ISAIAH CHAPTER 10.
Assyria Threatened, Israel Comforted.
WOE UPON TYRANTS. — V. 1. Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, in tyrannical legislation, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed, making and enforcing laws which bring unbearable oppressions to the poorer people of the land, v. 2. to turn aside the needy from judgment, that is, to deprive them of their rights, of the justice due them, and to take away the right from the poor of My people, willfully and maliciously taking it from them, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless, the tyrants making themselves possessors of the property of the defenseless. They have reached the very heights of oppression and injustice. V. 8. And what will ye do in the day of visitation, when God will visit their injustice upon them, and in the desolation, the sudden storm, crash, and collapse, which shall come from far? It is here hinted that God would send the enemy, who should avenge the poor by destroying their oppressors, from a far country. To whom will ye flee for help? this being a reference to Israel’s custom of seeking help from foreign nations. And where will ye leave your glory? that is, the treasures, valuables which they had piled up in practicing injustice and in treading down the poor. V. 4. Without Me, rather, Nothing remains but that they shall bow down under the prisoners, their lot being even worse than that of other captives, and they shall fall under the slain, trodden under foot by others, hewn down in cold blood by their captors. Such is the lot of those who were formerly honorable and powerful, but abused their authority by tyrannical measures. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still, for it is impossible to escape the punishment of the Lord when once He sets out to avenge the wrongs committed against the poor and defenseless.
WOE AGAINST ASSYRIA. — V. 5. O Assyrian, the rod of Mine anger, and the staff in their hand is Mine indignation, literally, “Woe to Asshur (which is) the rod of My wrath, and the staff, that in their hand, Mine indignation.” The Lord here pronounces a woe upon Assyria; for whereas He wanted to use this nation merely as His instrument in punishing Israel, the Assyrians took the opportunity to gratify their own lust for conquest and bloodshed. V. 6. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, one that is impure, corrupt, and wicked, and against the people of My wrath will I give him a charge, bidding Assyria smite Israel for its sins, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets, destroy their power, render them utterly helpless. So much the charge of the Lord to Assyria included, not, indeed, as if the Lord had sent this command by some messenger, but that He places even the heathen nations into His service to carry out His plans, to punish the disobedient. V. 7. Howbeit he, that is, Assyria, meaneth not so, does not hold the same idea that the Lord holds, neither doth his heart think so, but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few, that is, Assyria was driven only by the thought of conquest and destruction and therefore was guilty before God, even while carrying out His plans. The plans of sinners are no less to be condemned, though they by them unwittingly fulfill God’s designs. The selfish and blameworthy pride of Assyria is now described. V. 8. For he saith, Are not my princes altogether kings? Assyria was a world-power, and even its provinces had the extent and the might of kingdoms, so that their governors could well rank with kings. V. 9. Is not Calno, a large city on the Tigris, as Carchemish, an important commercial center on an island in the Euphrates? Is not Ramath, an important city and formerly a capital on the Orontes, as Arpad, a city in Syria proper? Is not Samaria as Damascus? Three pairs of cities are named in such a way that boasting Assyria emphasizes the great ease with which its conquests were made. V. 10. As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, conquering those upon whom the people of Judah looked down as idol-worshipers, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria, being more plentiful than they and therefore supposedly better able to defend their cities; v. 11. shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, which had been destroyed in the sacking of the city, so do to Jerusalem and her idols? The God of Jerusalem, so the speaker boastfully asserts, would no more be able to protect this city titan the gods of the other cities had succeeded in doing. Cp. chap. 36, 18-20; 37, 11-13. This blasphemous boast could not remain unpunished, as the Lord now shows. V. 12. Wherefore it shall come to pass that when the Lord bath performed His whole work upon Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, Assyria being His instrument of chastisement upon those whom He had chosen for His people, and a remnant of whom remained true to Him in the general apostasy and now bowed