Transcriber's Note: Images taken from the 1861 edition, found at Books.Google.com., are the source of the text used for this ebook. This original book was from Harvard University and digitized in 2006.
Unclear or missing punctuation marks were corrected by reference to the 1856 edition of this work.
The Latin diphthong oe is expressed by [oe].
Greek words are directly transliterated using the English equivalents of the Greek; the Greek eta is transliterated as e and omega as o. Diacritic marks are omitted with the exception of the initial hard breathing mark which is indicated by an "h" before the initial vowel of the word.
Hebrew words, which in this book are mainly represented without the vowel and pronunciation points, are transcribed as follows:
Alef = a Lahmed = l Bet = b Mem = m (final = M) Gimel = g Nun = n (final = N) Dalet = d Samekh = s He = h Ahyin = i Vav = v Peh = p (final = P) Zayin = z Tsadi = c (final = C) Het = H Qof = q Tet = T Resh = r Yod = i Shin = w Kahf = k (final = K) Tav = t
NEW SERIES. VOL. II.
Hengstenberg's Christology of the Old Testament. VOL. II.
EDINBURGH: T. & T. CLARK, 38, GEORGE STREET. LONDON: J. GLADDING; WARD AND CO.; AND JACKSON AND WALFORD DUBLIN: JOHN ROBERTSON
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THE OLD TESTAMENT,
COMMENTARY ON THE MESSIANIC PREDICTIONS
BY E. W. HENGSTENBERG, DR. AND PROF. OF THEOL. IN BERLIN.
SECOND EDITION GREATLY IMPROVED.
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY THE THE REV. THEODORE MEYER. HEBREW TUTOR IN THE NEW COLLEGE, EDINBURGH.
EDINBURGH: T. AND T. CLARK, 38, GEORGE STREET. LONDON: HAMILTON, ADAMS, AND CO.; SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, AND CO.; WARD AND CO.; JACKSON AND WALFORD, ETC. DUBLIN: JOHN ROBERTSON, AND HODGES AND SMITH.
NOTICE. This Work is copyright in this country by arrangement with the Author.
LIST OF CONTENTS.
Page MESSIANIC PREDICTIONS IN THE PROPHETS. THE PROPHET ISAIAH. General Preliminary Remarks, 1 Chap. ii.-iv.—The Sprout of the Lord, 10 Chap. vii.—Immanuel, 26 Chap. viii. 23-ix. 6—Unto us a Child is born, 66 Chap. ix. 1-7, 75 Chap. xi., xii.—The Twig of Jesse, 94 On Matthew ii. 23, 106 Chap. xii., 133 Chaps. xiii. 1-xiv. 27, 135 Chaps. xvii., xviii., 137 Chap. xix., 141 Chap. xxiii.—The Burden upon Tyre, 146 Chaps. xxiv.-xxvii., 149 Chaps. xxviii.-xxxiii., 154 Chap. xxxv., 158 General Preliminary Remarks on Chaps, xl.-lxvi., 163 Chap. xlii. 1-9, 196 Chap. xlix. 1-9, 226 Chap. 1. 4-11, 246 Chap. li. 16, 256 Chaps. lii. 13-liii. 12, 259 I. History of the Interpretation. A. With the Jews, 311 B. History of the Interpretation with the Christians, 319 II. The Arguments against the Messianic Interpretation, 327 III. The Arguments in favour of the Messianic Interpretation, 330 IV. Examination of the Non-Messianic Interpretation, 334 Chap. lv. 1-5, 343 Chap. lxi. 1-3, 351 THE PROPHET ZEPHANIAH, 356 THE PROPHET JEREMIAH. General Preliminary Remarks, 362 Chap. iii. 14-17, 373 Chap. xxiii. 1-8, 398 Chap. xxxi. 31-40, 424 Chap. xxxiii. 14-26, 459
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THE PROPHET ISAIAH.
GENERAL PRELIMINARY REMARKS.
Isaiah is the principal prophetical figure in the first period of canonical prophetism, i.e., the Assyrian period, just as Jeremiah is in the second, i.e., the Babylonian. With Isaiah are connected in the kingdom of Judah: Joel, Obadiah, and Micah; in the kingdom of Israel: Hosea, Amos, and Jonah.
The name "Isaiah" signifies the "Salvation of the Lord." In this name we have the key-note of his prophecies, just as the name Jeremiah: "The Lord casts down," indicates the nature of his prophecies, in which the prevailing element is entirely of a threatening character. That the proclamation of salvation occupies a very prominent place in Isaiah, was seen even by the Fathers of the Church. Jerome says: "I shall expound Isaiah in such a manner that he shall appear not as a prophet only, but as an Evangelist and an Apostle;" and in another passage: "Isaiah seems to me to have uttered not a prophecy but a Gospel." And Augustine says, De Civ. Dei, 18, c. 29, that, according to the opinion of many, Isaiah, on account of his numerous prophecies of Christ and the Church, deserved the name of an Evangelist rather than that of a Prophet. When, after his conversion, Augustine applied to Ambrose with the question, which among the Sacred Books he should read in preference to all others, he proposed to him Isaiah, "because before all others it was he who had more openly declared the Gospel and the calling of the Gentiles." (Aug. Conf. ix. 5.) With the Fathers of the Church Luther coincides. He says in commendation of Isaiah: "He is full of loving, comforting, cheering words for all poor consciences, and wretched, afflicted hearts." Of course, there is in Isaiah no want of severe reproofs and threatenings. If it were [Pg 2] otherwise, he would have gone beyond the boundary by which true prophetism is separated from false. "There is in it," as Luther says, "enough of threatenings and terrors against the hardened, haughty, obdurate heads of the wicked, if it might be of some use." But the threatenings never form the close in Isaiah; they always at last run out into the promise; and while, for example, in the great majority of Jeremiah's prophecies, the promise, which cannot be wanting in any true prophet, is commonly only short, and hinted at, sometimes consisting only of words which are thrown into the midst of the several threatenings, e. g., iv. 27: "Yet will I not make a full end,"—in Isaiah the stream of consolation flows in the richest fulness. The promise absolutely prevails in the second part, from chap. xl.-lxvi. The reason of this peculiarity is to be sought for chiefly in the historical circumstances. Isaiah lived at a time in which, in the kingdom of Judah, the corruption was far from having already reached its greatest height,—in which there still existed, in that kingdom, a numerous "election" which gathered round the prophet as their spiritual centre. With a view to this circle, Isaiah utters the words: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people." The contemporary prophets of the kingdom of the ten tribes, which was poisoned in its very first origin, found a different state of things; the field there was already ripe for the harvest of judgment. And at the time of Jeremiah, Judah had become like her apostate sister. At that time it was not so much needed to comfort the miserable, as to terrify sinners in their security. It was only after the wrath of God had manifested itself in deeds, only after the judgment of God had been executed upon Jerusalem, or was immediately at hand,—it was only then that, in Jeremiah, and so in Ezekiel also, the stream of promise broke forth without hinderance.
Chronology is, throughout, the principle according to which the Prophecies of Isaiah are arranged. In the first six chapters, we obtain a survey of the Prophet's ministry under Uzziah and Jotham. Chap. vii. to x. 4 belongs to the time of Ahaz. From chap. x. 4 to the close of chap. xxxv. every thing belongs to the time of the Assyrian invasion in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah; in the face of which invasion the prophetic gift of Isaiah was displayed as it had never been before. The section, chap. xxxvi.-xxxix., furnishes us with the historical commentary on the preceding [Pg 3] prophecies from the Assyrian period, and forms, at the same time, the transition to the second part, which still belongs to the same period, and the starting point of which is Judah's deliverance from Asshur. In this most remarkable year of the Prophet's life—a year rich in the manifestation of God's glory in judgment and mercy—his prophecy flowed out in full streams, and spread to every side. Not the destinies of Judah only, but those of the Gentile nations also are drawn within its sphere. The Prophet does not confine himself to the events immediately at hand, but in his ecstatic state, the state of an elevated, and, as it were, armed consciousness, in which he was during this whole period, his eye looks into the farthest distances. He sees, especially, that, at some future period, the Babylonian power, which began, even in his time, to germinate, would take the place of the Assyrian,—that, like it, it would find the field of Judah white for the harvest,—that, for this oppressor of the world, destruction is prepared by Koresh (Cyrus), the conqueror from the East, and that he will liberate the people from their exile; and, at the close of the development, he beholds the Saviour of the world, whose image he depicts in the most glowing colours.
Isaiah has especially brought out the view of the Prophetic and Priestly offices of Christ, while in the former prophecies it was almost alone the Kingly office which appeared; it is only in Deut. xviii. that the Prophetic office, and in Ps. cx. that the Priestly office, is pointed at. Of the two states of Christ, it is the doctrine of the state of humiliation, the doctrine of the suffering Christ, which here meets us, while formerly it was the state of exaltation which was prominently brought before us,—although Isaiah too can very well describe it when it is necessary to meet the fears regarding the destruction of the Theocracy by the assaults of the powerful heathen nations. The first attempt at a description of the humbled, suffering, and expiating Christ, is found in chap. xi. 1. The real seat of this proclamation is, however, in the second part, which is destined more for the election, than for the whole nation. In chap. xlii. we meet the servant of God, who, as a Saviour meek and lowly in heart, does not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, and by this merciful love establishes righteousness on the whole earth. In chap. xlix., the Prophet describes how the covenant-people requite with ingratitude the faithful labours of the Servant of God, but that [Pg 4] the Lord, to recompense Him for the obstinacy of Israel, gives Him the Gentiles for an inheritance. In chap. l. we have presented to us that aspect of the sufferings of the Servant of God which is common to Christ and His people—viz., how, in fulfilling His calling. He offered His back to the smiters, and did not hide His face from shame and spitting. Then, finally, in chap. liii.—that culminating point of the prophecy of the Old Testament—Christ is placed before our eyes in His highest work, in His atoning and vicarious suffering, as the truth of both the Old Testament high-priest, and the Old Testament sin-offering.
