoke. For since he recognised no other gods than his own Assyrian national deities, he placed Jehovah among the idols of the nations, and, what ought particularly to be observed, with the other idols, whose worship had been introduced into Samaria and Jerusalem. But in this very fact there was so far consolation for the worshippers of Jehovah, that such blasphemy of the one living God would not remain unavenged; whilst for the worshipers of idols it contained a painful lesson, since their gods really deserved nothing better than that contempt should be heaped upon them. The prophet has now described the sin of Asshur. It was ambitious self-exaltation above Jehovah, amounting even to blasphemy. And yet he was only the staff of Jehovah, who could make use of him as He would.
And when He had made use of him as He would, He would throw him away. "And it will come to pass, when the Lord shall have brought to an end all His work upon Mount Zion and upon Jerusalem, I will come to punish over the fruit of the pride of heart of the king of Asshur, and over the haughty look of his eyes." The "fruit" (peri) of the heart's pride of Asshur is his vainglorious blasphemy of Jehovah, in which his whole nature is comprehended, as the inward nature of the tree is in the fruit which hangs above in the midst of the branches; tiph'ereth, as in Zac 12:7, the self-glorification which expresses itself in the lofty look of the eyes. Several constructives are here intentionally grouped together (Ges. 114, 1), to express the great swelling of Asshur even to bursting. But Jehovah, before whom humility is the soul of all virtue, would visit this pride with punishment, when He should have completely cut off His work, i.e., when He should have thoroughly completed (bizza', absolvere) His punitive work upon Jerusalem (ma‛aseh, as in Isa 28:21). The prep. Beth is used in the same sense as in Jer 18:23, agere cum aliquo. It is evident that ma‛aseh is not used to indicate the work of punishment and grace together, so that yebazza‛ could be taken as a literal future (as Schrring and Ewald suppose), but that it denotes the work of punishment especially; and consequently yebazza‛ is to be taken as a futurum exactum (cf., Isa 4:4), as we may clearly see from the choice of this word in Lam 2:17 (cf., Zac 4:9).
When Jehovah had punished to such an extent that He could not go any further without destroying Israel - a result which would be opposed to His mercy and truth - His punishing would turn against the instrument of punishment, which would fall under the curse of all ungodly selfishness. "For he hath said, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my own wisdom; for I am prudent: and I removed the bounds of the nations, and I plundered their stores, and threw down rulers
(Note: Thronende, lit., those who sat (on thrones).)
like a bull. And my hand extracted the wealth of the nations like a nest: and as men sweep up forsaken eggs, have I swept the whole earth; there was none that moved the wing, and opened the mouth, and chirped." The futures may be taken most safely as regulated by the preterites, and used, like German imperfects, to express that which occurs not once merely, but several times. The second of these preterites, שׁושׂיתי, is the only example of a poel of verbs ל ה; possibly a mixed form from שׁסס (poel of שסס) and שהסה (piel of שסה). The object to this, viz., ‛athidoth (chethib) or ‛athudoth (keri), is sometimes used in the sense of τὰ μέλλοντα ; sometimes, as in this instance, in the sense of τὰ ὑπάρχοντα . According to the keri, the passage is to be rendered, "And I, a mighty one, threw down kings" (those sitting on thrones), cabbir being taken in the same sense as in Job 34:17, Job 34:24; Job 36:5. But the chethib câ'abbı̄r is to be preferred as more significant, and not to be rendered "as a hero" (to which the Caph similitudinis is so little suitable, that it would be necessary to take it, as in Isa 13:6, as Caph veritatis), but "as a bull," 'abbı̄r as in Psa 68:31; Psa 22:13; Psa 50:13. A bull, as the excavations show, was an emblem of royalty among the Assyrians. In Isa 10:14, the more stringent Vav conv. is introduced before the third pers. fem. The Kingdoms of the nations are compared here to birds' nests, which the Assyrian took for himself ('âsaph, as in Hab 2:5); and their possessions to single eggs. The mother bird was away, so that there was not even a sign of resistance; and in the nest itself not one of the young birds moved a wing to defend itself, or opened its beak to scare the intruder away. Seb. Schmid has interpreted to correctly, "nulla alam movet ad defendendum aut os aperit ad terrendum." Thus proudly did Asshur look back upon its course of victory, and thus contemptuously did it look down upon the conquered kingdoms.
