Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Finale of the Great Catastrophe - Isaiah 24-27 part iv
The cycle of prophecies which commences here has no other parallel in the Old Testament than perhaps Zech. Both sections are thoroughly eschatological and apocryphal in their character, and start from apparently sharply defined historical circumstances, which vanish, however, like will-o'the-wisps, as soon as you attempt to follow and seize them; for the simple reason, that the prophet lays hold of their radical idea, carries them out beyond their outward historical form, and uses them as emblems of far-off events of the last days. It is not surprising, therefore, that the majority of modern critics, from the time of Eichhorn and Koppe, have denied the genuineness of these four chapters (Isaiah 24-27), notwithstanding the fact that there is nothing in the words themselves that passes beyond the Assyrian times. Rosenmller did this in the first edition of his Scholia; but in the second and third editions he has fallen into another error, chiefly because the prophecy contains nothing which passes beyond the political horizon of Isaiah's own times. Now we cannot accept this test of genuineness; it is just one of the will-o'-the-wisps already referred to. Another consequence of this phenomenon is, that our critical opponents inevitably get entangled in contradictions as soon as they seek for a different historical basis for this cycle of prophecies from that of Isaiah's own times. According to Gesenius, De Wette, Maurer, and Umbreit, the author wrote in Babylonia; according to Eichhorn, Ewald, and Knobel, in Judah. In the opinion of some, he wrote at the close of the captivity; in that of others, immediately after the overthrow of the kingdom of Judah. Hitzig supposes the imperial city, whose destruction is predicted, to be Nineveh; others, for the most part, suppose it to be Babylon. But the prophet only mentions Egypt and Asshur as powers by which Israel is enslaved; and Knobel consequently imagines that he wrote in this figurative manner from fear of the enemies that were still dwelling in Judah. This wavering arises from the fact, that what is apparently historical is simply an eschatological emblem. It is quite impossible to determine whether that which sounds historical belonged to the present or past in relation to the prophet himself. His standing-place was beyond all the history that has passed by, even down to the present day; and everything belonging to this history was merely a figure in the mirror of the last lines. Let it be once established that no human critics can determine priori the measure of divine revelation granted to any prophet, and all possible grounds combine to vindicate Isaiah's authorship of chapters 24-27, as demanded by its place in the book of Isaiah.
(Note: The genuineness is supported by Rosenmller, Hensler (Jesaia neu bersetzt, mit Anm.), Paulus (Clavis ber Jesaia), Augusti (Exeg. Handbuch), Beckhaus (ber Integritt der proph. Schriften des A. T. 1796), Kleinert (ber die Echtheit smmtlicher in d. Buche Jesaia enth. Weissagungen, 1829), Kper (Jeremias librorum sacr. interpres atque vindex, 1837), and Jahn, Hvernick, Keil (in their Introductions). In monographs, C. F. L. Arndt (De loco, c. xxiv. - xxvii., Jesaiae vindicando et explicando, 1826), and Ed. Bhl (Vaticinium Jes. cap. xxiv. - xxvii. commentario illustr. 1861).)
