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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.
'For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth;' Notes, Isaiah 21:6; compare Isaiah 21:8, Isaiah 21:11; Micah 7:4; compare Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 3:17; Ezekiel 33:7. In these passages, the idea is that of one who is stationed on an elevated post of observation, who can look over a large region of country, and give timely warning of the approach of an enemy.
The general idea of prophecy which is presented in these passages, is that of a scene which is made to pass before the mind like a picture, or a landscape, where the mind contemplates a panoramic view of objects around it, or in the distance; where, as in a landscape, objects may appear to be grouped together, or lying near together, which may be in fact separated a considerable distance. The prophets described those objects which were presented to their minds as they "appeared" to them, or as they seem to be drawn on the picture which was before them. They had, undoubtedly, an intelligent consciousness of what they were describing; they were not mad, like the priestesses of Apollo; they had a clear view of the vision, and described it as it appeared to them. Let this idea be kept in mind, that the prophets saw in vision; that probably the mode in which they contemplated objects was somewhat in the manner of a landscape as it passes before the mind, and much light and beauty will be cast on many of the prophecies which now seem to be obscure.
III. From the view which has now been taken of the nature of prophecy, some important remarks may be made, throwing additional light on the subject.
(1) It is not to be expected that the prophets would describe what they saw in all their connections and relations; see Hengstenberg, in Bib. Repos. ii. p. 148. They would present what they saw as we describe what we witness in a landscape. Objects which appear to be near, may be in fact separated by a considerable interval. Objects on the mountainside may seem to lie close to each other, between which there may be a deep ravine, or a flowery vale. In describing or painting it, we describe or paint the points that appear; but the ravine and the vale cannot be painted. They are not seen. So in a prophecy, distant events may appear to lie near to each other, and may be so described, while "between" them there may be events happy or adverse, of long continuance and of great importance.
(2) Some single view of a future event may attract the attention and engross the mind of the prophet. A multitude of comparatively unimportant objects may pass unnoticed, while there may be one single absorbing view that shall seize upon, and occupy all the attention. Thus, in the prophecies which relate to the Messiah. Scarcely any one of the prophets gives any connected or complete view of his entire life and character. It is some single view of him, or some single event in his life, that occupies the mind. Thus, at one time his birth is described; at another his kingdom; at another his divine nature; at another his sufferings; at another his resurrection; at another his glory. "The prophetic view is made up, not of one of these predictions, but of all combined;" as the life of Jesus is not that which is contained in one of the evangelists, but in all combined. Illustrations of this remark might be drawn in abundance from the prophecies of Isaiah. Thus, in Isaiah 2:4, he sees the Messiah as the Prince of Peace, as diffusing universal concord among all the nations, and putting an end to war.
In Isaiah 6:1-5, compare John 12:41, he sees him as the Lord of glory, sitting on a throne, and filling the temple. In Isaiah 7:14, he sees him as a child, the son of a virgin. In Isaiah 9:1-2, he sees him as having reached manhood, and having entered on his ministry, in the land of Galilee where he began to preach. In Isaiah 9:6-7, he sees him as the exalted Prince, the Ruler, the mighty God, the Father of eternity. In Isaiah 11 he sees him as the descendant of Jesse - a tender sprout springing up from the stump of an ancient decayed tree. In Isaiah 25:8, he sees him as destroying death, and introducing immortality; compare 1 Corinthians 15:54. In Isaiah 35:1-10 the happy effects of his reign are seen; in Isaiah 53:1-12 he views him as a suffering Messiah, and contemplates the deep sorrows which he would endure when he should die to make atonement for the sins of the world. Thus, in all the prophets, we have one view presented at one time, and another at another; and the entire prediction is made up of all these when they are combined into one.
It may be observed also of Isaiah, that in the first part of his prophecy the idea of an exalted or triumphant Messiah is chiefly dwelt upon; in the latter part, he presents more prominently the idea of the suffering Messiah. The reason may have been, that the object in the first part was to console the hearts of the nation under their deep and accumulated calamities, with the assurance that their great Deliverer would come. In the latter part, which may not have been published in his life, the idea of a suffering Messiah is more prominently introduced. This might have been rather designed for posterity than for the generation when Isaiah 54ed; or it may have been designed for the more pious individuals in the nation rather than for the nation at large, and hence, in order to give a full view of the Messiah, he dwelt then on his sufferings and death; see Hengstenberg's Christol. vol. i. pp. 153, 154.
(3) Another peculiarity, which may arise from the nature of prophecy here presented, may have been that the mind of the prophet glanced rapidly from one thing to another. By very slight associations or connections, as they may now appear to us, the mind is carried from one object or event to another; and almost before we are aware of it, the prophet seems to be describing some point that has, as appears to us, scarcely any connection with the one which he had but just before been describing. We are astonished at the transition, and perhaps can by no means ascertain the connection which has subsisted in view of the mind of the prophet, and which has led him to pass from the one to the other. The mental association to us is lost or unseen, and we deem him abrupt, and speak of his rapid transitions, and of the difficulties involved in the doctrine of a double sense. The views which I am here describing may be presented under the idea of what may be called the laws of prophetic suggestion; and perhaps a study of those laws might lead to a removal of most of the difficulties which have been supposed to be connected with the subject of a spiritual meaning, and of the double sense of the prophecies.
In looking over a landscape; in attempting to describe the objects as they lie in view of the eye - if that landscape were not seen by others for whom the description is made - the transitions would seem to be rapid, and the objects might seem to be described in great disorder. It would be difficult to tell why this object was mentioned in connection with that; or by what laws of association the one suggested by the other. A house or tree; a brook, a man, an animal, a valley, a mountain, might all be described, and between them there might be no apparent laws of close connection, and all the real union may be that they lie in the same range, in view of him who contemplates them. The "laws of prophetic suggestion" may appear to be equally slight; and we may not be able to trace them, because we have not the entire view or grouping which was presented to the mind of the prophet. We do not see the associations which in his view connected the one with the other.
To him, there may have been no double sense. He may have described objects singly as they appeared to him. But they may have lain near each other. They may have been so closely grouped that he could not separate them even in the description. The words appropriate to the one may have naturally and easily fallen into the form of appropriate description of the other. And the objects may have been so contiguous, and the transition in the mind of the prophet so rapid, that he may himself have been scarcely conscious of the change, and his narrative may seem to flow on as one continued description. Thus, the object with which he commenced, may have sunk out of view, and the mind be occupied entirely in the contemplation of that which was at first secondary. Such seems to have been, in a remarkable manner, the uniqueness of the mind of Isaiah. Whatever is the object or event with which he commences, the description usually closes with the Messiah. His mind glances rapidly from the object immediately before him, and fixes on that which is more remote, and the first object gradually sinks away; the language rises in dignity and beauty; the mind is full, and the description proceeds with a statement respecting the Prince of Peace. This is not double sense: it is rapid transition under the laws of prophetic suggestion; and though at first some object immediately before the prophet was the subject of his contemplation, yet before he closes, his mind is totally absorbed in some distant event that has been presented, and his language is designedly such as is adapted to that.
It would be easy to adduce numerous instances of the operation of this law in Isaiah. For illustration we may refer to the remarkable prophecy in Isaiah 7:14; compare Isaiah 8:8; Isaiah 9:1-7. See the notes on those passages. Indeed, it may be presented, I think, as one of the prominent characteristics of the mind of Isaiah, that in the prophetic visions which he contemplated, the Messiah always occupied some place; that whatever prophetic landscape, so to speak, passed before him, the Messiah was always in some part of it; and that consequently wherever he began his prophetic annunciations, he usually closed with a description of some portion of the doctrines, or the work of the Messiah. It is this law of the mental associations of Isaiah which gives such value to his writings in the minds of all who love the Saviour.
(4) It follows from this view of prophecy, that the prophets would speak of occurrences and events as they appeared to them. They would speak of them as actually present, or as passing before their eyes. They would describe them as being what they had seen, and would thus throw them into the past tense, as we describe what we have seen in a landscape, and speak of what we saw. It would be comparatively infrequent, therefore, that the event would be described as "future." Accordingly, we find that this is the mode actually adopted in the prophets. Thus, in Isaiah 9:6, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given." Isaiah 42:1, "behold my servant whom I uphold, mine elect in whom my soul delighteth." So in the description of the sufferings of the Messiah: "He is despised." "He hath no form or comeliness,: Isaiah 53:2-3. Thus, in Isaiah 14:1-8, Cyrus is addressed as if he were personally present. Frequently, events are thus described as past, or as events which the prophet had seen in vision. "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined," Isaiah 9:2.
So especially in the description of the sufferings of the Messiah: "As many were astonished at thee." "His visage was so marred." "He hath borne our griefs." "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted." "He was taken from prison." "He was cut off out of the land of the living." "He made his grave," etc. etc.; Isaiah 52:14-15; Isaiah 53:4-9. In some cases, also, the prophet seems to have placed himself in vision in the midst of the scenes which he describes, or to have taken, so to speak, a station where he might contemplate a part as past, and a part as yet to come. Thus, in Isaiah 53:1-12 the prophet seems to have his station between the humiliation of the Saviour and his glorification, in which he speaks of his sufferings as past, and his glorification, and the success of the gospel, as yet to come; compare particularly Isaiah 53:9-12. This view of the nature of prophecy would have saved from many erroneous interpretations; and especially would have prevented many of the cavils of skeptics. It is a view which a man would be allowed to take in describing a landscape; and why should it be deemed irrational or absurd in prophecy?
(5) From this view it also follows, that the prophecies are usually to be regarded as seen in space and not in time; or in other words, the time would not be actually and definitely marked. They would describe the order, or the succession of events; but between them there might be a considerable, and an unmeasured interval of time. In illustration of this we may refer to the idea which has been so often presented already - the idea of a landscape. When one is placed in an advantageous position to view a landscape, he can mark distinctly the order of the objects, the succession, the grouping. He can tell what objects appear to him to lie near each other; or what are apparently in juxtaposition. But all who look at such a landscape know very well that there are objects which the eye cannot take in, and which will not be exhibited by any description. For example, hills in the distant view may seem to lie near to each other; one may seem to rise just back of the other, and they may appear to constitute parts of the same mountain range, and yet between them there may be wide and fertile vales, the extent of which the eye cannot measure, and which the mind may be wholly unable to conjecture. It has no means of measuring the distance, and a description of the whole scene as it appeared to the observer would convey no idea of the distance of the intervals. So in the prophecies. Between the events seen in vision there may be long intervals, and the length of those intervals the prophet may have left us no means of determining. He describes the scene as it appeared to him in vision. In a landscape the distance, the length, the nature of these intervals might be determined in one of three ways:
(1) by the report of one who had gone over the ground and actually measured the distances;
(2) by going ourselves and measuring the distances; or
(3) by a revelation from heaven.
So the distance of time occurring between the events seen in vision by the prophets, may be determined either by the actual measurement as the events occur, or by direct revelation either made to the prophet himself, or to some other prophet. Accordingly, we find in the prophecies these facts:
(a) In many of them there are no marks of time, but only of succession. It is predicted only that one event should succeed another in a certain order.
(b) Occasionally the time of some one event is marked in the succession, as e. g. the time of the death of the Messiah, in Daniel 9:26-27.
(c) Events are apparently connected together, which in fact were to be separated by long intervals. Thus, Isaiah 11 makes the deliverance which was to be effected by the Messiah, to follow immediately the deliverance from the yoke of the Assyrians, without noticing the long train of intermediate occurrences. And in the same manner Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, and Micah very often connect the deliverance under the Messiah with that which was to be effected from the captivity at Babylon, without noticing the long train of intermediate events. There was such a resemblance between the two events that, by the laws of "prophetic suggestion," the mind of the prophet glanced rapidly from one to the other, and the description which commenced with the account of the deliverance from the Babylonian captivity, closed with the description of the triumphs of the Messiah. And yet not one of the prophets ever intimate that the Messiah would be the leader from the exile at Babylon.
