Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The prophecy here passes from the fall of Samaria, the crown of flowers (Isa 28:1-4), to its formal parallel. Jerusalem takes its place by the side of Samaria, the crown of flowers, and under the emblem of a hearth of God. 'Arı̄'ēl might, indeed, mean a lion of God. It occurs in this sense as the name of certain Moabitish heroes (Sa2 23:20; Ch1 11:22), and Isaiah himself used the shorter form אראל for the heroes of Judah (Isa 33:7). But as אריאל (God's heart, interchanged with הראל htiw degna, God's height) is the name given in Eze 43:15-16, to the altar of burnt-offering in the new temple, and as Isaiah could not say anything more characteristic of Jerusalem, than that Jehovah had a fire and hearth there (Isa 31:9); and, moreover, as Jerusalem the city and community within the city would have been compared to a lioness rather than a lion, we take אריאל in the sense of ara Dei (from ארה, to burn). The prophet commences in his own peculiar way with a grand summary introduction, which passes in a few gigantic strides over the whole course from threatening to promise. Isa 29:1 "Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the castle where David pitched his tent! Add year to year, let the feasts revolve: then I distress Ariel, and there is groaning and moaning; and so she proves herself to me as Ariel." By the fact that David fixed his headquarters in Jerusalem, and then brought the sacred ark thither, Jerusalem became a hearth of God. Within a single year, after only one more round of feasts (to be interpreted according to Isa 32:10, and probably spoken at the passover), Jehovah would make Jerusalem a besieged city, full of sighs (vahătsı̄qōthı̄, perf. cons., with the tone upon the ultimate); but "she becomes to me like an Arı̄el," i.e., being qualified through me, she will prove herself a hearth of God, by consuming the foes like a furnace, or by their meeting with their destruction at Jerusalem, like wood piled up on the altar and then consumed in flame. The prophecy has thus passed over the whole ground in a few majestic words. It now starts from the very beginning again, and first of all expands the hoi. Isa 29:3, Isa 29:4 "And I encamp in a circle round about thee, and surround thee with watch-posts, and erect tortoises against thee. And when brought down thou wilt speak from out of the ground, and thy speaking will sound low out of the dust; and thy voice cometh up like that of a demon from the ground, and thy speaking will whisper out of the dust." It would have to go so far with Ariel first of all, that it would be besieged by a hostile force, and would lie upon the ground in the greatest extremity, and then would whisper with a ghostlike softness, like a dying man, or like a spirit without flesh and bones. Kaddūr signifies sphaera, orbis, as in Isa 22:18 and in the Talmud (from kâdar = kâthar; cf., kudur in the name Nabu-kudur-ussur, Nebo protect the crown, κίδαριν), and is used here poetically for סביב. Jerome renders it quasi sphaeram (from dūr, orbis). מצּב (from נצב, יצב) might signify "firmly planted" (Luzzatto, immobilmente; compare shūth, Isa 2:7); but according to the parallel it signifies a military post, like מצּב, נציב. Metsurōth (from mâtsōr, Deu 20:20) are instruments of siege, the nature of which can only be determined conjecturally. On 'ōbh, see Isa 8:19;
(Note: The 'akkuubh mentioned there is equivalent to anbûb, Arab. a knot on a reed stalk, then that part of such a reed which comes between two knots, then the reed stalk itself; root נב, to rise up, swell, or become convex without and concave within (Fl.). It is possible that it would be better to trace 'ōbh back to this radical and primary meaning of what is hollow (and therefore has a dull sound), whether used in the sense of a leather-bag, or applied to a spirit of incantation, and the possessor of such a spirit.)
there is no necessity to take it as standing for ba‛al 'ōbh.
