1. Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine.
1. Vae coronae superbiae temulentorum Ephraim; quia decor gloriae ejus erit flos deciduus, quae est super caput vallis pinguium, oppresorum a vino.
2. Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand.
2. Ecce durus et fortis Domino, sicut inundatio grandinis, turbo subvertens; sicut impetus aquarum vehementium inundantium, dejiciens in manu ad terram.
3. The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet:
3. Pedibus conculabitur corona superbiae temultorum Ephraim.
4. And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up.
4. Et erit flos deciduus decor gloriae ejus, quae est super caput vallis pinguium, quasi fructus praecox ante aestivos, quem qui viderit, aspiciens eum dum adhuc in manu est, devorat.
5. In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people.
5. In illa die Iehova exercituum in corona gloriae, et didema decoris reliquiis populi sui,
6. And for spirit of judgement to him that sitteth in judgement, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.
6. Et in spiritum judicii sedenti super tribunal, et in fortitudinem propulsantibus proelium ad portam.
7. But they also have erred throught strong drink are out of the way: the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are iut of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.
7. At isti quoque prae vino errarunt, prae sicera hallucinati sunt. Sacerdos et propheta errarunt prae sicera, absorpti sunt a vino; hallucinati sunt prae sicera, errarunt in visione, impegerunt in judicio.
8. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean.
8. Quoniam omnes mensae plenae sunt vomitu stercoreo, ut locus non vacet.
9. Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
9. Quem docebit scientiam, et quem intelliegere faciet doctrinam? Abductos a lacte, abstractos ab uberibus?
10. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little and there a little.
10. Quoniam praeceptum ad praeceptum, praeceptum ad praeceptum; instructio ad instructionem, instructio ad instructionem; paululum ibi, paululum ibi.
11. For with stammering lips, and another tongue, will he speak to this people.
11. Quoniam balbis labiis et lingua exotica loquetur ad populum istum.
12. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.
12. Quoniam illis dixit, Haec est requies; requiescere facite lassum, et hoc refrigerium; et noluerunt audire.
13. But the word of the Lord was unto them precept; line upon line, line upon line, here a little, and there a little; that they might go and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
13. Erit igitur illis verbum Iehovae regula ad regulam, regula ad regulam; instructio ad instructonem, instructio ad instructionem; paululum ibi, paululum ibi; propterea ibunt, et corruent retrosum, conterentur, irretientur et capientur.
14. Wherefore hear the word of the Lord, ye scornful men, that ruke his people which is in Jerusalem.
14. Propterea audite verbum Iehovae, viri illusores, qui dominamini populo huic, qui est in Ierusalem.
15. Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves.
15. Quia dixitis, Percussimus foedus cum morte, et cum inferno fecimus pactum; flagellum inundans cum transierit, non veniet ad nos; quia posuimus mendacium refugium nostrum, et sub vanitate sumus absconditi.
16. Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
16. Quare sic dicit Donminus Iehova: Ecce ego ponam in Sion lapidem, lapidem probationis, angulum pretiosum, fundamentum solidum. Qui credit non festinabit.
17. Judgement also will I lay to the line, and righteouseness to the plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.
17. Et ponam judicium ad regulam, et justitiam ad mensuram (vel, trutinam.) Everret grando fiduciam mendacii, et latibulum aquae inundabunt.
18. And your covenant with death shall be disannukked, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.
18. Et abolebitur pactum cum morte; visio vestra cum inferno non stabit, flagellum inundans cum transierit, tunc eritis ei in conculcationem.
19. From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night; and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report.
19. Ex quo transierit, rapiet vos utique mane quotidie, transibit interdiu et noctu. Et erit ut terror (vel commotio) duntaxat intelligere faciat auditum.
20. For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it; and the covering narrower that that he can wrap himself in it.
20. Quoniam contractus est lectus, ut non sufficiat; angusta erit stangula colligendo.
21. For the Lord shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.
21. Quoniam sicut in monte Perazim stabit Iehova, et sicut in valle Gibeon, irascetur (vel, tumultuabiltur) ad faciendum opus suum, alienum opus suum; ad desingandum facinus suum, alienum facinus suum.
22. Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your hands be made strong; for I have heardd from the Lord God of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth.
22. Nunc itaque ne sitis illusores; ne forte constringantur vincula vestra. Quoniam consumptionenm et finitionem audivi a Domino Iehova exercituum super universam terram.
23. Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech.
23. Auscultate, et audite vocem meam; advertite et audite sermonem meum.
24. Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? Doth he open and break the clods of his ground.
24. An quotidie arat arator, ut seminet? Aperit et confringit glebas agri sui?
25. When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat, and the appointed barley, and the rye, in there place?
25. Annon cum aequaverit faciem ejus, tunc sparget viciam, seret cyminum, et ponet triticum in mensura, hordeum demensum, et speltam suo modo.
26. For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him.
26. Docet eum rectitudinem Deus suus, et instituit eum.
27. For the fitches are not thrashed with a thrashing-instrument, neither is a cart-wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod.
27. Certe non triturabitur vicia tabula dentata, nec rota plaustri super cyminum, circumferetur; quia baculo excutitur vicia, et cyminum virga.
28. Bread-corn is bruised; because he will not ever be thrashing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen.
28. Triticum licet trituretur, non in perpetuum, triturat ipsum, nec rotam plaustri sui perpetua strepere facit, ne dentibus suis conterat ipsum.
29. This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.
29. Etiam hoc ab Iehova exercituum egressum est, qui mirificuis est, consilio et magnificus opere.
Accordingly, the Prophet follows this order. First, he shews that the vengeance of God is not far from Israel, because various sins and corruption of every kind prevailed in it; for they were swelled with pride and insolence, had plunged into their luxuries and given way to every kind of licentiousness, and, consequently, had broken out into open contempt of God, as is usually the case when men take excessive liberties; for they quickly forget God. Secondly, he shews that God in some measure restrains his anger by sparing the tribe of Judah; for when the ten tribes, with the half tribe of Benjamin, had been carried into captivity, the Jews still remained entire and uninjured. Isaiah extols this compassion which God manifested, in not permitting his Church to perish, but preserving some remnant. At the same time he shews that the Jews are so depraved and corrupted that they do not permit God to exercise this compassion, and that, in consequence of the wickedness which prevailed among them, not less than in Israel, they too must feel the avenging hand of God. This order ought to be carefully observed; for many persons blunder in the exposition of this passage, because the Prophet has not expressly mentioned the name of Israel, though it is sufficiently known that Ephraim includes the ten tribes.
As to the words, since the particle
Yet I do not extend this prophecy indiscriminately to all the Jews, but to the elect who were wonderfully rescued from death; for although he calls the tribe and half-tribe a remnant, as compared with the other ten tribes, yet, as we advance, we shall see that he makes a distinction between the tribe of Judah itself and the others. Nor ought we to wonder that the Prophet speaks differently about the same people, directing his discourse, sometimes to a body corrupted by crimes, and sometimes to the elect. Certainly, as compared with the ten tribes, which had revolted from the worship of God and from the unity of faith, he justly calls the Jews a remnant of the people; but when he leaves out of view this comparison, and considers what they are in themselves, he remonstrates with equal justice against their corruptions.
I am aware that some expound it differently, on account of what is said immediately afterwards about wine and strong drink, (verse 7,) and think that this statement ought to be viewed in connection with the beginning of the chapter. Yet perhaps the Lord spares the Jews. But how would he spare them? They are in no respect better than the others; for they are equally in fault, 6 and must also be exposed to the same punishments. But those commentators do not consider that the Prophet holds out an instance of the extraordinary kindness of God, in not exercising his vengeance at the same time against the whole family of Abraham, but, after having overthrown the kingdom of Israel, granting a truce to the Jews, to see if they would in any degree repent. Neither do they consider that, by the same means, he employs the circumstance which he had stated for placing in a stronger light the ingratitude of the people, that is, that they ought to have been instructed by the example of their brethren; 7 for the calamity of Israel ought to have aroused and excited them to repentance, but it produced no impression on them, and did not make them better. Although therefore they were unworthy of so great benefits, yet the Lord was pleased to preserve his Church in the midst of them; for this is the reason why he rescued the tribe of Judah, and the half-tribe of Benjamin, from that calamity.
