The Crisis of the Assyrian Captivity and the Extinction of Israel
This section is the most important document in the Isaiah files. If you understand this chapter properly it will unlock the rest of Isaiah for you. Chapter 9 verse one is the most important verse. We have therefore written a great deal, explaining it because it is pivotal to understanding the rest of Isaiah's style. It is not easy to say: but none of the modern translators have seen the import of this verse. Almost all make the mistake of making the contrast in verse one, a contrast of quality rather than of intensity. If you will read this chapter carefully and see the reasons why the contrast is as we state it you will then see clearly the changes in "scenes" between the Assyrians and the Messiah that Isaiah outlines. If you read anything with deliberation in these documents we recommend that you spend some quality time here. This same page containing the Hebrew square characters inserted along with the transliteration in the relevant places is in the next document on the menu.
8: 20 If they will not speak according to this word, which has no darkness in it, 21 Then they shall pass through this, hard pressed and hungry: and it shall be, that when they are hungry, they shall enrage themselves, and curse their king and their God, and turn from him above.
Verse 21: Turn from him above: This means that they reject Godly advice while they "look to the earth" for human answers, but only to their own anguish.
22 But they shall look to the earth; and find trouble and darkness, and they shall be driven to darkness and dimness of anguish;
Verse 22: Dimness of Anguish: Isaiah is noted for poetic hyperbole and the use of "play on words." The meaning of the text is often dependent on these untranslatable literary devices. Some times these are merely rhyming words which do not rhyme in translation and therefore the play upon words is missed. At other occasions there is the use of "double meaning" or a similarity in sound and meaning that continues the idea in the context of a passage as the form of the word may continue to be used to carry along what is being spoken about in the context. When the device of "double entendre" is connected to words that have similar written configuration and /or sound it is not possible to show it in translation as the translated words will have no such similarities and the original meaning is obscured or at least less certain, unless we are told. This is noticed by Keil and Delitzsch's commentary on Isaiah in the use of the terms that are repeated in Isaiah 8:22 - 9:1. There is a play on the Hebrew words: "mu'aph and mutsaq," that are properly commented on by Delitzsch as such a play on similar sounding and similar meaning words. The literary device of "play on words" is more pronounced in Isaiah than any other prophet. Rawlinson says:
"Play upon words is also a common feature in Hebrew literature but only a few of the sacred writers use it so frequently or give it such prominence as Isaiah...As, however, this ornament, depending generally on the assonance of the Hebrew words, is necessarily lost in translation and can only be appreciated by a Hebrew scholar, we do not propose further to dwell on it."*
Even though the subtlety of the use of play on words is lost in translation it should not be thought of as an ornament. It is a part of the inspired thought process and in at least one case it is a vehicle of miraculous revelation. (The use of the word Nazar or Branch) It is also an essential part of the connecting thoughts in the context of 8:22 to 9:2, where the sense is lost by not seeing the mind of Isaiah. "Play on words" establishes "dimness of anguish" as that which is left unmentioned in the contrasts of verse 9:1 following. It also makes it clearer that the verses are linked and it identifies the "first affliction" with Tiglath-pilezer. The "play on words" also requires that the contrast of the "second time" will also be "dimness of anguish."
This Verse is Pivotal to all of Chapters Seven through Twelve
1. Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her anguish, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
1. Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her anguish, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
Verse 9:1: Nevertheless the dimness: This verse, is verse 23 of the preceding chapter in the Masoretic Hebrew text. Probably because the word "dimness" is related to, or is in a contrast of a "play on words" with, the "dimness of anguish" in verse 22 above. Thus it is understood that the anguish (dimness) produced by the events described in chapter 8 above, was fulfilled when the king of Assyria (Tiglath-pilezer) devastated Galilee and took captive that portion of the nation of Israel and invaded but did not conquer the nation of Judah. That anguish, Isaiah says, is nothing when compared with that anguish which will be produced by the one who will afterward or later on "afflict" the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Indeed, Isaiah says, the affliction of the Assyrian king is light when compared with the Messiah who will bring a great light to those sitting in darkness when he more grievously "afflicts" the same area. The verse is not as easily understood when disconnected with what goes before but neither is it to be disconnected with what comes after. The chapter division is in the wrong place in both the English and the Masoretic texts. There is a continuance of thought from verse 22 above which obviously runs through 9: 2 of the English text that continues to the first part of verse 5. The terms "light" and "heavy" refer to two different afflictions. One was the first affliction of the King of Assyria and the other one, that Isaiah says was to be in the future from his time, was to be heavy and include the Gentiles. The Hebrew text plainly shows that there is a "first"and a "latter" "affliction" and that these two are in contrast. The contrast of the play on words using different forms of "dimness" and :"anguish" confirms that "affliction" is a better choice of translation for what is in contrast than the "glorification" which is the choice of other translators. In this case the KJV is by far to be preferred as is explained in the next footnotes. The chapter division hinders seeing the meaning of Isaiah.