This self-exaltation was a foolish sin. "Dare the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith, or the saw magnify itself against him that useth it? As if a staff were to swing those that lift it up, as if a stick should lift up not-wood!" "Not-wood" is to be taken as one word, as in Isa 31:8. A stick is wood, and nothing more; in itself it is an absolutely motionless thing. A man is "not-wood," an incomparably higher, living being. As there must be "not-wood" to lay hold of wood, so, wherever a man performs extraordinary deeds, there is always a superhuman cause behind, viz., God Himself, who bears the same relation to the man as the man to the wood. The boasting of the Assyrian was like the bragging of an instrument, such as an axe, a saw, or a stick, against the person using it. The verb hēnı̄ph is applied both to saw and stick, indicating the oscillating movements of a measured and more or less obvious character. The plural, "those that lift it up," points to the fact that by Him who lifts up the stock, Jehovah, the cause of all causes, and power of all powers, is intended.
There follows in the next v. the punishment provoked by such self-deification (cf., Hab 1:11). "Therefore will the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send consumption against his fat men; and under Asshur's glory there burns a brand like a firebrand." Three epithets are here employed to designate God according to His unlimited, all-controlling omnipotence: viz., hâ'âdōn, which is always used by Isaiah in connection with judicial and penal manifestations of power; and adonâi zebâoth, a combination never met with again, similar to the one used in the Elohistic Psalms, Elohim zebaoth (compare, on the other hand, Isa 3:15; Isa 10:23-24). Even here a large number of codices and editions (Norzi's, for example) have the reading Jehovah Zebaoth, which is customary in other cases.
(Note: This passage is not included in the 134 vaddâ'ı̄n (i.e., "real") adonai, or passages in which adonai is written, and not merely to be read, that are enumerated by the Masora (see Br's Psalterium, p. 133).)
Râzōn (Isa 17:4) is one of the diseases mentioned in the catalogue of curses in Lev 26:16 and Deu 28:22. Galloping consumption comes like a destroying angel upon the great masses of flesh seen in the well-fed Assyrian magnates: mishmannim is used in a personal sense, as in Psa 78:31. And under the glory of Asshur, i.e., its richly equipped army (câbōd as in Isa 8:7), He who makes His angels flames of fire places fire so as to cause it to pass away in flames. In accordance with Isaiah's masterly art of painting in tones, the whole passage is so expressed, that we can hear the crackling, and spluttering, and hissing of the fire, as it seizes upon everything within its reach. This fire, whatever it may be so far as its natural and phenomenal character is concerned, is in its true essence the wrath of Jehovah.
"And the light of Israel becomes a fire, and His Holy One a flame; and it sets on fire and devours its thistles and thorns on one day." God is fire (Deu 9:3), and light (Jo1 1:5); and in His own self-life the former is resolved into the latter. Kâdōsh (holy) is here parallel to 'ōr (light); for the fact that God is holy, and the fact that He is pure light, are essentially one and the same thing, whether kâdash meant originally to be pure or to be separate. The nature of all creatures, and of the whole cosmos, is a mixture of light and darkness. The nature of God alone is absolute light. But light is love. In this holy light of love He has given Himself up to Israel, and taken Israel to Himself. But He has also within Him a basis of fire, which sin excites against itself, and which was about to burst forth as a flaming fire of wrath against Asshur, on account of its sins against Him and His people. Before this fire of wrath, this destructive might of His penal righteousness, the splendid forces of Asshur were nothing but a mass of thistles and a bed of thorns (written here in the reverse order peculiar to Isaiah, shâmı̄r vâshaith), equally inflammable, and equally deserving to be burned. To all appearance, it was a forest and a park, but is was irrecoverably lost.