Now, since the tribe of Judah was a small portion of the nation, and therefore was despised by the haughty Israelites, the Prophet declares that in God alone there is enough of riches and of glory to supply all earthly defects. And hence he shews what is the true method of our salvation, namely, if we place our happiness in God; for as soon as we come down to the world, we gather fading flowers, which immediately wither and decay. This madness reigns everywhere, and more than it ought to be among ourselves, that we wish to be happy without God, that is, without happiness itself. Besides, Isaiah shews that no calamities, however grievous, can prevent God from adorning his Church; for when it shall appear that everything is on the eve of destruction, God will still be a crown of glory to his people. It is also worthy of observation, that Isaiah promises new splendor to the Church only when the multitude shall be diminished, that believers may not lose courage on account of that dreadful calamity which was at hand.
Hence also it is evident how silly and childish is the boasting of the Papists, who always have in their mouth "The Church," and use as a pretext the names of priests, bishops, and pontiffs, and wish to fortify themselves by their authority against the word of God, as if that order could never err or mistake. They think that they have the Holy Spirit confined within their brains, and that they represent the Church, which God never forsakes. But we see what the Prophet declares concerning the priests, whose order was more splendid and illustrious. If ever there was a Church, there certainly was one at that time among the Jews; and that order derived from the word of God support to which they have no claim. And yet he shews that not only were they corrupt in morals, but erred "in vision and judgment," and that the prophets, whom we know that God added to the priests, out of the ordinary course, on account of the carelessness of the priests, were nevertheless blind in that sacred office of teaching and in revelations. Nothing therefore is more idle than, under the pretext of an office which bears a splendid title, to hold out as exempt from the danger of erring those who, having forsaken God, and not only cast away all regard to religion, but even trodden shame under their feet, defend their tyranny by every means in their power.
Hence it follows that unbelievers, as soon as God has exhibited to them his word, voluntarily draw down on themselves wretched uneasiness; for he invites all men to a blessed rest, and clearly points out the object by which, if we shape the course of our life, true happiness awaits us; for no man who has heard heavenly doctrine can go astray except knowingly and willingly. We learn from it how lovely in our eyes heavenly doctrine ought to be, for it brings to us the invaluable blessing of enjoying peace of conscience and true happiness. All confess loudly that there is nothing better than to find a place of security; and yet, when rest is offered, many despise it, and the greater part of men even refuse it, as if all men expressly desired to have wretched perplexity and continual trembling: and yet no man has a right to complain that he errs through ignorance; for nothing is clearer or plainer than the doctrine of God, so that it is vain for men to plead any excuse. In short, nothing can be more unreasonable than to throw the blame on God, as if he spoke obscurely, or taught in a confused manner. Now, as God testifies in this passage that he points out to us in his word assured rest, so, on the other hand, he warns all unbelievers that they suffer the just reward of their wickedness when they are harassed by continual uneasiness.
"Come to me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28.)
In a word, Isaiah informs the Jews that they have this choice, "Do they prefer to be refreshed and relieved, or to sink under the burden and be overwhelmed?" This confirms a passing remark which I made a little before, that God does not in vain exhort those who seek repose to come to him, as we shall elsewhere see,
"I have not in vain said to the house of Jacob, Seek me." (Isaiah 45:19.)
Since, therefore, if we do not stand in the way, we shall be taught by his word, we may safely rely on the doctrine which is contained in it; for he does not intend to weary us out by vain curiosity, as men often draw down upon themselves much distress and anguish by idle pursuits.
Besides, when he shews that this rest is prepared for the weary who groan under the burden, let us at least be taught by the distresses which harass us to betake ourselves to the word of God, that we may obtain peace. We shall thus find that the word of God is undoubtedly fitted to soothe our uneasy feelings, and to give peace to our perplexed and trembling consciences. All who seek "rest" in any other way, and run beyond the limits of the word, must always be subjected to torture or wretched uncertainty, because they attempt to be wise and happy without God. We see that this is the condition of the Papists, who, having despised this peace of God, are wretchedly tormented during their whole life; for Satan tosses and drives them about in such a manner that they are tormented with dreadful uneasiness, and never find a place of rest.