Thus far does the unfolding of the hoi reach. Now follows an unfolding of the words of promise, which stand at the end of Isa 29:1 : "And it proves itself to me as Ariel." Isa 29:5-8 : "And the multitude of thy foes will become like finely powdered dust, and the multitude of the tyrants like chaff flying away; and it will take place suddenly, very suddenly. From Jehovah of hosts there comes a visitation with crash of thunder and earthquake and great noise, whirlwind and tempest, and the blazing up of devouring fire. And the multitude of all the nations that gather together against Ariel, and all those who storm and distress Ariel and her stronghold, will be like a vision of the night in a dream. And it is just as a hungry man dreams, and behold he eats; and when he wakes up his soul is empty: and just as a thirsty man dreams, and behold he drinks; and when he wakes up, behold, he is faint, and his soul is parched with thirst: so will it be to the multitude of the nations which gather together against the mountain of Zion." The hostile army, described four times as hâmōn, a groaning multitude, is utterly annihilated through the terrible co-operation of the forces of nature which are let loose upon them (Isa 30:30, cf., Isa 17:13). "There comes a visitation:" tippâqēd might refer to Jerusalem in the sense of "it will be visited" in mercy, viz., by Jehovah acting thus upon its enemies. But it is better to take it in a neuter sense: "punishment is inflicted." The simile of the dream is applied in two different ways: (1.) They will dissolve into nothing, as if they had only the same apparent existence as a vision in a dream. (2.) Their plan for taking Jerusalem will be put to shame, and as utterly brought to nought as the eating or drinking of a dreamer, which turns out to be a delusion as soon as he awakes. Just as the prophet emphatically combines two substantives from the same verbal root in Isa 29:1, and two adverbs from the same verb in Isa 29:5; so does he place צבא and צבה together in Isa 29:7, the former with על relating to the crowding of an army for the purpose of a siege, the latter with an objective suffix (compare Psa 53:6) to the attack made by a crowded army. The metsōdâh of Ariel (i.e., the watch-tower, specula, from tsūd, to spy)
(Note: In Arabic, also, masâd signifies a lofty hill or mountain-top, from a secondary form of tsud; and massara, to lay the foundations of a fortified city (‛ı̄r mâtsōr, Psa 31:22), from tsūr.))
is the mountain of Zion mentioned afterwards in Isa 29:8. כּאשׁר, as if; comp. Zac 10:6; Job 10:19. אוכל והנּה without הוּא; the personal pronoun is frequently omitted, not only in the leading participial clause, as in this instance (compare Isa 26:3; Isa 40:19; Psa 22:29; Job 25:2; and Khler on Zac 9:12), but also with a minor participial clause, as in Psa 7:10; Psa 55:20, and Hab 2:10. The hungering and thirsting of the waking man are attributed to his nephesh (soul: cf., Isa 32:6; Isa 5:14; Pro 6:30), just because the soul is the cause of the physical life, and without it the action of the senses would be followed by no sensation or experience whatever. The hungry stomach is simply the object of feeling, and everything sensitive in the bodily organism is merely the medium of sensation or feeling; that which really feels is the soul. The soul no sooner passes out of the dreaming state into a waking condition, than it feels that its desires are as unsatisfied as ever. Just like such a dream will the army of the enemy, and that victory of which it is so certain before the battle is fought, fade away into nothing.
This enigma of the future the prophet holds out before the eyes of his contemporaries. The prophet received it by revelation of Jehovah; and without the illumination of Jehovah it could not possibly be understood. The deep degradation of Ariel, the wonderful deliverance, the sudden elevation from the abyss to this lofty height - all this was a matter of faith. But this faith was just what the nation wanted, and therefore the understanding depending upon it was wanting also. The shemu‛âh was there, but the bı̄nâh was absent; and all שׁמועה הבין was wrecked on the obtuseness of the mass. The prophet, therefore, who had received the unhappy calling to harden his people, could not help exclaiming (Isa 29:9), "Stop, and stare; blind yourselves, and grow blind!" התמהמהּ, to show one's self delaying (from מההּ, according to Luzzatto the reflective of תּמהמהּ, an emphatic form which is never met with), is connected with the synonymous verb תּמהּ, to be stiff with astonishment; but to שׁעע, to be plastered up, i.e., incapable of seeing (cf., Isa 6:10), there is attached the hithpalpel of the same verb, signifying "to place one's self in such circumstances," se oblinere (differently, however, in Psa 119:16, Psa 119:47, compare Isa 11:8, se permulcere). They could not understand the word of God, but they were confused, and their eyes were, so to speak, festered up: therefore this self-induced condition would become to them a God-appointed punishment. The imperatives are judicial words of command.
