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The prophet, with a boldness and majesty becoming the herald of the Most High, begins with calling on the whole creation to attend while Jehovah speaks, Isaiah 1:2. A charge of gross insensibility and ingratitude is then brought against the Jews, by contrasting their conduct with that of the ox end ass, the most stupid of animals, Isaiah 1:3. This leads to an amplification of their guilt, Isaiah 1:4; highly aggravated by their slighting the chastisements and judgments of God, though repeated till they had been left almost like Sodom and Gomorrah, Isaiah 1:5-9. The incidental mention of those places leads to an address to the rulers and people of the Jews, under the character of princes of Sodom, and people of Gomorrah, which is no less spirited and severe than elegant and unexpected, Isaiah 1:10. The vanity of trusting to the performance of the outward rites and ceremonies of religion is then exposed, Isaiah 1:11-15; and the necessity of repentance and reformation is strongly enjoined, Isaiah 1:16, Isaiah 1:17, and urged by the most encouraging promises as well as by the most awful threatenings, Isaiah 1:18-20. But neither of these producing the proper effect on that people who were the prophet‘s charge, he bitterly laments their degeneracy, Isaiah 1:21-23; and concludes with introducing God, declaring his purpose of inflicting such heavy judgments as would entirely cut off the wicked, and excite in the righteous, who should also pass through the furnace, an everlasting shame and abhorrence of every thing connected with idolatry, the source of their misery, Isaiah 1:24-31.
Isaiah exercised the prophetical office during a long period of time, if he lived to the reign of Manasseh; for the lowest computation, beginning from the year in which Uzziah died, when some suppose him to have received his first appointment to that office, brings it to sixty-one years. But the tradition of the Jews, that he was put to death by Manasseh, is very uncertain; and one of their principal rabbins, Aben Ezra, Com. in Isaiah 1:1, seems rather to think that he died before Hezekiah, which is indeed more probable. It is however certain that he lived at least to the fifteenth or sixteenth year of Hezekiah; this makes the least possible term of the duration of his prophetical office about forty-eight years. The time of the delivery of some of his prophecies is either expressly marked, or sufficiently clear from the history to which they relate; that of a few others may with some probability be deduced from internal marks; from expressions, descriptions, and circumstances interwoven. It may therefore be of some use in this respect, and for the better understanding of his prophecies in general, to give here a summary view of the history of his time.
The kingdom of Judah seems to have been in a more flourishing condition during the reigns of Uzziah and Jotham, than at any other time after the revolt of the ten tribes. The former recovered the port of Elath on the Red Sea, which the Edomites had taken in the reign of Joram. He was successful in his wars with the Philistines, and took from them several cities, Gath, Jabneh, Ashdod; as likewise against some people of Arabia Deserta, and against the Ammonites, whom he compelled to pay him tribute. He repaired and improved the fortifications of Jerusalem; and had a great army, well appointed and disciplined. He was no less attentive to the arts of peace; and very much encouraged agriculture, and the breeding of cattle. Jotham maintained the establishments and improvements made by his father; added to what Uzziah had done in strengthening the frontier places; conquered the Ammonites, who had revolted, and exacted from them a more stated and probably a larger tribute. However, at the latter end of his time, the league between Pekah, king of Israel, and Retsin, king of Syria, was formed against Judah; and they began to carry their designs into execution.
But in the reign of Ahaz his son not only all these advantages were lost, but the kingdom of Judah was brought to the brink of destruction. Pekah king of Israel overthrew the army of Ahaz, who lost in battle one hundred and twenty thousand men; and the Israelites carried away captives two hundred thousand women and children, who however were released and sent home again upon the remonstrance of the prophet Oded. After this, as it should seem, (see Vitrinpa on Isaiah 7:2), the two kings of Israel and Syria, joining their forces, laid siege to Jerusalem; but in this attempt they failed of success. In this distress Ahaz called in the assistance of Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, who invaded the kingdoms of Israel and Syria, and slew Rezin; but he was more in danger than ever from his too powerful ally; to purchase whose forbearance, as he had before bought his assistance, he was forced to strip himself and his people of all the wealth he could possibly raise from his own treasury, from the temple, and from the country. About the time of the siege of Jerusalem the Syrians took Elath, which was never after recovered. The Edomites likewise, taking advantage of the distress of Ahaz, ravaged Judea, and carried away many captives. The Philistines recovered what they had before lost; and took many places in Judea, and maintained themselves there. Idolatry was established by the command of the king in Jerusalem, and throughout Judea; and the service of the temple was either intermitted, or converted into an idolatrous worship.
Hezekiah, his son, on his accession to the throne, immediately set about the restoration of the legal worship of God, both in Jerusalem and through Judea. He cleansed and repaired the temple, and held a solemn passover. He improved the city, repaired the fortification, erected magazines of all sorts, and built a new aqueduct. In the fourth year of his reign Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, invaded the kingdom of Israel, took Samaria, and carried away the Israelites into captivity, and replaced them by different people sent from his own country; and this was the final destruction of that kingdom, in the sixth year of the reign of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah was not deterred by this alarming example from refusing to pay the tribute to the king of Assyria, which had been imposed on Ahaz: this brought on the invasion of Sennacherib in the fourteenth year of his reign, an account of which is inserted among the prophecies of Isaiah. After a great and miraculous deliverance from so powerful an enemy, Hezekiah continued his reign in peace. He prospered in all his works, and left his kingdom in a flourishing state to his son Manasseh - a son in every respect unworthy of such a father. See Lowth.
