An Exposition Of Isaiah

An Exposition with a New Version

William Kelly

AN EXPOSITION WITH A NEW VERSION

 

SECTION 1: ISAIAH 1 TO 12

 

Isaiah 1

 

The opening appeal of the prophet is to the conscience. No reader can avoid seeing that through Isaiah Jehovah charges His people with ungrateful, enormous, and persistent rebellion. It is the more terrible, because it is expressly general. There were marked differences between Uzziah and Jotham, between Ahaz and Hezekiah yet more and deeper. But the state of His people before the Holy One of Israel all through could not be truly described in terms less scathing. in themselves they were hopelessly evil; and one of the most pious of Judah's kings, prompt beyond all (2 Chr. 29: 3) to care for Jehovah's honour and will, and large‑hearted enough to embrace of all the tribes those who humbled themselves before Him Whom they had long despised, gave the occasion for most solemn appeal. Granted that no one can fix a special epoch, or an outbreak of iniquity of peculiar malignity. Even this, however deplorable, is not so desperate as a continuous state of alienation, where their corruption was the companion of despite done to Him Who had ever watched over them with a patience and tender mercy as perfect as His righteousness; His chastenings only preceded revolt more and more. Not even intense misery drew out groans to Him. Israel was utterly insensible to their loathsome wounds and mortal disease at His hands Who loved them, Whose readiness to heal was set at naught by their callous indifference. The body politic, civic and rural, was a disastrous ruin and desolation; and Zion's daughter left as a temporary booth, instead of sitting for ever in royal grace above all rivals as became the favoured of Jehovah. In short, but for Him Whose title is to rule heaven and earth, and Who was pleased to reserve a very small residue, they had been as the doomed cities of the Plain.

But is this the gospel? or is such a national appeal in the least degree according to its spirit, or the revealed examples of those who preached it? Is it not evident from the Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, etc., as well as the Acts of the Apostles, that the gospel is sent forth by God's grace, on the provedruin of Jew no less than of Greek, to proclaim God's righteousness in Christ (now that man's unrighteousness is beyond dispute) unto all, and upon all that believe? Here probation still goes on under the law, as the rule of Jehovah's government of His people. Their sins and their sufferings are urgently pressed home, and that mercy which is mingled with His law, as declared in Ex. 32‑34, is before the prophet in pleading with the people perseveringly. Yet was he well aware that the mass would still stumble at the word, being disobedient, madly rushing to destruction, and that a very small residue would hear and in the end be blessed and triumph, when Jehovah would intervene for that double issue. This, however, is in no way what the gospel now makes known to the believer, but the display of Him Who is coming to bring in together the acceptable year of Jehovah, and the day of vengeance of our God: not the mysteries, but the manifestation, of the kingdom of the heavens. The judgement of the wicked, and the restoration of the righteous remnant are here joined, which is a state of things wholly foreign to the gospel, as every Christian knows. And our hopes are as different from theirs, as heaven is higher than the earth. They will look for the Messiah to restore the kingdom to Israel in that day of the earth's glory, as He surely will, and from Zion to rule all the nations; but we hope to be with Him in the Father's house, though we shall also reign over the earth. Those who merge both in one, not only defraud the Lord of His earthly reign, and Israel of the promises for them and the land, but lower and lose the heavenly glory of Christ and the church, which is our proper position. And this loss is Satan's aim and success, ever since the apostles were succeeded by men who corrupted the truth.

Here, as elsewhere, we find grave and precious instruction, humbling lessons for the heart of man, and on God's part unfailing pity and long‑suffering, but withal solemn and sure judgement of all evil. Everywhere and at all times God's character shines out to the eye of faith, as His glory will to "every eye" in a day which hastens fast. But the only wise God has been pleased to bring out His mind and display His ways in a variety of forms, which create no small perplexity to the narrow mind and unready heart of man. Some are apt to forget the past, as if the revelation of present privilege were all; many more would merge the actual calling of God in a vague amalgam, a truly unintelligent monotony, which confounds Israel and the church, law and gospel, earth and heaven, grace and glory. Here it is national dealing throughout: national apostasy with vain religious self‑complacency; as it will be national judgement, and national restoration for a remnant, by Jehovah Himself in the day of the Lord's return.

Doubtless, now that the Son of God has appeared, it is meet that we should hear Him; and it is vain to talk of honouring the law and prophets, Moses or Elias, if He have not the central and supreme place in our hearts. And it is to hear Him, if we believe that the Spirit of truth is come to guide into all truth; much of which even apostles could not bear, till redemption was accomplished and the Son of man ascended where He was before. It is due, therefore, to the New Testament that we should look for our special portion there, the revelation of that mystery which was hid from ages and from generations. But we cannot forget, without dishonour to God and loss to our souls, that there are certain moral principles which never change, any more than God can act or speak beneath Himself, whatever may be His condescension to the creature.

Thus obedience is always the right pathway for the faithful, and holiness is inseparable from the new nature; but then the character of the obedience and the depth of the holiness necessarily depend on the measure of light given of God and the power of the motives He reveals for working on the heart. What was allowed in Levitical time and order is largely out of place now, if we heed the Saviour's authority. And this is at least as strikingly true of the public worship and service of God as of private life and duty. In many measures and in many modes He spoke in the prophets to the fathers; now He has spoken in the person of His Son. Hence unbelief assumes the character of resistance to the fullest love, light, authority, and wisdom, revealed in Him Who is the image of the invisible God - Himself God over all, blessed for ever; while the faith, which has bowed to Him thus displayed, loves to hear the earlier oracles and to reflect the true light which now shines, along with the fainter but equally divine luminaries which pierced through the darkness of man's night; for all the blessed promises of God are now verified in Christ.

The title is, "The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, kings of Judah" (ver. 1). This gives unity to the entire collection, as distinguished from particular dates, as in Isa. 6: 1; Isa. 7: 1; Isa. 14: 28; Isa. 20: 1. In strict accordance with all, the first chapter then has a more general character than any other in the book. It most pathetically accuses the people and the capital and the sanctuary of the grossest ingratitude.

By the prophet before us God is still dealing with His people as a body; and therefore He pleads with them because of their iniquities, setting forth a full, searching, and even minute portraiture of their evil ways. For if prophecy encourages the faithful by the sure word of coming blessing from the Lord, it casts a steady and convicting light on the actual state of those who bear His name; its hopes strengthen those who bow to its holy sentences. Hence, if handled in a godly and reverent manner, it never can be popular, though notions drawn from it and used excitingly may be so. But the Spirit addresses it to the conscience in God's presence, and there is nothing man as such shrinks from more.

If it grieved Jehovah at His heart to behold man's wickedness great in the earth and to blot him out from the face of the ground, what was it now for Him thus to despair of the chosen people full of disease and wounds? For though He smote, they were but hardened, and revolted more and more. And outward disasters completely failed, though He had allowed it so far that only His mercy hindered destruction as unsparing as that which befell the doomed cities, Sodom and Gomorrah. How very small the residue! Compared with the days of David and Solomon, how evil and fallen even now!

Need the details be pointed out in further proof of these remarks? "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for Jehovah hath spoken: I have nourished and brought up children; and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. Ah! sinful nation; a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil‑doers, children corrupting themselves. They have forsaken Jehovah; they have despised the Holy One of Israel; they are estranged backward. Why be smitten any more? Ye will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head, there is no soundness in it (or him): wounds, and weals, and open sores - they have not been closed, nor bound up, nor mollified with oil. Your country [is] desolate; your cities [are] burned with fire; your ground, strangers devour it in your presence, and [it is] desolate, as overthrown by strangers. And the daughter of Zion is left as a booth in a vineyard, as a lodge in a melon‑field, as a besieged city. Unless Jehovah of hosts had left us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, we should have resembled Gomorrah" (vv 2‑9).

So the law‑giver in his song (Deut. 32: 1) called the heavens and the earth to give ear, as he proclaimed the name of Jehovah, and set before the people that searching glance into the future which, through divine power, took in the failure and ruin of Israel. Moses sees Jehovah judging Israel's idolatry, and hiding His face from them, also the call of the Gentiles, but to provoke them to jealousy, not to give them up for ever; and at length His glorious intervention, both to deliver them and the land, and to execute judgement on their adversaries, while in the end causing the nations to rejoice with His people. Isaiah was given to fill up that magnificent outline, bringing in Messiah and His work and His reign in the clearest and richest way for all that have eyes to see. Here it is the dark picture of their sins. What an expostulation from God and for God! Heaven and earth are summoned to hear the complaint against His people. The dullest of their own beasts of burden put them to shame. God's chastenings were as vain as His gracious training. The body politic was utterly diseased and loathsome from head to foot; medicine and remedial measures quite neglected. Country and town a waste and scene of devastation; the ground eaten up by strangers; the daughter of Zion no longer enjoying that holy fortress, but left in distress and isolation like a city besieged. But that Jehovah had left a very little residue, we (says the prophet) had been as Sodom and like Gomorrah. Sudden and complete destruction was their deserved doom. The last chapters of the prophecy, like others throughout, attest the judgement executed by fire on the mass, the remnant also delivered and blessed as Jehovah's servants under His righteous Servant.

It is the Jew, not the church, throughout that is in question. Zion measures the privilege and the guilt of Judah. Nowhere in scripture is it applied to the church, which is Christ's body. In Heb. 12: 22 this is distinguished from Zion; and Rev. 14. sets Zion forth quite distinctly from those already glorified above as the church then is. In Matt. 20: 15; John 12: 15; Rom. 9: 33; 1 Peter 2: 6, the word has its historical sense. And so it is with Rom. 11: 26. To read the church in any of these instances would yield no right meaning. And these are all the occurrences in the New Testament.

But has not such an appeal to Judah a voice for us? It is not only that the church of God began to be called out and formed when all was a failure: man, Israel, the world, were judged morally in the cross. But besides for us, too, the house of God is in disorder. The last time of many antichrists is long since come. The Christian witness has more deeply and widely departed from God than the Jewish one, notwithstanding immensely greater privileges. What remains but judgement for the mass, with the reserve of grace for those who humble themselves under God's mighty hand? Does this produce hardness of feeling? On the contrary a spirit of intercession is the invariable companion of a holy heed to prophecy, both of them the offspring of communion with God. He loves His people too well to look with indifference on their sins, of all men's; He must vindicate His outraged majesty, and those who are in the secret of His mind cannot but go forth in importunate desire for the good of souls and the glory of the Lord. But real love has no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; rather does it reprove them. Neither does that love which is of God measure sin as nature does, but feels first and most that which slights Himself, His character, and His word

As to Israel, they were more guilty than the heathen, as bad as the worst. Hence it is no longer the doom, but the abominations of Sodom and Gomorrah. "Hear the word of Jehovah, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith Jehovah: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he‑goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to trample my courts? Bring no more vain oblations: incense is an abomination unto me; new moon and Sabbath, the calling of assemblies, - I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear [them]. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes. Cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgement, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith Jehovah: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken" (vv. 10‑20).

There was no lack of zeal in religion, nor did they fail to seek a remedy for the evident gravities of their day; but their remedies were worse than useless. Divine privileges only rendered their moral state more portentous and intolerable. If they approached the doom of Sodom but for Jehovah's mercy, morally they were already Sodom, and, therefore, their sacrifices, feasts, and assemblies all the more odious to Jehovah, Who felt His courts to be profaned by their tread, and refused to hear their multiplied prayers. There was no real repentance, no trembling at His word, but a religious veil over utter and shameless iniquity.

Yet Jehovah deigns to call them to repentance and the fruits suited to it. The language is clearly founded on the ceremonial washings so familiar to the Jews; but moral reality is the point, as is immediately after made plain. God can tolerate iniquity nowhere, least of all in His people. They must therefore cease from evil and learn to do well, proving it in ways of ordinary life. But He adds withal a gracious invitation that He and they should reason together. Soon would they then find where the fault lay, and with Whom is the grace that is willing to wash the foulest clean. The call ends with His promise to help them if they were broken down and obedient, and the threat to devour them by the sword if they refused. In the earlier of these verses there is much which we can freely take to ourselves now, for the immutable principle of God is to ally repentance to faith, and to insist on suitable works and ways in all whom He draws to Himself. Particularly do the words apply to saints who shirk responsibility and trifle with a pure conscience; and we may fairly encourage timid souls by the words "Come now, and let us reason together, saith Jehovah: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." But we necessarily stop there. Vers. 19 and 20 cannot be torn away from the Jewish stock. Christians have ample appeals, and more direct in the later volume of inspiration. For God's moral government as Father follows His grace.

The universal corruption of Jerusalem, and of its rulers especially, is then laid bare. "How is the faithful city become a harlot! she that was full of judgement, righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers. Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water. Thy princes [are] rebellious, and companions of thieves; every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them" (vv. 21‑23). Finally Jehovah shows He must deal with His adversaries, as well as Himself restore Zion, when idols and their makers perish together under His mighty hand. Their present state of ruin is contrasted with what it was and what it is to be. "Therefore saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies. And I will turn my hand on thee and thoroughly purge away thy dross, and take away all thine alloy. And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: after that shalt thou be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful town. Zion shall be redeemed with judgement, and her converts with righteousness. But the destruction of the transgressors and the sinners [shall be] together; and those that forsake Jehovah shall be consumed. For they shall be ashamed of the terebinths which ye desired, and ye shall blush for the gardens that ye have chosen. For ye shall be as a terebinth whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water. And the strong shall be as tow and his work as a spark; and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench [them]" (vv. 24-31).

The promise and judgement go far beyond the circumstances before and after the Babylonish captivity. The last fiery trial of Israel is in view, which grace will use for spiritual refining; after which will follow the times of restitution of all things, when the former rule shall come to Zion (Micah 4), the kingdom to the daughter of Jerusalem. It is a comprehensive preface of the prophet to his entire prophecy. But it is in no way the gospel as now, which is grace reigning through righteousness unto life eternal by Jesus Christ our Lord. Here it is destructive judgement executed on the evil, when the repentant remnant of the Jews enjoy God's mercy. This is beyond cavil the bearing of the address, and the only just inference from its terms. What God has thus joined, let not man sunder to suit the present dealing of God in Christianity. Only "in that day" will Jehovah restore the judges and the counsellors of Jerusalem as at the beginning, and the city itself be one of righteousness and fidelity. In that day shall Zion be redeemed with judgement and her converts with righteousness, coincidentally with the execution of Vengeance on the wicked and her idols. It is a victory reserved for Christ's appearing in the consummation of the age. Jerusalem must be purged before God can make her a centre of the nations. It is Christ there in power which accounts for all.

All believers thankfully acknowledge how much is shared by the faithful on earth from the beginning to the end of time. There is but one object of faith for all, though made known in very different measures before and since redemption, and in ways so distinct as the day of the displayed kingdom must be from preceding time and especially from the present. Hence none need cavil at Jerome's calling our prophet evangelical, as compared with his fellows, or wonder at the countless gospel discourses preached from this chapter and many more. But the important thing exegetically is to observe the essential differences which prove that not the gospel but God's ways with His ancient people, strictly speaking, are intended. Thus in the first paragraph (vv. 2‑9) the appeal is national, whereas the gospel is strictly individual, though the house may be joined in a spirit of grace to its head. In the second (vv. 10‑20) Jehovah declares He will hide in anger from their hypocritical worship. Now, since the grace of redemption, this is never said of the Christian. God did hide His face from, yea forsake, Him Who is our propitiation, and for this very reason when God made Him sin for us; but it was that we might never be thus abandoned. But He did abandon guilty Israel. In the third (vv. 21‑31) He promises that "Zion shall be redeemed with judgement, and they that return of her with righteousness." This characterises the redemption which will be, not only as a witness by the blood of the Saviour Who rose again, but with the mighty execution of God's judgement of His adversaries when He with lye purges away Israel's dross. So confirms all the context to the last verse. It is the distinctions, not of course the resemblances, which mark off the varying dispensations or ages one from another.

But no Christian ought to need proof how different is the ground of the gospel from such an intervention of Jehovah as the prophet describes here, and almost everywhere else. For moral probation is closed; law can only condemn those under it. All alike are lost; every mouth is stopped, and all the world under judgement to God. The Lord Jesus, the Son of God, sent as Man in the infinite love of God, has been by all rejected and crucified. Yet the judgement of sins and sinners was then and there laid on Him; and God is so glorified in His sacrificial death that He can and does proclaim to everyone that believes life eternal in His name, remission of sins, justification, and salvation as everlasting as glory. Such is the new state of things under the gospel and for the church, which meanwhile suffers with Christ, and waits for His coming to take us on high; whence He will appear in due time to judge the habitable earth, and introduce His kingdom before every eye here below, and over all nations and lands.

But our prophet, like the rest, predicts that day of His appearing to judge living man on earth, and deliver a remnant, here of Jews, as elsewhere of Gentiles also, for His manifested reign, when no evil will be tolerated but righteousness is exalted under His dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. Divine judgement will not be on Him, as the gospel we know is based on; but then at length, as the new and predominant fact in God's ways, He will judge His people in a way beyond all past experience, and put down the wicked both there and outside them throughout the world, as He alone can, and thus establish His kingdom not only in Zion but over all the earth. It is this of which the chapter speaks, though in the general way which characterises every part of it, each divine communication having that perfect consistency with itself, which is proper to revelation, and in strong contrast with the gospel and the church, whatever be the efforts of popular theology in all ages to identify them, thus losing the distinctive power of both truths.

Isaiah 2

We have seen that though the people if repentant are assured of God's blessing, they are shown that governmental punishment must first be executed on the wicked by Him Who alone is capable of righteousness; then, and not before, shall Zion be redeemed in deed and truth. This redemption in power and with judgement is manifestly distinct from redemption by blood only, as we know it in Christ by the gospel of salvation. Judah's deliverance is accompanied by divine judgement. Jerusalem's heart is at length reached, her time of hardness accomplished, her iniquity pardoned.

"The word that Isaiah, the son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the end of days,* [that] the mountain of Jehovah's house shall be established on the top (head) of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples will go and say, Come and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and Jehovah's word from Jerusalem. And he will judge between the nations, and will reprove many peoples; and they will forge their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning knives: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (vv. 1‑4). "He" Who thus reigns is Jehovah, but, having become man, is withal the Messiah, and the Son of man with rights universal given Him.

*{Compare the expression, "the last days" or its equivalent in Gen. 49: 1; Num. 24: 14, Deut. 4: 30, Deut. 31: 29, Jer. 23: 20; Jer. 30: 24, Jer. 48: 47, Jer. 49: 39, Ezek. 38: 16; Dan. 2: 28; Dan. 10: 14; Dan. 12: 13; Hosea 3: 5 ; Micah 4: 1. All refer to the same time as Isaiah 2: 2 the days when the power of the Second man supercedes the sinful weakness of the first. Joel 2: 28 is "afterwards," or Thereupon," but Its full accomplishment also is in that day.}

Apply this to Zion and the nations in the future day, and all is clear, sure, and consistent; accommodate it to the church, either now or in that day, and what contradiction ensues! The Lord Jesus, when here, announced that "the hour cometh when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, ye shall worship the Father," and that "the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such the Father also seeketh as his worshippers" (John 4: 21-23). The Saviour Who alone leads by the Spirit into true worship is now in heaven. There is our centre, not Jerusalem nor any other place on earth, save as He is in the midst. And we are exhorted to approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having boldness for entering into the holiest by the blood of Jesus: such is the new and living way which He dedicated for us; as we have also a great priest over the house of God. Nor is this all. For it is of the essence of the church that we are no longer what we were after the flesh: "For by (ejn) one Spirit were we all baptised into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free, and were all made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Cor. 12: 13). When Christ comes again, the glorified will have manifestly their heavenly blessedness as they have the title even now (1 Cor. 15: 48, 49). Thus they are in quite a different position and relationship from either the nations, or even Jerusalem. They are members of His body Who will reign over both Israel and the nations in that day. But He is sitting now, rejected by both and glorified on His Father's throne; and we who believe are united to Him, one new man, both reconciled to God in one body by the cross. All for us is merged in heavenly glory; whilst on earth we are told to go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach. For we are not of the world as He is not; and if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.

Undoubtedly to apply these terms to the feeble remnant's return from the Babylonish captivity refutes itself. But will the language seem hyperbolical when Christ appears in the glory of His kingdom? Nor are other allegories more tenable. What for instance can exceed the poverty of Theodoret's scheme (Opera 2., i. 183, ed. J. L. Schulze)? He tries to find the accomplishment in the flourishing unity of the Roman empire when our Lord first appeared, in the conquered races that composed it being no longer at war but engaged in agriculture, and in the unhindered diffusion of the gospel far and wide. Cyril of Alexandria (in his Commentary on our prophet) and Eusebius of Caesarea (Dem. Evang. 8: 3), and Latin Fathers like Jerome (in loco) follow in the same wake. Yet one knows nothing better in the attempts of men since, unless the Popish interpretation be thought more homogeneous, inasmuch as it is all supposed to be verified in the Catholic church. Certainly the interpretation of others cannot be preferred, which makes it all mystical, and imagines its accomplishment in the unbroken oneness and peace of all believers, in their perfect holiness, and their entire subjection to the scriptures. As on earth the actual state is far different, some seek more consistency with truth by transferring the scene to heaven when every conflict is over; and these views have prevailed amongst Protestants.

It is apparent that we have here the similar, if not same, prediction which Micah gives in his prophecy (Micah 4: 1‑3). The two prophets were contemporaries. The question arises, who first communicated it from God? Three opinions are conceivable, and, as a fact, the commentators range themselves respectively under each of them: (1) Micah adopted it from Isaiah (Vitringa, Calmet, Lowth, Beckhaus, Umbreit). (2) Isaiah from Micah (Michaelis, Gesenius, Hengstenberg, Hoffmann, Drechsler, Pusey). (3) Both from an older source (Koppe, Rosenmüller, Maurer, De Wette, Knobel, Vogel, and Hitzig, Ewald specializing Joel). The certain fact is, that one prophet uses another prophet's words, only with such variations as the inspiring Spirit was pleased to sanction, as we find Daniel gathering light from the then to be accomplished word of Jehovah to Jeremiah (Daniel 9: 2). The hypothesis of an older source seems wanton and unworthy of serious discussion. Certainly the great apostle, in writing his first pastoral to Timothy (1 Tim. 5: 18) adopts as scripture the language of his beloved companion Luke (Luke 10: 7), and not that of the apostle Matthew (Matt. 10: 10). And some have argued that this passage in Isaiah was originally Micah's, from the context in each. For in Micah we have the desolation of Zion and of the mountain of the house, at the end of his Micah 3, followed immediately in the beginning of Micah 4 by this promise of glory, where the connecting particle (rendered "and," or "but," according to the exigency of the discourse) is fully in place, "But in the latter days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of Jehovah's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow unto it. And many nations shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, and to the house of the God of Jacob and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem." Isaiah has the same initiatory particle, as if cited just as it stood, though in his case sounding strangely. But Dr. Kay has shown that the particle is used more freely than this admits, and that the time favours Isaiah as the original rather than Micah (Speaker's Comm. in loco).

 

However this may have been, these opening verses of Isa. 2 constitute a noble frontispiece of lofty expectation for the earth's blessing. The previous preface of Isa. 1 proved the necessity of fiery judgement to consume the transgressors, and leave room for Jehovah thereby to purify a remnant for His purpose of blessing. Whatever intervene through creatures, His goodwill shall assuredly triumph in the end. And in the answering vision of glory, which winds up the strain (Isa. 4: 2), we see the Branch of Jehovah, often to reappear, on Whose agency all depends. Here it is the establishment, beyond all rivalry, of what had been hitherto feeble and fluctuating and fallen, the place which Jehovah chose of old to cause His name to dwell in, now at length cleared of every mark of evil, dishonour, ruin, and exalted in holy and indisputable supremacy. Then will all the nations flow unto it in undivided and peaceful stream. They need no compulsion then, nor yet inducements any more than emulation. They have seen Jehovah's uplifted hand; they have beheld His arm laid bare. His judgements have been in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world are now learning righteousness. Nor need we wonder, since fire will have devoured His adversaries, who were many, strong, and high. And thus it is not merely that Israel has the heart enlarged to invite them in the sense of that mercy which endures for ever, and alone sufficient to save themselves, but the Gentiles also join together in holy zeal and earnestness. "And many peoples will go and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem."

Never has it been thus under the gospel for a single nation. At no time hitherto has one people thus acted and exhorted others as a whole, no, not for a day; whereas here with Micah we have a double witness of it in the divine forecast of "that day" for all the earth. "Today" on the contrary, even for His chosen people, the word is, "Oh, that ye would hear His voice. Harden not your heart, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness." But then the wilderness and the dry land shall be gladdened, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. For then Jehovah reigns in the person of His Image and Anointed; and Satan will have been hurled from his bad eminence as the prince of the world and god of this age, which he is still. Then the latter rain of the Spirit will have fallen on all flesh with fertilising power. "And he will judge among the nations, and will reprove many peoples; and they will forge their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning knives: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war any more." Can terms more explicitly or exclusively describe when God shall judge in the sense of reigning over the quick? It is humbling to think that Christian men could persuade themselves that these magnificent and delightful changes for mankind have ever been verified. They are reserved exclusively to the praise of Jehovah and His Christ in the latter day. Should we not rejoice that so it is to be?

Nor is it without interest or importance to notice that the later words of Isaiah render just the same testimony in Isa. 60; Isa. 61; Isa. 62 and Isa. 66. Throughout the exaltation of Zion is still more fully developed, as it is involved plainly enough in Isa. 42 and Isa. 49. As Jehovah will introduce that day, pleading in word and fire with "all flesh," which mankind has never yet seen, so will He gather all nations and tongues, and they will come and see His glory after an unparalleled sort. "And it shall come to pass that from new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, all flesh [not all Israel only] will come to worship before me, saith Jehovah" (Isa. 66: 23). In Zech. 14 it is declared that the spared of all the nations that came against Jerusalem will go up year by year to worship the King, Jehovah of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. Mal. 1: 11 provides for the constant and universal recognition of Jehovah's name among the Gentiles, and due worship in every place. More copious testimony assures us that they will regularly and solemnly come up, as is only right and due, to that earthly centre where He has set His name as nowhere else; a fact and principle entirely incompatible with "the hour that now is" as the Lord Himself clearly laid down in John 4. If this distinction be not firmly kept, if this age be confounded with that which is to come the mind of God is lost and darkness ensues as to the preset and future. Zeph. 3: 8-10 is most explicit that the judgement of the Gentiles, and the restoration of the Jews then converted, precede the blessedness here described: "Therefore, wait ye for me, saith Jehovah, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms to pour upon themmine indignation, even all my fierce anger; for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy."

The Vision contemplates a wholly unprecedented panorama to be seen by every eye in that day. Christ will have been manifested, instead of being, as now, hidden on High; and we also shall be then manifested with Him in Glory. But no word here reveals our association with Him. As He will have the earth as well as the heaven put under Him, in fact as now in title the holy hill of Zion will be His seat as Jehovah's anointed King; and the nations will be given Him, and the uttermost parts of the earth. Jerusalem will be purged, and the people restored, not merely in virtue of an interior work, but through searching and solemn judgements. His enemies and adversaries must fall under His hand. As the mountain of Jehovah's house is established above every rival whatever they material vastness, or the loftiest associations of the creature, thither flock the humbled yet happy and obedient nations to pay homage and worship, and to learn that they may walk in His paths, owning Himself King of kings and Lord of lords, and Israel as His peculiar people here below. Jehovah reigns, and the earth rejoices as never before. universal peace accordingly in subjection to the God of Jacob characterises the nation hitherto self willed and ambitious, jealous and cruel, but now under His firm and righteous sceptre, Who from His earthly centre of divine light and resistless power judges among them, and reproves many peoples. As these are the regular designations of the Gentiles, so with the same literality are Israel and Judah, Jerusalem the capital and Zion the citadel of the chosen people. Quite as little is Jehovah, the God of Jacob, to be taken vaguely; for this definite name will then shine and be known, when His mighty acts have made good unmistakably His purpose from of old that Israel shall be the chief people on earth (Deut. 32: 8, 9), restored from all halting and affliction and evil, and Jehovah reigning over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever.

Rev. 21: 9-27 presents the heavenly glory in that day, but it is wholly different from that of Jerusalem and the temple as show in Isaiah. The bride, the Lamb's wife, is seen under the symbol of the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, but not on the earth till the eternal day (v. 3). Instead of Jehovah's house being the centre of attraction, no temple is seen therein, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple thereof. There is thus complete contrast with the Jerusalem of that day in which the temple with its ordinances and officials occupies much the largest part of Ezekiels last great vision (Ezek. 40 - 47). The utmost care is thus taken that should not confound the earthly city with the heavenly one. The difference turns on relationship to Christ. The new Jerusalem is His heavenly bride, and reigns with Him; the earthly Jerusalem is the city of the great King, and is reigned over by Him. Whilst it is grace now to suffer with Him on earth, it is to fit us for heaven. Israel will have deliverance by judgement on the earth, as scripture shows. The Christian, the church, makes its way by faith while evil is in power till the Lord comes; for Israel, or Jerusalem, the evil is crushed, and righteousness reigns over the earth in Christ's person from first to last. No contrast can be more decided.

This is plain if we be simple. It is not only Shiloh come provisionally, as at the first advent; but when "that day" arrives the link with Him, now broken by Judah's ruinous unbelief, is riveted for ever; and as God's repentant people welcome in Jehovah's name their once rejected Messiah, to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples (Gen. 49: 10). The early oracle of dying Jacob will be at length fulfilled by the living God of Jacob, not in part, but in its entire and unforced meaning. It has no reference to the intermediate Christian system; when Christ's flock compared with the world is "little," having tribulation assured in the world; despised, hated, and persecuted for righteousness' sake, and yet more for Christ's. They have the kingdom in mystery, not in manifestation as it will be in that day; and hence are we called to the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, waiting for heavenly glory with Him. The vision sets nothing of this before us, but the kingdom not in patience but in power, when the Lord sits on His Own throne and reigns in righteousness. It is no longer the Gospel of God's grace calling believers to Christ in heaven, doing well, suffering for it, and taking it patiently, in accordance with grace reigning through righteousness unto life eternal by Jesus Christ our Lord, but out of Zion shall go forth the law, and Jehovah's word from Jerusalem; for He shall then be King over all the earth, in that day one Jehovah, His name one. Thus He is both Messiah reigning in Zion, and Son of man, to Whom was given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and a kingdom which shall not be destroyed. This new age characterises our vision, in evident contradistinction to what we now experience in the gospel, which separates from the world, and gathers together God's children in one for heaven. Such is the church of God.

Thus then is the divine government of this world, of which all the prophets bear witness as Christ's reign over the earth. Isa. 4: 2‑6 describes its application to Jerusalem, as Isa. 11 - Isa. 12 to the earth and the creatures on it, with Israel's joy. Compare also Isa. 24: 21‑23; Isa. 25; Isa. 27; Isa. 22; Isa. 33: 20-24; Isa. 35; Isa. 60; Isa. 66. Two differences of the utmost importance mark the new age from the present evil one - the displayed presence of the Lord in the power of His kingdom, and the enforced absence of Satan. So immense a change bespeaks the intervention of God in the person of Christ, Whose action will then have smitten the great image of Daniel 2, and replaced it by God's kingdom, which became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. When such judgements are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.

We know from scripture that the gospel was to be preached for a testimony to all the nations; and so it has been; as it will yet be in a special form when the heavenly saints are taken on high (Rev. 14: 6, 7). But according to the apostles Peter and James the Just, God has now visited the Gentiles, not to fill the earth with the knowledge of Jehovah, which awaits the Messiah in the day of His power, but to take out of them a people for His name; and with this eclectic condition, both the name and nature of the church fall in; and therefore it suffers now to reign with Him in that day. Whereas these words of the prophet contemplate the wondrous change on earth, when judgement has delivered Zion, and Jehovah makes it His earthly capital for all the nations, no longer rebellious, but waiting for His law. In no sense is the vision yet accomplished. It is for the glory of the returning Jehovah‑Messiah. He only will judge between the nations, and will reprove many peoples. Then, and not till then, will they abandon sword and spear for the implements of peace, and learn war no more.

To attribute all or any of this to the church now dislocates all scripture, and dissolves the special teaching of the apostles and prophets in the New Testament. For we are not of the world, as Christ is not and are now called to suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. "Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14: 22). When that day comes, there is peace on earth, and no tribulation more, but righteousness reigns in manifest triumph. Our calling of God in Christ Jesus is upward, bearing Christ's reproach. But when the world‑kingdom of our Lord and His Christ is come (Rev. 11: 15), the destroyers of the earth are destroyed, and Israel and the nations repose under the sceptre of a King reigning in righteousness, and princes ruling in judgement (Isa. 32: 1).

Ignorance of the kingdom of the heavens, whether in its manifest form according to the prophets, when the Lord returns to reign in power and glory, or in its mysteries as now running their course while the Lord is seated on the Father's throne and Christendom is the result - in either way ignorance of the kingdom is the common and fatal fault of most commentators. Hence they fall into the further error of confounding the kingdom with the church or assembly of God, which is fraught with evil consequences, both doctrinal and practical. Of this fanatics took advantage, or perhaps by it fell into a snare on the other side; for it is hard to say which were most astray, persecutors or persecuted. In fact, to take an instance from Protestants, whether one thinks of the wild Anabaptists who tried to set up a Zion of their own by force of arms, or of their more sensible, if not more spiritual, antagonists who put them down by fire and sword, both went on the mistaken ground of the servants in the parable of the wheat‑field, who would root up the tares spite of the Saviour's interdict, instead of leaving that work of judgement to the angels at the end of the age. The powers that be are responsible and competent to maintain order and punish evil‑doers. Popery, as is notorious, has always acted, ecclesiastically, on the same error. Others, shocked by the evident mistake of Papists and Protestants alike, fell into the opposite extreme of denying to the king and the magistrates the title and duty of using the sword. All these serious aberrations of men are due to confounding what ought to be held simply but firmly, and without confusion - God's external authority in civil government, which holds good everywhere, and His spiritual power in His assembly, the church, where alone the Spirit is present to maintain the rights of the Lord according to the written word.

Where these truths are seen, it is not merely that one stands amazed at those Calvin [Calvin Translation Society Series Isaiah 1 p101, 102] calls "madmen," who torture this passage to promote anarchy, but at the Genevese chief who chides them for thinking that "it took away from the church entirely the right to use the sword," and bringing it forward for condemning with great severity every kind of war. Certainly those Christians were inexcusably wrong who dictated to the powers that be, and interfered with their policy, either domestic or foreign. But not less in error was Calvin, who claimed for the church the right to use the sword. Mischievous idea! which denies in principle the pattern of Christ, the place of suffering holiness and love in this present evil world (1 Peter 2: 20, 21). So the citation by Calvin of Luke 22: 36 in this connection is just of a piece with that which we see in Romish controversialist They are equally mistaken, from not seeing the true nature and calling of the Christian, they are equally mistaken in thinking that it is a question of acknowledging the kingly power of Christ (for He has not yet taken His own throne); they are equally mistaken in fancying we must always think of making progress, and so gradually bring in the perfection of that peaceful reign. Calvin charges it on the revolutionaries as excessive folly to imagine Christ's kingdom in the sense of Isa. 2 consummated. But was it wise in himself to think that it was even beginning? Not less unintelligent and false is his conclusion that "the fulfilment of this prophecy in its full extent must not be looked for on earth"; for it is plain and certain that its terms refer to Christ's future kingdom on earth exclusively, and not to heaven. How important to distinguish difference of dispensation and relationship!