under His chastening hand, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, the blasphemous pride which showed itself in his boasting, and the glory of his high looks, literally, “the haughtiness of the loftiness of his eyes,” the description showing the self-complacent nature of his assumed glory. V. 13. For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, ascribing his success entirely to his own ability; for I am prudent, always making use of proper understanding; and I have removed the bounds of the people, changing their boundaries to suit himself, and have robbed their treasures, taking at will everything that they had accumulated, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man, butting down those occupying thrones like a mighty hero or an angry steer; v. 14. and my hand bath found as a nest the riches of the people, locating them with an experienced hand; and as one gathereth eggs that are left, forsaken by the mother bird, have I gathered all the earth, and there was none that moved the wing, in defense, or opened the mouth, or peeped, in terrified protest. All nations had bowed in dumb resignation under the hand of the mighty Assyrian, and for this he took all credit to himself. But the prophet counters with a reproof of bitter irony: v. 15. Shall the ax boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Or shall the saw magnify Itself against him that shaketh it, drawing it to and fro in severing the wood? It is just as foolish for a tool to boast over against the workman as for the king of Assyria to ascribe to himself all the might which he possesses only by divine permission. As if the rod should shake [itself against] them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood, literally, “as if a staff should lift up” (that which is) “not wood,” that is, the person handling it. That rod or staff should lift up or shake those who have hold of them presents the very extreme of absurd presumption. So it was utterly absurd for the king of Assyria, who, although unknown to himself, carried out God’s punishment upon Israel, to ascribe to himself the wisdom and power, the design and success of this campaign. The very evil in the world is used by God to serve His objects. Cp. Gen. 50, 20. The punishment upon Assyria is now pronounced: v. 16. Therefore shall the Lord, the All-powerful, the Lord of hosts, who commands the untold legions of heaven, send among his fat ones leanness, consuming the mighty ones of Assyria, and under his glory He shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire, to consume it in a moment, with a mighty crackling and hissing. V. 17. And the Light of Israel, the Holy One of Israel Himself, shall be for a fire and His Holy One for a flame; and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day, the Assyrian nation being devoured in one great destruction, v. 18. and shall consume the glory of his forest and of his fruitful field, the majesty of his leaders and the wealth of his merchants, both soul and body, in a complete destruction; and they shall be as when a standard-bearer fainteth, rather, as when a consumptive pines away, hurrying forward to an early death. V. 19. And the rest of the trees of his forest, the few that have survived the devastation of the fire, shall be few, that a child may write them, put down the number which he easily counted. Thus the Lord, even in the midst of His enemies, has some few whom He has chosen, who are saved in the general destruction which will come upon the unbelievers.
THE REDEMPTION OF THE REMNANT OF ISRAEL. — V. 20. And it shall come to pass in that day, the time to which the entire Old Testament looked forward, the Messianic period, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, the true spiritual Israel, the people of God, whom He has chosen from among the nations, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them, placing their confidence in Assyria, the nation to whom the kings of both Israel and Judah turned time and again, but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth, making Him alone the full basis of their trust. V. 21. The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God, being converted to God in Jesus Christ, together with the elect from the heathen nations. V. 22. For though thy people, Israel, be as the sand of the sea, a countless multitude, yet a remnant of them shall return, unfortunately only a remnant, the great mass being blinded and obdurate, Rom. 9, 27; the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness, literally, “destruction is firmly decided upon, righteousness coming along as a flood.” God’s punitive justice overflows and submerges the unrepentant mass of the people in the judgment of destruction decreed upon it. V. 23. For the Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, literally, “and that which is decreed,” in the midst of all the land. There is no escaping the wrath of the Lord when once He sets the machinery of destruction