Appended as they are to chapters 13-23 without a distinct heading, they are intended to stand in a relation of steady progress to the oracles concerning the nations; and this relation is sustained by the fact that Jeremiah read them in connection with these oracles (compare Isa 24:17-18, with Jer 48:43-44), and that they are full of retrospective allusions, which run out like a hundred threads, though grasped, as it were, in a single hand. Chapters 24-27 stand in the same relation to chapters 13-23, as chapters 11, Isa 12:1-6 to chapters 7-10. The particular judgments predicted in the oracle against the nations, all flow into the last judgment as into a sea; and all the salvation which formed the shining edge of the oracles against the nations, is here concentrated in the glory of a mid-day sun. Chapters 24-27 form the finale to chapters 13-23, and that in a strictly musical sense. What the finale should do in a piece of music - namely, gather up the scattered changes into a grand impressive whole - is done here by this closing cycle. But even part from this, it is full of music and song. The description of the catastrophe in chapter 24 is followed by a simple hymnal echo. As the book of Immanuel closes in Isa 12:1-6 with a psalm of the redeemed, so have we here a fourfold song of praise. The overthrow of the imperial city is celebrated in a song in Isa 25:1-5; another song in Isa 25:9 describes how Jehovah reveals himself with His saving presence; another in Isaiah 26:1-19 celebrates the restoration and resurrection of Israel; and a fourth in Isa 27:2-5 describes the vineyard of the church bringing forth fruit under the protection of Jehovah. And these songs contain every variety, from the most elevated heavenly hymn to the tenderest popular song. It is a grand manifold concert, which is merely introduced, as it were, by the epic opening in chapter 24 and the epic close in Isa 27:6., and in the midst of which the prophecy unfolds itself in a kind of recitative. Moreover, we do not find so much real music anywhere else in the ring of the words. The heaping up of paronomasia has been placed among the arguments against the genuineness of these chapters. But we have already shown by many examples, drawn from undisputed prophecies (such as Isa 22:5; Isa 17:12-13), that Isaiah is fond of painting for the ear; and the reason why he does it here more than anywhere else, is that chapters 24-27 formed a finale that was intended to surpass all that had gone before. The whole of this finale is a grand hallelujah to chapters 13-23, hymnic in its character, and musical in form, and that to such a degree, that, like Isa 25:6, the prophecy is, as it were, both text and divisions at the same time. There was no other than Isaiah who was so incomparable a master of language. Again, the incomparable depth in the contents of chapters 24-27 does not shake our confidence in his authorship, since the whole book of this Solomon among the prophets is full of what is incomparable. And in addition to much that is peculiar in this cycle of prophecies, which does not astonish us in a prophet so richly endowed, and so characterized by a continual change "from glory to glory," the whole cycle is so thoroughly Isaiah's in its deepest foundation, and in a hundred points of detail, that it is most uncritical to pronounce the whole to be certainly not Isaiah's simply because of these peculiarities. So far as the eschatological and apocalyptical contents, which seem to point to a very late period, are concerned, we would simply call to mind the wealth of eschatological ideas to be found even in Joel, who prophesies of the pouring out of the Spirit, the march of the nations of the world against the church, the signs that precede the last day, the miraculous water of the New Jerusalem. The revelation of all the last things, which the Apocalypse of the New Testament embraces in one grand picture, commenced with Obadiah and Joel; and there is nothing strange in the fact that Isaiah also, in chapters 24-27, should turn away from the immediate external facts of the history of his own time, and pass on to these depths beyond.
It is thoroughly characteristic of Isaiah, that the commencement of this prophecy, like Isa 19:1, places us at once in the very midst of the catastrophe, and condenses the contents of the subsequent picture of judgment into a few rapid, vigorous, vivid, and comprehensive clauses (like Isa 15:1; Isa 17:1; Isa 23:1, cf., Isa 33:1). "Behold, Jehovah emptieth the earth, and layeth it waste, and marreth its form, and scattereth its inhabitants. And it happeneth, as to the people, so to the priest; as to the servant, so to his master; as to the maid, so to her mistress; as to the buyer, so to the seller; as to the lender, so to the borrower; as to the creditor, so to the debtor. Emptying the earth is emptied, and plundering is plundered: for Jehovah hat spoken this word." The question, whether the prophet is speaking of a past of future judgment, which is one of importance to the interpretation of the whole, is answered by the fact that with Isaiah "hinnēh" (behold) always refers to something future (Isa 3:1; Isa 17:1; Isa 19:1; Isa 30:27, etc.). And it is only in his case, that we do meet with prophecies commencing so immediately with hinnēh. Those in Jeremiah which approach this the most nearly (viz., Jer 47:2; Jer 49:35, cf., Isa 51:1, and Eze 29:3) do indeed commence with hinnēh, but not without being preceded by an introductory formula. The opening "behold" corresponds to the confirmatory "for Jehovah hath spoken," which is always employed by Isaiah at the close of statements with regard to the future and occurs chiefly,
(Note: Vid., Isa 1:20; Isa 21:17; Isa 22:25; Isa 25:8; Isa 40:5; Isa 58:14; also compare Isa 19:4; Isa 16:13, and Isa 37:22.)
though not exclusively,
(Note: Vid., Oba 1:18, Joe 3:8, Mic 4:4; Kg1 14:11.)