This growth of the self-hardening into a judicial sentence of obduracy, is proclaimed still more fully by the prophet. "They are drunken, and not with wine; they reel, and not with meth. For Jehovah hath poured upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and bound up your eyes; the prophets and your heads, the seers, He has veiled. And the revelation of all this will be to you like words of a sealed writing, which they give to him who understands writing, saying, Pray, read this; but he says, I cannot, it is sealed. And they give the writing to one who does not understand writing, saying, Pray, read this; but he says, I do not understand writing." They were drunken and stupid; not, however, merely because they gave themselves up to sensual intoxication (יין, dependent upon שׁכרוּ, ebrii vino), but because Jehovah had given them up to spiritual confusion and self-destruction. All the punishments of God are inflicted through the medium of His no less world-destroying than world-sustaining Spirit, which, although not willing what is evil, does make the evil called into existence by the creature the means of punishing evil. Tardēmâh is used here to signify the powerless, passive state of utter spiritual insensibility. This judgment had fallen upon the nation in all its members, even upon the eyes and heads of the nation, i.e., the prophets. Even they whose duty is was to see to the good of the nation, and lead it, were blind leaders of the blind; their eyes were fast shut (עצּם, the intensive form of the kal, Isa 33:15; Aram. עצּם; Talmud also עמּץ: to shut the eyes, or press them close), and over their heads a cover was drawn, as over sleepers in the night. Since the time of Koppe and Eichhorn it has become a usual thing to regard את־הנּביאים and החזים as a gloss, and indeed as a false one (compare Isa 9:13-14); but the reason assigned - namely, that Isaiah's polemics are directed not against the prophets, but against the stupid staring people - is utterly groundless (compare Isa 28:7, and the polemics of his contemporary Micah, e.g., Isa 3:5-8). Moreover, the author of a gloss would have been more likely to interpret ראשׁיכם by השּׂרים or הכּהנים (compare Job 9:24). And Isa 29:11, Isa 29:12 are also opposed to this assumption of a gloss. For by those who understood what was written (sēpher), it is evident that the prophets and rulers of the nation are intended; and by those who did not understand it, the great mass of the people. To both of them, "the vision of all," i.e., of all and everything that God had shown to His true prophets, was by the judgment of God completely sealed. Some of them might have an outward knowledge; but the inward understanding of the revelation was sealed to them. Some had not even this, but stared at the word of the prophet, just as a man who cannot read stares at what is written. The chethib has הסּפר; the keri ספר, though without any ground, since the article is merely generic. Instead of נא־זה קרא, we should write זה קרא־נא in both cases, as certain codices and old editions do.
This stupefaction was the self-inflicted punishment of the dead works with which the people mocked God and deceived themselves. "The Lord hath spoken: Because this people approaches me with its mouth, and honours me with its lips, and keeps its heart far from me, and its reverence of me has become a commandment learned from men: therefore, behold, I will proceed wondrously with this people, wondrously and marvellously strange; and the wisdom of its wise men is lost, and the understanding of its intelligent men becomes invisible." Ever since the time of Asaph (Ps 50, cf., Psa 78:36-37), the lamentation and condemnation of hypocritical ceremonial worship, without living faith or any striving after holiness, had been a leading theme of prophecy. Even in Isaiah's introductory address (chapter 1) this complain was uttered quite in the tone of that of Asaph. In the time of Hezekiah it was peculiarly called for, just as it was afterwards in that of Josiah (as the book of Jeremiah shows). The people had been obliged to consent to the abolition of the public worship of idols, but their worship of Jehovah was hypocrisy. Sometimes it was conscious hypocrisy, arising from the fear of man and favour of man; sometimes unconscious, inasmuch as without any inward conversion, but simply with work-righteousness, the people contented themselves with, and even prided themselves upon, an outward fulfilment of the law (Mic 6:6-8; Mic 3:11). Instead of נגּשׁ (lxx, Vulg., Syr., Mat 15:8; Mar 7:6), we also meet with the reading נגּשׂ, "because this people harasses itself as with tributary service;" but the antithesis to richaq (lxx πόῤῥω ἀπέχει ) favours the former reading niggash, accedit; and bephı̄v (with its moth) must be connected with this, though in opposition to the accents. This self-alienation and self-blinding, Jehovah would punish with a wondrously paradoxical judgment, namely, the judgment of a hardening, which would so completely empty and confuse, that even the appearance of wisdom and unity, which the leaders of Israel still had, would completely disappear. יוסיף (as in Isa 38:5) is not the third person fut. hiphil here (so that it could be rendered, according to Isa 28:16, "Behold, I am he who;" or more strictly still, "Behold me, who;" which, however, would give a prominence to the subject that would be out of place here), but the part. kal for יוסף. That the language really allowed of such a lengthening of the primary form qatĭl into qatı̄l, and especially in the case of יוסיף, is evident from Ecc 1:18 (see at Psa 16:5). In ופלא הפלא, פלא (cf., Lam 1:9) alternates with the gerundive (see at Isa 22:17): the fifth example in this one address of the emphatic juxtaposition of words having a similar sound and the same derivation (vid., Isa 29:1, Isa 29:5, Isa 29:7, Isa 29:9).
