Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
For Judah, sifted, delivered, and purified, there now begins a new ear. Righteous government, as a blessing for the people, is the first beneficent fruit. "Behold, the king will reign according to righteousness; and the princes, according to right will they command. And every one will be like a shelter from the wind, and a covert from the storm; like water-brooks in a dry place, like the shadow of a gigantic rock in a languishing land." The kingdom of Asshur is for ever destroyed; but the kingdom of Judah rises out of the state of confusion into which it has fallen through its God - forgetting policy and disregard of justice. King and princes now rule according to the standards that have been divinely appointed and revealed. The Lamed in ūlesârı̄m (and the princes) is that of reference (quod attinet ad, as in Psa 16:3 and Ecc 9:4), the exponent of the usual casus abs. (Ges. 146, 2); and the two other Lameds are equivalent to κατά, secundum (as in Jer 30:11). The figures in Isa 32:2 are the same as in Isa 25:4. The rock of Asshur (i.e., Sennacherib) has departed, and the princes of Asshur have deserted their standards, merely to save themselves. The king and princes of Judah are now the defence of their nation, and overshadow it like colossal walls of rock. This is the first fruit of the blessing.
The second is an opened understanding, following upon the ban of hardening. "And the eyes of the seeing no more are closed, and the ears of the hearing attend. And the heart of the hurried understands to know, and the tongue of stammerers speaks clear things with readiness." It is not physical miracles that are predicted here, but a spiritual change. The present judgment of hardening will be repealed: this is what Isa 32:3 affirms. The spiritual defects, from which many suffer who do not belong to the worst, will be healed: this is the statement in Isa 32:4. The form תּשׁעינה is not the future of שׁעה here, as in Isa 31:1; Isa 22:4; Isa 17:7-8 (in the sense of, they will no longer stare about restlessly and without aim), but of שׁעה = שׁעע, a metaplastic future of the latter, in the sense of, to be smeared over to closed (see Isa 29:9; Isa 6:10; cf., tach in Isa 44:18). On qâshabh (the kal of which is only met with here), see at Isa 21:7. The times succeeding the hardening, of which Isaiah is speaking here, are "the last times," as Isa 6:1-13 clearly shows; though it does not therefore follow that the king mentioned in Isa 32:1 (as in Isa 11:1.) is the Messiah Himself. In Isa 32:1 the prophet merely affirms, that Israel as a national commonwealth will then be governed in a manner well pleasing to God; here he predicts that Israel as a national congregation will be delivered from the judgment of not seeing with seeing eyes, and not hearing with hearing ears, and that it will be delivered from defects of weakness also. The nimhârı̄m are those that fall headlong, the precipitate, hurrying, or rash; and the עלּגים, stammerers, are not scoffers (Isa 28:7., Isa 19:20), as Knobel and Drechsler maintain, but such as are unable to think and speak with distinctness and certainty, more especially concerning the exalted things of God. The former would now have the gifts of discernment (yâbhı̄n), to perceive things in their true nature, and to distinguish under all circumstances that which is truly profitable (lâda‛ath); the latter would be able to express themselves suitably, with refinement, clearness, and worthiness. Tsachōth (old ed. tsâchōth) signifies that which is light, transparent; not merely intelligible, but refined and elegant. תּמהר gives the adverbial idea to ledabbēr (Ewald, 285, a).
A third fruit of the blessing is the naming and treating of every one according to his true character. "The fool will no more be called a nobleman, nor the crafty a gentleman. For a fool speaks follies, and his heart does godless things, to practise tricks and to speak error against Jehovah, to leave the soul of hungry men empty, and to withhold the drink of thirsty ones. And the craft of a crafty man is evil, who devises stratagems to destroy suffering ones by lying words, even when the needy exhibits his right. But a noble man devises noble things, and to noble things he adheres." Nobility of birth and wealth will give place to nobility of character, so that the former will not exist or not be recognised without the latter. Nâdı̄bh is properly one who is noble in character, and then, dropping the ethical meaning, one who is noble by rank. The meaning of the word generosus follows the same course in the opposite direction. Shōă‛ is the man who is raised to eminence by the possession of property; the gentleman, as in Job 34:19. The prophet explains for himself in what sense he uses the words nâbhâl and kı̄lai. We see from his explanation that kı̄lai neither signifies the covetous, from kūl (Saad.), nor the spendthrift, from killâh (Hitzig). Jerome gives the correct rendering, viz., fraudulentus; and Rashi and Kimchi very properly regard it as a contraction of nekhı̄lai. It is an adjective form derived from כּיל = נכיל, like שׂיא = נשׂיא (Job 20:6). The form כּלי in Isa 32:1 is used interchangeably with this, merely for the sake of the resemblance in sound to כּליו (machinatoris machinae pravae). In Isa 32:6, commencing with ki (for), the fact that the nâbhâl (fool) and kı̄lai (crafty man) will lose their titles of honour, is explained on the simple ground that such men are utterly unworthy of them. Nâbhâl is a scoffer at religion, who thinks himself an enlightened man, and yet at the same time has the basest heart, and is a worthless egotist. The infinitives with Lamed show in what the immorality ('âven) consists, with which his heart is so actively employed. In Isa 32:6, ūbhedabbēr ("and if he speak") is equivalent to, "even in the event of a needy man saying what is right and well founded:" Vâv = et in the sense of etiam ((cf., Sa2 1:23; Psa 31:12; Hos 8:6; Ecc 5:6); according to Knobel, it is equivalent to et quidem, as in Ecc 8:2; Amo 3:11; Amo 4:10; whereas Ewald regards it as Vav conj. (283, d), "and by going to law with the needy," but את־אביון would be the construction in this case (vid., Kg2 25:6). According to Isa 32:8, not only does the noble man devise what is noble, but as such (הוּא) he adheres to it. We might also adopt this explanation, "It is not upon gold or upon chance that he rises;" but according to the Arabic equivalents, qūm signifies persistere here.