(d) The time is sometimes revealed to the prophets themselves, and they mark it distinctly. Thus, to Jeremiah it was revealed that the exile at Babylon would continue 70 years Isaiah 25:11-12, and although this event had been the subject of revelation to other prophets, yet to no one of them was there before an intimation of the time during which it was to continue. So also of the place. That the Jews would be carried away to a distant land if they were disobedient, had been predicted by Moses, and threatened by many of the prophets; and yet there was no intimation of the place of their bondage until the embassy of the king of Babylon to Hezekiah, and the sin of Hezekiah in showing them his treasure, led Isaiah to declare that "Babylon was the place" to which the nation was to be carried; see the notes at Isaiah 39:6. Marks of time are thus scattered, though not very profusely, through the prophecies. They were, on the whole, so definite as to lead to the general expectation that the Messiah would appear about the time when Jesus was born; see the notes at Matthew 2.
(6) It is a consequence of this view also, that many of the prophecies are obscure. It is not to be expected that the same degree of light should be found in the prophecies which we have now. And yet so far as the prophecy was made known, it might be clear enough; nor was there any danger or need of mistake. The facts themselves were perfectly plain and intelligible; but there was only a partial and imperfect development of the facts. The fact, for example, that the Messiah was to come; that he was to be born at Bethlehem; that he was to be a king; that he was to die; that his religion was to prevail among the nations; and that the Gentiles were to be brought to the knowledge of him, were all made known, and were as clear and plain as they are now. Much is known now, indeed, of the mode in which this was to be done which was not then; and the want of this knowledge served to make the prophecies appear obscure. We take the information which we now have, and go back to the times when the prophecies were uttered, and finding them obscure, we seem to infer that because all was not known, nothing was known. But we are to remember that all science at the beginning is elementary; and that knowledge on all subjects makes its advances by slow degrees. Many things in the prophecies were obscure, in the sense that there had been only a partial revelation; or that only a few facts were made known; or that the time was not marked with certainty; and yet the facts themselves may have been as clear as they are now, and the "order of succession" may have been also as certainly and clearly determined. The facts were revealed; the manner in which they were to occur may have been concealed.
It may be added here, in the words of Prof. Stuart, 'that many prophecies have respect to kingdoms, nations, and events, that for thousands of years have been buried in total darkness. In what manner they were fulfilled we know not; when, we know now. We do not even know enough of the geography of many places and regions that are named in them, to be able to trace the scene of such fulfillment. Customs, manners, and many other things alluded to by such prophecies, we have no present means of illustrating in an adequate manner. Of course, and of necessity, then, there must be more or less in all such prophecies, that is obscure to us.' Bib. Repository, vol. ii. p. 237.
Section 8. Works that Are Illustrative of Isaiah
Probably no book of the Bible has occupied so much the attention of critics, of commentators, and of private Christians, as Isaiah. The beauty, grandeur, and power of his prophecies; their highly evangelical character; the fact that they are so frequently quoted in the New Testament; the number and minuteness of his predictions in regard to cities and kingdoms; as well as the intrinsic difficulty of many portions of his writings, all have contributed to this. Of the numerous works which may be consulted in reading, or in explaining Isaiah, the following are among the principal:
I. The Ancient Versions.
(1) The Septuagint, so called from the 70 translators who are supposed to have been engaged in it. This is the most ancient, and in some respects the most valuable of all the versions of the Bible, and was formerly esteemed so valuable as to be read in synagogues and in churches. Much uncertainty exists in regard to the real history of this version. According to the common Jewish legend respecting it, Ptolemy Philadelphus, who reigned king of Egypt from 284 to 246 b.c., formed the wish, through the advice of his librarian, Demetrius Phalerius, to possess a Greek copy of the Jewish Scriptures, for the Alexandrian Library, and sent to Jerusalem for this object. The Jews sent him a Hebrew manuscript, and 72 men of learning to translate it. They all labored together; being shut up in the island of Pharos, where having agreed on the translation by mutual conference, they dictated it to Demetrius, who wrote it down, and thus in the space of 72 days the whole was finished.
This legend is given in an epistle said to have been written by Aristeas, to his brother in Alexandria. Josephus also relates story, Ant. xii. II.-2-14, but it has every mark of fiction; and an examination of the Septuagint itself will convince anyone that it was not all made by the same persons, or at the same time. The most probable supposition is, that after the Jews had settled in great numbers in Egypt, and had in some measure forgotten the Hebrew language, a Greek version became necessary for the public use in their temple there (see the notes, Isaiah 19:18), and in their synogogues. There is no improbability that this was done under the sanction of the Sanhedrin, or Council of 72 (LXXII) in Egypt, and that it thus received its name and authority. The translation was probably commenced about 250 years before Christ. The Pentateuch would be first translated, and the other books were probably translated at intervals between that time and the time of Christ. 'The Pentateuch is best translated, and exhibits clear and flowing Greek style; the next in rank is the translation of Job and the Proverbs; the Psalms and the prophets are translated worst of all, and indeed often without any sense.
Indeed, the real value of the Septuagint, as a version, stands in no sort of relation to its reputation.' - Calmet. 'Isaiah has had the hard fate to meet a translation unworthy of him, there being hardly any book of the Old Testament that is so ill rendered in that version as Isaiah.' - Lowth. The authority of this version, however, soon became so great as to superscede the use of the Hebrew among all the Jews who spoke Greek. It was read in the synagogues in Egypt, and was gradually introduced into Palestine. It had the highest reverence among the Jews, and was used by them everywhere; and is the version that is most commonly quoted in the New Testament. From the Jews the reputation and authority of this version passed over to Christians, who employed it with the same degree of credence as the original. The text of this version has suffered greatly, and great efforts have been made to restore it: and yet probably after all these efforts, and after all the reputaion which the version has enjoyed in former times, there has not been anywhere, or scarcely in any language, any version of the Scriptures that is more incorrect and defective than the Septuagint. Probably there is no version from which, as a whole, a more correct idea would not be derived of the real meaning of the Sacred Scriptures, and this is true in a special manner of Isaiah. It is valuable as the oldest version; as having been regarded with so much respect in former times: and as, notwithstanding its faults, and the imperfection of the text, throwing much light on various parts of the Old Testament. But as an authority for correcting the Hebrew text, it is of little or no value. The history of the Septuagint may be seen in Hody, de Biblior. Textibus orig. Oxford, 1705; Horne's Introduction, vol. ii. 163ff; Prideaux's Connections; Walton's Prolegomena, c. ix. section 3-10; Isaac Vossius de Septuagint Inter. Hag. Coin. 1661; and Brett, Dias. on the Septuagint, in Watson's Theo. Tracts, vol. iii. p. 18ff.
(2) The Latin Vulgate - the authorized version of the papal communion. When Christianity had extended itself to the West, where the Latin language was spoken, a version of the Scriptures into that language became necessary. In the time of Augustine there were several of these, but only one of them was adopted by the church. This was called "common vulgata," because it was made from the common Greek version, η κοινή hē koinē. In modern times this version is often called "Itala," or the "Italic" version. This version, in the Old Testament, was made literally from the Septuagint, and copied all its mistakes. To remedy the evils of this, and to give a correct translation of the Scriptures, Jerome undertook a direct translation, from the Hebrew. He went to Palestine and enjoyed the oral instructions of a learned Jew. He availed himself of all the labors of his predecessors, and furnished a translation which surpassed all that preceded his in usefulness. In the seventh century this version had supplanted all the old ones. It was the first book ever printed. By the Council of Trent, it was declared to be 'authentic' - and is the authorized or standard version of the papists; and is regarded by them as of equal authority with the original Scriptures. This version is allowed generally to be a very faithful translation; and it undoubtedly gives a much more correct view of the original than the Septuagint.
(3) The Syriac versions. Of these there are two, both of which are of Christian origin; having been made by Christians of the Syrian church who dwelt in Mesopotamia. The earliest and most celebrated of these is the Peshito; i. e. "the clear, or the literal." It is the authorized version of the Syrian church, and is supposed by them to have been made in the time of Solomon. It was probably made in the first century. It follows, in general, the Hebrew text literally; and is very valuable as an aid in ascertaining the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures. The other Syriac version was made from the Septuagint about the year 616 a.d. for the use of the Monophysites. It is of value, therefore, only for the interpretation of the Septuagint. It is the former of these which is printed in the Polyglotts. Of the latter no portion has been printed except Jeremiah and Ezekiel in 1787, and Daniel in 1788. - Calmet.
(4) The Arabic versions. The Scriptures have been at various times translated into Arabic. After the time of Muhammed, the Arabic became the common language of many of the Jews, and of numerous bodies of Christians in the East. Sometimes the translations were made from the Hebrew, sometimes from the Septuagint, from the Peshito, or the Vulgate. The version of Rabbi Saadias Gaon, director of the Jewish Academy at Babylon, was made in the 10th century a.d. It comprised originally the Old Testament, but there have been printed only the Pentateuch, and Isaiah. The Pentateuch is found in the Polyglotts. Isaiah was published by Paulus in 1791. The Mauritanian version was made in the 13th century, by an Arabian Jew, and was published by Erpenius in 1629. The Arabic version in the Polyglotts was made by a Christian of Alexandria, and was made from the Septuagint. - Robinson. Of course these are of little value in illustrating the Hebrew text. The chief and great value of the Arabic consists in the light which is thrown upon the similar meaning of Hebrew words, phrases, and customs, from the Arabic language, manners, and literature.
(5) The Targums or Chaldee versions. All these are the works of Jews living in Palestine and Babylon, from a century before Christ, to the eighth, or ninth century after Christ. They bear the name "Targum, i. e. translation." They comprise the Targum of Onkelos on the Pentateuch; of Jonathan Ben Uzziel on the historical books, and the prophets; of Jerusalem on the Pentateuch; and of smaller and separate Targums on the books of Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. That of Jonathan Ben Uzziel, which was made about the time of the Saviour, and which includes Isaiah, is far inferior to that of Onkelos. It often wanders from the text in a wordy, allegorical explanation; admits many explanations which are arbitrary, and especially such as honor the Pharisees; and often gives a commentary instead of a translation; see Gesenius, Commentary uber den Isa. Einl. section 11. It is valuable, as it often gives a literal translation of the Hebrew, and adheres to it closely, and as it gives a statement of what was the prevailing interpretation of the sacred writings in the time when it was made. It may, therefore, be used in an argument with the modern Jews, to show that many of the passages which they refuse to refer to the Messiah were regarded by their fathers as having a relation to him.
The more modern versions of the Scriptures are evidently of little or no use in interpreting the Bible, and of no authority in attempting to furnish a correct text. On the general character of the versions above referred to, the reader may consult Horne's Introduction, vol. ii. 156ff.; Gesenius, Einl. section 10-20.
The following are among the principal ones which may be referred to in illustration of Isaiah:
(1) Commentarius in Librum Prophetiarum Isaiae, Cura et Studio Campegii Vitringa, 2 vol. fol. 1714, 1720, 1724. This great work on Isaiah first appeared at Leuwarden in 1714. It has been several times reprinted. Vitringa was professor of theology at Franecker, and died in 1722. In this great work, Vitringa surpassed all who went before him in the illustration of Isaiah; and none of the subsequent efforts which have been made to explain this prophet have superseded this, or rendered it valueless. It is now indeed indispensable to a correct understanding of this prophet. He is the fountain from which most subsequent writers on Isaiah have copiously drawn. His excellencies are, great learning; copious investigation; vast research; judicious exposition; an excellent spirit, and great acuteness. His faults - for faults abound in his work - are:
(1) Great diffuseness of style.
