Isaiah 1

Verse 13. The mandrakes give a smell]

See Clarke on Ge 30:14,

where the mandrake is particularly described; from which this

passage will receive considerable light. The reader is requested

to consult it.

All manner of pleasant fruits] Fruits new and old; flowers and

herbs of every kind which the season could yield. The literal

sense, allowing for the concealing metaphors, is, I believe, of a

widely different nature from what is generally given. But this

must be left to the reader's sagacity and prudence.




Chronological Notes relative to the commencement of

Isaiah's prophecy

-Year from the Creation of the World, according to the

computation of Archbishop Usher, 3244.

-Year from the Deluge, according to the generally received

Hebrew text, 1588.

-Year from the vocation of Abram, 1161.

-Year from the foundation of Solomon's Temple, 251.

-First year of the fifth Olympiad.

-Year before the building of Rome, according to the Varronian

computation, 7.

-Fifteenth year of the reign of Thurimas, king of Macedon.

-Eleventh year of the reign of Theopompus, king of Lacedaemon.

-Second year of the reign of Alyattes, king of Lydia.

-Eighteenth year of AEschylus, perpetual archon of the


-Second year of the reign of Pekahiah, king of Israel.

-Fifty-first year of the reign of Azariah, or Uzziah, king of


-Epoch of the establishment of the Ephori at Lacedaemon by



The prophet, with a boldness and majesty becoming the herald of

the Most High, begins with calling on the whole creation to

attend while Jehovah speaks, 2.

A charge of gross insensibility and ingratitude is then brought

against the Jews, by contrasting their conduct with that of

the ox and ass, the most stupid of animals, 3.

This leads to an amplification of their guilt, 4;

highly aggravated by their slighting the chastisements and

judgments of God, though repeated till they had been left

almost like Sodom and Gomorrah, 5-9.

The incidental mention of those places leads to an address to

the rulers and people of the Jews, under the character of

princes of Sodom, and people of Gomorrah, which is no less

spirited and severe than elegant and unexpected, 10.

The vanity of trusting to the performance of the outward rites

and ceremonies of religion is then exposed, 11-15;

and the necessity of repentance and reformation is strongly

enjoined, 16, 17,

and urged by the most encouraging promises as well as by the

most awful threatenings, 18-20.

But neither of these producing the proper effect on that people

who were the prophet's charge, he bitterly laments their

degeneracy, 21-23;

and concludes with introducing God, declaring his purpose of

inflicting such heavy judgments as would entirely cut off the

wicked, and excite in the righteous, who should also pass

through the furnace, an everlasting shame and abhorrence of

every thing connected with idolatry, the source of their

misery, 24-31.

ISAIAH exercised the prophetical office during a long period of

time, if he lived to the reign of Manasseh; for the lowest

computation, beginning from the year in which Uzziah died, when

some suppose him to have received his first appointment to that

office, brings it to sixty-one years. But the tradition of the

Jews, that he was put to death by Manasseh, is very uncertain; and

one of their principal rabbins, Aben Ezra, Com. in Isa 1:1, seems

rather to think that he died before Hezekiah, which is indeed more

probable. It is however certain that he lived at least to the

fifteenth or sixteenth year of Hezekiah; this makes the least

possible term of the duration of his prophetical office about

forty-eight years. The time of the delivery of some of his

prophecies is either expressly marked, or sufficiently clear from

the history to which they relate; that of a few others may with

some probability be deduced from internal marks; from expressions,

descriptions, and circumstances interwoven. It may therefore be of

some use in this respect, and for the better understanding of his

prophecies in general, to give here a summary view of the history

of his time.

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 Isa 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 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 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 2Ch 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. 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

Ps 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:-

"A consuming fire goes before him

And round him rages a violent tempest:

He calleth the heavens from above.

And the earth, that he may contend in

judgment with his people."

Ps 50:3, 4.

By the same bold figure, Micah calls upon the mountains, that

is, the whole country of Judea, to attend to him, Mic 6:1, 2:-

"Arise, plead thou before the mountains,

And let the hills hear thy voice.

Hear, O ye mountains, the controversy of JEHOVAH;

And ye, O ye strong foundations of the earth:

For JEHOVAH hath a controversy with his people,

And he will plead his cause against Israel."

With the like invocation, Moses introduces his sublime song, the

design of which was the same as that of this prophecy, "to testify

as a witness, against the Israelites," for their disobedience,

De 31:21:-

"Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak;

And let the earth hear the words of my mouth."

De 32:1.

This, in the simple yet strong oratorical style of Moses, is, "I

call heaven and earth to witness against thee this day; life and

death have I set before thee; the blessing and the curse: choose

now life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed." De 30:19.

