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Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on Isaiah 14

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The Book of the Prophet Isaiah

Commentary by A. R. FAUSSET

CHAPTER 14

Isa 14:1-3. THE CERTAINTY OF DELIVERANCE FROM BABYLON.

      Isa 14:4-23. THE JEWS' TRIUMPHAL SONG THEREAT.

      "It moves in lengthened elegiac measure like a song of lamentation for the dead, and is full of lofty scorn" [HERDER].

      Isa 14:24-27. CONFIRMATION OF THIS BY THE HEREFORETOLD DESTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIANS UNDER SENNACHERIB;

      a pledge to assure the captives in Babylon that He who, with such ease, overthrew the Assyrian, could likewise effect His purpose as to Babylon. The Babylonian king, the subject of this prediction, is Belshazzar, as representative of the kingdom ( Dan 5:1-31 ).

      1. choose--"set His choice upon." A deliberate predilection [HORSLEY]. Their restoration is grounded on their election (see Psa 102:13-22 ).
      strangers--proselytes ( Est 8:17 Act 2:10 17:4, 17 ). TACITUS, a heathen [Histories, 5.5], attests the fact of numbers of the Gentiles having become Jews in his time. An earnest of the future effect on the heathen world of the Jews' spiritual restoration ( Isa 60:4, 5, 10 Mic 5:7 Zec 14:16 Rom 11:12 ).

      2. the people--of Babylon, primarily. Of the whole Gentile world ultimately ( Isa 49:22 66:20 60:9 ).
      their place--Judea ( Ezr 1:1-6 ).
      possess--receive in possession.
      captives--not by physical, but by moral might; the force of love, and regard to Israel's God ( Isa 60:14 ).

      3. rest-- ( Isa 28:12 Eze 28:25, 26 ).

      Isa 14:4-8. A CHORUS OF JEWS EXPRESS THEIR JOYFUL SURPRISE AT BABYLON'S DOWNFALL.

      The whole earth rejoices; the cedars of Lebanon taunt him.

      4. proverb--The Orientals, having few books, embodied their thoughts in weighty, figurative, briefly expressed gnomes. Here a taunting song of triumph ( Mic 2:4 Hab 2:6 ).
      the king--the ideal representative of Babylon; perhaps Belshazzar ( Dan 5:1-31 ). The mystical Babylon is ultimately meant.
      golden city--rather, "the exactress of gold" [MAURER]. But the old translators read differently in the Hebrew, "oppression," which the parallelism favors (compare Isa 3:5 ).

      5. staff--not the scepter ( Psa 2:9 ), but the staff with which one strikes others, as he is speaking of more tyrants than one ( Isa 9:4 10:24 14:29 ) [MAURER].
      rulers--tyrants, as the parallelism "the wicked" proves (compare see on JF & B for Isa 13:2).

      6. people--the peoples subjected to Babylon.
      is persecuted--the Hebrew is rather, active, "which persecuted them, without any to hinder him" [Vulgate, JEROME, and HORSLEY].

      7. they--the once subject nations of the whole earth. HOUBIGANT places the stop after "fir trees" ( Isa 14:8 ), "The very fir trees break forth," &c. But the parallelism is better in English Version.

      8. the fir trees--now left undisturbed. Probably a kind of evergreen.
      rejoice at thee-- ( Psa 96:12 ). At thy fall ( Psa 35:19, 24 ).
      no feller--as formerly, when thou wast in power ( Isa 10:34 37:24 ).

      Isa 14:9-11. THE SCENE CHANGES FROM EARTH TO HELL.

      Hades (the Amenthes of Egypt), the unseen abode of the departed; some of its tenants, once mighty monarchs, are represented by a bold personification as rising from their seats in astonishment at the descent among them of the humbled king of Babylon. This proves, in opposition to WARBURTON [The Divine Legation], that the belief existed among the Jews that there was a Sheol or Hades, in which the "Rephaim" or manes of the departed abode.