"And the glory of his forest and his garden-ground will He destroy, even to soul and flesh, so that it is as when a sick man dieth. And the remnant of the trees of his forest can be numbered, and a boy could write them." The army of Asshur, composed as it was of many and various nations, was a forest (ya‛ar); and, boasting as it did of the beauty of both men and armour, a garden ground (carmel), a human forest and park. Hence the idea of "utterly" is expressed in the proverbial "even to soul and flesh," which furnishes the occasion for a leap to the figure of the wasting away of a נסס (hap. leg. the consumptive man, from nâsas, related to nūsh, 'ânash, Syr. n‛sı̄so, n‛shisho, a sick man, based upon the radical notion of melting away, cf., mâsas, or of reeling to and fro, cf., mūt, nūt, Arab. nâsa, nâta). Only a single vital spark would still glimmer in the gigantic and splendid colossus, and with this its life would threaten to become entirely extinct. Or, what is the same thing, only a few trees of the forest, such as could be easily numbered (mispâr as in Deu 33:6, cf., Isa 21:17), would still remain, yea, so few, that a boy would be able to count and enter them. And this really came to pass. Only a small remnant of the army that marched against Jerusalem ever escaped. With this small remnant of an all-destroying power the prophet now contrasts the remnant of Israel, which is the seed of a new power that is about to arise.
"And it will come to pass in that day, the remnant of Israel, and that which has escaped of the house of Jacob, will not continue to stay itself upon its chastiser, and will stay itself upon Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, in truth." Behind the judgment upon Asshur there lies the restoration of Israel. "The chastiser" was the Assyrian. While relying upon this, Israel received strokes, because Jehovah made Israel's staff into its rod. But henceforth it would sanctify the Holy One of Israel, putting its trust in Him and not in man, and that purely and truly (be'emeth, "in truth"), not with fickleness and hypocrisy. Then would be fulfilled the promise contained in the name Shear-yashub, after the fulfilment of the threat that it contained.
"The remnant will turn, the remnant of Jacob, to God the mighty." El gibbor is God as historically manifested in the heir of David (Isa 9:6). Whilst Hosea (Hos 3:5) places side by side Jehovah and the second David, Isaiah sees them as one. In New Testament phraseology, it would be "to God in Christ."
To Him the remnant of Israel would turn, but only the remnant. "For if thy people were even as the sea-sand, the remnant thereof will turn: destruction is firmly determined, flowing away righteousness. For the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, completes the finishing stroke and that which is firmly determined, within the whole land." As the words are not preceded by any negative clause, ci 'im are not combined in the sense of sed or nisi; but they belong to two sentences, and signify nam si (for if). If the number of the Israelites were the highest that had been promised, only the remnant among them, or of them (bō partitive, like the French en), would turn, or, as the nearer definition ad Deum is wanting here, come back to their right position. With regard to the great mass, destruction was irrevocably determined (râchatz, τέμνειν, then to resolve upon anything, ἀποτόμως, Kg1 20:40); and this destruction "overflowed with righteousness," or rather "flowed on (shōtēph, as in Isa 28:18) righteousness," i.e., brought forth righteousness as it flowed onwards, so that it was like a swell of the penal righteousness of God (shâtaph, with the accusative, according to Ges. 138, Anm. 2). That cillâyōn is not used here in the sense of completion any more than in Deu 28:65, is evident from Isa 10:23, where câlâh (fem. of câleh, that which vanishes, then the act of vanishing, the end) is used interchangeably with it, and necherâtzâh indicates judgment as a thing irrevocably decided (as in Isa 28:22, and borrowed from these passages in Dan 9:27; Dan 11:36). Such a judgment of extermination the almighty Judge had determined to carry fully out (‛ōseh in the sense of a fut. instans) within all the land (b'kereb, within, not b'thok, in the midst of), that is to say, one that would embrace the whole land and all the people, and would destroy, if not every individual without exception, at any rate the great mass, except a very few.