The poetical style, by an apostrophe, sets the personification in

a much stronger light.

Hath spoken-"That speaketh"] I render it in the present time,

pointing it 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 giddalti, they read yaladti;

the word little differing from the other, and perhaps more proper;

which the Chaldee likewise seems to favour; "vocavi eos filios."

See Ex 4:22; Jer 31:9.

Verse 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.

Jeremiah's comparison to the same purpose is equally elegant,

but has not so much spirit and severity as this of Isaiah.

"Even the stork in the heavens knoweth her season;

And the turtle, and the swallow, and the crane, observe

the time of their coming:

But my people doth not know the judgment of JEHOVAH.

Jer 8:7.

Hosea has given a very elegant turn to the same image, in the

way of metaphor or allegory:-

"I drew them with human cords, with the bands of love:

And I was to them as he that lifteth up the yoke upon

their cheek;

And I laid down their fodder before them."

Ho 11:4.

Salomo ben Melech thus explains the middle part of the verse,

which is somewhat obscure: "I was to them at their desire as they

that have compassion on a heifer, lest she be overworked in

ploughing; and that lift up the yoke from off her neck, and rest

it upon her cheek that she may not still draw, but rest from her

labour an hour or two in the day."

But Israel] The Septuagint, Syriac, Aquila, Theodotion, and

Vulgate, read 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

δεΜΕουκεγνω; Sept. "Israel autem ME non cognovit," Vulg.

ισραηλδεΜΟΥουκεγνω; 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 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

veyisrael othi lo yada. The word othi

has been lost out of the text. The very same phrase is used by

Jeremiah, Jer 4:22,

ammi othi lo yadau. And the order of the words must have been as

above represented; for they have joined yisrael, with

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 veammi,

"and my people;" and so likewise sixteen MSS. of Kennicott, and

fourteen of De Rossi.

Verse 4. Ah sinful nation-"Degenerate"] Five MSS., one of them

ancient, read moschathim, without the first yod, in

hophal corrupted, not corrupters. See the same word in the same

form, and in the same sense, Pr 25:26.

Are corrupters-"Are estranged"] Thirty-two MSS., five ancient,

and two editions, read nazoru; which reading determines the

word to be from the root zur, to alienate, not from

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 Jer 2:27; 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. Why should ye be stricken any more-"On what part,"

&c.?] The Vulgate renders al meh, super quo, (see

Job 38:6; 2Ch 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:-

Vix habet in nobis jam nova plaga locum.

There is no place on you for a new stripe.

Or that still more expressive line of Euripides; the great force

and effect of which Longinus ascribes to its close and compressed

structure, analogous to the sense which it expresses:-


I am full of miseries: there's no room for more.

Herc. Fur. 1245, Long. sec. 40.

"On what part will ye strike again? will ye add correction?"

This is addressed to the instruments of God's vengeance; those

that inflicted the punishment, who or whatsoever they were. Ad

verbum certae personae intelligendae sunt, quibus ista actio quae

per verbum exprimitur competit; "The words are addressed to the

persons who were the agents employed in the work expressed by the

original word," as Glassius says in a similar case, Phil. Sacr. i.

3, 22. See Isa 7:4.

As from yada, deah, knowledge; from yaats,

etsah, counsel; from yeshan, shenah,

sleep, &c.; so from yasar is regularly derived sarah,


Ver. 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. 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

Pr 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, Lu 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,) chubbeshah; and the Syriac and Vulgate render

all of them in the singular number.

Verse 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 Isa 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, 2Ki 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


Ver. 7. 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 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:

" zarim is the same with zerem; that is, as

overthrown by an inundation of waters: and these two words have

the same analogy as kedem and kadim. Or it may be a

concrete of the same form with 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 zerem, and have translated it accordingly: the

word 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


Verse 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 So 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, Nu 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.

[Redundant line removed - SDK]

So the ωςπολιςπολιορκουμενη; Septuagint: see also the Vulgate.

Verse 9. The Lord of hosts-"JEHOVAH God of hosts"] As this title

of God, 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 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


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. 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,

Ro 15:4, 5, 12, 13. See Locke on the place; and see

Isa 1:29, 30, of this chapter, which gives another example of

the same.

AND-like unto Gomorrah.-The 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 Isa 1:6.

Verse 11. To what purpose, &c.-"What have I to do."] The prophet

Amos has expressed the same sentiments with great elegance:-

"I hate, I despise your feasts;

And I will not delight in the odour of your


Though ye offer unto me burnt-offerings

And your meat-offerings, I will not accept:

Neither will I regard the peace-offerings of

your fatlings.

Take away from me the noise of your songs;

And the melody of your viols I will not hear.