(2) A leaning to the allegorical mode of interpretation.
(3) A minute, and anxious, and often fanciful effort to find something in history that accords with his view of each prediction. Often these parts of his work are forced and fanciful; and though they evince great research and historical knowledge, yet his application of many of the prophecies must be regarded as wholly arbitrary and unsatisfactory.
(4) He did not seem to be fully acquainted with the poetic and figurative character of the prophetic style. Hence, he is often forced to seek for fulfillment of particular expressions when a more complete acquaintance with the character of that style would have led him to seek for no such minute fulfillment. Yet no one can regard himself as furnished for a correct and full examination of Isaiah who is not in possession of this elaborate work.
(2) The collection of commentaries in the Critici Sacri, 9 vols. fol. This great work contains a collection of the best commentaries which were known at the time in which it was made. Valuable critical notes will be found in the commentary of Drusius, and occasional remarks of great value in the brief commentary of Grotius. Grotius is the father of commentators; and especially on the New Testament, he has furnished more "materials" which have been worked up into the recent commentaries, than all other expositors united. He is especially valuable for the vast amount of Classical learning which he has brought to illustrate the Scriptures. His main faults are a lack of spirituality and a laxness of opinions; but no man who wishes to gain a large and liberal view of the sacred writings will deem his library complete who has not the commentary of this great man. His notes, however, on Isaiah and the Old Testament generally, are very brief.
(3) The same work abridged and arranged by Poole, in 5 vols. fol. This work has often been reprinted, and is well known as Poole's Synopsis. It is a work of great labor. It consists in arranging in one continuous form the different expositions contained in the work last mentioned. With all the learning and labor expended on it, it is, like most other abridgements, a work which will make him who consults it regret that an abridgement had been attempted, and sigh for the original work. It is an arrangement of opinions, without any reasons for those opinions as they existed in the minds of the original authors. To a man disposed to collect opinions merely, this work is invaluable; to a man who wishes to know on what opinions are based, and what is their true value, it will be regarded generally as of comparatively little use. The original work - the Critici Sacri - is of infinitely more value than this Synopsis by Poole.
(4) The commentary of Calvin. This may be found in his works printed at Amsterdam in 1667. This commentary on Isaiah was originated in discourses which were delivered by him in his public ministry, and which were committed to writing by another hand, and afterward revised by himself. The critical knowledge of Calvin was not great; nor does he enter minutely into criticisms, or philology. He aims at giving the sense of Isaiah, often somewhat in the form of a paraphrase. There is little criticism of words and phrases, little attempt to describe customs, or to illustrate the geography of the places referred to, and there is often in the writings of this great man a lack of vivacity and of point. However, Calvin is judicious and sound. His practical remarks are useful, and his knowledge of the human heart, and his good sense, enabled him to furnish a commentary that is highly valuable.
(5) Rosenmuller on Isaiah. This distinguished and very valuable work was first published in 1793, in three parts, and afterward in a completely revised edition in 1810, in three volumes. The merit of Rosenmuller consists in his great learning; in his cautious and careful collection of all the materials which existed to throw light on the prophet; and in his clear and simple arrangement and statement. The basis of this work is indeed Vitringa; but Rosenmuller is by no means confined to him. He has gathered from all sources what he regarded as necessary to an explanation of the prophet. He is judicious in his criticisms; and not rash and reckless in attempting to modify and amend the text. He does not resemble Grotius, who is said to have "found Christ nowhere;" but he is almost always, particularly in the first part, an advocate for the Messianic interpretation. There can be found nowhere a more valuable collection of "materials" for an understanding of Isaiah than in Rosenmuller.
(6) Philologisch-Kritischer und Historischer Commentar uber den Isaiah, von W. Gesenius, 3 Th. Leipzig, 1821. 'The commentary of Gesenius has not rendered the work of Rosenmuller superfluous. Gesenius has certainly been more independent in ascertaining the meaning of words, and in this respect has rendered a great service to the prophet. His diligence has considerably increased the materials of exegesis by collecting a number of striking parallel passages, especially from Arabian and Syrian writers, which though not numerous, have been very accurately read. His historical illustrations, especially of the prophecies relating to foreign nations, are for the most part very valuable; and his acuteness has made new discoveries.' "Hengstenberg." The great value of Gesenius consists in his explanation of words and phrases; in his bringing to bear his vast learning in the Hebrew, and the cognate languages, to an explanation of the prophet; in his acuteness and skill in philological investigations; and in his use of illustrations of customs, geography, etc., from modern travelers. A favorable specimen of his manner of exposition may be seen in his commentary on the prophecy respecting Moab, Isaiah 15-16. This is translated in the Biblical Repository for January 1836. See also a translation of Isaiah 17:12-14; Isaiah 18:1-7, in the Biblical Repository for July, 1836. Of this exposition Prof. Stuart says, 'I consider it the only successful effort which has been made, to unravel the very difficult passage of which it treats. I consider it a kind of "chef d' oeuvre" among the philological efforts of this distinguished writer;' Bib. Rep. July, 1836, p. 220. For the general merits of Gesenius, see the article 'Hebrew Lexicography,' by Prof. Stuart, in Bib. Repository, 1836, p. 468ff.
(7) Isaiah; a New Translation with a Preliminary Dissertation, and Notes, Critical, Philological, and Explanatory. By Robert Lowth, D. D., Lord Bishop of London. This very beautiful translation of Isaiah was first published in London, in quarto, in 1778, and has been reprrinted several times. A German translation was published by M. Koppe, with notes and additions, at Gottingen, 1779, 1780, in 4 vols. 8 vo. It is the only work in English with which I am acquainted of any very great value on Isaiah, and it will doubtless continue to hold its rank as a standard work in sacred literature. Of all the interpreters of Isaiah, Lowth has probably most clearly discerned the true nature of the prophetic visions, has been enabled most clearly to apprehend and express the sense of the prophet, and has presented a translation which has been universally admired for its beauty. The faults of the work are: that his translation is often too paraphrastic, that he indulges in great caprice of criticism, that he often changes the Hebrew text on very slight authority, and that there is a lack of copiousness in the notes for the purpose of those who would obtain a full and accurate view of Isaiah. Lowth made good use of the aids which in his time might be derived from the researches of Oriental travelers. But since his time, this department of literature has been greatly enlarged, and important light has been thrown upon many passages which in his time were obscure.
(8) A new translation of the Hebrew prophets, arranged in chronological order. By George Noyes, Boston, 1833. This work professes to be simply a literal translation of the prophets, without an extended commentary. A very few notes are appended. The translation is executed with great skill and fidelity, and gives in general very correctly the meaning of the original. The translator has availed himself of the labors of Gesenius, and of the other modern critics. For a further view of this work, see North American Review for January, 1838.
(9) Esaias ex recensione Textus Hebraei, ad fidem Codd. et verss. Latine, vertit, et Notas subjecit, John C. Doederlin. Altdorf, 8 vo. 1780. Norimbergae, 1789.
(10) The Book of the Prophet Isaiah, in Hebrew and English. The Hebrew text metrically arranged, the translation altered from that of Bishop Lowth. By Joseph Stock, D. D., Bishop of Killala, 1804, 4to. 'There is a variety of notes, critical and explanatory, supplied partly by the translator, and partly by others. Many of these are uncommonly valuable for their depth and acuteness, and tend to elucidate in a high degree the subject matter of these prophecies;' British Critic, vol. xxviii. p. 466.
(11) Lectures on the Prophecies of Isaiah, by Robert Macculoch. London, 1791, 4 vols. 8vo.
(12) Hierozoicon, Sive de animalibus Sacrae Scripturae. Auctore Samuele Bocharto. Folio, Lond. 1663. This great work has been reprinted several times. It is a work of immense research and learning and is invaluable to all who desire to obtain a knowledge of the subjects on which it treats. Great use may be made of it in the interpretation of the Scriptures; and authority has often been used in the following translation and notes. There is repeated mention of animals in Isaiah; and in no other work known to me can so accurate and valuable a description of those animals be found as in Bochart.
(13) Christology of the Old Testament and a commentary on the Predictions of the Messiah, by the prophets. By E. W. Hengstenberg, Doctor of Philology and Theology, Professor of the latter in the University of Berlin. Translated from the German by Reuel Keith, D. D. Alexandria, 1836. For a notice of Prof. Hengstenberg, and the character of his writings, see Biblical Repository, vol. i. p. 21. The first vol. of this work was published in 1829. It is a very valuable accession to sacred literature, and should form a part of every theological library. It evinces great learning; accurate research; and is deeply imbued with the spirit of piety. Its fault on Isaiah is that there are many parts of this prophet which should be regarded as predictions of the Messiah, which are not noticed, or so regarded in his work. His expositions of those parts which he has examined (Isaiah 2; Isaiah 4:1-6; Isaiah 7; Isaiah 8:2-3; Isaiah 9:1-6; Isaiah 11; Isaiah 12:1-6; Isaiah 40 following) are very valuable.
(14) Oriental Travelers. In regard to these, the main design is not usually to demonstrate the truth of the predictions of the prophets, or to furnish formal expositions of the meaning of the passages of Scripture. The illustration of the sacred writings which is to be derived from them, is mainly incidental, and often is as far as possible from the intention of the traveler himself. The illustrations which are derived from these travels, relate particularly to manners, rites, customs, usages, modes of traveling, conversation, and laws; to the animals which are mentioned in the Bible; to houses, articles of dress and furniture; and more especlally to the fulfillment of the prophecies. In this respect almost a new department pertaining to the truth of the Bible has been opened by the researches of modern travelers. Many of the older commentaries were exceedingly defective and unsatisfactory for the lack of the information which can now be derived from such researches; and the principal advance which can be anticipated in the interpretation of the prophecies, is probably to be derived from this source.
In this respect such researches are invaluable, and particularly in the exposition of Isaiah. Some of the most complete and unbreakable demonstrations of the inspiration of the sacred writings are furnished by a simple comparison of the predictions with the descriptions of places mentioned by modern travelers. In this work, I have endeavoured to embody the results of these inquiries in the notes. As an illustration of the kind of aid to be expected from this quarter, I may refer to the notes on Isaiah 13-14 respecting Babylon; Isaiah 15-16 respecting Moab; Isaiah 23 of Tyre; and Isaiah 34-35 of Edom. Perhaps no part of the world has excited more the attention of travelers than those where the scenes of Scripture history and of prophecy are laid. Either for commercial purposes, or by a natural desire to visit those parts of the earth which have been the scenes of sacred events, or by the mere love of adventure, most of the places distinguished either in history or in prophecy have been recently explored.
The sites of Babylon, Nineveh, Tyre, Damascus, and Jerusalem have been examined; Lebanon, Egypt, Arabia, and Palestine in general have been visited; and even Moab and Arabia have been traversed. The ancient land of Idumea, long deemed inaccessible, now Arabia Petraea, has been explored by Burckhardt, by Captains Irby and Mangles, by Laborde, and still more recently by our own countrymen, Mr. Stephens, and by Messrs. Smith and Robinson. The capital of that once celebrated kingdom has been discovered and examined after it had been unknown for ages, and a most striking fulfillment of the sacred predictions has thus been furnished; see the notes at Isaiah 16:1-14; Isaiah 34. Perhaps there is no department of sacred learning that promises so much to illustrate the Scripturcs, as that of modern travels. It is to he remembered (to use the words of Prof. Bush), that since 'the Bible, in its structure, spirit, and costume, is essentially an Eastern book, it is obvious that the natural phenomena and the moral condition of the East should be made largely tributary to its elucidation.