Their hypocrisy, which was about to be so wonderfully punished according to the universal law (Psa 18:26-27), manifested itself in their self-willed and secret behaviour, which would not inquire for Jehovah, nor suffer itself to be chastened by His word. "Woe unto them that hide plans deep from Jehovah, and their doing occurs in a dark place, and they say, Who saw us then, and who knew about us? Oh for your perversity! It is to be regarded as potters' clay; that a work could say to its maker, He has not made me; and an image to its sculptor, He does not understand it!" Just as Ahaz had carefully kept his appeal to Asshur for help secret from the prophet; so did they try, as far as possible, to hide from the prophet the plan for an alliance with Egypt. לסתּיר is a syncopated hiphil for להסתּיר, as in Isa 1:12; Isa 3:8; Isa 23:11. העמיק adds the adverbial notion, according to our mode of expression (comp. Joe 2:20, and the opposite thought in Joe 2:26; Ges. 142). To hide from Jehovah is equivalent to hiding from the prophet of Jehovah, that they might not have to listen to reproof from the word of Jehovah. We may see from Isa 8:12 how suspiciously they watched the prophet in such circumstances as these. But Jehovah saw them in their secrecy, and the prophet saw through the whole in the light of Jehovah. הפכּכם is an exclamation, like תּפלצתּך in Jer 49:16. They are perverse, or ('im) "is it not so?" They think they can dispense with Jehovah, and yet they are His creatures; they attribute cleverness to themselves, and practically disown Jehovah, as if the pot should say to the potter who has turned it, He does not understand it.
But the prophet's God, whose omniscience, creative glory, and perfect wisdom they so basely mistook and ignored, would very shortly turn the present state of the world upside down, and make Himself a congregation out of the poor and wretched, whilst He would entirely destroy this proud ungodly nation. "Is it not yet a very little, and Lebanon is turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field esteemed as a forest? And in that day the deaf hear scripture words, and the eyes of the blind will see out of obscurity and out of darkness. And the joy of the humble increases in Jehovah, and the poor among men will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. For tyrants are gone, and it is over with scoffers; and all who think evil are rooted out, who condemn a man for a word, and lay snares for him that is free-spoken in the gate, and overthrow the righteous through shameful lies." The circumstances themselves, as well as the sentence passed, will experience a change, in complete contrast with the present state of things. This is what is affirmed in Isa 29:17; probably a proverb transposed into a more literary style. What is now forest becomes ennobled into garden ground; and what is garden ground becomes in general estimation a forest (לכרמל, ליער, although we should rather expect ל, just as in Isa 32:15). These emblems are explained in Isa 29:18. The people that are now blind and deaf, so far as the word of Jehovah is concerned, are changed into a people with open ears and seeing eyes. Scripture words, like those which the prophet now holds before the people so unsuccessfully, are heard by those who have been deaf. The unfettered sight of those who have been blind pierces through the hitherto surrounding darkness. The heirs of the new future thus transformed are the anâvı̄m ("meek") and the 'ebhyōnı̄m ("poor"). אדם (the antithesis of אנשׁהים, e.g., Isa 29:13) heightens the representation of lowliness; the combination is a superlative one, as in הצאן צעירי, Jer 49:20, and הצאן עניי in Zac 11:7 (cf., חיות פריץ in Isa 35:9): needy men who present a glaring contrast to, and stand out from, the general body of men. Such men will obtain ever increasing joy in Jehovah (yâsaph as in Isa 37:31). Such a people of God would take the place of the oppressors (cf., Isa 28:12) and scoffers (cf., Isa 28:14, Isa 28:22), and those who thought evil (shâqad, invigilare, sedulo agere), i.e., the