There are still the following Messianic features which are peculiar to Isaiah. A clear Old Testament witness for the divinity of Christ is offered by chap. ix. 5 (6); the birth by a virgin, closely connected with His divinity, is announced in chap. vii. 14; according to chap. viii. 23 (ix. 1.) Galilee, and, in general, the country surrounding the Sea of Gennesareth, being that part of the country which hitherto had chiefly been covered with disgrace, are, in a very special manner, to be honoured by the appearance of the Saviour, who shall come to have mercy upon the miserable, and to seek that which was lost. Isaiah has, further, first taught that, by the redemption, the consequences of the Fall would disappear in the irrational creation also, and that it should return to paradisaic innocence, chap. xi. 6-9. He has first announced to the people of God the glorious truth, that death, as it had not existed in the beginning, should, at the end also, be expelled, chap. xxv. 8; xxvi. 19. The healing powers which by Christ should be imparted to miserable mankind, Isaiah has described in chap xxxv. in words, which by the fulfilment have, in a remarkable manner, been confirmed.
Let us endeavour to form, from the single scattered features which occur in the prophecies of Isaiah, a comprehensive view of his prospects into the future.
The announcement first uttered by Moses of an impending exile of the people, and desolation of the country, is brought before us by Isaiah in the first six chapters, in the prophecies belonging to the time of Uzziah and Jotham, at which the future had not yet been so clearly laid open before the Prophet as it was at a later period, at the time of Ahaz, and, very especially, in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah. A reference to [Pg 5] the respective announcements of the Pentateuch is found in chap. xxxvii. 26, where, in opposition to the imagination of the King of Asshur, that, by his own power, he had penetrated as a conqueror as far as Judah, Isaiah asks him whether he had not heard that the Lord, long ago and from ancient times, had formed such a resolution regarding His people. These words can be referred only to the threatenings of the Pentateuch, which a short-sighted criticism endeavoured to ascribe to a far later period, without considering that the germ of this knowledge of the future is found in the Decalogue also, the genuineness of which is, at present, almost unanimously conceded: "In order that thy (Israel's) days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."
In the solemnly introduced short summary of the history of the covenant-people, in chap. vi., there is, after the announcement of the impending complete desolation of the country and the carrying away of its inhabitants in vers. 11, 12, the indication of a second judgment which will not less make an end, in ver. 13: "But yet there is a tenth part in it, and it shall again be destroyed;" and this goes hand in hand with the promise that the election shall become partakers of the Messianic salvation.
The Prophet clearly sees that, by the Syrico-Ephraemitic war, the full realization of that threatening of the Pentateuch will not be brought about, as far as Judah is concerned; that here a faint prelude only to the real fulfilment is the point in question. Although the allied kings speak in chap. vii. 6: "Let us go up against Judea and vex it, and let us conquer it for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal," the Lord speaks in chap. vii. 7: "It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass." And although the heart of the king and the heart of his people were moved as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind, the Prophet says: "Fear not, let not thy heart be tender for the tails of those two smoking firebrands."
It is Asshur that shall do more for the realization of that divine decree first revealed by Moses. It is he who, immediately after that expedition against Judah, shall break the power of the kingdom of the ten tribes, chap. viii. 4: "Before the child shall be able to cry: 'My father and my mother,'the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be carried before the King of [Pg 6] Assyria." The communion of guilt into which it has entered with Damascus shall also implicate it in a communion of punishment with it, chap. xvii. 3. The adversaries of Rezin shall devour Israel with open mouth, chap. ix. 11, 12. Yea Asshur shall, some time afterwards, put an end altogether to the kingdom of Israel; "Within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken that it shall not be a people any more," chap. vii. 8. Upon Judah also severe sufferings shall be inflicted by Asshur. He shall invade and devastate their land, chap. vii. 17, and chap. viii. He shall irresistibly penetrate to the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, chap. x. 28-32. But when he is just preparing to inflict the mortal blow upon the head of the people of God, the Lord shall put a stop to him: "He shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by the mighty one," chap. x. 34. "Asshur shall be broken in the land of the Lord, and upon His mountains be trodden under foot; and his yoke shall depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders," chap. xiv. 25. "And Asshur shall fall with the sword not of a man," chap. xxxi. 8. These prophecies found their fulfilment in the destruction of Sennacherib's host before Jerusalem,—an event which no human ingenuity could have known even a day beforehand. But Isaiah does not content himself with promising to trembling Zion the help of God against Asshur in that momentary calamity. In harmony with Hosea and Micah, he promises to Judah, in general, security from Asshur. He says to Hezekiah, after that danger was over, in chap. xxxviii. 6: "And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the King of Assyria, and I will defend this city."
Behind the Assyrian kingdom, the Prophet beholds a new power germinating, viz., the Babylonian or Chaldean; and he announces most distinctly and repeatedly that from this shall proceed a comprehensive execution of the threatenings against unfaithful Judah. According to chap. xxiii. 13, the Chaldeans overturn the Assyrian monarchy, and conquer proud Tyre which had resisted the assault of the Assyrians. Shinar or Babylon appears in chap. xi. 11, in the list of the places to which Judah has been removed in punishment. In chap. xiii. 1-xiv. 27, Babylon is, for the first time, distinctly and definitely mentioned as the threatening power of the future, by which Judah is to be carried into captivity. The corresponding announcement in chap. xxxix. is so [Pg 7] closely and intimately interwoven with the historical context, that even Gesenius did not venture to deny its origin by Isaiah, just as he was compelled also to acknowledge the genuineness of the prophecy against Tyre, in which the Babylonian dominion is most distinctly foretold, and even the duration of that dominion is fixed. The 70 years of Jeremiah have here already their foundation.
The Prophet sees distinctly and definitely that Egypt, the rival African world's power, on which the sharp-sighted politicians of his time founded their hope for deliverance, would not be equal to the Asiatic world's power representing itself in the Assyrian and Babylonian phases. He knows what he could not know from any other source than by immediate communication of the Spirit of God, that, by its struggle against the Asiatic power, Egypt would altogether lose its old political importance, and would never recover it; compare remarks on chap. xix.
As the power which is to overthrow the Babylonian Empire appear, in chap. xxxiii. 17, the Medes. In chap. xxi. 2, Elam, which, according to the usus loquendi of Isaiah, means Persia, is mentioned besides Media. This power, and at its head, the conqueror from the East, Cyrus, will bring deliverance to Judah. By it they obtain a restoration to their native land. Nevertheless Elam appears in chap. xxii. 16 as the representative of the world's power oppressing Judah in the future; and from chap. xi. 11 we are likewise led to expect that the world's power will in future shew itself in an Elamitic phase also, and that the difference between Babel and Elam is one of degree only, just as, indeed, it appeared in history; comp. Neh. ix. 36, 37.
An intimation of an European phasis of the world's power, hostile to the kingdom of God, is to be found in chap. xi. 11.
After the Kingdom of God has, for such protracted periods, been subject to the world's power, the relation will suddenly be reversed; at the end of the days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be exalted above all the hills, and all nations shall flow into it, chap. ii. 2.
This great change shall be accomplished by the Messiah, chaps. iv., ix., xi., xxxiii. 17, who proceeds from the house of [Pg 8] David, chap. ix. 6 (7), lv. 3, but only after it has sunk down to the utmost lowliness, chap. xi. 1. With the human, He combines the divine nature. This appears not only from the names which are given to Him in chap. ix. 5 (6), but also from the works which are assigned to Him,—works by far exceeding human power. He rules over the whole earth, according to chap. xi.; He slays, according to xi. 4, the wicked with the breath of His mouth (compare chap. l. 11, where likewise He appears as a partaker of the omnipotent punitive power of God); He removes the consequences of sin even from the irrational creation, chap. xi. 6-9; by His absolute righteousness He is enabled to become the substitute of the whole human race, and thereby to accomplish their salvation resting on this substitution, chap. liii.