Verse 1: At the first he: In this passage "when at the first HE lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali," who is "he"? It is God, or Immanuel, who acts both before and after. Obviously it is God who uses the Assyrian king as his agent of punishment in the first instance and the Messiah in the second.. YHWH used the Assyrian king as his instrument of affliction the "first time" but Matthew applies the "second time" to Jesus' ministry on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee at Capernaum where the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali meet at the sea of Galilee.
Matthew 4:13-16 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: 14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, 15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, [by] the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; 16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
Verse 1: "When at the first he lightly afflicted the land of " [Heb. ka-eth ha-ri'shon heqal eretsah] Lit: "As or when at the first time he lightly treated the land..." "First time" is in the Hebrew text. "Afflicted" is not. It understood from "dimness of anguish" above.
Verse 1: "And afterward did more grievously afflict her ..."
(Heb. ve-ha-'acharon hikbiyd)
The whole phrase above translates the Hebrew construction below it.
The word "time" (as the second time) is in the context having been introduced in the first part of the contrast so that two "times" are contrasted. No quality for what is to be caused is mentioned here since that has been held in the context of the whole passage. It is "dimness of anguish" that will be lightly administered the first time and the same "dimness of anguish" is still in the context to be administered "more heavily" the latter time.
The rest of the passage follows: (Heb. ve-ha'acharon hikbiyd derek hayam 'ever hayarden galil haggoiyim. Lit.: "and the latter time he caused heavy treatment the way of the sea, over the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles."
The word "afflicted" is certainly implied but is not in the actual text. It is implied where it is introduced in vs 22 above in the "dimness of anguish." Each word in my translation following, except for those in italics, has a corresponding Hebrew form in the original text. The text is completely translated, there are no extra words not in italics.
Nevertheless the dimness of anguish shall not be like her anguish when he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali the first time, but the latter time he will cause a heavy affliction the way of the seaside, over the Jordan in Galilee of the Gentiles.
Verse 1: More grievously: The word "Hikbiyd" is translated "more grievously" in the KJV. Supporting this view, every biblical occurrence of this same construction (hikbiyd) is translated "made heavy." Thus in 1Kings 12:10, 14; and 2 Chron. 10:10 where the text says "Your father (hikbiyd) made our yoke heavy" and "My father (hikbiyd) made your yoke heavy." Lamentations 3:7 also renders it "make heavy" "you (hikbiyd) made my chain (or fetters of brass) heavy" The NIV has "weighed me down with chains" in Lamentations but renders the identical construction by the words "will honor" in Isa. 9:1. Further reason for preferring the former rather than the NIV rendering in this verse is explained in the next comments, beside the fact that no where else is it translated as "to honor" or "glorify." This word is used as a verb in Isaiah 47:6 (Heb. hikbadte) referring to the Assyrian nation treating even old people with harshness (Isa. 47:6 KJV "I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand: thou didst shew them no mercy; upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke."
