Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Fourfold Melodious Echo - Isaiah 25-26
A. First Echo - Isa 25:1-8
Salvation of the Nations after the Fall of the Imperial City
There is not merely reflected glory, but reflected sound as well. The melodious echoes commence with Isa 25:1. The prophet, transported to the end of the days, commemorates what he has seen in psalms and songs. These psalms and songs not only repeat what has already been predicted; but, sinking into it, and drawing out of it, they partly expand it themselves, and partly prepare the way for its further extension.
The first echo is Isa 25:1-8, or more precisely Isa 25:1-5. The prophet, whom we already know as a psalmist from Isa 12:1-6, now acts as choral leader of the church of the future, and praises Jehovah for having destroyed the mighty imperial city, and proved Himself a defence and shield against its tyranny towards His oppressed church. "Jehovah, Thou art my God; I will exalt Thee, I will praise Thy name, that Thou hast wrought wonders, counsels from afar, sincerity, truth. For Thou hast turned it from a city into a heap of stones, the steep castle into a ruin; the palace of the barbarians from being a city, to be rebuilt no more for ever. Therefore a wild people will honour Thee, cities of violent nations fear Thee. For Thou provedst Thyself a stronghold to the lowly, a stronghold to the poor in his distress, as a shelter from the storm of rain, as a shadow from the burning of the sun; for the blast of violent ones was like a storm of rain against a wall. Like the burning of the sun in a parched land, Thou subduest the noise of the barbarians; (like) the burning of the sun through the shadow of a cloud, the triumphal song of violent ones was brought low." The introductory clause is to be understood as in Psa 118:28 : Jehovah (voc.), my God art Thou. "Thou hast wrought wonders:" this is taken from Exo 15:11 (as in Psa 77:15; Psa 78:12; like Isa 12:2, from Exo 15:2). The wonders which are now actually wrought are "counsels from afar" (mērâcōk), counsels already adopted afar off, i.e., long before, thoughts of God belonging to the olden time; the same ideal view as in Isa 22:11; Isa 37:26 (a parallel which coincides with our passage on every side), and, in fact, throughout the whole of the second part. It is the manifold "counsel" of the Holy One of Israel (Isa 5:19; Isa 14:24-27; Isa 19:12, Isa 19:17; Isa 23:8; Isa 28:29) which displays its wonders in the events of time. To the verb עשׂית we have also a second and third object, viz., אמן אמוּנה. It is a common custom with Isaiah to place derivatives of the same word side by side, for the purpose of giving the greatest possible emphasis to the idea (Isa 3:1; Isa 16:6). אמוּנה indicates a quality, אמן in actual fact. What He has executed is the realization of His faithfulness, and the reality of His promises. The imperial city is destroyed. Jehovah, as the first clause which is defined by tzakeph affirms, has removed it away from the nature of a city into the condition of a heap of stones. The sentence has its object within itself, and merely gives prominence to the change that has been effected; the Lamed is used in the same sense as in Isa 23:13 (cf., Isa 37:26); the min, as in Isa 7:8; Isa 17:1; Isa 23:1; Isa 24:10. Mappēlâh, with kametz or tzere before the tone, is a word that can only be accredited from the book of Isaiah (Isa 17:1; Isa 23:13). עיר, קריה, and אמרון are common parallel words in Isaiah (Isa 1:26; Isa 22:2; Isa 32:13-14); and zârim, as in Isa 1:7 and Isa 29:5, is the most general epithet for the enemies of the people of God. The fall of the imperial kingdom is followed by the conversion of the heathen; the songs proceed from the mouths of the remotest nations. Isa 25:3 runs parallel with Rev 15:3-4. Nations hitherto rude and passionate now submit to Jehovah with decorous reverence, and those that were previously oppressive (‛arı̄tzim, as in Isa 13:11, in form like pârı̄tzim, shâlı̄shı̄m) with humble fear. The cause of this conversion of the heathen is the one thus briefly indicated in the Apocalypse, "for thy judgments are made manifest" (Rev 15:4). דּל and אביון (cf., Isa 14:30; Isa 29:19) are names well known from the Psalms, as applying to the church when oppressed. To this church, in the distress which she had endured (לו בּצּר, as in Isa 26:16; Isa 63:9, cf., Isa 33:2), Jehovah had proved Himself a strong castle (mâ'ōz; on the expression, compare Isa 30:3), a shelter from storm and a shade from heat (for the figures, compare Isa 4:6; Isa 32:2; Isa 16:3), so that the blast of the tyrants (compare ruach on Isa 30:28; Isa 33:11, Ps. 76:13) was like a wall-storm, i.e., a storm striking against a wall (compare Isa 9:3, a shoulder-stick, i.e., a stick which strikes the shoulder), sounding against it and bursting upon it without being able to wash it away (Isa 28:17; Psa 62:4), because it was the wall of a strong castle, and this strong castle was Jehovah Himself. As Jehovah can suddenly subdue the heat of the sun in dryness (tzâyōn, abstract for concrete, as in Isa 32:2, equivalent to dry land, Isa 41:18), and it must give way when He brings up a shady thicket (Jer 4:29), namely of clouds (Exo 19:9; Psa 18:12), so did He suddenly subdue the thundering (shâ'on, as in Isa 17:12) of the hordes that stormed against His people; and the song of triumph (zâmı̄r, only met with again in Sol 2:12) of the tyrants, which passed over the world like a scorching heat, was soon "brought low" (‛ânâh, in its neuter radical signification "to bend," related to כּנע, as in Isa 31:4).