But let judgment roll down like waters;

And righteousness like a mighty stream."

Am 5:21-24.

So has Persius; see Sat. ii. v. 71-75:-

"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. 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

Le 4:5-7, 16-18, 25, 30, 34.

Verse 12. When ye come to appear] Instead of leraoth, to

appear, one MS. has liroth, to see. See De Rossi.

The appearing before God here refers chiefly to the three solemn

annual festivals. See Ex 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: πατειντηναυληνμουουπροσθησεσθε; "To tread my court ye

shall not add-ye shall not be again accepted in worship."

Verse 13. The new moons and Sabbaths-"The fast and the day of

restraint"] 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 aven, the Septuagint manifestly read

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, (Joe 1:14; 2:15,) twice joins

together the fast and the day of restraint:-

atsarah kiru tsom kaddeshu

"Sanctify a fast; proclaim a day of restraint:"

which shows how properly they are here joined together.

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;" Le 23:36;

Nu 29:35; De 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


Verse 15. When ye spread] The Syriac, Septuagint, and a MS.,

read beparshecem, without the conjunction vau.

Your hands-"For your hands"] αιγαρχειρες-Sept. Manus

enim vestrae-Vulg. They seem to have read ki


Verse 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 Le 14:8, 9, 47.

Verse 17. Relieve the oppressed-"Amend that which is corrupted"]

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. Though your sins be as scarlet] shani, "scarlet

or crimson," dibaphum, twice dipped, or double dyed; from

shanah, iterare, to double, or to do a thing twice. This

derivation seems much more probable than that which Salmasius

prefers from shanan, acuere, to whet, from the sharpness

and strength of the colour, οξυφοινικον; 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.

"Neque amissos colores

Lana refert medicata fuco,"

says the poet, applying the same image to a different purpose. To

discharge these strong colours is impossible to human art or

power; but to the grace and power of God all things, even much

more difficult are possible and easy. Some copies have

keshanim, "like crimson garments."

Though they be red, &c.] But the conjunction 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. Ye shall eat the good of the land] Referring to

Isa 1:7: it shall not be "devoured by strangers."

Verse 20. Ye shall be devoured with the sword-"Ye shall be food

for the sword"] The Septuagint and Vulgate read

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 bechereb oyeb

teachelu, "ye shall be consumed by the sword of the enemy." The

Syriac also reads bechereb and renders the verb passively.

And the rhythmus seems to require this addition.-Dr. JUBB.

Verse 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. 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:-



HOMER. Odyss. lib. iv., ver. 220.

"Meanwhile, with genial joy to warm the soul,

Bright Helen mix'd a mirth-inspiring bowl;

Temper'd with drugs of sovereign use, to assuage

The boiling bosom of tumultuous rage:

Charm'd with that virtuous draught, the exalted mind

All sense of wo delivers to the wind."


Such was the "spiced wine and the juice of pomegranates,"

mentioned So 8:2. And how much the Eastern people to this day

deal in artificial liquors of prodigious strength, the use of wine

being forbidden, may be seen in a curious chapter of Kempfer upon

that subject. Amoen. Exot. Fasc. iii., Obs. 15.

Thus the drunkard is properly described, Pr 23:30, as one "that

seeketh mixed wine," and "is mighty to mingle strong drink,"

Isa 5:22. And hence the poet took that highly poetical and

sublime image of the cup of God's wrath, called by Isaiah,

Isa 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,

κεκερασμενονακρατον, merum mixtum, pure wine made yet stronger

by a mixture of powerful ingredients; Re 14:10. "In the hand of

JEHOVAH," saith the psalmist, Ps 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, 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. Companions of thieves-"Associates"] The Septuagint,

Vulgate, and four MSS., read chabrey without the conjunction


Verse 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, Eze 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. 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


Purge away thy dross-"In the furnace"] The text has cabbor,

which some render "as with soap;" as if it were the same with

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 kechur, "as in the furnace;" see Eze 22:18, 20.

Dr. Durell proposes only a transposition of letters to the

same sense; and so likewise Archbishop Secker. That this is the

true reading is highly probable.

Verse 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 vau, AND.

Verse 27. With judgment-"In judgment"] By the exercise of God's

strict justice in destroying the obdurate, (see Isa 1:28,) and

delivering the penitent in righteousness; by the truth and

faithfulness of God in performing his promises."

Verse 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.

"When I had brought them into the land,

Which I swore that I would give unto them;

Then they saw every high hill and every thick tree;

And there they slew their victims;

And there they presented the provocation of their offerings;

And there they placed their sweet savour;

And there they poured out their libations."

Eze 20:28.

"On the tops of the mountains they sacrifice;

And on the hills they burn incense;

Under the oak and the poplar;

And the ilex, because her shade is pleasant."