The vision of Isaiah - It seems doubtful whether this title belongs to the whole book, or only to the prophecy contained in this chapter. The former part of the title seems properly to belong to this particular prophecy; the latter part, which enumerates the kings of Judah under whom Isaiah exercised his prophetical office, seems to extend it to the whole collection of prophecies delivered in the course of his ministry. Vitringa - to whom the world is greatly indebted for his learned labors on this prophet and to whom we should have owed much more if he had not so totally devoted himself to Masoretic authority - has, I think, very judiciously resolved this doubt. He supposes that the former part of the title was originally prefixed to this single prophecy; and that, when the collection of all Isaiah‘s prophecies was made, the enumeration of the kings of Judah was added, to make it at the same time a proper title to the whole book. As such it is plainly taken in 2 Chronicles 32:32, where the book of Isaiah is cited by this title: “The vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz.”
The prophecy contained in this first chapter stands single and unconnected, making an entire piece of itself. It contains a severe remonstrance against the corruptions prevailing among the Jews of that time, powerful exhortations to repentance, grievous threatenings to the impenitent, and gracious promises of better times, when the nation shall have been reformed by the just judgments of God. The expression, upon the whole, is clear; the connection of the several parts easy; and in regard to the images, sentiments, and style, it gives a beautiful example of the prophet‘s elegant manner of writing; though perhaps it may not be equal in these respects to many of the following prophecies.
Hear, O heavens “Hear, O ye heavens” - God is introduced as entering into a public action, or pleading, before the whole world, against his disobedient people. The prophet, as herald or officer to proclaim the summons to the court, calls upon all created beings, celestial and terrestrial, to attend and bear witness to the truth of his plea and the justice of his cause. The same scene is more fully displayed in the noble exordium of Psalm 1:1-6, where God summons all mankind, from east to west, to be present to hear his appeal; and the solemnity is held on Sion, where he is attended with the same terrible pomp that accompanied him on Mount Sinai: -
“A consuming fire goes before him
And round him rages a violent tempest:
He calleth the heavens from above.
And the earth, that he may contend in judgment with his people.”
Psalm 50:3, Psalm 50:4.
By the same bold figure, Micah calls upon the mountains, that is, the whole country of Judea, to attend to him, Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah 6:2: -
“Arise, plead thou before the mountains,
And let the hills hear thy voice.
Hear, O ye mountains, the controversy of Jehovah;
And ye, O ye strong foundations of the earth:
For Jehovah hath a controversy with his people,
And he will plead his cause against Israel.”
With the like invocation, Moses introduces his sublime song, the design of which was the same as that of this prophecy, “to testify as a witness, against the Israelites,” for their disobedience, Deuteronomy 31:21: -
“Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak;
And let the earth hear the words of my mouth.”
This, in the simple yet strong oratorical style of Moses, is, “I call heaven and earth to witness against thee this day; life and death have I set before thee; the blessing and the curse: choose now life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed.” Deuteronomy 30:19. The poetical style, by an apostrophe, sets the personification in a much stronger light.
Hath spoken “That speaketh” - I render it in the present time, pointing it דבר (dober). There seems to be an impropriety in demanding attention to a speech already delivered. But the present reading may stand, as the prophet may be here understood to declare to the people what the Lord had first spoken to him.
I have nourished - The Septuagint have εγεννησα , “I have begotten.” Instead of גדלתי (giddalti), they read ילדתי (yaladti); the word little differing from the other, and perhaps more proper; which the Chaldee likewise seems to favor; “vocavi eos filios.” See Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 31:9.
The ox knoweth - An amplification of the gross insensibility of the disobedient Jews, by comparing them with the most heavy and stupid of all animals, yet not so insensible as they. Bochart has well illustrated the comparison, and shown the peculiar force of it. “He sets them lower than the beasts, and even than the most stupid of all beasts, for there is scarcely any more so than the ox and the ass. Yet these acknowledge their master; they know the manger of their lord; by whom they are fed, not for their own, but for his good; neither are they looked upon as children, but as beasts of burden; neither are they advanced to honors, but oppressed with great and daily labors. While the Israelites, chosen by the mere favor of God, adopted as sons, promoted to the highest dignity, yet acknowledged not their Lord and their God; but despised his commandments, though in the highest degree equitable and just.” Hieroz. i., Colossians 409.
Jeremiah‘s comparison to the same purpose is equally elegant, but has not so much spirit and severity as this of Isaiah.
“Even the stork in the heavens knoweth her season;
And the turtle, and the swallow, and the crane, observe the time of their coming:
But my people doth not know the judgment of Jehovah.
Hosea has given a very elegant turn to the same image, in the way of metaphor or allegory: -
“I drew them with human cords, with the bands of love:
And I was to them as he that lifteth up the yoke upon their cheek;
And I laid down their fodder before them.”
Salomo ben Melech thus explains the middle part of the verse, which is somewhat obscure: “I was to them at their desire as they that have compassion on a heifer, lest she be overworked in ploughing; and that lift up the yoke from off her neck, and rest it upon her cheek that she may not still draw, but rest from her labor an hour or two in the day.”
But Israel - The Septuagint, Syriac, Aquila, Theodotion, and Vulgate, read וישראל (veyisrael), But Israel, adding the conjunction, which being rendered as an adversative, sets the opposition in a stronger light.