In these esoteric addresses, whoever, it is not the prophet's intention to threaten and terrify, but to comfort and encourage. He therefore turns to that portion of the nation which needs and is susceptible of consolation, and draws this conclusion from the element of consolation contained in what has been already predicted, that they may be consoled. - "Therefore thus saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, My people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of Asshur, if it shall smite thee with the rod, and lift its stick against thee, in the manner of Egypt." "Therefore:" lacēn never occurs in Hebrew in the sense of attamen (Gesenius and Hitzig), and this is not the meaning here, but propterea. The elevating appeal is founded upon what has just before been threatened in such terrible words, but at the same time contains an element of promise in the midst of the peremptory judgment. The very words in which the people are addressed, "My people that dwelleth on Zion," are indirectly encouraging. Zion was the site of the gracious presence of God, and of that sovereignty which had been declared imperishable. Those who dwelt there, and were the people of God (the servants of God), not only according to their calling, but also according to their internal character, were also heirs of the promise; and therefore, even if the Egyptian bondage should be renewed in the Assyrian, they might be assured of this to their consolation, that the redemption of Egypt would also be renewed. "In the manner of Egypt:" b'derek Mitzraim, lit., in the way, i.e., the Egyptians' mode of acting; derek denotes the course of active procedure, and also, as in Isa 10:26 and Amo 4:10, the course of passive endurance.
A still further reason is given for the elevating words, with a resumption of the grounds of consolation upon which they were founded. "For yet a very little the indignation is past, and my wrath turns to destroy them: and Jehovah of hosts moves the whip over it, as He smote Midian at the rock of Oreb; and His staff stretches out over the sea, and He lifts it up in the manner of Egypt." The expression "a very little" (as in Isa 16:14; Isa 29:17) does not date from the actual present, when the Assyrian oppressions had not yet begun, but from the ideal present, when they were threatening Israel with destruction. The indignation of Jehovah would then suddenly come to an end (câlâh za‛am, borrowed in Dan 11:36, and to be interpreted in accordance with Isa 26:20); and the wrath of Jehovah would be, or go, ‛al-tabilthâm. Luzzatto recommends the following emendation of the text, יתּם על־תּבל ואפּי, "and my wrath against the world will cease," tēbēl being used, as in Isa 14:17, with reference to the oikoumenon as enslaved by the imperial power. But the received text gives a better train of thought, if we connect it with Isa 10:26. We must not be led astray, however, by the preposition ‛al, and take the words as meaning, My wrath (burneth) over the destruction inflicted by Asshur upon the people of God, or the destruction endured by the latter. It is to the destruction of the Assyrians that the wrath of Jehovah is now directed; ‛al being used, as it frequently is, to indicate the object upon which the eye is fixed, or to which the intention points (Psa 32:8; Psa 18:42). With this explanation Isa 10:25 leads on to Isa 10:26. The destruction of Asshur is predicted there in two figures drawn from occurrences in the olden time. The almighty Judge would swing the whip over Asshur (‛orer, agitare, as in Sa2 23:18), and smite it, as Midian was once smitten. The rock of Oreb is the place where the Ephraimites slew the Midianitish king 'Oreb (Jdg 7:25). His staff would then be over the sea, i.e., would be stretched out, like the wonder-working staff of Moses, over the sea of affliction, into which the Assyrians had driven Israel (yâm, the sea, an emblem borrowed from the type; see Kohler on Zac 10:11, cf., Psa 66:6); and He would lift it up, commanding the waves of the sea, so that they would swallow Asshur. "In the manner of Egypt:" b'derek Mitzraim (according to Luzzatto in both instances, "on the way to Egypt," which restricts the Assyrian bondage in a most unhistorical manner to the time of the Egyptian campaign) signifies in Isa 10:24, as the Egyptians lifted it up; but here, as it was lifted up above the Egyptians. The expression is intentionally conformed to that in Isa 10:24 : because Asshur had lifted up the rod over Israel in the Egyptian manner, Jehovah would lift it up over Asshur in the Egyptian manner also.