Paul quotes this passage (1 Corinthians 14:21) when he reproves the Corinthians for foolish affectation, in consequence of their being so much under the influence of ambition, that they regarded with the highest admiration those who spoke in a foreign tongue, as the common people are accustomed to stare at everything that is unknown and uncommon. This passage in the writings of Paul has been misunderstood, because these words of the Prophet have not been duly weighed. Now, Paul applies these words most appropriately to his object; for he shews that the Corinthians are under the influence of a foolish and absurd admiration, and that they improperly aspire to those things from which they can derive no advantage; in short, that they are "like children, not in malice, but in knowledge and understanding;" that thus they voluntarily draw down on themselves the curse which the Prophet here threatens; and that the word of God becomes to them precept on precept, and they receive no more instruction from it than if a person were to bawl out to them in an unknown tongue. It is the height of madness to bring upon themselves, by idle affectation, that blindness and stupidity which the Lord threatens against obstinate and rebellious men. Paul therefore explains and renders more intelligible this statement made by the Prophet, for he shews that they who abuse the doctrine of salvation do not deserve to make progress in it in any way whatever.
We have seen a passage closely resembling it in which the Prophet compared his doctrine to "sealed letters." (Isaiah 8:16) Afterwards we shall find that the Prophet compares it to a book that is "shut." (Isaiah 29:11.) This takes place when, on account of the ingratitude of men, God takes from them judgment and sound understanding; so that, "seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear," and thus are most justly punished. (Isaiah 6:9; Mark 4:12.) This ought to be carefully observed; for frequently we think that all is well with us, and are highly delighted with ourselves, because we continue to enjoy the word. 17 But of what avail will it be to us, if it do not enlighten our understanding and regulate our hearts? We thus draw down upon ourselves a heavier judgment, and therefore we need a twofold grace; first, that God would shine on us by his word; and secondly, that he would open our understandings and dispose our hearts to obedience, otherwise we shall derive no more aid from the brilliancy of the gospel than blind men derive from the brightness of the sun. By this punishment, therefore, we are reminded that we must not abuse the word of God, but must look directly to the object which the Lord holds out to us in the word.
"You think that you have enough of craftiness to mock God, but you will not succeed in mocking him." (Galatians 6:7.)
The Prophet's chief and severest contest was with the nobles; for although all ranks were exceedingly corrupted, yet the nobles, being puffed up with a false belief of their own wisdom, were more obstinate than the rest. It has commonly been found, in almost every age, that the common people, though they are distinguished by unrestrained fierceness and violence, do not proceed to such a pitch of wickedness as nobles or courtiers, or other crafty men, who think that they excel others in ability and wisdom. The ministers of the word ought chiefly, therefore, to arm themselves against ingenious adversaries. None can be more destructive; for they not only of themselves do injury, but excite others to the same kind of scorn and wickedness, and frequently, through the estimation in which they are held, and the splendor of their reputation, they dazzle the common people who are less clear-sighted. It is a dreadful and monstrous thing when the governors of the Church not only are themselves blinded, but even blind others, and excite them to despise God, and ridicule godly doctrine, and taunt it by their jeers, and, in short, employ their utmost ingenuity for overturning religion; but in opposition to such persons we ought to encourage our hearts by the example of the Prophet, that we may not sink or lose heart in this contest. He shews us also the way in which we ought to treat such persons. 20 We ought not to spend much time in teaching them, (for instruction would be of little use,) but must threaten them severely, and terrify them by the judgment of God.
The Prophet, therefore, reproves in general that carnal presumption by which men are led to forgetfulness of the judgment of God, and willingly deceive themselves, as if they could escape the arm of God: but chiefly he attacks Lucianists 23 and censorious men, who place their wisdom in nothing else than in irreligious contempt of God; and the more eager they are to conceal their dishonor, the more earnestly does the Prophet expose them, as if he had dragged forth to the light, from a deep concealment, their cunning wiles, and as if he had said, "This is the dexterity, skill, and cunning of the wise men of this world, who are exposed on every hand to troubles and afflictions, and yet imagine that they are concealed and safe. They unquestionably deserve to seek salvation from falsehood, for they disregard God's salvation, and despise and ridicule him." Their tricks, and cunning, and imposture, are indeed concealed by them under plausible names, and they do not think that they are falsehoods; but the Prophet calls them by their proper names.