Doth not know - The same ancient versions agree in adding Me, which very properly answers, and indeed is almost necessarily required to answer, the words possessor and lord preceding. Ισραηλ δε ΜΕ ουκ εγνω ; Sept. “Israel autem me non cognovit,” Vulg. Ισραηλ δε ΜΟΥ ουκ εγνω ; Aquil., Theod. The testimony of so scrupulous an interpreter as Aquila is of great weight in this case. And both his and Theodotion‘s rendering is such as shows plainly that they did not add the word ΜΟΥ to help out the sense, for it only embarrasses it. It also clearly determines what was the original reading in the old copies from which they translated. It could not be ידעני (yedani), which most obviously answers to the version of the Septuagint and Vulgate, for it does not accord with that of Aquila and Theodotion. The version of these latter interpreters, however injudicious, clearly ascertains both the phrase, and the order of the words of the original Hebrew; it was ישראל אותי לא ידע (veyisrael othi lo yada). The word אותי (othi) has been lost out of the text. The very same phrase is used by Jeremiah, Jeremiah 4:22, עמי אותי לא ידעו (ammi othi lo yadau). And the order of the words must have been as above represented; for they have joined ישראל (yisrael), with אותי (othi), as in regimine; they could not have taken it in this sense, Israel meus non cognovit, had either this phrase or the order of the words been different. I have endeavored to set this matter in a clear light, as it is the first example of a whole word lost out of the text, of which the reader will find many other plain examples in the course of these notes. But Rosenmuller contends that this is unnecessary, as the passage may be translated, “Israel knows nothing: my people have no understanding.” The Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate, read ועמי (veammi), “and my people;” and so likewise sixteen MSS. of Kennicott, and fourteen of De Rossi.
Ah sinful nation “Degenerate” - Five MSS., one of them ancient, read משחתים (moschathim), without the first י yod, in hophal corrupted, not corrupters. See the same word in the same form, and in the same sense, Proverbs 25:26.
Are corrupters “Are estranged” - Thirty-two MSS., five ancient, and two editions, read נזורו (nazoru); which reading determines the word to be from the root זור (zur), to alienate, not from נזר (nazar), to separate; so Kimchi understands it. See also Annotat. in Noldium, 68.
They are gone away backward “They have turned their backs upon him” - So Kimchi explains it:” they have turned unto him the back and not the face.” See Jeremiah 2:27; Jeremiah 7:24. I have been forced to render this line paraphrastically; as the verbal translation, “they are estranged backward,” would have been unintelligible.
Why should ye be stricken any more “On what part,” etc.? - The Vulgate renders על מה (al meh), super quo, (see Job 38:6; 2 Chronicles 32:10), upon what part. And so Abendana on Sal. Den Melech: “There are some who explain it thus: Upon what limb shall you be smitten, if you add defection? for already for your sins have you been smitten upon all of them; so that there is not to be found in you a whole limb on which you can be smitten.” Which agrees with what follows: “From the sole of the foot even unto the head, there is no soundness in it:” and the sentiment and image is exactly the same with that of Ovid, Pont. 2:7, 42: -
Vix habet in nobis jam nova plaga locum.
There is no place on you for a new stripe. Or that still more expressive line of Euripides; the great force and effect of which Longinus ascribes to its close and compressed structure, analogous to the sense which it expresses: -
́γεμω κακων δη· κ ‘ ουκετ ‘ εσθ ‘ ὁπη τιθῃ .
I am full of miseries: there‘s no room for more.
Herc. Fur. 1245, Long. sec. 40.
“On what part will ye strike again? will ye add correction?” This is addressed to the instruments of God‘s vengeance; those that inflicted the punishment, who or whatsoever they were. Ad verbum certae personae intelligendae sunt, quibus ista actio quae per verbum exprimitur competit; “The words are addressed to the persons who were the agents employed in the work expressed by the original word,” as Glassius says in a similar case, Philippians Sacr. 1:3, 22. See Isaiah 7:4.
As from ידע (yada), דעה (deah), knowledge; from יעץ (yaats), עצה (etsah), counsel; from ישן (yeshan), שנה (shenah), sleep, etc.; so from יסר (yasar) is regularly derived סרה (sarah), correction.
The whole head is sick - The king and the priests are equally gone away from truth and righteousness. Or, The state is oppressed by its enemies, and the Church corrupted in its rulers and in its members.
They have not been closed, etc. “It hath not been pressed,” etc. - The pharmaceutical art in the East consists chiefly in external applications: accordingly the prophet‘s images in this place are all taken from surgery. Sir John Chardin, in his note on Proverbs 3:8, “It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones,” observes that “the comparison is taken from the plasters, ointments, oils, and frictions, which are made use of in the East upon the belly and stomach in most maladies. Being ignorant in the villages of the art of making decoctions and potions, and of the proper doses of such things, they generally make use of external medicines.” - Harmer‘s Observations on Scripture, vol. 2 p. 488. And in surgery their materia medica is extremely simple, oil making the principal part of it. “In India,” says Tavernier, “they have a certain preparation of oil and melted grease, which they commonly use for the healing of wounds.” Voyage Ind. So the good Samaritan poured oil and wine on the wounds of the distressed Jew: wine, cleansing and somewhat astringent, proper for a fresh wound; oil, mollifying and healing, Luke 10:34. Kimchi has a judicious remark here: “When various medicines are applied, and no healing takes place, that disorder is considered as coming immediately from God.”
Of the three verbs in this sentence, one is in the singular number in the text; another is singular in two MSS., (one of them ancient), חבשה (chubbeshah); and the Syriac and Vulgate render all of them in the singular number.
At the end of the verse, זרים (zarim). This reading, though confirmed by all the ancient versions, gives us no good sense; for “your land is devoured by strangers; and is desolate, as if overthrown by strangers,” is a mere tautology, or, what is as bad, an identical comparison. Aben Ezra thought that the word in its present form might be taken for the same with זרם (zerem), an inundation: Schultens is of the same opinion; (see Taylor‘s Concord.); and Schindler in his Lexicon explains it in the same manner: and so, says Zimchi, some explain it. Abendana endeavors to reconcile it to grammatical analogy in the following manner: “זרים (zarim) is the same with זרם (zerem); that is, as overthrown by an inundation of waters: and these two words have the same analogy as קדם (kedem) and קדים (kadim). Or it may be a concrete of the same form with שכיר (shechir); and the meaning will be: as overthrown by rain pouring down violently, and causing a flood.” On Sal. ben Melech, in loc. But I rather suppose the true reading to be זרם (zerem), and have translated it accordingly: the word זרים (zerim), in the line above, seems to have caught the transcriber‘s eye, and to have led him into this mistake. But this conjecture of the learned prelate is not confirmed by any MS. yet discovered.