The yoke of the imperial power would then burst asunder. "And it will come to pass in that day, its burden will remove from thy shoulder, and its yoke from thy neck; and the yoke will be destroyed from the pressure of the fat." We have here two figures: in the first (cessabit onus ejus a cervice tua) Israel is represented as a beast of burden; in the second (et jugum ejus a collo tuo), as a beast of draught. And this second figure is divided again into two fields. For yâsūr merely affirms that the yoke, like the burden, will be taken away from Israel; but chubbal, that the yoke itself will snap, from the pressure of his fat strong neck against it. Knobel, who alters the text, objects to this on the ground that the yoke was a cross piece of wood, and not a collar. And no doubt the simple yoke is a cross piece of wood, which is fastened to the forehead of the ox (generally of two oxen yoked together: jumenta = jugmenta, like jugum, from jungere); but the derivation of the name itself, ‛ol, from ‛âlal, points to the connection of the cross piece of wood with a collar, and here the yoke is expressly described as lying round the neck (and not merely fastened against the forehead). There is no necessity, therefore, to read chebel (chablo), as Knobel proposes; chubbal (Arabic chubbila) indicates her a corrumpi consequent upon a disrumpi. (On p'nē, vid., Job 41:5; and for the application of the term mippenē to energy manifesting itself in its effects, compare Psa 68:3 as an example.) Moreover, as Kimchi has observed, in most instances the yoke creates a wound in the fat flesh of the ox by pressure and friction; but here the very opposite occurs, and the fatness of the ox leads to the destruction of the yoke (compare the figure of grafting employed in Rom 11:17, to which Paul gives a turn altogether contrary to nature). Salvation, as the double turn in the second figure affirms, comes no less from within (Isa 10:27) than from without (Isa 10:27). It is no less a consequence of the world-conquering grace at work in Isaiah, than a miracle wrought for Israel upon their foes.
The prophet now proceeds to describe how the Assyrian army advances steadily towards Jerusalem, spreading terror on every hand, and how, when planted there like a towering forest, it falls to the ground before the irresistible might of Jehovah. Eichhorn and Hitzig pronounce this prophecy a vaticinium post eventum, because of its far too special character; but Knobel regards it as a prophecy, because no Assyrian king ever did take the course described; in other words, as a mere piece of imagination, as Ewald maintains. Now, no doubt the Assyrian army, when it marched against Jerusalem, came from the southwest, namely, from the road to Egypt, and not directly from the north. Sennacherib had conquered Lachish; he then encamped before Libnah, and it was thence that he advanced towards Jerusalem. But the prophet had no intention of giving a fragment out of the history of the war: all that he meant to do was to give a lively representation of the future fact, that after devastating the land of Judah, the Assyrian would attack Jerusalem. There is no necessity whatever to contend, as Drechsler does, against calling the description an ideal one. There is all the difference in the world between idea and imagination. Idea is the essential root of the real, and the reality is its historical form. This form, its essential manifestation, may be either this or that, so far as individual features are concerned, without any violation of its essential character. What the prophet here predicts has, when properly interpreted, been all literally fulfilled. The Assyrian did come from the north with the storm-steps of a conqueror, and the cities named were really exposed to the dangers and terrors of war. And this was what the prophet depicted, looking as he did from a divine eminence, and drawing from the heart of the divine counsels, and then painting the future with colours which were but the broken lights of those counsels as they existed in his own mind.
Aesthetically considered, the description is one of the most magnificent that human poetry has ever produced. "He comes upon Ayyath, passes through Migron; in Michmash he leaves his baggage. They go through the pass: let Geba be our quarters for the night! Ramah trembles; Gibeah of Saul flees. Scream aloud, O daughter of Gallim! Only listen, O Laysha! Poor Anathoth! Madmenah hurries away; the inhabitants of Gebim rescue. He still halts in Nob today; swings his hand over the mountain of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem. Behold, the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, lops down the branches with terrific force; and those of towering growth are hewn down, and the lofty are humbled. And He fells the thickets of the forest with iron; and Lebanon, it falls by a Majestic One." When the Assyrian came upon Ayyath (= Ayyah, Ch1 7:28 (?), Neh 11:31, generally hâ-‛ai, or 'Ai), about thirty miles to the north-east of Jerusalem, he trod for the first time upon Benjaminitish territory, which was under the sway of Judaea. The name of this 'Ai, which signifies "stone-heap," tallies, as Knobel observes, with the name of the Tell el-hagar, which is situated about three-quarters of an hour to the south-east of Beitn, i.e., Bethel. But there are tombs, reservoirs, and ruins to be seen about an hour to the south-east of Beitin; and these Robinson associates with Ai. From Ai, however, the army will not proceed towards Jerusalem by the ordinary route, viz., the great north road (or "Nablus road"); but, in order to surprise Jerusalem, it takes a different route, in which it will have to cross three deep and difficult valleys. From Ai they pass to Migron, the name of which has apparently been preserved in the ruins of Burg Magrun, situated about eight minutes' walk from Beitn.