. Verse 1: Afflict anguish not glory: The ASV, NASV, NIV, and others translate this verse as a contrast but make the second a contrast of quality not quantity. The KJV uses "lightly and "more grievously" as a contrast of quantity. Only the NKJV among the popular translations agrees with the KJV. The Hebrew words can be translated "light" and "heavy" with "affliction" or "despair" as the quality that is to be treated in a lesser and greater degree. "Anguish" is the idea understood from the context that is in contrast, but neither the word "anguish" nor the word "afflict" are in the text after either of the contrasting words (first light, and latter heavy). The NASV makes a contrast of the concept of affliction and misery in the first visitation with the second and different quality of glorifying the same region. The Hebrew word "hikbiyd" can either mean "to more heavily cause" something or it may mean "to cause glory" but as we have shown it is never used this way in the Scriptures. The context of the passage in question introduces and carries the meaning of the first or KJV rendering. The contrast is one of the quantity of the "dimness of anguish" introduced in 8:22 and continued in the contrast of 9:1. "Never the less the dimness" has got to mean the dimness of distress and anguish are in contrast. Thus no quality is expressed in the text after "lightly" and more grievously." The first "dimness of anguish," is light anguish, the second is greater "anguish," not glory. Jesus' visitation to the same area was the beginning of his "striking the earth with the "rod of his mouth" and "slaying the wicked with the breath of his lips." (Isa. 11:4) So great is the destructive forces of Immanuel, to the wicked, using the "Sword of the Lord" that it is seen in contrast, as much greater than the destruction wrought by Tiglath-pilezer which utterly annialated the inhabitants of Galilee and Gilead in 731 B.C. It is true that Jesus brought glory to the area of Galilee but the translation that makes this verse say so is an interpretive translation and based on isolating hikbiyd, from the context and is not based on the contextual meaning required in this text.
. Verse 1: In conclusion, in this passage there are two times of affliction and they are contrasted. The latter messianic affliction is greater in dimension to that which was inflicted by a series of invasions of the Assyrians under Tiglath-pilezer in the 8th century B.C. when he depopulated the land and deported two thirds of Israel (the northern kingdom) when six of the nine tribes were taken into captivity. Samaria with three remaining tribes survived. But he set the stage for a few years later when his successor Shalmanezzar began the siege of Samaria in 724 B.C. which Sargon II completed in the overthrow of Samaria and the deportation of the remaining tribes three years later in 722 B.C.
The second or more grievous messianic affliction is fulfilled spiritually when Jesus struck the area with "the rod of his mouth." (See 11:4) Although there are some possible literal applications, because Jesus uttered woes against three of the cities, Capernaum, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and these either lie uninhabited in ruins or can not be found at all. Magdala and Tiberius, as examples, were not under any pronouncement of woe and they have continued as places of habitation without interruption to this day; but this series of contrasts between the visitations of first, the Assyrians, and afterward, the Messiah, emphasizes the spiritual nature of the Messiah's coming and not physical destructive force which, God says, is not to be compared with that which is inflicted by the Messiah..
2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined.
Verse 2: The people that walked in darkness: Verse two is a parenthesis which is attached to the latter or second "affliction" and is so interpreted as such by Matthew. What is primarily spoken about in these chapters is the imminent Assyrian invasion and extinction of the kingdom of Israel of the 8th century B.C. Thus the contrast of the second and more serious affliction of the future is a parenthesis in the main discourse while elements of the contrast are continued. Thus verses 3 to 5 follow and refer to YHWH's use of the Assyrians to punish Israel but then places it in contrast again to the latter or second or messianic affliction of Immanuel, which is one of fire. The switch from the first to the second is in the last part of verse five below.
Assyrian Assault on Israel Described
3 You have multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before you like the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
Verse 3: You have multiplied the nation, [Assyria increased its borders with cruel bloodshed] and not increased the joy: [those conquered had extreme anguish] they joy before you [your own troops] like the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. [because they have won so much.]
4 For you have broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the scepter of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.
Verse 4: His Oppressor: The preposition and pronoun [Heb. bo] which follows "oppressor" is not "of his" as translated in the KJV but rather "with it" or "by it." Of the 355 times the word appears in the Old Testament this is its most common meaning. Of the thirty times Isaiah uses the word it is always used objectively and not possessively as it is in this verse. In Isaiah it is most often translated "in it." There it carries this sense in 9 of the 30 occurrences, and makes the pronoun a simple object of a transitive verb 4 times, and the rest of the occurrences are translated: "against him," "upon it," "among them," etc. The word "oppressor" in Hebrew is a participle which is a verbal cognate. Thus it is an action word and this verse speaks of the destruction of Israel's power by the Assyrians who "have broken his yoke of servitude, and his tribal insignia , and the ruling scepter by which he oppresses." Even if we would concede (without any biblical example) that it could be translated "of his" the sense would still be that Assyria has broken the scepter "of his oppressing." It is not speaking of Immanuel's protection of Israel but of the Assyrian overthrow of Israel which is final, complete and absolute.
