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Wednesday, November 29th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 1

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

Verse 1

The kingdom of Judah seems to have been in a more flourishing condition during the reigns of Uzziah and Jotham, than at any other time after the revolt of the ten tribes. The former recovered the port of Elath on the Red Sea, which the Edomites had taken in the reign of Joram. He was successful in his wars with the Philistines, and took from them several cities, Gath, Jabneh, Ashdod; as likewise against some people of Arabia Deserta, and against the Ammonites, whom he compelled to pay him tribute. He repaired and improved the fortifications of Jerusalem; and had a great army, well appointed and disciplined. He was no less attentive to the arts of peace; and very much encouraged agriculture, and the breeding of cattle. Jotham maintained the establishments and improvements made by his father; added to what Uzziah had done in strengthening the frontier places; conquered the Ammonites, who had revolted, and exacted from them a more stated and probably a larger tribute. However, at the latter end of his time, the league between Pekah, king of Israel, and Retsin, king of Syria, was formed against Judah; and they began to carry their designs into execution.

But in the reign of Ahaz his son not only all these advantages were lost, but the kingdom of Judah was brought to the brink of destruction. Pekah king of Israel overthrew the army of Ahaz, who lost in battle one hundred and twenty thousand men; and the Israelites carried away captives two hundred thousand women and children, who however were released and sent home again upon the remonstrance of the prophet Oded. After this, as it should seem, (see Vitringa on Isaiah 7:2,) the two kings of Israel and Syria, joining their forces, laid siege to Jerusalem; but in this attempt they failed of success. In this distress Ahaz called in the assistance of Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, who invaded the kingdoms of Israel and Syria, and slew Rezin; but he was more in danger than ever from his too powerful ally; to purchase whose forbearance, as he had before bought his assistance, he was forced to strip himself and his people of all the wealth he could possibly raise from his own treasury, from the temple, and from the country. About the time of the siege of Jerusalem the Syrians took Elath, which was never after recovered. The Edomites likewise, taking advantage of the distress of Ahaz, ravaged Judea, and carried away many captives. The Philistines recovered what they had before lost; and took many places in Judea, and maintained themselves there. Idolatry was established by the command of the king in Jerusalem, and throughout Judea; and the service of the temple was either intermitted, or converted into an idolatrous worship.

Hezekiah, his son, on his accession to the throne, immediately set about the restoration of the legal worship of God, both in Jerusalem and through Judea. He cleansed and repaired the temple, and held a solemn passover. He improved the city, repaired the fortification, erected magazines of all sorts, and built a new aqueduct. In the fourth year of his reign Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, invaded the kingdom of Israel, took Samaria, and carried away the Israelites into captivity, and replaced them by different people sent from his own country; and this was the final destruction of that kingdom, in the sixth year of the reign of Hezekiah.

Hezekiah was not deterred by this alarming example from refusing to pay the tribute to the king of Assyria, which had been imposed on Ahaz: this brought on the invasion of Sennacherib in the fourteenth year of his reign, an account of which is inserted among the prophecies of Isaiah. After a great and miraculous deliverance from so powerful an enemy, Hezekiah continued his reign in peace. He prospered in all his works, and left his kingdom in a flourishing state to his son Manasseh-a son in every respect unworthy of such a father. See Lowth.


Verse Isaiah 1:1. The vision of Isaiah — It seems doubtful whether this title belongs to the whole book, or only to the prophecy contained in this chapter. The former part of the title seems properly to belong to this particular prophecy; the latter part, which enumerates the kings of Judah under whom Isaiah exercised his prophetical office, seems to extend it to the whole collection of prophecies delivered in the course of his ministry. Vitringa-to whom the world is greatly indebted for his learned labours on this prophet and to whom we should have owed much more if he had not so totally devoted himself to Masoretic authority-has, I think, very judiciously resolved this doubt. He supposes that the former part of the title was originally prefixed to this single prophecy; and that, when the collection of all Isaiah's prophecies was made, the enumeration of the kings of Judah was added, to make it at the same time a proper title to the whole book. As such it is plainly taken in 2 Chronicles 32:32, where the book of Isaiah is cited by this title: "The vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz."

The prophecy contained in this first chapter stands single and unconnected, making an entire piece of itself. It contains a severe remonstrance against the corruptions prevailing among the Jews of that time, powerful exhortations to repentance, grievous threatenings to the impenitent, and gracious promises of better times, when the nation shall have been reformed by the just judgments of God. The expression, upon the whole, is clear; the connection of the several parts easy; and in regard to the images, sentiments, and style, it gives a beautiful example of the prophet's elegant manner of writing; though perhaps it may not be equal in these respects to many of the following prophecies.