(Note: I also find the name written Magrum (read Magrun), which is probably taken from a more correct hearsay than the Machrn of Robinson (ii. 127).)
Michmash is still to be found in the form of a deserted village with ruins, under the name of Muchms, on the eastern side of the valley of Migron. Here they deposit their baggage (hiphkid, Jer 36:20), so far as they are able to dispense with it - either to leave it lying there, or to have it conveyed after them by an easier route. For they proceed thence through the pass of Michmash, a deep and precipitous ravine about forty-eight minutes in breadth, the present Wady Suweinit. "The pass" (ma‛bârâh) is the defile of Michmash, with two prominent rocky cliffs, where Jonathan had his adventure with the garrison of the Philistines. One of these cliffs was called Seneh (Sa1 14:4), a name which suggests es-Suweinit. Through this defile they pass, encouraging one another, as they proceed along the difficult march, by the prospect of passing the night in Geba, which is close at hand. It is still disputed whether this Geba is the same place as the following Gibeah of Saul or not. There is at the present time a village called Geba' below Muchms, situated upon an eminence. The almost universal opinion now is, that this is not Gibeah of Saul, but that the latter is to be seen in the prominent Tell (Tuleil) el-Fl, which is situated farther south. This is possibly correct.
(Note: This is supported by Robinson in his Later Biblical Researches in Palestine (1857), by Valentiner (pastor at Jerusalem), and by Keil in the Commentary on Joshua, Judges, etc. (Jos 18:21-28), where all the more recent writings on this topographical question are given.)
For there can be no doubt that this mountain, the name of which signifies "Bean-hill," would be a very strong position, and one very suitable for Gibeah of Saul; and the supposition that there were two places in Benjamin named Geba, Gibeah, or Gibeath, is favoured at any rate by Jos 18:21-28, where Geba and Gibeath are distinguished from one another. And this mountain, which is situated to the south of er-Rm - that is to say, between the ancient Ramah and Anathoth - tallies very well with the route of the Assyrian as here described; whilst it is very improbable that Isaiah has designated the very same place first of all Geba, and then (for what reason no one can tell) Gibeah of Saul. We therefore adopt the view, that the Assyrian army took up its quarters for the night at Geba, which still bears this name, spreading terror in all directions, both east and west, and still more towards the south. Starting in the morning from the deep valley between Michmash and Geba, they pass on one side of Rama (the present er-Rm), situated half an hour to the west of Geba, which trembles as it sees them go by; and the inhabitants of Gibeath of Saul, upon the "Bean-hill," a height that commands the whole of the surrounding country, take to flight when they pass by. Every halting-place on their route brings them nearer to Jerusalem. The prophet goes in spirit through it all. It is so objectively real to him, that it produces the utmost anxiety and pain. The cities and villages of the district are lost.