The Messiah appears at first in the form of a servant, low and humble, chap. xi. 1, liii. 2. His ministry is quiet and concealed, chap. xlii. 2, as that of a Saviour who with tender love applies himself to the miserable, chap. xlii. 3, lxi. 1. At first it is limited to Israel, chap. xlix. 1-6, where it is enjoyed especially by the most degraded of all the parts of the country, viz., that around the sea of Galilee, chap. viii. 23 (ix. 1.) Severe sufferings will be inflicted upon Him in carrying out His ministry. These proceed from the same people whom He has come to raise up, and to endow (according to chap. xlii. 6, xlix. 8), with the full truth of the covenant into which the Lord has entered with them. The Servant of God bears these suffering's with unbroken courage. They bring about, through His mediation, the punishment of God upon those from whom they proceeded, and become the reason why the salvation passes over to the Gentiles, by whose deferential homage the Servant of God is indemnified for what He has lost in the Jews, chap. xlix. 1-9, l. 4-11. (The foundation for the detailed announcement in these passages is given already in the sketch in chap. vi.,—according to which an election only of the people attain to salvation, while the mass becomes a prey to destruction.) But it is just by these sufferings, which issue at last in a violent death, that the Servant of God reaches the full height of His destination. They possess a vicarious character, and effect the reconciliation of a whole sinful world, chap. lii. 13-liii. 12. Subsequently to the suffering, and on the ground of it, begins the exercise of the Kingly office of Christ, chap. liii. 12. He brings law and righteousness to the [Pg 9] Gentile world, chap. xlii. 1; light into their darkness, chap. xlii. 6. He becomes the centre around which the whole Gentile world gathers, chap. xi. 10: "And it shall come to pass in that day, the root of Jesse which shall stand for an ensign of the people, to it shall the Gentiles seek, and His rest shall be glory;" comp. chap. lx., where the delighted eye of the Prophet beholds how the crowds of the nations from the whole earth turn to Zion; chap. xviii., where the future reception of the Ethiopians into the Kingdom of God is specially prophecied; chap. xix., according to which Egypt turns to the God of Israel, and by the tie of a common love to Him, is united with Asshur, his rival in the time of the Prophet, and so likewise with Israel, which has so much to suffer from him; chap. xxiii., according to which, in the time of salvation. Tyre also does homage to the God of Israel. The Servant of God becomes, at the same time, the Witness, and the Prince and Lawgiver of the nations, chap. lv. 4. Just as the Spirit of the Lord rests upon Him, chap. xi. 2, xlii. 1, lxi. 1, so there takes place in His days an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, chap. xxxii. 15, xliv. 3, comp. with chap. liv. 13. Sin is put an end to by Him, chap. xi. 9, and an end is put especially to war, chap. ii. 4. The Gentiles gathered to the Lord become at last the medium of His salvation for the covenant-people, who at first had rejected it, chap. xi. 12, lx. 9, lxvi. 20, 21. The end is the restoration of the paradisaic condition, chap. xi. 6-9, lxv. 25; the new heavens and the new earth, chap. lxv. 17, lxvi. 22; but the wicked shall inherit eternal condemnation, chap. lxvi. 24.
[Footnote 1: Vitringa: There are no predictions in reference to the temporal deliverance of the Jewish Church, in which the Prophet shews himself more than in those which relate to the downfall of the Babylonian Empire, and the deliverance of the people of God by Cyrus.]
THE PROPHECY—CHAP. II.-IV. THE SPROUT OF THE LORD.
It has been already proved, in Vol. i., p. 416 ff., that this discourse belongs to the first period of the Prophet's ministry. It consists of three parts. In the first, chap. ii. 2-4, the Prophet draws a picture of the Messianic time, at which the Kingdom of God, now despised, should be elevated above all the kingdoms of the world, should exercise an attractive power over the Gentiles, and should cause peace to dwell among them; comp. Vol. i., p. 437 ff. In the second part, from chap. ii. 5-iv. 1, the Prophet describes the prevailing corruption, exhorts to repentance, threatens divine judgments. This part is introduced, and is connected with the preceding, by the admonition in ii. 5, addressed to the people, to prepare, by true godliness, for a participation in that blessedness, to beware lest they should be excluded through their own fault. In the third part, chap. iv. 2-6, the prophet returns to the proclamation of salvation, so that the whole is, as it were, surrounded by the promise. It was necessary that this should be prominently brought out, in order that sinners might not only be terrified by fear, but also allured by hope, to repentance,—and in order that the elect might not imagine that the sin of the masses, and the judgment inflicted in consequence of it, did away with the mercy of the Lord towards His people, and with His faithfulness to His promises. Salvation does not come without judgment. This feature, by which true prophetism is distinguished from false, which, divesting God of His righteousness, announced salvation to unreformed sinners, to the whole rude mass of the people,—this feature is once more prominently brought out in ver. 4. But salvation for the elect comes as necessarily as judgment does upon the sinners. In the midst of the deepest abasement of the people of God, God raises from out of the midst of them the Saviour by whom they are raised to the highest glory, chap. iv. 2. They are installed into the dignity of the saints of God, after the penitent ones have been renewed by His Spirit, and the [Pg 11] obstinate sinners have been exterminated by His judgment, ver. 3, 4. God's gracious presence affords them protection from their enemies, and from all tribulation and danger, ver. 5, 6.
The first part, in which Isaiah follows Micah (comp. the arguments in proof of originality in Micah, Vol. i., p. 413 ff.), has already been expounded on a former occasion. We have here only to answer the question, why it is that the Prophet opens his discourse with a proclamation of salvation borrowed from Micah? His object certainly was to render the minds of the people susceptible of the subsequent admonition and reproof, by placing at the head a promise which had already become familiar and precious to the people. The position which the Messianic proclamation occupies in Isaiah is altogether misunderstood if, with Kleinert and Ewald, we assume that the passage does not, in Isaiah, belong to the real substance of the prophecy; that it is merely placed in front as a kind of text, the abuse and misinterpretation of which the Prophet meets in that which follows, so that the sense would be: the blessed time promised by former prophets will come indeed, but only after severe, rigorous judgments upon all who had forsaken Jehovah. It is especially ver. 5 which militates against this interpretation, where, in the words: "Come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord," the prophet gives an express declaration as to the object of the description which he has placed in front, and expresses himself in regard to it in perfect harmony [Pg 12] with Heb. iv. 1: [Greek: phobethomen oun mepote kataleipomenes epangelias ... doke tis ex humon husterekenai.] This shows, that after the manner of an evangelical preacher, and in conformity with his name, he wishes to allure to repentance by pointing to the great salvation of the future;—that the [Greek: engike he basileia ton ouranon] of the first part serves as a foundation to the [Greek: metanoeite oun] of the second.
The threatening of punishment contained in the second part is destitute of any particular reference. It bears a general character, comprehending the whole of the mischief with which the Lord is to visit the unfaithfulness of His people. Most thoroughly was the animating idea realized in the Roman catastrophe, the consequence of which is the helplessness which still presses upon the people. The preparatory steps were the decay of the people at the time of Ahaz—especially the Chaldean overthrow—and, generally, everything which the people had to suffer in the time of the dominion of the Assyrian, Chaldean, Medo-Persian, and Greek kingdoms. As none of these kingdoms were as yet on the stage, or in sight, it is quite natural that the threatening here keeps altogether within general terms; it was given to Isaiah himself afterwards to individualize it much more.
It is with the third part only that we have here more particularly to employ ourselves.
Ver. 2. "In that day the Sprout of the Lord becomes for beauty and glory, and the fruit of the land for exaltation and ornament, to the escaped of Israel."
Ver. 3. "And it shall come to pass, he that was left in Zion, and was spared in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, every one that is written to life in Jerusalem."
Ver. 4. "When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall remove the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of right and the spirit of destruction."
Ver. 5. "And the Lord creates over the place of Mount Zion, and over her assemblies clouds by day and smoke, and the brightness of flaming fire by night, for above all glory is a covering."
Ver. 6. "And a tabernacle shall be for a shadow by day from the heat, and, for a refuge and covert from storm and from rain."