Take all now in its natural import,* and difficulties vanish. When judgement has done its work, "in the end of days," the mountain of Jehovah's house shall be established at the head of the mountains, and shall be lifted above the hills, and all the nations will flow unto it. Zion shall be the fountain of divine blessing in the word for all the world, and the centre to which the peoples shall gather when universal peace prevails, and Jehovah will administer justice as king over all the earth. "As is the Heavenly [Christ], such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy [Adam], we shall also bear the image of the Heavenly" (1 Cor. 15: 48, 49) Such is our relationship and our privilege: our responsibility is inalienable and clearly laid down in the New Testament. We are not of the world, as Christ is not, and are crucified to the world, as it is to us. The contrast of this glorious scene, the Lord predicted, should go on till the end of the age. "For nation shallrise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." Such too are the evident facts now. By‑and‑by, when the new age dawns under Messiah's earthly reign (Rev. 11: 15)! "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." It will be an order of things of which the world has had no experience; and if the casting away of Israel were the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead? (Rom. 11: 15). The flowing of all nations unto Zion is the great change in that day, and cannot mean the gathering out of them, which grace is doing now, and scripture speaks of as the church of God.

*Those who have access to La venida del Mesias el gloria y Magestad en tres tomos, Londres, 1826, or the English translation in two vols. 1827, will read with pleasure the masterly investigation of the author, a pious Roman Catholic, in which he, by the scripture, sets aside the views which had so long reigned through the influence of Origen, Jerome, and others The reader is referred to vol. 2. P 174-190 for particular remarks on this very chapter of which a compressed sample must suffice here. "In the first place I sincerely agree with all the doctors, both Christian and Jewish, that the times of Messiah are manifestly the times spoken of in these prophecies. "It shall come to pass in the last days, that is in the time of Messiah, or of Christ. But this is very equivocal. That time according to all ancient and modern writers, and according to the fundamental principles of Christianity, is not one only, but two times infinitely distant from each other, one which is already past, but continues even until now, its effects assuredly great and admirable...another, which has not yet arrived, but which is believed, and hoped for with faith and a divine confidence...which second time would appear to be more great and admirable according to the scriptures which are manifestly directed toward this and terminate in it. This is the time of which the prophets have said so much, 'in that day,' 'at that time,' etc. This is the time of which S. Peter and S. Paul have said so much in their Epistles. And it is the time of which the Messiah Himself has said so much in parables and without them, as may be seen in the Gospels. The first time of Messiah, of which the Prophets speak, is certainly verified already; and the world has enjoyed, does enjoy, and may to its satisfaction enjoy, its admirable effects. And yet the prophecies have not been fully verified; for they embrace not only the first time of Messiah, but likewise and still more the second time, which is yet waited for. This is so evident and clear that, according to the different principles or systems, there have been derived two different conclusions; and though the one be more deadly than the other, they are both none the less for that illegitimate and false.

"First, Therefore the Messiah is not come, because the prophecies have not been accomplished."

"Secondly, 'Therefore the prophecies cannot be understood as they speak but in another better sense - allegorical or spiritual, in which sense they have been and are being verified in the present church'.....

"But is it very difficult to discover another conclusion conformed to Scripture? That is,

"Thirdly, 'Therefore the prophecies of which we speak, and many others like them, which have not been verified, nor could possibly have been in the first time of the Messiah, may very well be verified in the second, which time is not less of divine faith than the first."

After meeting the Jewish objections, as well as the traditional opposition of Christendom, the author replies to the last, which only sees in the day of His second coming a universal judgement of the dead. "But whence was this idea taken? From the holy scriptures? Certainly not, for they oppose and contradict it at every step....Therefore we may well hope without any fear that the prophecies spoken of, with countless others like them, will be fully verified according to the letter in the second time of Messiah, since in the first they could not be. When then the second time, which we all religiously believe and expect, is arrived, there shall be, among other things, primary or principal, the elevation of Mount Zion above all the mountains and hills: a manifestly figurative expression, yet admirably proper to explain, according to the scriptures, the dignity, honour and glory to which the city of David shall be lifted up ... in which time consequently shall the nations and peoples flow toward the top of Mount Zion. What nations and peoples? Without doubt those who shall be left alive after the coming of the Lord, as it seems most clear there shall be such.....How is He to judge the quick if there be none? What nations and peoples? Without doubt those who remain alive after the utter ruin of the Antichrist......What nations and peoples? Without doubt those who remain alive after the stone falls on the statue; and, this being reduced to powder, another kingdom shall be formed on its ruins, incorruptible and everlasting embracing all under the whole heavens. How ominous that a Romish priest, spite of all the hindrances around him should have had an insight into the prophetic word so much beyond most Protestants.

[Note, the name of the author of the preceding quotation is Manuel Lacunza who signed himself Juan Josafat Ben‑Ezra. The translator was the Rev. Edward Irving, 1792-1894. W. J. H.

Besides, according to our chapter and all prophecy, there will be a divine judgement executed on all (the Jews especially) before that. And this era of peace and blessing and Messianic rule is to be coincident with the supremacy of Israel, which is transparent in the predicted facts, and supposes a condition wholly distinct from that of the church, wherein there is neither Jew nor Gentile, but Christ is all and in all. But in that day Jehovah will make Zion His seat and centre. From that day the name of the city is Jehovah‑Shammah (Ezek. 48: 35). It is no longer, as now, the call of sovereign indiscriminating grace to heaven, but the establishment and display of divine government in Messiah over all the earth.

The prophet on the contrary sees in the vision the religious supremacy of Israel under Messiah and the new covenant, when they shall call Jerusalem the throne of Jehovah, and all the nations shall be gathered to it. For, needless to say, the voices of the prophets agree in one, whatever the several tones of Isaiah or Micah, of Jeremiah or Zechariah (Zech. 14). And the latter is important in this respect, as a prediction of the new Messianic age after Christ's return. The Lord in view of His rejection prepared the Twelve for war, not for peace meanwhile. "Think not that I came to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword" (Matt. 10: 34). Those who claim to be their successors in this wholly misrepresent the Master confound the church's place with Israel's, shirk the fellowship of His sufferings, antedate the time of earthly peace, and deny the restoration of the kingdom to the people to whom God promised it.

It is unfounded and undiscriminating to treat this as accomplished in, or even applying to, the mission of the gospel or the calling of the church. For the gospel is the proclamation of God's sovereign grace in Christ to save lost sinners, who thenceforth as saints suffer with Christ on earth, and wait for heavenly glory, and to reign with Him. And the church is built on the rejected but risen and glorified Christ, when the Jews disclaimed their own Messiah, and have lost meanwhile all recognition on God's part. In the Christian accordingly there cannot be either Jew or Greek, but the new man. Christ is what all put on. By one Spirit were we all baptized into one body whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free. It is in principle a heavenly corporation, though for the present on earth; not a mere idea, but a living body.

That which follows in Isa. 2 falls in with the reference to the future blessing and glory of Israel under the new covenant, and the King Who shall reign in righteousness. For, says the prophet (v. 5), after that happy picture of the new age, "O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of Jehovah." The vision of glory when the Gentiles would bow and bless Jehovah, how should it shame Judah now! Then, speaking directly to Him, he owns why Jehovah had forsaken His people, instead of setting them on high, even because they were replenished "from (or, more than) the east" with all that man covets and worships. "For thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they are replenished from the east, and [full of] soothsayers like the Philistines, and they strike hands with the children of strangers. Their land is also full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots. Their land is also full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made" (vv. 6-8). Their sin was quite unpardonable, that Judah, with such glorious prospects from God's sure word, should seek heathen superstitions, not only Gentile wealth and power, but alas! their idols also.

If their land was full of silver and gold, and no end of treasures; if it was full of horses and chariots, it was also full of idols! Oh what sin and shame! "And the mean man is bowed down, and the great man is brought low: therefore forgive them not" (v. 9), cries the indignant prophet.

Lastly, he calls on them to hide in the dust because of the day of Jehovah, which undoubtedly has not yet fallen on the pride and idolatry of man. "Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, from before the terror of Jehovah, and from the glory of His majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be brought low, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and Jehovah alone shall be exalted in that day" (vv. 10, 11). The passage needs only to be read in a believing spirit, in order to convince a fair mind, that neither on the one hand Nebuchadnezzar or Titus, nor on the other the gospel, has anything to do with the Lord's advent in accomplishing the all‑embracing judgement of man which is here portrayed. The true God would break down those who idolatrously bowed down. The hand of the Highest should be on all that is high and lifted up. The idols shall utterly pass away, and men go into caves and holes from before the terror of Jehovah and from the glory of His majesty when He arises to shake mightily the earth. All will be verified when Christ appears, not before. How can Christians flatter themselves that the gospel has done or can do this work, with the great majority of mankind openly idolaters, and the great majority of the baptized really so? For what is it to bow down to the mass or the crucifix, to the virgin and saints or angels?

"For there shall be a day of Jehovah of hosts upon all that is proud and haughty, and upon all that is lifted up, and it shall be brought low; and upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up; and upon every lofty tower, and upon every fenced wall; and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant imagery. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low: and Jehovah alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols shall utterly pass away. And men shall go into the caves of the rocks and into the holes of the earth, from before the terror of Jehovah and from the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake mightily the earth. In that day a man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made for him to worship, to the moles and to the bats; to go into the caverns of the rocks, and into the clefts of the ragged rocks, from before the terror of Jehovah, and from the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake mightily the earth" (vv. 12‑21). Vain then would it be to invoke the aid of man: his day will then have ended. Jehovah in that day arises to shake terribly the earth.

How confound this with the gospel! It is not yet eternity but the age to come when the idols shall utterly pass away and Jehovah alone shall be exalted. The word, therefore, is "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is he to be accounted of?" (v. 22). Man* as such is not able to retain his own life‑breath, still less to keep others in that day. All must manifestly hang on the sovereign pleasure of Him Whose glory will be no longer hidden, and Whose will is then to be displayed in righteousness. "That day" is the day of Jehovah. Whatever the gospel may effect for believers and it makes them meet for God's light and heavenly glory), there can be no real deliverance for the earth and the nations, till Messiah comes again in glory, executing judgement on the quick and reigning in peace. Thus, as we see in Isa. 1 that divine judgement is the revealed way in which God will restore Zion or the Jews, so does Isa. 2 make it equally plain that it is at least as needful for man universally. The judgement of him and his pride and his idols will be in the day of Jehovah, in order that all the nations may flow to Zion in heart‑homage, as the beginning of Isa. 2 describes. The world‑kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ will then have come (Rev. 11: 15).

*The notion that Christ is here Intended is one of those freaks of notable men which Illustrate the passage they so strangely misapplied. The LXX, strange to say, leave out the verse altogether.

The Lord, according to Heb. 12: 25, is now speaking from heaven, and those who heed His voice He deigns to call holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, heirs of God and joint‑heirs with Christ. In the church of God national distinctions vanish even now. If we are Christ's at all, we are members of His body, and in that day we shall reign with Him over the earth, where now we suffer with Him. Then shall go forth (not the gospel as we have it in the New Testament but) the law out of Zion and Jehovah's word from Jerusalem: no longer will it be on earth that "through Him (Christ) we both (Jew and Gentile) have access by one Spirit unto the Father" (Eph. 2: 18).

Isaiah 3 - Isaiah 4.1

But universal as the prostration of human pride must be, this chapter indicates that most crushingly shall the blow fall on Jerusalem and Judah, and this not only in their public political life, but minutely and searchingly on the daughters of Zion in all their haughty littleness of vain show. Here we have this double ground for divine intervention. But is it not pertinent to ask, What has all this to do with the gospel as we have it now? Does not the prophet look at the ancient people of God as nationally on the road to ruin? Does he not here entirely pass over the present ways of grace in the gospel to tell in the next chapter the deliverance which the Messiah will effect for the escaped of Israel? Does he not here omit all reference to the call of the Gentiles to‑day and the church of God, that he may hold out the hope of Israel in the Branch of Jehovah for beauty and glory? For then everyone left in Jerusalem shall be called holy, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of Zion's daughters. "For behold the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water; the mighty man, and the man of war; the judge, and the prophet, and the diviner, and the elder; the captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the skilful enchanter. And I will give youths to be their princes, and children shall rule over them. And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the elder, and the base against the honourable. When a man shall take hold of his brother, of the house of his father, [saying,] Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler and let this ruin be under thy hand: in that day shall he swear, saying, I will not be a healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing; ye shall not make me a ruler of the people" (vv. 1‑7).

What surer sign of decay and of imminent dissolution than the absence of all power among those who are in the place of authority, when those who should be the props of the state arechildren - not in fact, but in mind and purpose! Respect for what is officially exalted must then give place to universal contempt, and oppression and shameless malpractices flaunt withoutcheck, with anarchy the result. "For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against Jehovah, to provoke the eyes of his glory. The show of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves" (vv. 8, 9) There is no ruin without sin; and here it was frightful and shameless.

Nevertheless the evil day only brings out the faithful care of God over the righteous, as surely as the wicked meet with the due reward of their deeds. It is, however, a humiliating, as well as a sifting, time for God's people; though the prophet declares in the most animated terms, how Jehovah espouses the cause of the poor against those who grind down their faces. "Say ye of the righteous, that [it shall be] well [with him], for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked! [it shall be] ill [with him]; for the desert of his hands shall be givenhim" (vv. 10, 11). God holds in a day of confusion to His righteous government, and warns. "[As for] my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. My people! they that lead thee mislead [thee], and destroy the way of thy paths. Jehovah setteth himself to plead, and standeth to judge the peoples. Jehovah will enter into judgement with the elders of his people, and the princes thereof, [saying,] It is ye that have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor [is] in your houses. What mean ye [that] ye crush my people and grind the faces of the afflicted? saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts" (vv. 12‑15). Thus far the rulers and princes. Others might plunder their enemies and enrich their followers at the expense of their neighbours; but the civil and religious chiefs of Israel were so degraded and depraved as to prey on the flesh and blood of their brethren for their own greed and gain, the defenceless poor faring worst inthis scene of alternate flattery and oppression. How true that the corruption of the best thing is the worst corruption!

Quite as sorrowful is the picture of domestic life. When women live for display in apparel, no further proof is needed to bring to their door the charge that the sanctity of the home is tainted, and that there is no real heart for the relations God has set up. Such finery is assuredly not for a husband or the family, but, small as it is, it escapes not the withering notice of the Judge of all. Dress, gait, glances, are all noticed by the Spirit of God. "And Jehovah saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with outstretched necks, and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and Jehovah will discover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the ornament of anklets, and the networks, and the crescents, the pendants, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, the head‑tires, and the ankle‑chains, and the sashes, and the perfume‑boxes, and the amulets, the rings, and the nose‑jewels, the festival‑robes and the mantles, and the shawls, and the bags (or purses), the mirrors, and the fine linen, and the turbans, and the flowing veils. And it shall come to pass, instead of sweet spices there shall be rottenness; and instead of a girdle, a rope; and instead of well‑set hair, baldness; and instead of a stomacher, a girding of sackcloth; branding instead of beauty. Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war. And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she, stripped (or desolate), shall sit upon the ground" (vv. 16‑26).

How in the face of such a prolonged strain of detail as this can any one theorist as we all know has been done, on the essential contrast of history as particular facts with prophecy as general principles? Nowhere in the Bible or out of it does any historian so copiously and minutely expose that luxury which internally ruins a people in their homes as does Isaiah here, after dealing a deadly blow at their dishonour of the true God and hankering after false. It were more true to say that along with the infinitely great, the inspired prophecy penetrates and lays bare the smallest things as alike coming under God's eyes. History in man's hand would be ashamed to go down so low. Poor, proud, deceived man! Not only is there a change, and an exposure most humiliating to pride, but so complete would be the desolation, that the dearth of men is described as tempting women to a boldness contrary to female modesty. "And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name. Take away our reproach" (Isa. 4: 1). Sober men will be surprised to hear it was an ancient notion of the spiritualizing school that the "one man" is Christ, and the "seven women" believers! Possibly this absurd result of departing from its obvious and real meaning may account for the severance of the verse from Isa. 3. and transferring it to Isa. 4, where the Branch at once follows.

Isaiah 4: 2-6

But this time of tribulation, everywhere in scripture connected with the Jews in the last days, before they are delivered, is followed by an outshining of beauty and glory, and abundant mercy for the saved and holy remnant. "In that day shall the Branch of Jehovah be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel" (v. 2). The Branch is a favourite and frequent figure for the Messiah, as the reader of Jeremiah and Zechariah will recognize. He will be there in His beauty and glory, and all will be in unison for the escaped of Israel. However many the slain, this one Man will be the restorer of all breaches, and holiness will be a reality, and not a mere name, in Jerusalem. Yet it is not by the gospel of grace as now, but expressly "by the spirit of judgement and by the spirit of burning." "And it shall come to pass, [that] he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, [even] every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem; when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgement, and by the spirit of burning" (vv. 3, 4). The translation of J. D. Michaelis is "by the righteous zeal of the tribunals and by a destructive wind." Rationalism sinks yet lower than superstition. The truth alone preserves the dignity of the divine word. It is not the church but Israel which is in question, and her purification by judgement, when the manifested presence of Jehovah will follow, and be her security no less than her glory.

Vitringa's application of the spirit of judgement and that of destruction to the Holy Spirit guiding the ruler and ministers of the church in discrimination, is the old source of endless error - the turning aside of Jewish scripture to an essentially Christian object. It is manifestly the day of righteous judgement on earth, and especially in its metropolis, Jerusalem, though one deny not for a moment the action of the Spirit to be here meant, but in judicial power. First purity is effected, then glory shines brightly on Zion. "And Jehovah will create over every dwelling place of mount Zion, and over her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flame of fire by night; for over all the glory [shall be] a canopy. And there shall be a booth (or tabernacle) for a shadow in the day‑time from the heat, and for a refuge and for a covert from storm and from rain" (vv. 6, 6). Even as the cloudy pillar once covered the tabernacle of the divine presence, so Jehovah will create on every dwelling‑place of Mount Zion, and on her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flame of fire by night; for upon all the glory shall be a canopy.

The attempt to refer to the gospel these revelations of coming glory for Israel, after purging trial, involves in the highest degree a distortion of scripture. During the present dispensation they are enemies for our sakes, as regards the gospel; while, as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers (Rom. 11: 28). When that day comes, the fullness of the Gentiles shall have come in, and so all Israel shall be saved. It is a total change from this day of grace to judgement‑day for the living when Christ reigns, whatever the mercy of God to the rescued out of Israel and the nations. "In that day shall there be one Jehovah and His name one." Then shall be the deliverance, not the destruction, of the still groaning creation. "All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin's gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king's winepresses" (Zech. 14: 9, 10). It is not the past nor the present neither is it the eternal state, but the millennium. It is an epoch of glory when Jehovah will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth, and the earth shall hear the corn and the wine and the oil, and they shall hear Jezreel. Divine judgement shall have washed away the guilt of Zion, and the glory shall return both more blessedly than at the first and for ever. What can contrast more with our day of suffering grace, absent as we are from the Lord?

Manifestly the figures employed do not suit heaven but the earth, especially the land and people of Israel; which again demonstrates that it is no question here of eternity when all distinctions of land and race are passed away. To apply so bright a description to the refuge provided for some in Pella, when the storm of wrath overtook the guilty people, is wholly misleading, as well as beneath the language used. So it is wide of the mark to look at the history of the apostolic church as the fulfilment of the prophecy in the gifts of the Spirit, and in the judgements on open persecutors. It is really a vision of future divine glory for Israel on the earth, after judgements, under the Messiah, when we shall reign (not on, but) "over" it, as it should be in Rev. 5: 10. Thus only does all scripture fall into its due place without violence to any. Eph. 1: 10‑12 and Col. 1: 20 lay the dogmatic foundation for this immense and blessed expectation, as Rev. 21: 9 et seqq. give us the glorious vision prophetically.

Let us now listen to one of the best of the so‑called spiritualising, but really allegorising, school on this chapter. "It is commonly agreed that this prediction has been only partially fulfilled, and that its complete fulfilment is to be expected, not in the literal Mount Zion, or Jerusalem, but in those various assemblies or societies of true believers, which now possess in common the privileges once exclusively enjoyed by the Holy City and the chosen race of which it was the centre and metropolis" (Dr. J. A. Alexander's Comm. on Isaiah, i. 122).

One essential contrast overthrows this assumption. Israel was divinely severed from the Gentiles by the partition‑wall. For the church it is gone absolutely: we are one body in Christ. In that day Israel is a blessing to the nations; yet are they distinct, and never joined in one body but the contrary. We are now united to Christ in heaven, where such distinctions are unsuited. On the earth, even when Christ reigns over it, they reappear. It is the kingdom, in the beginning of Isa. 2, with the undisguised exaltation of the chosen people, yet the nations blessed and subject to Jehovah's reign in Zion. So Isa. 4. shows the Branch Who alone produces in Israel such excellent fruit, after His judgement has purged the guilty. The intervening part of Isa. 2 and all Isa. 3 unveils the evil and ruin of Zion publicly and privately. Judgement begins at God's house. What will it be for Christendom still more favoured? The New Testament answers definitely without confounding the professing church with Israel, though we may and ought to use the principle in every case possible. The most ordinary creeds acknowledge that the Lord Jesus will come to judge the quick, as well as the dead. None but open infidels would deny the judgement of the dead. Few alas! really believe in the judgement of the living. Yet it is of this the Lord so often warned, as in Matt. 24, 25, Mark 13, Luke 17 as well as 21, which Christendom relegates to the end of the world; whereas it will be at the end of this age, after which will come the future good age, the blessed era on which the Psalms and the Prophets dwell with delight and joyful anticipation. Of this our chapter is a witness, as also is the beginning of Isa. 2, while its latter part speaks of the humiliation of man and the overthrow of evil under Jehovah's hand when ushering in His day.

Isaiah 5

The comparison of Isa. 5 with Isa. 6 illustrates most strikingly the ways of God in the judgement of His people. They are quite distinct. Indeed Isa. 6. comes in abruptly in outward form, itself distinct from what follows down to Isa. 9: 7 inclusively. All this intervening portion (Isa. 6: 1-13) forms a strikingly peculiar parenthesis, but a parenthesis of profound interest and instruction; after which the strain of woe, begun in Isa. 5, is resumed in the thickening disasters of Israel and of the land up to their mighty and everlasting deliverance, which yet awaits its accomplishment in the latter day.

But if these chapters were distinct in time as they certainly are in character, the Spirit of God has been pleased to set them in immediate juxtaposition with a view to our better admonition. In fact they are the two‑fold principle or standard of judgement which God is wont to apply to His people. In the one He would have us to look back, in the other to look forward; in the former by all He has done for them He measures what they should have been toward Him; in the latter He judges them by His own glory manifested in their midst. The one answers to the law by which is the knowledge of sin; the other to the glory of God, from which every soul comes short (Rom. 3: 20, 23)

In Isa. 5 the prophet sings a song of Jehovah, his well beloved, about His vineyard. Moses had already (Deut. 32) spoken in the ears of Israel a song which celebrates in magnificent language the sovereign choice and blessing of God, the sins and punishment of the people, but withal His final mercy to His land and people, with whom the spared nations are to rejoice. Our chapter takes in a narrower field of view.

"I will sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well beloved had a vineyard in a very fruitful hill; and he dug it up, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine; and he built a tower in the midst of it, and also hewed a winepress therein; and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes" (vv. 1, 2). There was no failure on God's part. He had established Israel in the most favourable position, separated them to Himself, removed stumbling-blocks, crowned them with favours, vouchsafed not only protection but every means of blessing. "And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it?" was His appeal to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah (vv. 3, 4). Yet was all in vain. The result was only bad fruit. "Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?" They, like Adam, transgressed the covenant. It was the old story over again. Human responsibility ends in total ruin. Man departs from God and corrupts his way on the earth. "And now let me tell you what I am about to do to my vineyard; I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down; and I will lay it waste - it shall not be pruned nor hoed; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of Jehovah of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgement, but behold bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold a cry" (vv. 5-7 Such is His own application of the parable. Thus the nation, as a whole, is weighed in the divine balances, and found wanting. So manifest and grievous is the case, that God challenges the men of Judah to judge between Him and His vineyard, though they themselves are the degenerate trees in question. There was no more doubt of the goodness shown to Israel than of their obligation to yield fruit for God. But obligation produces no fruit meet for Him. What was the consequence on such a ground as this? Nothing but woe after woe. Their doom would be according to their guilt.

The truth is that, on the footing of responsibility, every creature has failed save One, Who was the Creator, whatever might be His lowly condescension in appearing within the ranks of men. And what is the secret of victory for the believer now or of old? We must be above mere humanity in order to walk as saints; yea, in a sense, be above our duty in order rightly to accomplish it. As of old, those only walked blamelessly according to the law, who looked to the Messiah in living faith; so saints now can glorify God in a holy righteous walk, only as they are under grace, not law. The sense of deliverance and perfect favour in the sight of God frees and strengthens the soul where there is the new life; the written word illustrated in Christ is the Christian rule. Therein, not in the law, is the true transcript of God.

It will be observed, accordingly, that there is nothing of Christ here as the means and channel of grace. Consequently all is unrelieved darkness and death; and the prophet presses home the evidence of overwhelming constant evil in the people of God. Not a ray of comfort or even hope breaks through, but only their sins and His judgements chime continually. It is the severity of God, Who did not spare the natural branches, as the apostle says in Rom. 11: 21. Detailed sin is retributively dealt with, as under the government of God in His people. A sixfold series of bold and open sins then follows with their punishments from Jehovah.

"Woe unto them that join house to house, [that] lay field to field, till [there be] no room, and ye be made to dwell alone in the midst of the land! In mine ears [saith] Jehovah of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, [even] great and fair, without inhabitant. For ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield [but] an ephah. Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, [that] they may follow strong drink; that tarry late into the night, [till] wine inflame them! And the harp and the lute, the tabret and the pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of Jehovah, neither have they considered the operation of his hands. Therefore my people are gone into captivity, for lack of knowledge; and their honourable men [are] famished, and their multitude [are] parched with thirst. Therefore Sheol hath enlarged her desire, and opened her mouth without measure; and their glory, and their multitude, and their tumult, and he that rejoiceth among them, descend [into it]. And the mean man is bowed down, and the great man is humbled, and the eyes of the lofty are humbled: but Jehovah of hosts is exalted in judgement, and God the Holy One is sanctified in righteousness. Then shall the lambs feed as in their pasture, and the waste places of the fat ones shall wanderers eat. Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope; that say, Let him make speed, let him hasten his work, that we may see [it]; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know [it]! Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto [them that are] wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto [them that are] mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink; who justify the wicked for a reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! Therefore as the tongue of fire devoureth the stubble, and as the dry grass sinketh down in the flame, [so] their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because theyhave rejected the law of Jehovah of hosts, anddespised the word ofthe Holy One of Israel" (vv. 8‑24).

There is a woe to such as joined house to house and field to field, reckless of all but their own aggrandizement: Jehovah shall desolate so that their coveted vineyards and lands shall yield but a tithe of what they put in (vv. 8‑10). There is a woe to the luxurious hunters of social pleasure: captivity shall drain them, and Hades itself shall swallow up the mean and the mighty - multitudes without measure (vv. 11‑17). And as for the bold sinners who scoffingly invited Jehovah to make speed that they might see His work (vv. 18, 19); and for the moral corrupters, who broke down all moral distinction, and the wise in their own eyes, who could do without God, and the unjust friends of the wicked, whose heroism was in wine and strong drink, being foes of the righteous, there is woe upon woe with utter destruction; "because they have cast away the law of Jehovah of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel" (vv. 20‑24).

"Therefore is the anger of Jehovah kindled against his people and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them, and the hills did tremble, and their carcasses [were] as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand [is] stretched out still. And he will lift up an ensign to the nations afar off, and will hiss for them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly: none shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken: their arrows [are] sharp, and all their bows bent; their horses' hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind. Their roaring [shall be] like a lioness, they shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall growl, and lay hold of the prey, and carry [it] away safe, and there shall be none to deliver. And they shall roar against them in that day like the roaring of the sea. And if [one] look unto the land, behold darkness [and] distress, and the light is darkened in the clouds thereof" (vv. 25‑30).

He had dealt with them already, but the strokes are not exhausted. "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand [is] stretched out still." Such is the sad and recurring burden, as may be seen in chapters 9, 10. The avenging nations may be far away; but He would give the signal to them and the hiss (as for one far off), and "behold, they shall come with speed lightly." A most graphic picture follows of their vigour and promptness, their equipment and fierce determination from which none can shield or escape. Against Israel shall these foes roar. But they are not yet defined by name. "And if one look unto the land, behold darkness [and] distress, and the light is darkened in the heavens (or clouds) thereof." Such is the lot of man, or rather here of Israel, where Christ is not. There is no deliverance, only judgement after judgement on the people and the land. Unrelieved darkness rests there. Such is the issue of Israel in their land, of Judah and Jerusalem tried under law, no matter what the favours of Jehovah on His vineyard and the plant of His pleasures. If He waited for judgement, behold bloodshed; if for righteousness, behold a cry. What on this ground could follow but woe upon woe?

Isaiah 6

This chapter opens a very different scene. It is not the law, but Jehovah revealed. Not that the people are one whit better; in fact it was only when Christ appeared seven centuries afterward, that man fully disclosed what he was and is. The law proved that man is not only sinful but loves sin; Christ's presence proved that he hates good - hates God Himself manifested in all the purity and lowliness, in the grace and truth, of Jesus. It was not only, then, that man was himself failing and guilty; but when an object was there in every way worthy of love and homage and worship, the perfect display of man to God and of God to man, He was a light so odious and intolerable to man, that he could not rest till it was extinguished as far as he could effect it. Still we are on ground sensibly and strikingly distinct; and this because the manifestation of Jehovah is in question, not the responsibility of Israel merely. Both chapters show the people judged, but the principles of judgement are wholly different.

It was not in Uzziah's palmy days that the prophet received this vision of glory and this solemn commission, but in the year when the once prosperous and now leprosy‑smitten son of David breathed his last. Nevertheless "the year that king Uzziah died" looked very different from "the year that king Ahaz died" (Isa. 14: 28). Yet in the former came the vision which fully disclosed to the prophet the universal uncleanness of God's people; as in the latter a burden came on that enemy which vexed their south‑western flank. In the former year, too, came Pekah to the throne of Israel, who laid the deadliest scheme with the Gentiles to destroy the line and hope of Messiah. Then, however, Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on a throne high and lifted up, and the mere skirts of His glory filled the temple.

"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, [is] Jehovah of hosts: the whole earth [is] full of his glory. And the foundations of the thresholds were moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke" (vv. 14). No vision more glorious had ever burst on human eyes: but if the attendant burning spirits embraced the fullness of the earth as the scene of His glory, His holiness was their first care and chiefest cry. Activity even in the winged seraphim is not all nor most. Not all six wings did each need for flight, but two only. "With twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet," in awe toward God and shame as to himself, in both the reverence that befits them in His presence.

The effect was immediate on the prophet. It is no longer woe unto these or those, but "woe to me." He is profoundly touched with a sense of sin and ruin - his own and the people's. But it is uttered in His presence Whose grace is no less than His glory and His holiness, and the remedy is at once applied. "Then said I, Woe to me! for I am undone; for I [am] a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts. And there flew one of the seraphim to me, having a live coal in his hand, [which] he had taken with tongs from off the altar; and he laid [it] upon my mouth and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips, and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin is expiated" (vv. 5‑7). Nor this only: for thus set free in His presence, he becomes the ready servant of His will. Before this there was no haste to act, but deep self‑judgement, and true sense of the defiled state of His people, in the light of His glory. "Also I heard the voice of Jehovah, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here [am] I; send me. And he said, Go and tell this people, Hear indeed, but understand not; and see indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make its ears heavy, and smear its eyes: lest it see with its eyes, and hear with its ears, and its heart understand, and it be converted, and be healed" (vv. 8‑10).

Grace thus gives confidence to do God's bidding; and though the sentence on the guilty people of God is an awful one, not only is it most righteous, but a remnant of grace is assured in the face of consuming judgement on judgement. This is not the way of the gospel which reveals Christ bearing divine judgement, but the believer saved in sovereign grace, made meet for sharing the inheritance of the saints in light at any moment, and waiting for Christ's coming as the chief joy. Judgement must be before the kingdom come for the remnant of Israel. Such is the charge, and we know how surely it was fulfilled in the judicial blindness which fell on the nation, when they confessed not their uncleanness and beheld no glory nor beauty in Christ present in their midst, and refused the testimony of the Holy Ghost to Him risen and exalted by the right hand of God.

But the Spirit of prophecy, if it pronounce the sentence of God on the people's unbelief, is none the less a spirit of intercession. "Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted for want of an inhabitant, and the houses for want of man, and the land be utter desolation; and Jehovah have removed men far away, and have multiplied forsakings in the midst of the land. But yet in it [shall be] a tenth, and it shall return and be for consuming; as the terebinth and the oak, whose stock [remaineth] when cut down: the holy seed [shall be] the stock (or trunk) thereof" (vv 11‑13). That is, a vital principle survives, the nucleus of what will sprout again.

Nor is there a more surprising moral fact than the accomplishment of this divine sentence on the Jews to this day. Thousands of years have elapsed. The Messiah came, and confirmed it (John 12: 40); the Holy Spirit followed, sent of Him and the Father, and He has fully ratified it (Acts 28: 26, 27). No recondite arguments are needed, no evidence from Nineveh or Babylon, from Egypt or Palestine. There the Jews are before all eyes, dead while they live, the standing witnesses of judicial blindness indicted, after incomparable patience with their unbelief, by their own aggrieved and thrice Holy God, Jehovah of hosts. And the mark is proved all the more indelible, because they were not permitted to abide in the land they defiled, which was to become utterly waste, and themselves removed far away.

Yet dispersed as they are everywhere, and really amalgamating nowhere, no changing circumstances change the Jews any more than lapse of ages: a fact which staggered the incredulous Hegel as inexplicable, but failed to convince; for unbelief is invincible to nature. And what adds to the wonder is that they outwardly honour the Old Testament, which we Christians believe as fully as our own scriptures. But like the philosopher, though staggered by Law and Psalms and Prophets that teach the sufferings of Messiah and the glories to follow, as well as their own scattering for unbelief, and the call of Gentiles during that sad interval, the Jews believe no more than the philosopher. But this prophecy, with others, makes it plain and accounts for all; and He Who smote with blindness has made it known here to them as to us; and, blessed be His name, He has set a limit to the sentence of woe. For the prophet that knew His grace said not in vain, "Lord, how long?" They are kept for His blessing and glory in the end. But oh, what tribulation and sifting and consuming yet! Burning judgement is to be their means of purifying in a way wholly distinct from what ushered the church into its place, a still more solemn and unique judgement having been borne by Him, Who died, rose, and ascended to be its Head. The Jews must pass through the tribulation which has no parallel (Matt. 24: 29; Mark 13: 24) before their deliverance comes. "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it; it is even the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it" (Jer. 30: 7).