He appeals to the daughter, i.e., the population, of Gallim, to raise a far-sounding yell of lamentation with their voice (Ges. 138, 1, Anm. 3), and calls out in deep sympathy to Laysha, which was close by (on the two places, both of which have vanished now, see Sa1 25:44 and Jdg 18:29), "only listen," the enemy is coming nearer and nearer; and then for Anathoth (‛Anâtâ, still to be seen about an hour and a quarter to the north of Jerusalem) he utters this lamentation (taking the name as an omen of its fate): O poor Anathoth! There is no necessity for any alteration of the text; ‛anniyâh is an appeal, or rather an exclamation, as in Isa 54:11; and ‛anâthoth follows, according to the same verbal order as in Isa 23:12, unless indeed we take it at once as an adjective written before the noun - an arrangement of the words which may possibly have been admissible in such interjectional sentences. The catastrophe so much to be dreaded by Jerusalem draws nearer and nearer. Madmenah (dung-hill, see Comm. on Job, at Job 9:11-15) flees in anxious haste: the inhabitants of Gebim (water-pits) carry off their possessions (הּעיז, from עוּז, to flee, related to chush, hence to carry off in flight, to bring in haste to a place of security, Exo 9:19, cf., Jer 4:6; Jer 6:1; synonymous with hēnı̄s, Exo 9:20; Jdg 6:11; different from ‛âzaz, to be firm, strong, defiant, from which mâ‛oz, a fortress, is derived - in distinction from the Arabic ma‛âdh, a place of refuge: comp. Isa 30:2, to flee to Pharaoh's shelter). There are no traces left of either place. The passage is generally understood as implying that the army rested another day in Nob. But this would be altogether at variance with the design - to take Jerusalem by surprise by the suddenness of the destructive blow. We therefore render it, "Even to-day he will halt in Nob" (in eo est ut subsistat, Ges. 132, Anm. 1) - namely, to gather up fresh strength there in front of the city which was doomed to destruction, and to arrange the plan of attack. The supposition that Nob was the village of el-'Isawiye, which is still inhabited, and lies to the south-west of Ant, fifty-five minutes to the north of Jerusalem, is at variance with the situation, as correctly described by Jerome, when he says: "Stans in oppidulo Nob et procul urbem conspiciens Jerusalem." A far more appropriate situation is to be found in the hill which rises to the north of Jerusalem, and which is called Sadr, from its breast-like projection or roundness - a name which is related in meaning to nob, nâb, to rise. From this eminence the way leads down into the valley of Kidron; and as you descend, the city spreads out before you at a very little distance off. It may have been here, in the prophet's view, that the Assyrians halted.
(Note: This is the opinion of Valentiner, who also regards the march of the Assyrians as an "execution-march" in two columns, one of which took the road through the difficult ground to the east, whilst the other inflicted punishment upon the places that stood near the road. The text does not require this, however, but describes a march, which spread alarm both right and left as it went along.)
It was not long, however (as the yenōphēph which follows ἀσυνδέτως implies), before his hand was drawn out to strike (Isa 11:15; Isa 19:16), and swing over the mountain of the daughter of Zion (Isa 16:1), over the city of the holy hill. But what would Jehovah do, who was the only One who could save His threatened dwelling-place in the face of such an army? As far as Isa 10:32, the prophet's address moved on at a hurried, stormy pace; it then halted, and seemed, as it were, panting with anxiety; it now breaks forth in a dactylic movement, like a long rolling thunder. The hostile army stands in front of Jerusalem, like a broad dense forest. But it is soon manifest that Jerusalem has a God who cannot be defied with impunity, and who will not leave His city in the lurch at the decisive moment, like the gods of Carchemish and Calno. Jehovah is the Lord, the God of both spiritual and starry hosts. He smites down the branches of this forest of an army: sē‛ēph is a so-called piel privativum, to lop (lit. to take the branches in hand; cf., sikkēl, Isa 5:2); and pu'rah = pe'urah (in Ezekiel pō'rah) is used like the Latin frons, to include both branches and foliage - in other words, the leafy branches as the ornament of the tree, or the branches as adorned with leaves. The instrument He employs is ma‛arâtzâh, his terrifying and crushing power (compare the verb in Isa 2:19, Isa 2:21). And even the lofty trunks of the forest thus cleared of branches and leaves do not remain; they lie hewn down, and the lofty ones must fall. It is just the same with the trunks, i.e., the leaders, as with the branches and the foliage, i.e., with the great crowded masses. The whole of the forest thicket (as in Isa 9:17) he hews down (nikkaph, third pers. piel, though it may also be niphal); and Lebanon, i.e., the army of Asshur which is now standing opposite to Mount Zion, like Lebanon with its forest of cedars, falls down through a Majestic One ('addı̄r), i.e., through Jehovah (Isa 33:21, cf., Psa 76:5; Psa 93:4). In the account of the fulfilment (Isa 37:36) it is the angel of the Lord (mal'ach Jehovah), who is represented as destroying the hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp in a single night. The angel of Jehovah is not a messenger of God sent from afar, but the chosen organ of the ever-present divine power.