Ho 4:13.

Of what particular kinds the trees here mentioned are, cannot be

determined with certainty. In regard to ellah, in this place

of Isaiah, as well as in Hosea, Celsius (Hierobot.) understands it

of the terebinth, because the most ancient interpreters render it

so; in the first place the Septuagint. He quotes eight places; but

in three of these eight places the copies vary, some having δρυς,

the oak, instead of τερεβινθος, the terebinth or turpentine

tree. And he should have told us, that these same seventy render

it in sixteen other places by δρυς, the oak; so that their

authority is really against him; and the Septuagint, "stant pro

quercu," contrary to what he says at first setting out. Add to

this that Symmachus, Theodotion, and Aquila, generally render it

by δρυς, the oak; the latter only once rendering it by τερεβινθος

the terebinth. His other arguments seem to me not very conclusive;

he says, that all the qualities of ellah agree to the

terebinth, that it grows in mountainous countries, that it is a

strong tree, long-lived, large and high, and deciduous. All these

qualities agree just as well to the oak, against which he

contends; and he actually attributes them to the oak in the very

next section. But I think neither the oak nor the terebinth will

do in this place of Isaiah, from the last circumstance which he

mentions, their being deciduous, where the prophet's design seems

to me to require an evergreen, otherwise the casting of its leaves

would be nothing out of the common established course of nature,

and no proper image of extreme distress and total desolation,

parallel to that of a garden without water, that is, wholly burnt

up and destroyed. An ancient, who was an inhabitant and a native

of this country, understands it in like manner of a tree blasted

with uncommon and immoderate heat; velut arbores, cum frondes

aestu torrente decusserunt. Ephrem Syr. in loc., edit. Assemani.

Compare Ps 1:4; Jer 17:8. Upon the whole I have chosen to make

it the ilex, which word Vossius, Etymolog., derives from the

Hebrew ellah, that whether the word itself be rightly rendered

or not, I might at least preserve the propriety of the poetic


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. 29. For they shall be ashamed-"For ye shall be ashamed"]

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. Whose leaf-"Whose leaves"] Twenty-six of Kennicott's,

twenty-four of De Rossi's, one ancient, of my own, and seven

editions, read 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;" Ge 2:10: see also Ge 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


"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 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,

Jer 17:8, has imitated, and elegantly amplified, the passage of

the psalmist above referred to:-

"He shall be like a tree planted by the water side,

And which sendeth forth her roots to the aqueduct.

She shall not fear, when the heat cometh;

But her leaf shall be green;

And in the year of drought she shall not be anxious,

Neither shall she cease from bearing fruit."

From this image the son of Sirach, Ecclus. 24:30, 31, has most

beautifully illustrated the influence and the increase of

religious wisdom in a well prepared heart.

"I also come forth as a canal from a river,

And as a conduit flowing into a paradise.

I said, I will water my garden,

And I will abundantly moisten my border:

And, lo! my canal became a river,

And my river became a sea."

This gives us the true meaning of the following elegant proverb,

Pr 21:1:-

"The heart of the king is like the canals of

waters in the hand of JEHOVAH;

Whithersoever it pleaseth him, he inclineth it."

The direction of it is in the hand of JEHOVAH, as the

distribution of the water of the reservoir through the garden by

different canals is at the will of the gardener.

"Et, cum exustus ager morientibus aestuat herbis,

Ecce supercilio clivosi tramitis undam

Elicit: illa cadens raucum per levia murmur

Saxa ciet, scatebrisque arentia temperat arva."

Virg., Georg. i. 107.

"Then, when the fiery suns too fiercely play,

And shrivelled herbs on withering stems decay,

The wary ploughman on the mountain's brow

Undams his watery stores; huge torrents flow;

And, rattling down the rocks, large moisture yield,

Tempering the thirsty fever of the field."


Solomon, Ec 2:5, 6, mentions his own works of this kind:-

"I made me gardens, and paradises;

And I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees.

I made me pools of water,

To water with them the grove flourishing with trees."

Maundrell, p. 88, has given a description of the remains, as

they are said to be, of these very pools made by Solomon, for the

reception and preservation of the waters of a spring, rising at a

little distance from them; which will give us a perfect notion of

the contrivance and design of such reservoirs. "As for the pools,

they are three in number, lying in a row above each other; being

so disposed that the waters of the uppermost may descend into the

second, and those of the second into the third. Their figure is

quadrangular, the breadth is the same in all, amounting to about

ninety paces. In their length there is some difference between

them; the first being about one hundred and sixty paces long, the

second, two hundred, and the third, two hundred and twenty. They

are all lined with wall and plastered; and contain a great depth

of water."

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.

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