This short address, although rounded off well, is something more than a fragment complete in itself, like the short parabolic piece in Isa 28:23-29, which commences in a similar manner. It is the last part of the fourth woe, just as that was the last part of the first. It is a side piece to the threatening prophecy of the time of Uzziah-Jotham (Isa 3:16.), and chastises the frivolous self-security of the women of Jerusalem, just as the former chastises their vain and luxurious love of finery. The prophet has now uttered many a woe upon Jerusalem, which is bringing itself to the verge of destruction; but notwithstanding the fact that women are by nature more delicate, and more easily affected and alarmed, than men, he has made no impression upon the women of Jerusalem, to whom he now foretells a terrible undeceiving of their carnal ease, whilst he holds out before them the ease secured by God, which can only be realized on the ruins of the former.
The first part of the address proclaims the annihilation of their false ease. "Ye contented women, rise up, hear my voice; ye confident daughters, hearken to my speech! Days to the year: then will ye tremble, confident ones! for it is all over with the vintage, the fruit harvest comes to nought. Tremble, contented ones! Quake, ye confident ones! Strip, make yourselves bare, and gird your loins with sackcloth! They smite upon their breasts for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine. On the land of my people there come up weeds, briers; yea, upon all joyous houses of the rejoicing city. For the palace is made solitary; the crowd of the city is left desolate; the ofel and watch-tower serve as caves for ever, for the delight of wild asses, for the tending of flocks." The summons is the same as in Gen 4:23 and Jer 9:19 (comp. Isa 28:23); the attributes the same as in Amo 6:1 (cf., Isa 4:1, where Isaiah apostrophizes the women of Samaria). שׁאנן, lively, of good cheer; and בּטח, trusting, namely to nothing. They are to rise up (qōmnâh), because the word of God must be heard standing (Jdg 3:20). The definition of the time "days for a year" (yâmı̄m ‛al-shânâh) appears to indicate the length of time that the desolation would last, as the word tirgaznâh is without any Vav apod. (cf., Isa 65:24; Job 1:16-18); but Isa 29:1 shows us differently, and the Vav is omitted, just as it is, for example, in Dan 4:28. Shânâh is the current year. In an undefined number of days, at the most a year from the present time (which is sometimes the meaning of yâmı̄m), the trembling would begin, and there would be neither grapes nor fruit to gather. Hence the spring harvest of corn is supposed to be over when the devastation begins. ימים is an acc. temporis; it stands here (as in Isa 27:6, for example; vid., Ewald, 293, 1) to indicate the starting point, not the period of duration. The milel-forms פּשׁטה, ערה, חגרה ,ערה , are explained by Ewald, Drechsler, and Luzzatto, as plur. fem. imper. with the Nun of the termination nâh dropped - an elision that is certainly never heard of. Others regard it as inf. with He femin. (Credner, Joel, p. 151); but קטלה for the infinitive קטלה is unexampled; and equally unexampled would be the inf. with He indicating the summons, as suggested by Bttcher, "to the shaking!" "to the stripping!" They are sing. masc. imper., such as occur elsewhere apart from the pause, e.g., מלוכה (for which the keri has מלכה) in Jdg 9:8; and the singular in the place of the plural is the strongest form of command. The masculine instead of the feminine appears already in הרדוּ, which is used in the place of חרדנה. The prophet then proceeds in the singular number, comprehending the women as a mass, and using the most massive expression. The He introduced into the summons required that the feminine forms, רגזי, etc., should be given up. ערה, from ערר, to be naked, to strip one's self. חגרה absolute, as in Joe 1:13 (cf., Isa 3:24), signifies to gird one's self with sackcloth (saq). We meet with the same remarkable enall. generis in Isa 32:12. Men have no breasts (shâdaim), and yet the masculine sōphedı̄m is employed, inasmuch as the prophet had the whole nation in his mind, throughout which there would be such a plangere ubera on account of the utter destruction of the hopeful harvest of corn and wine. Shâdaim (breasts) and שׂדי (construct to sâdōth) have the same common ring as ubera and ubertas frugum. In Isa 