Verse 2

Verse Isaiah 1:2. Hear, O heavens - "Hear, O ye heavens"] God is introduced as entering into a public action, or pleading, before the whole world, against his disobedient people. The prophet, as herald or officer to proclaim the summons to the court, calls upon all created beings, celestial and terrestrial, to attend and bear witness to the truth of his plea and the justice of his cause. The same scene is more fully displayed in the noble exordium of Psalms 50:1, where God summons all mankind, from east to west, to be present to hear his appeal; and the solemnity is held on Sion, where he is attended with the same terrible pomp that accompanied him on Mount Sinai: -

Hath spoken - "That speaketh"] I render it in the present time, pointing it דבר dober. There seems to be an impropriety in demanding attention to a speech already delivered. But the present reading may stand, as the prophet may be here understood to declare to the people what the Lord had first spoken to him.

I have nourished — The Septuagint have εγεννησα, "I have begotten." Instead of גדלתי giddalti, they read ילדתי yaladti; the word little differing from the other, and perhaps more proper; which the Chaldee likewise seems to favour; "vocavi eos filios." See Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 31:9.

Verse 3

Verse Isaiah 1:3. The ox knoweth — An amplification of the gross insensibility of the disobedient Jews, by comparing them with the most heavy and stupid of all animals, yet not so insensible as they. Bochart has well illustrated the comparison, and shown the peculiar force of it. "He sets them lower than the beasts, and even than the most stupid of all beasts, for there is scarcely any more so than the ox and the ass. Yet these acknowledge their master; they know the manger of their lord; by whom they are fed, not for their own, but for his good; neither are they looked upon as children, but as beasts of burden; neither are they advanced to honours, but oppressed with great and daily labours. While the Israelites, chosen by the mere favour of God, adopted as sons, promoted to the highest dignity, yet acknowledged not their Lord and their God; but despised his commandments, though in the highest degree equitable and just." Hieroz. i., col. 409.

But Israel — The Septuagint, Syriac, Aquila, Theodotion, and Vulgate, read וישראל veyisrael, BUT Israel, adding the conjunction, which being rendered as an adversative, sets the opposition in a stronger light.

Doth not know — The same ancient versions agree in adding ME, which very properly answers, and indeed is almost necessarily required to answer, the words possessor and lord preceding. Ισραηλ δε ΜΕ ουκ εγνω; Sept. "Israel autem ME non cognovit," Vulg. Ισραηλ δε ΜΟΥ ουκ εγνω; Aquil., Theod. The testimony of so scrupulous an interpreter as Aquila is of great weight in this case. And both his and Theodotion's rendering is such as shows plainly that they did not add the word ΜΟΥ to help out the sense, for it only embarrasses it. It also clearly determines what was the original reading in the old copies from which they translated. It could not be ידעני yedani, which most obviously answers to the version of the Septuagint and Vulgate, for it does not accord with that of Aquila and Theodotion. The version of these latter interpreters, however injudicious, clearly ascertains both the phrase, and the order of the words of the original Hebrew; it was ישראל אותי לא ידע veyisrael othi lo yada. The word אותי othi has been lost out of the text. The very same phrase is used by Jeremiah, Jeremiah 4:22, עמי אותי לא ידעו ammi othi lo yadau. And the order of the words must have been as above represented; for they have joined ישראל yisrael, with אותי othi, as in regimine; they could not have taken it in this sense, Israel MEUS non cognovit, had either this phrase or the order of the words been different. I have endeavoured to set this matter in a clear light, as it is the first example of a whole word lost out of the text, of which the reader will find many other plain examples in the course of these notes. But Rosenmuller contends that this is unnecessary, as the passage may be translated, "Israel knows nothing: my people have no understanding."

The Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate, read ועמי veammi, "and my people;" and so likewise sixteen MSS. of Kennicott, and fourteen of De Rossi.

Verse 4

Verse Isaiah 1:4. Ah sinful nation - "Degenerate"] Five MSS., one of them ancient, read משחתים moschathim, without the first י yod, in hophal corrupted, not corrupters. See the same word in the same form, and in the same sense, Proverbs 25:26.

Are corrupters - "Are estranged"] Thirty-two MSS., five ancient, and two editions, read נזורו nazoru; which reading determines the word to be from the root זור zur, to alienate, not from נזר nazar, to separate; so Kimchi understands it. See also Annotat. in Noldium, 68.