Now, Paul, when he quotes this prophecy, adopts the Greek version, "He that believeth shall not be ashamed." (Romans 9:33; 10:11.) And certainly the design of the Prophet is to shew, that they who believe will have peace and serenity of mind, so that they shall not desire anything more, and shall not wander in uncertainty, or hasten to seek other remedies, but shall be fully satisfied with this alone. That is not a departure from the meaning, for the word signifying to make haste conveys the idea of eagerness or trembling. In short, the design of the Prophet is, to extol faith on account of this invaluable result, that by means of it we enjoy settled peace and composure. Hence it follows that, till we possess faith, we must have continual perplexity and distress; for there is but one harbour on which we can safely rely, namely, the truth of the Lord, which alone will give us peace and serenity of mind.
This fruit of faith is elsewhere described by the same Apostle Paul, when he says that, "being justified by faith, we obtain peace with God." (Romans 5:1.) The Apostles and evangelists shew that this "stone" is Christ, because the Church was actually settled and founded at the time when he was presented to the view of the world. (Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11; Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:6.) First, in him the promises have their firmness; secondly, the salvation of men rests on him alone, and therefore if Christ be taken away, the Church will fall down and be ruined. The state of the fact therefore shews, that these statements must undoubtedly be referred to Christ, without whom there is no certainty of salvation; and therefore at every moment ruin is at hand. Next, we have the authority of evangelists and Apostles; and indeed the Holy Spirit conveys that instruction by their mouth.
But it will be proper to examine it more closely, that we may see in what manner these things are applied to Christ. First, it is not without good reason that Isaiah represents God as speaking, whose peculiar work it is to found the Church, as we have already seen elsewhere, and as the Prophet will afterwards declare; and this statement occurs very frequently in the Psalms. For if all men devote their labor to it, they will not be able to lay the least stone. It is God alone, therefore, who founds and builds his Church, though he employs for this purpose the labors and services of men. Now, by whom was Christ given, but by the Father? So then it was the heavenly Father who did and accomplished these things, and who appointed Christ to be the only foundation on which our salvation rests.
But was not this stone laid before? Did not the Church always rest on this foundation? I acknowledge that it did, but only in hope; for Christ had not yet been revealed, and had not fulfilled the office of a Redeemer. On this account the Prophet speaks of it as a future event, that believers may be fully persuaded that the Church, which they saw not only tottering and falling, but grievously shaken and almost laid in ruins, will yet be made firm by a new support, when it shall rest on a stone laid by the hand of God.
Christ is truly "the stone of trial," for by him must the whole building be regulated, and we cannot be the building of God, if we are not adapted to him. Hence also Paul exhorts us to
"grow in him who is the head, from whom the whole body must be joined and united." (Ephesians 4:15.)
Our faith must be wholly applied to Christ, that he may be our rule. He is also the "corner-stone," on which rests not only one part of the building, but its whole weight, and the foundation itself.
"No man," as Paul says, "can lay any other foundation than Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11.)
This is the reason why, when the Lord promises by the mouth of Isaiah the restoration of his Church, he reminds us of the foundation; for it was wasted in such a manner that it resembled a ruin, and there was no way in which it could be restored but by Christ. As to Christ being called also the "stone of stumbling," this is accidental; for the fault lies on ungrateful men, who, having rejected him, find him to be altogether different from what he would have been to them. But on this subject we have spoken at 8:14. 25
"I will stretch over Jerusalem the rope or line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab." (2 Kings 21:13.)
Yet I do not deny that he alludes to the examination of weights; but both metaphors are taken from buildings, in which the master-builders and masons try everything by a rule, in order to preserve a due proportion in every part. Thus it is said that the Lord administers equal judgment, when he restores the Church, in which otherwise everything is disordered and confused, as in a hideous ruin, when the ungodly are exalted and enjoy prosperity, while the godly are despised and sorrowful.