In order to appreciate fully the truth of its descriptions, and the accuracy, force and beauty of its various allusions, it is indispensable that the reader, as far as possible, separate himself from his ordinary associations, and put himself by a kind of mental transmutation into the very circumstances of the writers. He must set himself down in the midst of Oriental scenery, gaze upon the sun, sky, mountains and rivers of Asia - go forth with the nomade tribes of the desert - follow their flocks - travel with their caravans - rest in their tents - lodge in their khans - load and unload their camels - drink at their watering places - pause during the heat of the day under their palms - cultivate the fields with their own rude implements - gather in or glean after their harvests - beat out and ventilate the grain in their open threshing floors - dress in their costume - note their proverbial or idiomatic forms of speech, and listen to the strain of song or story with which they beguile their vacant hours;' Preface to Illustrations of the Scriptures. To use the words of a late writer in the London Quarterly Review, 'we confess that we have felt more surprise, delight, and conviction in examining the account which the travels of Burckhardt, Mangles, Irby, Leigh, and Laborde have so recently given of Judea, Edom, etc., than we have ever derived from any similar inquiry. It seems like a miracle in our own times. Twenty years ago, we read certain portions of the prophetic Scriptures with a belief that they were true, because other similar passages had, in the course of ages, been proved to be so, and we had an indistinct notion that all these (to us) obscure and indefinite denunciations had been - we know not very well when or how - accomplished; but to have graphic descriptions, ground plans and elevations, showing the actual existence of all the heretofore vague and shadowy denunciations of God against Edom, does, we confess, excite our feelings, and exalt our confidence in prophecy to a height that no external evidence has hitherto done.
Here we have, bursting upon our age of incredulity, by the labors of accidental, impartial, and sometimes incredulous witnesses, the certainty of existing facts, which fulfil what were hitherto considered the most vague and least intelligible of all the prophecies. The value of one such contemporaneous proof is immense.' 'It is,' to use the language of the Biblical Repository (vol. ix. pp. 456, 457), 'sensible evidence, graven on the eternal rocks, and to endure until those rocks shall melt in the final catastrophe of earth. The exactness between the prediction and the fulfillment is wonderful. The evidence for the truth of the prophecies is sometimes said to be cumulative; but here we have a new volume at once opened to our view; a sudden influx of overpowering light. It is a monumental miracle, an attestation to the truth of God wrought into the very framework of the globe;' Review of Laborde's Journey to Petra. It may be added, that the sources of information on these interesting subjects are becoming very numerous, and already leave little to be desired.
To see this, it is sufficient to mention the following: Roberts' Oriental Illustrations; Maundrell's Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem; Volney's Travels through Egypt and Syria; Mariti's Travels through Cyprus, Syria and Palestine; Russell's Natural History of Aleppo; Clarke's Travels in the Holy Land; Burckhardt's Travels in Syria; - Travels in Nubia and Egypt; Keppel's Narrative of a Journey from India to England; Morier's Journey through Persia; Jowett's Christian Researches; Burnes' Travels in Bokhara; Laborde's Journey to Petra, and the travels of Chandler, Pococke, Shaw, Pitts, Niebuhr - the 'prince of travelers' - Porter, Seetzen; from all of whom valuable illustrations may be derived, and confirmations of the truths of the Scripture prophecies. Of all the works of this description, the most valuable for an accurate exposition of the Scriptures, in relation to the geography of the Holy Land, is the recent work of our own countrymen - 'Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai, and Arabia Petraea,' a journal of Travels in the year 1838, by E. Robinson and E. Smith, 3 vols. 8vo, 1841.
The period of the world in which Isaiah 54ed was in some respects a forming period. It was during his life that the kingdom of assyria, which had so long swayed a scepter of entire dominion over the East, began to wane, and that its power was broken. The kingdom of babylon, which ultimately became so vast and mighty, and which destroyed Assyria itself was established during his life on a basis that secured its future independence and grandeur. The kingdom of Macedon, whose rise was followed by so great events under the emperor Alexander, was founded about the time when Isaiah began his prophetic life (814 b.c.), by Caranus. carthage had been founded about half a century before (869 b.c.); and rome was founded during his life, 753 b.c. syracuse was built by Archias of Corinth, during his life, 769 b.c. It is of some importance in recollecting the events of ancient history to group them together, and some advantage may be derived to the student from connecting these events with the name and life of Isaiah.
The following tables, copied mainly from Jahn's Biblical Archaeology, will give a correct view of the principal chronological events in the time of Isaiah, and may be of use in the correct understanding of his prophecies:
Table I-- The Kingdoms b.c. Judah Israel Assyria Media Babylon Others 825 Amaziah Jeroboam II.41 years. Arbaces, 29 years. 814 Jonah, the prophet. Macedonia 811 Uzziah, 52 years. Amos, the prophet. 797 Interreg-num, 79 years. 784 Hosea, the prophet.Interreg-num, 12 years. 773 Zechariah, 6 months.Shallum, 1 month. Phul, 21 years. 772 Menachem, 10 years. 761 Isaiah, the prophet. Pekahiah, 2 years. 759 Jotham, 16 years.
Micah, the prophet. Pekah, 20 years. 753 Tiglath-Pileser, 19 years. Rome 747 Nabonassar 14, or Merodach-Baladan. 743 Ahaz, 16 years 740 Conquers Damascus, Galilee & Gilead. 739 Interreg-num, 9 years 734 Shalmaneser, 14 years. Nadius, 2, years. 730 Hosea, 9 years. Porus, 5 years. 728 Hezekiah, 29 years. Jugaeus, 5 years. 722 Overthrow of Israel
Table II-- The Kingdom b.c. Judah Assyria Media Babylon 721 Hezekiah 720 Sennacherib, 7 years. 718 Dejocces, 53 years. 714 Senn. In Judea. 713 Essar-haddon, 35 years. 709 Arkianus, 5 years. 704 Interreg. 2 years. 702 Belibus, 3 years. 699 Manasseh, 55 years Apronadius, 6 years. 693 Rigebelus, 1 year. 692 Messomordacus, 4 years.
Analysis of the Chapter
This chapter contains:
I. the inscription or title to the whole Book of Isaiah Isa 1:1; and,
II. an entire prophecy respecting the land of Judah. In regard to the title see the notes at Isaiah 1:1.
The remainder of the chapter Isaiah 1:2-31 comprises a single prophecy, complete in itself, and evidently delivered on a single occasion. It has no immediate connection with that which follows, though it may have been delivered about the same period. When it was delivered is not known. We are informed Isaiah 6:1 that the vision of Yahweh, which Isaiah had in the temple, occurred during the last year of the reign of Uzziah. The only indication which we can have of the time when this prophecy was uttered, is to be derived from its location, and from the accordance of its contents with the state of things in Judea. It is evident that the anchor of the arrangement, whoever he was, regarded it as properly placed in the order of time before the account of the vision of Yahweh, that is, as having been uttered before the death of Uzziah. Nor are the contents of such a nature as to render it improbable that the collector has followed the natural order in which the prophecies were delivered.
On some accounts, indeed, it might better be regarded as spoken during the reign of Ahaz; but at any time of the Jewish history in which Isaiah 54ed, it is not an inappropriate description of the character of the Jewish people. There is one internal indication indeed that it was not delivered in the time of Ahaz. Ahaz bad filled the land with the groves and altars of idolatry. See the Introduction, 3. But this prophecy does not allude to idolatry, as the leading and characteristic sin. It is a description of a people who still kept up the form of the worship of Yahweh; of a people deeply depraved indeed, and suffering under the tokens of the divine displeasure, but who were professedly the worshippers of the true God. It is descriptive of a time when the nation was distinguished for hypocrisy rather than idolatry. It naturally falls, therefore, into the time of Uzziah, or Jotham - as it cannot be supposed that it delivered during the reign of Hezekiah, it would be so far misplaced as to constitute the introductory chapter to the whole series of prophecies.
In regard to the time when it was uttered, and the time to which it refers, there have been very different opinions. Abarbanel, Grotius, and Rosenmuller, suppose that it refers to the times of Uzziah; De Wette supposes that it relates to the reign of Jotham; Piscator, Hensler, Arnold, regard it as relating to the reign of Ahaz.; and Jarchi, Vitringa, and Eichhorn, refer it to the times of Hezekiah. In such a variety of opinion it is impossible to fix the time with any certainty. Nor is it very material. It was not an inappropriate description of the general character of the Jewish people; and there can be no doubt that there were times during the long prophetic life of Isaiah, when it would be found to accord fully with the condition of the nation. Unhappily, also, there are times in the church now, when it is fully descriptive of the character of the professed people of God, and it contains truths, and fearful denunciations, not less appropriate to them, than they were to the people who lived in the time of Isaiah.
The prophecy is highly objurgatory and severe in its character. It is made up of reproof, and of assurances that the evils which they were suffer. tug were for their hypocrisy, and other sins. It commences with a solemn and very sublime address to heaven and earth to witness the dccp depravity, and the pcrvading corruption of the land of Judah. It was such as was adapted to attract the attention, and to amaze all beings in heaven and on earth, Isaiah 1:2-4. The prophet then proceeds to state that the existing calamities of the nation had been inflicted on account of their sins, and that for those sins the land was laid waste, Isaiah 1:5-9. Yet they kept up the appearance of religion. They were constant and regular, externally, in offering sacrifices. But their character was deeply hypocritical. The services of God were so false and hollow, that he spurned and despised them. They were a weariness to him, and a burden, Isaiah 1:10-15. The prophet then calls on the sinful nation to turn from their sins, and to seek God, with the assurance that he was willing to re-admit them to his favor; to pardon all their crimes, and to receive them as his own children, Isaiah 1:16-20. If they did not do it, he assures them that heavier judgments would come upon them than they had yet experienced, Isaiah 1:21-25; and that God would so deal with them as to effect a change in the nation, and to restore the happier and purer state of things existing in former days. The wicked would be punished, and Zion would be redeemed, Isaiah 1:26-31.
Habakkuk 2:1I will stand - , i. e. I would stand now, as a servant awaiting his master,
Upon my watch - or, keep (Isaiah 21:8. משׁמר in the same sense Jeremiah 51:12), and "set me (plant myself firmly) upon the tower" (literally, fenced place, but also one straitened and narrowly hemmed in), "and will watch" (it is a title of the prophets , as spying by God's enabling, things beyond human ken); I will spy out, to see a long way off, to see with the inward eye, what He will say unto me (literally, Jerome: in me); first revealing Himself in the prophets "within to the inner man;" then, through them. And what I shall answer when I am reproved , or, upon my complaint literally upon my reproof or arguing; which might mean, either that others argued against him, or that he had argued, pleaded in the name of others, and now listened to hear what God would answer in him (See Numbers 12:6, and at Zechariah 1:19), and so he, as taught by God should answer to his own plea. But he had so pleaded with God, repeatedly, why is this? He has given no hint, that any complained of or reproved him.
Theodotion: "By an image from those who, in war and siege, have the ward of the wall distributed to them, he says, I will stand upon my watch." Cyril: "It was the custom of the saints, when they wished to learn the things of God, and to receive the knowledge of things to come through His voice in their mind and heart, to raise it on high above distractions and anxieties and all worldly care, holding and keeping it unoccupied and peaceful, rising as to an eminence to look around and contemplate what the God of all knowledge should make clear to them. For He hateth the earth-bound and abject mind, and seeks hearts which can soar aloft, raised above earthly things and temporal desires." The prophet takes his stand, apart from people and the thoughts and cares of this world, on his lonely watch, as Moses on the rock, keeping himself and kept by God, and planted firm, so that nothing should move him, fenced around thought straitened in , as in a besieged camp committed to his ward, looking out from his lofty place what answer God would give as to times long distant, and what answer He should give first to himself, and to those to whom his office lay, God's people.