They are gone away backward - "They have turned their backs upon him."] So Kimchi explains it: "they have turned unto him the back and not the face." See Jeremiah 2:27; Jeremiah 7:24. I have been forced to render this line paraphrastically; as the verbal translation, "they are estranged backward," would have been unintelligible.

Verse 5

Verse Isaiah 1:5. Why should ye be stricken any more - "On what part," c.?] The Vulgate renders על מה al meh, super quo, (see Job 38:6; 2 Chronicles 32:10,) upon what part. And so Abendana on Sal. ben Melech: "There are some who explain it thus: Upon what limb shall you be smitten, if you add defection? for already for your sins have you been smitten upon all of them; so that there is not to be found in you a whole limb on which you can be smitten." Which agrees with what follows: "From the sole of the foot even unto the head, there is no soundness in it:" and the sentiment and image is exactly the same with that of Ovid, Pont. ii. 7, 42: -

As from ידע yada, דעה deah, knowledge; from יעץ yaats, עצה etsah, counsel; from ישן yeshan, שנה shenah, sleep, c. so from יסר yasar is regularly derived סרה sarah, correction.

Ver. Isaiah 1:5. The whole head is sick — The king and the priests are equally gone away from truth and righteousness. Or, The state is oppressed by its enemies, and the Church corrupted in its rulers and in its members.

Verse 6

Verse Isaiah 1:6. They have not been closed, c. - "It hath not been pressed," c.] The pharmaceutical art in the East consists chiefly in external applications: accordingly the prophet's images in this place are all taken from surgery. Sir John Chardin, in his note on Proverbs 3:8, "It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones," observes that "the comparison is taken from the plasters, ointments, oils, and frictions, which are made use of in the East upon the belly and stomach in most maladies. Being ignorant in the villages of the art of making decoctions and potions, and of the proper doses of such things, they generally make use of external medicines." - Harmer's Observations on Scripture, vol. ii. p. 488. And in surgery their materia medica is extremely simple, oil making the principal part of it. "In India," says Tavernier, "they have a certain preparation of oil and melted grease, which they commonly use for the healing of wounds." Voyage Ind. So the good Samaritan poured oil and wine on the wounds of the distressed Jew: wine, cleansing and somewhat astringent, proper for a fresh wound oil, mollifying and healing, Luke 10:34. Kimchi has a judicious remark here: "When various medicines are applied, and no healing takes place, that disorder is considered as coming immediately from God."

Of the three verbs in this sentence, one is in the singular number in the text another is singular in two MSS., (one of them ancient,) חבשה chubbeshah; and the Syriac and Vulgate render all of them in the singular number.

Verse 7

Verse Isaiah 1:7-9. Your country is desolate — The description of the ruined and desolate state of the country in these verses does not suit with any part of the prosperous times of Uzziah and Jotham. It very well agrees with the time of Ahaz, when Judea was ravaged by the joint invasion of the Israelites and Syrians, and by the incursions of the Philistines and Edomites. The date of this prophecy is therefore generally fixed to the time of Ahaz. But on the other hand it may be considered whether those instances of idolatry which are urged in Isaiah 1:29 - the worshipping in groves and gardens - having been at all times too commonly practised, can be supposed to be the only ones which the prophet would insist upon in the time of Ahaz; who spread the grossest idolatry through the whole country, and introduced it even into the temple; and, to complete his abominations, made his son pass through the fire to Molech. It is said, Isaiah 1:2; Isaiah 15:37, that in Jotham's time "the Lord began to send against Judah, Rezin - and Pekah." If we may suppose any invasion from that quarter to have been actually made at the latter end of Jotham's reign, I should choose to refer this prophecy to that time.

AND your cities are burned. - Nineteen of Dr. Kennicott's MSS. and twenty-two of De Rossi's, some of my own, with the Syriac and Arabic, add the conjunction which makes the hemistich more complete.

Ver. Isaiah 1:7. זרים zarim at the end of the verse. This reading, though confirmed by all the ancient versions, gives us no good sense; for "your land is devoured by strangers; and is desolate, as if overthrown by strangers," is a mere tautology, or, what is as bad, an identical comparison. Aben Ezra thought that the word in its present form might be taken for the same with זרם zerem, an inundation: Schultens is of the same opinion; (see Taylor's Concord.;) and Schindler in his Lexicon explains it in the same manner: and so, says Kimchi, some explain it. Abendana endeavours to reconcile it to grammatical analogy in the following manner: " זרים zarim is the same with זרם zerem; that is, as overthrown by an inundation of waters: and these two words have the same analogy as קדם kedem and קדים kadim. Or it may be a concrete of the same form with שכיר shechir; and the meaning will be: as overthrown by rain pouring down violently, and causing a flood." On Sal. ben Melech, in loc. But I rather suppose the true reading to be זרם zerem, and have translated it accordingly: the word זרים zerim, in the line above, seems to have caught the transcriber's eye, and to have led him into this mistake. But this conjecture of the learned prelate is not confirmed by any MS. yet discovered.