Thus the first hymnic echo dies away; and the eschatological prophecy, coming back to Isa 24:23, but with deeper prayerlike penetration, proceeds thus in Isa 25:6 : "And Jehovah of hosts prepares for all nations upon this mountain a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things rich in marrow, of wines on the lees thoroughly strained." "This mountain" is Zion, the seat of God's presence, and the place of His church's worship. The feast is therefore a spiritual one. The figure is taken, as in Psa 22:27., from the sacrificial meals connected with the shelâmim (the peace-offerings). Shemârim mezukkâkim are wines which have been left to stand upon their lees after the first fermentation is over, which have thus thoroughly fermented, and have been kept a long time (from shâmar, to keep, spec. to allow to ferment), and which are then filtered before drinking (Gr. οἶνος σακκίας, i.e., διΰλισμένος or διηθικὸς, from διηθεῖν, percolare), hence wine both strong and clear. Memuchâyı̄m might mean emedullatae ("with the marrow taken out;" compare, perhaps, Pro 31:3), but this could only apply to the bones, not to the fat meat itself; the meaning is therefore "mixed with marrow," made marrowy, medullosae. The thing symbolized in this way is the full enjoyment of blessedness in the perfected kingdom of God. The heathen are not only humbled so that they submit to Jehovah, but they also take part in the blessedness of His church, and are abundantly satisfied with the good things of His house, and made to drink of pleasure as from a river (Psa 36:9). The ring of the v. is inimitably pictorial. It is like joyful music to the heavenly feast. The more flexible form ממחיים (from the original, ממחי = ממחה) is intentionally chosen in the place of ממּסהים. It is as if we heard stringed instruments played with the most rapid movement of the bow.
Although the feast is one earth, it is on an earth which has been transformed into heaven; for the party-wall between God and the world has fallen down: death is no more, and all tears are for ever wiped away. "And He casts away upon this mountain the veil that veiled over all peoples, and the covering that covered over all nations. He puts away death for ever; and the Lord Jehovah wipes the tear from every face; and He removes the shame of His people from the whole earth: for Jehovah hath spoken it." What Jehovah bestows is followed by what He puts away. The "veil" and "covering" (massēcâh, from nâsac = mâsâc, Isa 22:8, from sâcac, to weave, twist, and twist over = to cover) are not symbols of mourning and affliction, but of spiritual blindness, like the "veil" upon the heart of Israel mentioned in Co2 3:15. The penē hallōt (cf., Job 41:5) is the upper side of the veil, the side turned towards you, by which Jehovah takes hold of the veil to lift it up. The second hallōt stands for הלּט (Ges. 71, Anm. 1), and is written in this form, according to Isaiah's peculiar style (vid., Isa 4:6; Isa 7:11; Isa 8:6; Isa 22:13), merely for the sake of the sound, like the obscurer niphal forms in Isa 24:3. The only difference between the two nouns is this: in lōt the leading idea is that of the completeness of the covering, and in massēcâh that of its thickness. The removing of the veil, as well as of death, is called בּלּע, which we find applied to God in other passages, viz., Isa 19:3; Psa 21:10; Psa 55:10. Swallowing up is used elsewhere as equivalent to making a thing disappear, by taking it into one's self; but here, as in many other instances, the notion of receiving into one's self is dropped, and nothing remains but the idea of taking away, unless, indeed, abolishing of death may perhaps be regarded as taking it back into what hell shows to be the eternal principle of wrath out of which God called it forth. God will abolish death, so that there shall be no trace left of its former sway. Paul gives a free rendering of this passage in Co1 15:54, κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος (after the Aramaean netzach, vincere). The Syriac combines both ideas, that of the Targum and that of Paul: absorpta est mors per victoriam in sempiternum. But the abolition of death is not in itself the perfection of blessedness. There are sufferings which force out a sigh, even after death has come as a deliverance. But all these sufferings, whose ultimate ground is sin, Jehovah sweeps away. There is something very significant in the use of the expression דּמעה (a tear), which the Apocalypse renders πᾶν δάκρυον (Rev 21:4). Wherever there is a tear on any face whatever, Jehovah wipes it away; and if Jehovah wipes away, this must be done most thoroughly: He removes the cause with the outward symptom, the sin as well as the tear. It is self-evident that this applies to the church triumphant. The world has been judged, and what was salvable has been saved. There is therefore no more shame for the people of God. Over the whole earth there is no further place to be found for this; Jehovah has taken it away. The earth is therefore a holy dwelling-place for blessed men. The new Jerusalem is Jehovah's throne, but the whole earth is Jehovah's glorious kingdom. The prophet is here looking from just the same point of view as Paul in Co1 15:28, and John in the last page of the Apocalypse.