2And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
The answer is, that it is indeed for a long time yet. Write the vision, that it may remain for those who come after and not be forgotten, and make it plain upon the tables, whereon he was accustomed to write ; and that, in large lasting characters, that he may run that readeth it, that it may be plain to any, however occupied or in haste. So Isaiah too was commanded to write the four words, "haste-prey-speed-spoil."
3For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
For the vision is yet for an (the) appointed time - o Not for the present, but to develop itself in the course of time, down to a season which God only knows; as it is subsequently repeated (Daniel 11:27, for it is for the appointed time, Daniel 11:35), "for the end is yet for the appointed time Daniel 8:19; for it is for the appointed time of the end;" and is explained Daniel 10:1, Daniel 10:14, "for the vision is yet for the days Daniel 8:26; for it is for many days Ezekiel 12:27; the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth, is for many days and he prophesieth of the times far off;" yet it should haste toward the end, toward its fulfillment, so that, if it is not at once fulfilled, it should be surely waited for. Theodotion: "It shall certainly be; not in vain hath it been shewn, but as certainly to be. For whatever hath been shown to come and to be, will come and be."
But at the end it shall speak - o (or it breatheth, hasteth to the end), not simply "to its own fulfillment," but to that time of the end which should close the period assigned to it, during which it should continually be putting itself forth, it should come true in part or in shadow, gleams of it should here and then part the clouds, which, until the end, should surround and envelop it.
Being God's truth, he speaks of it as an animate living thing, not a dead letter, but running, hasting on its course, and accomplishing on its way that for which it was sent. The will and purpose of God hasteth on, though to man it seemeth to tarry; it can neither be hurried on, nor doth it linger; before "the appointed time" it cometh not; yet it hasteth toward it, and "will not be behindhand" when the time comes. It does not lie, either by failing to come, or failing, when come, of any jot or tittle. "Though it tarry or linger" , continually appearing, giving signs of itself, yet continually delaying its coming, "wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not be behindhand" , when the time comes, Revelation 22:7, "He cometh quickly" also, as He saith; because, from Dion.: "though the delay of His coming and of the fulfillment of the vision seem long, yet, in comparison with eternity, it is very short. In His first coming, He taught why God permitteth these things; in the second coming, He shall teach by experience, how good it it is for the good to bear the persecution of the evil; whence Peter also has to say 2 Peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness." The words seem to belong, in the first instance, to the vision itself; but the vision had no other existence or fulfillment than in Him who was the Object of it, and who, in it, was foreshadowed to the mind. The coming of the vision was no other than His coming.
The waiting, to which he exhorts, expresses the religious act, so often spoken of Psalm 33:20; Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 30:18; Isaiah 64:3; Zephaniah 3:8; Daniel 12:12; Psalm 106:13, of waiting for God, or His counsel, or His promised time. The sense then is wholly the same, when Paul uses the words of the coming of our Lord Himself, Hebrews 10:37, "Yet a little while, and He that shall come, will come and will not tarry." Paul, as well as Habakkuk, is speaking of our Lord's second coming; Paul, of His Coming in Person, Habakkuk, of the effects of that Coming ; but both alike of the redressing of all the evil and wrong in the world's history, and the reward of the faithful oppressed. At His first coming He said, John 12:31, "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out." He came to "put down the mighty from their seat, and to exalt the humble and meek Luke 1:52;" but much more in the second coming, when "He shall come to judge the world with righteousness and the people with His truth" Psalm 46:1-11 :13, and to "reward every man according to his works" Matthew 16:27. At all times He seemeth continually to linger, to give signs of His coming, yet He cometh not; when the appointed season shall come, He shall be found not to be later than His word. Yea, all time shall shrink up into a little moment in the presence of a never-ending ever-present eternity.
Cyril: "Having named no one expressly, he says, wait for him, wait for him although delaying, and halt not in thy hope, but let it be rooted and firm, even if the interval be extended. For the God of all seemeth to suggest to the mind of the prophet, that He who was foretold would surely come, yet to enjoin on him to wait for Him on account of the interval. He who believeth My word shall possess life, for this is the reward of these who honor God, and a good reward of His benevolence. He who admitteth faith and love to dwell in his heart hath as a requital, unaging life and forgiveness of sins and sanctification by the Spirit." Alb.: "He shall live; for, God is not the God of the dead but of the living Matthew 22:32, "Whoso liveth and believeth in Me, shall never die" John 11:26.
It will not lie - God vouchsafes to speak of Himself, as we should be ashamed to speak of one whom we love, teaching us that all doubts question His truth Numbers 23:19 "God is not a man, that He should lie: hath He said and shall He not do it?" "The strength of Israel shall neither lie nor repent" 1 Samuel 15:29. "God that cannot lie promised before the world began" Titus 1:2 Therefore, it follows, "wait for Him," as Jacob says, Genesis 49:18, "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord."
4Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.
Behold, his soul which is lifted up - literally, swollen
Is not upright in him - The construction is probably that of a condition expressed absolutely. Lo, swollen is it, not upright is his soul in him. We should say, "His soul, if it be swollen , puffed up, is not upright in him." The source of all sin was and is pride. It is especially the sin of all oppressors, of the Chaldee, of antichrists, and shall be of the antichrist. It is the parent of all heresy, and of all corruption and rejection of the gospel. It stands therefore as the type of all opposed to it. Of it he says, it is in its very inmost core ("in him") lacking in uprightness. It can have no good in it, because it denies God, and God denies it His grace. And having nothing upright in it, being corrupt in its very inmost being, it cannot stand or abide. God gives it no power to stand. The words stand in contrast with the following, the one speaking of the cause of death, the other of life. The soul, being swollen with pride, shuts out faith, and with it the Presence of God. It is all crooked in its very inner self or being. Paul gives the result, Hebrews 10:39, "if any man draw back, my soul hath no pleasure in him." The prophet's words describe the proud man who stunts aloof from God, in himself; Paul, as he is in the Eyes of God. As that which is swollen in nature cannot be straight, it is clean contrary that the soul should be swollen with pride and yet upright. Its moral life being destroyed in its very inmost heart, it must perish.
Alb.: "Plato saith, that properly is straight, which being applied to what is straight, touches and is touched everywhere. But God is upright, whom the upright soul touches and is touched everywhere; but what is not upright is bent away from God, Psalm 73:1. "God is good unto Israel, the upright in heart;" Sol 1:4, "The upright love thee;" Isaiah 26:7, "The way of the just is uprightness, Thou, most Upright, doth weigh the path of the just."
But the just shall live by his faith - The accents emphasize the words , "The just, by his faith he shall live." They do not point to an union of the words, "the just by his faith." Isaiah says that Christ should "justify" many by the knowledge of Himself," but the expression, "just by his faith," does not occur either in the Old or New Testament. In fact, to speak of one really righteous as being "righteous by his faith" would imply that people could be righteous in some other way. "Without faith," Paul says at the commencement of his Old Testament pictures of giant faith, Hebrews 11:6, "it is impossible to please God." Faith, in the creature which does not yet see God, has one and the same principle, a trustful relying belief in its Creator. This was the characteristic of Abraham their father, unshaken, unswerving, belief in God who called him, whether in leaving his own land and going whither he knew not, for an end which he was never to see; or in believing the promise of the son through whom theft Seed was to be, in whom all the nations of the world should be blessed; or in the crowning act of offering that son to God, knowing that he should receive him back, even from the dead.
In all, it was one and the same principle. According to Genesis 15:6, "His belief was counted to him for righteousness," though the immediate instance of that faith was not directly spiritual. In this was the good and bad of Israel. Exodus 4:31 : "the people believed." Exodus 14:31 : "they believed the Lord and His servant Moses." Psalm 106:12 : "then believed they His word, they sang His praise." This contrariwise was their blame Deuteronomy 1:32 : "In this ye did not believe the Lord." Deuteronomy 9:23 : "ye rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God, and believed Him not, nor hearkened to His voice." Psalm 106:21, Psalm 106:24 : "they forgat God their Saviour; they despised the pleasant land, they believed not His word." And God asks, Numbers 14:11, "How long will it be, ere this people belove Me, for all the signs which I have shown among them?" Psalm 78:21-22 : "anger came upon Israel, because they believed not in God, and in His salvation trusted not."
Psalm 78:32 : "for all this they sinned still, and believed not His wondrous works." Even of Moses and Aaron God assigns this as the ground, why they should not bring His people into the land which He gave them, Numbers 20:20, "Because ye believed Me not, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel" (at Meribah). This was the watchword of Jehoshaphat's victory, 2 Chronicles 20:20, "Believe in the Lord your God and ye shall be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper." This continued to be one central saying of Isaiah. It was his own commission to his people; Isaiah 6:9, "Go and say to this people; hear ye on, and understand not; see ye on and perceive not." In sight of the rejection of faith, he spake prominently of the loss upon unbelief; Isaiah 7:9, "If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established;" and, Isaiah 53:1, "Who hath believed our report?" he premises as the attitude of his people toward him, the Center of all faith - Jesus. Yet still, as to the blessings of faith, having spoken of Him, Isaiah 28:16, "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone," he subjoins, "he that believeth in Him shall not make haste."
So it had been the keynote of Habakkuk to his people, "Ye will not believe when it is declared unto you." Here he is told to declare contrariwise the blessing on belief. "The just shall live by his faith." The faith, then, of which Habakkuk speaks, is faith, in itself, but a real, true confiding faith. It is the one relation of the creature to the Creator, unshaken trust. The faith may vary in character, according as God reveals more or less of Himself, but itself is one, a loving trust in Him, just as He reveals Himself. Lap. (in Romans 1:17): "By this faith in God, each righteous person begins to live piously, righteously, holily, peacefully and divinely, and advanceth therein, since in every tribulation and misery, by this faith and hope in God he sustains, strengthens, and increases this life of the soul. He says then, "the just lives by faith," i. e., the unbelieving and unrighteous displeases God, and consequently will not live by the true, right, peaceful and happy life of grace, present righteousness, and future glory because God is displeased with him, and He places his hopes and fears, not in God, but in human beings and man's help and in created things. But the righteous who believeth in God shall live a right, sweet, quiet, happy, holy, untroubled life, because, fixed by faith and hope in God who is the true Life, and in God's promises, he is dear to God, and the object of His care.
"This sentence, 'the just shall live by faith,' is universal, belonging at once to Jews and Christians, to sinners who are first being justified, as also to those who are already justified. For the spiritual life of each of these begins, is maintained and grows through faith. When then it is said, 'the just shall live by his faith,' this word, his, marks the cause, which both begins and preserves life. The just, believing and hoping in God, begins to live spiritually, to have a soul right within him, whereby he pleases God; and again, advancing and making progress in this his faith and hope in God, therewith advances and makes progress in the spiritual life, in rightness and righteousness of soul, in the grace and friendship of God, so as more and more to please God."
Most even of the Jewish interpreters have seen this to be the literal meaning of the words. It stands in contrast with, illustrates and is illustrated by the first words, "his soul is swollen, is not upright in him." Pride and independence of God are the center of the want of rightness; a steadfast cleaving to God, whereby "the heart" (as Abraham's) "was stayed on God," is the center and cause of the life of the righteous. But since this stayedness of faith is in everything the source of the life of the righteous, then the pride, which issues in want of rightness of the inmost soul, must be a state of death. Pride estranges the soul from God, makes it self-sufficing, that it should not need God, so that he who is proud cannot come to God, to be by Him made righteous. So contrariwise, since by his faith doth the righteous live, this must be equally true whether he be just made righteous from unrighteous, or whether that righteousness is growing, maturing, being perfected in him.