      9. moved--put into agitation.
      for thee--that is, "at thee"; towards thee; explained by "to meet thee at thy coming" [MAURER].
      chief ones--literally, "goats"; so rams, leaders of the flock; princes ( Zec 10:3 ). The idea of wickedness on a gigantic scale is included ( Eze 34:17 Mat 25:32, 33 ). MAGEE derives "Rephaim" (English Version, "the dead") from a Hebrew root, "to resolve into first elements"; so "the deceased" ( Isa 26:14 ) "ghosts" ( Pro 21:16 ). These being magnified by the imagination of the living into gigantic stature, gave their name to giants in general ( Gen 6:4 14:5 Eze 32:18, 21 ). "Rephaim," translated in the Septuagint, "giants" (compare see on JF & B for Job 26:5, 6). Thence, as the giant Rephaim of Canaan were notorious even in that guilty land, enormous wickedness became connected with the term. So the Rephaim came to be the wicked spirits in Gehenna, the lower of the two portions into which Sheol is divided.

      10. They taunt him and derive from his calamity consolation under their own ( Eze 31:16 ).
      weak--as a shade bereft of blood and life. Rephaim, "the dead," may come from a Hebrew root, meaning similarly "feeble," "powerless." The speech of the departed closes with Isa 14:11.

      11. "Pomp" and music, the accompaniment of Babylon's former feastings ( Isa 5:12 24:8 ), give place to the corruption and the stillness of the grave ( Eze 32:27 ).
      worm--that is bred in putridity.
      worms--properly those from which the crimson dye is obtained. Appropriate here; instead of the crimson coverlet, over thee shall be "worms." Instead of the gorgeous couch, "under thee" shall be the maggot.

      Isa 14:12-15. THE JEWS ADDRESS HIM AGAIN AS A FALLEN ONCE-BRIGHT STAR.

      The language is so framed as to apply to the Babylonian king primarily, and at the same time to shadow forth through him, the great final enemy, the man of sin, Antichrist, of Daniel, St. Paul, and St. John; he alone shall fulfil exhaustively all the lineaments here given.

      12. Lucifer--"day star." A title truly belonging to Christ ( Rev 22:16 ), "the bright and morning star," and therefore hereafter to be assumed by Antichrist. GESENIUS, however, renders the Hebrew here as in Eze 21:12 Zec 11:2, "howl."
      weaken--"prostrate"; as in Exd 17:13, "discomfit."

      13. above. . . God--In Dan 8:10, "stars" express earthly potentates. "The stars" are often also used to express heavenly principalities ( Job 38:7 ).
      mount of the congregation--the place of solemn meeting between God and His people in the temple at Jerusalem. In Dan 11:37, and 2Th 2:4, this is attributed to Antichrist.
      sides of the north--namely, the sides of Mount Moriah on which the temple was built; north of Mount Zion ( Psa 48:2 ). However, the parallelism supports the notion that the Babylonian king expresses himself according to his own, and not Jewish opinions (so in Isa 10:10 ) thus "mount of the congregation" will mean the northern mountain (perhaps in Armenia) fabled by the Babylonians to be the common meeting-place of their gods. "Both sides" imply the angle in which the sides meet; and so the expression comes to mean "the extreme parts of the north." So the Hindus place the Meru, the dwelling-place of their gods, in the north, in the Himalayan mountains. So the Greeks, in the northern Olympus. The Persian followers of Zoroaster put the Ai-bordsch in the Caucasus north of them. The allusion to the stars harmonizes with this; namely, that those near the North Pole, the region of the aurora borealis (compare see on JF & B for Job 23:9; Job 37:22 ) [MAURER, Septuagint, Syriac].

      14. clouds--rather, "the cloud," singular. Perhaps there is a reference to the cloud, the symbol of the divine presence ( Isa 4:5 Exd 13:21 ). So this tallies with 2Th 2:4, "above all that is called God"; as here "above. . . the cloud"; and as the Shekinah-cloud was connected with the temple, there follows, "he as God sitteth in the temple of God," answering to "I will be like the Most High" here. Moreover, Rev 17:4, 5, represents Antichrist as seated in BABYLON, to which city, literal and spiritual, Isaiah refers here.