Your country is desolate - The description of the ruined and desolate state of the country in these verses does not suit with any part of the prosperous times of Uzziah and Jotham. It very well agrees with the time of Ahaz, when Judea was ravaged by the joint invasion of the Israelites and Syrians, and by the incursions of the Philistines and Edomites. The date of this prophecy is therefore generally fixed to the time of Ahaz. But on the other hand it may be considered whether those instances of idolatry which are urged in Isaiah 1:29 - the worshipping in groves and gardens - having been at all times too commonly practiced, can be supposed to be the only ones which the prophet would insist upon in the time of Ahaz; who spread the grossest idolatry through the whole country, and introduced it even into the temple; and, to complete his abominations, made his son pass through the fire to Molech. It is said, 2 Kings 15:37, that in Jotham‘s time “the Lord began to send against Judah Rezin - and Pekah.” If we may suppose any invasion from that quarter to have been actually made at the latter end of Jotham‘s reign, I should choose to refer this prophecy to that time.
And your cities are burned. - Nineteen of Dr. Kennicott‘s MSS. and twenty-two of De Rossi‘s, some of my own, with the Syriac and Arabic, add the conjunction which makes the hemistich more complete.
As a cottage in a vineyard “As a shed in a vineyard” - A little temporary hut covered with boughs, straw, turf, or the like materials, for a shelter from the heat by day, and the cold and dews by night, for the watchman that kept the garden or vineyard during the short season the fruit was ripening, (see Job 27:18), and presently removed when it had served that purpose. See Harmer‘s Observ. 1:454. They were probably obliged to have such a constant watch to defend the fruit from the jackals. “The jackal,” (chical of the Turks), says Hasselquist, (Travels, p. 227), “is a species of mustela which is very common in Palestine, especially during the vintage; and often destroys whole vineyards, and gardens of cucumbers.” “There is also plenty of the canis vulpes, the fox, near the convent of St. John in the desert, about vintage time; for they destroy all the vines unless they are strictly watched.” Ibid. p. 184. See Song of Solomon 2:15.
Fruits of the gourd kind, melons, watermelons, cucumbers, etc., are much used and in great request in the Levant, on account of their cooling quality. The Israelites in the wilderness regretted the loss of the cucumbers and melons among the other good things of Egypt, Numbers 11:5. In Egypt the season of watermelons, which are most in request, and which the common people then chiefly live upon, lasts but three weeks. See Hasselquist, p. 256. Tavernier makes it of longer continuance:
L‘on y void de grands carreaux de melons et de concombres, mais beaucoup plus de derniers, dont les Levantins font leur delices. Le plus souvent, ils les mangent sans les peter, apres quoi ils vont boire une verre d‘eau. Dans toute l‘Asie c‘est la nourriture ordinaire du petit peuple pendant trois ou quatre mois; toute la famine en vit, et quand un enfant demand a manger, au lieu qu‘en France ou aillieurs nous luy donnerions du pain, dans le Levant on luy presente un concombre, qu‘il mange cru comme on le vient de cueillir. Les concombres dans le Levant ont une bonte particuliere; et quoiqu‘ on les mange crus, ils ne font jamais de mal;
“There are to be seen great beds of melons and cucumbers, but a greater number of the latter, of which the Levantines are particularly fond. In general they eat them without taking off the rind, after which they drink a glass of water. In every part of Asia this is the aliment of the common people for three or four months; the whole family live on them; and when a child asks something to eat, instead of giving it a piece of bread, as is done in France and other countries, they present it with a cucumber, which it eats raw, as gathered. Cucumbers in the Levant are peculiarly excellent; and although eaten raw, they are seldom injurious.” Tavernier, Relat. du Serrail, cap. xix.
As a lodge, etc. - That is, after the fruit was gathered; the lodge being then permitted to fall into decay. Such was the desolate, ruined state of the city.
So the ὡς πολις πολιορκουμενη ; Septuagint: see also the Vulgate.
The Lord of hosts “Jehovah God of hosts” - As this title of God, יהוה צבאות (Yehovah tsebaoth), “Jehovah of hosts, occurs here for the first time, I think it proper to note, that I translate it always, as in this place, “Jehovah God of hosts;” taking it as an elliptical expression for יהוה אלהי צבאות (Yehovah Elohey tsebaoth). This title imports that Jehovah is the God or Lord of hosts or armies; as he is the Creator and Supreme Governor of all beings in heaven and earth, and disposeth and ruleth them all in their several orders and stations; the almighty, universal Lord.
We should have been as Sodom - As completely and finally ruined as that and the cities of the plain were, no vestige of which remains at this day.
Ye rulers of Sodom “Ye princes of Sodom” - The incidental mention of Sodom and Gomorrah in the preceding verse suggested to the prophet this spirited address to the rulers and inhabitants of Jerusalem, under the character of princes of Sodom and people of Gomorrah. Two examples of a sort of elegant turn of the like kind may be observed in St. Paul‘s Epistle to the Romans, Romans 15:4, Romans 15:5, Romans 15:12, Romans 15:13. See Locke on the place; and see Isaiah 1:29, Isaiah 1:30, of this chapter, which gives another example of the same.
And - like unto Gomorrah. - The ו vau is added by thirty-one of Kennicott‘s MSS., twenty-nine of De Rossi‘s and one, very ancient, of my own. See note on Isaiah 1:6 (note).