Ver. 2. "In that day" i.e., not by any means after the suffering, but in the midst of it, comp. chap. iii. 18; iv. 1, where, by [Pg 13] the words "in that day," contemporaneousness is likewise expressed. Parallel is chap. ix. 1 (2), where the people that walketh in darkness seeth a great light. According to Micah v. 2 (3) also, the people are given up to the dominion of the world's powers until the time that she who is bearing has brought forth. Inasmuch as the Messianic proclamation bears the same general comprehensive character as the threatening of punishment, and includes in itself beginning and end, the suffering may partly also reach into the Messianic time. It dismisses from its discipline those who are delivered up to it, gradually only, after they have become ripe for a participation in the Messianic salvation.—There cannot be any doubt that, by the "Sprout of the Lord" the Messiah is designated,—an explanation which we meet with so early as in the Chaldee Paraphrast ([Hebrew: bedna hhva ihi mwiHa dii lHdvh vliqr]), from which even Kimchi did not venture to differ, which was in the Christian Church, too, the prevailing one, and which Rationalism was the first to give up. The Messiah is here quite in His proper place. The Prophet had, in chap. iii. 12-15, in a very special manner, derived the misery of the people from their bad rulers. What is now more rational, therefore, than that he should connect the salvation and prosperity likewise with the person of a Divine Ruler? comp. chap. i. 26. In the adjoining prophecies of Isaiah, especially in chaps. vii., ix., and xi., the person of the Messiah likewise forms the centre of the proclamation of salvation; so that, a priori, a mention of it must be expected here. To the same result we are led by the analogy of Micah; comp. Vol. i. p. 443-45, 449. Farther—The representation of the Messiah, under the image of a sprout or shoot, is very common in Scripture; comp. chap. xi. 1-10; liii. 2; Rev. v. 5. But of decisive weight are those passages in which precisely our word [Hebrew: cmH] occurs as a designation of the Messiah. The two passages, Jer. xxiii. 5: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, and I raise unto David a righteous Sprout;" and xxxiii. 15: "In those days, and at that time, shall I cause the Sprout of righteousness to grow up unto David," may at once and plainly be considered as an interpretation of the passage before us, and as a commentary upon it; and that so much the more that there, as well as here, all salvation is connected with this Sprout of Jehovah; comp. Jer. xxiii. 6: "In His days Judah [Pg 14] shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely, and this is His name whereby he shall be called: The Lord our righteousness." The two other passages, Zech. iii. 8: "Behold, I bring my servant Zemach," and vi. 12: "Behold, a man whose name is Zemach" are of so much the greater consequence that in them Zemach (i.e., Sprout) occurs as a kind of nomen proprium, the sense of which is supposed as being known from former prophecies to which the Prophet all but expressly refers; or as Vitringa remarks on these passages: "That man who, in the oracles of the preceding Prophets (Is. and Jer.) bears the name of 'Sprout.'" Of no less consequence, finally, is the parallel passage, chap. xxviii. 5: "In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty unto the residue of His people." The words [Hebrew: cbi] and [Hebrew: tpart] there meet us again. The same is there ascribed to the Lord which is here attributed to the Sprout of the Lord. That can be readily accounted for, only if the Sprout of the Lord be the Messiah. For the Messiah appears everywhere as the channel through which the Lord imparts to His Church all the fulness of His blessings, as the Immanuel by whom the promise given at the very threshold of the Old Testament: "I dwell in the midst of them," is most perfectly realized. "This is the name whereby He shall be called: The Lord our righteousness," says Jeremiah, in the passage quoted.—The "Sprout of the Lord" may designate either him whom the Lord causes to sprout, or him who has sprouted forth from the Lord, i.e., the Son of God. Against the latter interpretation it is objected by Hoffmann (Weissagung und Erfuellung. Th. 1, S. 214): "[Hebrew: cmH] is an intransitive verb, so that [Hebrew: cmH] may be as well connected with a noun which says, who causes to sprout forth, as with one which says, whence the thing sprouts forth. Now it is quite obvious that, in the passage before us, the former case applies, and not the latter, inasmuch as one cannot say that something, or even some one, sprouts forth from Jehovah; it is only with a thing, not with a person, that [Hebrew: cmH] can be connected." But it is impossible to admit that this objection is well founded. The person may very well be conceived of as the soil from which the sprout goes forth. Yet we must, indeed, acknowledge that the Messiah is nowhere called a Sprout of David. But what decides in favour of the first view are the [Pg 15] parallel passages. In Jer. xxiii. 5, xxxiii. 15, the Lord raises up to David a righteous Sprout, and causes Him to grow up unto David. Hence here, too, the Sprout will in that sense only be the Lord's, that he does not sprout forth out of Him, but through Him. In Zech. iii. 8 the Lord brings his servant Zemach; in Ps. cxxxii. 17, it is said: "There I cause a horn to sprout to David," and already in the fundamental passage, 2 Sam. xxiii. 5, which contains the first germ of our passage, David says: "For all my salvation and all my pleasure should He not make it to sprout forth."—As the words "Sprout of the Lord" denote the heavenly origin of the Redeemer, so do the words [Hebrew: pri harC] the earthly one, the soil from which the Lord causes the Saviour to sprout up. These words are, by Vitringa and others, translated: "the fruit of the earth," but the correct translation is "the fruit of the land." The passages, Num. xiii. 26: "And shewed them the fruit of the land;" and Deut. i. 25: "And they took in their hands of the fruit of the land, and brought it unto us, and brought us word again, and said, good is the land which the Lord our God doth give us,"—these two passages are, besides that under consideration, the only ones in which the phrase [Hebrew: pri harC] occurs; and there is here, no doubt, an allusion to them. The excellent natural fruit of ancient times is a type of the spiritual fruit. To the same result—that [Hebrew: harC] designates the definite land, that land which, in the preceding verses, in the description of the prevailing conniption, and of the divine judgments, was always spoken of,—to this result we are led by the fact also, that everywhere in the Old Testament where the contrariety of the divine and human origin of the Messiah is mentioned, the human origin is more distinctly qualified and limited. This is especially the case in those passages which, being dependent upon that before us, maybe considered as a commentary upon it; in Jer. xxiii. 5, xxxiii. 15, where the Lord raises a Sprout unto David, and Zech. vi. 12, where the man whose name is Zemach (Sprout) grows up out of its soil; comp. Heb. vii. 14, where, in allusion to the Old Testament passages of the Sprout—the verb [Greek: anatellein] is commonly used of the sprouting forth of the plants (see Bleek on this passage)—it is said: [Greek: ex Iouda anatetalken ho Kurios hemon], Bengel: ut germen justitiae; farther, Mic. v. 1 (2), where the eternal existence of the Messiah, [Pg 16] and His birth in Bethlehem are contrasted with one another; Is. ix. 5, (6), where the words: "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given," are contrasted with the various designations of the Messiah, according to His divine majesty. This qualification and limitation which everywhere takes place, have their ground in the circumstance that the Messiah is constantly represented to the covenant-people as their property; and that He, indeed, was, inasmuch as salvation went out from Jews (John iv. 22), and was destined for the Jews, into whose communion the Gentiles were to be received; comp. my Commentary on Revel. vii. 4. "The Sprout of the Lord," "the fruit of the land," is accordingly He whom the Lord shall make to sprout forth from Israel. The Sprout of the Lord, the fruit of the land is to become to the escaped of Israel for beauty and glory, for exaltation and ornament. The passages to be compared are 2 Sam. i. 19, where Saul and Jonathan are called [Hebrew: cbi iwral]; farther, Is. xxviii. 5: "In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of beauty, and for a diadem of ornament unto the residue of His people," where the words [Hebrew: cbi] and [Hebrew: tpart] are likewise used; finally, chap. xxiv. 16, where, in reference to the Messianic time, it is said: "From the uttermost part of the earth do we hear songs of praise: beauty ( [Hebrew: cbi]) to the righteous." By the appearance of Christ, the covenant-people, hitherto despised, were placed in the centre of the world's history; by it the Lord took away the rebuke of His people from off all the earth, chap. xxv. 8. There is evidently in these words a reference to the preceding threatening of punishment, especially to chap. iii. 18: "In that day the Lord will take away the ornament," &c.: But Drechsler is wrong in fixing and expressing this reference thus: "Instead of farther running after strange things, Israel will find its glory and ornament in Him who is the long promised seed of Abrahamitic descent." For it is not the position which Israel takes that is spoken of, but that which is granted to them. The antithesis is between the false glory which God takes away, and the true glory which He gives. The Lord cannot, by any possibility, for any length of time, appear merely taking away; He takes those seeming blessings, only in order to be able to give the true ones. Every taking away is a prophecy of giving.—"To the escaped of Israel," who, according to the idea of a people of God, and according to [Pg 17] the promise of the Law (comp. Deut. xxx. 1, ff.) can never be wanting, as little as it is possible that the salvation should be partaken of by the whole mass of the people; sifting judgments must necessarily go before and along with it. True prophetism everywhere knows of salvation for a remnant only. On [Hebrew: pliTh], which does not mean "deliverance," so that the abstract would thus here stand for the concrete, but "that which has escaped," comp. remarks on Joel iii. 5, Vol. 1, p. 338.
All which now remains is to examine those explanations of this verse which differ from the Messianic interpretation. 1. Following the interpretation of Grotius and others, Gesenius, in his Commentary, understands by the Sprout of the Lord the new growth of the people after their various defeats. His explanation is: "Then the sprout of Jehovah will be splendid and glorious, and the fruit of the land excellent and beautiful for the escaped of Israel." Fruit of the land he takes in its literal sense, and understands it to mean the product of the land. The same view is held by Knobel: "He becomes for beauty and glory, i.e., the people, having reformed, prosper and form a splendid, glorious state." And Maurer in his Dictionary says: "The Sprout of Jehovah seems to be the morally improved remnant, the new, sanctified increase of the people." But in opposition to such a view there is, first, the circumstance, that according to it the [Hebrew: l] before [Hebrew: lcbi] and [Hebrew: lkbvr] must be understood differently from what it is in [Hebrew: lgavN], and [Hebrew: ltpart] which immediately follow and exactly correspond with them. There are, secondly, the parallel passages chap. xxviii. 5, xxiv. 16, according to which [Hebrew: cbi] "beauty" is conferred upon the escaped, but they themselves do not become beauty. Finally—It is always most natural to suppose that [Hebrew: cmH ihvh] and [Hebrew: pri harC] correspond with one another, and denote the same subject which is here described after his various aspects only. For in the same manner as [Hebrew: cmH] and [Hebrew: pri] go hand in hand, both being taken from the territory of botany, so [Hebrew: ihvh] and [Hebrew: harC] also stand in a contrast which is not to be mistaken. 2. Hitzig, Ewald, Meier, and others not only refer "the fruit of the land," but also the "Sprout of Jehovah" to that which Jehovah makes to sprout forth. It is true that, in the prophetic [Pg 18] announcements, among the blessings of the future the rich produce of the land is also mentioned (comp. chap. xxx. 23-25), and the same is very expressly done in the Law also; but in not a single one of these passages does the strange expression occur, that this fruitfulness should serve to the escaped for beauty and glory, for exaltation and ornament, or any other that bears the slightest resemblance to it. Against this explanation there is, in addition, the circumstance that the barrenness of the country is not at all pointed out in the preceding context. Finally—When we understand this expression as referring to the Messiah, this verse, standing as it does at the head of the proclamation of salvation, contains the fundamental thought; and in what follows we obtain the expansion. In the verse before us we are told that in Christ the people attain to glory,—and, in those which follow, how this glory is manifested in them. But according to this view, every internal connexion of the verse before us with what follows is entirely destroyed. 3. According to Hendewerk, by the "Sprout of the Lord," "the collective person of the ruling portion in the state during the Messianic happy time," is designated. This opinion is the beginning of a return to the Messianic interpretation. But then only could that ideal person be here referred to, if elsewhere in Isaiah too it would come out strongly and decidedly. As this, however, is not the case; as, on the contrary, the Messiah everywhere in Isaiah meets us in shining clearness, it would be arbitrary to give up the person in favour of a personification. 4. Umbreit acknowledges that, in the case of [Hebrew: cmH ihvh], the Messianic interpretation is the only correct one. "The two subsequent prophecies in chap. ix. and xi.," he says, "are to be considered as a commentary on our short text." But it is characteristic of his compromising manner that by "the fruit of the land" he understands "the consequences of the dominion of the Messiah for the land, the fruits which, in consequence of his appearing, the consecrated soil brings forth,"—thus plainly overlooking the clear [Pg 19] contrast between the Sprout of the Lord, and the fruit of the land, by which evidently the same thing is designated from different aspects.