in the book of Isaiah, whom we may recognise in the detailed description in Isa 24:2 (vid., Isa 2:12-16; Isa 3:2-3, Isa 3:18-23, as compared with Isa 9:13; also with the description of judgment in Isa 19:2-4, which closes in a similar manner). Thus at the very outset we meet with Isaiah's peculiarities; and Caspari is right in saying that no prophecy could possibly commence with more of the characteristics of Isaiah than the prophecy before us. The play upon words commences at the very outset. Bâkak and bâlak (compare the Arabic ballūka, a blank, naked desert) have the same ring, just as in Nah 2:11, cf., Isa 24:3, and Jer 51:2. The niphal futures are intentionally written like verbs Pe-Vâv (tibbōk and tibbōz, instead of tibbak and tibbaz), for the purpose of making them rhyme with the infinitive absolutes (cf., Isa 22:13). So, again, caggebirtâh is so written instead of cigbirtâh, to produce a greater resemblance to the opening syllable of the other words. The form נשׁה is interchanged with נשׁא) (as in Sa1 22:2), or, according to Kimchi's way of writing it, with נשׁא) (written with tzere), just as in other passages we meet with נשׁא along with נשׁה, and, judging from Arab. ns', to postpone or credit, the former is the primary form. Nōsheh is the creditor, and בו נשׁא אשׁר is not the person who has borrowed of him, but, as נשה invariably signifies to credit (hiphil, to give credit), the person whom he credits (with ב obj., like בּ נגשׂ in Isa 9:3), not "the person through whom he is נשׁא)" (Hitzig on Jer 15:10). Hence, "lender and borrower, creditor and debtor" (or taker of credit). It is a judgment which embraces all, without distinction of rank and condition; and it is a universal one, not merely throughout the whole of the land of Israel (as even Drechsler renders הארץ), but in all the earth; for as Arndt correctly observes, הארץ signifies "the earth" in this passage, including, as in Isa 11:4, the ethical New Testament idea of "the world" (kosmos).
That this is the case is evident from Isa 24:4-9, where the accursed state into which the earth is brought is more fully described, and the cause thereof is given. "Smitten down, withered up is the earth; pined away, wasted away is the world; pined away have they, the foremost of the people of the earth. And the earth has become wicked among its inhabitants; for they transgressed revelations, set at nought the ordinance, broke the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they who dwelt in it make expiation: therefore are the inhabitants of the earth withered up, and there are very few mortals left. New wine mourneth, vine is parched, all the merry-hearted groan. The joyous playing of tabrets is silent; the noise of them that rejoice hath ceased; the joyous playing of the guitar is silent. They drink no wine with a song; meth tastes bitter to them that drink it." "The world" (tēbēl) is used here in Isa 24:4, as in Isa 26:9 (always in the form of a proper name, and without the article), as a parallel to "the earth" (hâ'âretz), with which it alternates throughout this cycle of prophecies. It is used poetically to signify the globe, and that without limitation (even in Isa 13:11 and Isa 18:3); and therefore "the earth" is also to be understood here in its most comprehensive sense (in a different sense, therefore, from Isa 33:9, which contains the same play upon sounds). The earth is sunk in mourning, and has become like a faded plant, withered up with heat; the high ones of the people of the earth (merōm; abstr. pro concr., like câbōd in Isa 5:13; Isa 22:24) are included (עם is used, as in Isa 42:5; Isa 40:7, to signify humanity, i.e., man generally). אמללוּ (for the form, see Comm. on Job, at Job 18:16-19) stands in half pause, which throws