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The Jews again reproved for their confidence in Egypt, finely contrasted with their neglect of the power and protection of God, Isaiah 31:1-3. Deliverance and protection are, notwithstanding, promised, expressed by two similes; the first remarkably lofty and poetical, the latter singularly beautiful and tender, Isaiah 31:4, Isaiah 31:5. Exhortation to repentance, joined with the prediction of a more reformed period, Isaiah 31:6, Isaiah 31:7. This chapter concludes like the preceding, with a prophecy of the fall of Sennacherib, Isaiah 31:8, Isaiah 31:9.
Wo to them that go down to Egypt - This is a reproof to the Israelites for forming an alliance with the Egyptians, and not trusting in the Lord.
And stay on horses “Who trust in horses” - For ועל (veal), and upon, first twenty MSS. of Kennicott‘s, thirty of De Rossi‘s, one of my own, and the Septuagint, Arabic, and Vulgate, read על (al), upon, without the conjunction, which disturbs the sense.
His words “His word” - דברו (debaro), singular, without י (yod), two MSS. of Dr. Kennicott‘s the Septuagint, and Targ. Hieros. דרכיו (derachaiv), his ways, is found in one MS.
He that helpeth (the Egyptians) shall fall and he that is holpen (the Israelites) shall fall down-together.
Like as the lion - This comparison is exactly in the spirit and manner, and very nearly approaching to the expression, of Homer.
Βη ρ ‘ ιμεν, ὡστε λεων ορεσιτροφος, ὁστ ‘ επιδευης
Δηρον εῃ κρειων, κελεται δε ἑ θυμος αγηνωρ,
Μηλων πειρησοντα, και ες πυκινον δομον ελθειν·
Ειπερ γαρ χ ‘ εὑρῃσι παρ ‘ αυτοψι βωτορας ανδρας
Συν κυσι και δουρεσσι φυλασσοντας περι μηλα,
Ου ρα τ ‘ απειρητος μεμονε σταθμοιο διεσθαι.
Αλλ ‘ ὁγ ‘ αῥ η ἡρπαξε μεταλμενος, ηε και αυτος
Εβλητ ‘ εν πρωτοισι θοης απο χειρος ακοντι.
As the bold lion, mountain-bred, now long
Famished, with courage and with hunger stung
Attempts the thronged fold: him nought appals,
Though dogs and armed shepherds stand in guard
Collected; he nathless undaunted springs
O‘er the high fence, and rends the trembling prey;
Or, rushing onward, in his breast receives
The well-aimed spear.
Of metaphors, allegories, and comparisons of the Hebrew poets, in which the Divine nature and attributes are represented under images taken from brutes and other low objects; of their effect, their sublimity, and the causes of it; see De Sac. Poes. Heb., Praelect. 16 sub. fin.
Passing over “Leaping forward” - The generality of interpreters observe in this place an allusion to the deliverance which God vouchsafed to his people when he destroyed the first-born of the Egyptians, and exempted those of the Israelites sojourning among them by a peculiar interposition. The same word is made use of here which is used upon that occasion, and which gave the name to the feast which was instituted in commemoration of that deliverance, פסח (pesach). But the difficulty is to reconcile the commonly received meaning of that word with the circumstances of the similitude here used to illustrate the deliverance represented as parallel to the deliverance in Egypt.
“As the mother birds hovering over their young,
So shall Jehovah God of hosts protect Jerusalem;
Protecting and delivering, passing over, and rescuing her.”