Thus, if the departure from God is to be punished with outward and inward visitation, a remnant is clearly indicated here, mercy rejoicing against judgement, and God making good His own glory in both respects. But that returned remnant must be thinned under the pruning hand of Jehovah. Still the holy seed shall be there, the stock or rooted stump* of the nation, when judgement has done its work over and over again. There is ever a remnant according to the election of grace.

* tb

We may also observe that, while Isa. 5 begins the impeachment of Israel's guilt as responsible under the law, Isa. 6 first and briefly presents their sin in despising Christ's glory or disbelieving it, as John 12: 40 applies this prophecy. So far is the earlier half of the book from being heterogeneous with the later, that these are just the twofold Indictment which we had there, expanded and applied with mature and touching beauty.

Isaiah 7

In the last chapter we saw the glory of Christ revealed, and the assurance of a holy seed after the judgement of the land and people. We have now a weighty sequel recounting facts which occurred, not in the year king Uzziah died, nor even in the days of his successor, but strange as it might seem, in those of Ahaz. "This is that king Ahaz," who without faith in Jehovah sent to the kings of Assyria for help. Sacrilegious he and at last apostate, Jehovah brought Judah low because of Ahaz, of David's line; for he made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against Jehovah. Even in the midst of his distress he trespassed yet more. Hence the occasion for a fresh outburst of prophetic light. It could not otherwise have been clearly gathered how the glory of Christ was actually to appear. Our chapter solves this question, and connects His incarnation (for indeed He is God, yea, Jehovah) with His rejection and His final and everlasting triumph (Isa. 8; Isa. 9: 1‑7). The first part alone comes before us now.

The occasion was the offensive and profane alliance of Rezin, king of Syria, with Pekah, Remaliah's son and king of Israel, against Judah and Ahaz. "And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, [that] Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it. And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart shook, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind" (vv. 1, 2). There were they in great fear, where no fear was, and this, alas! in Jerusalem and David's house; and no wonder, for the heir of David's throne walked not like David his father, but in the ways of the kings of Israel or worse, and drew Judah with him into sore transgression against Jehovah. Panic-stricken, yet in no way driven by his distress to God, on the self-same spot where Rabshakeh uttered his blasphemies against Jehovah at a later day, "the aqueduct of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field," Ahaz is met by the prophet. "And Jehovah said to Isaiah, Go out now to meet Ahaz, thou and Shear-jashub thy son, at the end of the aqueduct of the upper pool, on the highway of the fuller's field. And thou shalt say unto him, Take heed and be quiet; fear not, and let not thy heart faint before these two ends (tails) of smoking firebrands, because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and of the son of Remaliah. Inasmuch as Syria hath taken evil counsel against thee, Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, saying, Let us go up against Judah, and harass it, and make a breach therein for us, and set up a king therein, the son of Tabeal" (vv 3-6)

How foolish, as well as base, is unbelief! It is joyous and confident when a labouring volcano is about to burst; it is filled with anguish, when God is going to deal with the evils it dreads. In this case, how could He behold in peace a compact between apostate Israel and heathen Syria? It was not merely that their enterprise, if successful, must vex Judah, but set aside David's line. It was a blow at the Messiah, little as they might have thought of this; and the oath and honour of God were thus at stake. But "thus saith the Lord Jehovah, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. For the head of Syria [is] Damascus, and the head of Damascus [is] Rezin; and within sixty-five years shall Ephraim be broken, so as to be not a people. And the head of Ephraim [is] Samaria, and the head of Samaria [is] Remaliah's son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established" (vv. 7-9).

How blessed are the ways of God! The effort to destroy, which seemed so awful to its objects, especially as their conscience was bad, led at once to the revelation of the doom of the destroyers. The confederacy came to naught. The Syrian chief would not avail to shield more guilty Ephraim; for it was sentenced - yea, to be so broken as not to be a people, within sixty-five years; and so it fell out to the letter (2 Kings 17). The chief of Ephraim's capital is paraded before us like his ally in due form and title. Such would each remain, and no more. Who were they to dispute the counsels of God as to David's royal line, let Ahaz be personally faithless and false as he was? God at least is God, and His word shall stand for ever, though surely unbelief shall not be established, whether in Ephraim or in Judah. God's people, God's king; how inexcusable, if such failed in faith!

One can understand why rationalists cavil at the sixty-five years, challenge its accuracy, and reason on its being no answer to the anxiety of Ahaz. It does prove how specific is prophecy, and this beyond the present moment; for it is the exact point when Ephraim, suffering repeated blows, was not only swept away but excluded from the land by Esarhaddon's importation of foreigners. It opens the way for the great prediction still farther off. For this was only the prelude to the weightier announcement that follows. "And Jehovah spoke again unto Ahaz, saying, Ask for thee a sign from Jehovah thy God: ask it in the depth or in the height above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt Jehovah" (vv 10-12). Alas! how often the hypocrisy of unbelief thus essays to hide its contempt of Jehovah; and through presumption, which really despises the word of His grace, assumes the garb of superior reverence and humility. The prophet, however, sees through the cheat put forward by an evil heart of unbelief, and calls now on the house of David to hear, not alone his reproof, but what the Lord Himself was to give. Ahaz shrank from God even in His goodness. Flesh never trusts God. It is bent on its own will and instinctively avoids grace, which must assert and give effect to the will of God.

Ahaz did not like God to draw too near. God answered it by Immanuel - God with us. "And he said, Hear then, house of David. [Is it] a small matter for you to weary men, that ye weary also my God? Therefore will Jehovah Himself give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel. Curds and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil and to choose the good" (vv. 13-15) Was it not the most marvellous grace so to promise to such a man? Yet in truth grace condemns unbelief and all other sin as the law never did or could. Had Ahaz asked any sign within his range of earth and heaven, how immeasurably short of God's! If man refuses to ask through unbelief, God fails not to give a sign for His own glory: the virgin's Son, the woman's Seed, Immanuel! What thoughts, feelings, and facts cluster here together! What grace and truth, God and man united in one person! The security of David's royal line and rights, how much more than the predicted ruin of plotting Ephraim, in the presence of the sign, the truth of truths - God with us! Yet was it the assurance, if its grandeur betokened other and higher glories, that no conspiracy could prosper which struck at the Root and Offspring of David.

It is well known that the Jews have made desperate efforts to evade this luminous testimony to the Incarnation in their own prophet. First they exaggerate the difference between hm;l][' and hl;WtB] . (confessedly the latter is the more common word for virgin, for the former occurs in not more than six passages beside the one before us. But it is certain that in Joel 1. 8 "b'thulah" is employed for a young married woman, which is never the case with "almah"; see also Deut. 22: 19. For the argument on Prov. 30: 19, 20 is quite invalid to prove it synonymous with an adulterous woman. In the present instance the context requires the sense of virgin with the utmost precision; for in a young married woman's bearing a son there is no sign or wonder. It was from the first known that the Deliverer of man from the serpent‑enemy of the race must be born of woman in some distinctive way; it was known that He must be also son of Abraham, in the line of Isaac and Jacob, of Judah and David. It is now narrowed to a virgin therefore, by necessary implication, of that royal house. The virgin should be pregnant and bear Him; a sign indeed! in one sense explained, in another enhanced, by the capital truth that He should be God - of divine nature as truly as the woman's Seed. The virgin's Son is Immanuel, the Lord Jehovah, Whose glory the prophet had seen in connection with the preservation of a holy seed, spite of their repeated desolations. Thus the person of the Messiah, and specifically the solution of the enigma of His divine being, yet in association with the family of David, is fully cleared up.

Hence the Septuagint (a version made before the dispute arose) very properly gives here (as in Gen. 24: 43) hJ parqevno", whereas Aquila and Symmachus chose nea'ni" . But it is plain that even the latter cannot get rid of the truth intended in the context; and the wild interpretations of some Jews and all Rationalists prove how hard set they are to evade its truth. In Solomon's Song (6: 8), where the Septuagint translates the Hebrew term as neavnide" the strict meaning of virgins is certain; for it is distinguished from basivlissai and pallacaiv , and, like our word "maidens," can only be used as "virgins," as Rashi seems to allow in his comment on chapter 1. 3. Nor can there well be a more glaring instance of an offensive prejudice than Gesenius' abandonment of the evident source of the word in µl'[; , to "hide,"* in order to justify a more vague origin from an Arabic source.

*Even Aquila confirms this, the only true derivation of the word, and its kindred form for the other sex, by giving ajpovkrufo" in Gen. 24: 43.

Again, the most recent Jewish version known to me, that of Isaac Leeser, renders the article by the demonstrative. This is illegitimate. The object clearly is to refer the person in question to a young person then present. Nevertheless Mr. Leeser is more candid in his rendering of hr;h; than some of his brethren and their rationalistic followers; for he, like Rashi before him, correctly renders it "shall conceive," not "is with child." Probably the latter considered the prophet's wife to be in question, and the child to be the same as Maher‑shalal‑hashbaz. Here the Rabbis are in conflict. Thus Kimchi held that the young woman could not be Isaiah's wife (for she must then have been designated the prophetess, as in chap. 8: 3), and therefore conceived her to be the wife of Ahaz, and imagined for them an unknown son named Immanuel. Aben Ezra is at issue with both; for he held it to be a third son of the prophetess, and so rather approached Rashi; but with Kimchi he held the sign to be the child's eating cream and honey as soon as born. No more words are needed to expose such views. Even Kimchi disposes of Isaiah and the prophetess by asking how then the land could be called Immanuel's land.

*Gesenius, who thought so too, tried to escape the difficulty of hm;l]['h; .

Manifestly the Jews do not agree, save in opposing the only interpretation which carries with it a clear and noble sense, yet to be the joy of repentant Israel. The notion that Hezekiah was the virgin's son is wholly inadmissible; for as Ahaz reigned sixteen years, and he himself was twenty‑five years of age when he began to reign, he must have been a boy at least eight years old before his father's reign began; and hence no prediction of his birth could have been made by Isaiah to Ahaz already on the throne. There is not a hint in scripture of Ahaz taking another wife after his accession and the announcement; still less is there room for a personage so wonderful, to say the least, as the Immanuel to be born, Who should altogether eclipse Hezekiah and break off the yoke of the Assyrian from the neck of Israel, the glorious person to bring in the glorious state promised in Isa. 9: 6, 7.

It is as plain as can be on the face of these chapters that Shear‑jashub (= the remnant shall return) was already born, and was the prophet's companion, as we see at the beginning of Isa. 7. Not less plain is it that Maher‑shalal‑hash‑baz (= hasten prey, speed spoil, Isa. 8) was to be born of the prophetess. Both distinctly set forth the great events of undying interest to Israel, the one pledging the return of the remnant, the other intimating the Assyrian attack and its consequences. Why trust the Assyrian who should spoil the holy land? Why dread the kings who were so soon to be swept away? But between the two comes a wholly different promise, the virgin's Son, excluding in all fairness of exposition both the king and the prophet with their children. His name Immanuel (God with us) speaks incomparably better things; and it reappears after the prophet's second son, and even after the horrors represented by his name, when devastation had done its worst. But woe to those who meddle with Thy land, O Immanuel! Israel, and Judah, and David's house may too justly bring down the chastening, and "the king" in the land at the end be yet worse than the unworthy politician who then held the sceptre. The ruin may seem complete, deliverance hopeless; but Immanuel! that is, God is with us. Such is the general outline. Further details are yet to be given in their place. We shall see that the following chapters, both in the extent and nature of Israel's distress and evil, the changed relation of God to His people, and above all the glorious interposition of Immanuel, go far beyond any present or proximate encouragement to Israel (though there was this of course), and look on to days still future and quite distinct from anything meanwhile accomplished by Christ for the Christian or the church.

Nothing can be more apposite than "the sign" Jehovah gave, little as the feeble and self‑willed Ahaz might appreciate it. For the coalition of the king of Israel with him of Syria was to depose the house of David and set up Ben‑Tabeal over Judah. Man would have counted it enough to promise that his son Hezekiah, and his son, and so on, should succeed; and this would have been much to comfort one who simply confided in a promise through a divinely sent prophet. But as howsoever many the promises of God, in Christ is the Yea, so through Him too is the Amen for glory to God by us. Hence for the Jew all is made to centre in the Messiah. Not merely shall a remnant return, but the Seed of promise, the virgin's Son, be born. Put this birth as far off as you please from the time of Ahaz, only thereby do you render more conspicuous the voice of God in prophecy and the sure mercies of David. The righteous covenant of God would not fail to judge what an Ahaz and a Manasseh, a Jehoiakim, a Jehoiachin, and a Zedekiah would sow, spite of a faithful Hezekiah or a godly Josiah. But Immanuel was an indefectible assurance that no confederacy could put down David's house finally. Messiah, Son of David, is the divine guarantee. The virgin must bear Him of that stock; the virgin's Son must also be, in some true though mysterious way, God Himself. Immanuel ensures that God's purpose of blessing shall stand and be established for ever.

It has been observed that the "son" Immanuel, in ver. 14 appears not to be "the youth" of ver. 16; which last refers rather to Shear‑jashub, who for this reason seems to have accompanied the prophet. And it is pertinent to observe that the Hebrew here is neither "son" nor "child" strictly, but "the youth" or "lad," r['N'h' . "For before the youth knoweth to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land, because of whose two kings thou art alarmed, shall be forsaken (Cf. Isa. 6: 11). Jehovah will bring upon thee and upon thy father's house days which have not come since the day when Ephraim turned away from Judah - the king of Assyria" (vv. 16, 17). Great as the disaster had been under Jeroboam, a greater was at hand, with triumph in the end. It will be noticed, accordingly, that here we have Isaiah turning from "the house of David," "ye" and "you" to "thou" etc. that is Ahaz. Compare vers. 13, 14 with 16, 17. And it is certain that the prophet's child Shear‑jashub had the character of a "sign" (see Isa. 8: 18), though and of course very distinct from God's great sign, the virgin's Son. From verse 16 the king was to learn, that before the youth (who appears almost certainly to be Shear‑jashub) arrived at years of discretion, the allied kings must disappear from the scene. And so they did: for three years more scarce passed when the kings of Israel and Syria fell before the treachery or might of their enemies.

It is only fair to add that some Christians, who fully see the Incarnation here, understand all the verses (14-16) to refer to Immanuel. Some even go so far as to accept the notion of certain Rabbis that the prophet in spirit beholds the virgin already pregnant, on the principle of prophecy anticipating the fact sometimes as though present. Others again, by the youth or lad of v. 16, understand any youngling, not one in particular. but whatever be the shade of difference in detail, the unique fact stands indelible in its majestic outline.

The difficulty urged as to "the land" which should be forsaken, whose two kings were an object of abhorrence or alarm to Ahaz, is imaginary. The land or ground hm;d;a}h; is not at all restricted to the sense of a single country. It is a word susceptible of considerable variety of meaning, as the context may require, from land or ground in the narrowest sense, to an entire country or several countries, or even to the superficial world at large the habitable earth. Thus in "all the families of the earth" its force is extended comprehensively; and here the two kings define it as the land, not of one only, but of them both. compare as to this Isa. 8: 4, "For before the child [Maher‑shalalhash‑baz] shall have knowledge to cry, My father and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria." See also 2 Kings 15: 29, 30; 2 Kings 16: 9. The "two kings" would seem to be, therefore those of Syria and Samaria or Israel, and "the land," that which pertained to each. The Messianic interpretation of ver. 14 rests on an irrefragable basis, whether or not it be continued to verses 15, 16, and the application of the two kings to those of Israel and Syria.

Should guilty Ahaz and Judah, then, go unpunished? In no wise, as the prophet proceeds to let him know. "And it shall come to pass in that day, [that] Jehovah will hiss for the fly that [is] in the uppermost part of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee that [is] in the land of Assyria; and they shall come and settle all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and on all thorn‑bushes, and on all the pastures" (vv. 18, 19). The faith of Hezekiah might stay the execution of Judah's judgement, and the king of Assyria was rebuked for a season. But even Josiah, faithful as he was, suffered for his rash opposition to "the fly that is at the end of the streams of Egypt"; and "the bee that is in the land of Assyria" stung yet more fiercely at the summons of Jehovah. "In that day will Jehovah with a razor hired beyond the river, with the king of Assyria, shave the head and the hair of the feet, yea, it will also consume the beard. And it shall come to pass in that day, [that] a man shall nourish a young cow, and two sheep. And it shall come to pass for the abundance of milk [that] they shall give, he shall eat curds: for curds and honey shall every one eat [that is] left in the land. And it shall come to pass in that day, [that] every place where were a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings shall become briars and thorns. With arrows and with bow shall they come thither, because the whole land shall become briars and thorns. And all the hills that were hoed with the hoe, thither they will not come for fear of briars and thorns; but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of sheep" (vv. 20‑25). The character of Israel's land should thus be wholly changed; and so complete is the desolation ensuing, that the owner of a young cow and two sheep would find the amplest range for his scanty flock in the wilderness that succeeded to the rich cornfields of Palestine, and himself be fed on the nourishment proper to wandering hordes, not on the food of cultivated land. What a picture! Yes, and the best of vineyards (compare Cant. 8: 11) becomes a bed of briars and thorns; and men cannot pass unprotected by bows and arrows; and the carefully tended hills are turned into a place for oxen and lesser cattle. So dark as well as minute are the lines in which the sorrowful change in Judæa is set before her king.

Thus the league Ahaz dreaded came to nothing; but the Assyrian on whom he leaned became the rod for the guilty king and people. God will be the refuge of His people, and turns theresource of unbelief into their scourge. Here the Assyrian pursues his sweeping ravages unchecked for a season. The figure of shaving as with a razor is expressive and obvious; but here it is carried out into striking details. It is not the head only that is thus stripped bare, but the least and lowest and scantiest parts of the body politic; as the beard represents that which in feelings then prevalent was most sensitive of dishonour. The closing verses set forth a vivid picture of the results of spoliation, where an agricultural people are reduced to a handful of stragglers living on pastoral produce that cost little or no labour. We must not confound a land flowing with milk and honey, the normal state of the land and people, and a man here or there keeping a young cow and two sheep, yet from that scanty stock finding such abundance of milk as to eat curds or butter. No corn, wine, or oil; no grapes or olives, figs or pomegranates; no exchange of harvest or stock produce for commodities amidst a numerous and thriving population; but thorns and briars where had been the richest vineyards, and one going thither with arrows and the bow; and what was once sedulously tilled consigned to cattle great or small.

Isaiah 8

We have already the two great parties of which the prophecy treats, Immanuel and the Assyrian. The virgin should conceive a Son - Messiah, Immanuel; Jehovah should bring upon the unworthy son of David the king of Assyria, to whom alone he had looked for succour. The humblest Jew ought to have cried to Jehovah.

In the chapter before us now we have other and fuller information vouchsafed of Jehovah. "And Jehovah said unto me, Take thee a great tablet, and write upon it with the pen of man, for Maher‑shalal‑hash‑baz. And I took (or will take) unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah. And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said Jehovah unto me, Call his name Maher‑shalal‑hash‑baz" (vv. 1‑3). This is explained to Isaiah and by him, "For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and My mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria" (v. 4). And all this, as the inspired history proves, was fulfilled to the letter.

But there is more, "And Jehovah spoke again unto me, saying, Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that flow softly, even rejoicing in Rezin and in Remaliah's son, therefore behold the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And he shall mount up over all his channels, and go over all his banks; and he shall sweep on into Judah; and he shall overflow and go farther, he shall reach [even] to the neck; and the out‑stretching of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Emmanuel" (vv.5-8). We are here in the presence of the scenes of the latter day, whatever type in the measure of accomplishment near at hand. The water of Shiloah being despised, there must come the far different waters of the Assyrian and these all but overwhelmingly, when He (whose Incarnation had been announced to the unbelieving Ahaz as God's sign in mercy) shall at length appear to vindicate His land. The Assyrian proudly fills the land, reaching even "to the neck"; yet he is not merely checked and put to shame, but utterly and for ever broken in Immanuel's land. Compare Micah 5: 3‑6; for the mind of the Spirit is one, and scripture cannot be in vain.

The people here had no faith, any more than the king in the preceding scene. Both of them despised the ways and the promises of God. Their confidence, as their fear, was man. If Ahaz cowered before the two tails of the smoking firebrands, as Jehovah contemptuously designated the fierce anger of the combined kings of Israel and Syria, the people refused the softly flowing streams of Shiloah. Just would be their retribution. The impetuous river, the Assyrian, should rise to overflowing and well‑nigh overwhelm the land.

But is it not "Thy land, O Immanuel"? Assuredly; and whatever be the king, whatever the people, whatever the needed humbling of them both, will not God avenge the insult to Him Who, when reviled, reviled not again? He is not deaf to the cryof His elect: how does He feel for Immanuel and Immanuel's land? Did the people associate themselves? They might spare themselves the trouble; they shall be broken. Did all they of far countries gird themselves? If they fear not, let them hear their sentence of Jehovah. "Rage, ye peoples, and ye shall be broken in pieces. And give ear, all ye distant parts of the earth. Gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together, and it shall come to naught; speak a word, and it shall not stand; for God [is] with us [Immanuel]" (vv. 9, 10). Immanuel is far more and other than Shear‑jashub.

This opens the door for pointing out the path of faith for the godly, Jehovah Himself the sole and sure resource, the one object of reverence and fear in a day of manifold evil and thickening danger. "For Jehovah spoke thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, Say ye not, Confederacy (or conspiracy), of everything of which this people shall say, Confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be in dread. Jehovah of hosts, him shall ye sanctify; and [let] him [be] your fear, and [let] him [be] your dread. And he will be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken and snared and taken. Bind thou up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait for Jehovah that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. Behold, I and the children whom Jehovah hath given me [are] for signs and for wonders in Israel from Jehovah of hosts who dwelleth in mount Zion" (vv 11‑18).

Now it is certain that those "disciples," who had pre‑trusted in the Christ (Eph. 1: 12), while the mass of the Jews rejected Him, as alas! they do still, became at Pentecost the nucleus of Christianity, and were "added together daily" by the Lord, and formed "their own company" (Acts 4: 23), distinctly called "the church" (Acts 5: 11) thenceforward. But this heavenly transformation is quite omitted here, and left as a secret to be made known in the New Testament. The prophet looks onward to the accomplishment of their hopes as Israel for the earth under the Messiah in the latter day. In neither the Old Testament is it Israel transferred to the church, nor in the New Testament the church incorporating Israel by‑and‑by. But the church itself, as Christ's body, is in no way revealed here. It is left as a heavenly secret to be revealed to the holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit in the New Testament. And we pass over from the godly remnant at our Lord's first advent to the troublous and dark scene which precedes the day of His appearing at the end of this age. This, which is the evident and simple truth of the passage, cuts up by the root the allegorizing fancy that Judah or Israel means the church. In fact, they never mean it but the ancient people of Jehovah reserved, through the just chastisement of their sins, to be His people blessed in sovereign mercy in His day of blessing for all the families of the earth. The church is called out of the world for heavenly glory. To identify two bodies so distinct and contrasted is to lose the definite truth of each and of both.

Meanwhile the prophet believes in what Jehovah made known, whether in judgement of the mass, or in mercy to the remnant. It is a Gentile thought, deserving of all reprobation, that prophecy was given only to be believed and understood when, being fulfilled, it then became history. There is a remnant always that believes; and they gather thereby present cheer in the midst of sorrow. In truth, to be thus in felt and confessed weakness, to be cast therefore on "Jehovah of hosts Himself," is really, spite of all appearance to the eyes and reasonings of men, to be master of the situation. Even in a still more blessed way the apostle could take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake. "Most gladly (as he had said before) will I rather glory in mine infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me." But here we listen to the prophet, who assures us of the final triumphant deliverance of Israel. There is connection with present facts, and looking onward through the dreary circumstances of the desolate remnant, till Jehovah rises up and settles all for their deliverance in the destruction of every foe. The united strength of their enemies should be vain. What those who feared Jehovah needed was neither a confederacy nor alarm at such as trusted in it, but to sanctify Jehovah, and make Him their sanctuary. Yet He should be a stone of stumbling, even to both the houses of Israel, yea, a gin and snare to Jerusalem itself.

It is clear, then, that here we have not only the nations who would have swallowed up Israel doomed to a total overthrow, but the truth so strange and unpalatable (save to Gentile conceit) long after, of Israel too in all its extent stumbling at the stone of stumbling - their own Jehovah‑Messiah. And withal, in the midst are seen a feeble few cleaving to His testimony, and owned as His disciples, while Jehovah hid His face from the people as a whole. They become a separate remnant, when the mass stumble, fall, and are broken, snared and taken. Hence, in Heb. 2: 12, 13, the Holy Spirit does not hesitate to cite v. 18 with other scriptures (Ps. 16; Ps. 22), to prove the sanctified and the Sanctifier "all of one." For indeed He is not ashamed to call them brethren; and this, now in Christianity, while the nation is given over to blindness and unbelief.

Surely in presence of such a prophecy, more than seven centuries before it began to be fulfilled, men ought to be ashamed of their cavils. How overlook so plain a key to the light of God with Christ's disciples, while the Jews have stumbled at the stumbling‑stone, and Jehovah hides His face from the house of Jacob? Yet the Jews shall yet understand these signs and wonders when they bow their stiff neck to their rejected Messiah.

The closing verses show their exceeding iniquity and their impious recourse to the powers of darkness in their own evident want of light, as they despised and departed from the law and the testimony of Jehovah. The effect is intense misery, audacious rage, and blasphemy of their King and their God, in all the agony of despair. "And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits and unto the wizards, that chirp and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? on behalf of the living [should they seek] unto the dead? To the law and to the testimony! if they speak not according to this word, surely there is no morning for them. And they shall pass through it, hardly distressed and hungry: and it shall come to pass that, when they shall be hungry, they will fret themselves, and curse (or by) their king and their God, and turn their faces upward: and they will look unto the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and into thick darkness they shall be driven away" (vv. 19‑22).

Isaiah 9

"For the gloom [is] not [to be] to her that was in anguish. At first he degraded the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but later he honoured, the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the nations.* The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them the light hath shone" (vv. 1, 2). The citation of this in Matt. 4: 14-16 gives much insight. There the fulfilment applies to the presence and ministry of the Lord in that region so despised, as far as the people are concerned. Let the hand of oppression be yet more grievous than had ever pressed upon them; yet would there be this difference (and how verified during our Lord's first appearing in their midst!), that among the darkest and most despised in the land should spring up a great light. It was in Galilee, not Jerusalem, that the grace of Jesus shone. And so in the last days: the Galilean character attaches to the future remnant. Jerusalem will be the prey of the worst delusions and deadliest error. But the darkest and coldest night precedes a dawn of joy and glory. And so it will be for Israel when He Who was despised and their stumbling‑block, but withal Jehovah the shield and sanctuary of the weak yet godly remnant, shall rise and shine in all His effulgence on His people.

*Dr. W. Kay thus translates it, "For no gloom is there to her that was distressed. At the former time He brought contempt on the land of Zebulun, and on the land of Naphtali; but in the latter time He brought honour, the way of the sea.

"Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast* increased their joy: they joy before thee as with the joy of harvest, as they rejoice when they divide the spoil. For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. For every boot of him that is shod for the tumult, and the garment rolled in blood, shall be for burning, fuel for fire. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name is called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Father of eternity (or the coming age), Prince of Peace. To the increase of the government and to peace [there shall be] no end upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with judgement and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The jealousy of Jehovah of hosts will perform this" (vv. 3‑7).

*It is plain that "not increased the joy" is erroneous, The margin is right, substantially, as the next clause might prove to any reader.

The efforts of Jews and rationalists to shake this striking prophecy of the Messiah are not violent merely but pitiable. Thus some of them turn it: He Whose name is Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,* Father of eternity, shall call him (Hezekiah) Prince of peace. Even here the witnesses do not agree: for the Talmud, which applies it in the same way, boldly gives all eight titles to the son of Ahaz. But the construction is also, as Dr. McCaul pointed out, contrary to Hebrew idiom, which requires that wOmv] , referring to the person named, should be placed between the name and the person or thing named (see Gen. 16: 15; Gen. 21: 3; Gen. 22: 14; Ex. 2: 22; Ruth 4: 17; 1 Sam. 1: 20; 2 Sam. 12: 25). The Talmudical application of all to Hezekiah is too exaggerated if not impious for some modern Jews who follow Rashi. But even their attribute of Prince of peace to that pious king is in the face of all the scriptural account of his troubled reign. Others, like Mr. Leeser, translate it "Counsellor of the mighty God, of the everlasting Father, prince of peace," and think it important to note that it alludes to a child already born, contrary to his own version of Isa. 7: 14, and forgetful of the habit of the prophets to speak of things that are not as though they were (realising them in prophetic vision, but giving enough in the context to prove that they are future).

*Gesenius would like to translate this title "the mighty hero," In order to get rid of "God" here. But lae is never used as an adjective; and even so, if it were here only, it should follow, not precede, rwOBNI , as has been noticed.

But the Targum supports the proper Messianic reference, and proves that among the ancient Jews no doubt was entertained that the prophet spoke only of the Messiah. The desolation of the land of old by the Assyrian will be renewed by the last representative of the great northern and eastern power, to whom the prophets really look onward. How vain then for Ahaz to seek confederacy with the Assyrian of his day! Confederacies were of old, confederacies will be pre‑eminently in the last days; but the people of God must not trust and need not fear them. Let Jehovah be their refuge and their sanctuary; the godly remnant, His disciples, will need it for the awful and unexampled troubles at the end of this age. Yet the light of Galilee will appear for them. Immanuel, because of Whose rejection Jehovah had so long hidden His face from the house of Jacob (what a comment on Jewish history since Titus took Jerusalem, yea, since the cross!), will cause light to spring up among the despised but godly ones of the people, as at Christ's first coming. In that day, when the climax of trial is reached, and the righteous seem hopelessly broken by the pride and blasphemy of the apostate mass of the Jews in confederacy with the apostate head of the western powers to hold off the Assyrian, Jehovah of Israel will display Himself their deliverer, but prove no other than their own crucified Messiah now to reign over them in power and glory and peace for ever. The reader will find abundant confirmation of all this in the context, and by a careful study of Isa. 10, Isa. 11, where he will find the Assyrian once more, and his destruction followed by the reign of the victorious Messiah. Many who love the truth are, grievous to say, to be censured for a too eager conversion of these scriptures to their own relationship with the Lord. Now the Old Testament gives us but common divine principles for all saints; in the New should we look for, as there only can we find, specific direction and instruction in what is properly Christian. Such an evident bias, and the plain perversion which results, do incalculable mischief to the Jews, as well as afford ready occasion of attack to unbelief where mind is exercised on scripture. In such interpretations they can easily prove the popular views of Christendom erroneous, and hence harden themselves in their own deadly error against the truth which the least enlightened Christian knows he has from God.

Now the Messiah rejected by the Jews sits on the throne of God His Father, in contrast with His own throne, which He is to take another day. Neither David nor any other sat on the Father's throne. The very notion is not only ignorance but profanity. At His coming again He will sit upon the throne of David according to the prophecy before us and many more. Then will be fulfilled the latter part of Psalm 2. The nations will be shattered, not converted (whatever mercy may follow), and Zion rejoice with gladness everlasting. The transition here is plain and immediate from the first advent in grace and humiliation to the second in power and glory. The heavenly exaltation of Christ, and of the church in union with Him, is passed over.

The hour of freedom and victory for Israel is come; and Jehovah it is Who has done all. But it is not as in ordinary war: the noise of human conflict and bloodshed shall end, greave and war-cloak be for burning and fuel of fire. And no wonder, when He stands out their Kinsman-Redeemer, the true but once rejected Son of David, Who is their boast now, with every name of power and peace and blessing, with an endless reign before Him, established with righteousness and judgement from hence forth and for ever. Truly "the zeal (or jealousy) of Jehovah of hosts will perform this."

The prophet now resumes the dirge of judgement on the nation in general, begun in Isa. 5, and interrupted by the two-fold episode of Isa. 6, and of chaps. Isa. 7; Isa. 8; Isa. 9: 1-7. This last gave us the special development of Jehovah's ways with His people: the revelation of His glory in Christ, with its effects in judgement and mercy; the Incarnation, or Immanuel, the virgin's Son, the stay of David's house and hope of Israel, spite of the land desolated by the Assyrian; then the reappearance of the Assyrian, now that it is Immanuel's land, and the overthrow of all the Gentiles associated with him, whatever his great but temporary successes even in the pleasant land. Next, is an inner moral view of the people when (strange to say) Jehovah should be for a stone of stumbling to both the houses of Israel, but a sure sanctuary for a godly remnant, "My disciples," who would be for signs and wonders in Israel at the very time Jehovah hides His face, as He is clearly doing now, from the house of Jacob. All closes in darkness and trouble such as never was for the mass, and yet with light for the despised Galileans, as at the Lord's first advent. So just before the nation is multiplied, the oppression is broken, the victory won not by human sword but by burning and fuel of fire; and He Who is not more surely the virgin's Son, the woman's Seed, than the mighty God, the Prince of peace, establishes His blessed kingdom from henceforth even for ever.

Here we take up again (compare Isa. 5: 25) the general strain, but with allusion to some of the instruction, as for instance to Rezin and the Assyrian, in the parenthetical part. Vers. 8-12 contain the renewed announcement of divine displeasure, which began with the sin of Jerusalem and Judah, as was fitting; now it passes to Ephraim and Samaria. "The Lord sent a word unto Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel. And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in pride and stoutness of heart, The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycamores are cut down, but we will replace [them] with cedars. And Jehovah will set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and stir up his enemies, the Syrians before and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth." It is clear that as yet the ten rebellious tribes are the object of judgement, and emphatically their pride of heart in despising Jehovah's rebuke and confiding in their own powers. For this is their fond hope and vainglorious arrogance, turning their breach into an occasion of greater strength and display than ever. "The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycamores are cut down, but we will replace [them] with cedars." But here came the retributive dealing of God. Had Syria's king, Rezin, joined them in unholy league against Judah? "Therefore Jehovah shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together; the Syrians before and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth." So it ever is. The unfaithful people seek the world's alliance against those with whom God's testimony is, but prove ere long that the friendship of the world is not only enmity against God but destruction to themselves. "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand [is] stretched out still."

The next view of their judgement (vv. 13‑17) is not so much judicial retribution from without, but, because His chastening was slighted, Jehovah's giving up Israel to utter internal demoralization. "But the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek Jehovah of hosts. And Jehovah will cut off from Israel head and tail, palm‑branch and rush, in one day. The elder and honourable, he [is] the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he [is] the tail. For the leaders of this people mislead [them]; and [they that are] led by them are swallowed up." The ruin is universal in one day on all classes, from the highest to the lowest of Israel, "palm‑branch and rush": all plunged into common destruction, leaders and led. What a picture! and how much more dismal and hopeless, when the righteous Lord, indignant at the abounding falsehood and wrong under the highest pretensions to sanctity alike shuts up His affections, and even His compassion! "Therefore the Lord will not rejoice in their young men, neither will he have mercy on the fatherless and widows." Neither youth and vigour are pleasant to Him, nor can orphanage or widowhood touch His heart longer in a people so depraved. "For everyone [is] a hypocrite and an evil‑doer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand [is] stretched out still."