After this prophetic section, which follows the first melodious echo like an interpolated recitative, the song of praise begins again; but it is soon deflected into the tone of prophecy. The shame of the people of God, mentioned in Isa 25:8, recals to mind the special enemies of the church in its immediate neighbourhood, who could not tyrannize over it indeed, like the empire of the world, but who nevertheless scoffed at it and persecuted it. The representative and emblem of these foes are the proud and boasting Moab (Isa 16:6; Jer 48:29). All such attempts as that of Knobel to turn this into history are but so much lost trouble. Moab is a mystic name. It is the prediction of the humiliation of Moab in this spiritual sense, for which the second echo opens the way by celebrating Jehovah's appearing. Jehovah is now in His manifested presence the conqueror of death, the drier of tears, the saviour of the honour of His oppressed church. "And they say in that day, Behold our God, for whom we waited to help us: this is Jehovah, for whom we waited; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation." The undefined but self-evident subject to v'âmar ("they say") is the church of the last days. "Behold:" hinnēh and zeh belong to one another, as in Isa 21:9. The waiting may be understood as implying a retrospective glance at all the remote past, even as far back as Jacob's saying, "I wait for Thy salvation, O Jehovah" (Gen 49:18). The appeal, "Let us be glad," etc., has passed over into the grand hodu of Psa 118:24.
In the land of promise there is rejoicing, but on the other side of the Jordan there is fear of ruin. Two contrasted pictures are placed here side by side. The Jordan is the same as the "great gulf" in the parable of the rich man. Upon Zion Jehovah descends in mercy, but upon the highlands of Moab in His wrath. "For the hand of Jehovah will sink down upon this mountain, and Moab is trodden down there where it is, as straw is trodden down in the water of the dung-pit. And he spreadeth out his hands in the pool therein, as the swimmer spreadeth them out to swim; but Jehovah forceth down the pride of Moab in spite of the artifices of his hands. Yea, thy steep, towering walls He bows down, forces under, and casts earthwards into dust." Jehovah brings down His hand upon Zion (nūach, as in Isa 7:2; Isa 11:1), not only to shelter, but also to avenge. Israel, that has been despised, He now makes glorious, and for contemptuous Moab He prepares a shameful end. In the place where it now is תּחתּיו, as in Sa2 7:10; Hab 3:16, "in its own place," its own land) it is threshed down, stamped or trodden down, as straw is trodden down into a dung-pit to turn it into manure: hiddūsh, the inf. constr., with the vowel sound u, possibly to distinguish it from the inf. absol. hiddosh (Ewald, 240, b). Instead of בּמו (as in Isa 43:2), the chethib has בּמי (cf., Job 9:30); and this is probably the more correct reading, since madmēnâh, by itself, means the dunghill, and not the tank of dung water. At the same time, it is quite possible that b'mo is intended as a play upon the name Moab, just as the word madmēnâh may possibly have been chosen with a play upon the Moabitish Madmēn (Jer 48:2). In Isa 25:11 Jehovah would be the subject, if b'kirbo (in the midst of it) referred back to Moab; but although the figure of Jehovah pressing down the pride of Moab, by spreading out His hands within it like a swimmer, might produce the impression of boldness and dignity in a different connection, yet here, where Moab has just been described as forced down into the manure-pit, the comparison of Jehovah to a swimmer would be a very offensive one. The swimmer is Moab itself, as Gesenius, Hitzig, Knobel, and in fact the majority of commentators suppose. "In the midst of it:" b'kirbo points back in a neuter sense to the place into which Moab had been violently plunged, and which was so little adapted for swimming. A man cannot swim in a manure pond; but Moab attempts it, though without success, for Jehovah presses down the pride of Moab in spite of its artifices עם, as in Neh 5:18; ארבּות, written with dagesh (according to the majority of MSS, from ארבּה, like the Arabic urbe, irbe, cleverness, wit, sharpness), i.e., the skilful and cunning movement of its hands. Saad. gives it correctly, as muchâtale, wiles and stratagems; Hitzig also renders it "machinations," i.e., twistings and turnings, which Moab makes with its arms, for the purpose of keeping itself up in the water. What Isa 25:11 affirms in figure, Isa 25:12 illustrates without any figure. If the reading were מבצרך חומות משׂגּב, the reference would be to Kir-Moab (Isa 15:1; Isa 16:7). But as the text stands, we are evidently to understand by it the strong and lofty walls of the cities of Moab in general.