Ver. 3. The Prophet now begins to show, more in detail, in how far the Sprout of the Lord and the fruit of the land would serve for the honour and glory of the Church. The words: "He that was left in Zion and was spared in Jerusalem," take up the idea suggested by the "escaped of Israel" in ver. 2. The double designation is intended to direct attention to the thought that the remnant, and the remnant only, are called to a participation in the glory. Zion and Jerusalem, as the centre of the covenant-people, here represent the whole; this is evident from the circumstance that at the close of ver. 2, which is here resumed, the escaped of Israel were spoken of Ever since the sanctuary and the royal palace were founded at Zion, it was in a spiritual point of view, the residence of all Israel, who even personally met there at the high festivals.—Whoever is left in Zion "shall be called holy." The fundamental notion of holiness is that of separation. God is holy, inasmuch as He is separated from all that is created and finite, and is elevated above all that is finite; comp. my Commentary on Rev. iv. 8. Believers are holy, because they are separated from the world as regards their moral existence and their destiny. Here only the latter aspect is considered. Holy in a moral sense they were already, inasmuch as it is this which forms the condition of their being spared in the divine judgments. They became holy because they are partakers of the beauty, of the exaltation, and ornament which are to be bestowed upon the escaped by the Sprout of the Lord. The circumstance that they have been installed into the dignity of the saints of God implies that, when the Spirit of the Lord has appeared, the world's power has no longer any dominion over them, but that, on the contrary, they shall judge the world. In like manner we read in Exod. xix. 6, in the description of the reward for faithfulness: "And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation;" comp. ver. 5: "And now if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, ye shall be a property unto me out of all people." In reference to the exalted dignity and glory, holiness occurs in Deut. vii. 6: "For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God; the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself out of all the people that are upon [Pg 20] the face of the earth." When the company of Korah said: "All the congregation, they are holy" (Numb. xvi. 3), they had in view, not the moral holiness but the dignity—a circumstance which is quite obvious from words added: "And in the midst of them is the Lord." And so Moses likewise speaks of the dignity in Numb. xvi. 7: "Whom the Lord shall choose, he is the holy one." In Rom. i. 7; Heb. iii. 1, holiness is declared to consist in being loved, called, and chosen by God.—As regards the fulfilment of this promise, it has its horas and moras. It began with the first appearance of Christ, by which the position of the true Israel to the world was substantially and fundamentally changed. It was not without meaning that, as early as in the apostolic times, the "Saints" was a kind of nomen proprium of believers, comp. Acts ix. 13, 32. We are even now the sons of God, and hence even already installed into an important portion of the inheritance of holiness; but it has not yet appeared what we shall be, 1 John iii. 2. But the beginning, and the continuation pervading all ages, viz., God's dealings throughout the whole of history, whereby he ever anew lifts up His Church from the dust of lowliness, afford to us the guarantee for the completion, which is, with graphic vividness, described in the last two chapters of Revelation.—"To be called" is more than merely "to be;" it indicates that the being is so marked as to procure for itself acknowledgment.—The words: "Every one that is written to life in Jerusalem" anew point out that judgment will go before, and by the side of grace. The meaning of [Hebrew: HiiM] is, according to the fundamental passage in Ps. lxix. 29, "not living ones" (Hoffmann, Weiss. i. S. 208), but "life." In Revelation, too, the book of life, and not the book of the living ones, is spoken of "To be written to life" is equivalent to being ordained to life, Acts xiii. 48; comp. my Comment. on Ps. lxix. 29; Rev. iii. 5. Life is not naked life,—a miserable life is, according to the view of Scripture, not to be called a life, but is a form of death only—but life in the full enjoyment of the favour of God; comp. my Comment. on Ps. xvi. 11, xxx. 6, xxxvi. 10; xlii. 9; lxiii. 4. The Chaldean thus paraphrases it: "All they that are written to eternal life shall see the consolation of Jerusalem, i.e. the Messiah." Comp. Dan. xii. 1; Rev. iii. 5, xiii. 8, xx. 15, xxii. 19; Phil. iv. 3; Luke x. 20. The bodily death of believers cannot exclude them from a participation in being written to [Pg 21] life; for, being a mere transition to life, it can, in truth, not be called a death. Here, too, the word of Christ applies: "The maid is not dead but sleepeth," Matt. ix. 24. The fact that there is no contradiction between bodily death and life, i.e. a participation in the blessings of the Kingdom of Christ, is pointed out by Isaiah himself in chap. xxvi. 19: "Thy dead men shall live, my dead bodies shall arise, for a dew of light is thy dew."
Ver. 4. The Prophet points out that before the Church is raised to the dignity of the saints of God, a thorough change of its moral conditions, an energetic expunging of the sin now prevailing in her, must take place, "When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion." The "daughters of Zion" are none other than those whose haughtiness, luxury, and wantonness were described in chap. iii. 16 ff., and to whom the deepest abasement was then threatened. The filth, under the image of which sin is here represented (comp. Prov. xxx. 12); "A generation pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness," forms the contrast to the splendid attire which is there spoken of Behind this splendid attire the filthiness is concealed. The filth is not washed away (1 Cor. vi. 11; Eph. v. 26) from the daughters of Jerusalem,—for, inasmuch as this washing away is accomplished by means of the spirit of destruction, it could not apply to them—but from Jerusalem; comp. the phrase, "from the midst thereof," which immediately follows. Jerusalem, the city of the Lord, in which no unclean person, and no unclean thing are permitted to dwell, is cleansed from the filth with which its unworthy daughters contaminate it. "And shall remove the blood of Jerusalem." The "blood of Jerusalem" is the blood which attaches to Jerusalem, which has been shed in it. The connection of the punishment of the sins of avarice on the part of the rulers, in chap. iii. 13-15, with the punishment of the luxury and ostentation on the part of the women, is illustrative of the relation of filth and blood to each other. Blood is shed in order to furnish pride and vanity with the means of their gratification. The avarice of the rulers, and their shedding of blood, are put together in Ezek. xxii. 13; comp. ver. 27: "Her princes are in the midst thereof like wolves ravening the prey, shedding blood, destroying souls, to get dishonest gain." Bloodguiltiness those too incur who deprive the poor of the necessary means of support, Mic. iii. 2, 3. The comparison of [Pg 22] chap. i. 15: "Your hands are full of blood," and of ver. 21: "But now murderers," compared with vers. 17, 23, 26, shews that we have to think especially of unjust judges and avaricious rulers. Yet, there is no reason for limiting ourselves to the nobles and rulers alone; comp. Ezek. xxii. 29: "The people of the land use oppression, and boldly practice robbery, and vex the poor and needy, and oppress the stranger." Where sins so gross are still prevalent, where the law of the Lord is so wantonly broken, an installation into the dignity of the saints of God is out of the question. For that, it is absolutely essential that exertions be made that the high destination of the people: "Ye shall be holy for I am holy," become a truth; that in a moral point of view it show itself as truly separated from the world,—and that is something so infinitely great, that men are utterly unable for it, that it can proceed from God only, with whom nothing is impossible.—The last words of the verse are commonly explained: "by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of destruction or burning." In that case the putting away of the filth and blood by the judging activity of the Lord, by the destruction of sin, would be spoken of [Hebrew: mwpT], however, may also be taken in the sense of "right:" by the spirit of right which lays hold of, and changes the well disposed (comp. Mic. iii. 8: "But I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of right and might"), and by the spirit of destruction which consumes the disobedient. In favour of the latter view are the parallel passages; above all, chap. xxviii. 6, where it is said of the Messianic time, "In that day the Lord will become, &c.," "And for a spirit of right to him that sitteth for right;" farther, chap. i. 27, 28: "Zion shall be redeemed by right, and her converts by righteousness. But the transgressors and sinners are destroyed together, and they that forsake the Lord are consumed." Comp. Matt. iii. 11: [Greek autos humas baptisei en pneumati hagio kai puri], where likewise a double washing, that of grace and that of wrath, is spoken of. In chap. xxxii. 15: "Until the Spirit be poured out upon us from on high," Isaiah likewise points to the regeneration which, in the Messianic time, will be accomplished by the Spirit; and it is, according to the whole usus loquendi of the Old Testament, most natural to think of the Spirit transforming from within The Spirit of God scarcely occurs elsewhere in the Old Testament as the executor of God's judgments; so that the supposition is [Pg 23] very natural that the spirit of destruction has been brought in by the spirit of right only.—The word [Hebrew: ber] is, by some, understood as "burning," by others, as "destruction." We ourselves decide in favour of the latter signification, which occurs also in chap. iv. 13, for this reason, that it is in that signification that [Hebrew: ber] is, in Deuteronomy, used as the terminus technicus of the extirpation of the wicked. If the Church does not comply with the command: [Greek: exareite ton poneron ex humon auton], 1 Cor. v. 13; Deut. xiii. 6 (5), God himself will enforce His authority by His Spirit, who carries out the judgments of the avenging God, just as He carries out every influence of the Creator upon the created. On the "Spirit of the Lord," comp. my remarks on Rev. i. 4.