To what purpose, etc. “What have I to do” - The prophet Amos has expressed the same sentiments with great elegance: -
I hate, I despise your feasts;
And I will not delight in the odour of your solemnities:
Though ye offer unto me burnt-offerings
And your meat-offerings, I will not accept:
Neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fatlings.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
And the melody of your viols I will not hear.
But let judgment roll down like waters;
And righteousness like a mighty stream.
So has Persius; see Sat. 2 v. 71-75: -
“Quin damus id Superis, de magna quod dare lanae,” etc.
The two or three last pages of Plato‘s Euthyphro contain the same idea. Sacrifices and prayers are not profitable to the offerer, nor acceptable to the gods, unless accompanied with an upright life.
The fat of fed beasts, etc. - The fat and the blood are particularly mentioned, because these were in all sacrifices set apart to God. The fat was always burnt upon the altar, and the blood was partly sprinkled, differently on different occasions, and partly poured out at the bottom of the altar. See Leviticus 4.
When ye come to appear - Instead of לראות (leraoth), to appear, one MS. has לראות (liroth), to see. See De Rossi. The appearing before God here refers chiefly to the three solemn annual festivals. See Exodus 23:14.
Tread my courts (no more) - So the Septuagint divide the sentence, joining the end of this verse to the beginning of the next: Πατειν την αυλην μου, ου προσθησεσθε ; “To tread my court ye shall not add - ye shall not be again accepted in worship.”
The new moons and Sabbaths “The fast and the day of restraint” - און ועצרה (aven vaatsarah). These words are rendered in many different manners by different interpreters, to a good and probable sense by all; but I think by none in such a sense as can arise from the phrase itself, agreeably to the idiom of the Hebrew language. Instead of און (aven), the Septuagint manifestly read צום (tsom), νηστειαν , “the fast.” This Houbigant has adopted. The prophet could not well have omitted the fast in the enumeration of their solemnities, nor the abuse of it among the instances of their hypocrisy, which he has treated at large with such force and elegance in his fifty-eighth chapter. Observe, also, that the prophet Joel, (Joel 1:14, and Joel 2:15), twice joins together the fast and the day of restraint: -
d עצרה קראו צום קדשו
d (atsarah) (kiru) (tsom) (kaddeshu)
“Sanctify a fast; proclaim a day of restraint:”
which shows how properly they are here joined together. עצרה (atsarah), “the restraint,” is rendered, both here and in other places of our English translation, “the solemn assembly.” Certain holy days ordained by the law were distinguished by a particular charge that “no servile work should be done therein;” Leviticus 23:36; Numbers 29:35; Deuteronomy 16:8. This circumstance clearly explains the reason of the name, the restraint, or the day of restraint, given to those days.
If I could approve of any translation of these two words which I have met with, it should be that of the Spanish version of the Old Testament, made for the use of the Spanish Jews: Tortura y detenimento, “it is a pain and a constraint unto me.” But I still think that the reading of the Septuagint is more probably the truth.
When ye spread - The Syriac, Septuagint, and a MS., read בפרשכם (beparshecem), without the conjunction ו (vau).
Your hands “For your hands” - Αἱ γαρ χειρες - Sept. Manus enim vestrae-Vulg. They seem to have read כי ידיכם (ki yedeychem).
Wash you - Referring to the preceding verse, “your hands are full of blood;” and alluding to the legal washing commanded on several occasions. See Leviticus 14:8, Leviticus 14:9, Leviticus 14:47.
Relieve the oppressed “Amend that which is corrupted” - אשרו חמוץ (asheru chamots). In rendering this obscure phrase I follow Bochart, (Hieroz. Part i., lib. ii., cap. 7), though I am not perfectly satisfied with this explication of it.
Though your sins be as scarlet - שני (shani), “scarlet or crimson,” dibaphum, twice dipped, or double dyed; from שנה (shanah), iterare, to double, or to do a thing twice. This derivation seems much more probable than that which Salmasius prefers from שנן (shanan), acuere, to whet, from the sharpness and strength of the color, οξυφοινικον ; תלע (tela), the same; properly the worm, vermiculus, (from whence vermeil), for this color was produced from a worm or insect which grew in a coccus or excrescence of a shrub of the ilex kind, (see Plin. Nat. Hist. 16:8), like the cochineal worm in the opuntia of America. See Ulloa‘s Voyage book v., chap. ii., note to page 342. There is a shrub of this kind that grows in Provence and Languedoc, and produces the like insect, called the kermes oak, (see Miller, Dict. Quercus), from (kermez), the Arabic word for this color, whence our word crimson is derived.
“Neque amissos colores
Lana refert medicata fuco,”
says the poet, applying the same image to a different purpose. To discharge these strong colors is impossible to human art or power; but to the grace and power of God all things, even much more difficult are possible and easy. Some copies have כשנים (keshanim), “like crimson garments.”
Though they be red, etc. - But the conjunction ו (vau) is added by twenty-one of Kennicott‘s, and by forty-two of De Rossi‘s MSS., by some early editions, with the Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, and Arabic. It makes a fuller and more emphatic sense. “And though they be red as crimson,” etc.
Ye shall eat the good of the land - Referring to Isaiah 1:7: it shall not be “devoured by strangers.”
Ye shall be devoured with the sword “Ye shall be food for the sword” - The Septuagint and Vulgate read תאכלכם (tochalchem), “the sword shall devour you;” which is of much more easy construction than the present reading of the text.
The Chaldee seems to read בחרב אויב תאכלו (bechereb oyeb teachelu), “ye shall be consumed by the sword of the enemy.” The Syriac also reads בחרב (beehereb) and renders the verb passively. And the rhythmus seems to require this addition. - Dr. Jubb.
Become a harlot - See before, the Discourse on the Prophetic Style; and see Lowth‘s Comment on the place, and De Sacr. Poes. Hebr. Prael. xxxi.