He makes the same statement concerning "righteousness," that he will measure or try it by his weights, and will regulate everything by a rule; for by righteousness and judgment he means a proper and lawful administration of the Church, as contrasting with the masks and disguises boasted of by those who fear the title of Bishops. The meaning is, that this foundation is laid, not only that the Church may be commenced, but that it may be perfectly restored, to use a common phrase, "from top to bottom" (De fonds en comble.)
In short, he means that that peace which the wicked enjoy, while they slumber in their sins, will not be perpetual; for they shall be compelled, even against their will, to acknowledge that God is their judge, and, when they shall wish to enjoy repose, and while they are careless and unprepared, they shall be suddenly seized and agitated by strange terrors and anguish of mind. Their case is similar to that of malefactors, who, if they have broken out of prison and escaped, mock their judges, and utter reproachful and forward and insolent language against them, but, when they see the officers of justice close at their heels, suddenly tremble, and find that all their joy is turned into mourning, and that their condition is far worse than if they had not broken out of prison. Thus the wicked enjoy some momentary gladness, which they obtain by forgetfulness of their guilt; but the Lord immediately lays his hand on them, and terrifies their consciences in such a manner that they can find no rest.
Thus Isaiah threatens wicked men, who mocked at all his threatenings, and tells them that they do not care for the assistance of prophets, but that one day they will actually know with what sincerity and truth they addressed them, and yet that it will be of no advantage to them, because knowledge so late will leave no room for repentance. We must "seek the Lord while there is time." (Isaiah 55:6.) Pharaoh was made no better by the chastisements which he received, (Exodus 8:15,) and Esau gained nothing by his tears, when he saw that he had been stripped of his birthright, (Genesis 27:38; Hebrews 12:17;) for they were not followed by any repentance or any amendment of life. By the word "terror" he shews how "dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God," (Hebrews 10:31,) and that they who despise his word are never allowed to pass unpunished. He employs the word
If they seek a "covering," he says that "it will be too short to wrap themselves in it," and that it is an addition to their former distress, that amidst those heavy calamities they will want all necessary comforts. He chose to express this by the metaphor of a "narrow covering," that they may know that their condition will be in the highest degree wretched; because the vengeance of God will pursue them on all sides, both above and below, so that they shall have no abatement or mitigation, and shall find no relief. The Lord employs these metaphors, in order to accommodate himself to our weakness; because otherwise we cannot understand how dreadful is the judgment of God. Hence therefore we learn how dreadful are the terrors which shake and confine wicked men, when the Lord pursues them; they search eagerly for places of concealment, and would willingly hide themselves in the center of the earth; but the Lord drags them forth to light, and confines and hems them in, so that they cannot move.
For my own part, I consider "strange" to mean simply what is uncommon or wonderful; for this appellation is given to what is rare and unusual among men, and we know that they almost always view with astonishment whatever is new. It is as if he had said, "The Lord will punish you, and that not in a common or ordinary way, but in a way so amazing that at the sight or hearing of it, all shall be struck with horror." It is certain that all the works of God are so many proofs of his power, so that they ought justly to excite our admiration; but because, through constant habit and looking at them, they are despised by us, we think that he does nothing unless he adopt some extraordinary methods. On this account Isaiah quotes ancient examples, in order that we may know that, though to men this vengeance be new and amazing, yet to God it is far from being new, since for a long period he has given proofs of his power and ability not less remarkable than these. Yet I willingly admit that the Prophet contrasts the wicked Israelites with the Philistines and Canaanites, as if he had said, "The Lord formerly performed miracles when he wished to save his people; he will now perform them in order to destroy that people; for since the Israelites have degenerated, they shall feel the hand of God for their destruction which their fathers felt for their salvation."
The design of this preface therefore is, that men may perceive their stupidity in carping at the judgments of God, and putting an unfavourable construction on them, while even in the ordinary course of nature they have a very bright mirror, in which they may see them plainly. There is an implied expostulation with men who shut their eyes amidst so clear light. He shews that they are dull and stupid in not understanding the works of God which are so manifest, and yet are so rash and daring that they presume to judge and censure what is hidden. In like manner Paul also, when speaking of the resurrection, pronounces that those who do not perceive the power of God in the seeds which are thrown into the earth are madmen.