Then follows a most vivid picture of wickedness burning like fire; of Jehovah's wrath consuming the land; and of the reckless unsparing violence of brother against brother. "For wickedness burneth as the fire; it devoureth the briars and thorns: yea, it kindleth in the thickets of the forest, and they roll upward in thick clouds of smoke. Through the wrath of Jehovah of hosts is the land burnt up: the people also are as the fuel of fire; no man spareth his brother. 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: Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh; [and] they together shall be against Judah. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand [is] stretched out still" (vv. 18‑21). The nearest of the ten should devour each other, and both Judah. Nevertheless, it is the earthly judgement of God. We must look elsewhere to find the still more awful eternal judgement which awaits the impenitent and unbelieving in the resurrection of judgement. For the full revelation of this, however, we must turn to the New Testament, where the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men that hold the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1: 18); as indeed the Lord in Mark 9: 43‑48 had solemnly shown in giving an everlasting force to language drawn from the earthly judgement of Isa. 66: 24.

Isaiah 10

The last of these disciplinary inflictions is given in Isa. 10. Here (vv. 1‑4) it is the unrighteousness of the judges, who stood in the place of God Himself, and were called Elohim or gods (Ps. 82: 6), but who most grievously misrepresented His character and wronged His people, specially the defenceless. "Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and unto the writers that prescribe oppression; to turn aside the needy from judgement, and to take away the right from the afflicted of my people, that widows may be their prey, and [that] they may rob the fatherless! And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation [which] shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help! and where will ye leave your glory? "And this is His sentence on them: "Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain." The most exalted shall be most abased; and those shall fare worst whom it least became to turn their high estate and large power to God‑dishonouring greed, and to oppression of the weak and wretched. "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand [is] stretched out still."

But now, from verse 5, we enter on a most weighty change. The Assyrian desolator comes up once more. It is his final working which is chiefly in the mind of the Holy Ghost; as indeed this is the grand catastrophe and last trouble of Jacob, and in contrast with the oft‑repeated formula of still continuing unexhausted wrath. Now, on the contrary, in this proud enemy of Israel we have the end of Jehovah's anger. "The day of visitation" is there, the "desolation from far" is come. The indignation ceases and Jehovah's anger in their destruction. His anger now is turned away and His arm stretched out no more. The rod should be broken, the scourge destroyed, as the chastening work is done.

Again, it is of great moment to apprehend clearly that the Antichrist, or man of sin, is a totally distinct personage. The commentators from Eusebius to Horsley, to pass by a crowd of others who confound the two, are herein inexcusably careless of the Scriptures. For it is very clear that there will be a wilful king in the city and land who will set himself up as Messiah and Jehovah in His temple, received as such by the apostate Jews; and that, altogether opposed to this Antichrist in Jerusalem who is in league with the western power, will arise another chief, an external antagonist of the Jews, who is the Assyrian, or Daniel's king of the north, so often occurring in the prophecies. Of him Sennacherib, to a certain extent, was a type.

The Assyrian then was first used as a rod to chastise Israel. "Ho, Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, the staff in whose hand is mine indignation. I will send him against a hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to seize the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. But he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but [it is] in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few." But he owned not God, "For he saith, [Are] not my princes all kings? [Is] not Calno as Carchemish? [is] not Hamath as Arpad? [is] not Samaria as Damascus? As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols (and their graven images exceeded those of Jerusalem and of Samaria), shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her images?" (vv. 5‑11). His own doom is therefore sealed.

"And it shall come to pass [that], when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon Mount Zion and upon Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done [it], and by my wisdom, for I am prudent; and I have removed the bounds of the peoples, and have robbedtheir treasures, and like a valiant man I have put down them that sit [on thrones]; and my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the peoples; and as one gathereth forsaken eggs, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or chirped.

"Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake them that lift it up; as if the staff should lift up [him that is] not wood. Therefore shall the Lord, Jehovahof hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire. And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame; and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briars in one day; and it shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body; and they shall be as when a standard‑bearer [or, a sick man] fainteth. And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, yea, a child may write them" (vv. 12‑19). It is the closing scene. The Lord has not even yet performed His whole work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem. Nay, He will not have done it as long as the Antichrist will be in the land. He having been disposed of by His epiphany from heaven, the Assyrian still remains to be punished. The former is the enemy of the heavenly rights and divine glory of Christ (denying the Father and the Son), but will be destroyed by His sudden shining forth from heaven; the latter dares to oppose His earthly rights, and will be dealt with accordingly when He is come to reign over the earth.

"And it shall come to pass in that day [that] the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again rely upon him that smote them; but they shall rely upon Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant shall return, the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, [only] a remnant of them shall return: the consumption determined shall overflow in righteousness. For the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, will make a consumption even determined in the midst of all the land" (vv. 20-23). Then indeed Israel's unbelief shall for ever pass away: Israel will trust no more in an arm of flesh, be it Egyptian, Assyrian, or what not. The slaughter of Midian and the manner of Egypt give the characteristic patterns of the future deliverance.* "Therefore thus saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian: though he smite thee with the rod, and lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt. For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall be accomplished, and mine anger, in their destruction. And Jehovah of hosts will stir up against him a scourge, as in the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb: and his rod [shall be] over the sea, and he will lift it up after the manner of Egypt. And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall depart from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing" (vv. 24‑27). The sign of Shear‑jashub is thus made good. The apostle in Rom. 9: 27, 28, quotes this prophecy to justify from the Old Testament the fact which is assumed throughout the New Testament that only a remnant of the people had saving relations with God. So it is now under the gospel, as it was after Babylon; and so it will be when the last crisis comes, and the struggles of the Antichrist and the Assyrian, till the Messiah decides all and displays His kingdom in power here below. (Compare Dan. 8: 19-25; Dan. 9: 26, 27; Dan. 11: 36-45; Dan. 12: 11)

*Dr. R. P Smith, the late Dean of Canterbury says well (in his Authenticity and Messianic Interpretation of Isaiah, 63): "Thus the Prophet at once marks the difference between the two kingdoms. The one has a definite place in the Divine economy; the other is used but for a temporary object. For the moment, therefore, it may triumph; but it has no mission of its own, no settled final purpose in the world, and therefore no special providence hems it around. But Jerusalem, however unworthy, was the actual centre of the world's history; and in spite of her feebleness in spite of her comparative insignificance she must outlive the far mightier kingdoms of Nineveh and Babylon, of Persia and Macedon and Antioch; for on her existence depended the accomplishment of God's unchanging counsels." It would have added immensely to the convictions of the author and to the value of his book had he seen that the purposes of God as to the earth which roll round Israel as their centre, are only suspended for a season because of their rejection of Messiah and the gospel to be renewed by grace at the end of this age in order to bring in the new age, when God has completed His present gathering out from the universe under His sway (and we with Him risen and glorified), and the nations then on earth will enjoy the blessing under His reign. The present age has quite another aim and character from that age to come, which again is distinct from the eternity that succeeds the great white throne or judgement of the dead.

The chapter closes with a most animated description of the Assyrian's march down from the north into the utmost nearness to Jerusalem. "He is come to Aiath, he is passed through Migron; at Michmash he layeth up his baggage. They are gone over the pass; they make their lodging at Geba: Ramah trembleth, Gibeah of Saul is fled. Lift up thy voice, daughter of Gallim. Hearken, Laishah. Poor Anathoth! Madmenah is a fugitive the inhabitants of Gebim gather themselves to flee. Yet today [is he] to halt at Nob: he shaketh his hand at the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem" (vv. 28‑32). In vain, however: he shall come to his end, and none shall help him. "Behold the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, shall lop the boughs with terror; and the high ones of stature [shall be] hewn down, and the haughty [shall be] humbled. And he shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one" (vv. 33, 34). The image here employed most appropriately prepares the way for the introduction (in the next and connected chapter) of Messiah, the shoot from the stump of Jesse, and the fruitful sprout to grow from his roots.

Isaiah 11

In contrast with the destruction of the high and haughty Assyrian under the stroke of Jehovah, we have in this chapter a remarkable and full description of the Messiah: first, in a moral point of view; and, next, in His kingdom, its character, and its accompaniments. It is no longer "the rod of His anger," the staff in Whose hand is Mine indignation, but a Branch from Jesse's roots, yet withal the Root of Jesse, Who will infallibly bless both Israel and the Gentiles in that day of the kingdom, though He will bring the lofty low, as well as smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips slay the wicked or lawless one, in order to that wondrous end.

The entire strain is closed with a suited song of praise (Isa. 12) in the lips of Israel, now indeed and for ever blessed of Jehovah, their Holy One in their midst.

"And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit: and the spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah; and his delight will be in the fear of Jehovah: and he will not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: but with righteousness will he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he will smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips will he slay the wicked [one]" (vv. 1‑4).

To look and contend for a fulfilment of this prophecy in Hezekiah or Josiah would be idle, and only shows the straits to which the rationalistic enemies of revelation are reduced. No king, let him be ever so pious or glorious, that followed Ahaz, no, nor David nor Solomon in the past, even approached the terms of the prediction either personally or in the circumstances of their reign. Did the "Spirit of Jehovah" rest upon the better of the two when he said, "I shall now perish by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines?" Was it "the Spirit of wisdom and understanding," when he feigned himself mad, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard? Was it "the Spirit of counsel and might," when David amused his credulous host of Gath with his fictitious razzias against the south of Judah, when in truth he was invading the Geshurites, Amalekites, etc., without leaving a human being to tell the tale? Was it the "Spirit of knowledge" that dealt with Absalom? Was the numbering of Israel done in "the fear of Jehovah"? Was the matter of Uriah a proof that "righteousness" was "the girdle of his loins" or "faithfulness" "of his reins"? When was the earth smitten with the rod of any king's mouth? Or whose lips ever breathed to the destruction of the wicked? And who has seen that wondrous change, depicted in verses 6‑9, passing over the fierce beasts and the most timid; and man's lordship owned at length by all, subject and harmonious, even in the person of a babe? Equally impossible, at the least, is it to say that the latter part of the chapter was met by anything resembling its predictions in any era of Israel. The idea of Zerubbabel fulfilling it is preposterous. There was not a single resemblance in that day of small things.

Is it contended, on the other hand, that so glowing a picture of the great King and His kingdom is realised spiritually in the church and in the blessings of the gospel? Without descending so low as the gross pretensions of papal ambition, the spiritual or rather mystical interpretation which suits worldly‑minded Christendom finds its expression in Theodoret, or earlier still. This writer sees the apostolic doctrine change earth into heaven, and the picture in verses 6‑8 accomplished in kings, prefects, generals, soldiers, artizans, servants, and beggars partaking together of the same holy talk, and hearing the same discourses! Paul with the philosophers at Athens illustrates, according to him, the weaned child putting his hand on the cockatrice's den; as the promise to Peter (Matt. 16: 18) answers to the predicted absence of any destructive thing! Jehovah's holy mountain he explains as the loftiness, strength, and immutability of His divine teaching Theodoret justly explodes the folly of applying such a prophecy to Zerubbabel, who was only governor of a few Jews, and in no way whatever of Gentiles; but he offers an alternative hardly preferable in the Acts of the Apostles, or specially in St. Paul's Epistles.

Such an interpretation as this is not only false in fact but injurious and corrupting in principle. It confounds the church with Israel; it lowers the character of our blessing in Christ from heaven to earth; it weakens the word of God by introducing a haziness needful to the existence of such applications; it undermines the mercy and the faithfulness of God, because it supposes that the richest and most unconditional of His promises to Israel are,notwithstanding, taken from them and turned into the wholly different channel of ourselves. If God could so speak and act towards Israel, where is the guarantee for the Christian or the church? The apostle can and does quote from the prophets, and from this very chapter of our prophet (Rom. 15: 12), to vindicate the principle, so richly illustrated in the gospel, of God's blessing the Gentiles, and of their glorifying God for His mercy. But the self‑same apostle maintains that there is now the revelation of a mystery which was hid from ages and generations, the mystery of Christ and the church, wherein there is neither Jew nor Gentile, in the fullest contrast with the great day when Israel and the nations shall be blessed as such, and in their respective places, under Messiah's reign openly displayed.

In this prophecy, however, as in the Old Testament generally, we see the distinctive blessing of Israel on earth, though there is bright hope for the nations, as well as judgement on all enemies, Jewish or Gentile. All this supposes a state of things essentially differing from God's ways with His church, during which Israel ceases to be thedepository of His testimony and promise. For as the natural Jewish branches were broken off from the olive tree and the Gentile wild olive was grafted in, so because of non continuance inGod's goodness the Gentile will be broken off and the natural branches grafted in again; "And so all Israel shall be saved,as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins" (Rom. 11: 26, 27). Meanwhile blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. Then they will hail their rejected Messiah, and the universal blessing of the earth will follow His destruction of their foes as the initiatory act of His kingdom. Of this (not of the gospel, as regards which the Jews are enemies on our account) the chapters speak; and, thus viewed, all flows harmoniously onward both as a whole and in the smallest detail.

There is another decisive proof, furnished by the same apostle Paul in 2 Thess. 2: 8, that the chapter applies to a future age as contrasted with the present where the rejected Christ is hid in God and glorified on high. It is beyond controversy that our verse4 is authoritatively interpreted of the Lord Jesus destroying the lawless one with the breath of His mouth, and annulling him by the shining forth of His presence or coming. A wholly new age of triumphant power in righteous government will be introduced and maintained by the Lord's appearing, and thus essentially distinguished from this day of grace, while Satan reigns, and those that are Christ's suffer, yet overcome by faith. We wait for His coming as the close of our pilgrimage here below. They await His appearing as deliverance from imminent destruction, and as the beginning of their allotted place of honour and blessing under His reign, and of all the nations in their measure.

"And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit." One cannot but think with others that the allusion to the stem of Jesse is significant. Elsewhere Messiah is viewed as David's son, or styled David himself. Here He is a Shoot or Rod from the stock of Jesse, and a Branch out of his roots for Israel, and the Root of Jesse for the peoples and nations. There would seem a purpose of drawing attention to the lowly condition into which the royal race should have sunk at the birth of the Christ. It was from that family, when of no account in Israel, that David was anointed for the throne. The prophet designates the rise of a greater than David, not from the glory that had been conferred on the house, but in a way readily suggestive of obscurity. From this stock, lowly of old, lowly once more, sprang the hope of Israel on Whom the Spirit rested without measure; or, as Peter preached, God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power. In Rev. 5 He is said to be the Root of David; in 22 his Root and Offspring.

"And the spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah." Here, however, it is not in the activity of grace among the sorrows of men and the oppressions of the devil, that we see Jesus, but in view of His government. Thoroughly subject to Jehovah, He rules not according to appearance but righteously in His fear. Such is the effect of the power that rested on Him. And His delight [quick understanding or scent] will be "in the fear of Jehovah; and he will not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears; but with righteousness will he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth." The Holy Spirit portrays the Messiah's moral fitness for His earthly reign; emphatically His earthly reign, for so it evidently is throughout for every reader who is free from human tradition or prepossession. The Lord Jesus will then do what He refused to do at His first coming. He will judge in equity, and put down oppression, and cause righteousness to flourish in peace. This was in no way His work the first time; and the Christian, as the church, is called not to judge the earth or rule here below, but to suffer with Him, waiting to be glorified and to reign with Him when He returns. We walk by faith, not by sight.

Again, this is confirmed by the latter part of verse 4 already referred to. We need no human comment here, because we have already divine light supplied in 2 Thess. 2: 8. The inspired apostle applies it to the Lord's future destruction of the lawless one, the man of sin, the issue of the apostasy of Christendom. It is the same personage, doubtless, that the beloved disciple describes in 1 John 2: 22: "Who is the liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is the antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son." This latter testimony helps to link all together. 2 Thess. 2 views him specially as the result yet to be manifested of that mystery of lawlessness which was even then working unseen. Isaiah shows, not only the great outside enemy, the Assyrian, judged in Isa. 10, but in Isa. 11: 4 the internal enemy, "the wicked," whom the apostates will accept as their Messiah, destroyed by the true Messiah appearing in glory. He is "the lawless" one of Paul: such is the form of his iniquity. Again, 1 John 2. describes him, first, as the denier of the Messianic glory of Jesus; next, in his full character of the antichrist (not only the liar) as denying the Father and the Son, in other words, the personal glory of Christ as revealed in Christianity.

What deplorable prejudice in men like Jerome, who avail themselves of figurative language (as in branch, rod of His mouth, and girdle) to mystify the vision of earthly change - the restitution of all things! Even such admit the reality of Messiah, as they ought to own that of His reign here below, for heaven is not at all in view; and in order to this the earth is to be smitten by Him Whose word is power, and the lawless one of that day punished finally. Calvin and Hengstenberg would include the hope of a future change by divine power in the material creation (as pledged in Rom. 8: 11-22); but this presupposes glory revealed, and the sons of God no longer hidden as now, but manifested with Christ in glory (Col. 3). We have the liberty of grace now, as creation is to be delivered into the liberty of glory then, our own bodies being part of it.

But this proves the mistake of applying the language to spiritual effects now, still more of denying what awaits the earth and its denizens in "that day." If conversion and the fruit of the Spirit in the heart and life were sought, the supposed figures would ill express the idea. For the wolf and the leopard and the lion are represented as still existing, and contrasted with the lamb and the kid and the calf and the more general "fatling," but with instincts of prey quite vanished. Spiritually regarded, how strange to represent mankind as thus distinguished when the gospel pronounces all as lost and ungodly on the one hand, and all believers as alike saved, and God's children on the other! One could understand the metaphor of the wolf becoming a lamb, and perhaps the leopard a kid, if hardly a lion turning calf or fatling (though the shades become somewhat misty, even for the liveliest fancy). But the actual phraseology forbids all such flights; and as it speaks only of animals, once predaceous, dwelling in peace with the gentlest cattle, it cannot be duly interpreted, save as predictive of facts yet to be made good. Till then faith counts on the power God gives against a state of disorder, as when David saved the lamb, and slew both the lion and the bear, and as figuratively now one may be delivered out of the lion's mouth.

In "that day" will surely be "the regeneration," and the creature will be delivered into a state suited to Christ. An allegorical sense does not consist with the exactitude of the language; the simple grammatical or literal force is in unison with the Old Testament prophecy and New Testament doctrine. For as we were shown the setting aside of the antichrist at the end of this age, we have next a display of the reign of the true Christ and its beneficent effects. "And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the she‑bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the adder, and the weaned child shall put forth his hand to the viper's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea" (vv. 5-9).

It is the world or habitable earth to come "whereof we speak" (Heb. 2: 5) - not heaven, but earth, and especially the land of Israel under Him Whose right it is. What ground is there to doubt its plain and punctual accomplishment? Who has ever heard of any serious objection, save for Sadducean minds which know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? Why should it be thought a thing incredible that God should, in honour of the reign of Jesus, change not the face only but the habits and bent of all animated nature, delivering the creature from the bondage of corruption under which it now groans? When the days come, as Jehovah declares they surely must, that the ploughman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that sows seed, it is not only the earth that shall answer suitably to His beneficent power, but the animal kingdom also, with the one exception which seems good to Him that does not forget the subtle evil‑doer. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all His holy mountain. Even now, when other and deeper questions are before Him, what pity for babes and even for cattle! (See Jonah 4: 11)

The Psalms celebrate the great day with songs of joy; the prophets are plain‑spoken about it; the apostle Paul distinctly treats it as a settled Christian expectation, as did Peter to the Jews in Acts 3: 21, only awaiting the revelation of Christ and of the sons of God along with Him. There is a grievous gap in every scheme and in every heart which does not look for the world's jubilee; without it the earth would only seem made to be spoiled by Satan; whereas to one as to this taught of God, if there were a single creature not put manifestly under the feet of the exalted Son of man, the enemy would be allowed so far to defraud Him of His just reward and supreme rights. In "that day" we shall see (for now we see not yet) all things put under Him: divine judgement on the quick, executed by Christ, brings it in, as we have gathered from verse 4 compared with 2 Thess. 2: 8.

It is either forgotten or explained away, that God has purposed in Himself for the administration of the fullness of times (that is, in the millennial age, or the day of His manifested kingdom) to gather together in one all things in Christ, both those in heaven and those on earth (Eph. 1: 9, 10); for the reconciliation will embrace not only those who believe, but all things whether on earth or in heaven (Col. 1: 20, 21). Creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God (Rom. 8: 21). Let those who allegorise the prophets take note that this divine and as yet unfulfilled purpose is plainly laid down in these great Epistles in the New Testament, to which we might add 1 Cor. 15: 28 and Heb. 2: 9. They cannot deny the literal form of this dogmatic teaching of inspiration. The time spoken of is neither the present state, nor is it eternity, but a blessed period between them which is to last a thousand years. It is strange doctrine to deny truth so clearly revealed; it is strange logic to adduce passages from the Greek and Latin classics, from the so‑called Sibylline Oracles, Ferdausi, Ibn Onein, and the Zend‑Avesta, as rendering improbable the direct interpretation. For it is certain that among the heathen lingered traditions of a golden age of creation to return another day. The complimentary application of this by a courtly poet is in no way inconsistent with the believer's hope of a full fruition of God's word. If it were so, what matters heathen thought, since scripture is clear in holding out such glorious expectations for the earth under the Messiah?

Under Christianity there is according to our Lord (John 4: 21‑24) no such earthly centre as we see there will be in that day. Even Jerusalem has for this vanished. "Believe me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet in Jerusalem worship the Father." The holy places made with hands are now abandoned for the true, even heaven itself, which Christ has entered. Further, it is the hour to worship the Father, of Whom we hear nothing at all as such, nor of worship in spirit and truth. Christianity is wherever the true worshippers adore the Father and the Son in the power of the Spirit. The place on earth is of no moment; only the true object, the true worshippers, and the true principle and power. This only is genuine catholicity.

But this is not all; Israel must be received back in order that the world may thus know life from the dead. "And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse standing as an ensign or banner of the peoples;* it shall the nations seek: and his resting place shall be glory" (v. 10).

*It would appear that the reference is not to the tribes of the ancient people of God, but to such of the nations as shall be in relationship with Jehovah, as distinguished from other Gentiles who are not.

"And it shall come to pass in that day [that] the Lord will set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea" (v. 11). Those do the enemy's work who contend that these scriptures are fulfilled, or even in course of fulfilment. Save the general principle (which is, no doubt, conspicuous in the gospel) - that Gentiles seek and hope for and find eternal blessedness in Christ, it is a scene wholly future. We have the nations and the peoples blessed as such, no less than Israel, but not a syllable about that heavenly body which differs from both. The church of God is to be no longer on earth but on high in that day when every creature will be in its true place according to divine purpose, because the Lord Christ will then have His rights everywhere incontestably displayed.

The person of the Messiah has been revealed: and we know how truly He was the vessel of the Spirit on earth, and that in Him was displayed every grace which became man toward God - or God toward man in Christ Jesus Himself man, withal God over all blessed for evermore. But He is not yet seated on His own throne nor exercising His public kingdom here below; nor is the remnant of His people yet recovered from north, south, east, and west. Are we therefore to suppose that His arm is shortened? or that He has abandoned His cherished purpose? and that His gifts and calling are subject to repentance? Such is not our God. Is He ours only and not also of the Jews? Yes, theirs also; "And he will set up an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and they that vex Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim" (vv. 12, 13).

On the one hand it is a pitifully poor fulfilment of this exceeding great and precious promise to suppose all fulfilled in the feeble return from Babylon, when a small part of the Jews went up to Jerusalem with a very few individuals of Ephraim; and their neighbours sank lower and lower under the various imperial powers till Rome ground all down to servitude. No, it is a bright day of great things, not for man only, but for the name of Jehovah on earth. On the other hand, it is not the heavenly mystery of Christ and the church, but the times of restitution of all things according to prophecy. Nor is it the gospel calling souls out of the world for glory on high, but the earth delivered, Israel saved, and the Gentiles converted, under Messiah's reign, when His rest shall be glory. The moral history of Israel shall be reversed, as decidedly as natural history must be learnt anew for the lower creation. Their old jealousies and mutual enmities, too well known after Solomon, fade away for restored Israel. And as for their plotting neighbours,* they may reappear, but it is to be put down for ever not less than their mightier foes. "And they shall fly upon the shoulder of the Philistines toward the sea [or westward]; together they shall spoil the sons of the east; they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them" (v. 14).

*The remarks of Houbigant may be helpful to some on this head. He is objecting to the popular error of allegorising without limit: Sed enim occurrendum est difficultati quae ex eis quae mox diximus, nasci potest. Nam quaeritur, quomodo in ultimo reditu Judaeorum accidere possit ut Judaei excurrant in terminos Philistoeorum, Moabitarum, Ammonitarum, cum regna illa jamdudum perierint. Respondeo eadem regna jam periisse tum, cum Apostoli gentes Evangelio subdiderunt; itaque explicandum esse illis etiam, qui loc Isaiae caput XI. de conversione gentium per Apostolos facta intelligunt, quomodo Apostoli subdiderint gentes, quae eorum aetate jam interierant. Nos responsionemeorumnostram faciemus; quae quidem sic videtur fieri posse, ut credatur Isaias appellare Judaeorum vicinas gentes nominibus iis, quae tum cognita erant, et notari eas gentes quae illarum veterum regiones occupaturae olim sunt, forsan etiam idem nomen habiturae: quae responsio valere etiam potest in nominibus propriis, Assur, AElam, Sennaar, etc. Judicabit sapiens Lector an hoc sit in explicandis Prophetis aperte judaizare, non discedere a proprietate verborum, nisi adest magna necessitas. Nos quidem eam necessitatem tantam esse credimus, quanta maxima esse potest, si Prophetarum verba explicare allegorice nequeas, nisi intervertas Prophetae sententiam, ut mox Grotium fecisse vidimus; vel, nisi, ut nunc Forerium videmus, mutes personas de quibus praedicitur, et pugnes, vel tecum, vel cum ipsa vaticinatione, quam susceperis explicandam," - Prolegomena ad Prophetas, p. cclxviii.

It is a favourite infidel argument against the literal accomplishment of the chapter, adopted (one grieves to say) by the late Dr. Fairbairn (Prophecy, 272), that the people mentioned in verse 14 have disappeared from the stage of history, and therefore that neither the restoration of Israel nor the events growing out of it can be so understood. But this is sheer unbelief of the power of God and of the reliability of scripture. The God Who will bring His hidden ones of Ephraim out of the darkness that still veils them will disclose the descendants of their old adversaries in due time, and among these of their neighbours, who were not less jealous because nearly related in blood. From the Assyrian, the towering king of the north, Edom and Moab and the chief of the children of Ammon contrive to escape (Dan. 11: 41); but not so from the hands of Israel "out of weakness made strong." Jehovah shall be seen over the sons of Zion, and His arrow shall go forth as the lightning; and the Lord Jehovah shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds of the south (Zech. 9: 14): figurative language undoubtedly, but expressive of the divine intervention for Christ's kingdom, which believers in the gospel should be the last to confound with their own mercies, still less to explain away.

Then, in verses 15, 16, we have Jehovah's supernatural dealing with external nature on behalf of His people, when He utterly destroys the tongue of the Egyptian sea, and smites the river into seven streams, so that men may pass dryshod, and there is a highway for the remnant from Assyria, as of old from Egypt. "And Jehovah will utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his scorching wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it into seven streams, and cause [men] to march over dryshod. And there shall be a highway for the remnant of his people, which will remain, from Assyria; like as there was for Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt." In all this latter portion the mystical reading is at utter fault; and greater wonders than in the destruction of Pharaoh's hosts await the final deliverance of Israel from Egypt and from Assyria in the face of a gainsaying and incredulous age.

Short of God's glory established and manifested on the earth, no saint of God should ever rest. It is excellent to serve the living God and our Lord Jesus; it is better still to worship in spirit and truth also, as we wait for His Son from heaven; but the best of all is when He comes and in due time sets up the displayed kingdom, Himself the Heir of all things, and we joint‑heirs with Him. For this will be God's glory below as well as above. Even Pentecostal blessedness, wondrous as it was though transient, did not meet all; and even then the apostle Peter looks for such a result through no action of the Spirit, but through the sending of our Lord Jesus from heaven. Preaching may win souls for heaven; but Christ must come thence to restore all things to God's glory; and this is the chorus which unites all the prophetic choir. Most of all should the Christian have it at heart: for many prophets and kings desired to see what we see, and saw it not; and to hear what we hear, and heard it not. What is it to be of His body, to be of His bride? Least of all should we rest satisfied with anything but Christ exalted over the universe to God's glory. In this chapter is the earthly side of it, as the next is Israel's appropriate song.

Isaiah 12

The song for "that day" concludes this section of our prophet, and is divided into two parts: the first of which (vv. 1‑3) is Israel's praise for what God has been and is to itself; the second (vv.4-6) is the call to one another to spread His praise in all the earth, though Zion be still the centre where God dwells. Yet the defiling hand of neology has not spared the entire chapter, which it declares an expletive, added by another writer to the already complete series foregoing, and not even in the tone, style, or phraseology of Isaiah. Now it is plain to any spiritual mind how sensible the loss would be if this most worthy conclusion of praise were lopped off. Everyone ought to see that the change to such a song involves a tone and style and phrase quite different from the grave addresses and denunciations and the solemn predictions which have preceded, but is the simple and suited sequel of Isa. 11.

"And in that day thou shalt say, I will praise thee, O Jehovah. Though thou hast been angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortest me. Behold, God [is] my salvation: I will trust and not be afraid; for Jah Jehovah [is] my strength and song, and he is become my salvation. And ye shall draw water with joy from the fountains of salvation."*

* This verse 3 is no interruption of the song, but a connected and beautifully harmonious part of it, and transitional to what follows.

"And in that day ye shall say, Give ye thanks to Jehovah; call upon his name; declare his doings among the peoples; make mention that his name is exalted. Sing psalms of Jehovah, for he hath done splendid things; this is [or, be it] known in all the earth. Cry out and shout, O inhabitress of Zion; for great in the midst of thee [is] the Holy One of Israel" (vv. 1‑6).

Certainly it is not a temporal deliverance only, however astonishing and complete, but there are rich blessings for the soul also. Best of all, the Holy One of Israel dwells in their midst. This, however, in no way takes it from Israel, nor compels us to interpret it of the Gentiles, however surely we now profit even more deeply during the gospel by the grace of God still more profoundly known in Christ. But it is plain that as a whole the language strictly belongs to a body once forsaken by God, and long the object of divine displeasure. This is not true of the church, but is precisely applicable to the ancient people of God, in the day when Messiah shall be manifested to them, and they shall say with heart and mouth, Blessed He that cometh in the name of Jehovah.

We have the amplest ground, material, and pattern for our praise, as the church of God, in the New Testament. And it differs essentially from Israel's, who do not speak of the Father andthe Son, and know not what it is to draw near into theholiest through the rent veil, any more than it will be theirs to suffer with Christ; whereas we walk by faith, and wait for Him by virtue of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. This cannot be conceived to be their experience, who have Christ reigning over the earth, freed from the tempter and blessed with boundless favours here below.

It is sad to read the words of Bishop Lowth, a man of refined taste ratherthan of Biblical lore, that "this hymn seems, by its whole tenor, and by many expressions in it, much better calculated for the Christian church than for the Jewish, in any circumstances, at any time that can be assigned." The fact is that every word quite suits Jews when delivered and under the Messiah's reign, and that not a sentence is in harmony with the church of God. There is no God and Father of Christ before us; there is no Christ in heaven made known by the Holy Spirit's power in the saints; there is no consciousness of union in one body. His more intelligent father, W. Lowth, talked of "the triumphant state of the church"; but this will be in heavenly glory. Whereas it is earth only that is contemplated here.

The inhabitress of Zion has indeed the foremost place, and is called to cry aloud and shout, for great is the Holy One of Israel that dwells in its midst; but the Jews, blessed themselves to overflowing, are called, and will answer to the call, and declare Jehovah's deeds among the peoples, and announce that His name is exalted. In all the earth is known what sublime things He has done. Mercy so rich causes greed and jealousy, pride and vanity, to vanish.

We may observe that the usual notion of "Jah" as an abbreviated form of "Jehovah" can hardly consist with its usage here (v. 2) along with "Jehovah." See also Isa. 26: 4, where the same association occurs. As "Jehovah" is used for the name of God in relation with His people (Ex. 6), His name of moral government in general (Gen. 2. and throughout the Old Testament, with or without the name of Elohim), so "Jah" appears to express His intrinsic being. There is therefore great force in combining it with His name of relationship; while its own propriety remains where it stands alone, as in Ex. 15: 2, Ex. 17: 16; Ps. 118: 14. Jah then is God in His absolute being, the Self‑existent; Jehovah in His relative and continuous character, the God of ages especially in connection with the sons of Israel, Who fulfils at length the promises He made to the fathers as God Almighty. So in Ex. 15: 2, "Jah is my strength and song"; and in Ex. 17: 16, "The hand is on the throne of Jah" as the oath that "Jehovah will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." So in Ps. 68: 4, "His name is Jah"; and in v. 18 we find "the dwelling of Jah Elohim" for "the rebellious." "The Most High," as in Isaiah 14: 14, and often from Gen. 14: 18, etc., abundantly in the Psalms, and also in the so‑called Chaldee of Daniel, is His title to be displayed in the future kingdom, when all rivals vanish into their nothingness.

SECTION 2: ISAIAH 13 TO 27

 

Isaiah 13

Here begins a quite distinct section of our prophet, which is not occupied so much as before with Israel, though, of course, we find Israel therein. Still Israel cannot be said to be the immediate object of the new series, but rather the nations and their judgement, running down from circumstances that were then comparatively imminent to the very "completion of the age." It is as general in its character throughout, as the first section is occupied with Israel. Yet naturally we therein heard of the nations in relation to Israel, either as subjected willingly to Zion, as they will be in "that day," or as instruments of providential chastening to the guilty people in this day, even though they may have enticed them from their true allegiance by their idols or any of their other iniquities. But in the second series, from chapters 13 to 27, we shall see how the scope is enlarged in presenting the "Burdens" of the nations (as the various prophecies are here first called), until we open out into the whole world coming under judgement in order to blessing quite as wide, though Israel's part is shown us in corresponding largeness at the close. And here too, as in the first, we haveatthe close songs in unison with the grand result.

As to the expression, "completion (end) of the age," which occurs so often in the Gospel of Matthew, its application is to that condition of things during which Israel are found under the law and without their Messiah. The new age, on the contrary, will be characterized by their being under the new covenant. Their Messiah will then reign over them in glory. The Old Testament gives us, not only these ages, but the times before them, as the New Testament unveils the eternity that is to follow them. Practically the New, like the Old, speaks of these two ages as connected with Israel: the age that was going on when Christ came and was rejected, and that which is to come when He returns in glory. "In this age" there is a mixture of good and evil, to be closed by an awful conflict in which the Beast and the false prophet will fall. The age to come will see Satan bound and the Lord Jesus governing the earth in displayed power and glory. "End of the world" is an unequivocal mistranslation, which has led astray not only the mass of men but their leaders, particularly in their false expectation of earthly progress and victory for the church, and along with this their unbelief of Israel's restoration to favour and glory under the promised reign of the Messiah, and the universal blessing of the earth andthe nation.

