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HE prophet's design in the first chapter is to show the close connection between the sins and the sufferings of the people of God. He characterizes the moral state of Judah as peculiarly bad, and calls on the heavens and the earth
to hearken to the complaint of God as a Father—“I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled
against me” (i. 2). Yea they were not only stubborn, rebellious, and greedily set on sin, but stupidly ungrateful likewise. They were dependent on him for every mercy, in providence and in grace; but they did not see this. He was their owner, but their attitude to him was worse than that of the dull ox and not very sagacious ass :-" The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider” (ver. 3). Job names the ox (shor) to illustrate a widely different state of feelingnot that of unthankfulness, but quiet satisfaction, and wishes his friends to feel that if he complained, it was because he had good reason for doing so. “Loweth,” he asks, “ the ox over his fodder ?” “He does not, and I would not have opened my mouth and cursed my day (iii. 1) had not the arrows of the Almighty been within me, drinking up my spirit with their poison (vi. 4). Had I complained without due cause, the ox itself would have rebuked me.'
The ox is again associated with the ass when Isaiah describes some of the effects of the full revelation to the world of the man who shall be an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest. To those who look to him there will be blessing; to those who refuse homage to him evil shall come. It will especially be well with all who in every circumstance realize their duty and do it:-“Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass” (xxxii. 20). See also under Gen. xii. 16, xli. 2; Numb. xxii. 4; and Deut. xxv. 4.
The land was to be made desolate because of its sins. In ver. 8, the extent of the desolation is indicated by striking figures :" The daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.” In the first two figures the idea of being forsaken, and of the complete cessation of joy is embodied. In the third that of present trouble is indicated. When men went out into the vineyards at joyous vintage-time, they erected booths for temporary shelter from the extreme heat of noon, and from the cold dews of night. But when the grapes were gathered, and their blood squeezed out, the cottage was deserted. So, likewise, when the cucumbers were becoming ripe the lodge or shed for the watchman was erected. When the season passed it was deserted. To loneliness is added tribulation—the daughter of Zion becomes also like a besieged city.
“Cucumbers '—see under Numb. xi. 4–6. The lodge or shed was a very frail erection.
“ Passing,” say Messrs. M'Cheyne and Bonar, "a garden of melons and cucumbers, we observed 'the lodge' in the midst of it, a small erection of four upright poles, roofed over with branches and leaves, under the shadow of which a solitary person may sit and watch his garden.” “I can confirm,” says a recent traveller, “the statement of Burckhardt, that the Arabs of Butaiha have the earliest cucumbers and melons in all this region. I once visited it in early spring with a guide from Safed, who came, according to custom, to load his mules with these vegetables for the market in that town. The vines are already up and spreading rapidly; and there comes the gardener with a basket of cucumbers to sell—which, of course, we will purchase for our salad in the evening. And that is the lodge, I suppose, which Isaiah speaks of; just as the frail, temporary thing suggested that sad complaint of the prophet—' The daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers.' No doubt, but the true point of the comparison will not appear until the crop is over, and the lodge forsaken by the keeper. Then the poles fall down, or lean every way, and those green boughs with which it is shaded will have been scattered by the wind, leaving only a ragged, sprawling wreck—a most affecting type of utter desolation --'as Sodom, and like unto Gomorrah.'”
“Scarlet” (ver. 18)—under Numb. xix. 2. “Crimson”—Josh. ii. 18.
