Isaiah 29


Distress of Ariel, or Jerusalem, on Sennacherib's invasion,

with manifest allusion, however, to the still greater distress

which it suffered from the Romans, 1-4.

Disappointment and fall of Sennacherib described in terms, like

the event, the most awful and terrible, 5-8.

Stupidity and hypocrisy of the Jews, 9-16.

Rejection of the Jews, and calling of the Gentiles, 17.

The chapter concludes by a recurrence to the favourite topics

of the prophet, viz., the great extension of the Messiah's

kingdom in the latter days, and the future restoration of

Israel, 18-24.

The subject of this and the four following chapters is the

invasion of Sennacherib; the great distress of the Jews while it

continued; their sudden and unexpected deliverance by God's

immediate interposition in their favour; the subsequent prosperous

state of the kingdom under Hezekiah; interspersed with severe

reproofs, and threats of punishment, for their hypocrisy,

stupidity, infidelity, their want of trust in God, and their vain

reliance on the assistance of Egypt; and with promises of better

times, both immediately to succeed, and to be expected in the

future age. The whole making, not one continued discourse, but

rather a collection of different discourses upon the same subject;

which is treated with great elegance and variety. Though the

matter is various, and the transitions sudden, yet the prophet

seldom goes far from his subject. It is properly enough divided by

the chapters in the common translation.-L.


Verse 1. Ariel] That Jerusalem is here called by this name is

very certain: but the reason of this name, and the meaning of it

as applied to Jerusalem, is very obscure and doubtful. Some, with

the Chaldee, suppose it to be taken from the hearth of the great

altar of burnt-offerings, which Ezekiel plainly calls by the same

name, and that Jerusalem is here considered as the seat of the

fire of God, ur el which should issue from thence to

consume his enemies: compare Isa 31:9. Some, according to the

common derivation of the word, ari el, the lion of God, or

the strong lion, suppose it to signify the strength of the place,

by which it was enabled to resist and overcome all its enemies.


δικηνεσπαραττετουςανταιροντας Procop. in loc. There are other

explanations of this name given: but none that seems to be

perfectly satisfactory.-Lowth.

From Eze 43:15, we learn that Ari-el was the name of the altar

of burnt-offerings, put here for the city itself in which that

altar was. In the second verse it is said, I will distress Ari-el,

and it shall be unto me as Ari-el. The first Ari-el here seems to

mean Jerusalem, which should be distressed by the Assyrians: the

second Ari-el seems to mean the altar of burnt-offerings. But why

is it said, "Ari-el shall be unto me as Ari-el?" As the altar of

burnt-offerings was surrounded daily by the victims which were

offered: so the walls of Jerusalem shall be surrounded by the dead

bodies of those who had rebelled against the Lord, and who should

be victims to his justice. The translation of Bishop Lowth appears

to embrace both meanings: "I will bring distress upon Ari-el; and

it shall be to me as the hearth of the great altar."

Add ye year to year] Ironically. Go on year after year, keep

your solemn feasts; yet know, that God will punish you for your

hypocritical worship, consisting of mere form destitute of true

piety. Probably delivered at the time of some great feast, when

they were thus employed.

Verse 2. There shall be heaviness and sorrow-"There shall be

continual mourning and sorrow"] Instead of your present joy and


And it shall be unto me as Ariel-"And it shall be unto me as the

hearth of the great altar."] That is, it shall be the seat of the

fire of God; which shall issue from thence to consume his enemies.

See note on Isa 29:1. Or, perhaps, all on flame; as it was when

taken by the Chaldeans; or covered with carcasses and blood, as

when taken by the Romans: an intimation of which more distant

events, though not immediate subjects of the prophecy, may perhaps

be given in this obscure passage.

Verse 3. And I will camp against thee round about-"And I will

encamp against thee like David"] For caddur, some kind of

military engine, kedavid, like David, is the reading of the

Septuagint, two MSS. of Kennicott's, if not two more: but though

Bishop Lowth adopts this reading, I think it harsh and


Forts-"Towers"] For metsuroth, read metsudoth:

so the Septuagint and five MSS. of Dr. Kennicott's, one of them

ancient, and four of De Rossi's.