"Thou fool, that which thou sowest does not grow or vegetate till it has rotted." (1 Corinthians 15:36.)
Thus Isaiah here declares that those who do not see the wisdom of God in things so obvious are stupid, and, in short, that men are blind and dull in beholding the works of God.
"all things happen alike to the good and to the bad," (Ecclesiastes 8:14,)
that all the worst and basest men enjoy prosperity, while the godly are liable to distresses not less and even greater than those of other men. 34
In short, when the wicked perceive no difference in outward matters, they think either that there is no God, or that everything is governed by the blind violence of fortune. To such thoughts therefore Isaiah replies, "Do you not know that God has his seasons, and that he knows what he ought to do at the proper time?" If ploughmen do not "every day" cleave the earth or break the clods, this ought not to be attributed to their want of skill; for, on the contrary, their skill requires them to desist. 35 What would they gain by continually turning over the soil, but to weary themselves to no purpose, and prevent it from yielding any fruit? Thus God does not act with bustle or confusion, but knows the times and seasons for doing his work. 36
This shews that we ought to restrain the presumption of men, who, even in the smallest matters, often fall into mistakes. If a person ignorant of agriculture should see a husbandman cutting fields with a plough, making furrows, breaking clods, driving oxen up and down and following their footsteps, he would perhaps laugh at it, imagining that it was childish sport; but that man would be justly blamed by the husbandman, and convicted of ignorance and rashness; for every person of great modesty will think that those things are not done idly or at random, though he does not know the reason. When the seed is committed to the ground, does it not appear to be lost? If ignorant men find fault with these things, as ignorance is often rash and presumptuous in judging, will not intelligent men justly blame and pronounce them to have been in the wrong? If this be the case, how shall the Lord deal with us, if we dare to find fault with his works which we do not understand?
Let us therefore learn from this how carefully we ought to avoid this rashness, and with what modesty we ought to restrain ourselves from such thoughts. If we ought to act modestly towards men, and not to condemn rashly what exceeds our understanding or capacity, we ought to exercise much greater modesty towards God. When we consider therefore the various calamities with which the Church is afflicted, let us not complain that loose reins are given to the wicked, 41 and that consequently she is abandoned to her fate, or that all is over with her; but let us believe firmly, that the Lord will apply remedies at the proper time, and let us embrace with our whole heart his righteous judgments.
If any person carefully examining those words shall infer from them that some are punished more speedily and others more slowly, and shall pronounce the meaning to be, that punishment is delayed, such a view is not merely probable, but is fully expressed by the Prophet. We draw from it a delightful consolation, that the Lord regulates his thrashing in such a manner that he does not crush or bruise his people. The wicked are indeed reduced by him to nothing and destroyed; but he chastises his own people, in order that, having been subdued and cleansed, they may be gathered into the barn.
1 "Whose glorious beauty is a fading flower.: -- Eng. Ver.
2 "Woe to Samaria, the proud chaplet of the drunkards of Ephraim, which stands at the head of a rich valley belonging to a race of sots! 'Sebaste, the ancient Samaria, is situated on a long mount of an oval figure, having first a fruitful valley, and then a ring of hills running round about it.' -- Maundrell, p. 58. Hence it is likened to a chaplet, or wreath of flowers, worn upon the head by Jews, as well as Greeks and Romans, at their banquets, as may be seen, Wisd. 2:7, 8." -- Stock.
3 "De la vallee grasse;" -- "Of the fat valley."
4 "Tyran de Sicile;" -- "Tyrant of Sicily."
5 Justin, in a rapid sketch of that tyrant, informs us that, "after having defeated his rivals, he abandoned himself to indolence and gluttony, which brought on such weakness of sight that he could not bear day-light; that the consciousness of being despised on account of his blindness made him more cruel than before, and led him to fill the city with murders as much as his father had filled the jails with prisoners, so that he became universally hated and despised." -- Justin, Hist. 1. 21:c. 11. The appalling facts are confirmed by other historians. -- Ed.