wretched planners, who made a חטא of every one who did not enter into their plans (i.e., who called him a chōtē'; cf., Deu 24:4; Ecc 5:5), and went to law with the man who openly opposed them in the gate (Amo 5:10; yeqōshūn, possibly the perf. kal, cf., Jer 50:24; according to the syntax, however, it is the fut. kal of qūsh = yâqōsh: see at Isa 26:16; Ges. 44, Anm. 4), and thrust away the righteous, i.e., forced him away from his just rights (Isa 10:2), by tōhū, i.e., accusations and pretences of the utmost worthlessness; for these would all have been swept away. This is the true explanation of the last clause, as given in the Targum, and not "into the desert and desolation," as Knobel and Luzzatto suppose; for with Isaiah tōhū is the synonym for all such words as signify nothingness, groundlessness, and fraud. The prophet no doubt had in his mind, at the time that he uttered these words, the conduct of the people towards himself and his fellow-prophets, and such as were like-minded with them. The charge brought against him of being a conspirator, or a traitor to his country, was a tōhū of this kind. All these conspirators and persecutors Jehovah would clear entirely away.
Everything that was incorrigible would be given up to destruction; and therefore the people of God, when it came out of the judgment, would have nothing of the same kind to look for again. "Therefore thus saith Jehovah of the house of Jacob, He who redeemed Abraham: Jacob shall not henceforth be ashamed, nor shall his face turn pale any more. For when he, when his children see the work of my hands in the midst of him, they will sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shudder before the God of Israel. And those who were of an erring spirit discern understanding, and murmurers accept instruction." With אל (for which Luzzatto, following Lowth, reads אל sda, "the God of the house of Jacob") the theme is introduced to which the following utterance refers. The end of Israel will correspond to the holy root of its origin. Just as Abraham was separated from the human race that was sunk in heathenism, to become the ancestor of a nation of Jehovah, so would a remnant be separated from the great mass of Israel that was sunk in apostasy from Jehovah; and this remnant would be the foundation of a holy community well pleasing to God. And this would never be confounded or become pale with shame again (on bōsh, see at Isa 1:29; châvar is a poetical Aramaism); for both sins and sinners that called forth the punishments of God, which had put them to shame, would have been swept away (cf., Zep 3:11). In the presence of this decisive work of punishment (ma‛ăseh as in Isa 28:21; Isa 10:12; Isa 5:12, Isa 5:19), which Jehovah would perform in the heart of Israel, Israel itself would undergo a thorough change. ילדיו is in apposition to the subject in בּראתו, "when he, namely his children" (comp. Job 29:3); and the expression "his children" is intentionally chosen instead of "his sons" (bânı̄m), to indicate that there would be a new generation, which would become, in the face of the judicial self-manifestation of Jehovah, a holy church, sanctifying Him, the Holy One of Israel. Yaqdı̄shū is continued in vehiqdı̄shū: the prophet intentionally repeats this most significant word, and he‛ĕrı̄ts is the parallel word to it, as in Isa 8:12-13. The new church would indeed not be a sinless one, or thoroughly perfect; but, according to Isa 29:24, the previous self-hardening in error would have been exchanged for a willing and living appropriation of right understanding, and the former murmuring resistance to the admonitions of Jehovah would have given place to a joyful and receptive thirst for instruction. There is the same interchange of Jacob and Israel here which we so frequently met with in chapters 40ff. And, in fact, throughout this undisputedly genuine prophecy of Isaiah, we can detect the language of chapters 40-66. Through the whole of the first part, indeed, we may trace the gradual development of the thoughts and forms which predominate there.