Ver. 5. The image is here taken from the journey of Israel through the wilderness. During that journey, they were guided and protected by a symbol of God's presence, which by day presented itself as smoke, and by night assumed the form of flaming fire. By this symbol the God of Israel was designated as the jealous God, as the living, personal energy, energetic in His love for His people, energetic in wrath against His and their enemies. Comp. especially Exod. xiii. 21: "And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud to lead them on the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light;" and xl. 38: "For a cloud was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night;" comp. Numb. ix. 15, 16. The same phenomenon is to be repeated in future, although in a different form. In a manner the most real, the Lord will manifest himself as the living energy of His Church, dwelling in the midst of her, and ruling over her as a protector, so that the world's power can no longer injure her. That such will be done in and by His Sprout, in Christ, appears from the relation of the verse under consideration to ver. 2; for the verse before us still belongs to the expansion of the proposition placed at the head of the whole: "The Sprout of the Lord becomes for beauty and glory, and the fruit of the land for exaltation and ornament to the escaped of Israel." Christ in His person and Spirit is the true Shechinah, the true indwelling of God in His Church. This indwelling is, even in the Law, designated as the highest privilege of the covenant-people; its being raised to a higher power is therefore to the Prophet the highest blessing of the future, the source from which all other blessings flow. That which the heathen in vain longed [Pg 24] for and imagined; that which Israel hitherto possessed only very imperfectly, a praesens numen, whereby the antithesis of heaven and earth is done away with, and earth is glorified into a heaven;—that, the purified Church of the Lord possesses in the most perfect and real manner, and in it, absolute security against the world, a decided victory over it. The words: "Over her assemblies," show that the whole life of the people shall then bear a religious character, and shall be a continual service of God, comp. Acts ii. 42, where, as a type of the completion of the Church, it is said: "And they continued stedfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." [Hebrew: mqra] is only the name for that which is called, "the assembly," and stands in Levit. xxiii. and Is. i. 13 of the religious assemblies which were held on the holy days, comp. my pamphlet: Ueber den Tag des Herrn S. 32. The same phenomenon is, according to its appearance by day, designated, at the same time, as clouds and smoke. Smoke is never "vapour, vapoury clouds" (Knobel); and here the smoke by day corresponds with the flaming fire by night. If then the smoke can be considered as a product of the fire only (comp. my remarks on Rev. xv. 8), the cloud cannot come into consideration according to its matter, but according to its form only. The smoke assumes the form of a cloud which affords protection from the burning sun of tribulations, as once, in the burning desert, from the scorching heat of the natural sun, comp. Num. x. 34: "And the cloud of the Lord was upon them;" Ps. cv. 39: "He spread a cloud for a covering;" Is. xxv. 5. The cloud which thus affords protection to the Church turns a threatening face towards her enemies. Rev. xv. 8.—The words: "For above all glory is a covering," point to the ground of the protecting, gracious presence of God in the Church. Several interpreters explain the sense thus: "As we cover and preserve precious things more carefully, in order that they may not be injured, so does God in His grace surround His Church, which has been adorned with glorious virtues, and raised to the high dignity of the saints of God, and protects her from every danger." Others understand by [Hebrew: kl-kbvd] the whole glory mentioned in the preceding context; but in that case we should expect the article. One may also supply the limitation: For, in the Kingdom of God, there is a covering over all glory.
Ver. 6. God—this is the same sense—protects His Church from every danger and calamity. By His gracious presence in His Sprout, He affords to them that protection which a hut does from sun, storms, and rain. Luther says: "In this passage, accordingly, Christ is held up to us as He who in all tribulations, bodily as well as spiritual, is our protection." There is an allusion to the 21st verse of Ps. xxxi. (which was written by David): "Thou hidest them in the secret of thy countenance from the conspiracy of every one; thou keepest them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues." The pavilion in this Psalm is a spiritual one, viz., God's grace and protection. That word of David shall be gloriously fulfilled when the Sprout of the Lord shall appear.—The "Sun" comes into consideration in its scorching quality; and the "heat" is in Scripture the image of temptations, sufferings, and trials; comp. remarks on Rev. viii. 12, xvi. 8; Song of Sol. i. 6; Ps. cxxi. 6; Matt. xiii. 6, compared with v. 21; Is. xlix. 10, xxv. 4; and, according to the last passage, we must especially have in view the enmity and assaults of the world's power. The "rain" appears as an image of tribulation in the Song of Sol. ii. 11; Is. xxv. 4: "The spirit of the terrible ones (the passions of the kings of the world, and conquerors) is like a violent shower against the wall;" xxxii. 2.—A comparison of the Messianic prophecy in chap ii. with that which we have now considered shows very clearly how necessary it is to regard the single Messianic prophecies as fragments only, supplementing one another, inasmuch as commonly a few aspects only were presented to the spiritual eye of the Prophet. Just as the description in chap. ii. receives an important supplement from the passage now considered, inasmuch as the latter contains the mention of the personal Messiah, so it, again, supplements that before us by announcing the participation by the Gentiles in the blessings of the Messianic Kingdom.
[Footnote 1: Light is the image of salvation; to walk in the light is to enjoy a participation in it. Israel is not wantonly to wander away from the path of light which the Lord has opened up to them, into the dark desolation of misery. In the words [Hebrew: lkv vnlkh] there is a clear reference to [Hebrew: lkv vnelh] of the Gentile nations in ver. 3. If the Gentiles apply with such zeal for a participation in the blessings of the Kingdom of God, how disgraceful would it be if you, the people of the covenant, the children of the Kingdom, should lose your glorious possession by your ungodly walk. In vers. 6-11 the Prophet states the grounds of his admonition to the people to walk in the light of the Lord which he had expressed in the preceding verse. This admonition implies that there existed a danger of losing a participation in the light; and it is this danger which the Prophet here more particularly details. It is not without reason, so the words may be paraphrased, that I say: "Walk ye in the light of the Lord," for at present the Lord has forsaken the people on account of their sins, and with that, a participation in His light is incompatible. By being full of heathenish superstition, of false confidence in earthly things, yea, even of the most disgraceful that can be imagined for Israel, viz., gross idolatry, they rather become more and more ripe for the divine judgment which will break in irresistibly upon them.]
[Footnote 2: So Gesenius also in the Thesaurus: "The whole earth shall be holy and shall more beautifully bloom and be adorned with plenty of fruits and corn for the benefit of those who have escaped from those calamities." Gesenius' wavering clearly shows how little satisfaction the non-Messianic explanation affords to its own abettors. Besides the explanations of [Hebrew: cmH ihvh] by "the new growth of the people," and "the rich produce of the country," he advances still a third one, viz., "a divinely favoured ruler,"—an explanation which has even the grammar against it, as we are at liberty to translate only: "The Sprout of the Lord;" and likewise the analogy of [Hebrew: pri harC], according to which the Genitive can have a reference to the origin only.]
THE PROPHECY, CHAP. VII. IMMANUEL.
A crisis of the most important nature in the history of Israel is formed by the Syrico-Ephraemitic war, by the expedition of the allied kings, Rezin of Damascus, and Pekah of Samaria, which had been already prepared under the reign of Jotham, and which broke out in the first years of Ahaz. It was in consequence of this war that Asshur came into the land. The inroad of the Assyrian King, Pul, under Menahem of Israel, had been transitory only, comp. Vol. 1. p. 165. It was only with the invasion under Ahaz that the tendency of Asshur began of making lasting conquests on the other side of the Euphrates, which could not fail to bring about a collision with the Egyptian power. The succeeding powers in Asia and Europe followed Asshur's steps. "Hitherto,"—so says Caspari, in his pamphlet on the Syrico-Ephraemitic war, S. 17 ff.—"hitherto Israel had to do with the small neighbouring nations only,—now, in punishment of their sins, oppressed by them; then, in reward of their obedience, oppressing and ruling over them. And the Syrico-Ephraemitic war itself had been a link only in the chain of these attacks—its last link. Israel, having arrived at the point of being hardened, and having entered upon a path in accordance with this tendency, required another more severe corrective—its being crushed by the mighty world's power. The appearance of these mighty powers, just at the period when Israel entered upon their hardening, is most providential.—The beginning of the end of the kingdom of the ten tribes had come, and the breaking up of its independent political existence had commenced. As enmity to Judah had given its origin to the kingdom of the ten tribes, so also did it bring about its destruction; born out of it, it died of it. It owed its existence to the incipient enmity; when the latter was accomplished (Isa. vii. 6,) it caused its death.—The Assyrians came to the help of Judah, but charged a high price for their help, viz., Judah's submission and fealty. Thirty heavy years of servitude, and, to a great part, of [Pg 27] fears of the worst, 2 Kings xvi. 18; Is. xxxiii. 18 (?); xxxvii. 3, followed for this kingdom also; and when, at the close of this period, it freed itself from them after the fashion of the kingdom of Israel, it shared nearly the same fate, 2 Kings xviii. 31 ff. It was only to the mercy of the Lord, who looked graciously upon the feeble beginnings of conversion, that it owed its deliverance. The Assyrian power, which had put an end to the kingdoms of Damascus and Israel, and which was the first power that appeared on the stage of history and came into conflict with the people of God, became a significant sign of the final fate of the world's power in its attacks upon the Kingdom of God. But, as a prelude to the long series of visitations which it had to endure from the world's power in its different phases, Judah was even now led to the very brink of destruction; there came a period, the 14th year of Hezekiah, when almost nothing more of it was to be seen by the outward eye than its metropolis exposed to the utmost danger."