      15. to hell--to Sheol ( Isa 14:6 ), thou who hast said, "I will ascend into heaven" ( Mat 11:23 ).
      sides of the pit--antithetical to the "sides of the north" ( Isa 14:13 ). Thus the reference is to the sides of the sepulcher round which the dead were arranged in niches. But MAURER here, as in Isa 14:13, translates, "the extreme," or innermost parts of the sepulchre: as in Eze 32:23 (compare 1Sa 24:3 ).

      Isa 14:16-20. THE PASSERS-BY CONTEMPLATE WITH ASTONISHMENT THE BODY OF THE KING OF BABYLON CAST OUT, INSTEAD OF LYING IN A SPLENDID MAUSOLEUM, AND CAN HARDLY BELIEVE THEIR SENSES THAT IT IS HE.

      16. narrowly look--to be certain they are not mistaken.
      consider--"meditate upon" [HORSLEY].

      17. opened not. . . house. . . prisoners--But MAURER, as Margin, "Did not let his captives loose homewards."

      18. All--that is, This is the usual practice.
      in glory--in a grand mausoleum.
      house--that is, "sepulchre," as in Ecc 12:5; "grave" ( Isa 14:19 ). To be excluded from the family sepulcher was a mark of infamy ( Isa 34:3 Jer 22:19 1Ki 13:22 2Ch 21:20 24:25 28:27 ).

      19. cast out of--not that he had lain in the grave and was then cast out of it, but "cast out without a grave," such as might have been expected by thee ("thy").
      branch--a useless sucker starting up from the root of a tree, and cut away by the husbandman.
      raiment of those. . . slain--covered with gore, and regarded with abhorrence as unclean by the Jews. Rather, "clothed (that is, covered) with the slain"; as in Job 7:5, "My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust" [MAURER].
      thrust through--that is, "the slain who have been thrust through," &c.
      stones of. . . pit--whose bodies are buried in sepulchres excavated amidst stones, whereas the king of Babylon is an unburied "carcass trodden under foot."

      20. not. . . joined with them--whereas the princes slain with thee shall be buried, thou shalt not.
      thou. . . destroyed. . . land--Belshazzar (or Naboned) oppressed his land with wars and tyranny, so that he was much hated [XENOPHON, Cyropaedia 4.6, 3; 7.5, 32].
      seed. . . never be renowned--rather, "shall not be named for ever"; the Babylonian dynasty shall end with Belshazzar; his family shall not be perpetuated [HORSLEY].

      Isa 14:21-23. GOD'S DETERMINATION TO DESTROY BABYLON.

      21. Prepare, &c.--charge to the Medes and Persians, as if they were God's conscious instruments.
      his children--Belshazzar's ( Exd 20:5 ).
      rise--to occupy the places of their fathers.
      fill. . . with cities--MAURER translates, "enemies," as the Hebrew means in 1Sa 28:16 Psa 139:20; namely, lest they inundate the world with their armies. VITRINGA translates, "disturbers." In English Version the meaning is, "lest they fill the land with such cities" of pride as Babylon was.

      22. against them--the family of the king of Babylon.
      name--all the male representatives, so that the name shall become extinct ( Isa 56:5 Rth 4:5 ).
      remnant--all that is left of them. The dynasty shall cease ( Dan 5:28-31 ). Compare as to Babylon in general, Jer 51:62.

      23. bittern--rather, "the hedgehog" [MAURER and GESENIUS]. STRABO (16:1) states that enormous hedgehogs were found in the islands of the Euphrates.
      pools--owing to Cyrus turning the waters of the Euphrates over the country.
      besom--sweep-net [MAURER], ( 1Ki 14:10 2Ki 21:13 ).