This life begins in grace, lives on in glory. It is begun, in that God freely justifies the ungodly, accounting and making him righteous for and through the blood of Christ; it is continued in faith which worketh by love; it is perfected, when faith and hope are swallowed up in love, beholding God. In the Epistles to the Romans Rom 1:17 and the Galatians Gal 3:11 Paul applies these words to the first beginning of life, when they who had before been dead in sin, began to live by faith in Christ Jesus who gave them life and made them righteous. And in this sense he is called "just," although before he comes to the faith he is unjust and unrighteous, being unjustified. For Paul uses the word not of what he was before the faith, but what be is, when he lives by faith. Before, not having faith, he had neither righteousness nor life; having faith, he at once has both; he is at once "just" and "lives by his faith." These are inseparable. The faith by which he lives, is a living faith, Galatians 5:6, "faith which worketh by love." In the Epistle to the Hebrews, Hebrews 10:38, Paul is speaking of their endurance in the faith, once received, whose faith is not shaken by the trial of their patience. They who look on beyond things present, and fix their minds steadfastly on the Coming of Christ, will not suffer shipwreck of their faith, through any troubles of this time. Faith is the foundation of all good, the beginning of the spiritual building, whereby it rests on The Foundation, Christ. "Without faith it is impossible to please God," and so the proud cannot please Him. Through it, is union with Christ and thereby a divine life in the soul, even a life, Galatians 2:20, "through faith in the Son of God," holy, peaceful, self-posessed Luke 21:19, enduring to the end, being "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" 1 Peter 1:5.
5Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people:
This general rule the prophet goes on to apply in words which belong in part to all oppressors and in the first instance to the Chaldaean, in part yet more fully to the end and to antichrist. "Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine" (or better, "Yea, how much more, since wine is a deceiver , as Solomon says, Proverbs 20:1, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whosoever erreth thereby shall not be wise;" and Proverbs 23:32, "In the end it biteth like a serpent and pierceth like an adder;" and Hosea Hos 4:11, "Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart." As wine at first gladdens, then deprives of all reason, and lays a man open to any deceit, so also pride. And whereas all pride deceives, how much more , when people are either heated and excited by the abuse of God's natural gifts, or drunken with prosperity and hurried away, as conquerors are, to all excess of cruelty or lust to fulfill their own will, and neglect the laws of God and man.
Literal drunkenness was a sin of the Babylonians under the Persian rule, so that even a pagan says of Babylon, "Nothing can be more corrupt than the manners of that city, and more provided with all to rouse and entice immoderate pleasures;" and "the Babylonians give themselves wholly to wine, and the things which follow upon drunkenness." It was when flushed with wine, that Belshazzar, with his princes his wives and his concubines, desecrated the sacred vessels, insulted God in honor of his idols, and in the night of his excess "was slain." Pride blinded, deceived, destroyed him. It was the general drunkenness of the inhabitants, at that same feast, which enabled Cyrus, with a handful of men, to penetrate, by means of its river, the city which, with its provisions for many years and its impregnable walls, mocked at his siege. He calculated beforehand on its feast and the consequent dissolution of its inhabitants; but for this, in the language of the pagan historian, he would have been caught "as in a trap," his soldiery drowned.
He is a proud man, neither keepeth at home. - It is difficult to limit the force of the rare Hebrew word rendered "keep at home;" for one may cease to dwell or abide at home either with his will or without it; and, as in the case of invaders, the one may he the result of the other. He who would take away the home of others becomes, by God's Providence, himself homeless. The context implies that the primary meaning is the restlessness of ambition; which abides not at home, for his whole pleasure is to go forth to destroy. Yet there sounds, as it were, an undertone, "he would not abide in his home and he shall not." We could scarcely avoid the further thought, could we translate by a word which does not determine the sense, "he will not home," "he will not continue at home." The words have seemed to different minds to mean either; as they may . Such fullness of meaning is the contrary of the ambiguity of pagan oracles; they are not alternative meanings, which might be justified in either case, but cumlative, the one on the other. The ambitious part with present rest for future loss. Nebuchadnezzar lost his kingdom and his reason through pride, received them back when he humbled himself; Belshazzar, being proud and impenitent, lost both his kingdom and life.
Who enlargeth his desire - literally, his soul. The soul becomes like what it loves. The ambitious man is, as we say, "all ambition;" the greedy man, "all appetite;" the cruel man, "all savagery;" the vain-glorious, "all vain glory." The ruling passion absorbs the whole being. It is his end, the one object of his thoughts, hopes, fears. So, as we speak of "largeness of heart," which can embrace in its affections all varieties of human interests, whatever affects man, and "largeness of mind" uncramped by narrowing prejudices, the prophet speaks of this "ambitious man widening his soul," or, as we should speak, "appetite," so that the whole world is not too large for him to long to grasp or to devour. So the Psalmist prays not to be delivered into the murderous desire of his enemies (Psalm 27:12; Compare Psalm 41:3 (Psalm 41:2 in English); Ezekiel 26:27) (literally their soul,) and Isaiah, with a metaphor almost too bold for our language Isaiah 5:14, "Hell hath enlarged her soul, and opened her mouth beyond measure." It devours, as it were, first in its cravings, then in act.
As hell - which is insatiable Proverbs 30:15. He saith, "enlargeth"; for as hell and the grave are year by year fuller, yet there is no end, the desire "enlargeth" and becometh wider, the more is given to it to satisfy it.
And (he) is (himself) as death - o, sparing none. Our poetry would speak of a destroyer as being "like the angel of death;" his presence, as the presence of death itself. Where he is, there is death. He is as terrible and as destroying as the death which follows him.
And cannot be satisfied - Even human proverbs say (Juv. Sat. xiv. 139): "The love of money groweth as much as the money itself groweth." "The avaricious is ever needy." Ecclesiastes 5:10 : "he that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver." For these fleeting things cannot satisfy the undying soul. It must hunger still; for it has not found what will allay its cravings .
But gathereth - literally, "And hath gathered" - He describes it, for the rapidity with which he completes what he longs for, as though it were already done.
Unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people - One is still the subject of the prophecy, rising up at successive times, fulfilling it and passing away, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander, Attila, Timur, Genghizchan, Hunneric, scourges of God, all deceived by pride, all sweeping the earth, all in their ambition and wickedness the unknowing agents and images of the evil One, who seeks to bring the whole world under his rule. But shall it prosper?
6Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! how long? and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay!
Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him? - Nebuchadnezzar gathered, Daniel 3:4-5, "all people, nations, and languages, to worship the golden image which he had set up." The second Babylon, pagan Rome, sought to blot out the very Christian Name; but mightier were the three children than the King of Babylon; mightier, virgins, martyrs, and children than Nero or Decius. These shall rejoice over Babylon, that, Revelation 18:20, "God hath avenged them on her."
Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! - Truly wealth ill-gotten by fraud or oppression, "is not his," who winneth it, before he had it, nor when he hath it, but a woe. It is not his; the woe is his. "Woe unto him." He shall have no joy in what he gaineth, and what he hath he shall lose.
How long? - What is the measure of thine impiety and greediness and cruelty? Yet if these are like hell, without measure, there remains another "How long?" How long will the forbearance of God endure thee, which thou art daily exhausting?
This is then the end of all. The conqueror sweeps to him "all nations" and gathereth to him "all peoples." To what end? As one vast choir in one terrible varied chant of all those thousand thousand voices, to sing a dirge over him of the judgments of God which his ill-doings to them should bring upon him, a fivefold Woe, woe, woe, woe, woe! Woe for its rapacity! Woe for its covetousness! Woe for its oppression! Woe for its insolence to the conquered! Woe to it in its rebellion against God! It is a more measured rhythm than any besides in Holy Scripture; each of the fivefold woes comprised in three verses, four of them closing with the ground, because, for. The opening words carry the mind back to the fuller picture of Isaiah. But Isaiah sees Babylon as already overthrown; Habakkuk pronounces the words upon it, not by name, but as certainly to come, upon it and every like enemy of God's kingdom. With each such fall, unto the end of all things, the glory of God is increased and made known. Having, for their own ends, been unconscious and even unwilling promoters of God's end, they, when they had accomplished it, are themselves flung away. The pride of human ambition, when successful, boasts "woe to the conquered." Since "whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth," the ungodly saying of the pagan is reversed, and it stands, "Man sympathizes with the conquering side, God with the conquered." It is a terrible thought that people should have been the instruments of God, that they should, through ambition or other ends short of God, have promoted His ends which they thought not of, and then should be "weighed in the balance and found wanting," and themselves be flung away.
Cyr: "Gentiles also departed from their worship under Satan, and having deserted him who aforetime called them, ran unto Christ. For Satan gathered what was not his; but Christ received what was His. For, as God, He is Lord of all."
And to him that ladeth himself with thick clay - It is the character of these proverbs to say much in few words, sometimes in one, and more than appears. So the word translated "thick-clay," as if it were two words, in another way means in an intensive sense, "a strong deep pledge." At best gold and silver are, as they have been called, red and white earth. Bern. Serm. 4. in Adv: "What are gold and silver but red and white earth, which the error of man alone maketh, or accounteth precious? What are gems, but stones of the earth? What silk, but webs of worms?" These he "maketh heavy upon" or "against himself" (so the words strictly mean). "For He weigheth himself down with thick clay, who, by avarice multiplying earthly things, hems himself in by the oppressiveness of his own sin, imprisons and, as it were, buries the soul, and heaps up sin as he heaps up wealth." With toil they gather what is not worthless only, but is a burden upon the soul, weighing it down that it should not rise Heavenwards, but should be bowed down to Hell. And so in that other sense while, as a hard usurer, he heaps up the pledges of these whom he oppresses and impoverishes, and seems to increase his wealth, he does in truth "increase against himself a strong pledge," whereby not others are debtors to him, but he is a debtor to Almighty God who careth for the oppressed Jeremiah 17:11 "He that gathereth riches had not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days and at his end shall be a fool."
7Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee, and thou shalt be for booties unto them?
Shall not they rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee? - The destruction of the wicked is ever sudden at last. Such was the flood Luke 17:26-27, the destruction of Sodom, of Pharaoh, of the enemies of God's people through the Judges, of Sennacherib, Nineveh, Babylon by the Medes and Persians. Such shall the end be Matthew 24:43-44; Matthew 25:13; Luke 17:26-30; Luke 21:34-35; 1 Thessalonians 5:3; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 16:15. As he by his oppressions had pierced others (it is the word used of the oppression of usury), so should it be done to him. "The Medes and Persians who were before subject to the Babylonian empire, and whose kings were subject to Nebuchudnezzar and his successors, rose up and awaked, i. e., stirred themselves up in the days of Belshazzar to rebel against the successors of Nebuchadnezzar which sat on his throne, like a man who awaketh from sleep." The words "awake," "arise," are used also of the resurrection, when the worm of the wicked gnaweth and dieth not (See Isaiah 14:11; Isaiah 66:24).
And thou shall be for booties unto them? - The common phrase is modified to explain the manifoldness of the plunder which he should yield. So Jeremiah Jer 50:10, "Chaldaea shall be a spoil; all that spoil her shall be satisfied, saith the Lord." See Cyr: "We may hear Him who saith Matthew 12:29, 'How can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.' For, as soon as He was born of the holy Virgin, He began to 'spoil his goods.' For the Magi came from the East - and worshiped Him and honored Him with gifts and became a first-fruits of the Church of the Gentiles. And being vessels of Satan, and the most honored of all his members, they hastened to Christ."
8Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee; because of men's blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein.
Because (or For). The prophet assigns the reason of the woes he had just pronounced. "Thou (emphatic), thou hast spoiled many nations, all the resonant of the people shall spoil thee." So Isaiah Isa 33:1, "When thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee." Boundless as his conquests were, each remaining people, tribe, or family shall be his foe. Theodotion: "Having subdued very many, thou shalt be destroyed by few, and they who long endured thy tyranny, arising as from sleep, shall compass thy destruction; and thou shalt pay the penalty of thy countless slaughters and thy great ungodliness and thy lawless violence to cities which thou modest desolate of inhabitants." Nothing was too great or too little to escape this violence.
All the remnant - Theodotion: "As thou, invading, didst take away the things of others, in like way shall what appertaineth to thee be taken away by those who are left for vengeance." Jeremiah foretold of Elam "in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah" Jeremiah 49:34-39 (in expansion of the prophecy in the reign of Jehoiakim) ; "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, the chief of their might. And upon Elam I will bring the four winds from the four quarters of the heavens, and will scatter them toward all these winds, and there shall be no nation where the outcasts of Elam shall not come. For I will cause Elam to be dismayed before her enemies; but it shall come to pass in the latter days, that I will bring again the captivity of Elam, saith the Lord." Elam is also counted by Ezekiel Ezek. 32:17-32 among those who, together with Pharaoh, should be brought down to the grave, with Asshur, Meshech, Tabal, Edom and all the Zidonians, by the king of Babylon. They were then all which remained, Jeremiah 39:9) of the nations which he had conquered, who should be gathered against his house.
"Because of men's blood and of the violence of" i. e., "to the land, as the violence of," i. e., "to , Lebanon," and "men's blood" is their blood which was shed. "To land, city, and all dwellers therein." Land or earth, city, are left purposely undefined, so that while that in which the offence culminated should be, by the singular, specially suggested, the violence to Judah and Jerusalem, the cruelty condemned should not be limited, to these. The violence was dealt out to the whole land or earth, and in it, to cities, and in each, one by one, to all its inhabitants. Babylon is called Jeremiah 50:23, "the hammer of the whole earth Jeremiah 51:7; a golden cup in the Lord's hand, that made all the earth drunken; Jeremiah 25 a destroying mountain, which destroyeth the whole earth; the whole earth is at rest and is quiet" Isaiah 14:7, after Babylon, "which made it to tremble" Isaiah 14:16, is overthrown.
So Satan had by violence and deceit subdued the whole earth, yet Christ made him a spoil to those whom he had spoiled, and the strong man was bound and his goods Spoiled and himself trampled underfoot. Yet here as throughout the prophets, it is a "remnant" only which is saved Cyril: "Satan too was spoiled by the remnant of the people, i. e., by those justified by Christ and sanctified in the Spirit. For the remnant of Israel was saved."
9Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil!
Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house - (or, with accents, "that coveteth covetousness or unjust gain, an evil to his house.") What man coveteth seems gain, but is evil "to his house" after him, destroying both himself and his whole family or race with him . "That he may set his nest on high," as an eagle, to which he had likened the Chaldee (Habakkuk 1:8. Compare Jeremiah 20:16). A pagan called "strongholds, the nests of tyrants." The nest was placed "on high" which means also "heaven," as it is said, Obadiah 1:4, "though thou set thy nest among the stars;" and the tower of Babel was to "reach unto heaven" Genesis 11:4; and the antichrist, whose symbol the King of Babylon is, Isaiah 14:13 says, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God." Babylon lying in a large plain, on the sides of the Euphrates, the image of its eagle's-nest on high must be taken, not from any natural eminence, but wholly from the works of man.
Its walls, and its hanging gardens were among "the seven wonders of the world." Eye-witnesses speak of its walls, encompassing at least 100 square miles , "and as large as the land-graviat of Hesse Homberg;" those walls, 335, or 330 feet high, and 85 feet broad ; a fortified palace, nearly 7 miles in circumference; gardens, 400 Greek feet square, supporting at an artificial height arch upon arch, of "at least 75 feet," forest trees; a temple to its god, said to have been at least 600 feet high.
If we, creatures of a day, had no one above us, Nebuchadnezzars boast had been true Daniel 4:30, "Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the Kingdom by the might of my power and for the honor of my majesty?" He had built an eagle's nest, which no human arm could reach, encircled by walls which laughed its invaders to scorn, which, at that time, no skill could scale or shatter or mine. Even as one sees in a picture the vast mounds which still remain , one can hardly imagine that they were, brick upon brick, wholly the work of man.
To be delivered from the hand (grasp) of evil - that it should not be able to reach him. Evil is spoken of as a living power , which would seize him, whose grasp he would defy. It was indeed a living power, since it was the will of Almighty God, whose servant and instrument Cyrus was, to chasten Babylon, when its sins were full. Such was the counsel, what the result? The evil covetousness which he worked, brought upon him the evil, from which, in that nest built by the hard toil of his captives, he thought to deliver himself.
10Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people, and hast sinned against thy soul.
Thou hast consulted shame to thy house, the cutting off many people, and sinning against thy soul - The wicked, whether out of passion or with his whole mind and deliberate choice and will, takes that counsel, which certainly brings shame to himself and his house, according to the law of God, whereby, according to Exodus 20:5, He "visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him," i. e., until by righteousness and restitution the curse is cut off. Proverbs 15:27 : "he that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house." So Jeremiah says Jeremiah 7:19 : "Thus saith the Lord, Is it Me they are vexing? Is it not themselves, for the confusion of their faces?" i. e., with that end and object. Holy Scripture overlooks the means, and places us at the end of all. Whatever the wicked had in view, to satisfy ambition, avarice, passion, love of pleasure, or the rest of man's immediate ends, all he was doing was leading on to a further end - shame and death. He was bringing about, not only these short-lived, but the lasting ends beyond, and these far more than the others, since that is the real end of a thing which abides, in which it at last ends. He consulted to cut off many people and was thereby (though he did not know it) by one and the same act, "guilty of and forfeiting his OWN soul" Proverbs 8:36. The contemporaneousness of the act is expressed by the participle; the pronoun is omitted as in Habakkuk 1:5).
11For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.
For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it - All things have a voice, in that they are . God's works speak that, for which He made them Psalm 19:1 : "The heavens declare the glory of God." Psalm 65:13 : "the valleys are clad with corn, they laugh, yea, they sing;" their very look speaks gladness. Cyril: "For the creation itself proclaims the glory of the Maker, in that it is admired as well made. Wherefore there are voices in things, although there are not words." Man's works speak of that in him, out of which and for which he made them. Works of mercy go up for a memorial before God, and plead there; great works, performed amid wrong and cruelty and for man's ambition and pride, have a voice too, and cry out to God, calling down His vengeance on the oppressor. Here the stones of the wall, whereby the building is raised, and the beam, the tye-beam, out of the timber-work wherewith it is finished, and which, as it were, crowns the work, join, as in a chorus, answering one another, and in a deep solemn wailing, before God and the whole world, together chant "Woe, Woe." Did not the blood and groans of men cry out to God, speechless things have a voice to appeal to Him (See Luke 19:40). Against Belshazzar the wall had, to the letter, words to speak.
Each three verses forming one stanza, as it were, of the dirge, the following words are probably not directly connected with the former, as if the woe, which follows, were, so to speak, the chant of these inanimate witnesses against the Chaldaeans; yet they stand connected with it. The dirge began with woe on the wrongful accumulation of wealth from the conquered and oppressed people: it continues with the selfish use of the wealth so won.
12Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity!
Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and establisheth a city by iniquity! - Nebuchadnezzar "encircled the inner city with three walls and the outer city also with three, all of burnt brick. And having fortified the city with wondrous works, and adorned the gates like temples, he built another palace near the palace of his fathers, surpassing it in height and its great magnificence." He seemed to strengthen the city, and to establish it by outward defenses. But it was built through cruelty to conquered nations, and especially God's people, and by oppression, against His holy Will. So there was an inward rottenness and decay in what seemed strong and majestic, and which imposed on the outward eye; it would not stand, but fell. Babylon, which had stood since the flood, being enlarged contrary to the eternal laws of God, fell in the reign of his son. Such is all empire and greatness, raised on the neglect of God's laws, by unlawful conquests, and by the toil and sweat and hard service of the poor. Its aggrandizement and seeming strength is its fall. Daniel's exhortation to Nebuchadnezzar Daniel 4:27, "Redeem thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy on the poor," implies that oppressiveness had been one of his chief sins.
13Behold, is it not of the LORD of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity?
Behold, is it not of the Lord of hosts that (the) people (nations) shall labor - o
In (for) the very fire - literally, to suffice the fire? By God's appointment, the end of all their labor is for the fire, what may suffice it to consume. This is the whole result of their labor; and so it is as if they had toiled for this; they built ceiled palaces and gorgeous buildings, only for the fire to consume them.
And the peoples shall weary themselves for very vanity - They wearied themselves, and what was their reward? What had they to suffice and fill them? "Emptiness." This is "from the Lord of hosts," whom all the armies of heaven obey and all creatures stand at His command against the ungodly, and in whose Hand are all the hosts of earth, and so the oppressor's also, to turn as He wills.
Near upon the first stage of the fulfillment, Jeremiah reinforces the words with the name of Babylon; Jeremiah 51:58 : "Thus saith the Lord of hosts! The broad walls of Babylon, shall be utterly destroyed, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people shall labor in vain (for vanity), and the folk in (for) the fire, and they shall be weary."
14For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord - Habakkuk modifies in a degree the words of Isaiah which he embodies, marking that the destruction of Babylon was a stage only toward the coming of those good things which God taught His people to long for, not their very coming. All the world should be then full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, not, as yet, wholly of Himself Jerome: "When Babylon shall be overthrown, then shall the power of the might of the Lord be known unto all. So shall the whole earth be filled with the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the bottom of the sea. This as to the letter. But it is plain, that the Devil also and antichrist, and the perverse teaching of heretics, built a city in blood; i. e, their own Church, with the destruction of those whom they deceive ... But when they fail in the fire (either this fire which is felt, or consumed in the fire of the devil their prince, or burned up with the fire whereof the Lord says, 'I came to send a fire upon the earth,' and so brought back from their former course, and doing penitence), the whole earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, when, at the preaching of the apostles, their 'sound shall go out into all the world,' as waters covering the sea, i. e., all the saltness and bitterness of the world which Satan had rained down and the earth had drunk, the waters of the Lord shall cover, and cause the place of their ancient bitterness not to appear."
Rup.: "'For the Spirit of the Lord filled the earth,' and when He filled it, 'the earth was filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,' so that unlearned and ignorant men became wise and eloquent, and earthly became heavenly, yea, they who were earth became heaven, knowing the glory of the Lord, declaring the glory of God, not any how, but as waters cover the sea. Great as must be waters, which would cover the sea, or compared to which the sea were nothing, far greater is the miracle, when the abundance of heavenly wisdom, given to the simple, surpassed the sea, i. e., the wisdom of all mankind." This verse being already a received image of the spread of the gospel Isaiah 11:9, it would of itself be understood to include this also; but more generally, it declares how upon all the judgments of God, a larger knowledge of Him would follow Cyril: "All things are full of Christ, who is the Glory of the Father; wherefore also He said John 17:4, I have glorified Thee on earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do."
15Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!