Wine mixed with water - An image used for the adulteration of wines, with more propriety than may at first appear, if what Thevenot says of the people of the Levant of late times were true of them formerly. He says, “They never mingle water with their wine to drink; but drink by itself what water they think proper for abating the strength of the wine.” “Lorsque les Persans boivent du vin, ils le prennent tout pur, a la facon des Levantins, qui ne le melent jamais avec de l‘eua; mais en beuvant du vin, de temps en temps ils prennent un pot d‘eau, et en boivent de grand traits.” Voyage, part ii., 54 ii., chap. 10. “Ils (les Turcs) n‘y meslent jamais d‘eau, et se moquent des Chretiens qui en mettent, ce qui leur semble tout a fait ridicule.” Ibid. part i., chap. 24. “The Turks never mingle water with their wine, and laugh at the Christians for doing it, which they consider altogether ridiculous.”
It is remarkable that whereas the Greeks and Latins by mixed wine always understood wine diluted and lowered with water, the Hebrews on the contrary generally mean by it wine made stronger and more inebriating by the addition of higher and more powerful ingredients, such as honey, spices, defrutum, (or wine inspissated by boiling it down to two-thirds or one-half of the quantity), myrrh, mandragora, opiates, and other strong drugs. Such were the exhilarating, or rather stupefying, ingredients which Helen mixed in the bowl together with the wine for her guests oppressed with grief to raise their spirits, the composition of which she had learned in Egypt: -
Αυτικ ‘ αρ ‘ εις οινον βαλε φαρμακον, ενθεν επινον,
Νηπενθες τ ‘ αχολον τε, κακων επιληθον ἁπαντων .
Homer. Odyss. lib. iv., ver. 220.
“Meanwhile, with genial joy to warm the soul,
Bright Helen mix‘d a mirth-inspiring bowl;
Temper‘d with drugs of sovereign use, to assuage
The boiling bosom of tumultuous rage:
Charm‘d with that virtuous draught, the exalted mind
All sense of wo delivers to the wind.”
Such was the “spiced wine and the juice of pomegranates,” mentioned Song of Solomon 8:2. And how much the Eastern people to this day deal in artificial liquors of prodigious strength, the use of wine being forbidden, may be seen in a curious chapter of Kempfer upon that subject. Amoen. Exot. Fasc. iii., Obs. 15.
Thus the drunkard is properly described, Proverbs 23:30, as one “that seeketh mixed wine,” and “is mighty to mingle strong drink,” Isaiah 5:22. And hence the poet took that highly poetical and sublime image of the cup of God‘s wrath, called by Isaiah 51:17, the “cup of trembling,” causing intoxication and stupefaction, (see Chappelow‘s note on Hariri, p. 33), containing, as St. John expresses in Greek the Hebrew idea with the utmost precision, though with a seeming contradiction in terms, κεκερασμενον ακρατον , merum mixtum, pure wine made yet stronger by a mixture of powerful ingredients; Revelation 14:10. “In the hand of Jehovah,” saith the psalmist, Psalm 75:8, “there is a cup, and the wine is turbid: it is full of a mixed liquor, and he poureth out of it,” or rather, “he poureth it out of one vessel into another,” to mix it perfectly, according to the reading expressed by the ancient versions, ויגר מזה אל זה (vaiyagger mizzeh al zeh), and he pours it from this to that, “verily the dregs thereof,” the thickest sediment of the strong ingredients mingled with it, “all the ungodly of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.”
R. D. Kimchi says, “The current coin was adulterated with brass, tin, and other metals, and yet was circulated as good money. The wine also was adulterated with water in the taverns, and sold notwithstanding for pure wine.”
Companions of thieves “Associates” - The Septuagint, Vulgate, and four MSS., read חברי (chabrey) without the conjunction ו (vau).
Ah, I will ease me “Aha! I will be eased” - Anger, arising from a sense of injury and affront, especially from those who, from every consideration of duty and gratitude, ought to have behaved far otherwise, is an uneasy and painful sensation: and revenge, executed to the full on the offenders, removes that uneasiness, and consequently is pleasing and quieting, at least for the present. Ezekiel, Ezekiel 5:13, introduces God expressing himself in the same manner: -
“And mine anger shall be fully accomplished;
And I will make my fury rest upon them;
And I will give myself ease.”
This is a strong instance of the metaphor called anthropopathia, by which, throughout the Scriptures, as well the historical as the poetical parts, the sentiments sensations, and affections, the bodily faculties qualities, and members, of men, and even of brute animals, are attributed to God, and that with the utmost liberty and latitude of application. The foundation of this is obvious; it arises from necessity; we have no idea of the natural attributes of God, of his pure essence, of his manner of existence, of his manner of acting: when therefore we would treat on these subjects, we find ourselves forced to express them by sensible images. But necessity leads to beauty; this is true of metaphor in general, and in particular of this kind of metaphor, which is used with great elegance and sublimity in the sacred poetry; and what is very remarkable, in the grossest instances of the application of it, it is generally the most striking and the most sublime. The reason seems to be this: when the images are taken from the superior faculties of the human nature, from the purer and more generous affections, and applied to God, we are apt to acquiesce in the notion; we overlook the metaphor, and take it as a proper attribute; but when the idea is gross and offensive as in this passage of Isaiah, where the impatience of anger and the pleasure of revenge is attributed to God, we are immediately shocked at the application; the impropriety strikes us at once, and the mind, casting about for something in the Divine nature analogous to the image, lays hold on some great, obscure, vague idea, which she endeavors to comprehend, and is lost in immensity and astonishment. See De Sacr. Poesi. Hebr. Praeel. 16 sub. fin., where this matter is treated and illustrated by examples.