the subjective notion that follows into greater prominence. It is the punishment of the inhabitants of the earth, which the earth has to share, because it has shared in the wickedness of those who live upon it: chânaph (not related to tânaph) signifies to be degenerate, to have decided for what is evil (Isa 9:16), to be wicked; and in this intransitive sense it is applied to the land, which is said to be affected with the guilt of wicked, reckless conduct, more especially of blood-guiltiness (Psa 106:38; Num 35:33; compare the transitive use in Jer 3:9). The wicked conduct of men, which has caused the earth also to become chanēphâh, is described in three short, rapid, involuntarily excited sentences (compare Isa 15:6; Isa 16:4; Isa 29:20; Isa 33:8; also Isa 24:5; Isa 1:4, Isa 1:6, Isa 1:8; out of the book of Isaiah, however, we only meet with this in Joe 1:10, and possibly Jos 7:11). Understanding "the earth" as we do in a general sense, "the law" cannot signify merely the positive law of Israel. The Gentile world had also a torâh or divine teaching within, which contained an abundance of divine directions (tōrōth). They also had a law written in their hearts; and it was with the whole human race that God concluded a covenant in the person of Noah, at a time when the nations had none of them come into existence at all. This is the explanation given by even Jewish commentators; nevertheless, we must not forget that Israel was included among the transgressors, and the choice of expression was determined by this. With the expression "therefore" the prophecy moves on from sin to punishment, just as in Isa 5:25 (cf., Isa 5:24). אלה is the curse of God denounced against the transgressors of His law (Dan 9:11; compare Jer 23:10, which is founded upon this, and from which אבלה has been introduced into this passage in some codices and editions). The curse of God devours, for it is fire, and that from within outwards (see Isa 1:31; Isa 5:24; Isa 9:18; Isa 10:16-17; Isa 29:6; Isa 30:27., Isa 33:11-14): chârū (milel, since pashta is an acc. postpos.),
(Note: In correct texts châr has two pashtas, the former indicating the place of the tone.)
from chârar, they are burnt up, exusti. With regard to ויּאשׁמוּ, it is hardly necessary to observe that it cannot be traced back to אשׁם = ישׁם, שׁמם; and that of the two meanings, culpam contrahere and culpam sustinere, it has the latter meaning here. We must not overlook the genuine mark of Isaiah here in the description of the vanishing away of men down to a small remnant: נשׁאר (שׁאר) is the standing word used to denote this; מזער (used with regard to number both here and in Isa 16:14; and with regard to time in Isa 10:25 and Isa 29:17) is exclusively Isaiah's; and אנושׁ is used in the same sense as in Isa 33:8 (cf., Isa 13:12). In Isa 24:7 we are reminded of Joel 1 (on the short sentences, see Isa 29:20; Isa 16:8-10); in Isa 24:8, Isa 24:9 any one acquainted with Isaiah's style will recall to mind not only Isa 5:12, Isa 5:14, but a multitude of other parallels. We content ourselves with pointing to עלּיז (which belongs exclusively to Isaiah, and is taken from Isa 22:2 and Isa 32:13 in Zep 2:15, and from Isa 13:3 in Zep 3:11); and for basshir (with joyous song) to Isa 30:32 (with the beating of drums and playing of guitars), together with Isa 28:7. The picture is elegiac, and dwells so long upon the wine (cf., Isa 16:1-14), just because wine, both as a natural production and in the form of drink, is the most exhilarating to the heart of all the natural gifts of God (Psa 104:15; Jdg 9:13). All the sources of joy and gladness are destroyed; and even if there is much still left of that which ought to give enjoyment, the taste of the men themselves turns it into bitterness.