Thus the difference of the ages is of incalculable importance. If you do not distinguish the present age from that to come, all must be confused, not for truth only, but for practice also. For now it is a question of grace and faith, evil being allowed outwardly to triumph, as we see in the cross. In the age to come the evil will be externally judged and kept down, and the good will be exalted over all the earth, and fill the whole world with the knowledge of Jehovah and His glory. The completion of the age, therefore, is evidently future; and so scripture speaks. Thus for us it is "this present evil age," from which Christ's death has delivered us (Gal. 1: 4); the new age will be good, not evil, as surely as it is a future time. Again, if we think not of the church, but of Israel, it is to be supposed that the age began with their being under the law in the absence of the Messiah. The new age will be when Israel have their Messiah not only come, but come again and reigning; for the presence of the Messiah in humiliation did not interrupt the age; and still less did their rejection of Him bring in the new age.

Only let us not forget, there is now another mighty work of God in process, based on the heavenly glory of Christ and the personal presence of the Holy Ghost, and marked here below by the church of God. During this period mercy is flowing out to the Gentiles; so that we may call it the Gentile parenthesis of mercy. Before, and quite distinct from this, were the Gentile times when God in His providence gave certain nations to take the government of the world, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar, the golden head of the great image. This we may call the Gentile parenthesis of judgement. They are both of them within the limits of "this age," and are going on still. The new age will be brought in by the Lord's coming in the clouds of heaven.

This at once introduces a very important change, namely, that repentant Israel will be delivered, and the nations come up for the judgement of the quick when the Son of man shall have entered on His kingdom. (Compare Matt. 25: 31-48; Rev. 11.-20) The first part of Isaiah we saw to be the judgement of Israel, and then their final blessing. It is always a principle in the dealings of God, that when He judges, He begins at His own house. Hence Peter says, "The time is come that judgement must begin with the house of God"; and then he enquires if "the righteous scarcely [or with difficulty] are saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" But God has undertaken to save the righteous, although it be with difficulty and in face of an amazing mass of contradiction and trial, as well as of their own utter weakness. All these things make it hard indeed; but what is insuperable to us is an opening for the glory of God and He has got over the greatest difficulty, for this lay in our sins. Is sin - even all sin - any longer a difficulty for Christ? Has He not, for the believer, blotted out sins, and made peace by the blood of His cross? But if there remains no difficulty to God, there are many for us; and the word, "the righteous scarcely are saved," is in relation to our dangers by the way. Now if this be so, what will be the end of the ungodly? The apostle Peter applies it to the Christian, and looks at the world as coming under judgement when the Lord shall appear. In the Old Testament it is not the church but Israel we find to be concerned; but God, in such a dealing, invariably begins with that which has the nearest responsibility to Him. Accordingly all the first twelve chapters of Isaiah have been occupied with Israel as the foreground of the picture, whatever incidental notice there may be of others.

But from this portion onward through a dozen chapters more we have the Gentiles prominent, though Jerusalem too is judged in their midst, ending with the dissolution of the earth and with the higher ones punished on high. He had shown us the judgement of His own house; now He deals with the nations and all else in relationship with His people, one after another: both close, like all others, with triumph.

First of all Babylon comes up: "The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see" (v. 1). Babylon was the great Gentile power first allowed to take possession of Jerusalem. But God shows that, while He may use the strangers to chastise His people, He will turn round ere long and deal with their oppressive cruelty, because their mind was to destroy, while God employed them only to chasten. And inasmuch as there was pride of power without conscience toward God, yea also the main source of idolatry, so Babylon cannot escape, being the first among the Gentiles summoned to judgement. Thus the section we now enter upon is not the divine scrutiny of His house in Israel, but the judgement of the world and of the nations, and hence right early of Babylon. Observe, however, that, if the Spirit of God takes notice of what was ere long to befall the Jews (expressly noticing the ruin of their land and people that was imminent, when they should be taken captive to Babylon), for all that He never confines Himself to any blows, however grave, that were then struck. Human limits do not apply to scripture, which goes on from His first acts to the ultimate end.

This indeed is just a characteristic difference between what is of God and what is of man. If man speaks, there are necessary bounds to the application of his words. In what God says there is invariably a germinant sense deepening farther on, evidence of what God has in view to show what He is and to glorify Christ. This appears to be the true meaning of the scriptural canon in 2 Peter 1: 20: "No prophecy is of any private (i.e. its own) interpretation." Apply it but to some isolated event, and you overlook the purpose of God; while prophecy may doubtless include such an event, it as a whole looks onward to the counsels of God in reference to the glory of His Son. Hence the holy prophets needed inspiration in the strictest sense; for whose eye could look onward unerringly and speak of the future according to God? Such therefore is the aim of the Spirit's testimony. Indeed this is true of all scripture, for Christ is the object of God in giving scripture first and last. He is not merely thinking of man, or of his salvation, blessed as it is, nor of Israel His people, nor of the church, Christ's body, but of His Son. This in effect, as in purpose, is the vindication, security, and display of His own glory; while it gives scope to the fullest love and the holiest judgement, it will illustrate His rich grace in the heavens and His righteous and merciful government on the earth. Compare Eph. 1; Phil. 2; Heb. 2; Rev. 20.-22.

God thinks of Christ, Who is more precious to Himself than all besides. It is in virtue of Christ that there can be a holy purpose of good brought to issue in such a world as this has been. For it is not possible that the creature itself could have any intrinsic value in the sight of God. That which merely flows out of the sovereign will and almighty hand of God can cease to be. He that made can destroy; but when you come to Christ, you have that which, we may reverently say, nothing can annul; yea all the efforts of man or Satan to oppose and dishonour Him have been only turned, in the mighty and gracious wisdom of God, into a display of all‑surpassing glory.

Hence we arrive at the great truth for our every‑day walk, no less than for eternity and God Himself. We have to do with One now, Whose love nothing can exhaust, Whose ways too are all perfect; we have to do with Him day by day, to wait on Him, to expect from Him, to trust Him, and to be sure of His admirable care for us. Christ is worthy that our hearts should confide in Him, and He cannot be confided in without the blessing that ever flows out. Thus God proves Himself greater than all that can be against us. Apart from Christ there is nothing even that He Himself made but what, connected with man on earth, soon had a cloud over it. Nay, it is wider still: look where you may, above or below; look at any creature height or beauty apart from Christ, and what is the security?

What is Satan now, and his angels? Where are those that left their first estate, and broke through all bounds of nature? Is not the earth, once so fair, a wilderness? Is not man a moral wreck, and mortality working in him? Israel were brought out into the wilderness to keep a feast to Jehovah; but they made and worshipped a golden calf to His deep shame and their own. And what was Egypt's wisdom? What is the world's of old or now? In the church of God, called to the unity of the Spirit and the reflection of Christ's heavenly glory here below, what breaches, divisions, schisms, sects, heterodoxies, confusions, and every evil work! What guilty ignorance of the Father, what bold denial of the Son, what flagrant sin against the Holy Ghost! How many antichrists, the sign and forerunner of the last antichrist! For all this goes on at an aggravated and accelerating ratio, as the apostasy draws near and the manifestation of the man of sin; the lawless one, to succeed the mystery of lawlessness, whom the Lord Jesus shall destroy with the breath of His mouth and shall annul by the appearing of His coming (2 Thess. 2).

By the lamp of prophecy we look as it were on the closing history of Christendom, the eve and execution of the judgement that slumbers not. But, thank God, we await first of all our Saviour from heaven - a blessed hope, which may be forgotten by worldliness and unbelief but will never fade, because it is not founded on anything short of the grace and word of the Lord Jesus. He is coming; and as surely as He does, we have the turning‑point of all blessing reached for our bodies and all things, even as now by faith for our souls. What a discovery it has been to some of us, that prophecy has the selfsame centre as the rest of scripture, and that its centre in Christ is so much the more conspicuous as it cannot content itself with past accomplishment, but ever looks onward to the grand fulfilment in the future! No matter what it may be, all acquires importance because God isthinking of His beloved Son. And His Son is to inflict thelaststrokes of judgement: God will deal with man, first by providential means, then in the person of Christ at His return in glory. "Lift up a banner upon a bare mountain, raise thevoice to them, wave the hand that they may enter the gates of the nobles. I have commanded my separated ones, yea, I have called my mighty ones for mine anger, even those that exult in my majesty. The noise of a multitude on the mountains, as of a great people! a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations assembled together! Jehovah of hosts mustering the host of the battle! They come from a far country, from the end of the heavens - Jehovah and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole earth" (vv. 2‑5).

From the chapter now before us we may gather these two things plainly enough - a preparatory application to the times of the prophet or near them, but the only adequate fulfilment reserved for the great day which is still future. This divine perspective simply and unequivocally meets the difficulty some find in the view of the city, not only taken and ravaged by the Medes, but such as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, the abode of doleful creatures, which was not for centuries after Cyrus conquered. And so it is that Isa. 14 regards its downfall even to the day when Jehovah will yet choose Israel and set them in their own land: a consummation far beyond the return of the remnant of Judah, and only "in that day" fulfilled when Israel shall take them captive whose captives they were, and rule over their oppressors, which in no real sense has been accomplished. Those who explain it away are no friends of God or man. Those who presume to deny its future fulfilment set up to prophesy against scripture; and we need not hesitate to say that they are not prophets but do lie.

For instance, in verses 6‑10 one can see there are greater signsthan have ever been verified. "Howl ye; for the day of Jehovah [is] at hand; as destruction from the Almighty shall it come. Therefore shall all hands be feeble, and every heart of man shall melt, and they shall be dismayed: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall writhe as a woman in travail; they shall be amazed one at another; their faces [shall be] faces of flames. Behold, the day of Jehovah cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation, and to destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun is darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause its light to shine." These things cannot fairly be said to have literally taken place; yet the Spirit of God does not hesitate to connect them with Babylon's fall. To talk of hyperbole or exaggeration is to show unbelieving ignorance of scripture and of the power of God. One understands an infidel talking such language as this; but the moment men begin to allow that the Spirit of God willingly sets Himself to exaggerate, the authority of the whole written word is shaken. If He magnifies a temporal judgement beyond the facts, how can we be assured that He does not exaggerate grace and eternal redemption? And where is the ground in this case for solid peace with God? Is it, or is it not, a fixed principle, that the Holy Ghost always speaks the truth? Still, along with this, we must take care that we understand its application.

"And I will punish the world for evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogance of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make weak man more rare than fine gold, a man than the pure gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens to tremble, and the earth shall be shaken out of her place, at the wrath of Jehovah of hosts, and in the day of his hot anger" (vv. 11‑13). To restrain this scene to the past judgement of Babylon is to limit the word of God, and make the Spirit seem to be unreliable. But this is merely our own evil misconception and irreverent error. How momentous, then, it is that we should be in malice children, in understanding men! We may well shrink with horror from a pathway that leads to an end so dishonouring to the word of God. On the other hand, that the Holy Ghost did really speak inclusively of a past accomplishment we hold to be just as certain as that He was looking onward to far more than that.

In verses 14-17 the terms imply that it is a temporal judgment that is spoken of, a description of the lawless way in which man wreaks his wrath upon his fellow. "And it shall come to pass, that as a chased roe, and as sheep that no one gathereth, they shall turn every one to his own people, and shall flee every one to his own land. Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is taken shall fall by the sword. Their infants also shall be dashed in pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their women ravished. Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, who will not regard silver, and [as for; gold, they will not delight in it." Verses 18, 19 present a total destruction. "And [their] bows shall dash the young men in pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb, their eye shall not spare children. And Babylon the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans' pride, shall be as God's overthrowing Sodom and Gomorrah."

Babylon has indeed been judged in its beauty and pride. An almost unprecedented disaster and destruction fell on that golden city; and this, we know, was under God effected by the junction of the Medes and Persians with Cyrus for their leader. Only the closing verses point to the utter ruin that followed centuries after, and is to last for ever. "It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in to generation and generation; neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there, nor shall shepherds make [their flocks] to lie down there. But beasts of the desert there shall lie down; and their houses shall be full of owls (or howls); and ostriches shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And wolves shall cry in their palaces, and jackals in the pleasant castles. And her time [is] near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged" (vv. 21-22).

But plainly Jehovah here uses the strongest language to show that it goes on to His day. In reading the New Testament as well as the Old, it is of the utmost moment to understand "the day of the Lord" in its real character and import. It is not the same thing as the Lord's "coming" to receive us. When He comes, the dead saints are raised and the living ones are changed, which is not "the day of the Lord," nor ever so called in scripture . There is one chapter (2 Peter 3) where there might seem to be some difficulty, but there it flows really from this very confusion, for when you distinguish the two phrases and thoughts here as elsewhere, all is plain. What the scoffers of the last day say is, "Where is the promise of His coming?" etc. What the Spirit of God replies is, that the day of the Lord shall come, and come like a thief in the night to judge wickedness upon the earth. They make light of the Christians who are looking for this bright hope, their Master's coming; but the Holy Ghost threatens them with the terrible day of the Lord. The Lord is never represented as coming like a thief by night, except when judgement is distinctly spoken of, as to Sardis (Rev. 3: 3). In 1 Thess. 5: 24 the Spirit brings in the comparison of the thief when He speaks of the day of the Lord coming upon the world, not in relation to the saints who wait for Christ and are not in darkness that the day should overtake them as a thief. (Compare vv. 3‑8)

The plain truth is that the expression "coming of the Lord" may apply to His presence before He is manifested to every eye; while "the day of Jehovah" pertains to that part and aspect of His action which inflicts just vengeance upon the world, and after that presents Him judging in righteousness. Here it is the day of Jehovah; and, therefore, of darkness and destruction to sinners. There is not a word about the righteous dead being raised, still less of the living changed; all that which is proper to the New Testament you find therein, and therein only. In the Old Testament you have the dealing of Jehovah with Israel, judging their wrong but finally blessing them, and patient long-suffering with the Gentiles, where He took notice of them at all, till the day of visitation come in punishment of all ungodliness.

This accounts for the language of Isaiah 13. The Spirit of God has in His view Jehovah's judgement of the whole world; and, therefore, it is called "the day of Jehovah." It will be the termination of all the space allowed to man's will and self-exaltation. It will be the manifestation of God's moral ways when all that is high shall be abased, and Jehovah and the lowly whom He loves shall be exalted for ever. But while the Spirit of God goes onward to that day, there was enough to mark Babylon devoted to destruction by a predicted and extraordinary intervention of God near at hand. The truth of the prophecy was thus witnessed by a special accomplishment in those days. Babylon was doomed to become as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. Its desolation at last was as clearly announced in vers. 19-22, as its sudden and unexpected fall in vers. 2-8. If physically it was not so manifestly a divine judgement as that which of old fell on the cities of the plain, it was morally a stupendous event which changed the whole course of the world's history. The conquest of Persia was in no way a type of the final judgement of the world, neither was the fall of Greece of any striking significance in this respect. The final judgement of Rome, of the fourth world‑power, will be even more impressive of course; but this is yet future. It has been, as it were, shaken to pieces, and passed into a long transition state of separated kingdoms. The day is coming when Rome will rise again into splendour and commanding political power, when it will become the centre of a revived and godless empire. But it will then rise to meet its final doom from the mouth of the Lord (Rev. 17: 11-14; Rev. 19: 11-21). The past ruin of Babylon is a type of the future destruction of Rome. When Babylon fell, the children of Israel were delivered, there was nothing of the sort when Persia yielded to Greece, or Greece to Rome; there will be a yet mightier result at the end of the agebefore and when the Son of man comes in power and glory.

Thus the fall of the first great power of the Gentiles is a type of the doom of the last, when Israel will have been finally set free, a converted people, being delivered spiritually as much as nationally, and thenceforward made to express the glory of Jehovah upon the earth.

Isaiah 14

In the chapter before us the Spirit of God goes forward to Israel's deliverance. The connection is plain. The general character of the Burden becomes thus evident and most instructive. "For Jehovah will have compassion on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and rest them in their own land: and thestranger shall join himself with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob. And the peoples shall take them, and bring them to their place; and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of Jehovah for servants and for handmaids; and they shall take them captive, whose captives they were, and they shall rule over their oppressors" (vv. 1, 2). The overthrow of Babylon involves the emancipation of Israel. It has thus much greater importance than the history of any ordinary power; and the past Babylon is simply a type of the fall of the greater power, its final heir, which is to the last the enslaver of the Jews, the would‑be protector but master of the holy city. Israel are yet to have as their servants the very persons who formerly enslaved them themselves. Expecting this glory for Israel, and this mighty deliverance for the people of the Jews, one can understand their exulting tone.

"And it shall come to pass in the day that Jehovah shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy trouble, and from the hard service wherein thou wast made to serve, that thou shalt take up this parable against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased, the golden city ceased! Jehovah hath broken the staff of the wicked, the sceptre of the rulers. He that smote the peoples in wrath with a continual stroke, that ruled the nations in anger, hath a persecution without restraint. The whole earth is at rest - is quiet: they break forth into singing. Yea, the cypresses rejoice at thee, the cedars of Lebanon, [saying,] Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us. Sheol from beneath is moved for thee to meet [thee] at thy coming; it stirreth up the giants for thee, all the chief ones (or, he-goats) of the earth, raising up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All of them shall answer and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to Sheol, the noise of thy lyres: the worm is spread under thee, and vermin covereth thee. How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, that didst lay low the nations! And thou saidst in thine heart, I will ascend into the heavens, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; and I will sit upon the mount of assembly, in the recesses of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, they shall consider thee, [saying,] [Is] this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; [that] made the world as a wilderness, and overthrew the cities thereof; [that] let not loose his prisoners to their home? All kings of the nations, all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house. But thou art cast out from thy sepulchre like an abominable branch, clothed with the slain - those thrust through with the sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcass trodden under foot. Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, thou hast slain thy people: the seed of evil-doers shall not be named for ever. Prepare ye slaughter for his children because of the iniquity of their fathers; that they rise not up and possess the earth, nor fill the face of the world with cities. And I will rise up against them, saith Jehovah of hosts, and cut off from Babylon name and remnant, and son and son's son, saith Jehovah. I will also make it a possession for the porcupine, and pools of water; and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith Jehovah of hosts" (vv.3-23).

The king of Babylon sets forth no other than the last head of the Beast, just as Nebuchadnezzar was the first of that line. We must distinguish the imperial chief of the last days from the religious head of the antichrist; and the more carefully, because, having a similar policy and being confederates in evil, they are very generally confounded by ancients and moderns. Although the king of Babylon typifies the person who will finally have the Jews as his vassals, it would be a great mistake to conceive that it is to be a king of the Babylon in Shinar. We refer to this now merely to show that it rests upon a wrong principle. Some have the thought that there will be a re-establishment of oriental Babylon in the last days. They suppose there will be a literal city in the plain of Shinar. This appears to be fundamentally false.

The New Testament points out by evident marks what the future one will be; and, in order apparently to guard against that illusion, even contrasts the Apocalyptic Babylon in some respects with that of the Chaldees. The Babylon of the old world was built upon a plain; the future Babylon is characterized by the seven mountains it sits on. Thus every one of common information would distinguish the scene of Chaldean pride, and understand the locality of the future Babylon. There is but one city that has had universally and proverbially this title attached to it among Gentiles, Jews, and Christians. Other cities may include seven or more hills, but everywhere Rome has acquired a designation from the circumstance; so that if you speak of the seven-hilled city, there was, there is, hardly an educated child but would answer, "It must be the famous city on the banks of the Tiber." So every one must have known in apostolic days. This is the city which is to occupy in the last days the same kind of importance that Babylon had in the beginning of Gentile times. It began then and ends with the person that is called in the Book of Revelation, "the Beast." There were four Beasts in Daniel, but one is by St. John called "the Beast," as indeed only the last then existed; and if it had to become imperially extinct, it was also to rise again and be present once more before its judgement.

Here then God makes the old enemy to be a type of the new one that menaces them. The final holder of the power of Babylon thus naturally is a type of him who will wield imperial power against the glory of God in the last days. So in Revelation 17 the general principle is exceeding clear, without the violent supposition of a literal metropolis in Chaldea; where man would have not merely to build the city, but, first of all, to create seven hills. Another thing the Spirit of God speaks of is the reigning of the city over the kings of the earth, not of the control exercised over the empire, but far beyond, under the symbol of the harlot riding the beast; she sits too on "the waters."

The Apocalyptic Babylon will finally shift from a papal heathen character, as it did from an openly heathen beginning, to final utter corruption. What we have in Isaiah furnishes the groundwork for that which meets us in the Revelation. Thus the strong language in verses 9-14 could scarcely be said to have been exhausted in Nebuchadnezzar or Belshazzar. There was pride and self-exaltation in the one, and most degrading and profane luxury in the other; but what we have here will be fully verified in the last days and not before. After taking this place of power, the lofty one is to be thus abased as no Babylonish monarch ever was historically.

We do not enter into the rest of the chapter farther than to point out another declaration in verses 24, 25. Some suppose that the king of Babylon and the Assyrian are one and the same person; it is a common mistake, and particularly among men of learning. But it is clear that the later statement is something added to the fall of Babylon's king, who has been already judged. Then the Assyrian follows, who is dealt with summarily in Jehovah's land. This agrees perfectly with what may be gathered from other parts of God's word as to the future. "Jehovah of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass, and as I have purposed, it shall stand: to break the Assyrian in my land; and on my mountains I will trample him; and his yoke shall depart from off them, and his burden from off their shoulders: this the purpose [that is] purposed concerning the whole earth, and this the hand [that is] stretched out over all the nations. For Jehovah of hosts hath purposed, and who shall frustrate [it]? and his hand [is] stretched out, and who shall turn it back?" (vv. 24‑27)

But, if we look at the past history of Israel, the Assyrian came up first; his army was destroyed, and himself sent back into his own land, there to be slain by his rebellious sons in the house of his god. The astonishing destruction of his host was typical of the fall of "the Assyrian" in the last days, but only an earnest of it. This was considerably before Babylon was allowed of God to become supreme. It was after the disappearance of Nineveh that Babylon sprang up into the first place. The Assyrian never gained the supremacy of the world, but Babylon did, as a sovereign grant from God, after the royal house of David had become the helper on of idolatry, following the Jewish people in their love for the abominations of the heathen. Then, not before, God told (as it were) the king of Babylon to take the whole world to himself. Babylon was always most conspicuous for its many idols; but as the chosen witness had become idolatrous, the worst might as well have supremacy as another. Babylon was thus exalted to the empire of the world, when Lo-Ammi (not‑My‑people) was written on all Israel, even on Judah. Its active enmity and idolatry could hardly be thought a claim on the true God, Jehovah; on the other hand, all this was not allowed to hinder its rise in God's sovereignty into the place ofthe government of the world. This was, in fact, subsequent to the destruction of the Assyrian, which we have seen before in other chapters (Isa. 8; Isa. 10) must besides contemplate the future.

Here, not as in previous history, Babylon is judged first; then the Assyrian comes up and is smitten in the land of God's people. Why is this? Because the Spirit of God is now taking the circumstances of the Assyrian as well as the king of Babylon, not as a history of the past, but as looking onward to the last days; and in the last days the king represented by Babylon will be destroyed first, when the power of the Assyrian will be broken last of all. This perfectly agrees with the scene as a typical or prophetic picture of the last days. Whereas, if you confine it to the past, it does not tally, and there could be no right understanding of it. While the Spirit of God speaks of the Assyrian subsequently to Babylon, it is certain that in past history the Assyrian fell first in order, then Babylon afterwards. By‑and by Babylon will be smitten in the last holder of the Beast's power, and this in connection with the Jews; while the power then answering to the king of Assyria will come up after that, whenGod occupies Himself with the ten tribes of Israel. The Babylonian despot and the Assyrian, then, are two distinct enemies of the Lord, and types of two different powers in the last days, the one before, the other after, the Jews are in recognized relationship with Jehovah.

The Lord grant that we may be enabled to profit by all scripture, using it for instruction and warning, as well as refreshment and joy. All plans for worldly ease and honour will end only in destruction and bitter disappointment. Our business is to work out what God gives us now to do. He is saving souls to be the companions of Christ in heaven. Our responsibility meanwhile is to carry out His thoughts of mercy toward sinners, and His love to and in those that cleave to the name of His

The division of chapters is singularly unhappy here, for Isa. 14: 24‑27 has a distinct place of its own to mark the future judgement of the Assyrian relatively to the "burden" of Babylon, which is to be the inverse of history. Also the last five verses of the chapter form a sub‑section to themselves, though the whole appears to be connected. The two following chapters (Isa. 15 - Isa. 16) are but one subject, and a new one. What adds to the confusion is the insertion of the sign of the new paragraph at Isa. 14: 29; whereas Isa. 14: 28 really pertains to the new "burden" - not to Babylon or to the Assyrian, but to God's Judgement on the Philistines.

"In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden. Rejoice not thou, Philistia, all of thee, because the rod that smote thee is broken; for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a viper and his fruit [shall be] a fiery flying serpent. And the first‑born of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety; but I will kill thy root with famine, and thy remnant shall be slain. Howl, O gate! cry, O city! dissolved, O Philistia, [is] the whole of thee; for out of the north cometh smoke, and none straggleth (or, standeth aloof) in his gatherings. And what shall [one] answer the messengers of the nation? That Jehovah hath founded Zion, and in it the afflicted of his people find refuge" (vv. 28‑32).

The death of Ahaz might naturally excite the hopes of his neighbours, the Philistines, who had been put down by the strong hand of his grandfather Uzziah. Of him it is written in 2 Chr. 26: 4-8 that "he did that which was right in the sight of Jehovah according to all that his father Amaziah did. And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought Jehovah, God made him to prosper. And he went forth and warred against the Philistines, and brake down the wall of Gath, and the wall of Jabneh, and the wall of Ashdod, and built cities in [the country of] Ashdod, and among the Philistines. And God helped him against the Philistines, and against the Arabians that dwelt in Gur‑baal, and the Meunim. And the Ammonites gave gifts to Uzziah; and his name spread abroad even to the entering in of Egypt; for he strengthened [himself] exceedingly."

And now not only Uzziah but Ahaz were gone, "the rod [of him] that smote" the land of the Philistines was "broken." The enemy had learnt to despise Judah in the days of unworthy Ahaz. "For Jehovah brought Judah low because of Ahaz, king of Israel: for he made Judah naked and transgressed sore against Jehovah." Who was his son that they should fear him? Let them not rejoice, however; "for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a viper, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent." The primary accomplishment of this was in the reign of Hezekiah, of whom it is recorded (2 Kings 18: 8) that "he smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city."

But is there any reason whatever to suppose that this "burden" is an exception to the rest? Especially does the strength of the language point to a mightier destruction than what was inflicted by that pious king of Judah. Its proper fulfilment therefore awaits the latter day. And then to the full will be seen the twofold application of divine power, when, on the one hand, "the first‑born of the poor shall feed and the needy shall lie down in safety"; and, on the other, Jehovah will not merely break the rod, but kill the root of Philistia with famine and slay its remnant (v. 30). In the next verse the prophet bursts forth with the utmost animation, calling on the gate to howl, and the city to cry out. "Howl, O gate! cry, O city! dissolved, O Philistia, the whole of thee; for out of the north cometh smoke, and none straggleth in his gatherings (i.e. of troops)." Thus an overwhelming and vigorously sustained force is threatened, which will sweep all before itself, as far as the Philistines are concerned. Here too the end is deliverance for the tried of His people. "And what shall one answer the messengers of the nation? That Jehovah hath founded Zion, and the afflicted of his people shall trust [or, find refuge] in it."

This forms a sufficiently distinct sub‑section: Babylon judged; the Assyrian broken in Jehovah's land; Philistia melted away; and Zion founded by Jehovah as a refuge for the afflicted of His people.

It is instructive to observe that in the day that is coming Jehovah will deal with comparatively small powers as well as the greatest, according to their behaviour toward Israel. Thus, after Babylon and Assyria, we have now Philistia, as we shall have in their place Moab and Syria, the races and lands which surrounded the chosen people. It is in vain to argue that they are now unknown, or to assume that they are extinct. Whatever may have been in the past, these chapters look on to the future; and He, Who will before all the world bring forward distinctly Israel as compared with Judah, will not fail to single out the long hidden remnants of their neighbours for His retribution in the end of the age.

Nor can we have a more manifest evidence of divine prescience conveyed to God's people than that Babylon should take precedence of Assyria, then in its glory, while Babylon gave no sign of its eventual supremacy; unless indeed we add that, in contrast with history which testifies of Assyria's fall making way for Babylon's rise, we read in prophecy of Assyria to be trodden down on Jehovah's mountains after the desolation of Babylon has been set out to the utmost: a prophecy which awaits fulfilment.

This was feebly, or not at all, seen by the mass of interpreters of old and in modern times. Bishop Lowth expresses their vagueness when he remarks on v. 25 that "the Assyrians and Babylonians are the same people"; yet he refers to his father, W. Lowth, who, after giving a similarly uncertain sound, says, "I am apt to think that by the Assyrian may be meant some remarkable enemies of God's church (see note on Isa. 11: 14; Isa. 32: 16), and particularly those expressed by Gog and Magog (Ezek. 38), who, as the prophet there tells us (v. 17), were under several names "spoken of by the prophets of Israel"; and it is particularly said of them that they shall 'fall upon the mountains of Israel.'" This is at least better than his son's comment, and ought to have dispelled at once the confusion of Assyria with Babylon. It ought also to have shown without a doubt that our prophet was given to speak of a judgement which closes Jehovah's indignation against Israel (for "the church" of course is not in question) in the destruction of the last of their enemies, when His whole work is performed on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem. Even Dr. Driver confesses (Lit. of the Old Testament, 202) that "The prophecy has no connection with what precedes. It is directed against Assyria, not Babylon; and it anticipates, not the capture of the city of Babylon, but the overthrow of the hosts of Assyria in Judah." This witness is true; but, if true, it points to an immense intervention of God at the close of the age, no such overthrow having ever been in the past, whatever the earnest then given.

Isaiah 15

In chaps. 15 - 16. we have "the burden of Moab," the neighbour of Israel among the surrounding races as a pastoral people and outwardly prosperous hitherto. What a picture of desolation and woe; and so much the more felt, because so unexpected and sudden! The Philistines were not more offensive to God because of the pleasure they took in the calamities of Israel, than the Moabites in their excessive self‑security and pride. They wereamong the neighbouring races which were allowed to harass Israel for their unfaithfulness during the Judges, till David reducedthem. Afterwards they took advantage of the revolt of the tentribes to shake off their subjection, first to Judah, and finally to Israel; but they, like others, fell under the Babylonish conqueror, as we may gather from a comparison of Jer. 10: 58, which adopts and enlarges these very predictions of the older prophet, and serves thus to fix the epoch of their application. "For in a night of laying waste, Ar of Moab is undone; for in a night of laying waste, Kir of Moab is undone!" [Dr Henderson prefers to render it thus: "Assuredly in the night of assault Ar‑Moab is destroyed assuredly in the night of assault Kir‑Moab is destroyed." They were the two main defences of Moab the city and the castle a few miles off the storming of which decided the fate of the people] (v. 1). Ar-Moab is the more forcible a phrase, because it was not only the capital, but the only real city that Moab possessed. Ar means city, and Kir means a wall and thence a walled fortress. It was not far from the city on the S.E.

Broken thus in their city and stronghold, one after another surprised to their dismay, the people are supposed to go to their places to weep, with deep and universal signs of mourning in public and in private; and this, to the extremities of their land, the very soldiers crying out like the weaker sex. "He is gone up to Bayith, and to Dibon, to the high places, to weep; Moab howleth over Nebo, and over Medeba: on all their heads [is] baldness, every beard is cut off. In their streets they girdthemselves with sackcloth; on their housetops, and in their broad places, every one howleth, weeping abundantly. And Heshbon crieth out, and Elealeh; their voice is heard unto Jahaz. Therefore the armed men of Moab cry aloud; his soul trembleth within him" (vv. 2-4).

The prophet, or whosoever is personated by him, cannot but feel for the disasters of Moab; and the graphic sketch of desolation and want and carnage is continued to the end of the chapter. "My heart crieth out for Moab; their nobles [flee] unto Zoar, to Eglath‑shelishiyah: for by the ascent of Luhith with weeping they go up by it; for in the way of Horonaim they raise up a cry of destruction. For the waters of Nimrim shall be desolate; for the grass is withered away, the tender grass faileth, there is no green thing. Therefore the abundance they have gotten, and that which they have laid up, shall they carry away to the brook of the willows. For the cry is gone round about the borders of Moab; the howling thereof unto Eglaim, and the howling thereof unto Beer‑elim. For the waters of Dimon are full of blood: for I will bring yet more upon Dimon, a lion upon him that escapeth of Moab, and upon the remnant of the land" (vv. 5-9). Even the escaped should find fresh disaster and destruction from Jehovah. Extreme humiliation is the chastening of excessive pride. But the intense feeling of the prophet, which was assuredly no less in Jeremiah, is the most complete disproof of the heartlessness which unbelieving critics ascribe to Isaiah, or at least to these "burdens" assigned to him. Ewald had too much sense of taste to overlook it. There is no doubt as marked a difference in tone between the deep pathos over Moab's fall and the ode of triumph before the Babylonish potentate. This is as it should be; but vindictive and sarcastic in an evil sense it is not. Even the Christian, who is heavenly, is called to abhor evil, and cleave to good. And heaven resounds with hallelujahs over God's true and righteous judgement of the Great Harlot, though her smoke goeth up for ever and ever (Rev. 19: 1‑6). How suited for a Jewish prophet to triumph over the last holder of the impious power allowed to rise When Judah was swept away, and whose fall at length ushers in Israel delivered for ever! Here in chaps. 15, 16. he can yield to the most impassioned feeling over kindred but proud Moab brought low.

We may note among the places named which share in the national grief that the Dibon of ver. 2 appears to be called Dimon in ver. 9, a play on the word in order to associate it with the Hebrew for "blood," which was to be its portion. Jerome records that the place in his day was called both. Death and disasters yet more impended. What a contrast was Beer‑elim to Moab and Israel! There Moab's howling was to reach; there Israel sang their song of triumph as they drew to the end of their journeying, where for the refreshing of all the well sprang up under the staves of the chiefs and nobles (Num. 21: 16-18). So the true end with enduring joy yet awaits the people after a far longer wandering. But judgements accompany and distinguish "that day," judgements on all the enemies of Israel small and great; judgements that begin with the ancient people of God, and with Judah first of all. For there is no unrighteousness with God. And if it be a day of sifting for all the nations of the earth, He must begin at His house, before Israel can say in truth of heart, His mercy for ever!

Isaiah 16

Our chapter opens with a call to Moab to send the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela in the wilderness unto the mount of the daughter of Zion: "Send the lamb to the ruler of the land from the rock in (or, to) the wilderness, unto the mount of the daughter of Zion. And it shall be, as wandering birds, as a scattered nest, the daughter of Moab shall be at the fords of Arnon" (vv. 1, 2). I see not the smallest reason to justify the notion of an allusion to the lamb as the well‑known type of the Messiah, still less that He is here spoken of as the Lamb, the Ruler of the earth, as if we were reading the Revelation. This appears to be a reference to their ancient tribute to Israel. They were subdued by David of old, and they sent him gifts. "And he smote Moab and measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines measured he to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive; and [so] the Moabites became David's servants, and brought gifts" (2 Sam. 8: 2). Later on in the history, we find that the king of Moab was a sheep‑master, and used to render to the king of Israel the tribute of 100,000 lambs, and as many rams with the wool (2 Kings 3: 4, 5). The prophet seems here to remind Moab of its obligation; otherwise their daughters must prepare for still greater calamities to come.