Verse 8

Verse Isaiah 1:8. As a cottage in a vineyard - "As a shed in a vineyard"] A little temporary hut covered with boughs, straw, turf, or the like materials, for a shelter from the heat by day, and the cold and dews by night, for the watchman that kept the garden or vineyard during the short season the fruit was ripening, (see Job 27:18,) and presently removed when it had served that purpose. See Harmer's Observ. i. 454. They were probably obliged to have such a constant watch to defend the fruit from the jackals. "The jackal," (chical of the Turks,) says Hasselquist, (Travels, p. 227,) "is a species of mustela which is very common in Palestine, especially during the vintage; and often destroys whole vineyards, and gardens of cucumbers." "There is also plenty of the canis vulpes, the fox, near the convent of St. John in the desert, about vintage time; for they destroy all the vines unless they are strictly watched." Ibid. p. 184. See Isaiah 2:15.

Fruits of the gourd kind, melons, watermelons, cucumbers, c., are much used and in great request in the Levant, on account of their cooling quality. The Israelites in the wilderness regretted the loss of the cucumbers and melons among the other good things of Egypt, Numbers 11:5. In Egypt the season of watermelons, which are most in request, and which the common people then chiefly live upon, lasts but three weeks. See Hasselquist, p. 256. Tavernier makes it of longer continuance:

L'on y void de grands carreaux de melons et de concombres, mais beaucoup plus de derniers, dont les Levantins font leur delices. Le plus souvent, ils les mangent sans les peter, apres quoi ils vont boire une verre d'eau. Dans toute l'Asie c'est la nourriture ordinaire du petit peuple pendant trois ou quatre mois toute la famine en vit, et quand un enfant demand a manger, au lieu qu'en France ou aillieurs nous luy donnerions du pain, dans le Levant on luy presente un concombre, qu'il mange cru comme on le vient de cueillir. Les concombres dans le Levant ont une bonte particuliere; et quoiqu' on les mange crus, ils ne font jamais de mal;

"There are to he seen great beds of melons and cucumbers, but a greater number of the latter, of which the Levantines are particularly fond. In general they eat them without taking off the rind, after which they drink a glass of water. In every part of Asia this is the aliment of the common people for three or four months; the whole family live on them; and when a child asks something to eat, instead of giving it a piece of bread, as is done in France and other countries, they present it with a cucumber, which it eats raw, as gathered. Cucumbers in the Levant are peculiarly excellent; and although eaten raw, they are seldom injurious." Tavernier, Relat. du Serrail, cap. xix.

As a lodge, c. — That is, after the fruit was gathered the lodge being then permitted to fall into decay. Such was the desolate, ruined state of the city.

As a beseiged city - "A city taken by seige"] So the ὡς πολις πολιορκουμενη; Septuagint: see also the Vulgate.

Verse 9

Verse Isaiah 1:9. The Lord of hosts - "JEHOVAH God of hosts"] As this title of God, יהוה צבאות Yehovah tsebaoth, "JEHOVAH of hosts, occurs here for the first time, I think it proper to note, that I translate it always, as in this place, "JEHOVAH God of hosts;" taking it as an elliptical expression for יהוה אלהי צבאות Yehovah Elohey tsebaoth. This title imports that JEHOVAH is the God or Lord of hosts or armies; as he is the Creator and Supreme Governor of all beings in heaven and earth, and disposeth and ruleth them all in their several orders and stations; the almighty, universal Lord.

We should have been as Sodom — As completely and finally ruined as that and the cities of the plain were, no vestige of which remains at this day.

Verse 10

Verse Isaiah 1:10. Ye rulers of Sodom - "Ye princes of Sodom"] The incidental mention of Sodom and Gomorrah in the preceding verse suggested to the prophet this spirited address to the rulers and inhabitants of Jerusalem, under the character of princes of Sodom and people of Gomorrah. Two examples of a sort of elegant turn of the like kind may be observed in St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Romans 15:4-5; Romans 15:12-13. See Locke on the place; and see Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 1:30, of this chapter, which gives another example of the same.