The world with its pleasure is judged; the world's city is also judged, in which both the world's power and the world's pleasure were concentrated. "The city of tohu is broken to pieces; every house is shut up, so that no man can come in. There is lamentation for wine in the fields; all rejoicing has set; the delight of the earth is banished. What is left of the city is wilderness, and the gate was shattered to ruins. For so will it be within the earth, in the midst of the nations; as at the olive-beating, as at the gleaning, when the vintage is over." The city of tohu (kiryath tōhu): this cannot be taken collectively, as Rosenmller, Arndt, and Drechsler suppose, on account of the annexation of kiryath to tohu, which is turned into a kind of proper name; for can we understand it as referring to Jerusalem, as the majority of commentators have done, including even Schegg and Stier (according to Isa 32:13-14), after we have taken "the earth" (hâ'âretz) in the sense of kosmos (the world). It is rather the central city of the world as estranged from God; and it is here designated according to its end, which end will be tohu, as its nature was tohu. Its true nature was the breaking up of the harmony of all divine order; and so its end will be the breaking up of its own standing, and a hurling back, as it were, into the chaos of its primeval beginning. With a very similar significance Rome is called turbida Roma in Persius (i. 5). The whole is thoroughly Isaiah's, even to the finest points: tohu is the same as in Isa 29:21; and for the expression מבּוא (so that you cannot enter; namely, on account of the ruins which block up the doorway) compare Isa 23:1; Isa 7:8; Isa 17:1, also Isa 5:9; Isa 6:11; Isa 32:13. The cry or lamentation for the wine out in the fields (Isa 24:11; cf., Job 5:10) is the mourning on account of the destruction of the vineyards; the vine, which is one of Isaiah's most favourite symbols, represents in this instance also all the natural sources of joy. In the term ‛ârbâh (rejoicing) the relation between joy and light is presupposed; the sun of joy is set (compare Mic 3:6). What remains of the city בּעיר is partitive, just as בּו in Isa 10:22) is shammâh (desolation), to which the whole city has been brought (compare Isa 5:9; Isa 32:14). The strong gates, which once swarmed with men, are shattered to ruins (yuccath, like Mic 1:7, for yūcath, Ges. 67, Anm. 8; שׁאיּה, ἁπ λεγ, a predicating noun of sequence, as in Isa 37:26, "into desolated heaps;" compare Isa 6:11, etc., and other passages). In the whole circuit of the earth (Isa 6:12; Isa 7:22; hâ'âretz is "the earth" here as in Isa 10:23; Isa 19:24), and in the midst of what was once a crowd of nations (compare Mic 5:6-7), there is only a small remnant of men left. This is the leading thought, which runs through the book of Isaiah from beginning to end, and is figuratively depicted here in a miniature of Isa 17:4-6. The state of things produced by the catastrophe is compared to the olive-beating, which fetches down what fruit was left at the general picking, and to the gleaning of the grapes after the vintage has been fully gathered in (câlâh is used here as in Isa 10:25; Isa 16:4; Isa 21:16, etc., viz., "to be over," whereas in Isa 32:10 it means to be hopelessly lost, as in Isa 15:6). There are no more men in the whole of the wide world than there are of olives and grapes after the principal gathering has taken place. The persons saved belong chiefly, though not exclusively, to Israel (Joh 3:5). The place where they assemble is the land of promise.
There is now a church there refined by the judgment, and rejoicing in its apostolic calling to the whole world. "They will lift up their voice, and exult; for the majesty of Jehovah they shout from the sea: therefore praise ye Jehovah in the lands of the sun, in the islands of the sea the name of Jehovah the God of Israel." The ground and subject of the rejoicing is "the majesty of Jehovah," i.e., the fact that Jehovah had shown Himself so majestic in judgment and mercy (Isa 12:5-6), and was now so manifest in His glory (Isa 2:11, Isa 2:17). Therefore rejoicing was heard "from the sea" (the Mediterranean), by which the abode of the congregation of Jehovah was washed. Turning in that direction, it had the islands and coast lands of the European West in front (iyyi hayyâm; the only other passage in which this occurs is Isa 11:11, cf., Eze 26:18), and at its back the lands of the Asiatic East, which are called 'urim, the lands of light, i.e., of the sun-rising. This is the true meaning of 'urim, as J. Schelling and Drechsler agree; for Dderlein's comparison of the rare Arabic word awr, septentrio is as far removed from the Hebrew usage as that of the Talmud אור אורתּא, vespera. Hitzig's proposed reading באיים (according to the lxx) diminishes the substance and destroys the beauty of the appeal, which goes forth both to the east and west, and summons to the praise of the name of Jehovah the God of Israel, על־כּן, i.e., because of His manifested glory. His "name" (cf., Isa 30:27) is His nature as revealed and made "nameable" in judgment and mercy.