Verse 4. And thy speech shall be low out of the dust-"And from

out of the dust thou shalt utter a feeble speech"] That the souls

of the dead uttered a feeble stridulous sound, very different from

the natural human voice, was a popular notion among the heathens

as well as among the Jews. This appears from several passages of

their poets; Homer, Virgil, Horace. The pretenders to the art of

necromancy, who were chiefly women, had an art of speaking with a

feigned voice, so as to deceive those who applied to them, by

making them believe that it was the voice of the ghost. They had a

way of uttering sounds, as if they were formed, not by the organs

of speech, but deep in the chest, or in the belly; and were thence

called εγγαστριμυθοι, ventriloqui: they could make the voice seem

to come from beneath the ground, from a distant part, in another

direction, and not from themselves; the better to impose upon

those who consulted them. εξεπιτηδεςτογενοςτουτοτοναμυδρον


αποδιδρασκωσινελεγχον Psellus De Daemonibus, apud Bochart,

i. p. 731. "These people studiously acquire, and affect on purpose,

this sort of obscure sound; that by the uncertainty of the voice

they may the better escape being detected in the cheat." From these

arts of the necromancers the popular notion seems to have arisen,

that the ghost's voice was a weak, stridulous, almost inarticulate

sort of sound, very different from the speech of the living.

Verse 5. The multitude of thy strangers-"The multitude of the

proud"] For zarayich, thy strangers, read zedim, the

proud, according to the Septuagint; parallel to and synonymous

with aritsim, the terrible, in the next line: the resh

was at first daleth in a MS. See Clarke on Isa 25:2.

The fifth, sixth, and seventh verses contain an admirable

description of the destruction of Sennacherib's army, with a

beautiful variety of the most expressive and sublime images:

perhaps more adapted to show the greatness, the suddenness, and

horror of the event, than the means and manner by which it was

effected. Compare Isa 30:30-33.

Verse 7. As a dream] This is the beginning of the comparison,

which is pursued and applied in the next verse. Sennacherib and

his mighty army are not compared to a dream because of their

sudden disappearance; but the disappointment of their eager hopes

is compared to what happens to a hungry and thirsty man, when he

awakes from a dream in which fancy had presented to him meat and

drink in abundance, and finds it nothing but a vain illusion. The

comparison is elegant and beautiful in the highest degree, well

wrought up, and perfectly suited to the end proposed. The image is

extremely natural, but not obvious: it appeals to our inward

feelings, not to our outward senses; and is applied to an event in

its concomitant circumstances exactly similar, but in its nature

totally different. See De S. Poes. Hebr. Praelect. xii. For beauty

and ingenuity it may fairly come in competition with one of the

most elegant of Virgil, greatly improved from Homer, Iliad xxii.

199, where he has applied to a different purpose, but not so

happily, the same image of the ineffectual working of imagination

in a dream:-

Ac veluti in somnis, oculos ubi languida pressit

Nocte quies, necquicquam avidos extendere cursus

Velle videmur, et in mediis conatibus aegri

Succidimus; non lingua valet, non corpore notae

Sufficiunt vires, nec vox, nec verba sequuntur.

AEn., xii. 908.

"And as, when slumber seals the closing sight,

The sick wild fancy labours in the night;

Some dreadful visionary foe we shun

With airy strides, but strive in vain to run;

In vain our baffled limbs their powers essay;

We faint, we struggle, sink, and fall away;

Drain'd of our strength, we neither fight nor fly,

And on the tongue the struggling accents die."


Lucretius expresses the very same image with Isaiah:-

Ut bibere in somnis sitiens quum quaerit, et humor

Non datur, ardorem in membris qui stinguere possit;

Sed laticum simulacra petit, frustraque laborat,

In medioque sitit torrenti flumine potans.

iv. 1091.

As a thirsty man desires to drink in his sleep,

And has no fluid to allay the heat within,

But vainly labours to catch the image of rivers,

And is parched up while fancying that he is

drinking at a full stream.