"Take counsel, execute judgement; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday; hide the outcasts, discover not him that wandereth. Let mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab, be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler. For the extortioner is at an end, the spoiler ceaseth, the oppressor is consumed out of the land. And in mercy shall the throne be established; and one shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging and seeking judgement, and hasting righteousness" (vv.3-5). The prophet, in his second counsel, touches on the dire offence of Moab in Jehovah's eyes. Had he sheltered the outcasts of Israel? or had he taken advantage of their distressful flight to smite and betray them? The prophetic Spirit looks through Hezekiah to the true Son of David, Who shall reign in righteousness when the last oppressive spoiler has come to his end. For who can have overlooked that in the vast theatre of judgement we see in Isaiah 24, 25, etc., that Moab has a conspicuously affecting place? (Isa. 25: 10-12). To confine it to the past is far from spiritual intelligence.

The verses that follow (6-12) detail once more the pride of Moab and his most humiliating downfall, when, spite of his arrogance, "Moab shall howl for Moab; every one shall howl," and the country shall vie with the towns in extent of devastation; and the prophet weeps afresh at the sight of the wretchedness of the once lofty foe, who prays in his sanctuary; "but he shall not prevail." "We have heard of the arrogance of Moab - [the] very proud - of his pride, and his arrogance, and his wrath: his pratings [are] vain. Therefore shall Moab howl for Moab, every one of them shall howl. For the foundations of Kir‑hareseth shall ye mourn, verily afflicted. For the fields of Heshbon languish, the vine of Sibmah; the lords of the nations have broken down its choice plants: they reached unto Jaazer; they wandered [through] the wilderness; its shoots stretched out, they went beyond the sea. Therefore I will weep with the weeping of Jaazer for the vine of Sibmah; with my tears will I water thee, Heshbon, and Elealeh, for a cry is fallen upon thy summer fruits and upon thy harvest. And taken away is joy and gladness out of the fruitful field; and in the vineyard there is no singing, neither is there shouting: the treaders tread out no wine in the presses; I have made the cry to cease. Therefore my bowels sound like a harp for Moab, and mine inward parts for Kirhares. And it shall come to pass, when Moab shall appear, shall weary himself on the high place, and enter into his sanctuary to pray, that he shall not prevail" (vv. 6‑12).

It is remarkably added, "This [is] the word which Jehovah hath spoken from of old concerning Moab. And now Jehovah speaketh, saying, Within three years . . ." (vv. 13, 14). It seems to be a supplement added to the former strain after an interval. The last verse shows that, whatever may be the full bearing of this "burden" on Moab, "within three years, as the years of a hireling [i.e., I suppose, exactly measured out, as would be the fact in such a case], and the glory of Moab shall be brought to naught, with all that great multitude, and the remnant shall be small, few, of no account." That this was accomplished to the letter, there can be no doubt to the believing mind, though we know not the instrumentality, whether the king of Judah or the Assyrian.

 

But as little need one question that the fulfilment of all the unaccomplished terms of the prophecy will be in the grand future crisis; for it is certain that the final king of the north will fail to reach Moab, and that the children of Israel under the Messiah are to lay their hands upon him. Compare Isa. 11: 14 with Dan. 11: 41. Nothing more clearly proves that, if unknown or little known now, there will remain representatives of that nation in the end of the age to take their part in that catastrophe, humiliating to man but to the glory of God, when the chosen people, in their totality, shall be saved, and restored by divine mercy to the land of their inheritance and their promised dominion. It is certain, from a later strain of our prophet (Isa. 25: 10-12), the epoch of which is the day of Jehovah, that the final ruin of Moab will only be at the time when He exalts Israel to their promised place of everlasting supremacy on the earth.

We may notice that if Micah was led to use a prediction of Isaiah in Isa. 2: 2, Jeremiah was inspired to borrow from this strain of Isaiah. Compare Jer. 10: 58. Was this poverty in the resources of any one of them? No inference can be more shallow and unjust, even if we only regard them as writers; but if we believe in plenary inspiration, it is baser and more evil still. It was the Spirit of God only the more firmly welding the divine together in that grace which honours every true testimony from God and the vessels of it.

Isaiah 17

Assuming that these prophecies, whatever past accomplishment they may have received, have for their centre the day of Jehovah how are we to meet the difficulty about these various peoples and cities which once troubled Israel? How are we to account for these prophecies looking onward to a future day, seeing that they no longer, or very feebly, exist? The answer is that the very same difficulty applies to Israel. No one knows clearly or certainly where the ten tribes are; neither does it seem any one's business to search beforehand. We may leave them in the obscurity that God has put them in. We know, if we believe His word, that as surely as He has preserved the dispersed remnant of the two tribes, so will He bring out of their hiding‑place the descendants of the ten. We know that not only the Jews proper are to be restored, but also the full nationality of Israel. To this the dwdecavfulon hope to come; the full twelve tribes making one nation in the land, and one King shall be king over them all. "And they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all" (Ezek. 37: 22). Every letter of the promises will be accomplished. Scripture cannot be broken.

Even if we saw no signs, why doubt? Do we need such tokens? It is a proof of feebleness of faith, if we ask a sign. God's word is the best assurance; on this let us take our stand. If God has said that so it shall be, we have a right to expect that He will bring from their recesses the ten tribes, and will save them outof all their dwelling‑places wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them. We are far from being fully acquainted even with the little world on which we live. Long ago there were parts of the world better known than they have been till of late. Thus the early accounts of Africa and central Asia, for instance, have been largely confirmed by recent researches. God may have the ten tribes in some of earth's little explored regions; or they may emerge unexpectedly out of a nation with which they have long been confounded. But we are not bound to show where they are. God has declared that He will bring them into their own land, and this in a peculiar manner; for the house of Israel are to pass through the wilderness again, and there be purged of the transgressors in their midst, who thus never reach the land, instead of being destroyed in it like the apostate Jews (Ezek. 20: 36-38). Thus there is a totally different destiny for the ten tribes as compared with the two. If God will accomplish both, nothing will be easier than for the same God to define the descendants of their old Gentile enemies, whether near or farther off. The truth is that the very same principle of faith accepts and accounts for both, as it is mere incredulity which finds a difficulty in either. These remarks apply to almost all these chapters.

Again, some strangely misunderstand the bold figures of the prophets, as if employed to cast their subjects into an enigmatic, if not ambiguous, mould. This is a great error. For they are meant, not so much to throw a cloud over things, as to give emphasis and energy. Many, whose object is to deter Christians from reading the prophecies, talk much of these tropes, as if their presence was evidence enough to show that the meaning is doubtful. Nothing can be more contrary to the fact; for in the inspired writings, as in others, figures are used, by a kind of understood license, to illustrate, adorn, and enforce the sense, and in no case to mystify. Figures and even symbols are quite as definite as plain or literal terms, and are meant to be only more forcible. The very speech of ordinary life abounds in metaphor and simile; but, of course, the poetical language of the prophecies gives occasion to their more frequent usage therein.

Further, the difficulty of scripture does not lie so much in its figurative style as in the depth of its thoughts. In the word of God there is perhaps nothing more profound than the first chapter of the Fourth Gospel. Yet what first strikes one there is the exceeding simplicity of this scripture as a matter of language. It used to be and perhaps is the common habit, of those teaching the Greek language in some parts of the country, to make this Gospel a sort of initiatory exercise. Notwithstanding, in all the Bible you can find no revelation or handling of truth more full of depths, none that will cause the really spiritual to stand more amazed, however attractive the grace it displays in Christ. This will show how entirely unfounded is the notion of such as fancy it is a simple question of words.

The divine depth of scripture is in sober fact the difficulty, not its obscure language. It is difficult because of our darkness morally, because of our want of acquaintance with the mind of God, judging appearances by the natural senses or by the mind, instead of receiving things from God, and reading His words in the light of Christ. So far from the prophetic scriptures being the most difficult part, they are much easier than is commonly imagined. It is a great thing to begin with believing them; intelligence follows and grows apace. If we may compare the various parts of scripture, the New Testament is without doubt the deepest of God's communications; and of the New Testament none exceeds the apostle John's writings for penetration into the knowledge of what God is; and of his writings who would treat the Epistles and the Gospel as less profound than the Apocalypse? None, I am persuaded, but such as are too superficially acquainted with any of them to warrant their pronouncing a Judgement.

This may encourage some to take up the prophecies with a more child‑like spirit, always bearing in mind that God looks onward to the future crisis that ushers in "the day of Jehovah." He thinks of His beloved Son, and of His glory here below. This gives importance to the prophecies; they unfold the scene, objects, and ways of His interests. The Jews are the people of whom the Lord Jesus deigned to be born as to the flesh. They have proved what they were to Him; He has now to prove what He will be to them. He means to have an earthly people (Israel), as well as a heavenly (the church), for His glory. The word of God stops not short of this. If it is not fulfilled, yet it is in the sure keeping of God, Who has already given a partial accomplishment. Hence we learn the principle for interpreting prophecy; it is as a whole for the glory of the Lord Jesus in connection with Israel and the nations upon the earth. We speak now of Old Testament prophecy. The New Testament takes another character - the Lord Jesus in connection with Christendom also, besides confirming the oracles about Israel. The church then, too, is outside, and above all in union with its glorified Head in heaven, His body even now on earth.

This may show too why Jehovah attaches importance to a little place or people on the prophetic field. Israel was much in His eyes, because of the Messiah; and His own counsels are not dead if they sleep. Hence too, when God removes the veil from His ancient people Israel, their old antagonists will begin to appear. This is assuredly full of interest. There is a resurrection for every individual. The body will be raised for the manifestation of everything that was done in the body, for it is by the body that the soul acts. Even so will it be with these nations. There is a destiny analogous. As scripture tells us, they are to reappear when Israel does, for the Lord Jesus to take the kingdom; and God will distinguish them according to their original names, not by those they may bear in the process of human history. Jehovah will go up, as He alone can, to the sources. Hence we have their judgement connected with the last days, and not merely that which fell upon them long ago. His words go down to the close. Some may have been more completely accomplished in the past than others, but with this difference, they all look onward to the future.

The last generation will do as their fathers, only with added manifestation of evil by‑and‑by; then judgement will fall. Thus it is that God will deal with the nations. They will manifest the same hostility to Israel, the same pride against God, as formerly. This may seem a hard principle to some, but it is most righteous. If a child has grown up, knowing his father's dishonour, hearing of his disgrace and punishment, would not that sin be most peculiarly odious in his eyes, if any right feeling existed? The public example of his father's evil ways would be ever before him. But if the son trifled with it, and used it as an encouragement to walk in the same path, is it not just that there should be a still more severe punishment exacted of that son? Besides having the universal conscience of men, he had special witness in his own family, which the heart of a child ought to have felt andpondered deeply to avoid all repetition of its evil.

This is just the principle of God's way in government. Man ought to take the more earnest heed from the past; and God, Who deals righteously, will judge according to that which man ought to have remembered. For he ought to have used the witness of the past as a warning for the future. These nations will then reappear, and, instead of recalling their fathers' ways fortheir own warning and profit, they take exactly the sameroad of iniquity; and once more they will also endeavour to root out and destroy the people of God.

So it is in Isaiah 17 Damascus, which was to the north ofthe Holy Land, was the very ancient and most celebrated city of Syria of old. (See Gen. 15: 2) It was to be made a heap of ruins - the cities of Aroer a place for flocks. "The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from [being] a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap. The cities of Aroer [are] forsaken; they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down and none shall make [them] afraid" (vv. 1, 2). And as of old Syria and Ephraim conspired against the realm of David's son to their own discomfiture, so once more the remarkable feature of this judgement is that God will deal with His people as well as with their old ally. "The fortress also shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria; they shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith Jehovah of hosts. And in that day it shall come to pass, [that] the glory of Jacob shall be made thin, and the fatness of his flesh shall become lean. And it shall be as when the reaper gathereth the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm; yea, it shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim" (vv. 3‑5). He will gather out all scandals from them and punish the transgressors; He will employ their enmity to purge that threshing‑floor of the land of Israel; He will deal in a judicial manner with His people. The nations may lure themselves and each other on with the hope that it is going hard with Israel; but their conspiracy will be offensive to God, however He may use it for Israel's good. This is here described. "And a gleaning shall be left in it, as at the shaking of an olive tree: two, three berries in the tree‑top; four, five in its fruitful boughs, saith Jehovah God of Israel. In that day shall man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel. And he will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, nor have regard to [that] which his fingers have made, neither the Asherahs nor the sun‑images" (vv. 6-8).

It is well to bear in mind that not Sennacherib but Tiglath-Pileser destroyed Damascus, a ruin that followed the alliance of Pekah and Rezin to depose David's house in Judah, unworthy and false as Ahaz was. This had been predicted by Isaiah in Isa. 7, and our chapter speaks of its being a ruin heap. But the prophecy clearly goes on to its reappearance and overthrow in the latter day.

There is also plainly anticipated at that time a discriminating judgement proceeding in the land of Israel. Compare Isa. 28: 14-22, where the course of the overflowing scourge is described. "In that day shall his strong cities be as the forsaken tract in the wood, and the mountain‑top which they forsook before the children of Israel; and there shall be desolation. For thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the Rock of thy strength; therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plantations, and shalt set them with foreign slips: in the day of thy planting wilt thou hedge [them] round, and in the morning wilt thou make thy seed to flourish: [but] the harvest [will be] a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow" (vv. 9‑11).

In due time comes the retribution that regards the end of the age set forth with great vigour. "Woe to [or probably Ho!] a tumult of many peoples, [which] roar like the roaring of the seas; and the rushing of nations, [that] make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters but he will rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like whirling [dust] before the storm. Behold, at eventide trouble; before the morning they are not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us" (vv. 12‑14). Let the nations gather their multitudes; let them rush on like mighty waters. But the rebuke comes; and they flee and are chased, yea, like thistle‑down before the whirlwind. "Behold at eventide trouble; before the morning they are not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us." When was all this accomplished in the past, from the day that Isaiah wrote? Where was seen the gathering of all these nations and their complete dispersion? On the contrary, Israel was broken and scattered, as were the Jews afterwards. Here it is not one nation triumphing over God's people, but a gathering of all nations, who seem but waiting for the morning to swallow up Israel, but before the light dawns they and their leader are not. Surely it shall be; for the mouth of Jehovah has spoken it.

Isaiah 18

The true reference to Egypt and Ethiopia is in Isa. 19, 20, which accordingly have the title prefixed, "The Burden of Egypt." It is not so here. Neither is the chapter called a "burden"; nor should the opening exclamation be rendered "Woe" as it often is, but "Ho!" as the context shows. It is a call to a land designedly unnamed, quite outside the bounds of those which Israel knew, and characterized at the time of the action by sentiments of friendship, in contrast with the usual animosity of Gentiles, which here breaks out once more. The last verse intimates that the time when these events occur is the closing scene marked subsequently by Jehovah's interference on behalf of His people, and in full grace their re‑establishment in Zion, to which prophecy as a whole points.

Our chapter seems thus to be distinguished from the overthrow of the nations, predicted at the close of the preceding section, "the Burden of Damascus," and so forms a scene sufficiently distinct to be treated separately. It is a deeply interesting episode, and it is plain that the new "burden" opens Isa. 19, and distinguishes the judgement of Egypt from the subject before us.

This it is well to notice distinctly, because Jerome and Cyril, Bochart and Vitringa, among many more, have fallen into the error of supposing that Egypt is the "land shadowing with wings," addressed in verse 1, and that the Egyptians or the Ethiopians are the people to whom the message is sent in ver. 2, some of them being even brought to the grateful worship of God in ver. 7. Others again are no less confident that Ethiopia is meant, as Calvin, Piscator, Michaelis, Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Ewald, Delitzsch, Drechsler, and Driver. Yet Jerome and Calvin agree with the more famous Jewish authors that the people spoken of in vers. 2 and 7 are the Jews. All must be confusion where this is not seen. And a nation is here distinguished by favour to the Jew in its own way, but in vain. There follow nations hostile as usually of old. But the main issue is God, Who observes all, at length accomplishing His gracious purpose in Israel.

The reader need not be surprised at confusion, alas! too Common in commentators ever so erudite and otherwise eminent. For there is hardly a portion of Isaiah which has given rise to greater discord and more evident bewilderment among men of note, from Eusebius of Caesarea (who saw in it the land of Judaea in apostolic times, sending Christian doctrine to all the world, an interpretation founded on the ajpostevllwn . . . .ejpistola;" biblivna" of the LXX) down to Arias Montanus, who applied it to America, converted to Christ by the preaching and arms of the Spaniards! Plainly the right understanding of the chapter depends on seeing that the Jewish nation are those intended in verses 2 and 7; and this, not in the days of Sennacherib, save perhaps as an historic starting‑point, but for the future crisis, and its glorious issues. A few expressions, especially in verses 1 and 2, may be obscure, but the general scope is remarkably clear and of exceeding interest.

It is true, as Henderson says in common with very many, that the chapter is not a "woe" (as the Sept., the Vulgate, and the A.V. translate), nor yet like the preceding or following "burdens," but rather a call summoning attention - "Ho!" - to the land unnamed, which is to be described. The contrast seems plain between Isa. 17: 12‑14 and Isa. 18: 4‑6. One nation whose name is not given, will seek to befriend the Jews in the time and way spoken of; while others break out into their old jealousy and hatred, and wreak their vengeance on them all the more. But that the friendly protector is Ethiopia seems wholly without and against the tests of the chapter. According to this idea, when Tirhakah in alarm summons his troops, the Jews send swift messengers to acquaint him with the destruction of Sennacherib's host when it seemed to threaten, not only Jerusalem but Ethiopia. But this dislocates the chapter, making the Ethiopians the prominent figure instead of the Jews, and terminating ineptly with a present offered by the Ethiopians to the God of Israel. It is enough to examine the words of the prophet with care, in order to refute any such speculation.

"Ho! land shadowing (or, whirring) with wings, which [art] beyond [the] rivers of Cush" (i.e. beyond the Nile and the Euphrates). It means a country outside the sphere of those nations, which up to the prophet's day had menaced or meddled with Israel. Usually firm against mere tradition, and careful of scriptural truth, even Dr. Kay has failed to notice the true force of this remarkable expression found here only and in Zeph. 3: 10. The object is not at all to direct attention to the country adjoining the file, nor even to combine with this the land adjacent to the Euphrates. The call is expressly to a land beyond either limit. Egypt and Assyria had been the chief of those powers, for there was an Asiatic as well as an African Cush. The land in question lay (not by any means contiguous to, but perhaps ever so far) beyond these well‑known countries. Here is the first indication; and it is of the highest importance, but neglected by most. It expresses a country far away. This comparatively distant land espouses the cause of Israel; but the protection would be ineffectual in result, however loud the proffer and the preparation. The use of "wings" to convey the idea of a cover for the oppressed or defenceless is too commonto need proofs. "Ho! land shadowing with wings, which [art] beyond [the] rivers of Cush; that sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of papyrus upon [the] face of [the] waters, [saying,]" (vv. 1, 2).

The second verse shows, in addition to the previous characteristics of this future ally of the Jews, that it is a maritime power, for it sends its ambassadors over the sea, and in vessels of bulrushes (i.e. of "papyrus")* on the face of the waters Israel is the object of their interest. "Go, swift messengers, to a nation scattered (or dragged) and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning and onward, to a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled" (v. 2). The attempt to apply this description to the Egyptians, or the Ethiopians, has largely affected the view taken of the epithets here applied (e.g. "tall and smooth," and "that meteth out and treadeth down"). The mistake of not a few is to introduce Christianity into the chapter; whereas it is really a question of earthly things and the earthly people in presence of a friendly effort, but also of enemies before God's time comes to deliver them Himself. The learned may enquire whether "boats" are really intended by am

*This description of their vessels or boats is an apparent difficulty, as it is that which has induced most to conceive that Egypt is meant. For no doubt boats of that slight material sufficient to cross the Nile were notorious of old. But may we not infer that as ships of Tarshish are sometimes used in a general way for those employed on long commercial voyages to whatever land they belonged so the vessels of papyrus may designate rapid cruisers in general whatever the material or wherein employed? Beyond the rivers of Cush must surely exclude Egypt as well as Babylonia, or any country within those limits. The maritime people meant is described as outside the lands which wed to have to do with Israel. Hence we find Bishop Horsley writing (Bibl. Crit. ii. 134, 135), Navigable vessels are certainly meant and if it could be proved that Egypt is the country spoken to these vessels of bulrushes might be understood of the light skiffs made of that material and used by the Egyptians upon the Nile. But if the country spoken to bedistant from Egypt vessels of bulrush are only used as an apt image on account of their levity for quick‑sailing vessels of any material. The country therefore to which the prophet calls is characterized as one which in the days of the completion of this prophecy should be a great maritime and commercial power forming remote alliances making distant voyages to all parts of the world with expedition and security and in the habit of affording protection to their friends and allies. Where this country is to be found is not otherwise said than that it will be remote from Judaea and with respect to that country beyond the Cushean streams.

But, in fact, there seems no sufficient reason to question the general accuracy of our authorised version, which, as predicating Israel in ver. 2 yields the sole clear and good sense. Above any, they are a nation whose hope is indeed long deferred, and who have suffered indignity beyond all; yet marked by portents from their existence and thenceforth. Upon them has been exactly measured divine judgement, as none other had. Who else trodden down as they? Nor had their land escaped the desolating ravages of powers overwhelming like rivers, as we find the same figure used of it in Isa. 8 and elsewhere. The difference between the land in the first verse which sends out its messengers and ships, and the dispersed people from all time marvellous or hitherto formidable, but of late ravaged by their impetuous enemies, stands on no minute points of verbal criticism, but on the general bearing of scripture history as well as the context, which the English‑reading Christian is quite able to judge.

This is the weakest point in Bishop Horsley's (Bibl. Crit. ii. 162) otherwise able investigation of the chapter: "The standard of the Cross of Christ; the trumpet of the gospel. The resort to the standard, the effect of the summons, in the end will be universal." But it is the prevalent bane of theologians to bring in the gospel or the church into the prophets, where the dealings of divine government and ultimately of Messiah's kingdom are really meant.

Thus far we have seen the intervention of this unnamed land, described as the would‑be protector of Israel actively engaging with their swift ships, it would seem on a friendly mission in quest of that scattered people, to plant them again in their own land.

But another enters the scene who puts an arrest on the zeal of man. Universal attention is demanded. Great events tremble in the balances. Signs are given visibly and audibly. "All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye when an ensign is lifted up on the mountains; and when a trumpet is blown, hear ye. For thus Jehovah said unto me, I will take my rest, and I will observe in my dwelling‑place like clear heat upon herbs, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest" (vv. 3, 4). God is contemplating this busy enterprise. Man is active. Jehovah, as it were, retires and watches. It is like a clear heat in the sunlight, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest. It is a moment of deep stillness and suspense, where He allows apparent advantage of it but does not act Himself, while immense efforts are made to gather in the Jews by the patronage of the maritime nation of verses 1 and 2. All then seemed to flourish: but what is man without God? "For before the harvest, when the bud is finished (or, past), and the blossom becometh a ripening grape, he shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning‑knives, and take away And cut down the branches" (v. 6). Thus total failure of the friendly plan ensues. Everything in appearance betokened a speedy ingathering of good to Israel, and their national hopes seemed to be on the eve of being realized, when God brings all to naught by letting loose once more the old passions of the Gentiles against His people. The effect is that "they shall be left together unto the birds of the mountains and to the beasts of the earth; and the birds shall summer upon them, and all the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them" (v. 6).

It was not for that power to interfere, nor was it Jehovah's time; and yet it was for Himself in the end. The shadow of God's wings is the true resource of His people's faith (Ps. 57: 61). For "in that time [a period of course, not an epoch merely] shall be brought unto Jehovah of hosts a present of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning and onward, a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of Jehovah of hosts, the mount Zion" (v. 7). Thus will the presumptuous help of man be rebuked, as well as the renewed wrath of the nations once more preying on the poor but loved people of Jehovah. For as surely as they turn again to rend Israel, He will appear in the midst of the desolation, and with His own mighty hand accomplish that which man as vainly seeks to effect as to frustrate. The Jewish nation, at that very season, shall be brought a present to Jehovah; and they shall come not empty‑handed but emptied of self, with lowly and grateful hearts to Jehovah in Mount Zion, after their final escape from Gentile fury in His mercy which endures for ever. They bring the present, and they are the present to Jehovah. Here, as ever, the dealings of God in judgement result in the blessing of His ancient people; and Zion accordingly is the place where His name is manifested in connection with them. We also see how unreasonable it would be to imagine that the church, called to heavenly glory, is concerned as God's object in the chapter. It is Israel only, destined to pass through renewed and bitter trouble, most of all at the close, before Jehovah does His own work of establishing them in the seat of royal grace under Messiah and the new covenant. He has never abandoned this purpose of His for the earth.

The call of the church for union with its glorious Head and heavenly glory came into realization, when the Jews stumbled at the Messiah in humiliation, as they had gone after idols, followed respectively by the Babylonish captivity for the latter, and by the Roman destruction for the former. Meanwhile Christendom enjoys far higher privileges; but not having continued in His goodness, it too shall be cut off, and irrevocably. There is no restoration, but utter destruction for the Babylon of Christian times; there is to be for Jerusalem. The natural branches shall be grafted into their own olive‑tree. All Israel shall be saved, and so declares the apostle of the Gentiles as to both. The true members of Christ's body shall be caught up to Christ, and glorified with Him. It is Israel, not the church, which is to be purified on earth, as we see throughout Isaiah and the prophets generally. The restoration of Israel to their land, and supremacy given it over all the nations, we recognize as true and sure. But it is after the heavenly bride has joined the Bridegroom, and purging judgements then fit Israel for its destined place on earth, which is entirely incompatible with the church wherein Jewish and Gentile distinctions are gone, and Christ is all and in all. According to the last great prophecy the church has the promise of being kept out of the hour of temptation that is coming (Rev. 3: 10); whereas all the Gentiles shall be in it, though faithful ones come out (Rev. 7). Again Jer. 30: 7 and Dan. 12: 1 are express that the Jews must pass through it but be delivered - those that are "written in the book. "

Isaiah 19

This chapter gives "the Burden of Egypt," and is followed in the next by a personal sign enjoined on the prophet, as a token of the degradation soon to befall Egypt and Ethiopia. The general drift is so clear as to render prolonged remarks almost useless.

"The burden of Egypt. Behold, Jehovah rideth upon a swift cloud, and cometh unto Egypt. and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it. And I will stir up the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, kingdom against kingdom. And the spirit of Egypt shall be made void in the midst of it; and I will destroy the counsel thereof; and they shall seek unto the idols, and unto the conjurers, and unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto the soothsayers. And I will give over the Egyptians into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord Jehovah of hosts" (vv. 14). The prophet thus boldly and with the fullest moral truth sets forth the sure overthrow of the great realm of the old world's prudence, and of debasing idolatry, and abundant natural riches. What availed the boasted bulwarks of their watery barriers, if Jehovah, Who "rideth upon a swift cloud," dooms Egypt to humiliation and decay? Worse than idle their appeal to their false gods; for their idols should be moved at His presence, and the heart of Egypt melt in its midst. Intestine division and civil war (v. 2) should be added to the overwhelming assaults from without; and the downfall be consummated by infatuated counsels as well as the wasting away of all national spirit; for on their recourse in their distress to their old haunts of superstition and sorcery, God would shut them up to the hard bondage of cruel lords and a fierce king.

But the hand of Jehovah should be not only upon the defences of the country, but upon its internal supports, and this in all that was their glory and their confidence. For is not this Ezekiel's "great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is my own, and I have made it for myself?" (Ezek. 29: 3). Surely it is the same, of whom Isaiah here predicts, "And the waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and dried up. And the rivers shall stink; the streams (or, canals) of Egypt shall be diminished and drain away: the reeds and the flags shall wither. The meadows by the Nile, by the banks of the Nile, and everything sown by the Nile, shall be dried up, be driven away, and be no [more]. And the fishers shall mourn, and all they that cast hook into the Nile shall lament, and they that cast nets upon the waters shall languish. And they that work in fine flax, and they that weave cotton (or, white stuffs), shall be ashamed. And her pillars shall be broken in pieces, all workers for hire shall be sad of soul" (vv. 5‑10).

The prophet next (v. 11) proceeds to taunt this haughty power in that for which, most of all, it stood high in its own conceit and the reputation of men. For who has not heard of "the wisdom of the Egyptians "? Who does not know of their science and civilisation while the most renowned lands of the west, which early aspired to the sovereignty of the world, had not yet emerged from their condition of wild untutored barbarism? "The princes of Zoan [are] utterly fools; the counsel of the wise counsellors of Pharaoh is become senseless. How say ye unto Pharaoh, I [am] the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings? Where [are] they then, thy wise [men]?" is the piercing challenge of the prophet; "and let them tell thee now; and let them make known what Jehovah of hosts hath purposed upon Egypt" (vv. 11, 12).

Alas! how many now are wrapped up in the same carnal security. How many in our day, like the wise counsellors of Egypt, are caught in their own craftiness, too wise to heed the sure and solemn words of divine prophecy; not wise enough to guard themselves from foolish superstition, or still more foolish incredulity! Is it not a maxim among the sages of Christendom, that prophecy cannot be known till the event accomplishes it and fixes its interpretation? Than which notion, we dare to say, none can be produced less reasonable in itself or more flatly contrary to the word of God. Not a believer in the Old Testament but protests against the sinful error; for not a soul then was justified who did not look onward, trusting his soul and spiritual hope on that which was as yet necessarily in the womb of the future - the coming of the woman's Seed, the Messiah. And are believers of the New Testament called of God to be less trustful, less to realise what is coming, with incomparably more light of revelation? What! we, to whom God has revealed by the Spirit, that which, as the brightest of old was compelled to say, "eye had not seen, nor ear heard, neither had entered into man's heart" to consider?

Even on grounds of reason, of which some are so vainglorious, what can be more opposed to it, seeing that God has beyond controversy given His prophetic revelation? Is this alone, of all scripture, to be put under human ban? Even on grounds of personal danger the suicidal folly of such scepticism as this is most apparent. For as the great central point of prophecy is the nearness of the day of Jehovah, which is to judge all the pride and irreligion, all the idolatry and rebellion against God, found then on earth and specially in Christendom, it will be too late for men, before they believe, to await that event which will prove the truth of the prophecies in their own destruction. In short and in every point of view the maxim is as false as it is perilous. It really amounts to blotting out all direct use of prophecy whatsoever: for it refuses to hear its warning till its voice is wholly changed. Prophecy accomplished becomes in effect history rather than prophecy (no small value of which is the silencing of God's enemies); it properly has, while unfulfilled, the admonition and comfort of His people for its primary aim.

But to return. "The princes of Zoan [the ancient royal city of Egypt, named Tanis in profane authors] are become foolish, the princes of Noph [Moph, or Memphis, Hosea 9: 6] are deceived; and the corner-stones of its tribes have caused Egypt to err. Jehovah hath mingled a spirit of perverseness in the midst thereof; and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunkard staggereth in his vomit. Neither shall there be any work for Egypt, which head or tail, palm-branch or rush, may do" (vv. 13-15). They are judicially confounded of God in their policy.

Now we ought not to be indisposed to allow a measure of accomplishment in the time of the prophet. Only let not this measure be allowed to exclude the complete fulfilment which yet remains to be made good. Such a germinant inclusive style, we have seen, is the habit of Isaiah, as indeed of the prophets. Enough was then accomplished for a stay to the faithful; but it was no more than an earnest of that punctual and full payment which God will yet render, in honour both of His own words and of the Lord Jesus when His manifested glory dawns and His world-kingdom comes (Rev. 11: 15). "In that day shall Egypt be like unto women, and it shall tremble and fear because of the shaking of the hand of Jehovah of hosts, which he shaketh over it. And the land of Judah shall be a dismay unto Egypt: every one that thinketh of it shall be afraid for himself, because of the counsel of Jehovah of hosts, which he purposeth against it (or, them)" (vv. 16, 17). Egypt has its part to play in the tremendous convulsions which precede Jehovah's appearing; and to this our chapter looks onward, with which compare Daniel 11: 40-43. Out of that land shall He gather some of His outcast people (Isa. 11: 11, 15), and in the process, as we know, destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea, and with His mighty wind shake His hand over the river, the Euphrates, smiting it into seven streams.

But mercy shall rejoice over judgement; and at the very time when Egypt shall be as women trembling at the shaking of Jehovah's hand, and the very mention of the land of Judah shall strike terror, "In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to Jehovah of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction (or, Heres). In that day shall there be an altar to Jehovah in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to Jehovah. And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto Jehovah of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto Jehovah because of the oppressors, and he will send them a Saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them. And Jehovah shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know Jehovah in that day and serve with sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto Jehovah and perform it. And Jehovah will smite Egypt; he will smite and heal: and they shall return to Jehovah, and he will be entreated of them and will heal them" (vv. 18‑22). Thus evidently shall Jehovah then deliver and revive Egypt. In that day there will be doubtless not only a governing but a religious centre for all the nations of the earth (Isa. 2: 3). For Jehovah shall be King over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Jehovah and His name one (Zech. 14: 9). It will be accomplished in and by the Lord Jesus, Who shall build the temple of Jehovah and bear the glory, and sit and rule upon His throne, as Priest as well as King (Zech. 6: 12, 13). His house shall be called a house of prayer for all the peoples (Isa. 56: 7). But this will not hinder the fulfilment of Mal. 1: 11: "For from the rising of the sun even unto its setting, My Name shall be great among the nations; and in every place incense shall be offered unto My Name, and a pure oblation." Under this universal provision for the local worship of the nations falls the special assurance of it for Egypt in that day, which Isaiah here predicts. It was the more impressive to declare it of a nation so debased by idolatry as Egypt of old.

The efforts of interpreters to explain these verses are as manifold as they are vain: and justly are they doomed to darkness who see not the link with Christ, and with Christ the glory of His people Israel then, if they despise Him now. Origen, Eusebius, etc., interpreted it of the flight into Egypt (Matt. 2: 13,14), and of the overthrow of idolatry and spread of Christianity there also; Jerome embraces along with this an application to the wasting of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar. Others have tried to find its accomplishment in the temple which Onias induced Ptolemy Philometor to build for keeping the Jews and their worship in Egypt, and which after 200 years was destroyed under Vespasian, like that in Jerusalem. Moderns generally apply it in substance as Jerome did (in part historically, of the disasters under Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Psammetichus, or the Romans; and in part mystically, of the triumphant spread of the gospel past, present, or future). These speculations do not seem to call for refutation: to state them is to condemn them sufficiently.