AND - like unto Gomorrah. - The ו vau is added by thirty-one of Kennicott's MSS., twenty-nine of De Rossi's and one, very ancient, of my own. See on Isaiah 1:6.

Verse 11

Verse Isaiah 1:11. To what purpose, c. - "What have I to do."] The prophet Amos has expressed the same sentiments with great elegance: -

"Quin damus id Superis, de magna quod dare lanae," c.

The two or three last pages of Plato's Euthyphro contain the same idea. Sacrifices and prayers are not profitable to the offerer, nor acceptable to the gods, unless accompanied with an upright life.

Ver. Isaiah 1:11. The fat of fed beasts, &c. — The fat and the blood are particularly mentioned, because these were in all sacrifices set apart to God. The fat was always burnt upon the altar, and the blood was partly sprinkled, differently on different occasions, and partly poured out at the bottom of the altar. See Leviticus 4:5-7; Leviticus 4:16-18; Leviticus 4:25; Leviticus 4:30; Leviticus 4:34.

Verse 12

Verse Isaiah 1:12. When ye come to appear — Instead of לראות leraoth, to appear, one MS. has לראות liroth, to see. See De Rossi. The appearing before God here refers chiefly to the three solemn annual festivals. See Exodus 23:14.

Tread my courts (no more)] So the Septuagint divide the sentence, joining the end of this verse to the beginning of the next: Πατειν την αυλην μου, ου προσθησεσθε; "To tread my court ye shall not add-ye shall not be again accepted in worship."

Verse 13

Verse Isaiah 1:13. The new moons and Sabbaths - "The fast and the day of restraint"] און ועצרה aven vaatsarah. These words are rendered in many different manners by different interpreters, to a good and probable sense by all; but I think by none in such a sense as can arise from the phrase itself, agreeably to the idiom of the Hebrew language. Instead of און aven, the Septuagint manifestly read צום tsom, νηστειαν, "the fast." This Houbigant has adopted. The prophet could not well have omitted the fast in the enumeration of their solemnities, nor the abuse of it among the instances of their hyprocrisy, which he has treated at large with such force and elegance in his fifty-eighth chapter. Observe, also, that the prophet Joel, (Joel 1:14; Joel 2:15,) twice joins together the fast and the day of restraint: -

which shows how properly they are here joined together. עצרה atsarah, "the restraint," is rendered, both here and in other places of our English translation, "the solemn assembly." Certain holy days ordained by the law were distinguished by a particular charge that "no servile work should be done therein;" Leviticus 23:36; Numbers 29:35; Deuteronomy 16:8. This circumstance clearly explains the reason of the name, the restraint, or the day of restraint, given to those days.

If I could approve of any translation of these two words which I have met with, it should be that of the Spanish version of the Old Testament, made for the use of the Spanish Jews: Tortura y detenimento, "it is a pain and a constraint unto me." But I still think that the reading of the Septuagint is more probably the truth.

Verse 15

Verse Isaiah 1:15. When ye spread — The Syriac, Septuagint, and a MS., read בפרשכם beparshecem, without the conjunction ו vau.

Your hands - "For your hands"] Αἱ γαρ χειρες - Sept. Manus enim vestrae - Vulg. They seem to have read כי ידיכם ki yedeychem.

Verse 16

Verse Isaiah 1:16. Wash you — Referring to the preceding verse, "your hands are full of blood;" and alluding to the legal washing commanded on several occasions. See Leviticus 14:8-9; Leviticus 14:47.

Verse 17

Verse Isaiah 1:17. Relieve the oppressed - "Amend that which is corrupted"] אשרו חמוץ asheru chamots. In rendering this obscure phrase I follow Bochart, (Hieroz. Part i., lib. ii., cap. 7.,) though I am not perfectly satisfied with this explication of it.

Verse 18

Verse Isaiah 1:18. Though your sins be as scarlet — שני shani, "scarlet or crimson," dibaphum, twice dipped, or double dyed; from שנה shanah, iterare, to double, or to do a thing twice. This derivation seems much more probable than that which Salmasius prefers from שנן shanan, acuere, to whet, from the sharpness and strength of the colour, οξυφοινικον; תלע tela, the same; properly the worm, vermiculus, (from whence vermeil,) for this colour was produced from a worm or insect which grew in a coccus or excrescence of a shrub of the ilex kind, (see Plin. Nat. Hist. xvi. 8,) like the cochineal worm in the opuntia of America. See Ulloa's Voyage book v., chap. ii., note to page 342. There is a shrub of this kind that grows in Provence and Languedoc, and produces the like insect, called the kermes oak, (see Miller, Dict. Quercus,) from kermez, the Arabic word for this colour, whence our word crimson is derived.