I will turn my hand upon thee - So the common version; and this seems to be a metaphor taken from the custom of those who, when the metal is melted, strike off the scoriae with their hand previously to its being poured out into the mould. I have seen this done with the naked hand, and no injury whatever sustained.
Purge away thy dross “In the furnace” - The text has כבר (cabbor), which some render “as with soap;” as if it were the same with כברית (keborith); so Kimchi; but soap can have nothing to do with the purifying of metals. Others, “according to purity,” or “purely,” as our version. Le Clerc conjectured that the true reading is ככור (kechur), “as in the furnace;” see Ezekiel 22:18, Ezekiel 22:20. Dr. Durell proposes only a transposition of letters בכר to the same sense; and so likewise Archbishop Secker. That this is the true reading is highly probable.
I will restore - “This,” says Kimchi, “shall be in the days of the Messiah, in which all the wicked shall cease, and the remnant of Israel shall neither do iniquity, nor speak lies.” What a change must this be among Jews!
Afterward “And after this” - The Septuagint, Syriac, Chaldee, and eighteen MSS., and one of my own, very ancient, add the conjunction ו (vau), And.
With judgment “In judgment” - By the exercise of God‘s strict justice in destroying the obdurate, (see Isaiah 1:28), and delivering the penitent in righteousness; by the truth and faithfulness of God in performing his promises.”
For they shall be ashamed of the oaks “For ye shall be ashamed of the ilexes” - Sacred groves were a very ancient and favorite appendage of idolatry. They were furnished with the temple of the god to whom they were dedicated, with altars, images, and every thing necessary for performing the various rites of worship offered there; and were the scenes of many impure ceremonies, and of much abominable superstition. They made a principal part of the religion of the old inhabitants of Canaan; and the Israelites were commanded to destroy their groves, among other monuments of their false worship. The Israelites themselves became afterwards very much addicted to this species of idolatry.
“When I had brought them into the land,
Which I swore that I would give unto them;
Then they saw every high hill and every thick tree;
And there they slew their victims;
And there they presented the provocation of their offerings;
And there they placed their sweet savor;
And there they poured out their libations.”
“On the tops of the mountains they sacrifice;
And on the hills they burn incense;
Under the oak and the poplar;
And the ilex, because her shade is pleasant.”
Of what particular kinds the trees here mentioned are, cannot be determined with certainty. In regard to אלה (ellah), in this place of Isaiah, as well as in Hosea, Celsius (Hierobot.) understands it of the terebinth, because the most ancient interpreters render it so; in the first place the Septuagint. He quotes eight places; but in three of these eight places the copies vary, some having δρυς , the oak, instead of τερεβινθος , the terebinth or turpentine tree. And he should have told us, that these same seventy render it in sixteen other places by δρυς , the oak; so that their authority is really against him; and the Septuagint, “stant pro quercu,” contrary to what he says at first setting out. Add to this that Symmachus, Theodotion, and Aquila, generally render it by δρυς , the oak; the latter only once rendering it by τερεβινθος , the terebinth. His other arguments seem to me not very conclusive; he says, that all the qualities of אלה (ellah) agree to the terebinth, that it grows in mountainous countries, that it is a strong tree, long-lived, large and high, and deciduous. All these qualities agree just as well to the oak, against which he contends; and he actually attributes them to the oak in the very next section. But I think neither the oak nor the terebinth will do in this place of Isaiah, from the last circumstance which he mentions, their being deciduous, where the prophet‘s design seems to me to require an evergreen, otherwise the casting of its leaves would be nothing out of the common established course of nature, and no proper image of extreme distress and total desolation, parallel to that of a garden without water, that is, wholly burnt up and destroyed. An ancient, who was an inhabitant and a native of this country, understands it in like manner of a tree blasted with uncommon and immoderate heat; velut arbores, cum frondes aestu torrente decusserunt. Ephrem Syr. in loc., edit. Assemani. Compare Psalm 1:4; Jeremiah 17:8. Upon the whole I have chosen to make it the ilex, which word Vossius, Etymolog., derives from the Hebrew אלה (ellah), that whether the word itself be rightly rendered or not, I might at least preserve the propriety of the poetic image. - L.
By the ilex the learned prelate means the holly, which, though it generally appears as a sort of shrub, grows, in a good soil, where it is unmolested, to a considerable height. I have one in my own garden, rising three stems from the root, and between twenty and thirty feet in height. It is an evergreen.
For they shall be ashamed “For ye shall be ashamed” - תבושו (teboshu), in the second person, Vulgate, Chaldee, three MSS., one of my own, ancient, and one edition; and in agreement with the rest of the sentence.
Whose leaf “Whose leaves” - Twenty-six of Kennicott‘s, twenty-four of De Rossi‘s, one ancient, of my own, and seven editions, read אליה (aleyha), in its full and regular form. This is worth remarking, as it accounts for a great number of anomalies of the like kind, which want only the same authority to rectify them.
As a garden that hath no water “A garden wherein is no water” - In the hotter parts of the Eastern countries, a constant supply of water is so absolutely necessary for the cultivation and even for the preservation and existence of a garden, that should it want water but for a few days, every thing in it would be burnt up with the heat, and totally destroyed. There is therefore no garden whatever in those countries but what has such a certain supply, either from some neighboring river, or from a reservoir of water collected from springs, or filled with rain water in the proper season, in sufficient quantity to afford ample provision for the rest of the year.
Moses, having described the habitation of man newly created as a garden planted with every tree pleasant to the sight and good for food, adds, as a circumstance necessary to complete the idea of a garden, that it was well supplied with water, “And a river went out of Eden to water the garden;” Genesis 2:10: see also Genesis 13:10.
That the reader may have a clear notion of this matter, it will be necessary to give some account of the management of their gardens in this respect.