Chapter ii. 13.—“ Cedars of Lebanon ”-see under 1 Kings iv. 33; 1 Chron. xiv. 1; and Psalm xcii. 12. The hand of man became the means of “ bringing the day of the Lord upon all the cedars of Lebanon.” “The frequent mention,” says Dr. Robinson, “in Scripture of the cedars of Lebanon, and the uses to which it was applied, made it apparent, that in ancient times large tracts of the mountain were covered with forests of this tree. Diodorus Siculus also relates that Lebanon was full of cedars and firs and cypresses of wonderful size and beauty. But the destruction of them for architectural uses was far more rapid than their growth; so that when Justinian in the sixth century erected the church of the Virgin (now el-Aksa) at Jerusalem, there was great difficulty in obtaining timber for the roof; though after much search a spot was found full of cedar-trees of great height. The destruction still went on; and it would appear, that as late as the middle ages, private houses in Sidon, and probably also in Tyre and other Phænician cities, were ceiled and ornamented with the cedars of Lebanon.”—(“Later Res.") In this way, and in such manifestations of his glorious power as have been noticed under Psalm xxix., the strong hand of judgment was laid literally on the cedars of Lebanon. The cypress here, however, is figurative. The cedars of Lebanon and the oaks of Bashan point to the proud and self-exalted among the princes of Judah. Judgment was to fall on them for their sins. They had led the people into foreign alliances; and, as a consequence, superstition, reliance on wealth and
power, and the practice of gross idolatry, filled the land. But the threatening was to take effect--for “the loftiness of man shall be brought down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day” (ver. 17).
"Fine linen” (iii. 23)-see under Judges xiv. 12.
Chapter v.-The prophet's theme is the iniquities and backsliding of Judah, and the judgments which were to come on the people because of these. His words assume the form of a parable, with his own commentary on it. They are not to be limited to any one period in the history of that people, but were descriptive of all the occasions on which they departed from God and were rebuked because of their sin. The parable is characterized by great beauty. It is the utterances of a beloved friend touching his vineyard. The owner of the vineyard was God; the vineyard itself was “the house of Israel, and the men of Judah were the pleasant plant” (ver. 7). The word rendered “choicest vine” is sorek, which is used in the same way by Jeremiah (ii. 21)—“I had planted thee a noble vine (sorek).” This variety gave its name to the valley in which Delilah dwelt (Judg. xvi. 4). We thus see the point of contrast. The vine was the best of its kind, and should have yielded choice grapes.
But instead of this it produced only wild grapes (beushim). The singular form feminine of this word is translated “cockle” in Job xxxi. 40:-“Let cockle grow instead of barley”-let any kind of noxious weed spring up which shall take the place of the useful barley. This mode of interpretation is to be followed in the
passage under notice. The fruit of this vine instead of being the large luscious clusters which the sorek bears, was only the acrid and unwholesome bunches which may be gathered from the wild neglected vine.
“Briers” (ver. 6)-Judges viii. 7. “Strong drink” (ver. 11)-Numb. vi. 3. “Flint,” Heb. tzor, used also in Exod. iv. 25 (where it is translated “sharp stone,” literally, knife of flint), and in Ezek. iii. 9. Another word, hhalāmüth, is rendered "flint" and "flinty” (Deut. viii. 15, xxxii. 13), “rock” (Job xxviii. 9), and “flint” (Psalm cxiv. 8; Isa. 1. 7). The word appears to have been used in the same way as among us.
Chapter vi. 1-4.-The glorious vision struck terror into the mind of the prophet. “Woe is me,” he cried, “for I am undone.” Re-assured by the symbolic act (ver. 6, 7) and the putting away of his sins, he becomes fit to hearken to the “voice of the Lord ”—“Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me” (ver. 8). His offer of service is accepted, but with the distinct and humbling assurance, that his labours will only deepen the guilt of the people, and hasten the threatened judgment. “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate. And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land” (vers. 9–12). But here the divine grace is again revealed to strengthen the afflicted prophet, whose heart still yearned over his kinsfolk according to the flesh, and whose warm patriotism led him still to long for the good of Israel. “But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten : as a teil-tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves, so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof” (ver. 13). The force of the promise is the salvation of a remnant from the desolation threatened in verse 11. Even after this, he says, there shall be in the land a tenth, or small proportion of the whole, who shall be left from those carried away captive. But this only that a portion of the remnant shall again be afflicted, or as here, “eaten,” used in the sense of to consume. These, he continues, shall be like the teil-tree and the oak-trees, with which they were held to be well acquaintedwhich even when they are to all appearance dead still retain their vitality. And thus the holy seed shall be the substance of the tenth