      Isa 14:24-27. A FRAGMENT AS TO THE DESTRUCTION OF THE ASSYRIANS UNDER SENNACHERIB.

      This would comfort the Jews when captives in Babylon, being a pledge that God, who had by that time fulfilled the promise concerning Sennacherib (though now still future), would also fulfil His promise as to destroying Babylon, Judah's enemy.

      24. In this verse the Lord's thought (purpose) stands in antithesis to the Assyrians' thoughts ( Isa 10:7 ). (See Isa 46:10, 11 1Sa 15:29 Mal 3:6 ).

      25. That--My purpose, namely, "that."
      break. . . yoke-- ( Isa 10:27 ).
      my mountains--Sennacherib's army was destroyed on the mountains near Jerusalem ( Isa 10:33, 34 ). God regarded Judah as peculiarly His.

      26. This is. . . purpose. . . whole earth--A hint that the prophecy embraces the present world of all ages in its scope, of which the purpose concerning Babylon and Assyria, the then representatives of the world power, is but a part.
      hand. . . stretched out upon--namely, in punishment ( Isa 5:25 ).

      27. ( Dan 4:35 ).

      Isa 14:28-32. PROPHECY AGAINST PHILISTIA.

      To comfort the Jews, lest they should fear that people; not in order to call the Philistines to repentance, since the prophecy was probably never circulated among them. They had been subdued by Uzziah or Azariah ( 2Ch 26:6 ); but in the reign of Ahaz ( 2Ch 28:18 ), they took several towns in south Judea. Now Isaiah denounces their final subjugation by Hezekiah.

      28. In. . . year. . . Ahaz died--726 B.C. Probably it was in this year that the Philistines threw off the yoke put on them by Uzziah.

      29. Palestina--literally, "the land of sojourners."
      rod. . . broken--The yoke imposed by Uzziah ( 2Ch 26:6 ) was thrown off under Ahaz ( 2Ch 28:18 ).
      serpent's root--the stock of Jesse ( Isa 11:1 ). Uzziah was doubtless regarded by the Philistines as a biting "serpent." But though the effects of his bite have been got rid of, a more deadly viper, or "cockatrice" (literally, "viper's offspring," as Philistia would regard him), namely, Hezekiah awaits you ( 2Ki 18:8 ).

      30. first-born of. . . poor--Hebraism, for the most abject poor; the first-born being the foremost of the family. Compare "first-born of death" ( Job 18:13 ), for the most fatal death. The Jews, heretofore exposed to Philistine invasions and alarms, shall be in safety. Compare Psa 72:4, "Children of the needy," expressing those "needy in condition."
      feed--image from a flock feeding in safety.
      root--radical destruction.
      He shall slay--Jehovah shall. The change of person, "He" after "I," is a common Hebraism.

      31. gate--that is, ye who throng the gate; the chief place of concourse in a city.
      from. . . north--Judea, north and east of Palestine.
      smoke--from the signal-fire, whereby a hostile army was called together; the Jews' signal-fire is meant here, the "pillar of cloud and fire," ( Exd 13:21 Neh 9:19 ); or else from the region devastated by fire [MAURER]. GESENIUS less probably refers it to the cloud of dust raised by the invading army.
      none. . . alone. . . in. . . appointed times--Rather, "There shall not be a straggler among his (the enemy's) levies." The Jewish host shall advance on Palestine in close array; none shall fall back or ing from weariness ( Isa 5:26, 27 ), [LOWTH]. MAURER thinks the Hebrew will not bear the rendering "levies" or "armies." He translates, "There is not one (of the Philistine watch guards) who will remain alone (exposed to the enemy) at his post," through fright. On "alone," compare Psa 102:7 Hsa 8:9.

      32. messengers of the nation--When messengers come from Philistia to enquire as to the state of Judea, the reply shall be, that the Lord. . . ( Psa 87:1, 5 102:16 ).
      poor-- ( Zep 3:12 ).

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