32:13 ta‛ăleh points back to qōts shâmı̄r, which is condensed into one neuter idea. The ki in Isa 32:13 has the sense of the Latin imo (Ewald, 330, b). The genitive connection of עלּיזה קריה with משׂושׂ בּתּי (joy-houses of the jubilant city) is the same as in Isa 28:1. The whole is grammatically strange, just as in the Psalms the language becomes all the more complicated, disjointed, and difficult, the greater the wrath and indignation of the poet. Hence the short shrill sentences in Isa 32:14 : palace given up (cf., Isa 13:22); city bustle forsaken (i.e., the city generally so full of bustle, Isa 22:2). The use of בּעד is the same as in Pro 6:26; Job 2:4. ‛Ofel, i.e., the south-eastern fortified slope of the temple mountain, and the bachan (i.e., the watch-tower, possibly the flock-tower which is mentioned in Mic 4:8 along with ‛ofel), would be pro speluncis, i.e., would be considered and serve as such. And in the very place where the women of Jerusalem had once led their life of gaiety, wild asses would now have their delight, and flocks their pasture (on the wild asses, perâ'ı̄m, that fine animal of the woodless steppe, see at Job 24:5; Job 39:5-8). Thus would Jerusalem, with its strongest, proudest places, be laid in ruins, and that in a single year, or ever less than a year.
The state would then continue long, very long, until at last the destruction of the false rest would be followed by the realization of the true. "Until the Spirit is poured out over us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is counted as the forest. And justice makes its abode in the desert, and righteousness settles down upon the fruit-field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the reward of righteousness rest and security for ever. And my people dwells in a place of peace, and in trustworthy, safe dwellings, and in cheerful resting-places. And it hails with the overthrow of the forest, and into lowliness must the city be brought low." There is a limit, therefore, to the "for ever" of Isa 32:14. The punishment would last till the Spirit, which Israel had not then dwelling in the midst of it (see Hag 2:5), and whose fulness was like a closed vessel to Israel, should be emptied out over Israel from the height of heaven (compare the piel ערה, Gen 24:20), i.e., should be poured out in all its fulness. When that was done, a great change would take place, the spiritual nature of which is figuratively represented in the same proverbial manner as in Isa 29:17. At the same time, a different turn is given to the second half in the passage before us. The meaning is, not that what was now valued as a fruit-bearing garden would be brought down from its false eminence, and be only regarded as forest; but that the whole would be so glorious, that what was now valued as a fruit-garden, would be thrown into the shade by something far more glorious still, in comparison with which it would have the appearance of a forest, in which everything grew wild. The whole land, the uncultivated pasture-land as well as the planted fruitful fields of corn and fruit, would then become the tent and seat of justice and righteousness. "Justice and righteousness' (mishpât and tsedâqâh) are throughout Isaiah the stamp of the last and perfect time. As these advance towards self-completion, the produce and result of these will be peace (ma‛ăseh and abhōdâh are used to denote the fruit or self-reward of work and painstaking toil; compare פּעלּה). But two things must take place before this calm, trustworthy, happy peace, of which the existing carnal security is only a caricature, can possibly be realized. In the first place, it must hail, and the wood must fall, being beaten down with hail. We already know, from Isa 10:34, that "the wood" was an emblem of Assyria; and in Isa 30:30-31, we find "the hail" mentioned as one of the forces of nature that would prove destructive to Assyria. And secondly, "the city" (העיר, a play upon the word, and a counterpart to היּער) must first of all be brought low into lowliness (i.e., be deeply humiliated). Rosenmller and others suppose the imperial city to be intended, according to parallels taken from chapters 24-27; but in this cycle of prophecies, in which the imperial city is never mentioned at all, "the city" must be Jerusalem, whose course from the false peace to the true lay through a humiliating punishment (Isa 29:2-4; Isa 30:19., Isa 31:4.).