This difficulty is, I think, well solved by Vitringa, whose remark is the more worthy of observation, as it leads to the true meaning of an important word, which hitherto seems greatly to have been misunderstood, though Vitringa himself, as it appears to me, has not exactly enough defined the precise meaning of it. He says, “פסח (pasach) signifies to cover, to protect by covering: σκεπασω ὑμας , Septuagint. Jehovah obteget ostium; ‹The Lord will cover or protect the door:‘” whereas it means that particular action or motion by which God at that time placed himself in such a situation as to protect the house of the Israelite against the destroying angel; to spring forward, to throw one‘s self in the way, in order to cover and protect. Cocceius comes nearer to the true meaning than Vitringa, by rendering it gradum facere, to march, to step forward; Lexicon in voc. The common meaning of the word פסח (pasach) upon other occasions is to halt, to be lame, to leap, as in a rude manner of dancing, (as the prophets of Baal did, 1 Kings 18:26), all which agrees very well together; for the motion of a lame person is a perpetual springing forward, by throwing himself from the weaker upon the stronger leg. The common notion of God‘s passage over the houses of the Israelites is, that in going through the land of Egypt to smite the first-born, seeing the blood on the door of the houses of the Israelites, he passed over, or skipped, those houses, and forbore to smite them. But that this is not the true notion of the thing, will be plain from considering the words of the sacred historian, where he describes very explicitly the action: “For Jehovah will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood on the lintels and on the two side posts, Jehovah will spring forward over (or before) the door, ופסח יהוה על הפתח (upasach Yehovah al happethach), and will not suffer the destroyer to come into your houses to smite you, “ Exodus 12:23. Here are manifestly two distinct agents, with which the notion of passing over is not consistent, for that supposes but one agent. The two agents are the destroying angel passing through to smite every house, and Jehovah the Protector keeping pace with him; and who, seeing the door of the Israelite marked with the blood, the token prescribed, leaps forward, throws himself with a sudden motion in the way, opposes the destroying angel, and covers and protects that house against the destroying angel, nor suffers him to smite it. In this way of considering the action, the beautiful similitude of the bird protecting her young answers exactly to the application by the allusion to the deliverance in Egypt. As the mother bird spreads her wings to cover her young, throws herself before them, and opposes the rapacious bird that assaults them, so shall Jehovah protect, as with a shield, Jerusalem from the enemy, protecting and delivering, springing forward and rescuing her; ὑπερβαινων , as the three other Greek interpreters, Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, render it. The Septuagint, περιποιησεται· instead of which MS. Pachom. has περιβησεται , circumeundo proteget, “in going about he shall protect, “which I think is the true reading. - Homer, 2 viii. 329, expresses the very same image by this word: -
Αιας δ ‘ ουκ αμελησε κασιγνητοιο πεσοντος,
Αλλα θεων περιβη, και οἱ σακος αμφεκαλυψε :
“ - But Ajax his broad shield displayed,
And screened his brother with a mighty shade.”
- Ὁς Χρυσην αμφιβεβηκας.
Which the scholiast explains by περιβεβηκας, ὑπερμαχεις , i.e., “Thou who strictly guardest Chryses.” - L. On this verse Kimchi says, “The angel of the Lord which destroyed the Assyrians is compared to a lion, Isaiah 31:4, for his strength: and here (Isaiah 31:5) to flying birds, for his swiftness.”
Have deeply revolted “Have so deeply engaged in revolt” - All the ancient Versions read תעמיקו (taamiku), in the second person, instead of העמיקו (heemiku), they have deeply revolted, etc.
Which your own hands have made unto you for a sin “The sin, which their own hands have made” - The construction of the word חטא (chet), (sin), in this place is not easy. The Septuagint have omitted it: MSS. Pachom. and 1. D. 2 and Cod. Marchal. in margine, supply the omission by the word ἁμαρτιαν , sin, or ἁμαρτημα , said to be from Aquila‘s Version, which I have followed. The learned Professor Schroeder, Institut. Ling. Hebrews p. 298, makes it to be in regimine with ידיכם (yedeychem), as an epithet, your sinful hands. The Septuagint render the pronoun in the third person, αἱ χειρες αυτων , their hands; and an ancient MS. has, agreeable to that rendering, להם (lahem), to them, for לכם (lachem), to you; which word they have likewise omitted, as not necessary to complete the sense.
Then shall the Assyrian fall, etc. - Because he was to be discomfited by the angel of the Lord, destroying in his camp, in one night, upwards of one hundred and eighty thousand men; and Sennacherib himself fell by the hands of the princes, his own sons. Not mighty men, for they were not soldiers; not mean men, for they were princes.