Isaiah 1:31
And the strong shall be as wick, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them.
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(31) The maker of it as a spark.—Better, his work as a spark. The sin itself becomes the instrument of destruction. The mighty and the proud, who were foremost in the work of idolatry, and who did not repent, should perish with their work—i.e., with the idol which their hands had made. The tow and the spark are chosen as representing the most rapid form of combustion.

Isaiah 1:31. And the strong — The wisest, strongest, or richest persons among you, who think to secure themselves against the threatened danger by their wisdom, wealth, or power, and much more they that are weak and helpless; shall be as tow — Shall be as suddenly and easily consumed by God’s judgments as tow is by the fire. And the maker of it — The maker of the idol, who can neither save himself nor his workmanship; as a spark — To set it on fire: by his sin he shall bring himself to ruin. Or, as פעלו לניצוצ, may be rendered, his work shall become a spark, shall be the cause of his destruction. “The words are elegant, and the meaning of them is, that the rich, the powerful, the great, (meant by the word החסן, which we render strong,) who seemed like a lofty and well-rooted oak, shall perish with their works: for their works, their great and wicked undertakings, by which they had sought safety, like sparks, shall set them on fire and consume them like tow. They shall perish, like fools, by their own devices. The very works themselves, which they had raised for the glory and preservation of themselves and their republic, shall be turned into the very cause of their destruction. Vitringa thinks the prophet alludes to the destruction of their state and temple by the Romans.” — Dodd. 1:21-31 Neither holy cities nor royal ones are faithful to their trust, if religion does not dwell in them. Dross may shine like silver, and the wine that is mixed with water may still have the colour of wine. Those have a great deal to answer for, who do not help the oppressed, but oppress them. Men may do much by outward restraints; but only God works effectually by the influences of his Spirit, as a Spirit of Judgment. Sin is the worst captivity, the worst slavery. The redemption of the spiritual Zion, by the righteousness and death of Christ, and by his powerful grace, most fully accord with what is here meant. Utter ruin is threatened. The Jews should become as a tree when blasted by heat; as a garden without water, which in those hot countries would soon be burned up. Thus shall they be that trust in idols, or in an arm of flesh. Even the strong man shall be as tow; not only soon broken, and pulled to pieces, but easily catching fire. When the sinner has made himself as tow and stubble, and God makes himself as a consuming fire, what can prevent the utter ruin of the sinner?And the strong - Those who have been thought to be strong, on whom the people relied for protection and defense - their rulers, princes, and the commanders of their armies.

As tow - The coarse or broken part of flax, or hemp. It means here that which shall be easily and quickly kindled and rapidly consumed. As tow burns and is destroyed at the touch of fire, so shall the rulers of the people be consumed by the approaching calamities.

And the maker of it - This is an unhappy translation. The word פעלו po‛ălô may be indeed a participle, and be rendered 'its maker,' but it is more commonly a noun, and means his work, or his action. This is its plain meaning here. So the Latin Vulgate, the Septuagint, and the Chaldee. It means, that as a spark enkindles tow, so the works or deeds of a wicked nation shall be the occasion or cause of their destruction. The ambition of one man is the cause of his ruin; the sensuality of a second is the cause of his; the avarice of a third is the cause of his. These passions, insatiable and ungratified, shall be the occasion of the deep and eternal sorrows of hell. So it means here, that the crimes and hypocrisy of the nation would be the real cause of all the calamities that would come upon them as a people.

Shall both burn together - The spark and the flame from the kindled flax mingle, and make one fire. So the people and their works would be enkindled and destroyed together. They would burn so rapidly, that nothing could extinguish them. The meaning is, that the nation would be punished; and that all their works of idolatry and monuments of sin would be the occasion of their punishment, and would perish at the same time. The "principle" involved in this passage teaches us the following things:

(1) That the wicked, however mighty, shall be destroyed.

(2) That their works will be the "cause" of their ruin - a cause necessarily leading to it.

(3) That the works of the wicked - all that they do and all on which they depend - shall be destroyed.

(4) That this destruction shall be final. Nothing shall stay the flame. No tears of penitence, no power of men or devils, shall "put out" the fires which the works of the wicked shall enkindle.

31. strong—powerful rulers (Am 2:9).

maker of it—rather, his work. He shall be at once the fuel, "tow," and the cause of the fire, by kindling the first "spark."

both—the wicked ruler, and "his work," which "is as a spark."

The strong; either,

1. Your idols, which you think to be strong, and able to defend you, as appears by your confidence in them. Or,

2. The strongest persons among you, who think to secure themselves against the threatened danger by their wealth, or power, or wisdom; and much more they that are weak and helpless.