In the face of this double judgment, the prophet congratulates those who will live to see the times after the judgment. "Blessed are ye that sow by all waters, and let the foot of the oxen and asses rove in freedom." Those who lived to see these times would be far and wide the lords of a quiet and fruitful land, cleared of its foes, and of all disturbers of peace. They would sow wherever they pleased, by all the waters that fertilized the soil, and therefore in a soil of the most productive kind, and one that required little if any trouble to cultivate. And inasmuch as everything would be in the most copious abundance, they would no longer need to watch with anxiety lest their oxen and asses should stray into the corn-fields, but would be able to let them wander wherever they pleased. There cannot be the slightest doubt that this is the correct explanation of the verse, according to Isa 30:23-25 (compare also Isa 7:21.).
This concludes the four woes, from which the fifth, that immediately follows, is distinguished by the fact, that in the former the Assyrian troubles are still in the future, whereas the fifth places us in the very midst of them. The prophet commenced (Isa 28:1-4) with the destruction of Samaria; he then threatened Judah and Jerusalem also. But it is uncommonly difficult to combine the different features of the threat into a complete picture. Sifting even to a small remnant is a leading thought, which runs through the threat. And we also read throughout the whole, that Asshur will meet with its own destruction in front of that very Jerusalem which it is seeking to destroy. But the prophet also knows, on the one hand, that Jerusalem is besieged by the Assyrians, and will not be rescued till the besieged city has been brought to the last extremity (Isa 29:1., Isa 31:4.); and, on the other hand, that this will reach even to the falling of the towers (Isa 30:25), the overthrow of the wall of the state (Isa 30:13-14), the devastation of the land, and the destruction of Jerusalem itself (Isa 32:12.); and for both of these he fixes the limit of a year (Isa 29:1; Isa 32:10). This double threat may be explained in the following manner. The judgments which Israel has still to endure, and the period of glory that will follow them, lie before the mental eye of the prophet like a long deep diorama. While threatening the existing generation, he penetrates more or less deeply into the judgments which lie in perspective before him. He threatens at one time merely a siege that will continue till it is brought to the utmost extremity; at another time utter destruction. But the imperial power intended, by which this double calamity is to be brought upon Judah, must be Assyria; since the prophet knew of no other in the earliest years of Hezekiah, when these threatening addresses were uttered. And this gives rise to another difficulty. Not only was the worst prediction - namely, that of the destruction of Jerusalem - not fulfilled; but even the milder prophecy - namely, that of a siege, which would bring them to the deepest distress - was not accomplished. There never was any actual siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians. The explanation of this is, that, according to Jer 18:7-8, and Jer 18:9, Jer 18:10, neither the threatenings of punishment nor the promises of blessing uttered by the prophets were so unconditional, that they were certain to be fulfilled and that with absolute necessity, at such and such a time, or upon such and such a generation. The threatened punishment might be repealed or modified, if repentance ensued on the part of the persons threatened (Jon 3:4; Kg1 21:29; Kg2 22:15-20; Ch2 12:5-8). The words of the prophecy did not on that account fall to the ground. If they produced repentance, they answered the very purpose for which they were intended; but if the circumstances which called for punishment should return, their force returned as well in all its fulness. If the judgment was one irrevocably determined, it was merely delayed by this, to be discharged upon the generation which should be ripest for it. And we have also an express historical testimony, which shows that this is the way in which the non-fulfilment of what Isaiah threatened as about to take place within a year is to be accounted for. Not only Isaiah, but also his contemporary Micah, threatened, that along with the judgment upon Samaria, the same judgment would also burst upon Jerusalem. Zion would be ploughed as a field, Jerusalem would be laid in ruins, and the temple mountain would be turned into a wooded height (Mic 3:12). This prophecy belongs to the first year of Hezekiah's reign, for it was then that the book of Micah was composed. But we read in Jer 26:18-19, that, in their alarm at this prophecy, Hezekiah and all Judah repented, and that Jehovah withdrew His threat in consequence. Thus, in the very first year of Hezekiah, a change for the better took place in Judah; and this was necessarily followed by the withdrawal of Isaiah's threatenings, just as those threatenings had co-operated in the production of this conversion (see Caspari, Micha, p. 160ff.). Not one of the three threats (Isa 29:1-4; Isa 32:9-14; Mic 3:12), which form an ascending climax, was fulfilled. Previous threatenings so far recovered their original force, when the insincerity of the conversion became apparent, that the Assyrians did unquestionably march through Judah, devastating everything as they went along. But because of Hezekiah's self-humiliation and faith, the threat was turned from that time forward into a promise. In direct opposition to his former threatening, Isaiah now promised that Jerusalem would not be besieged by the Assyrians (Isa 37:33-35), but that, before the siege was actually established, Assyria would fall under the walls of Jerusalem.