6 "Puis done qu'ils sont coulpables d'une mesme ingratitude;" -- "Since they are guilty of the same ingratitude."
7 "Aux despens de leurs freres;" -- "At the expense of their brethren."
8 "Que nolls regimbons contre l'esperon;" -- "That we kick against the spur."
9 "A des petis enfans n'agueres sevrez;" -- "To young infants hardly weaned."
10 "Que tous apportent du ventre de la mere;" -- "Which all bring from their mother's womb."
11 "Afin de ne fascher les oreilles des lecteurs."
12 "Line upon line." -- Eng. Ver.
13 "De toutes parts, ou, ligne apres ligne;" -- "On all sides, or, line after line."
15 "For with stammering lips. (Hebrews stammering of lips.)" -- Eng. Ver.
16 "But since this patience has been lost upon them, a stronger way shall be taken to force their attention. God will thunder in their ears, what to them will appear jargon, the language of a foreign nation, by whom they shall be carried into captivity." -- Stock.
17 "De ce que la parole est au milieu de nous;" -- "Because the word is in the midst of us."
19 From which the noun!
20 "Ces moqueurs;" -- "Those mockers."
22 "Car c'eust este une chose trop ridicule et dont les petits enfans se fussent moquez;" "For it would have been too absurd, and even young children would have laughed at it."
24 Commonly called the Septuagint. -- Ed.
26 "Voire en despit de leurs dents;" -- "Even in spite of their teeth."
27 "Qu'il leur pend une horrible calamite sur leurs testes, laquelle ils ne voyent point;" -- "That there hangs over their heads a dreadful calamity which they do not see."
28 "And it shall be a vexation only to understand the report. Or, when he shall make you to understand doctrine." -- (Eng. Ver.) "And even the report alone shall cause terror." -- Lowth. "And it shall be terror merely to hear the report of it." -- Stock. "And only vexation (or distress) shall be the understanding of the thing heard." -- Alexander. "E'l sentirne il grido non produrra altro che commovimento;" -- "And to hear the cry of it will produce nothing but distress." -- (Ital. Ver.)
29 "There are three interpretations of the last clause, one of which supposes it to mean, that the mere report of the approaching scourge should fill them with distress; another, that the effect of the report should be universal distress; a third, that nothing but a painful experience would enable them to understand the lesson which the Prophet was commissioned to teach them.
30 "La sua opera strana, la sua operazione straordinaria;" -- "His strange work, his extraordinary act." -- Ital. Ver.
32 "Avec mesme raison et equite;" -- "With the same reason and justice."
33 "The common version, 'all day,' though it seems to be a literal translation, does not convey the sense of the original expression, which is used both here and elsewhere to mean 'all the time,' or 'always.'" -- Alexander.
34 "Et les fideles sont sujets a beaucoup de miseres, voire plus que ne sont pas les reprouvez;" -- "And believers are liable to many afflictions, even more than the reprobate are."
35 "Will the ploughman never sow, but always cut the earth by spades and instruments for ploughing?" -- Jarchi.
36 "This apposite simile from the various methods used by the husbandman in preparing his land, and in managing the crop after it is gathered, is addressed to those who might question divine providence, because sentence against the wicked is not executed speedily. God, who teacheth the farmer the proper time and manner of treating his crop, knoweth best when and how to punish sinners: he reduceth them not to dust at once, any more than corn is suffered to lie under pressure till it is rendered unserviceable, but chastiseth in mercy, in order to reclaim them." -- Stock.
37 "The principle wheat and the appointed barley. Or, wheat in the appointed place, and barley in the appointed place." -- Eng. Ver. "The choice wheat and the picked barley." -- Stock. "The wheat in due measure.: -- Lowth.
38 "The words
39 "Car en France on n'escout point le bled sinon avec le fleau, excepte en Provence; " -- "For in France corn is not thrashed in any way but with the flail, except in Provence."
40 "Et comme faire passer la charue et la herse sur les peoples;" -- "And, as it were, to pass the waggon and the harrow over the nations."
41 "Comme si les meschans avoyent la bride sur le col;" -- "As if the wicked had the bridle on their neck."
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