Shall be as tow; shall be as suddenly and easily consumed by my judgments as tow is by fire.

The maker of it; the maker of the idol, who can neither save himself nor his workmanship. Or,

his work; either all that he doth or can do, or that which he hath done, his wicked course of life, shall bring him to ruin. And the strong shall be as tow,.... "that strong one", who is eminently so; the little horn, whose look is more stout than his fellows, Daniel 7:20 the beast who had great power and authority given by the dragon, Revelation 13:2 who shall be cast alive into the lake of fire; when he will be like tow in those devouring flames, easily, quickly, and irrecoverably consumed, Daniel 7:11, Revelation 19:20.

and the maker of it as a spark, or "his work"; so the Targum,

"and the work of their hands shall be as a spark of fire;''

or like the embers and ashes of a coal, which are blown away and lost at once: so antichrist, and all his evil works, as well as all his evil workers under him, will be entirely consumed: or, as it may be rendered, "he that wrought him": that is, Satan, for his coming is after the working of Satan; he has his seat, power, and authority, from the dragon, the old serpent, and the devil, and may be truly called a creature of his, 2 Thessalonians 2:9.

and they shall both burn together; both the pope and the devil in the lake of fire and brimstone, into which they will both be cast, Revelation 20:10.

and none shall quench them; that fire will be unquenchable and everlasting; they will be tormented for ever and ever, and so will all the worshippers of the beast, Matthew 25:41. The Chaldee paraphrase is,

"so the wicked shall be consumed, and their evil works, and there shall be no mercy upon them.''

And the strong shall be as a {p} wick, and its maker as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them.

(p) The false god's in which you put your confidence will be consumed as easily as a piece of wick.

Verse 31. - The strong (literally, the strong one) shall be as tow; i.e. weak and powerless (comp. Judges 16:9), utterly unable to resist the Divine fiat when it goes forth. The maker of it. An extraordinary mistranslation, since po'al never means anything but "work." His own acts would light the fire by which the "strong one" would be consumed and perish.

"Nec lex justior ulla est,
Quam necis artifices arts perire sua."

Isaiah 1:25 states clearly in what the revenge consisted with which Jehovah was inwardly burdened (innakmah, a cohortative with the ah, indicating internal oppression): "And I will bring my hand over thee, and will smelt out thy dross as with alkali, and will clear away all thy lead." As long as God leaves a person's actions or sufferings alone, His hand, i.e., His acting, is at rest. Bringing the hand over a person signifies a movement of the hand, which has been hitherto at rest, either for the purpose of inflicting judicial punishment upon the person named (Amos 1:8; Jeremiah 6:9; Ezekiel 38:12; Psalm 81:15), or else, though this is seldom the case, for the purpose of saving him (Zechariah 13:7). The reference here is to the divine treatment of Jerusalem, in which punishment and salvation were combined - punishment as the means, salvation as the end. The interposition of Jehovah was, as it were, a smelting, which would sweep away, not indeed Jerusalem itself, but the ungodly in Jerusalem. They are compared to dross, or (as the verb seems to imply) to ore mixed with dross, and, inasmuch as lead is thrown off in the smelting of silver, to such ingredients of lead as Jehovah would speedily and thoroughly remove, "like alkali," i.e., "as if with alkali" (Cabbor, Comparatio decurtata, for C'babbor: for this mode of dropping Beth after Caph, compare Isaiah 9:3; Leviticus 22:13, and many other passages). By bedilim (from bâdal, to separate) we are to understand the several pieces of stannum or lead

(Note: Plumbum nigrum, says Pliny, n. n. xxiv. 16, is sometimes found alone, and sometimes mixed with silver: ejus qui primus fluic in fornacibus liquor, stannum appellatur. The reference here is to the lead separated from the ore in the process of obtaining pure silver. In the form of powder this dross is called bedil, and the pieces bedilim; whereas ophereth is the name of solid lead, obtained by simply melting down from ore which does not contain silver. The fact that bedil is also apparently used as a name for tin, may be explained in the same way as the homonymy of iron and basalt (Com. on Job 28:2), and of the oak and terebinth. The two metals are called by the same name on account of their having a certain outward resemblance, viz., in softness, pliability, colour, and specific gravity.)

in which the silver is contained, and which are separated by smelting, all the baser metals being distinguished from the purer kinds by the fact that they are combustible (i.e., can be oxidized). Both bor, or potash (an alkali obtained from land-plants), and nether, natron (i.e., soda, or natron obtained from the ashes of marine plants, which is also met with in many mineral waters), have been employed from the very earliest times to accelerate the process of smelting, for the purpose of separating a metal from its ore.

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