The true reference to the future crisis on the earth is yet more confirmed by the blessed intimations of the closing verses. "In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth; whom Jehovah of hosts will bless, saying, Blessed [be] Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance" (vv. 23 25). It is not a heavenly scene, but earthly. It is not the present church condition, where there is neither Jew nor Gentile, and Christ is all and in all, but a future state of large yet graduated blessing of nations. It is not this dispensation, where tares are mingled with the wheat, but the coming age when all scandals are removed from the scene where the Great King reigns in righteousness. That nation, so proud of its natural wisdom, the old oppressor and frequent snare of Israel, shall be humbled tothe dust, and out of the dust cry to Jehovah God of Israel, Who shall send them a mighty deliverer; and they shall know Him and worship Him acceptably, Who smote them but will heal them with a great salvation. For from the rising of the sun evenunto the going down of the same, Jehovah's name will be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto it and a pure oblation; for His name shall be great among the heathen. No wonder therefore that there shall be an altar to Jehovah in the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to Jehovah - a sign and a witness unto Jehovah of hosts in that land. At the same time nothing will supersede Zion as the earth's exalted and religious centre.

But what of that later oppressor of Israel? Has Jehovah but one blessing for the stranger‑foe? Has He not reserved a blessing for the Assyrian? Yes, for the Assyrian also. The haughty rival of the north and east shall be brought into the rich blessing of Jehovah. "In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria." Old jealousy and long‑lasting animosity shall flee apace and for ever; intimacy and generous trust and mutual love shall cement the alliance that is founded on Jehovah truly known. "And the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria; and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians." Happy, though none then be despised and poor! "In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria." That is, Israel shall form one of the trio here specified, and stamped with singular favour in the millennial day. For indeed Jehovah shall bless them, "saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance." Thus again is Abraham 's blessing verified and manifested. "I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed." But even here, as it appears, the due place of Israel is maintained, and the rank of the others nicely distinguished in God's wisdom, however large His goodness to the rest; for Israel has the glorious title of Jehovah's inheritance, if Egypt be called His people and Assyria fashioned for His praise, the work of His hands.

 

Isaiah 20

From this chapter, which is an appendix to the last, we learn that the Assyrian ravaged Egypt (with the Ethiopians), leading his captives in shame. "In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him, and he fought against Ashdod and took it; at that time Jehovah spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go, and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put off thy sandal from thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot. And Jehovah said, Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years [for] a sign and a wonder upon Egypt and upon Ethiopia; so shall the king of Assyria lead away the captives of Egypt, and the exiles of Ethiopia, young and old, naked and barefoot, and with buttocks uncovered, [to] the shame of Egypt. And they shall be dismayed and ashamed, because of Ethiopia their expectation and of Egypt their boast. And the inhabitant of this coastland shall say in that day, Behold, such [is] our expectation, whither we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: and how shall we escape?" (vv. 1‑6). History here seems to be silent;* but not so prophecy, which declares that the land of Egypt shall not escape the king of. the north, or the last Assyrian, at the time of the end, who must then himself be broken without hand (Dan. 11: 41-45).

*The Assyrian inscriptions remarkably illustrate the accuracy of the statement here. For many now hold that the conjectures of commentators, which identified Sargon with Shalmaneser on the one side, or with Sennacherib or Esarhaddon on the other, are uncared for and erroneous. They count him a monarch of no common energy, not only distinct from his immediate predecessor, Shalmanesers but also of a distinct family, and yet not Sennacherib but his father. The national annals indicate no allusion to his own father which has been explained plausibly enough on the supposition that he contrived to substitute himself for his predecessor absent at the siege of Samaria, the conquest of which he claims in the inscription. And it is certainly worthy of note, as has been remarked that in 2 Kings 18: 9, 10, though Shalmaneser is said to have come up against Samaria and besieged it, the writer avoids saying that he took it. stand at the end of three years they took it . . . And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel down to Assyria," etc. Though this had been done by two of the preceding monarchs, it is known that Argon minutely details the settlement of 27,280 families from Samaria in his eastern dominions.

It may also be mentioned, that it is more than doubtful whether Tartan be a proper name. It means more probably "general" or ''commander‑in‑chief" of Assyria both here and in 2 Kings 18: 17. As the other two given as proper names are appellatives of the chief eunuch and the chief butler, so this would point to a chief general employed by Sargon in taking Ashdod, as another was later by Sennacherib when Jerusalem was menaced So Prof. Rawlinson in Smith's Dictionary of the Bible.

It is not surprising that those who look only at the historic pivots on which these utterances turn find a very unaccountable confusion of the events which then occurred. But who is to blame for reading the book of a prophet in a spirit so unbelieving? When it is received from God, as it claims and ought to be, light is shed on those scenes of darkness and evil, and all points harmoniously to Him Who is coming again in the power of His kingdom. There prophecy points and rests.

The symbolical action is by many supposed to be in vision merely, not actual. Perhaps this is due to the very uncalled‑for supposition, that the call was to a condition of entire nudity. But this is baseless, as "naked" is frequently used (see too 1 Sam. 19: 24; 2 Sam. 6: 20; Amos 2: 16; John 21: 7) to express the absence, not of all covering, but of the usual outer garb, in one sort or another: so it is not uncommon in well known Latin authors, as many have shown. The prophet already wore sackcloth. This he was to loose from off his loins, and to pull off his sandal from his foot. It seems not improbable that the true sense is "for a three years' sign and portent," etc., as the Masoretic punctuation implies and the Septuagint corroborates. The aim avowedly was to produce fear and shame in all who confided in Ethiopia or boasted of Egypt; for the Assyrian was to humble both to the dust. Vain therefore was man's help.

The moral lesson is apparent. Let not the people look to the kingdoms of the earth for protection in the hour of danger. Jehovah as the true God is and must be jealous. He will not allow compromise any more than unbelief. What are Mizraim and Cush to Israel? Let there be no hope for Israel, but weeping for their own impending humiliation; and let the dweller in the coastland, or Palestine, humble himself, for God is not mocked, and vain the help of man. Israel was really more guilty than any.

Isaiah 21

Is this chapter, though not a long one, are three sentences of judgement - on Babylon (vv. 1-10), on Dumah (vv. 11, 12), and on Arabia (vv. 13-17).

"The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through, it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land. A grievous vision is declared unto me; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth. Go up, Elam; besiege, Media; all the sighing thereof have I made to cease" (vv. 1, 2). There can be no doubt to any fair mind that the great Chaldean capital is referred to. The command to the Medes and Persians to go up and besiege is one indication; and so yet more is the graphic description of the sudden destruction in verses 3‑5, which turned the night of revelry into the pangs of terror and death for the dissolute king and his court (Dan. 5). "Therefore are my loins filled with pain; pangs have taken hold upon me, as the pangs of a woman in travail; I am bowed down so as not to hear; I am dismayed so as not to see. My heart panteth, horror affrighteth me; the night of my pleasure hath he turned into trembling unto me" (vv. 3, 4). Is this vindictive feeling or language? It is a holy man of God deeply moved by the prophetic vision of the fall of Babylon, so awful and unexpected. Yet was Babylon Judah's captor.

"Prepare the table, appoint the watch; eat, drink; arise, ye princes, anoint the shield" (v. 5).

"For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman; let him declare what he seeth. And he saw chariots, horsemen by pairs, a chariot with asses, a chariot with camels, and he hearkened diligently with much heed. And he cried [as] a lion, Lord, I stand continually upon the watch‑tower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward every night; and, behold, chariots of men come, horsemen by pairs. And he answered and said Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground. O my threshing, and the corn of my floor! what I have heard of Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you" (vv. 6-10).

The latter part of the ninth verse crowns the proof, and expressly names Babylon's fall as the object intended. The prophet personifies the city or its people in verse 10.

Nevertheless there is somewhat to be noted in the phrase used of the doomed mistress of the world, especially as there seems to be an evident link between this enigmatic title, "the burden of the desert of the sea," and that applied to Jerusalem, "the burden of the valley of vision," in the beginning of Isa. 22. As the rise and glory of the first Gentile empire was only permitted sovereignly of God in consequence of hopeless idolatry in Judah and Jerusalem, so the judgement of Babylon was the epoch of deliverance for the Jewish remnant, the type of the final dealings of God with the last holder of the power which began with the golden head of the great image. There is thus a correlation between these two cities Jerusalem and Babylon - whether historical or symbolic; and as the latter is designated "the desert of the sea," the former is "the valley of vision." Jeremiah in his vision (Jer. 51: 42) beholds the sea come up upon Babylon, so as to cover her with the multitude of the waves. In fact too we know to what a waste this seat of human pride sunk; and so; notoriously it remains until this day.

In verses 6-10 is set forth the twofold leadership of the coming invasion, or at least the twofold nationality of the armies that conquered. The watchman in the vision attests his vigilance, and reports what he saw. This is followed by the solemn tidings of Babylon's fall, and the prophet's seal on the truth of the announcement. The ruin also we saw in Isa. 13 - 14 irremediable, in the face of the fullest hope and stoutest purpose to make it the metropolis of the earth. So too predicted Jer. 50-51, that Babylon should sink and not rise again.

Next comes "the burden of Dumah," which some consider to border on, if not to be identified with, Idumea. "The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will inquire, inquire; return, come" (vv. 11, 12). The Edomite cry is one of proud scorn and self‑security. The brief answer is pregnant with serious expostulation. Let them not trust to hopes of the bright morn; for the dark and dangerous night would assuredly come. Nevertheless a door was still open for repentance. Let them "return, come." How great is the long-suffering of God, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance! But whatever man does or fails to do, His purpose stands, and the day of Jehovah will come as a thief; not more welcome, as little expected. Insult as the world may during the night, the morning will surely come. But there is no morning for the earth till He comes, Who was and is the true Light, and Whose it will be to judge the habitable earth. This is neither the gospel or church time, nor is it eternity when the new heavens and earth are wherein dwells righteousness (2 Peter 3: 13). It will be an age of government when He reigns Whose right it is, alone competent to put all evil down, and to maintain both the glory of God and the blessing of man, as He will surely do in that day.

As for "the burden upon Arabia," little remark is needed. "The burden upon Arabia. In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O travelling companies of Dedanites. Unto him that was thirsty they brought water; the inhabitants of the land of Tema did meet the fugitives with their bread. For they fled away from the swords, from the drawn sword, and from the bent bow, and from the grievousness of war. For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Within a year, according to the years of a hireling, and all the glory of Kedar shall fail; and the residue of the number of the archers, the mighty men of the sons of Kedar, shall be diminished for Jehovah, the God of Israel, hath spoken" (vv. 13‑17). The thickets of Arabia* would be no more an effectual hiding place from the storm than the rocks and mountain fastnesses of Edom. It is not only the travelling companies or caravans of Dedan which are cast on the pity and care of the men of Tema; but utterwasting within a year is pronounced on the mighty men of the sonsof Kedar. Man fails, great or small; Jehovah abides and will reign over this earth and all the races of mankind. What a gap there is in the outlook of all who do not believe in the world‑kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ!

*Dr. Driver (Lit. of the O.T. 206) remarks that Arab denotes not Arabia In our sense of the word but a particular nomad tribe inhabiting the north of the Peninsula and mentioned (Ezek. 27: 21) with Dedan and Cedar as engaged in commerce with Tyre. Kedar was a wealthy pastoral tribe (Isa. 9: 7; Jer. 49: 29). Tema lay some 250 miles south‑east of Edom. Sargon s troops were engaged in war with the Philistines in B.C. 720 and in 711; and it may be conjectured he adds that these two prophecies were delivered In view of an expected campaign of the Assyrians in the neighbouring regions in one of these years. How sad to leave God out of prophecy.

Isaiah 22

Chapter 22 consists of a prophecy wholly directed against Jerusalem, and entitled, "The burden of the valley of vision." There may have been some anticipation in the prophet's day, but it was partial. So much so was this the case, that Vitringa can only eke out an appearance of an historical answer by piecing together the invasion of the city by the Assyrians under Sennacherib, and that by the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar; and even this by the strong inversion which places the Chaldean movement in verses 1‑5 (comp. 2 Kings 25: 4, 5) and the Assyrian in the part that follows (with which 2 Chr. 32: 2-5 corresponds). Granting this as a primary application, it affords a strong presumption that this chapter, like the last and all we have seen, points to the great day when the reckoning of nations will come in "the morning," and of every individual throughout its course, even to the judgement of the secrets of the heart. It seems strange that believers should rest satisfied with so small an instalment from One Who pays to the uttermost farthing. The spirit that treats as an illusion the expectation of a punctual fulfilment for these prophecies as a whole, in every feature save those expressly limited to a definite time in certain particulars, is either ignorance or scepticism, or, what is common enough, a mixture of both.

The order here ought to strike an attentive reader who believes in inspiration. After the events it would have been unmeaning, were man alone concerned. For where then is the sense of putting a vision of Jerusalem after that of Babylon, and of Babylon reduced to "the desert of the sea "? The order owes all its propriety and force to its looking onward to the end of the age, when Jerusalem shall be taken after Babylon's fall, and the false administrator be replaced by the true, the Righteous Servant.

"The burden of the valley of vision. What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops? Thou that wast full of stir, a town of tumult, a joyous city, thy slain [are] not slain with the sword, nor dead in battle. All thy rulers fledtogether, they are bound without the bow, all that are found of thee are bound together, they fled far off. Therefore said I, Look away from me: let me weep bitterly; labour not to comfort me for the spoiling of the daughter of my people. For [it is] a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexityfrom the Lord Jehovah of hosts in the valley of vision, of breaking down the wall, and of crying to the mountains. And Elam beareth the quiver, with chariots of men [and] horsemen; and Kir uncovereth the shield. And it shall come to pass [that] thy choicest valleys shall be full of chariots, and the horsemen shall set themselves in array at the gate" (vv. 1‑7). The certainty of the accomplishment of prophecy awakens the deepest feeling for God's people, and even for their enemies on whom the judgement falls. It is the opposite of fatalism and its hardness on the one hand, and on the other, of that indifference to which the uncertainty of unbelief leads.

The city is shown us in the early verses, changed from its stir and tumultuous joy to the deepest uneasiness and deadly fear, the slain not fallen in battle but ignominious slaughter, all the rulers fled, but taken and bound; so that the prophet can but turn and weep alone in bitterness. For the trouble and perplexity sprang not from the dust but were by Jehovah of hosts.

The central verses expose the utter vanity and unpardonable sin of recourse to human measures by the people of God when He is dealing with them in judgement. Their only right place at such a time is to bow to His hand and accept the chastening He is pleased to inflict, always confident that mercy rejoices against judgement, and that the end of Jehovah is that He is exceeding pitiful and of tender mercy. Here there was no humiliation in them, no recognition of Him or His ways. "And he uncovereth the covering of Judah; and thou didst look in that day to the armour in the house of the forest. And ye saw the breaches of the city of David, that they were many; and ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool. And ye numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses ye broke down to fortify the wall. And ye made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But ye looked not unto the maker thereof, neither had regard unto him that fashioned it long ago. And in that day did the Lord Jehovah of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth; and behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. And it was revealed in mine ears by Jehovah of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord Jehovah of hosts" (vv. 8‑14). The one effort was to escape by policy - a fatal path for the people of God, which speedily leads into mere latitudinarian Sadduceeism. The believer is delivered alike from fear and haste, and from despair and present license.

The close of the chapter sets before us the setting aside of the unworthy Shebna who had crept into the place of chief minister, next to the throne, living only for self, and even seeking after death nothing but his own name and glory. "Thus saith the Lord Jehovah of hosts, Go, get thee in to this treasurer, unto Shebna who is over the house, [and say,] What hast thou here, and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewn thee out here a sepulchre, [as] one hewing him out a sepulchre on high, graving a habitation for himself in the rock? Behold, Jehovah will hurl thee away violently as a strong man, and he will wrap thee up closely. He will surely roll and toss thee [like] a ball into a large country: there shalt thou die, and there [shall be] the chariots of thy glory, O shame of thy lord's house. And I will thrust thee from thine office, and from thy station will He pull thee down" (vv. 15-19).

Thereon Jehovah's servant Eliakim is called to take the reins of office in his stead, a father to Jerusalem and Judah, with the key of David's house laid by Jehovah on his shoulder, with full authority and adequate power. "And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkijah; and I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him withthy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; and he shall open, and none shall shut and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him [as] a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a throne of glory to his father's house. And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father's house, the offspring and the issue, every small vessel, from the vessels of cups even to all the vessels of flagons" (vv. 20-24). We cannot here fail to recognize the type of Christ displacing the Antichrist. The very fact of the past historical circumstances being put together without regard to mere date, as we have seen, and with personages introduced who officially were not the highest, yet described in terms which open out to a dominion and power beyond the highest, prepares one for the magnificent events of the latter day in the Holy Land as the only complete fulfilment of the scripture before us.

"In that day, saith Jehovah of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in a sure place be removed, and be cut down and fall; and the burden that [was] upon it shall be cut off; for Jehovah hath spoken" (v. 25). It was not the position, but the person that made the difference. Shebna had just the same place, but he utterly failed and wrought ruin. Not so Eliakim who followed, as we have seen, in the verses last before us. Rev. 3: 7 warrants the application to Christ.

Isaiah 23

The last of these local judgements here comes before us - "the burden of Tyre." This city is the type of the world's commercial glory; wealthy, corrupt, and self‑confident, but taken though not destroyed after a long siege by Nebuchadnezzar. Such historically is the destruction announced not here only but in Ezek. 26-28. Tyre and the Tyrians formed the centre of the merchandise of the ancient world, the emporium of all the commodities and the luxuries of that day, the link through "the ships of Tarshish" between the west and the east. Its fall therefore could not but affect painfully and universally the dwellers on the earth; and the rather, as trading rivals were fewer than now. Yet how would not in our day the overthrow of the proudest seat of modern commerce make itself felt to the ends of the earth? We know from elsewhere that the siege was prolonged for a term quite unusual, thirteen years; indeed we need not travel beyond the prophetic record (Ezek. 29)* to learn how severe a task it was for the Chaldean conqueror; but so much the greater was the moral effect of its fall. So that Tyre and Sidon remained the proverbial and most striking warning of divine judgement, as may be gathered from our Lord's reference.

*Zechariah 9: 3, 4 alludes rather, It would appear, to the Macedonian chief who ravaged the sea‑board cities of Phoenicia, and of Palestine north and south, so ruthlessly. This at least is the historic occasion, for the Holy Ghost, there, as everywhere has the closing conflicts in His eye, and the future triumph of Israel under the Messiah Some it may be added, think that Isa 23 refers to Shalmaneser's siege of Tyre; but this seem's to the last degree improbable as the city is seen soon after in an opulent and powerful state. Others even deny its capture by Nebuchadnezzar; but Ezek 29: 18 teaches not that he failed to take it, but that its results did not compensate for the time and toil the Tyrian ships having carried off the treasures elsewhere.

"The burden of Tyre. Howl, ye ships of Tarshish, for it is laid waste, so that there is no house, no entering in: from the land of Chittim it is revealed to them" (v. 1). There seems to be no need for departing from the ordinary sense of Chittim, either here or in ver. 12, in which the learned Bochart understands the Cutheans or Babylonians, and the meaning here to be "from the land of the Cutheans doth their captivity come." Neither is there in Chittim any necessity to refer this burden to the sack of new or insular Tyre by Alexander the Great, as do Luther and others. The prophet calls the far‑famed ships of Tarshish, first and repeatedly, to take up the dirge of the ruined mart for their merchandise, and intimates that though there was no house to receive them, nor haven for their ships to enter, the ill news would be revealed in the far west (primarily Cyprus).

"Be still, ye inhabitants of the isle (or, coast); the merchants of Zidon that pass over the sea have replenished thee. And on great waters the seed of Shihor, the harvest of the river, [was] her revenue; and she was the market of nations" (vv. 2, 3) What a change, when silence reigned where once had thronged their neighbours, the merchants of Zidon, where the treasures of the enriching Nile were gathered, "the market of nations," now a waste! "Be thou ashamed, Zidon, for the sea hath spoken, the strength of the sea, saying, I have not travailed, nor brought forth, neither have I nourished young men, [nor] brought up virgins. As at the report concerning Egypt, they were sorely pained at the report of Tyre" (vv. 4, 5). Zidon was too nearly allied to Tyre, too intimately bound up with it, not to feel and suffer keenly; and as Tyre had been its boast heretofore, so now its degradation could not but darken their neighbours; since the very sea is by bold but happy figure made to bewail her desolation: whom had she pertaining to her lineage, now that Tyre was no more? And so it was with Egypt also. The Zidonians, though directly profited by Egypt more than all other foreign nations, did not more grieve over the ruin of Tyre than of their great southern ally.

Verses 6, 7 finish these addresses with a direct appeal to the Tyrians themselves, taunting their haughty merchants with the reverse that awaited them, the just recompense of their deeds "Pass over to Tarshish: howl, ye inhabitants of the isle (or; coast). [Is] this your joyous [city], whose antiquity [is] of ancient days? Her feet shall carry her afar off to sojourn" (vv. 6, 7). Far from being an attraction to the ships of Tarshish, theymust go and howl there themselves, they the men of the sea‑girt land, whose city rang with gaiety, and whose years of proud security wereonly less ancient than Zidon, and yet more prosperous and eminent! Yes, they must go, and trudge sadly, painfully, in quest of some asylum in a strange land.

And why was this? Who would smite and prostrate the proud city of Phoenicia? "Who hath purposed this against Tyre, that giveth crowns, whose merchants [were] princes, whose dealers [were] the honourable of the earth?" (v. 8). The answer follows in verse 9. "Jehovah of hosts hath purposed it, to stain (or, profane) the pride of all glory, to bring to naught all the honourable of the earth. Overflow thy land as the Nile, daughter of Tarshish: [there is] no more restraint. He stretched out his hand over the sea, he shaketh the kingdoms. Jehovah hath given a commandment on Canaan [or, the merchant city], to destroy the strongholds thereof, and hath said, Thou shalt no more exult, oppressed virgin, daughter of Zidon: arise, pass over to Chittim; there also shalt thou have no rest" (vv. 9‑12). Here the moral reasons are not given in full; we must search other prophets for all. But Jehovah's opposition to the proud is stated, His scorn for the glory of man, His slight of all trust in earthly strongholds. Even in exile the Tyrians should find no rest. In the next verse we have the instrumental means He meant to‑employ: "Behold the land of the Chaldeans: this people existed not. The Assyrian founded it for the dwellers in the wilderness: they set up their towers, they destroyed the palaces thereof; he brought it to ruin" (v. 13). The Chaldeans, who, in contrast with old Tyre, were nationally a people but of yesterday, are seen by the prophet bringing Tyre to ruin. Such appears to be the meaning, which is confirmed by the fresh call to grief of the ships of Tarshish in verse 14: "Howl, ships of Tarshish, for your fortress is laid waste."

But the conqueror himself yields to an avenger. Babylon falls; and the full term of seventy years, which beheld the returning remnant of Judah, had a revival in store for Tyre but a revival of her meretricious ways, pandering for gainful trade to all the luxurious habits and corruptions of the nations. "And it shall come to pass in that day that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years it shall be for Tyre as a harlot's song. Take a harp, go about the city, thou forgotten harlot, make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered. And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that Jehovah will visit Tyre, and she will return to her hire, and will commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the ground" (vv. 15‑17). Nevertheless the last verse intimates that even this prophetic scene, though so largely accomplished in the past, is not without its bright side in the day of Joy to the whole earth. "And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to Jehovah: it shall not be treasured nor laid up [as in former days, when conscienceless tricks of avarice dictated the manner and objects of her trade]; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before Jehovah, to eat sufficiently and for durable clothing" (v. 18). The daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift, when the King shall greatly desire thebeauty of His earthly bride (Ps. 45: 12).

That God was thus pleased to reveal, not only about Babylon and the Assyrian, but about Philistia and Moab and Damascus about Egypt and Tyre, may seem little in the eyes of unbelieving philosophy; but what a favour to His people of old, the centre of all, and not the less because they were weak and worthless and continually turning aside from Him like a deceitful bow! What will it be to that people when they are His in a truer and fuller sense than ever, as they can only be when they judge their apostasy, both in seeking every idol, and in rejecting His Messiah and theirs? Then they will know, as petty and pedantic rationalists cannot through their false starting‑point (at bottom the same unbelief as Israel's), that all these prophecies form parts of a vast harmonious system, converging on His future kingdom over all the earth, when He receives it of God in association with Israel, then made willing in the day of His power, and strikes through kings in the day of His wrath, and judges amongst the nations (Ps. 110: 5, 6). Meanwhile the pride of commerce was judged in Tyre, as the pride of nature was in Egypt.

Isaiah 24

The prophet now launches into a larger theme. Hitherto we have had ten "burdens," the burdens of the nations from Babylon to Tyre, not without involving Jerusalem in those judgements which, starting from local circumstances, sweep on to the "end of the age," when God shall put down the rebellious pride of the earth. In the present chapter Isaiah enlarges the scene, with the land and people of Israel as the centre, so as to disclose, not the great white throne before which the wicked dead stand and are judged, but the hour of the earth's universal retribution from God, "the day of Jehovah" in its unrestricted final sense, of which previous dealings, as in the cases of Babylon and Egypt, were but the shadow and the earnest.

"Behold, Jehovah maketh the earth [or, land] empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad its inhabitants. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest, as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with him from whom usury is taken" (vv. 1, 2). There are evidently no limits here. As verse 1 shows us the earth wasted, confounded, and prostrate under the divine dealing, so verse 2 indicates an unsparing overthrow of all grades among its inhabitants. "The land shall be utterly emptied and utterly spoiled: for Jehovah hath spoken this word" (v. 3). If it is hard work to apply such strong and comprehensive terms to the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, as some conceive, still less can verse 4 be evaded. "The earth mourneth, it fadeth away: the world languisheth, it fadeth away; the haughty people of the earth do languish" (v. 4). How carefully too the Spirit guards against the too common resource of unbelief - the alleged hyperbole of an impassioned seer! - "Jehovah hath spoken this word."

Next, we have the moral ground on which God judged and executed thus sternly. "The earth [or, land] also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof, for they have transgressed the laws, changed the statute, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore doth the curse devour the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left" (vv. 5, 6). It is no mere providential judgement but a most comprehensive and divine infliction, of which God had spoken almost since the beginning. "Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these" (Jude 14). The oft‑threatened long‑suspended blow will at length fall, as Isaiah here intimates, and Jude later still, when Christendom's evil becomes as plain as Israel's.

"The new wine mourneth, the vine languisheth, all the merry hearted do sigh. The mirth of tambours ceaseth, the noise of them that rejoice endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth. They do not drink wine with a song; strong drink is bitter to them that drink it. The city of solitude is broken down; every house is shut up, that no man entereth in. [There is] a crying for wine in the streets; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone. In the city remaineth desolation, and the gate is smitten, - a ruin" (vv. 7‑12). Such and so complete is the picture of woe. Desolation overspreads the country and the city alike. Nevertheless, as always, God reserves a remnant. "For thus it will be in the midst of the land among the peoples, as the shaking of an olive‑tree, as the grape‑gleanings when the vintage is done. These shall lift up their voice, they shall shout for the majesty of Jehovah, they shall cry aloud from the sea. Wherefore glorify ye Jehovah in the east, the name of Jehovah the God of Israel in the isles of the west. From the end [wing] of the earth have we heard songs, Glory to the righteous" (vv. 13‑16). It is manifestly a description of the righteous in Israel, who shallcome into prominence, as divine judgements mow down their proud oppressors.

Nevertheless verse 16 appears to mark how deeply the prophet, foreshowing the exercised godly souls of that day, deplores the low condition of the remnant, and the fearful defection and ruin of the mass of Israel. "But I said, My leanness my leanness, woe unto me! the treacherous have dealt treacherously; yea, the treacherous have dealt very treacherously. Fear, and the pit, and the snare [are] upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth [or, land]. And it shall come to pass [that] he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit, and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare, for the windows on high are opened, and the foundations of the earth do shake. The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is quite dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. Theearth reeleth to and fro like a drunkard, and is shaken like a night‑hut; and the transgression thereof is heavy upon it; and it falleth, and riseth not again. And it shall come to pass in that day [that] Jehovah will punish the host of the high ones on high, and the kings of the earth on the earth. And they shall be gathered together [as] prisoners gathered for the pit, and shall be shut up in prison, and after many days shall they be visited. And the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when Jehovah of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his elders [or, ancients] in glory" [or, gloriously] (vv. 16‑23).

The entire chapter, specially its closing verses, brings into thestrongest evidence the hopeless difficulties of those who confound earthly things with heavenly, and refuse to see the portion in store for Israel in the latter day, when judgement has fallen on the habitable earth. Writers as early as Theodoret confess the ulterior scope of the prophecy, whatever measure of accomplishment they might consider it to have had in the past: "The discourse contains a double prophecy; for it points out both what was going on at different times among the enemies, and what shall be in the consummation of the present age." But then, immediately after, he makes the singularly unintelligent observation that the second verse describes a state of things properly and truly after the resurrection. The judgement of the quick is ignored. There is in truth not a word here of the deadraised, or souls giving an account of their deeds, but emphatically and repeatedly of the earth's crisis, and of the world smitten and languishing under God's mighty hand. The language, no doubt, is excessively strong; it here and there appears to look on to the dissolution of all things, as is sufficiently common in prophetic style, where the prediction of the signal change which ushers in the millennium contains a more or less covert allusion to the utter passing away of the heavens and earth that now are, and the coming in of the eternal state. But the conclusion of the chapter makes it plain that the grand aim of the Spirit here is to portray that mighty and universal catastrophe which is succeeded by the times of refreshing for Israel and the earth, of which God has spoken by His holy prophets since the world began.

So profound and all‑embracing, however, is the dealing of God, that even the angelic hosts escape no more than the proudest potentates here below. "It shall come to pass in that day [that] Jehovah shall punish the host of the high ones on high [not, 'that are on high'], and the kings of the earth on the earth," These spirits of evil had up to this misled man and dishonoured God, seeking to corrupt every mercy almost from the source. But the time is come that angels should be judged as well as living men, far beyond even the judgement of the flood. The power of the heavens shall be shaken - not earth only, but also heaven. But far from its being as yet the melting away of time into eternity, "the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when Jehovah shall reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before his elders in glory." It is the day of which Zechariah spoke (Zech. 14: 9, 10), long after the return from the captivity, when Jehovah shall be king over all the earth. "In that day shall there be one Jehovah, and his name one. All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem; and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin's gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king's winepresses." Could expressions be used more preciselyto exclude the mystical interpretation, or more calculated to maintain the hopes of Israel, then to be built on the Living Stone over Whom they have till yet stumbled? Jehovah Messiah will come in His kingdom and reign in Zion. The land as it were broadens out to the earth; not only is the world comprehended in the divine dealing but the heavens. And He, Who has at length taken to Him His great power and reigned, proves Himself the ruler of all things that are in "heaven, and that are on the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or lordships or principalities or authorities." As they were created in virtue of (ejn) Him and through Him, so were they created for Him, as the day of Jehovah will display, when Jerusalem and Mount Zion still subsist: a state of things manifestly different from and antecedent to the eternity that follows.

Isaiah 25

The bearing of Isa. 24 on the consummation of the age is entirely confirmed by that which follows and is now before us, where we have the prophet personifying the people raising their hearts to Jehovah in praise. They are celebrating God for His wonderful doings, and own that His counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. "Jehovah, thou [art] my God I will exalt thee, I will celebrate thy name; for thou hast done wonderful [things]: counsels of old [which are] faithfulness [and] truth. For thou hast made of the city a heap; of the fortified town a ruin; a palace of strangers to be no city - it shall never be built up. Therefore shall the mighty people glorify thee, the city of terrible nations shall fear thee. For thou hast been a fortress to the poor, a fortress to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat; for the blast of the terrible ones [was] as a storm [against] a wall. Thou hast subdued the tumult of strangers, as the heat in a dry place; [as] the heat by the shadow of a cloud, [so] the song of the terrible ones is brought low" (vv. 1‑5). The execution of His judgement takes effect on the strong and their city. It is the habitable earth which comes under Jehovah's hand, as certainly as the end of the chapter before was His dealing with the heavens and the earth.

The eternal state does not enter into account. On the other hand there is no ground for making it bear on present circumstances. It is a new state of things that does not exist now; for if there be one place in the earth where, less than another, the Lord has the appearance of reigning, it is in that very Jerusalem and Mount Zion. The chosen land of Israel (1896) is in the possession of the Turk; it has been in his hands for hundreds of years, and before then it was the object of contention for the kings of the earth and equally so for the followers of Mahomet; it has been the great battle‑ground between the east and the west; and up to the present time God has permitted that the devotees of Mecca should appear to have gained the victory there. Ever since the cross of the Saviour, God is no longer maintaining the glory of His Son in connection with Mount Zion. The Son of God has been rejected, and has died upon the cross. Since then all connection with the world is broken, every link with the Jew is gone; and no man has ever seen the Lord of glory, except the believer.

He was witnessed by the world before, seen of men - not merely of angels as now. He was displayed before human eyes, God manifest in the flesh. But, when man cast Him out, all acknowledgment of the world as such was terminated. He was no more seen after His resurrection by any unbeliever; none but chosen witnesses were permitted to behold Him. Taken soon after up to heaven, He sits at the right hand of God; and thence He will come to judge the quick and the dead. A great mistake it is to confound the judgement of the quick with the judgement of the dead. Scripture indicates that there is a long interval of most remarkable character, which separates the one from the other. Indeed there is to be, in a certain and most important sense, a peaceful judgement of the quick going on all through the interval of a thousand years An awful execution of judgement on open enemies must be before the Lord begins to reign, as there will be an insurrection of the distant nations at the end. The judgement of the dead follows that reign, before the eternal state is manifested. (See Rev. 20 - 21)

The judgement of the dead remains, then, perfectly certain. It is a truth of God that there is a resurrection both of the just and the unjust. But it has not been so generally seen that the Lord of glory is about to revisit this world and stop the whole course of human affairs, and interpose with both providential inflictions, and then His own personal judgement, upon the guilt of man; not yet for judging the dead, which will come afterwards. Before the dead stand before the white throne divine dealing by the Lord Himself will be the portion of living men from the highest to the lowest. To this our Lord referred, when He warned His disciples of the days that were coming. Thus Matt. 24 - 25. and Luke 17, 21 refer, save a part of the last chapter, exclusively to this time and to these circumstances. Some scriptures speak only of the judgement of the dead, others both unfold the portion of the risen saints to enjoy heavenly glory with Christ, and tell how the dead are to be judged according to their works.

The believer is saved according to the worth of Christ's work; he who shall be judged according to his own works is lost for ever. No child of God, if judged as he deserved, could be saved. For, if judged at all, God must judge after His own justice with no less a standard than Christ. We must be as spotless as His Son in order to be fit companions for Him. But on that ground there is an end of all hope. The gospel turns on this, that Jesus was delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification, not for our judgement. What is the value in God's sight of the work He has done? Is it only a partial salvation? or for only some believers? If it be not a full salvation for sinners, yea, for the worst of those who believe it is not what God commends to us, nor a due and righteous answer to the cross of Christ. Therein is the very comfort of the salvation that Christ has effected. It is a perfect salvation, it delivers from all sins, it places the chief of sinners upon a new ground as Christians, kings, priests, and children of God. Thenceforward our business is to trust and obey Him, labouring for and suffering with Christ and for Christ, as we await His return from heaven, even Jesus our Deliverer, Who will judge His adversaries.