This appeal is not made in vain. Isa 24:16. "From the border of the earth we hear songs: Praise to the Righteous One!" It no doubt seems natural enough to understand the term tzaddı̄k (righteous) as referring to Jehovah; but, as Hitzig observes, Jehovah is never called "the Righteous One" in so absolute a manner as this (compare, however, Psa 112:4, where it occurs in connection with other attributes, and Exo 9:27, where it stands in an antithetical relation); and in addition to this, Jehovah gives צבי (Isa 4:2; Isa 28:5), whilst כבוד, and not צבי, is ascribed to Him. Hence we must take the word in the same sense as in Isa 3:10 (cf., Hab 2:4). The reference is to the church of righteous men, whose faith has endured the fire of the judgment of wrath. In response to its summons to the praise of Jehovah, they answer it in songs from the border of the earth. The earth is here thought of as a garment spread out; cenaph is the point or edge of the garment, the extreme eastern and western ends (compare Isa 11:12). Thence the church of the future catches the sound of this grateful song as it is echoed from one to the other.
The prophet feels himself, "in spirit," to be a member of this church; but all at once he becomes aware of the sufferings which will have first of all to be overcome, and which he cannot look upon without sharing the suffering himself. "Then I said, Ruin to me! ruin to me! Woe to me! Robbers rob, and robbing, they rob as robbers. Horror, and pit, and snare, are over thee, O inhabitant of the earth! And it cometh to pass, whoever fleeth from the tidings of horror falleth into the pit; and whoever escapeth out of the pit is caught in the snare: for the trap-doors on high are opened, and the firm foundations of the earth shake. The earth rending, is rent asunder; the earth bursting, is burst in pieces; the earth shaking, tottereth. The earth reeling, reeleth like a drunken man, and swingeth like a hammock; and its burden of sin presseth upon it; and it falleth, and riseth not again." The expression "Then I said" (cf., Isa 6:5) stands here in the same apocalyptic connection as in Rev 7:14, for example. He said it at that time in a state of ecstasy; so that when he committed to writing what he had seen, the saying was a thing of the past. The final salvation follows a final judgment; and looking back upon the latter, he bursts out into the exclamation of pain: râzı̄-lı̄, consumption, passing away, to me (see Isa 10:16; Isa 17:4), i.e., I must perish (râzi is a word of the same form as kâli, shâni, ‛âni; literally, it is a neuter adjective signifying emaciatum = macies; Ewald, 749, g). He sees a dreadful, bloodthirsty people preying among both men and stores (compare Isa 21:2; Isa 33:1, for the play upon the word with בגד, root גד, cf., κεύθειν τινά τι, tecte agere, i.e., from behind, treacherously, like assassins). The exclamation, "Horror, and pit," etc. (which Jeremiah applies in Jer 48:43-44, to the destruction of Moab by the Chaldeans), is not an invocation, but simply a deeply agitated utterance of what is inevitable. In the pit and snare there is a comparison implied of men to game, and of the enemy to sportsmen (cf., Jer 15:16; Lam 4:19; yillâcēr, as in Isa 8:15; Isa 28:13). The על in עליך is exactly the same as in Jdg 16:9 (cf., Isa 16:9). They who should flee as soon as the horrible news arrived (min, as in Isa 33:3) would not escape destruction, but would become victims to one form if not to another (the same thought which we find expressed twice in Amo 5:19, and still more fully in Isa 9:1-4, as well as in a more dreadfully exalted tone). Observe, however, in how mysterious a background those human instruments of punishment remain, who are suggested by the word bōgdim (robbers). The idea that the judgment is a direct act of Jehovah, stands in the foreground and governs the whole. For this reason it is described as a repetition of the flood (for the opened windows or trap-doors of the firmament, which let the great bodies of water above them come down from on high upon the earth, point back to Gen 7:11 and Gen 8:2, cf., Psa 78:23); and this indirectly implies its universality. It is also described as an earthquake. "The foundations of the earth" are the internal supports upon which the visible crust of the earth rests. The way in which the earth in its quaking first breaks, then bursts, and then falls, is painted for the ear by the three reflective forms in Isa 24:19, together with their gerundives, which keep each stage in the process of the catastrophe vividly before the mind. רעה is apparently an error of the pen for רע, if it is not indeed a n. actionis instead of the inf. absol. as in Hab 3:9. The accentuation, however, regards the ah as a toneless addition, and the form therefore as a gerundive (like kob in Num 23:25). The reflective form התרעע is not the hithpalel of רוּע, vociferari, but the hithpoel of רעע (רצץ), frangere. The threefold play upon the words would be tame, if the words themselves formed an anti-climax; but it is really a climax ascendens. The earth first of all receives rents; then gaping wide, it bursts asunder; and finally sways to and fro once more, and falls. It is no longer possible for it to keep upright. Its wickedness presses it down like a burden (Isa 1:4; Psa 38:5), so that it now reels for the last time like a drunken man (Isa 28:7; Isa 29:9), or a hammock (Isa 1:8), until it falls never to rise again.
