ISAIAH CHAPTER 9.
The Promise of the Messiah in the Midst of Spiritual Darkness.
THE BIRTH OF THE GOD-MAN PROMISED. — V. 1. Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, literally, “Not is darkness to him to whom is affliction,” that is, the land now oppressed with darkness and afflictions will be delivered from its oppression, when at the first He lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, for this country west and northwest of the Sea of Galilee had from the earliest days suffered severely from various heathen invasions, and afterward did more grievously afflict her, rather, but at a later time He will bring honor, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The meaning of this somewhat involved sentence, then, is this, that the inhabitants of Upper and of Lower Galilee, including also the thickly settled sections on both sides of the Sea of Galilee, would first suffer severely from Assyrian and other invaders, the reference being especially to Tiglath-Pileser IV, 2 Kings 15, 29, but should later, in the time of the Messiah, be singled out for unusual honors in having the Savior devote so much time to its deliverance. V. 2. The people that walked in darkness, namely, these same inhabitants of Galilee of the Gentiles, those who had been oppressed with spiritual darkness, have seen a great light, the prophet, speaking as the mouthpiece of the eternal and omniscient God, views the Messianic period as present even now, for so certain is the fulfillment of God’s promise; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, in the darkness of heathendom, upon them hath the light shined, namely, that of salvation, of the wonderful spiritual blessings of the Savior. As the evangelist shows, Matt. 4, 12-17, this prophecy was literally fulfilled during the Galilean ministry of Jesus, when He made Capernaum His headquarters and from there set forth on His journeys, not only throughout Galilee, but also into the country east of Jordan. V. 3. Thou hast multiplied the nation, so the prophet addresses the Lord in a direct hymn of praise, since He, beginning with Galilee, extended the circle of believers in Him until His Church was spread over the whole world, and not increased the joy, or, “to whom Thou didst not magnify the joy,” the reference once more being to the time of great sorrow and distress under heathen conditions; they joy before Thee according to the joy in harvest, when the sacrificial feasts were eaten by grateful worshipers, Deut. 12, 7; 14, 26, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil, after a victorious campaign against their enemies. V.4. For Thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, the spiritual slavery with which the people were burdened, and the staff of his shoulder, the reference being to the cudgel of the overseer in striking the back of the slave, the rod of his oppressor, with which the people were kept in subjection, as in the day of Midian, Judg. 7, 15-22. Even as the Lord, at the time of Gideon, had delivered Israel from the oppression of the Midianites in a miraculous manner, so He effected a deliverance from everlasting bondage, from spiritual slavery, so the Messiah overcame all the enemies of mankind and now divides the spoil among the believers everywhere. V. 5. For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire, literally: “For every greave” (armor, especially to protect the feet and legs) “of him who girds on his armor with noise, and the soldier’s cloak rolled in blood, it shall become a burning, food for the fire.” With the coming of the Messiah spiritual oppression and slavery, wrath, punishment, and judgment will be brought to an end, for His deliverance is a perfect, an everlasting salvation. V. 6. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, the eternal Word being made flesh for us, not only in our stead, but for our benefit, for the eternal salvation of all believers; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, the absolute and unlimited power, the divine authority in its fullest sense, rests upon Him, He is, from His birth, in complete possession of the eternal power and Godhead; and His name shall be called Wonderful, not only His birth, but His entire essence being a miracle, Counselor, for He not only knows the right and proper counsel in every difficulty of body and soul, He also carries out His plans for the benefit of men, The Mighty God, for the Messiah, true man as He is, is at the same time above all, God blessed forever, altogether identical with Jehovah, The Everlasting Father, Himself the living, eternal God, whose fatherly love and faithfulness surrounds all believers with a care far surpassing human understanding, The Prince of Peace, the true Shiloh, Gen. 49, 10, who has restored the right relation between God and man, making peace by abolishing in His flesh the enmity which existed since the fall of man, Eph. 2, 14. 15. V. 7. Of the Increase of His government, in extending the boundaries of His spiritual kingdom, and peace there shall be no end, that is, He brings about a condition of eternal peace between God and man, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom, for the kingdom of Christ is the kingdom of David, continued and established in the spiritual sense, to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever; for the fact that Christ endured the judgment, the punishment of sin, that He satisfied the justice of God, brought about the foundation of His kingdom, upon the fact of His atonement He builds up His Church. The zeal of the Lord of hosts, the eagerness of His love in seeking the salvation of mankind, will perform this. All this was fulfilled in the Son of Mary, of whom the angel says: “He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His Father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end. . . . That Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Luke 1, 32-35.