 

It is plain that there are two classes of men who are to enter the resurrection state. I do not say to rise at the same time, for no scripture says this. It is said that "the hour is coming when all that are in the graves . . . shall come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgement"* (John 5: 28, 29). All this is quite true, but not a word about their coming forth at the same time. Other scriptures show that the two resurrections, here shown to be distinct in principle and issue, will not take place simultaneously. Hence, while both might be said to be the rising of the dead, that of the righteous alone is or could be called a rising from the dead, the rest being left as yet in their graves. From Rev. 20. again, it is plain that a thousand years at least will intervene between the resurrection of the just and that of the unjust. Any one reading the Revelation without prejudice could not fail to gather that the righteous dead are raised first to reign with Christ; and then, after the earthly reign, that the rest of the dead are raised, who are judged according to their works; and of these it is said that whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. There is not a hint of any who were found written. When God judges according to works, nothing can follow but destruction. Their evil works abound in the books; and the book of life has none of their names in it.

*"Damnation" though the effect of judgement, is not the sense of the expression. It is an instance of men giving their own strength to a word and really weakening the passage in result.

This strongly links itself with what is before us. Here we have the Lord, not hidden in heaven, but appearing from heaven to reign. He is not reigning on the earth now. It is chiefly. among idle speculative men (of learning perhaps) where you find any dream so foolish. Who is not aware that if any period in the history of Christendom was particularly dreary as to outward light, it is that from Constantine, or some time after, to the Reformation - the dark ages, as they are called? Yet even pious men are not wanting who maintain that this is the very time when Christ was reigning; that it began in the year 320 and ended 1320! that is, the most unrelieved reign of darkness that Christendom has yet seen! Augustine made this reign begin with Christ and extend all through Christianity. This was bad; the other is worse, though maintained by H. Grotius. Both exercised an enormous influence in the world. The great Dutchman, if consulted in a matter of erudition, would have probably given no inconsiderable help to most men; but when he came to the word of God, he was as much at sea there as St. Peter or St. John would have been in that which was his favourite province. In divine things learning is of small value - except as a drudge to men of spiritual judgement and lowly; for the meek only has God promised to guide in judgement. The assumption that, because a man is a profound scholar, even if a Christian also, he is a safe expositor of scripture, is a grave mistake.

Let my reader, if he know it not already, search and see whether there be not a time coming when the Lord, Who is now in heaven at the right hand of God, will leave it to introduce His reign over the earth with the chosen city as His earthly metropolis. Do you ask why there should be such an attraction to that spot? Certainly it has been the scene of sorrow and shame and rivalry between the east and west, and also of the deepest humiliation of God's ancient people. But let me ask you, even on your ground, where there is a spot on earth so full of grand associations, so connected with all that is dear to the believer? There the Lord of glory came. There He died. It is His city, the city of the Great King. Why should He not then come and take it for Himself? Is it not worthy of Him to pardon and bless and sanctify and magnify Jerusalem before the world, overcoming her evil with His good? Most plain is the scripture that the Lord has to come there, and to establish it as the capital of His earthly kingdom. It is not meant that the Lord will dwell literally on the earth, but be King over it. Yet scripture says He will plant His foot upon the mount of Olives. It is therefore quite necessary for the truth of His future kingdom to maintain that He will visibly come and smite the earth, and establish His kingdom there, and fill the world with the blessed effects of His presence and glory. Scripture says that He will surely come and display Himself here; but for how long, to what extent, and how often during that reign, it is not for me at least to pretend to aver; for I am not aware that scripture answers those questions. And as there is a special place, so there is a people He will favour most Jerusalem and the Jewish people.

But what is to become of Christians? Are they and the Jews to be huddled in Jerusalem together as the old Chiliasts affirmed? Is this the Christian hope? Such an idea is ignorant and monstrous. The Christian is even now in title blessed in the heavenly places. Thence he will reign over the earth. The Jews then gathered and converted will be in their own promised land and city, on which the eyes of Jehovah rest continually; for it is the truth of God that He never withdraws a gift, and never repents of a promise. He might repent of creating man: this was not a promise; it was simply an exertion of His will. But if God chose Israel or the church, He repented of neither, though both have been unfaithful; for He meant to bless, He does bless, and, no matter what the difficulty, He will bless for ever. This we have to hold fast: the purpose of God shall stand. Changes in man and the earth may be, but the counsel of God must yet be accomplished.

Hence the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. He gave the land of Israel to their fathers. He gave the promise to make their seed a blessing. He connected His own Son with Israel after the flesh, that, spite of their sin in Christ's cross, in virtue of His grace therein an immovable basis of blessing might be laid, when they shall be raised to such a pinnacle of greatness on the earth as is reserved for no other people here below. When the Lord will come to reign, He will have removed to the Father's house the heavenly people. He will have raised the dead from their graves, and changed the living into the likeness of His own glory. For this all Christians should be looking, as their expectation. When they are caught up thus, then the earth is clear for the Holy Ghost to work among the Jews. The Spirit of God does not operate to two different ends - a heavenly and an earthly - at the same time. But here we find Him at work among the Jews who are not caught up to heaven, as we expect to be, but are blessed under the Messiah on the earth.

Our Lord then having first come and removed the Christians dead and living to be with Himself above, will next begin to act upon the Jews and prepare them as His people when He reigns. This is what is in question here. The earthly centre of His reign is Mount Zion and Jerusalem. This it is which gives to the reign of David such emphasis in the word of God. For he was the chosen type of the Lord, not merely in His humiliation, but also in His glory. He had also to war and put down his enemies, and therefore was called a "man of blood." Our Lord will be first an executor of judgement, though not, as David, allowing anything of his own spirit or will to interfere and spoil the work; but, in the holy authority of God Himself, in the pouring out of divine wrath and indignation, all will be perfect and dealt with in righteousness. In that day the Lord will convulse the whole universe, punishing "the host of the high ones on high," that is, in the scene that they have defiled, "and the kings of the earth on the earth" (Isa. 24: 21).

Thus the believing Jews of that day will utter the song in evident reference to their experience of the faithfulness of God. They do not address God as Father in the Spirit of adoption, for they are not Christians; they will be believers, but believing Jews. It is gross ignorance to talk of Abel, Enoch, Abraham, David, or Daniel as Christians. They were all saints, but none then were Christians. Not merely was it after Christ came that the disciples were first called Christians, but the place into which believers were at length brought by the work of Christ and the gift of the Spirit differs essentially. There is hardly a worse error for a believer now; for it alike tells upon the present and the future and the past, merging all the various displays of God's mind in confusion. This blunts the edge of the word, hinders the full blessing and testimony of the church, and by its ignorance mars the glory of God as much as man can, who is not an open adversary.

Now, no doubt, in presence of the cross, and the Holy Ghost sent personally on earth, the old distinctions of Jew and Gentile fade before their common ruin in sin and death morally. But when the Lord comes, He will prepare the Jewish people to receive Him according to the prophets; and they will be made the witnesses of His mercies no less than of His glory here below; as now they are the most obstinate enemies of the gospel and of His grace to the Gentiles. Whereas in this chapter we hear the proper language of Jews. If a Christian were to address God as Jehovah, it is of course in itself true; but it is a very unintelligent title in our worship. To us there is one God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ. Jehovah is the name of God looked at as a governor that maintains His kingdom; whereas Father is that name which first came out in connection with His beloved Son, and now, by virtue of redemption, is true of us who believe in Him.

Hence, as often noticed, the very day that Christ was raised from the dead, He says, "Go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (John 20: 17). Christ, by His death and resurrection, has brought us into the same place with Himself. This the Lord always had in view when He was here, so that He never addressed God as Jehovah, because the New Testament presents Him in view of Christianity. But the Old Testament shows that the Lord will have a people, and that they will know Him and the Father as Jehovah. This suffices to indicate the difference; and theseremarks have been made to show that another class of people are here spoken of, not Christians, but Jews, who recognise God by that title which God gave Himself in relation to Israel of old. When God chose Moses, He bade him go and make Himself known to them as Jehovah, telling them that He was not so known before. Thus was it ordered at the commencement of the public dealings of God with His people, and throughout their national history it was as Jehovah He appeared. It was not that the name did not previously exist, but He never took it before for His recognised title as the God of Israel.

It is now the prophet who speaks on behalf of Israel, he breaks into the language of praise, and individualises it in behalf of the people in ver. 1. What are the wonderful things? The death and resurrection of Christ? Not a word about either. These are the themes we should speak about. Thus, on the Lord's‑day morning, when we come together, what occupies our hearts is the burden of His praise. We have the still more wonderful works of God in Christ and the new creation; and the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven bears His witness to these (Acts 2: 11).

Here Israel are supposed to be occupied with the wonderful things God has wrought for the deliverance of their nation. For God will have interposed and put forth His power to deliver His ancient people by the judgement of their mightiest enemies. They speak of the ruin God has inflicted on all around them. As long as the Jews are unbroken for their sins and indifferent to the truth of God, only bent on making money and serving as the world's bankers, people will be content to use them and let them alone. But from the moment that God calls the Jew out of his present spiritual and national degradation, when the dry bones are gathered together, when their hearts turn to the rejected Messiah, the nations will turn against them, and once more rend them, as truly as ever. How do we know this? The Bible delivers the believer from guess work. People who do not study the prophetic word can only speculate about the future. There can be no certainty for them; to pretend to it would be presumptuous. But when you in detail believe the Bible, you are entitled through the teaching of God's Spirit to have the certain light of God. It is entirely our own unbelief if we do not enjoy it.

"And in this mountain shall Jehovah of hosts make unto all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the veil which veileth all peoples, and the covering that is spread over all the nations. He will swallow up death in victory. And the Lord Jehovah will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the reproach of his people will he take away from off all the earth: for Jehovah hath spoken" (vv. 6-8). The Spirit of God refers here to resurrection: so the apostle, in 1 Corinthians 15: 54, applies the beginning of verse 8, "When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory." The resurrection synchronises with the deliverance of Israel, which itself will be "life from the dead" for the world (Rom. 11: 15). Thus the first open stroke at death will be at this very time. Jesus is the resurrection and the life; and when He comes with His risen saints He will receive His ancient people, and will swallow up the covering that is spread over all the nations. For there is no deliverance wrought in the earth up to that time. It is when His reign over the earth is to begin, not when it ends.

"Jehovah hath spoken." Why, we ask, does He say so here? Is it not because He foresaw that man would be incredulous? The special mark of Jehovah's voice is here, the evil heart of unbelief being well known to Him, and all the delusions of wise and unwise, deceiving and being deceived. He knew how Christendom would say, in reading of predicted judgements, they were for the Jews; and of blessings, these are for themselves. Thus they claim all the good things for the church, as they leave all the dark things for Israel; but even there they destroy conscience by the lie which views prophecy as past and obsolete. "And it shall be said in that day, Behold, this [is] our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this [is] Jehovah; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. For in this mountain shall the hand of Jehovah rest, and Moab shall be trodden down under him, even as straw is trodden down on the dunghill. And he will spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth [them] forth to swim, and he will bring down their pride together with the plots of their hands. And the fortress of the high defences of thy walls will he bring down, lay low, [and] bring to the ground, into the dust" (vv. 9‑12).

We must examine of whom God speaks; there are judgements upon Israel and upon Christendom, and blessings for Israel and for the church. That this is for Israel has been already shown; the language used is only suited to them. They speak of themselves, not as we do, conscious children of God, but as His people and of judgements which introduce their blessing. Were all the earth to be dissolved, it would neither lessen nor increase our blessing. When Christ comes, He will simply remove us to Himself, changed into His likeness and out of the scene of weakness and sin and sorrow into His own heavenly home. Whereas here, "It shall be said in that day, Behold, this is our God, we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is Jehovah; we have waited for him; we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation." They are not saved yet. Such is not our case now, save as to the body. Search the New Testament and you will see that, as regards the soul, we must be saved now; and if we believe, we are. It is plain that here is another class, Jews who have waited in shame for Jehovah, and who when He comes in glory, say, "This is our God, we have waited for Him, and He will save us." Not for us but for them "shall the hand of Jehovah" rest in "this mountain." Our portion is in heaven. "This mountain" is the lofty centre of the earthly glory. And accordingly the name of a proud national foe of Israel follows, as doomed to humiliation. Is the Christian looking for Moab to be trodden down? The wholesale christening of the Jewish prophets tends to make scripture ridiculous, and many a man has become hardened in his incredulity by such baseless preoccupation with the gospel and the church. There are general truths and principles that apply to us; for all prophets are intended for the use of the Christian, as the law also. Every scripture is inspired and profitable; but it is absurd thence to infer that all is about ourselves. "The law is good," says the apostle, "if a man use it lawfully"; and very profitable are the prophets yet we must hear them not as if we were Jews, but as Christians.

Here then is proof plain enough that not Christians, not the church of God, are before us, but Israel. What have we to do with Moab as an enemy? and an enemy which is to be trodden down? Do we look to tread down our enemies, if it were even the Roman papacy? Here is scripture, but it is not a prophecy of scripture about us: assuredly we ought to enjoy it and to bless God for it; yet the people concerned are not ourselves but Israel. They on the earth will see their former enemies completely put down, and Moab among the rest - a consideration which ought to have kept any from interpolating the church and from obliterating the Jew. For they are preserved as a separate people for mercy at the end, and mercy enduring for ever, and for the first place of earthly distinction and power under the Messiah, whereas we of the church are sharers of Christ's rejection on earth, but to be glorified on high as He is,and to reign over the earth with Him in that day.

Isaiah 26

Here we have another song to be sung. "In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah" (v. 1). That in the lastchapter is not so called, yet was it an outburst of praise after theshaking of heaven and earth; in this we have the prophet still further celebrating what God has done for Judah.

If we look at the Jews now, the contrast with what they are to be made by‑and‑by is very striking. For in Romans 1: 18 they are thusalluded to: "For wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness [i.e., Gentile wickedness in general] and unrighteousness of men that hold the truth in unrighteousness [that of Jews]." Here, on the contrary, it is said, "We have a strong city; salvation doth he appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, and the righteous nation which keepeth faithfulness shall enter in" (vv. 1, 2).

Scripture will have been abandoned by the Jewish people, or the larger part of them, in the last days. At the first advent of Christ it could be said that "salvation is of the Jews"; they had the truth but held it in unrighteousness. They had the form of sound doctrine maintained for the most part, save among the Sadducees. But before the Lord comes the second time, the great mass of the nation will not hold the truth but a lie, the great deceit of the last days, the lie of Antichrist instead of the truth of Christ. Their unrighteousness will be manifest and fatal.

Here we have the blessed contrast of all this: there is aremnant whom God will make to be a strong nation, and theyare called, "The righteous nation which keepeth faithfulness." In verse 3 it is not merely that there is a general profession of the nation, but there will be an individual reality among them. In the past they were called "the holy nation," as a description that belonged to them, but in the future there is this comfortto all that love them that it will be real collectively and individually. No common privileges are ever meant to make us less mindful of individual fidelity. "Thou wilt keep in perfect peacethe mind stayed [on thee], for he confideth in thee" (v. 3).

For very many years the common joy of the church was butlittle entered into, because of the worldliness, legalism, schisms, divisions, and innumerable wrong ways that had crept in. But there is the danger,now that God has been pleased to show theimportance and comfort of corporate blessing, of our forgetting that the individual place has to be all the more carefully watched. It is of primary moment to know the standing of the Christian and the position of the church, but the practical state must be most jealously looked to. Strength depends upon what passes between our own souls and God, Who in His gracious and vigilant care watches over the saints individually.

These then do not forget the public blessings of the nation, but there is also the individual saint's walk, staying upon God, caring for His glory, Who, on His part, keeps the soul in perfect peace; the mind is stayed upon God Himself. For no matter what the blessings be, if we have not God Himself as the object of our hearts, they are sure to be misused; therefore it is said, "because he trusteth in thee." It is not merely the perception of the goodness of God and of the wonders He had wrought for them. Now they know Himself, and trust Himself, and this is a very real thing for our souls - the personal knowledge of God and trust in God. Need it be said that God looks for it now in a still more intimate way than even then? Yet all that ever has been done on the face of the earth will have been outwardly eclipsed with but one exception (and this exception is Christ, to say nothing of His body the church). Nothing can surpass the last Adam; nothing compare with Christ's cross, unless it be Himself; and both will be our portion, of which we will joy and boast even in glory.

Remark this also that, in all these statements of what they are to share, never do we find such language addressed to them as supposes them to enter into the depths of God's ways in the cross as is expected of us now. What can be sweeter than the way in which they count on their deliverance, and confide their souls to God? But where are heard such words as "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ"? Yet nothing would have been more easy, had it been in due keeping, than for God to have said so here. We are called into such fellowship with God about His Son, and we are associated with the cross as well as heaven beyond what any one can really find in the Old Testament. When a person starts with the assumption that the theme is all one and the same, the distinctive value of scripture is lost. For the soul too the least possible measure of blessing is the result.

Here we have the Lord Jehovah brought in for all. "Confide ye in Jehovah for ever; for in Jah‑Jehovah [is the] rock of ages" (v. 4). And the reason why they speak of His everlasting strength lies here, "For he hath brought down them that dwell on high, the lofty city; he layeth it low even to the ground; he bringeth it [even] to the dust. The feet shall tread it down, the feet of the afflicted, the steps of the poor" (vv. 5, 6). It will be one nation whom God in the last days will clothe with such honour, after they have been vilified in every way by the Gentiles. Hence they are singing; for not a single difficulty remains then why God should not fully bless them. It is touching to see how God insists that He has done everything that was needed for theirdeliverance and good. For them is assured the abasement of what is high and lofty; and grace can give poverty of spirit and lowliness to the Jews themselves, once so proud. They will have been brought through tremendous trials, having borne the added and painful reproach of being a most guilty and withal haughty people; but all is changed now.

For a godly few of the Jews will entirely gainsay the lie of Satan when all the power of their nation and the great mass of the westerns will have given way to Antichrist. A little despised remnant will still hold out for the Lord, refusing him who puts himself forward as the true Messiah. They will have been faithful in the face of death, and now they are made thus to praise God. "The way of the just [is] uprightness: thou, the Upright, dost make the path of the just even" (v. 7). It is sweet in thinking of this, that their triumph will not be by their power or their knowledge, but by their simple trust in Jehovah and faith in His word. But a scanty glimpse will be theirs, for they are the very souls referred to in Isa. 1: 10, as walking in darkness and having no light. This ought never to be said of a Christian, though he may slip into such a feeling: for he has seen Christ, the light of life, the true light. He may have but a dim perception of Christ, but still Christ is before his soul and always shines; for it is not true, that where the light of grace has once shone, God takes it back again. The difference is on the part of the Christian. It is never the light that is gone; possibly he may have been unfaithful and turned his back upon it. The Holy Ghost has come down to abide with the Christian for ever. He may not always walk according to the light, but in it he walks as a believer, and cannot but walk; yea, he is now light in the Lord. The Christian walks in the light as long as he professes the name of Christ. He never walks in darkness. He may not enjoy the light, but this is quite another thing.

The contrary language is very common in Christendom, because they confound the position of the Christian with that of the Jewish people, who must go through darkness by‑and‑by, before their light is come and the glory of Jehovah is risen upon them. Possibly a very few may not be thus walking in darkness. Some certainly will have godliness in contrast "with the many"; they are "the wise." But the beautiful feature of the godly is that although they thus walk in darkness, yet as they have been touched by the Spirit of God, and know that what is of God can never have alliance with sin, so they will refuse to own that idols and Antichrist can be of God. Thus they pass through the tribulation with but a feeble measure of knowledge of God, no doubt; but still they will be true to what they have got, and will be brought out to praise God. They are entitled to be spoken of as "the just." So now, it is a great snare as well as mistake of believers not to take the place of being saints of God; for if they decline it, they feel not responsibility in their walk So in earthly relations, if persons in the position of masters or servants do not act from their true position, they will never carry themselves in practice as becomes them. To own our proper relationship is not pride, but a duty and wisdom. If you are occupied therein with self, no doubt pride comes in; but it is all right and important to acknowledge God in the relationships to which He has called us.

The Spirit of God leads them to say, "Yea, in the way of thy judgements, O Jehovah, have we waited for thee; to thy name and to thy memorial [is] the desire of [our] soul" (v. 8). Such is what they had been wading through. They had waited for Him in the way of His judgements; we follow Him in grace and look to appear with Him in glory. "With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgements are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness" (v. 9). Now we have the individual again. As far as the world is concerned, the patience of God will have ended in the most fearful departure from the truth. God is now suffering the ways of man. He has not left them to their own conjectures or darkness; but He has caused His light to shine in the person of Christ, leaving man to himself, save working by His word and Spirit. Outwardly God seems as though He did not notice what is passing here below, and all this after the full light of God has shone through Christ upon this world. Saving grace has appeared to men. Favour has been shown to the wicked, this is what is going on now. "If favour be shown unto the wicked, he doth not learn righteousness." "In the land of uprightness," it is added, "he dealeth unjustly and doth not behold the majesty of Jehovah" (v. 10). The gospel is but for a witness; it will not, it cannot, govern the world. When God's judgements are here below, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Hence there is the further warning in ver. 11, "Jehovah, thy hand is uplifted." He is coming in the way of judgement. Does the first answer say that "they do not see"? But, says the prophet, "They shall see jealousy [for] the people, and be ashamed; yea, the fire which is for thine enemies shall devour them" (v. 11).

The prophetic Spirit turns to speak of the blessing for the Jews. "Jehovah, thou wilt ordain peace for us, for thou also hast wrought all our works for us. Jehovah our God, other lords than thee have had dominion over us: by thee only will we make mention of thy name" (vv. 12, 13). What had become of them? "[They are] dead, they shall not live; deceased, they shall not rise: for thou hast visited and destroyed them, and made all memory of them to perish" (v. 14). This is of course highly figurative language. If we look at the resurrection, we know that the wicked are to rise as well as the righteous that is, there is a resurrection of all men just and unjust. These Gentile oppressors of Israel must rise in the resurrection of judgement. They will rise like other bad men. But when it is said here, "They shall not rise," the Spirit does not describe the literal resurrection of the body, but the complete reversal of the lot of the nations and Israel in this world. These old lords are no longer to live or rise again in this world. This will suffice to show that the language here is put figuratively.

In Isa. 25: 8 it is said, "He will swallow up death in victory." This, we know from God Himself, will be realised in the literal resurrection of the body, when the saints are raised. But in Isa. 26: 14 the allusion to resurrection is employed as a figure, because the context proves that it cannot refer to that literal fact; for if it did, it would be to deny that the unrighteous are to rise. This is the true criterion for the understanding of any passage of the word. If a person bring you a text against what you know to be true, always examine what surrounds it, see what God treats of. Here it is plain that it is a question of the way in which God will deal in that day with the nations who lorded it over Israel. But is it not the fact, some may ask, that these Gentiles were literally dead? Certainly, is the answer; but in this case it is not true that they shall not rise.

Perhaps this would not be worth dwelling on, were it not that many apply Isa. 26: 19 to the same literal resurrection as Isa. 25: 8. We must never force but bow to scripture. The passages that do refer to a raising of bodies we must hold fast; but it is dangerous to misapply others which only use it as a figure, because in this case one might infer, as from our chapter, that which is unfounded. In truth, as we know, all men must rise. "The hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth" (John 5: 28, 29). There we have the most decisive proof that all the dead, just and unjust, are to rise again from the grave.

Here contrariwise the wicked enemies of Israel "shall not rise." John clearly teaches the resurrection of all, good and bad. Isa. 26: 14 refers only to the figure of not rising, to comfort Israel from all fears of their old troublers. "Dead, they shall not live; deceased, they shall not rise: for thou hast visited and destroyed them, and made all memory of them to perish." Thus effectually will Jehovah have disposed of Gentiles who had lorded it over the Jews.

But what has been done for the nation? "Thou hast increased the nation, Jehovah, thou hast increased the nation; thou art glorified. Thou hadst removed [it] far [unto] all the ends of the earth" (v. 15). He does not here speak of the resurrection of the body. Clearly when this takes place as described, it could not be said that He had removed the risen saints far unto all the ends of the earth. Take it of Judah, and how true it is!

Equally plain is what follows. "Jehovah, in trouble they sought thee; they poured out a lisping [when] thy chastening [was] upon them. As a woman with child, [that] draweth near the time of her delivery, is in travail [and] crieth out in her pangs; so have we been before thee, Jehovah. We have been with child, we have been in travail, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have not wrought the deliverance of the land (or, earth); neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen" (vv. 16‑18). They will review their past conduct, and see that they have not accomplished God's design by them. Where had they brought in a divine flow of blessing? They had learnt the bad ways of the Gentiles, and brought a curse on themselves as well as on others; the name of Jehovah was blasphemed because of them.

But now it is said, as a glorious reverse, "Thy dead shall live; my dead bodies shall arise." What mighty words, and how tender! Jehovah awakens Israel, and even calls them His dead bodies. It is no question of bodily death, but of national revival, and yet it will have spiritual character too. The daughter of Zion awakes from her long sleep, and Jehovah speaks of theJews (so long defunct as His people) as His dead. They, for their part, own themselves to be just as bad as the rest of the nations; but the momentous difference is that Jehovah claims them as His own. "Let them be dead," He says, as it were, "still they are Mine." It is the Jewish nation that had been like a corpse which Jehovah is graciously pleased to identify as His own, and is bringing them out again. If Abraham would bury his dead out of his sight, here Jehovah asserts His title to fill them with a new life: "Thy dead shall live; my dead bodies shall arise. Awake and sing in triumph, ye that dwell in dust; for thy dew is the dew of the morning, and the earth shall cast forth the dead" (v. 19). It indicates how fully the truth of the resurrection of the dead was familiar to the Jew seeing the prophet uses it so freely as the best expression for God's resuscitating His people when they shall have been long defunct as a nation.

As some may think this a questionable interpretation of the passage, a scripture or two will prove its soundness. In Ezek. 37. the terms of the figure are quite as strong as here, the Spirit of God shows the prophet a valley of dry bones. And "they were very dry." "Can these bones live?" was the question (vv. 2, 3). "Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you" (v. 5). Thus the vision is realized, the bones come together. Next there was flesh on them (v. 8). Then the bones, coming forth and clothed with flesh, answer to the dead men here raised out of their graves. But, beyond controversy, this means the whole house of Israel. "Thy dead shall live," says Isaiah. To put this chapter of Ezekiel along with Isa. 26: 19 makes, to say the least, a strong presumption, that if the figure of resurrection is used to show the fresh start of Israel in the one, so it may be in the other. But it is certainly so intended in Ezek. 37; for, if we have the vision, we have also the inspired interpretation. We are not therefore at liberty to explain the vision according to our own thoughts. The explanation of the Holy Ghost is express and conclusive. Thus we can carry divine light back to Isaiah 26: 19, where the very same allusion is found.

In Hosea 6: 2 again there is a similar figure. So there is also in Dan. 12: 2, "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." If we divert this to a resurrection of the body, in the first place it is not a resurrection of all, but only of "many." In the second place, it is of some to everlasting life and of someto shame and contempt at the same time. We must give up the doctrine of the first resurrection, separated by a thousand years and more from the second death (Rev. 20), in order to found on this a literal rising from the graves. All is plain and just if it apply in the same way as Ezekiel and Isaiah to thenational revival of Israel, whom God will bring out of all their present condition of shame, though some of them be allowed to display fatal wickedness and pride. This is another confirmation of the truth of the interpretation.

But further the next verses are explicit, where we read, "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself for a little moment, until the indignation be past. For, behold, Jehovah cometh forth out of his place to visit the iniquity of the inhabitants of the earth on them; and the earth shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain" (vv. 20, 21). Those who interpret the context of a literal resurrection are led into the error, that the risen saints (for such this scheme supposes to be here meant) would be here on earth whilst the divine indignation is going on! One could understand their holding that some are to pass through the tribulation, though this is not quite the same thing as the indignation. But it is clearly a question of men alive here below not of men changed. God tells them (the Jews) to enter into their chambers until He has spent all His wrath upon the nations. Is this what we look for? Are we not to be taken out of this earthly scene and to enter into the Father's house above? We are not an earthly but a heavenly people. We know the Lord is coming Who will take us to be with Himself where He is; and when He has translated the Christians above, the Jews will be called for the earth. The little remnant will be grievously tried, when the vast body of the nation will receive the Antichrist.

Hence, when the day of Jehovah comes for the judgement of the quick, it is said, "enter into thy chambers." He will not provide a heavenly abode for them, but they are to enter into their chambers - assuredly some place of refuge and earthly security. All this renders plain the right interpretation of the passage, and shows that God is not speaking about the heavenly saints, but refers to the remnant of the Jews in the last days, who are to have a haven of refuge provided for them. It is not like Abraham, for this is our place. Israel will be much more likeLot, for they will be in the midst of the scene where thejudgement is to be executed. Lot entered into his chambers (that is, Zoar) when the judgement came; but as for Abraham, he was entirely out of the trial, and pleading before Jehovah in earnest intercession; and yet before the day came to pass, he knew about it far better than Lot. His position, communion, and experience were typically different from those of his relative. So we shall be taken up to Christ and brought into the Father's house; but afterwards, when the Lord comes to execute judgement, we shall come along with Him.

Isaiah 27

This is the closing portion of the series that has been occupying us. It is "in that day," while Isa. 28 manifestly introduces a new part of the prophecy.

The great crisis is arrived. Not only does Jehovah come out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth is compelled to disclose her deeds of blood, and her slain shall be covered no more; but there are yet greater things. For "in that day Jehovah with his sore and great and strong sword will visit leviathan, the piercing serpent (or, fugitive), and leviathan, the crooked serpent; and he will slay the dragon (or, monster) that is in the sea" (v. 1).* It is the execution of divine judgement on the power of Satan, figuratively set forth under forms suited to describe his hostility as at work against Israel among the Gentiles. "The day of Jehovah" takes in not only the thousand years of peaceful reign, but a little more.

*Delitzch suggests a reference to the Assyrian and Babylonian powers, answering to the swift and straight river Hiddekel, and the very winding Euphrates respectively. But the serpent in either form points to the subtle foe behind the scene.

Thence the Spirit turns to Jehovah's ways with His own. "In that day [shall be] a vineyard of pure wine; sing concerning it: I Jehovah keep it; I will water it every moment: lest [any] harm it, I will keep it night and day" (vv. 2, 3). His carenever failed, whatever the times that passed over His land and people. When earth comes once more into His view, and consequently Israel, His watchful goodness will prove itself unremitting on their behalf. "Fury [is] not in me. Oh that I had briars [and] thorns against me in battle! I would march through them, I would burn them together. Or let him take hold of my strength; let him make peace with me, peace let him make with me" (vv. 4, 5). There seems not a little obscurity in the language, if one may judge from the discrepancies of expositors, and the difficulty of suggesting such a sense as carries theunbiased along with it. But assuming that the substantial forceis given in the English Bible, Jehovah on the one hand challenges the adversaries and warns of their sure destruction; on the other He proffers His own protection as the only door of peace and safety. The next verse is transparent, "In future Jacob shall take root; Israel shall bud and blossom, and fill the face of the world with fruit" (v. 6). Such is the purpose of Jehovah, and it shall stand.

It was not only purpose, however: there was patient and persevering discipline in His ways with Israel. "Hath he smitten him, as he smote those that smote him? [or] is he slain according to the slaughter of them that are slain by him? In measure, in sending her away, didst thou contend (or, wilt debate) with her? He hath removed [her] with his rough wind in the day of the east wind. By this, therefore, shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this [is] all the fruit of taking away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in pieces - the Asherahs and the sun images shall not stand. For the fortified city [is] solitary, a habitation deserted and forsaken like a wilderness: there shall the calf feed, and there shall he lie down, and consume its boughs. When its branches are withered, they shall be broken off: women come [and] set them on fire. For it [is] a people of no understanding: therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and ho that formed them will show them no favour" (vv. 7‑11). Thus, there was indeed a mighty difference in God's ways with Israel and their enemies. Faithfully did He chastise them in their pride, and rebelliousness, and unbelief; but it was not with the unsparing judgement which uprooted and destroyed His and their foes. There was slaughter too; but what was it in comparison of those that are destined to be slain before the day of restitution arrives? In Israel's case judgement was tempered with mercy; His dealing was measured. In His debate or controversy with Israel He deigned to plead; and even when the sorest trial came, there was a gracious mitigation and arrest in His people's favour; and not this only, but also moral profit, when every trace of idolatry should be ground like chalkstones to powder. They must not be surprised, then, if in such mighty changes the works of the men of the earth passed away, the defended city was desolated, the habitation forsaken and left like a wilderness only relieved by pasturage for the calf, and by withered, broken firewood for women to come and set on fire; for oh! the folly of the people and the ruin they bring justly, necessarily, on themselves.

Yet here, as elsewhere, great tribulation is the immediate precursor of a greater deliverance. "And it shall come to pass in that day [that] Jehovah shall beat off from the flood of the river unto the torrent of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O children of Israel" (v. 12). The Judge of all the earth must do right; but He will interpose in saving and sovereign mercy. He will sift out and gather the Israelites one by one. Nay more, "And it shall come to pass in that day [that] the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come that were perishing in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt; and they shall worship Jehovah in the holy mountain at Jerusalem" (v. 13). Those who have accompanied me thus far will have no trouble or doubt in determining the true application. It is the trumpet of Matt. 24: 31, not of 1 Thess. 4: 16 and 1 Cor. 15: 52. The latter scriptures refer to the divine summons to the heavenly saints; our chapter, as well as the passage in the first Gospel, describes the call to Israel to re assemble, from north and south, to worship Jehovah at Jerusalem.

It may be noticed that as Isa. 26 was occupied with Judah and its land, however deep it might go, our chapter which deals with the crushing of Satan's power in various forms goes on to Israel; and this throughout, so as to prove it is not casual.

"We know not" (justly said the eloquent H. Melvill) "with what eyes those men can read Prophecy, who discover not in its announcements the final restoration and conversion of the Jews. It is useless to resolve into figurative language, or to explain, by a purely spiritual [rather, mystical] interpretation, predictions which seem to assert the reinstatement of the exiles in the land of their fathers, and their becoming the chief preachers of the religion which they have so long laboured to bring into contempt. These predictions are inseparably bound up with others, which refer to their dispersion and unbelief; so that if you spiritualize [or, allegorise] any one, you must spiritualise the whole. And since every word has had a literal accomplishment, so far as the dispersion and unbelief are concerned, how can we doubt that every word will have also a literal accomplishment, so far as the restoration and conversion are concerned? If the event had proved the predicted dispersion to be figurative, the event in all probability would prove also the predicted restoration to be figurative. But so long as we find the two foretold in the same sentence, with no intimation that we are not to apply to both the same rule of interpretation we seem bound to expect, either in both cases a literal fulfilment or in both a spiritual; and since in the one instance the fulfilment has been undoubtedly literal, have we not every reason for concluding that it will be literal in the other?"

(Sermon on the Dispersion and Conversion of the Jews, 131, 132 preached at Cambridge in February, 1837)