A remarkable proof of the fact that the spirit which filled the prophets was a higher one than their own, is the fact that Isaiah recognized so distinctly and clearly the importance of the decisive moment.
In close connection with the great crisis at which the history of the people of God had arrived, stands the richer display of the Messianic announcement which begins with the chapter before us. Messiah is henceforth represented to Judah as an Immanuel against the world's powers, as the surety for its deliverance from the severe oppressions hanging over it, as He who at last, at His appearance, would conquer the world, and lay it at the feet of the people of God.
After these general introductory remarks, let us turn more particularly to the contents of the chapter before us. It was told to the house of David: "Aram is encamped in Ephraim." The position of Ahaz was, humanly considered, desperate. His enemies were far superior to him, and he could scarcely hope for help from heaven, for he had an evil conscience. The idea of seeking help from Asshur was natural. Isaiah received a commission to oppose this idea before it became a firm resolution. In doing so he, by no means, occupies the position of an ingenious politician. On the contrary, the whole commission is [Pg 28] forced upon him. It can scarcely be doubted that the Assyrians would have penetrated to Western Asia, even if Ahaz had not called them to his assistance. The expedition of the Syrians and Ephraimites with the view of making conquests, could not but turn their attention to that quarter. As the instruments of the judgments upon Damascus and Samaria, which Isaiah announced as impending under any circumstances, we can surely think of none but Asshur. But if once they came into these regions, in order to chastise the haughtiness of the Syrians and Ephraimites, who would set up as a new conquering power, then was Judah too threatened by them. In a political point of view it did not make any great difference whether Ahaz sought help from the Assyrians, or not; on the contrary, the king of Asshur could not but be more favourably disposed towards him for so doing. Isaiah, throughout, rather occupies the position of the man of God. The kings of the people of God were, in general, not prevented from forming alliances; but such alliances must belong to the category of permitted human resources. Such, however, was not the case here. Asshur was a conquering power, altogether selfish. His help had to be purchased with dependance, and with the danger of entire destruction; to stay upon him was to stay upon their destroyer, Is. x. 20. Such an alliance was a de facto denial of the God of Israel, an insult to His omnipotence and grace. If Ahaz had obeyed Him; if he had limited himself to the use of the human means granted to him by the Lord without trusting in them, and had placed all his confidence in the Lord, He would have delivered him in the same manner as He afterwards delivered Hezekiah, in the first instance from Aram and Ephraim, and then from Asshur also. But although Ahaz did not follow the prophet, his mission was by no means in vain. Even before the mission, this result lay open before the Lord who sent him. The great point was to establish, before the first conflict of Israel with the world's power, thus much, that this conflict had been brought about by the sin of the house of David, and that hence it did not afford any cause for doubting the omnipotence and mercy of the Lord whose help had been offered, but rejected.
The Prophet seeks out the king at a place to which he had been driven by his despairing disquietude which was clinging convulsively to human resources. He endeavours, first, to exert [Pg 29] an influence upon him by taking with him his son, whose symbolical name, containing a prophecy of the future destinies of the people, indicated that the king's fear of a total destruction of the State was without foundation. After the king has thus been prepared, he endeavours to make a deeper impression upon him by the announcement, distinct and referring to the present case, that the enemies should not only entirely fail in their intention of conquering and dividing between themselves the kingdom of Judah; but that the kingdom of Ephraim was itself hastening towards that destruction which it was preparing for its brethren, and that after sixty-five years it should altogether lose its national independence and existence, ver. 1-9. But Ahaz makes no reply; and his whole deportment shows that he does not follow the Prophet's exhortation to "take heed and be quiet," and that the words: "If ye do not believe, ye shall not be established," with which the Prophet closes his address, have not made any impression upon him. In order that the greatness of the king's hardness of heart may become manifest, the Prophet offers, in the commission of the Lord, to confirm the certainty of his statement by a miraculous sign, which the king himself is called upon to fix, without any restriction, in order that any suspicion of imposition may be removed. "But Ahaz, the unbeliever, is afraid of heavenly communications, has already chosen his help, wishes that every thing should go on in an easy human manner, and refuses the Lord's offer in a polite turn which even refers to the Law. A sign is then forced upon him, because as the king of Judah, he must see and hear for all Judah that the Lord is faithful and good." The Prophet, in ver. 14, points to the birth of the Saviour by a Virgin. How then was it possible that in the present collision that people should be destroyed, among whom, according to former promises. He was to be born; that that family should be extinguished from which he was to be descended? The name "Immanuel," by which the future Saviour is designated as "He in whom the Lord is, in the truest manner, to be with His people," is a guarantee for His help in the present distress also. The Prophet then states the time in which the land shall be entirely delivered from its present enemies. The contemporaries, as the representative of whom [Pg 30] the child appears (the Prophet, in the energy of his faith, has transferred the birth of this child from the future to the present), shall, after the short space of about two years, again obtain the full enjoyment of the products of the land, ver. 15. For, before this period has elapsed, destruction will fall upon the hostile kings in their own land, ver. 16. The danger, however—and this is pointed out in ver. 17-25—will come from just that quarter from which Ahaz expects help, viz., from Asshur. But the security for deliverance from this danger also—the conqueror of the world's power which was soon to begin its course in Asshur, is none other than Immanuel, whom the Prophet, in the beginning of the humiliation of the people of God, makes, so to say, to become man, in order that, during the impending deep humiliation of the people of God, He may accompany it in its history during all the stages of its existence, until He should really become man. He is, however in this discourse, not yet pointed out as the deliverer from Asshur, and the world's power represented by him. The darkness of the misery to be inflicted by Asshur should not, and could not, in the meantime, be cleared up for Ahaz; the picture must end in night. But in the following discourse, chap. viii. 1, ix. 6 (7), which serves as a necessary supplement to the one before us, the Saviour is depicted before the eyes of those despairing in the sight of Asshur; and the two-fold repetition of His name Immanuel, in chap. viii. 8, 10, serves to show that the two discourses are intimately connected, and form one whole.
Ahaz persevered in his unbelief, according to 2 Kings xvi. 7, 8. He sent messengers with large presents to Tiglath-pileser, King of Assyria, saying: "I am thy servant and thy son (a word as ominous as that: 'We have no king but Caesar,'in John xix. 35); come up and save me out of the hand of the King of Aram, and out of the hand of the King of Israel which rise up against me." But before the asked-for help came, king and people had to endure very severe sufferings from Aram and Ephraim. Ahaz, after having first made preparations to secure Jerusalem against the impending siege, sent out his armies. They met with a twofold heavy defeat from the divided armies of the allied kings, from which he might have been spared by [Pg 31] being still, and hoping. The hostile armies then came up to Jerusalem, and laid siege to it. It was probably by the intelligence of the advance of Asshur that they were induced to raise the siege. It was now confirmed that the Prophet had been right in designating the two hostile kings as mere tails of smoking firebrands. Damascus was taken by the King of Ophir; the inhabitants were carried away into exile to Kir; Rezin was slain, 2 Kings xvi. 9: the land of Israel was devastated; a portion of its inhabitants was carried away into exile; the king was made tributary, 2 Kings xv. 29. Exactly at the time fixed by the Prophet, the overthrow of the two hostile kingdoms took place; but the deliverance which, without any farther sacrifice, Ahaz would have obtained, if he had believed the Prophet, had now to be purchased by very heavy sacrifices; and with perfect justice it is said in 2 Chron. xxviii. 20, 21, that the king of Asshur did not help him, but rather, by coming unto him, distressed him. Ahaz purchased this help at the price of his independence, and had probably to submit to very hard claims being made upon him. (Caspari, S. 60.) The world's power, to which Ahaz had offered a finger, seized, more and more, the whole hand, and held it by a firm grasp. Under Hezekiah, faith broke through the consequences of the sin of the family; but this interruption lasted as long only as did the faith. In addition to that which Ahaz had, for his unbelief, to suffer from Aram, Ephraim, and Asshur, came the rebellion of the neighbouring nations,—of the Edomites, according to 2 Chron. xxviii. 17, and of the Philistines, according to ver. 18.
Ver. 1. "And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz, the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, that Rezin, the king of Aram, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, the king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem, to war against it, and could not fight against it."