But if the old earth passes away in this manner out of the system of the universe, the punishment of God must fall at the same time both upon the princes of heaven and upon the princes of earth (the prophet does not arrange what belongs to the end of all things in a "chronotactic" manner). They are the secrets of two worlds, that are here unveiled to the apocalyptic seer of the Old Testament. "And it cometh to pass in that day, Jehovah will visit the army of the high place in the high place, and the kings of the earth on the earth. And they are imprisoned, as one imprisons captives in the pit, and shut up in prison; and in the course of many days they are visited. And the moon blushes, and the sun turns pale: for Jehovah of hosts reigns royally upon Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before His elders is glory." With this doubly expressed antithesis of mârōm and 'adâmâh (cf., Isa 23:17) before us, brought out as it is as sharply as possible, we cannot understand "the army of the high place" as referring to certain earthly powers (as the Targum, Luther, Calvin, and Hvernick do). Moreover, the expression itself is also opposed to such an interpretation; for, as Isa 24:18 clearly shows, in which mimmârom is equivalent to misshâmaim (cf., Isa 33:5; Isa 37:23; Isa 40:26), מרום צבא is synonymous with השּׁמים צבא; and this invariably signifies either the starry host (Isa 40:26) or the angelic host (Kg1 22:19; Psa 148:2), and occasionally the two combined, without any distinction (Neh 9:6). As the moon and sun are mentioned, it might be supposed that by the "host on high" we are to understand the angelic host, as Abravanel, Umbreit, and others really do: "the stars, that have been made into idols, the shining kings of the sky, fall from their altars, and the kings of the earth from their thrones." But the very antithesis in the word "kings" (malchē) leads us to conjecture that "the host on high" refers to personal powers; and the view referred to founders on the more minute description of the visitation (pâkad ‛al, as in Isa 27:1, Isa 27:3, cf., Isa 26:21), "they are imprisoned," etc.; for this must also be referred to the heavenly host. The objection might indeed be urged, that the imprisonment only relates to the kings, and that the visitation of the heavenly host finds its full expression in the shaming of the moon and sun (Isa 24:23); but the fact that the moon and sun are thrown into the shade by the revelation of the glory of Jehovah, cannot be regarded as a judgment inflicted upon them. Hence the commentators are now pretty well agreed, that "the host on high" signifies here the angelic army. But it is self-evident, that a visitation of the angelic army cannot be merely a relative and partial one. And it is not sufficient to understand the passage as meaning the wicked angels, to the exclusion of the good. Both the context and the parallelism show that the reference must be to a penal visitation in the spiritual world, which stands in the closest connection with the history of man, and in fact with the history of the nations. Consequently the host on high will refer to the angels of the nations and kingdoms; and the prophecy here presupposes what is affirmed in Deu 32:8 (lxx), and sustained in the book of Daniel, when it speaks of a sar of Persia, Javan, and even the people of Israel. In accordance with this exposition, there is a rabbinical saying, to the effect that "God never destroys a nation without having first of all destroyed its prince," i.e., the angel who, by whatever means he first obtained possession of the nation, whether by the will of God or against His will, has exerted an ungodly influence upon it. Just as, according to the scriptural view, both good and evil angels attach themselves to particular men, and an elevated state of mind may sometimes afford a glimpse of this encircling company and this conflict of spirits; so do angels contend for the rule over nations and kingdoms, either to guide them in the way of God or to lead them astray from God; and therefore the judgment upon the nations which the prophet here foretells will be a judgment upon angels also. The kingdom of spirits has its own history running parallel to the destinies of men. What is recorded in Gen 6 was a seduction of men by angels, and one of later occurrence than the temptation by Satan in paradise; and the seduction of nations and kingdoms by the host of heaven, which is here presupposed by the prophecy of Isaiah, is later than either.