Though they be red, &c. — But the conjunction ו vau is added by twenty-one of Kennicott's, and by forty-two of De Rossi's MSS., by some early editions, with the Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, and Arabic. It makes a fuller and more emphatic sense. "AND though they be red as crimson," &c.

Verse 19

Verse Isaiah 1:19. Ye shall eat the good of the land — Referring to Isaiah 1:7: it shall not be "devoured by strangers."

Verse 20

Verse Isaiah 1:20. Ye shall be devoured with the sword - "Ye shall be food for the sword"] The Septuagint and Vulgate read תאכלכם tochalchem, "the sword shall devour you;" which is of much more easy construction than the present reading of the text.

The Chaldee seems to read בחרב אויב תאכלו bechereb oyeb teachelu, "ye shall be consumed by the sword of the enemy." The Syriac also reads בחרב bechereb and renders the verb passively. And the rhythmus seems to require this addition. - Dr. JUBB.

Verse 21

Verse Isaiah 1:21. Become a harlot — See before, the Discourse on the Prophetic Style; and see Lowth's Comment on the place, and De Sacr. Poes. Hebr. Prael. xxxi.

Verse 22

Verse Isaiah 1:22. Wine mixed with water — An image used for the adulteration of wines, with more propriety than may at first appear, if what Thevenot says of the people of the Levant of late times were true of them formerly. He says, "They never mingle water with their wine to drink; but drink by itself what water they think proper for abating the strength of the wine." "Lorsque les Persans boivent du vin, ils le prennent tout pur, a la facon des Levantins, qui ne le melent jamais avec de l'eua; mais en beuvant du vin, de temps en temps ils prennent un pot d'eau, et en boivent de grand traits." Voyage, part ii., liv. ii., chap. x. "Ils (les Turcs) n'y meslent jamais d'eau, et se moquent des Chretiens qui en mettent, ce qui leur semble tout a fait ridicule." Ibid. part i., chap. 24. "The Turks never mingle water with their wine, and laugh at the Christians for doing it, which they consider altogether ridiculous."

It is remarkable that whereas the Greeks and Latins by mixed wine always understood wine diluted and lowered with water, the Hebrews on the contrary generally mean by it wine made stronger and more inebriating by the addition of higher and more powerful ingredients, such as honey, spices, defrutum, (or wine inspissated by boiling it down to two-thirds or one-half of the quantity,) myrrh, mandragora, opiates, and other strong drugs. Such were the exhilarating, or rather stupifying, ingredients which Helen mixed in the bowl together with the wine for her guests oppressed with grief to raise their spirits, the composition of which she had learned in Egypt: -

Thus the drunkard is properly described, Proverbs 23:30, as one "that seeketh mixed wine," and "is mighty to mingle strong drink," Isaiah 5:22. And hence the poet took that highly poetical and sublime image of the cup of God's wrath, called by Isaiah, Isaiah 51:17, the "cup of trembling," causing intoxication and stupefaction, (see Chappelow's note on Hariri, p. 33,) containing, as St. John expresses in Greek the Hebrew idea with the utmost precision, though with a seeming contradiction in terms, κεκερασμενον ακρατον, merum mixtum, pure wine made yet stronger by a mixture of powerful ingredients; Revelation 14:10. "In the hand of JEHOVAH," saith the psalmist, Psalms 75:8, "there is a cup, and the wine is turbid: it is full of a mixed liquor, and he poureth out of it," or rather, "he poureth it out of one vessel into another," to mix it perfectly, according to the reading expressed by the ancient versions, ויגר מזה אל זה vaiyagger mizzeh al zeh, and he pours it from this to that, "verily the dregs thereof," the thickest sediment of the strong ingredients mingled with it, "all the ungodly of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them."

R. D. Kimchi says, "The current coin was adulterated with brass, tin, and other metals, and yet was circulated as good money. The wine also was adulterated with water in the taverns, and sold notwithstanding for pure wine."

Verse 23

Verse Isaiah 1:23. Companions of thieves - "Associates"] The Septuagint, Vulgate, and four MSS., read חברי chabrey without the conjunction ו vau.