in motion, when He begins to carry out His decree of everlasting punishment upon His enemies, for the judgment upon Israel is merely a preliminary act and the beginning of the Last Judgment. V. 24. Therefore, because the Lord will judge and destroy the unbelieving world, thus saith the Lord God of hosts, in a call full of reassuring comfort, O My people that dwellest in Zion, the true Church of God, dwelling in His merciful presence, be not afraid of the Assyrian, the oppressor typifying all the enemies of the Lord and His Church; he shall smite thee with a rod, with tyrannical behavior, and shall lift up his staff against thee, like an overseer of slaves, after the manner of Egypt, when the children of Israel were in the house of bondage and suffered severely from their oppressors. In the midst of all these afflictions the believers should not let fear and terror possess their hearts. V. 25. For yet a very little while, 1 Pet. 1, 6, and the indignation shall cease, God’s people being delivered from the enmity of the godless, and Mine anger in their destruction, rather, “My wrath has the object to destroy them,” the enemies of His Church, to wear them down to nothing. V. 26. And the Lord of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him, brandishing it over Assyria, according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb, when Gideon’s forces annihilated the army of the Midianites, Judg. 7, 25; and as His rod was upon the sea, namely, when Moses stretched out his hand over the Red Sea and parted it for the safe passage of the children of Israel, Ex. 14, 26, so shall He lift it up after the manner of Egypt, lifting Assyria up and dashing it to pieces as He destroyed the forces of Pharaoh. V. 27. And it shall come to pass in that day, in the time of the Messiah’s reign, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder and his yoke from off thy neck, the Lord Himself taking away the oppression of Assyria, of all the enemies of the Church, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing, rather, on account of the fat. The picture is that of an ox who becomes so fat and strong in spite of the yoke laid upon him that he breaks the yoke on his neck to pieces. Thus the Church is to overcome the world by strength from within. Thus the deliverance of the Church is described as it begins in and with Immanuel, and as it is completed on the Last Day, the day of redemption. The prophet now, in a very vivid picture, describes the progress of the Assyrians in attacking Jerusalem, and their complete destruction by Jehovah. V. 28. He, the Assyrian and his army, is come to Aiath, hardly ten miles northeast of Jerusalem, he is passed to Migron, a hamlet still nearer to the capital; at Michmash he hath laid up his carriages, leaving the baggage in order to move forward with greater speed; v. 29. they are gone over the passage, a deep, rough ravine, now known as the Wady-es-Suweinit; they have taken up their lodging at Geba, rather, “Let Geba be our lodging!” halting only for the night; Ramah, the home of Samuel, is afraid; Gibeah of Saul is fled, its inhabitants forsaking their city in terror. V. 30. Lift up thy voice, crying in consternation over the impending calamity, O daughter of Gallim, the inhabitants of another village in the path of the Assyrian army; cause it to be heard unto Laish, the shrieks of terror echoing far and wide through the country. O poor Anathoth! only three-fourths of an hour distant from Jerusalem and therefore bound to suffer from the enemies. V. 31. Madmenah is removed, the people forsaking their homes; the inhabitants of Gebim gather themselves to flee. V. 32. As yet shall he remain at Nob that day, a hill to the north of Jerusalem, overlooking the city, which the enemy would reach that very day; he shall shake his hand against the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem, all ready for the attack which would surely bring ruin to the capital. Thus Assyria, typifying the army of the ungodly, the enemies of the Church, is here pictured as going forward to the attack with an irresistible force, and the doom of the city, of the Church of Christ, seems to be impending. But here the Lord interferes. V. 33. Behold, the Lord, the All-powerful, the Lord of hosts, shall lop the bough with terror, cutting them down as branches are felled with an ax; and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled, all their plans being foiled at the very moment when they seemed to mature according to calculation. V. 34. And He, the Lord in His avenging wrath, shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, with a sharp instrument of destruction, and Lebanon, the name under which all the hostile forces are comprehended, shall fall by a Mighty One, by Him who possesses the majesty of the almighty and eternal God, who is both the Defender and the Deliverer of His Church. It is He also, who on the last day will change the Church Militant into the Church Triumphant.