Verse 4: Day of Midian: Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. Ju. 7:28 The same figure of the destruction wrought by Israel is applied to their future destruction at the hands of the Assyrians. This figure of the completeness of overthrow and destruction refers to Israel, not as the victor but as the victim. Verses 3 through the first part of 5 describe the Assyrian assault on Israel and their complete control. The figure used to illustrate the degree of defeat is of the complete route of all the forces of Midian under Gideon when the Midianites were completely defeated and their kings were taken and killed. And that is what Assyria did to Israel and is what is described here. The same figure is used of Assyria's future downfall (in 10:26) which Isaiah said will parallel, in many ways, the destruction of Israel, particularly in the suddenness with which they will suffer extinction in the same degree as the "10 tribes." But their downfall would not come at the hands of an extinct Israel. Israel never overthrew Assyria, ever. It is a mistake to apply this figure in this place to a victory for Israel. The figure,"the day of Midian" illustrates the completeness of the overthrow of Israel by the Assyrians. Commentators miss the point when they see Isaiah's remarks as a confusing array of thoughts instead of the contrast between the two visitations of the Assyrians and the Messiah to the same region and people. The same commentators have influenced translators who remove the switch from the Assyrian battle to the Messiah's battle and victory in the contrast in verse 5 and make the switch to the description of the coming Messiah look as though it is inserted out of nowhere. This mistake begins in 9:1 with the "interpretive" translation that makes the contrast one of dishonor verses honor instead of extent of the result of the visitation, ie. light and heavy. See 10:26 and notes there for the application of the figure to the destruction of Assyria.
5a For every battle of warfare is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood;
Verse 5: Thus far, from verse three, it refers to the Assyrians who bring a bloody onslaught against the land of Galilee but what follows is the latter affliction in the same area wrought with fire which is in contrast with that of the Assyrians as introduced in 8:21 through 9:2.
Contrasted With Messiah's Visitation
5b but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.
Verse 5b: But this: The second affliction, which Matthew says is fulfilled in the ministry of Christ. The switch from the Assyrians anguish to the Messiah and back again is illustrated here in a very pronounced and abrupt way. The Assyrian assault is "garments rolled in blood." But "this one with burning and fuel of fire" is immediately followed with information that is incredibly messianic. "For unto us a Child is born etc." "this" is a word that is supplied by the KJV translators which suggests they understood a contrast is called for by the use of a feminine verb that "this" is attached to. The figure of fire as a picture of messianic motivation is mentioned here and in 4:4 and 10:17. See next note.
Verse 5b: "Shall be" is Heb. "Hayetha" a feminine Perfect (past tense) verb. The subject of the verb has not been stated. Thus the KJV translators provided the word "this" to refer ahead to the kind of spiritual battle the Messiah will bring which the contrasting verb introduces. "Battle" and "warfare" in the first part of the verse are both masculine and can not be the subject, so the feminine verb requires "this" to show that a different sort of battle will introduce the Son of Righteousness. The Masoretic translation supplies "this" since the contrast is also seen by them. Modern translators missed the contrast in verse one and therefore fail to carry it forward. They may follow the Septuagint which has a confusing rendering and is difficult to harmonize with the Masoretic text which is confirmed by the identical forms in the Qumran text.. The LXX which is faulty here reads: "because all equipment has been gathered in confusion and a garment with exchange shall be taken off, and they will wish that they became fire-fuel." But fire is what characterizes the child to be born whose description gives further information about Immanuel already introduced several times. (See 4:4; 5:5; and 10:17.)
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Verse 6: For The Hebrew word, "for" Heb. "kiy" (meaning because, that or for) which begins this verse requires it to be linked to the preceding clause. Like any "because" introduces an explanation of that which goes before this one also is linked to the "burning and fire fuel" of the preceding verse. The correct reading is as provided by the Masoretic and KJV texts. "But this one shall be with burning and fuel of fire, because unto us a child is born and a son is given... etc."
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
The Rest of the Chapter Reverts to the First or Assyrian Assault.