Isa 24:22 announces the preliminary punishment of both angelic and human princes: 'asēphâh stands in the place of a gerundive, like taltēlâh in Isa 22:17. The connection of the words 'asēphâh 'assir is exactly the same as that of taltēlâh gâbēr in Isa 22:17 : incarceration after the manner of incarcerating prisoners; 'âsaph, to gather together (Isa 10:14; Isa 33:4), signifies here to incarcerate, just as in Gen 42:17. Both verbs are construed with ‛al, because the thrusting is from above downwards, into the pit and prison (‛al embraces both upon or over anything, and into it, e.g., Sa1 31:4; Job 6:16; see Hitzig on Nah 3:12). We may see from Pe2 2:4 and Jde 1:6 how this is to be understood. The reference is to the abyss of Hades, where they are reserved in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day. According to this parallel, yippâkedu (shall be visited) ought apparently to be understood as denoting a visitation in wrath (like Isa 29:6; Eze 38:8; compare pâkad followed by an accusative in Isa 26:21, also Isa 26:14, and Psa 59:6; niphkad, in fact, is never used to signify visitation in mercy), and therefore as referring to the infliction of the final punishment. Hitzig, however, understands it as relating to a visitation of mercy; and in this he is supported by Ewald, Knobel, and Luzzatto. Gesenius, Umbreit, and others, take it to indicate a citation or summons, though without any ground either in usage of speech or actual custom. A comparison of Isa 23:17 in its relation to Isa 23:15
(Note: Cf., Targ., Saad., "they will come into remembrance again.")
favours the second explanation, as being relatively the most correct; but the expression is intentionally left ambiguous. So far as the thing itself is concerned, we have a parallel in Rev 20:1-3 and Rev 20:7-9 : they are visited by being set free again, and commencing their old practice once more; but only (as Isa 24:23 affirms) to lose again directly, before the glorious and triumphant might of Jehovah, the power they have temporarily reacquired. What the apocalyptist of the New Testament describes in detail in Rev 20:4, Rev 20:11., and Rev 21:1, the apocalyptist of the Old Testament sees here condensed into one fact, viz., the enthroning of Jehovah and His people in a new Jerusalem, at which the silvery white moon (lebânâh) turns red, and the glowing sun (chammâh) turns pale; the two great lights of heaven becoming (according to a Jewish expression) "like a lamp at noonday" in the presence of such glory. Of the many parallels to Isa 24:23 which we meet with in Isaiah, the most worthy of note are Isa 11:10 to the concluding clause, "and before His elders is glory" (also Isa 4:5), and Isa 1:26 (cf., Isa 3:14), with reference to the use of the word zekēnim (elders). Other parallels are Isa 30:26, for chammâh and lebânâh; Isa 1:29, for châphēr and bōsh; Isa 33:22, for mâlak; Isa 10:12, for "Mount Zion and Jerusalem." We have already spoken at Isa 1:16 of the word neged (Arab. Ne'gd, from nâgad, njd, to be exalted; vid., opp. Arab. gâr, to be pressed down, to sink), as applied to that which stands out prominently and clearly before one's eyes. According to Hofmann (Schriftbeweis, i. 320-1), the elders here, like the twenty-four presbuteroi of the Apocalypse, are the sacred spirits, forming the council of God, to which He makes known His will concerning the world, before it is executed by His attendant spirits the angels. But as we find counsellors promised to the Israel of the new Jerusalem in Isa 1:26, in contrast with the bad zekēnim (elders) which it then possessed (Isa 3:14), such as it had at the glorious commencement of its history; and as the passage before us says essentially the same with regard to the zekēnim as we find in Isa 4:5 with regard to the festal meetings of Israel (vid., Isa 30:20 and Isa 32:1); and still further, as Rev 20:4 (cf., Mat 19:28) is a more appropriate parallel to the passage before us than Rev 4:4, we may assume with certainty, at least with regard to this passage, and without needing to come to any decision concerning Rev 4:4, that the zekēnim here are not angels, but human elders after God's own heart. These elders, being admitted into the immediate presence of God, and reigning together with Him, have nothing but glory in front of them, and they themselves reflect that glory.