“Damascus,” says Maundrell, p. 122, “is encompassed with gardens, extending no less, recording to common estimation, than thirty miles round; which makes it look like a city in a vast wood. The gardens are thick set with fruit trees of all kinds, kept fresh and verdant by the waters of the Barrady, (the Chrysorrhoas of the ancients), which supply both the gardens and city in great abundance. This river, as soon as it issues out from between the cleft of the mountain before mentioned into the plain, is immediately divided into three streams; of which the middlemost and biggest runs directly to Damascus, and is distributed to all the cisterns and fountains of the city. The other two (which I take to be the work of art) are drawn round, one to the right hand, and the other to the left, on the borders of the gardens, into which they are let as they pass, by little currents, and so dispersed all over the vast wood, insomuch that there is not a garden but has a fine quick stream running through it. The Barrady is almost wholly drunk up by the city and gardens. What small part of it escapes is united, as I was informed, in one channel again on the southeast side of the city; and, after about three or four hours‘ course finally loses itself in a bog there, without ever arriving at the sea.” This was likewise the case in former times, as Strabo, lib. xvi., Pliny, lib. 5:18, testify; who say, “that this river was expended in canals, and drunk up by watering the place.”
“The best sight,” says the same Maundrell, p. 39, “that the palace of the emir of Beroot, anciently Berytus, affords, and the worthiest to be remembered, is the orange garden. It contains a large quadrangular plat of ground, divided into sixteen lesser squares, four in a row, with walks between them. The walks are shaded with orange trees of a large spreading size. Every one of these sixteen lesser squares in the garden was bordered with stone; and in the stone work were troughs, very artificially contrived, for conveying the water all over the garden; there being little outlets cut at every tree for the stream as it passed by to flow out and water it.” The royal gardens at Ispahan are watered just in the same manner, according to Kempfer‘s description, Amoen. Exot., p. 193.
This gives us a clear idea of the פלגי מים (palgey mayim), mentioned in the first Psalm, and other places of Scripture, “the divisions of waiters,” the waters distributed in artificial canals; for so the phrase properly signifies. The prophet Jeremith, chap. 17:8, has imitated, and elegantly amplified, the passage of the psalmist above referred to: -
“He shall be like a tree planted by the water side,
And which sendeth forth her roots to the aqueduct.
She shall not fear, when the heat cometh;
But her leaf shall be green;
And in the year of drought she shall not be anxious,
Neither shall she cease from bearing fruit.”
From this image the son of Sirach, Ecclesiasticus 24:30, 31, has most beautifully illustrated the influence and the increase of religious wisdom in a well prepared heart.
“I also come forth as a canal from a river,
And as a conduit flowing into a paradise.
I said, I will water my garden,
And I will abundantly moisten my border:
And, lo! my canal became a river,
And my river became a sea.”
This gives us the true meaning of the following elegant proverb, Proverbs 21:1: -
“The heart of the king is like the canals of waters in the hand of Jehovah; Whithersoever it pleaseth him, he inclineth it.”
The direction of it is in the hand of Jehovah, as the distribution of the water of the reservoir through the garden by different canals is at the will of the gardener.
“Et, cum exustus ager morientibus aestuat herbis,
Ecce supercilio clivosi tramitis undam
Elicit: illa cadens raucum per levia murmur
Saxa ciet, scatebrisque arentia temperat arva.”
Virg., Georg. 1:107.
“Then, when the fiery suns too fiercely play,
And shrivelled herbs on withering stems decay,
The wary ploughman on the mountain‘s brow
Undams his watery stores; huge torrents flow;
And, rattling down the rocks, large moisture yield,
Tempering the thirsty fever of the field.”
Solomon, Ecclesiastes 2:1, Ecclesiastes 2:6, mentions his own works of this kind: -
“I made me gardens, and paradises;
And I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees.
I made me pools of water,
To water with them the grove flourishing with trees.”
Maundrell, p. 88, has given a description of the remains, as they are said to be, of these very pools made by Solomon, for the reception and preservation of the waters of a spring, rising at a little distance from them; which will give us a perfect notion of the contrivance and design of such reservoirs.
“As for the pools, they are three in number, lying in a row above each other; being so disposed that the waters of the uppermost may descend into the second, and those of the second into the third. Their figure is quadrangular, the breadth is the same in all, amounting to about ninety paces. In their length there is some difference between them; the first being about one hundred and sixty paces long, the second, two hundred, and the third, two hundred and twenty. They are all lined with wall and plastered; and contain a great depth of water.”
The immense works which were made by the ancient kings of Egypt for recovering the waters of the Nile, when it overflowed, for such uses, are well known. But there never was a more stupendous work of this kind than the reservoir of Saba, or Merab, in Arabia Felix. According to the tradition of the country, it was the work of Balkis, that queen of Sheba who visited Solomon. It was a vast lake formed by the collection of the waters of a torrent in a valley, where, at a narrow pass between two mountains, a very high mole or dam was built. The water of the lake so formed had near twenty fathoms depth; and there were three sluices at different heights, by which, at whatever height the lake stood, the plain below might be watered. By conduits and canals from these sluices the water was constantly distributed in due proportion to the several lands; so that the whole country for many miles became a perfect paradise. The city of Saba, or Merab, was situated immediately below the great dam; a great flood came, and raised the lake above its usual height; the dam gave way in the middle of the night; the waters burst forth at once, and overwhelmed the whole city, with the neighboring towns and people. The remains of eight tribes were forced to abandon their dwellings, and the beautiful valley became a morass and a desert. This fatal catastrophe happened long before the time of Mohammed, who mentions it in the Koran, chap. 34: ver. 15. See also Sale, Prelim. s. 1 p. 10, and Michaelis, Quest. aux Voyag. Daniel No. 94. Niebuhr, Descrip. de l‘Arabie. p. 240. - L.