Isaiah 31


The Jews again reproved for their confidence in Egypt, finely

contrasted with their neglect of the power and protection of

God, 1-3.

Deliverance and protection are, notwithstanding, promised,

expressed by two similes; the first remarkably lofty and

poetical, the latter singularly beautiful and tender, 4, 5.

Exhortation to repentance, joined with the prediction of a more

reformed period, 6, 7.

This chapter concludes like the preceding, with a prophecy of

the fall of Sennacherib, 8, 9.


Verse 1. Wo to them that go down to Egypt] This is a reproof to

the Israelites for forming an alliance with the Egyptians, and not

trusting in the Lord.

And stay on horses-"Who trust in horses"] For veal, and

upon, first twenty MSS. of Kennicott's, thirty of De Rossi's,

one of my own, and the Septuagint, Arabic, and Vulgate, read

al, upon, without the conjunction, which disturbs the sense.

Verse 2. His words-"His word"] debaro, singular, without

yod, two MSS. of Dr. Kennicott's the Septuagint, and

Targ. Hieros. derachaiv, his ways, is found in one MS.

Verse 3. He that helpeth (the Egyptians) shall fall and he that

is holpen (the Israelites) shall fall down-together.

Verse 4. Like as the lion] This comparison is exactly in the

spirit and manner, and very nearly approaching to the expression,

of Homer.









Iliad xii. 299.

As the bold lion, mountain-bred, now long

Famished, with courage and with hunger stung

Attempts the thronged fold: him nought appals,

Though dogs and armed shepherds stand in guard

Collected; he nathless undaunted springs

O'er the high fence, and rends the trembling prey;

Or, rushing onward, in his breast receives

The well-aimed spear.

Of metaphors, allegories, and comparisons of the Hebrew poets,

in which the Divine nature and attributes are represented under

images taken from brutes and other low objects; of their effect,

their sublimity, and the causes of it; see De Sac. Poes. Heb.,

Praelect. xvi. sub. fin.

Verse 5. Passing over-"Leaping forward"] The generality of

interpreters observe in this place an allusion to the deliverance

which God vouchsafed to his people when he destroyed the

first-born of the Egyptians, and exempted those of the Israelites

sojourning among them by a peculiar interposition. The same word

is made use of here which is used upon that occasion, and which

gave the name to the feast which was instituted in commemoration

of that deliverance, pesach. But the difficulty is to

reconcile the commonly received meaning of that word with the

circumstances of the similitude here used to illustrate the

deliverance represented as parallel to the deliverance in Egypt.

"As the mother birds hovering over their young,

So shall JEHOVAH God of hosts protect Jerusalem;

Protecting and delivering, passing over, and rescuing her."

This difficulty is, I think, well solved by Vitringa, whose

remark is the more worthy of observation, as it leads to the true

meaning of an important word, which hitherto seems greatly to have

been misunderstood, though Vitringa himself, as it appears to me,

has not exactly enough defined the precise meaning of it. He says,

" pasach signifies to cover, to protect by covering: σκεπασω

υμας, Septuagint. JEHOVAH obteget ostium; 'The Lord will cover or

protect the door:'" whereas it means that particular action or

motion by which God at that time placed himself in such a

situation as to protect the house of the Israelite against the

destroying angel; to spring forward, to throw one's self in the

way, in order to cover and protect. Cocceius comes nearer to the

true meaning than Vitringa, by rendering it gradum facere, to

march, to step forward; Lexicon in voc. The common meaning of the

word pasach upon other occasions is to halt, to be lame, to

leap, as in a rude manner of dancing, (as the prophets of Baal

did, 1Ki 18:26,) all which agrees very well together; for the

motion of a lame person is a perpetual springing forward, by

throwing himself from the weaker upon the stronger leg. The common

notion of God's passage over the houses of the Israelites is, that

in going through the land of Egypt to smite the first-born, seeing

the blood on the door of the houses of the Israelites, he passed

over, or skipped, those houses, and forbore to smite them. But

that this is not the true notion of the thing, will be plain from

considering the words of the sacred historian, where he describes

very explicitly the action: "For JEHOVAH will pass through to

smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood on the lintels

and on the two side posts, JEHOVAH will spring forward over (or

before) the door, upasach Yehovah al happethach,

and will not suffer the destroyer to come into your houses to

smite you," Ex 12:23. Here are manifestly two distinct agents,

with which the notion of passing over is not consistent, for that

supposes but one agent. The two agents are the destroying angel

passing through to smite every house, and JEHOVAH the Protector

keeping pace with him; and who, seeing the door of the Israelite

marked with the blood, the token prescribed, leaps forward, throws

himself with a sudden motion in the way, opposes the destroying

angel, and covers and protects that house against the destroying

angel, nor suffers him to smite it. In this way of considering the

action, the beautiful similitude of the bird protecting her young

answers exactly to the application by the allusion to the

deliverance in Egypt. As the mother bird spreads her wings to

cover her young, throws herself before them, and opposes the

rapacious bird that assaults them, so shall JEHOVAH protect, as

with a shield, Jerusalem from the enemy, protecting and

delivering, springing forward and rescuing her; υπερβαινων, as the

three other Greek interpreters, Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion,

render it. The Septuagint, περιποιησεται instead of which MS.

Pachom. has περιβησεται, circumeundo proteget, "in going about

he shall protect," which I think is the true reading.-Homer, II.

viii. 329, expresses the very same image by this word:-



"____But Ajax his broad shield displayed,

And screened his brother with a mighty shade."

______οςχρυσηναμφιβεβηκας Il. i. 37

Which the scholiast explains by περιβεβηκαςυπερμαχεις, i.e.,

"Thou who strictly guardest Chryses."-L. On this verse Kimchi

says, "The angel of the Lord which destroyed the Assyrians is

compared to a lion, Isa 31:4, for his

strength: and here (Isa 31:5) to

flying birds, for his swiftness.

Verse 6. Have deeply revolted-"Have so deeply engaged in

revolt."] All the ancient Versions read taamiku, in the

second person, instead of heemiku, they have deeply

revolted, &c.

Verse 7. Which your own hands have made unto you for a sin-"The

sin, which their own hands have made."] The construction of the

word chet, sin, in this place is not easy. The Septuagint

have omitted it: MSS. Pachom. and I. D. II. and Cod. Marchal. in

margine, supply the omission by the word αμαρτιαν, sin, or

αμαρτημα, said to be from Aquila's Version, which I have

followed. The learned Professor Schroeder, Institut. Ling. Heb. p.

298, makes it to be in regimine with yedeychem, as an

epithet, your sinful hands. The Septuagint render the pronoun in

the third person, αιχειρεςαυτων, their hands; and an ancient MS.

has, agreeable to that rendering, lahem, to them, for

lachem, to you; which word they have likewise omitted, as not

necessary to complete the sense.

Verse 8. Then shall the Assyrian fall, &c.] Because he was to be

discomfited by the angel of the Lord, destroying in his camp, in

one night, upwards of one hundred and eighty thousand men; and

Sennacherib himself fell by the hands of the princes, his own

sons. Not mighty men, for they were not soldiers; not mean men,

for they were princes.

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