Bishop Stock's translation of the prophet's text is both elegant

and just:-

"As when a hungry man dreameth; and, lo! he is eating:

And he awaketh; and his appetite is unsatisfied.

And as a thirsty man dreameth; and, lo! he is drinking:

And he awaketh; and, lo! he is faint,

And his appetite craveth."

Lucretius almost copies the original.

All that fight against her and her munition-"And all their

armies and their towers"] For tsobeyha umetsodathah, I

read, with the Chaldee, tsebaam umetsodatham.

Verse 9. Stay yourselves, and wonder] hithmahmehu, go on

what-what-whatting, in a state of mental indetermination, till the

overflowing scourge take you away. See Clarke on Ps 119:60.

They are drunken, but not with wine]

See Clarke on Isa 51:21.

Verse 11. I cannot; for it is sealed-"I cannot read it; for it

is sealed up."] An ancient MS. and the Septuagint have preserved a

word here, lost out of the text; likroth, (for ,)

αναγνωναι, read it.

Verse 13. The Lord-"JEHOVAH"] For Adonai, sixty-three

MSS. of Kennicott's, and many of De Rossi's, and four editions,

read Yehovah, and five MSS. add .

Kimchi makes some just observations on this verse. The vision,

meaning the Divine revelation of all the prophets, is a book or

letter that is sealed-is not easily understood. This is delivered

to one that is learned-instructed in the law. Read this; and he

saith, I cannot, for it is sealed; a full proof that he does not

wish to know the contents, else he would apply to the prophet to

get it explained. See Kimchi on the place.

And their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men-"And

vain is their fear of me teaching the commandments of men"] I read

for vattehi, vethohu, with the Septuagint,

Mt 15:9; Mr 8:7; and for

melummedah, melummedim, with the Chaldee.

Verse 17. And Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field-"Ere

Lebanon become like Carmel"] A mashal, or proverbial saying,

expressing any great revolution of things; and, when respecting

two subjects, an entire reciprocal change: explained here by some

interpreters, I think with great probability, as having its

principal view beyond the revolutions then near at hand, to the

rejection of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles. The first

were the vineyard of God, kerem El, (if the prophet, who

loves an allusion to words of like sounds, may be supposed to have

intended one here,) cultivated and watered by him in vain, to be

given up, and to become a wilderness: compare Isa 5:1-7. The last

had been hitherto barren; but were, by the grace of God, to be

rendered fruitful. See Mt 21:43; Ro 11:30, 31. Carmel stands

here opposed to Lebanon, and therefore is to be taken as a proper


Verse 21. Him that reproveth in the gate-"Him that pleaded in

the gate"] "They are heard by the treasurer, master of the horse,

and other principal officers of the regency of Algiers, who sit

constantly in the gate of the palace for that purpose:" that is,

the distribution of justice.-Shaw's Travels, p. 315, fol. He adds

in the note, "That we read of the elders in the gate.

De 21:15; 25:7; and, Isa 29:21; Am 5:10, of

him that reproveth and rebuketh in the gate. The Ottoman court

likewise seems to have been called the Porte, from the

distribution of justice and the despatch of public business that

is carried on in the gates of it."

Verse 22. Who redeemed Abraham] As God redeemed Abraham from

among idolaters and workers of iniquity, so will he redeem those

who hear the words of the Book, and are humbled before him,

Isa 29:18, 19.

Concerning the house of Jacob-"The God of the house of Jacob"] I

read El as a noun, not a preposition: the parallel line favours

this sense; and there is no address to the house of Jacob to

justify the other.

Neither shall his face now wax pale-"His face shall no more be

covered with confusion."] " yechoro, Chald. ut ο

μεταβαλει, Theod. εντραπησεται, Syr. necaphro, videtur

legendum yechepheru: hic enim solum legitur verbum,

chavar, nec in linguis affinibus habet pudoris

significationem."-SECKER. "Here alone is the verb chavar

read; nor has it in the cognate languages the signification of


Verse 23. But when he seeth his children, the work of mine

hands-"For when his children shall see the work of my hands"]

For birotho I read biroth, with the Septuagint

and Syriac.

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