Verse 24

Verse Isaiah 1:24. Ah, I will ease me - "Aha! I will be eased"] Anger, arising from a sense of injury and affront, especially from those who, from every consideration of duty and gratitude, ought to have behaved far otherwise, is an uneasy and painful sensation: and revenge, executed to the full on the offenders, removes that uneasiness, and consequently is pleasing and quieting, at least for the present. Ezekiel, Ezekiel 5:13, introduces God expressing himself in the same manner: -

"And mine anger shall be fully accomplished;

And I will make my fury rest upon them;

And I will give myself ease."

This is a strong instance of the metaphor called anthropopathia, by which, throughout the Scriptures, as well the historical as the poetical parts, the sentiments sensations, and affections, the bodily faculties qualities, and members, of men, and even of brute animals, are attributed to God, and that with the utmost liberty and latitude of application. The foundation of this is obvious; it arises from necessity; we have no idea of the natural attributes of God, of his pure essence, of his manner of existence, of his manner of acting: when therefore we would treat on these subjects, we find ourselves forced to express them by sensible images. But necessity leads to beauty; this is true of metaphor in general, and in particular of this kind of metaphor, which is used with great elegance and sublimity in the sacred poetry; and what is very remarkable, in the grossest instances of the application of it, it is generally the most striking and the most sublime. The reason seems to be this: when the images are taken from the superior faculties of the human nature, from the purer and more generous affections, and applied to God, we are apt to acquiesce in the notion; we overlook the metaphor, and take it as a proper attribute; but when the idea is gross and offensive as in this passage of Isaiah, where the impatience of anger and the pleasure of revenge is attributed to God, we are immediately shocked at the application; the impropriety strikes us at once, and the mind, casting about for something in the Divine nature analogous to the image, lays hold on some great, obscure, vague idea, which she endeavours to comprehend, and is lost in immensity and astonishment. See De Sacr. Poesi. Hebr. Praeel. xvi. sub. fin., where this matter is treated and illustrated by examples.

Verse 25

Verse Isaiah 1:25. I will turn my hand upon thee — So the common version; and this seems to be a metaphor taken from the custom of those who, when the metal is melted, strike off the scoriae with their hand previously to its being poured out into the mould. I have seen this done with the naked hand, and no injury whatever sustained.

Purge away thy dross - "In the furnace"] The text has כבר cabbor, which some render "as with soap;" as if it were the same with כברית keborith; so Kimchi; but soap can have nothing to do with the purifying of metals. Others, "according to purity," or "purely," as our version. Le Clerc conjectured that the true reading is ככור kechur, "as in the furnace;" see Ezekiel 22:18; Ezekiel 22:20. Dr. Durell proposes only a transposition of letters בכר to the same sense; and so likewise Archbishop Secker. That this is the true reading is highly probable.

Verse 26

Verse Isaiah 1:26. I will restore — "This," says Kimchi, "shall be in the days of the Messiah, in which all the wicked shall cease, and the remnant of Israel shall neither do iniquity, nor speak lies." What a change must this be among Jews!

Afterward - "And after this"] The Septuagint, Syriac, Chaldee, and eighteen MSS., and one of my own, very ancient, add the conjunction ו vau, AND.

Verse 27

Verse Isaiah 1:27. With judgment - "In judgment"] By the exercise of God's strict justice in destroying the obdurate, (see Isaiah 1:28,) and delivering the penitent in righteousness; by the truth and faithfulness of God in performing his promises."

Verse 29

Verse Isaiah 1:29. For they shall be ashamed of the oaks - "For ye shall be ashamed of the ilexes"] Sacred groves were a very ancient and favourite appendage of idolatry. They were furnished with the temple of the god to whom they were dedicated, with altars, images, and every thing necessary for performing the various rites of worship offered there; and were the scenes of many impure ceremonies, and of much abominable superstition. They made a principal part of the religion of the old inhabitants of Canaan; and the Israelites were commanded to destroy their groves, among other monuments of their false worship. The Israelites themselves became afterwards very much addicted to this species of idolatry.

By the ilex the learned prelate means the holly, which, though it generally appears as a sort of shrub, grows, in a good soil, where it is unmolested, to a considerable height. I have one in my own garden, rising three stems from the root, and between twenty and thirty feet in height. It is an evergreen.

Ver. Isaiah 1:29. For they shall be ashamed - "For ye shall be ashamed"] תבושו teboshu, in the second person, Vulgate, Chaldee, three MSS., one of my own, ancient, and one edition; and in agreement with the rest of the sentence.

Verse 30

Verse Isaiah 1:30. Whose leaf - "Whose leaves"] Twenty-six of Kennicott's, twenty-four of De Rossi's, one ancient, of my own, and seven editions, read אליה aleyha, in its full and regular form. This is worth remarking, as it accounts for a great number of anomalies of the like kind, which want only the same authority to rectify them.