In thus tracing back the pedigree of Ahaz to Uzziah, there is a reference to chap. vi. 1: "In the year that King Uzziah [Pg 32] died," &c. These two chapters stand related to each other as prophecy and fulfilment. It was in the year of Uzziah's death that the Prophet had been seized with fearful forebodings; and by the divine word these fearful forebodings had soon been raised into a clear knowledge of the threatening judgments which were impending. Under Ahaz, the second successor of Uzziah, this knowledge began to be realized, keeping pace with the hardening which in Ahaz had become personified. He, the type of the unbelieving Jewish people, did not hear and understand, did not see and perceive; and the announcement of the Prophet served merely to increase his hardening. Even as early as that, the germ of the carrying away of the people, announced by the Prophet in chap. vi., was formed.—The circumstance of the hostile kings being introduced as going up implies the spiritual elevation of Jerusalem; comp. remarks on Ps. xlviii. 3; xlviii. 17. The city of God is unconquerable unless her inhabitants and, above all, the anointed one of God, make, by their unbelief, their glorious privilege of no avail. In the last words: "And could not fight against it," (the singular [Hebrew: ikl] because Rezin is the chief person, Rezin and Pekah being identical with Rezin with Pekah, comp. Esth. iv. 16), the result of the siege is anticipated; and this is easily accounted for by the consideration that ver. 1 serves as an introduction to the whole account, stating, in general terms, the circumstances which induced the Prophet to come publicly forward. In the following verses, the share only is mentioned which the Prophet took in the matter; and the account is closed after he has discharged his commission. The apparent contradiction to 2 Kings xvi. 5, according to which Jerusalem was really besieged,—a contradiction which occurs also in that passage itself: "And they besieged Ahaz, and could not fight"—is most simply reconciled by the remark that a fruitless struggle can, as it were, not be called a struggle, just as, e. g., in the Old Testament, such as have a name little known are spoken of as being without a name.
Ver. 2, "And it was told to the house of David, saying: Aram rests upon Ephraim. Then his heart trembled, and the heart of his people, like as the trembling of the trees of the wood before the wind."
The representative of the house of David was, according to [Pg 33] ver. 1, Ahaz, to whom the suffix in [Hebrew: lbbv] refers. It is thereby intimated that Ahaz does not come into consideration as an individual, but as a representative of the whole Davidic family, of which the members were responsible, conjunctly and severally, and which in Ahaz denied their God, and gave themselves up to the world's power,—a deed of the family from the consequences of which a heroic faith only, like that of Hezekiah, could deliver, but in such a manner only that it at once became valid again when this faith ceased, until at length in Christ the house of David was raised to glory. Ver. 19 shows that [Hebrew: nvH] must be taken in the signification "to let oneself down," "to sit down," "to encamp." The anguish of the natural man, who has not his strength in God at the breaking in of danger, is most graphically described.
Ver. 3. "And the Lord said to Isaiah: Go out to meet Ahaz, thou and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, in the highway of the fuller's field."
Why is the Prophet to seek out the king just at this place? The answer is given by chap. xxii. 2. "And a reservoir you make between the two walls for the waters of the old pool: and not do ye look unto him who makes it (viz., the impending calamity), and not do ye regard him who fashioned it long ago." When a siege of Jerusalem was imminent, in the lower territory, the first task was to cut off the water from the hostile army. This measure Hezekiah, according to 2 Chron. xxxii. 3, took against Sennacherib: "And he took counsel with his princes and his mighty men, to stop the waters of the fountains which were without the city, and they helped him." That might be done in faith; but he who, like Ahaz, did not stand in the faith, sought in it, per se, his safety; his despairing heart clung to such measures. The stopping of the fountains was, in his case, on a level with seeking help from the Assyrians. It is thus in the midst of his sin that the Prophet seeks out the king, and recalls to his conscience: "take heed and be quiet." But why did the Prophet take his son Shearjashub with him? It surely cannot be without significance; for otherwise it would not have been recorded, far less would it have been done at the express command of the Lord. As the boy does not appear actively, the reason can only be in the signification of the name. According to chap. viii., the Prophet was accustomed to give to [Pg 34] his sons symbolical names which had a relation to the destinies of the nation. They were, according to chap. viii. 18, "for signs and for wonders in Israel." But as an interpretation of the name, the passage chap. x. 21 is to be considered: "The remnant shall return, the remnant of Jacob unto the mighty God." The word [Hebrew: wvb] can, accordingly, be understood of returning to the Lord, of repentance only, comp. chap. i. 27; Hos. iii. 5. But with repentance the recovery of salvation is indissolubly connected. The reason why it is impossible that they who commit the sin against the Holy Ghost shall never recover salvation lies solely in the circumstance, that it is impossible that they should be renewed to repentance. The fundamental passage, which is comprehended in the name of the Prophet's son: "And thou returnest unto the Lord thy God.... And the Lord thy God turneth thy captivity (i.e., thy misery), and hath compassion upon thee, and returneth and gathereth thee from all the nations" (Deut. xxx. 2, 3), emphatically points out the indissoluble connection of the return to the Lord, and of the return of the Lord to His people. This connection comes out so much the more clearly, when we consider that, according to Scripture, repentance is not the work of man but of God, and is nothing else but the beginning of the bestowal of salvation; comp. Deut. xxx. 6: "And the Lord thy God circumciseth thine heart, and the heart of thy seed to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live;" Zech. xii. 10. King and people feared entire destruction; and it was at this that their powerful enemies aimed. Isaiah took his son with him, "as the living proof of the preservation of the nation, even amidst the most fearful destruction of the greater part of it." After having in this manner endeavoured to free their minds from the extreme of fear, he seeks to elevate them to joyful hopes, by the prophetical announcement proper, which showed that, from this quarter, not even the future great judgment, which would leave a portion only, was to be feared.
Ver. 4. "And say unto him: Take heed and be quiet; fear not, nor let thy heart be tender for the two ends of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram, and of the son of Remaliah."
The words "Take heed" point to the dangerous consequences of fear; comp. ver. 9: "If ye do not believe, ye shall not be established." On the words "be quiet," lit., make quiet, viz., thy heart and walk, comp. chap. xxx. 15: "For thus saith the Lord: By returning and rest ye shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength; and ye would not." Such as he was, Ahaz could not respond to the exhortations to be quiet. Quietness is a product of faith. But the way of faith stood open to Ahaz every moment, and by his promising word and by his example, the Prophet invited him to enter upon it. In the words: "Fear not," &c., there is an unmistakable reference to Deut. xx. 1, ff., according to which passage the priest was, on the occasion of hostile oppression, to speak to the people: "Let not your hearts be tender, and be not terrified." That which, in the Law, the priest was commanded to do, is here done by the Prophet, who was obliged so often to step in as a substitute, when the class of the ordinary servants fell short of the height of their calling.—The "firebrand" is the image of the conqueror who destroys countries by the fire of war, comp. remarks on Rev. viii. 8. The Prophet is just about to announce to the hostile kings their impending overthrow; for this reason, he calls them ends of firebrands, which no longer blaze, but only glimmer. He calls them thus because he considers them with the eye of faith; to the bodily eye a bright flame still presented itself, as the last words: "For the fierce anger," &c., and vers. 5 and 6 show. Chrysostom remarks: "He calls these kings 'firebrands,'to indicate at the same time their violence, and that they are to be easily overcome; and it is for this reason, that he adds 'smoking,'i.e., that they were near being altogether extinguished."
Vers. 5, 6. "Because Aram meditates evil against thee, Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, saying: Let us go up against Judah, and drive it to extremity, and conquer it for us, and set up as a king in the midst of it the son of Tabeal."
We have here, farther carried out, the thought indicated by the words: "for the fierce anger," &c. The interval, in the original text, between vers. 6 and 7, is put in to prevent the false connection of these verses with ver. 7 (Hitzig and Ewald).—[Hebrew: qvC] always means "to loathe," "to experience disgust;" here, [Pg 36] in Hiph., "to cause disgust," "to drive to extremity;" comp. my work on Balaam, Rem. on Num. xxii. 3.—[Hebrew: bqe] means always: "to cleave asunder," "to open," "to conquer."—The words: "For us," show that Tabeal is to be the vassal only of the two kings. The absolute confidence with which the Prophet recognizes the futility of the plan of the two kings, forms a glaring contrast to the modern view of Prophetism, Ver. 2 shows in what light ordinary consciousness did, and could not fail to look on the then existing state of things.
Ver. 7. "Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass." (A plan stands when it is carried out.)
Ver. 8. "For the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin, and in threescore and five years more, Ephraim shall be broken, and be no more a people."
Ver. 9. "And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If ye believe not, ye shall not be established."
Each of these two verses forms a complete whole.—The words: "For the head of Aram," &c., to "Rezin" receive their explanation from the antithesis to vers. 5 and 6, where the king of Aram and the king of Ephraim had declared their intention of extending their dominion over Judah. As, concerning this intention and this hope, the Lord has declared His will that it shall not be, we must understand: Not as regards Judah, and not as regards Jerusalem. It is in vain that men's thoughts exalt themselves against the purposes of God. From Aram, the Prophet turns, in the second part of the verse, to Ephraim: "And even Ephraim! What could it prevail against the Lord and His Kingdom! It surely should give up all attempts to get more; its days are numbered, the sword is already suspended over its own head." But inasmuch as it is possible, although not likely, that Ephraim, before its own overthrow, may still bring evil upon Judah, this is expressly denied in ver. 9: Samaria, according to the counsel of God, and the limit assigned to it, is the head of Ephraim only, and not, at the same time, of Judah, &c. With this are then connected the closing words: "If ye believe not, ye shall not be established" (properly, the consequence will be that ye do not continue), which are equivalent to it: it is hence not Samaria [Pg 37] and the son of Remaliah that you have to fear; the enemy whom you have to dread, whom you have to contend against with prayer and supplication, is in yourselves. Take heed lest a similar cause produce a similar effect, as in the last clause of ver. 8 it has been threatened against Ephraim.—This prophecy and warning, one would have expected to have produced an effect so much the deeper, because they were not uttered by some obscure fanatic, but by a worthy member of a class which had in its favour the sanction of the Lawgiver, and which in the course of centuries had been so often and so gloriously owned and acknowledged by God.