8. The Lord sent a word to Jacob, and it has lighted upon Israel. 9 And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart,
Verse 8: "Sent a word:" Heb. "dabar" it means "word" but as "deber" it means "pestilence." The LXX chooses the latter, using Gr. "thanaton" or "death" for Heb "DBR". In this announcement, in either case (either a message or a scourge of death) it marks the switch back to the first Assyrian visitation introduced first by warnings in chapters seven and eight and contrasted with the messianic mission beginning in 9:1. The second half of 9:1 and all of 9:2 refers to the messianic visit. The Assyrian attack on Israel is then spoken of again from 9:3 to 9:5a. The move back to the messianic visit is described in 9:5b through 9:7. The rest of the chapter 9:8 through verse 34 speaks of the Assyrians and earthly punishments related to the rise and fall of Assyria in which also a future return of the natural nation of Israel is promised. Chapter 11:1 marks the return of Isaiah's pen to the description of the coming of Immanuel, the branch of David. The move reciprocating between the current threat of Assyria to the future messianic kingdom will continue to be a part of the style of this book.
Verse 9: Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria: This is a historical note that makes it plain that the people he speaks to is the northern kingdom and it is still before their captivity by the Assyrians, since Ephraim did not inhabit Samaria after 722 B.C. ever again. What follows therefore is a prophetic picture of the same series of events introduced in chapter seven, events imminent to Isaiah, leading to the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel and the dispersion of the northern tribes into the cities of the Median mountains.
10 The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.
Verse 10: We have only lost a few bricks: The tribes east of the Jordan had already been taken captive, when these words were penned, and that was followed shortly by the devastation of Galilee which left the tribes of Ephraim, Issachar, the half tribe of Manasseh and Asher in Mount Ephraim and the capitol of Samaria. Pekah then considered that the loss was "not too bad." The loss was "bricks" as compared to "hewn stones." Compare this verse with the loss of some of the tribes while others remained that is indicated in 2 Chron. 30:6 and 31:6. Hezekiah invited those of the remaining tribes to worship at Jerusalem. The time can be surmised by the names of the tribes who were not invited because they had already been lost to the Assyrians.
11 Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together;
Verse 11: Adversaries of Rezin: Not the Assyrians but guerilla forces of factions in his own country. See next verse where Syrians and Philistines join the assault on Israel while Israel was still allied with Rezin.
12 The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this God's anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
Verse 12: The Syrians before and the Philistines behind: The context is still one where the northern kingdom of Israel is the subject of the many calamities that are coincident with the Assyrian invasions. Guerilla Syrian forces which were not loyal to Rezin are spoken of in the preceding verse. Philistine (Hebrew: Philishtiym) forces were harassing Judah in this period and they may have penetrated also to a weakened Samaria to add one more horror to the already escalating series of calamities befalling Israel. 2 Kings 17:20 supports the idea of many groups harassing Israel before the final fall. It says: "And the LORD rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until he had cast them out of his sight."
The LXX makes what is a remarkable interpretation here and substitutes Gr. "Hellaenas" (Greeks) for Philistines. The LXX reads: "Syrians from the rising of the sun and Greeks from the going down of the sun." This is not only a remarkable insertion which was done in 285 B.C. during the sovereignty of the Greek Empire, but it is illustrative of the method of interpretive translation that characterized the LXX translators. The same liberty is taken by modern translators who adopt a "dynamic parallelism" method. The NIV and the NASV are examples of two important translations using this method. For another illustration of loose interpretive translation see 9:19 below.
The word Philistines appears also in 2:6 and 11:14. The LXX translators use the word "allophulon" in each of these cases for Philistines. The word means "foreign race." They never use the Philistine name in Isaiah. In 11:14 the LXX uses the words "a race of foreign seafarers" for Philistines. For the LXX use of the word "Palestine" and a possible reason why they translated it (hoi allophuloi, the foreigners) see notes under 14:28-31.