JEHOVAH’S HAND STRETCHED OUR IN JUDGMENT. — V. 8. The Lord sent a word into Jacob, a warning against His people, and it hath lighted upon Israel, falling from heaven like a morsel intended for the whole nation. God revealed His intention to His servant, and by the preaching of the prophet it reached the place for which it was intended. V. 9. And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, the northern kingdom with its capital being emphatically mentioned first, as being leaders in disobedience and haughtiness, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart, v. 10. The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones; the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars, that is, they intended to replace their former lowly dwellings of dried clay and the cheap wood of the sycamore fig-tree by splendid palaces of stone and costly cedar-wood. It is the height of presumption and blasphemous pride if men scorn the punishment of the Lord. V. 11. Therefore the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, namely, the Assyrians, who, according to God’s plan, conquered Syria and then advanced upon the northern kingdom, and join his enemies together, rather, Jehovah will stir up Ephraim’s enemies against him; v. 12. the Syrians before, for as allies of the Assyrians they would attack Israel from the east, and the Philistines behind, for these ancient enemies made use of every opportunity to wreak vengeance upon Israel and Judah, cp. 2 Chron. 28, 16-19; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth, eating with a full mouth, pillaging the land almost to the point of destruction. Thus the Lord punishes the pride of unrepentant sinners. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still. The misfortunes here described were but the beginning of the great destruction which would strike the entire nation for its disobedience, and so the Lord would not withdraw His chastening hand. V. 13. For the people turneth not unto Him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of hosts. The object of His punishment, therefore, is not realized, they refuse to repent of their sins and thus give Him a new cause for punishing them. V. 14. Therefore the Lord will cut off from Israel, in wreaking His final vengeance upon the rebellious people, head and tail, branch and rush, in one day, in one great destruction. The prophet explains the figure used in this connection: v. 15. The ancient and honorable, the princes and nobles of the people, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail. The false prophets considered themselves leaders among the people, but they are here told, with bitter irony, that they are morally the basest of the people, the vilest part of the nation. V. 16. For the leaders of this people cause them to err, thereby showing themselves utterly unfit for leadership; and they that are led of them are destroyed, literally, “swallowed up,” namely, by the error and its peril, just as the humble rush must perish if submerged and covered with a flood of filthy water. V. 17. Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, the All-powerful, who formerly granted success to the arms of Israel’s young men, would withdraw His assistance, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows, who formerly had been the special objects of His fostering care; for every one is an hypocrite and an evildoer; that is, corrupt, atrociously bad, inclined to every form of wickedness, and every mouth speaketh folly, blasphemous foolishness and villainy. And so once more the warning cry rings forth: For all this His anger Is not turned away, but His hand Is stretched out still, ready to apply further punishment. V. 18. For wickedness burneth as the fire, challenging God to continue in His course of punishment, bringing forth its own destruction; it shall devour the briers and thorns, the great mass of the lowly people, who have become weeds and thistles on the face of the earth, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, of the standing timber, of the upper classes of Israel, and they shall mount up, the fire lifting them up in a heavy column, like the lifting up of smoke. Thus the fire of God’s wrath, growing out of the nation’s wickedness, would bring destruction upon the entire people, the picture being that of a devastating forest-fire. V. 19. Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts is the land darkened, burned out to ashes, utterly destroyed, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire, to be devoured without mercy; no man shall spare his brother, for selfishness takes account only of its own safety, disregarding all considerations of charity, patriotism, and kinship. V. 20. And he (impersonal subject), that is, every man, shall snatch on the right hand and be hungry, like a beast snapping in every direction; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied; they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm, the members of his own family and tribe: v. 21. Manasseh, Ephraim; and Epraim, Manasseh, in a form of civil war in which every man’s hand would be turned against his neighbor; and they together shall be against Judah, for the hatred which obtained between Israel and Judah continued in the nation even as late as the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans, when their murderous selfishness reached its climax. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still; for if sinners will not heed His warning here in time, His destruction will be upon them throughout eternity.