As a garden that hath no water - "A garden wherein is no water."] In the hotter parts of the Eastern countries, a constant supply of water is so absolutely necessary for the cultivation and even for the preservation and existence of a garden, that should it want water but for a few days, every thing in it would be burnt up with the heat, and totally destroyed. There is therefore no garden whatever in those countries but what has such a certain supply, either from some neighbouring river, or from a reservoir of water collected from springs, or filled with rain water in the proper season, in sufficient quantity to afford ample provision for the rest of the year.

Moses, having described the habitation of man newly created as a garden planted with every tree pleasant to the sight and good for food, adds, as a circumstance necessary to complete the idea of a garden, that it was well supplied with water, "And a river went out of Eden to water the garden;" Genesis 2:10: see also Genesis 13:10.

That the reader may have a clear notion of this matter, it will be necessary to give some account of the management of their gardens in this respect.

"Damascus," says Maundrell, p. 122, "is encompassed with gardens, extending no less, recording to common estimation, than thirty miles round; which makes it look like a city in a vast wood. The gardens are thick set with fruit trees of all kinds, kept fresh and verdant by the waters of the Barrady, (the Chrysorrhoas of the ancients,) which supply both the gardens and city in great abundance. This river, as soon as it issues out from between the cleft of the mountain before mentioned into the plain, is immediately divided into three streams; of which the middlemost and biggest runs directly to Damascus, and is distributed to all the cisterns and fountains of the city. The other two (which I take to be the work of art) are drawn round, one to the right hand, and the other to the left, on the borders of the gardens, into which they are let as they pass, by little currents, and so dispersed all over the vast wood, insomuch that there is not a garden but has a fine quick stream running through it. The Barrady is almost wholly drunk up by the city and gardens. What small part of it escapes is united, as I was informed, in one channel again on the southeast side of the city; and, after about three or four hours' course finally loses itself in a bog there, without ever arriving at the sea." This was likewise the case in former times, as Strabo, lib. xvi., Pliny, lib. v. 18, testify; who say, "that this river was expended in canals, and drunk up by watering the place."

"The best sight," says the same Maundrell, p. 39, "that the palace of the emir of Beroot, anciently Berytus, affords, and the worthiest to be remembered, is the orange garden. It contains a large quadrangular plat of ground, divided into sixteen lesser squares, four in a row, with walks between them. The walks are shaded with orange trees of a large spreading size. Every one of these sixteen lesser squares in the garden was bordered with stone; and in the stone work were troughs, very artificially contrived, for conveying the water all over the garden; there being little outlets cut at every tree for the stream as it passed by to flow out and water it." The royal gardens at Ispahan are watered just in the same manner, according to Kempfer's description, Amoen. Exot., p. 193.

This gives us a clear idea of the פלגי מים palgey mayim, mentioned in the first Psalm, and other places of Scripture, "the divisions of waters," the waters distributed in artificial canals; for so the phrase properly signifies. The prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah 17:8, has imitated, and elegantly amplified, the passage of the psalmist above referred to: -

The immense works which were made by the ancient kings of Egypt for recovering the waters of the Nile, when it overflowed, for such uses, are well known. But there never was a more stupendous work of this kind than the reservoir of Saba, or Merab, in Arabia Felix. According to the tradition of the country, it was the work of Balkis, that queen of Sheba who visited Solomon. It was a vast lake formed by the collection of the waters of a torrent in a valley, where, at a narrow pass between two mountains, a very high mole or dam was built. The water of the lake so formed had near twenty fathoms depth; and there were three sluices at different heights, by which, at whatever height the lake stood, the plain below might be watered. By conduits and canals from these sluices the water was constantly distributed in due proportion to the several lands; so that the whole country for many miles became a perfect paradise. The city of Saba, or Merab, was situated immediately below the great dam; a great flood came, and raised the lake above its usual height; the dam gave way in the middle of the night; the waters burst forth at once, and overwhelmed the whole city, with the neighbouring towns and people. The remains of eight tribes were forced to abandon their dwellings, and the beautiful valley became a morass and a desert. This fatal catastrophe happened long before the time of Mohammed, who mentions it in the Koran, chap. xxxiv. ver. 15. See also Sale, Prelim. s. i. p. 10, and Michaelis, Quest. aux Voyag. Dan. No. 94. Niebuhr, Descrip. de l'Arabie. p. 240.-L.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Isaiah 1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/isaiah-1.html. 1832.
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