Verse 12: His hand is stretched out still: Woes added to the dimness of anguish: 9:8-12 This continues the series of woes that the nation of Israel is to suffer as a result of seeking human answers instead of trusting in God and His word. The series was introduced in 5:25 warning of an invasion causing the death and destruction and dishonor of many. This is described in 8:22 - 9:1 above and is identified as the invasion of Tiglath-pilezer into Galilee. Much of the history of this period is known from the Assyrian Inscriptions. Much detail that is not in the Assyrian inscriptions is supplied and supplemented in the visions of Isaiah. Here we get the information that while Tiglath-pilezer was attacking the allies, Rezin and Pekah, (Damascus and Israel) when portions of Galilee were already lost, that Pekah, at least, considered the loss as small consequence to himself. He concluded that he would rebuild Samaria stronger with greater defenses, enough to resist further attack. Indeed, Samaria did with stand a three year siege only a few years later. However Pekah's weakened position at this time attracted other invaders from the Philistines and factions of Syrian forces who were resisting Rezin. But this further anguish, added to the loss of Galilee, would not be the end of the calamities God would allow to be brought on sinning Israel. "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." The next woe in the series follows.
13 For the people do not turn to the One who strikes them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts.
Verse 13: The One who strikes them: Not the Assyrians but Emmanuel. It is he who has determined that Israel is to suffer and that His land is to be entered by the Assyrians and that they will serve Him in the mission he has sent them on. As in the last part of chapter 8 above-- "they look to the earth" for answers instead of to the one who is directing the course of human events.
14 Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day.
15 The ancient and honorable is the head; and the prophet that teaches lies, is the tail.
16 For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led by them are destroyed.
17 Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall he have mercy on their fatherless and widows: for every one is a hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
Verse 16: More woes added to the dimness of anguish--corrupt leaders: 9:13-17 Here God again declares himself as the one who is bringing these calamities. The reason: because the punishments have not turned the people to him. Since they continue in their abandonment of the source of their help he will allow further calamities to overtake them. Their leaders are completely corrupt and willing to sacrifice any amount of the inhabitants of the nation for their own self preservation. The people are sold out by their leaders. But this does not end the series of punishments since the nation still does not look to the Lord. This series will only end with the complete destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel and their extinction as a political entity.
18 For wickedness burns as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke.
Verse 18: Sin has within itself the seeds of its own destruction.
19 Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother.
Verse 19: LXX translation here reads: "Because of hot wrath, The LORD Sabaoth has burned up the whole earth, and the people shall be as, having been burned up by fire." The word in the Hebrew text "darkened" is made to be "burned up" and the word "hosts" in the phrase "the LORD of Hosts" is transliterated "Sabaoth" as in almost all other occurrences in Isaiah, from "YHWH Tsebaoth." The word has no reference to the sabbath. (See verse 12 above)
20 And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm: 21 Manasseh against Ephraim; and Ephraim against Manasseh: and they together shall be against Judah. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
Verse 21: More woes--anarchy and civil war--added to the dimness of anguish: 9:18 - 21. More calamities of a destructive nature are poured on Israel at this same period (approximately 734 to 722 B.C.) for a little more than ten years. The evil of Idolatry produced such factionalism so that in the time of distress compatriots turned on each other instead of the enemy. Civil war among the factions in Israel itself constantly were breaking out and there was a fast turnover of rulers involving bloodshed in the transition of power from Menehem on. His son Pekahiah, was assassinated by Pekah who was overthrown and killed by Hoshea. The civil wars, corrupt leaders who sacrificed large portions of the nation, the invading Syrian guerrillas and the Philistine marauders and other bands attacking the land, happened at the same time as the expansion of the Assyrian kings who were worst of all. As in the siege of Jerusalem under Titus in 70 A.D. more Jews were killed by the Jewish factions within the city than by the Romans. So in the time of the Assyrian attacks, Ephraim pitted himself against his brother Manasseh instead of against the enemy. But even this extremity did not, according to verse 21, end the "dimness of anguish" of this dark period. Nor did it end God's direct dealing using the Assyrians as the "rod of his anger." (See 10:5.) For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. There was more to come from the hand of a wrathful God. The series continues in 10:6 after giving more reasons why the woes have befallen the nation so catastrophically through 10:5. The woes and further calamity due to internal political corruption and hopelessness due to collapsed alliances which leave them helpless are in 10:1-5. They are now completely at the nonexistent mercy of the Assyrians who are "the rod of God's anger."
*Rawlinson, G.; Commentary on Isaiah in Pulpit Commentary; Erdmans, pg xiv.
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