From cruelty the prophet goes on to denounce the woe on insolence. "Woe unto him that giveth his neighbor" (to whom he owes love) drink (literally, that maketh him drink); that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also , that thou mayest look (gaze with devilish pleasure) on their nakedness." This may either be of actual insults (as in the history of Noah), in keeping certainly with the character of the later Babylonians, the last wantonness of unbridled power, making vile sport of those like himself (his neighbor), or it may be drunkenness through misery Isaiah 29:9 wherein they are bared of all their glory and brought to the lowest shame. The woe also falls on all, who in any way intoxicate others with flattering words or reigned affection, mixing poison under things pleasant, to bring them to shame.
16Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered: the cup of the LORD'S right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory.
Thou art filled with shame for glory - Oppressors think to make themselves great by bringing others down, to fill themselves with riches, by spoiling others. They loved shame Hosea 4:8, because they loved that, which brought shame; they were filled with shame, in that they sated themselves with shamefulness, which was their shame within, before, in the just judgment of God, shame came on them from without Philippians 3:19. "Their glory was in their shame." They shall be filled, yea, he says, they are already filled; they would satisfy, gorge themselves, with all their hearts' desires; they are "filled to the full," but with shame instead of glory which they sought, or which they already had. "From" and "for" a state of "glory," they were filled with contempt.
Drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered - thy shame like those whom thou puttest to shame, only the greater in being uncircumcised. "The cup of the Lord's Right Hand shall be turned (round) unto thee (or against thee)." It had gone round the circuit of the nations whom God had employed him to chasten, and now, the circle completed, it should be brought round to himself, "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you again" Matthew 7:2. So Jeremiah says, Jeremiah 25:26, "And the king of Shesbach shall drink after them;" and of Edom, Lamentations 4:21, "To thee also shall the cup be brought round." Thou, a man, madest man to drink of the cup of thine anger: the cup shall be brought round to thee, but not by man; to thee it shall be given by "the Right Hand of the Lord," which thou canst not escape; it shall be "the cup of the wine of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God" Revelation 16:19; as Asaph had said, Psalm 76:8, "There is a cup in the Lord's hand; it is full of mixture, and He poureth out therefrom; but the dregs thereof all the ungodly of the earth shall suck them out, shall drink them."
And shameful spewing shall be on thy glory - Jerome: "With the shame of thy spewing shalt thou bring up all thou hast swallowed down, and from the height of glory shalt thou be brought to the utmost ills." The shame of the ungodly cometh forth from himself; the shame he put others to is doubled upon himself; and the very means which he had used to fill himself with glory and greatness, cover the glory which by nature he had, with the deeper disgrace, so that he should be a loathsome and revolting sight to all. Man veils foul deeds under fair words; God, in His word, unveils the foulness.
17For the violence of Lebanon shall cover thee, and the spoil of beasts, which made them afraid, because of men's blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein.
For the violence of Lebanon - i. e., done to Lebanon, whether the land of Israel of which it was the entrance and the beauty (See Isaiah 37:24, and, as a symbol, Jeremiah 22:6, Jeremiah 22:23; Ezekiel 17:3; but it is used as a symbol of Sennacherib's army, Isaiah 10:34, and the king of Asshur is not indeed spoken of under the name as a symbol (in Ezekiel 21:3,) but is compared to it), or the temple (See the note at Zechariah 12:1), both of which Nebuchadnezzar laid waste; or, more widely, it may be a symbol of all the majesty of the world and its empires, which he subdues, as Isaiah uses it, when speaking of the judgment on the world, Isaiah 2:13, "It shall cover thee, and the spoil (i. e., spoiling, destruction) of beasts (the inhabitants of Lebanon) which made them afraid," or more simply, "the wasting of wild beasts shall crush , Proverbs 10:14; Proverbs 13:3; Proverbs 14:14; Proverbs 18:7) them (selves)," i. e., as it is in irrational nature, that "the frequency of the incursions of very mischievous animals becomes the cause that people assemble against them and kill them, so their (the Chaldaeans') frequent injustice is the cause that they haste to be avenged on thee" .
Having become beasts, they shared their history. They spoiled, scared, laid waste, were destroyed. "Whoso seeketh to hurt another, hurteth himself." The Chaldaeans laid waste Judea, scared and wasted its inhabitants; the end of its plunder should be, not to adorn, but to cover them, overwhelm them as in ruins, so that they should not lift up their heads again. Violence returns upon the head of him who did it; they seem to raise a lofty fabric, but are buried under it. He sums up their past experience, what God had warned them beforehand, what they had found.
18What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols?
What profiteth - (Hath profited) הועיל מה. Samuel warned them, "Serve the Lord with all your heart, and turn ye not aside; for (it would be) after vanities which will not profit nor deliver for they are vain:" and Jeremiah tells their past; "their prophets prophesied by Baal; and after things יועילי לא which profit not, have they gone." Elsewhere the idol is spoken of as a thing "which will not profit" (future) "My people hath changed its glory יועיל בלא for that which profiteth not," Jeremiah 2:8, Jeremiah 2:11. So Isaiah, "Who hath formed a god, הועיל לבלתי not to profit." Isaiah 44:9.10. "The makers of a graven image are all of them vanity, and their desirable things יועילו בל will not profit."
The graven image, that the maker therefore hath graven it? - What did Baal and Ashtaroth profit you? What availed it ever but to draw down the wrath of God? Even so neither shall it profit the Chaldaean. As their idols availed them not, so neither need they fear them. Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar were propagandists of their own belief and would destroy, if they could, all other worship, false or true : Nebuchadnezzar is thought to have set up his own image Daniel 3. Antichrist will set himself up as God 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:15-17. We may take warning at least by our own sins. If we had no profit at all from them, neither will the like profit others. the Jews did, in the main, learn this in their captivity.
The molten image and teacher of lies - It is all one whether by "teacher of lies" we understand the idol , or its priest . For its priest gave it its voice, as its maker created its form. It could only seem to teach through the idol-priest. Isaiah used the title "teacher of lies," of the false prophet Isaiah 9:14. It is all one. Zechariah combines them Zechariah 10:2; "The teraphim have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have had false dreams."
That the maker of his work trusteth therein - This was the special folly of idolatry. The thing made must needs he inferior to its maker. It was one of the corruptions of idolatry that the maker of his own work should trust in what was wholly his own creation, what, not God, but himself created, what had nothing but what it had from himself . He uses the very words which express the relation of man to God, "the Framer" and "the thing framed." Isaiah 29:16, "O your perverseness! Shall the framer be accounted as clay, theft the thing made should say of its Maker, He made me not, and the thing framed say of its Framer, He hath no hands?" The idol-maker is "the creator of his creature," of his god whom he worships. Again the idol-maker makes "dumb idols" (literally, "dumb nothings") in themselves nothings, and having no power out of themselves; and what is uttered in their name, are but lies. And what else are man's idols of wealth, honor, fame, which he makes to himself, the creatures of his own hands or mind, their greatness existing chiefly in his own imagination before which he bows down himself, who is the image of God?
19Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.
But then the greater is the "Woe" to him who deceiveth by them. The prophet passes away from the idols as "nothings" and pronounces "woe" on those who deceive by them. He . first expostulates with them on their folly, and would awaken them. "What hath it profited?" (As in Psalm 115:5; 1 Corinthians 12:2) Then on the obstinate he denounces "woe." "Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise." Self-made blindness alone could, in the light of truth, so speak; but yet more lies in the emphatic word, "It." The personal pronoun stands emphatically in Hebrew; He shall teach, lo, He (this same of whom he speaks) this is It which shall teach: It, and not the living God. And yet this same It (the word is again emphatic) he points, as with the finger, to it, "behold, It is laid over with, held fast by , gold and silver," so that no voice could escape, if it had any. "And there is no breath at all in the midst of it" (Compare Jeremiah 10:14 repeated Jeremiah 51:17), literally "All breath, all which is breath, there is none within it;" he first suggests the thought, breath of every sort, and then energetically denies it all ; no life of any sort, of man, or bird, or beast, or creeping thing Isaiah 41:23; Jeremiah 10:5; none, good or bad; from God or from Satan; none whereby it can do good or do evil; for which it should be loved or feared. Evil spirits may have made use of idols: they could not give them life, nor dwell in them.
The words addressed to it are the language of the soul in the seeming absence or silence of God (Psalm 7:7; Psalm 35:23; Psalm 44:24; Psalm 59:6; Isaiah 51:9; Delitszch), but mockery as spoken to the senseless stone, as Ehijah had mocked the Baal-priests, "peradventure he sleepeth and must be awaked" 1 Kings 18:26-27.
20But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.
And now having declared the nothingness of all which is not God, the power of man or his gods, he answers again his own question, by summoning all before the presence of the majesty of God.
But the Lord - He had, in condemning them, pictured the tumult of the world, the oppressions, the violence, bloodsheddings, covetousness, insolence, self-aggrandizement of the then world-empire, and had denounced woe upon it; we see man framing his idols, praying to the lifeless stones; and God, of whom none thought, where was He? These were people's ways. "But the Lord," he joins it on, as the complement and corrective of all this confusion.
The Lord is in His holy temple - awaiting, in His long-suffering, to judge. "The temple of God" is where God enshrines Himself, or allows Himself to be seen and adored. "God is wholly everywhere, the whole of Him no where." There is no contrast between His temple on earth, and His temple in heaven. He is not more locally present in heaven than in earth. It were as anthropomorphic but less pious to think of God, as confined, localized, in heaven as on earth; because it would be simply removing God away from man. Solomon knew, when he built the temple, that "the heaven and heaven of heavens could not contain 1 Kings 8:27 God." The "holy temple," which could be destroyed Psalm 79:1, toward which people were to pray Psalm 5:7; Psalm 138:2; Jonah 2:4, was the visible temple 1 Kings 8:29-30, 1 Kings 8:35, 1 Kings 8:38, 1 Kings 8:42, 1 Kings 8:44, 1 Kings 8:48, where were the symbols of God's Presence, and of the stoning Sacrifice; but lest His presence should be localized, Solomon's repeated prayer is 1 Kings 8:30, 1 Kings 8:39, 1 Kings 8:43, 1 Kings 8:49, "hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place" 1 Kings 8:32, 1 Kings 8:34, 1 Kings 8:36, 1 Kings 8:45; "hear Thou in heaven." There is then no difference, as though in earlier books the "holy temple" meant that at Jerusalem, in the later, "the heavens?" In the confession at the offering of the "third year's tithes," the prayer is, Deuteronomy 27:15, "look down from Thy holy habitation, from heaven;" and David says, "the Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven" Psalm 11:4; and, Psalm 18:6, Psalm 18:9 : "He heard my voice out of His temple - He bowed the heavens also and came down;" and, Psalm 29:9, "In His temple doth everyone say, Glory." The simple words are identical though not in the same order as those, in which David, in the same contrast with the oppression of man, ushers in the judgment and final retribution to good and bad, by declaring the unseen presence of God upon His Throne in heaven, beholding and testing the sons of men.
In His Presence, all the mysteries of our being are solved.
The Lord is in His holy Temple - not, as the idols in temples made with hands, but revealing Himself in the visible temple (Jerome), "dwelling in the Son, by Nature and Union, as He saith John 14:10, "The Father who dwelleth in Me doeth the works;" in each one of the bodies and souls of the saints by His Spirit 1 Corinthians 6:19, in the Blessed, in glory; in the Heavens, by the more evident appearance of His Majesty and the workings of His Power ; "everywhere by Essence, Presence, and Power, 'for in Him we live, and move, and have our being;' nowhere as confined or inclosed." Since then God is in Heaven, beholding the deeds of people, Himself Unchangeable, Almighty, All-holy, "let all the earth keep silence before Him," literally, "hush before Him all the earth," waiting from Him in hushed stillness the issue of this tangled state of being. And to the hashed soul, hushed to itself and its own thought, hushed in awe of His Majesty and "His Presence, before His face," God speaks .