Isaiah 2:22
Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?
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(22) Cease ye from man . . .—The verse is wanting in some MSS. of the LXX. version, and is rejected by some critics, as of the nature of a marginal comment, and as not in harmony with the context. The first fact is the most weighty argument against it, but is not decisive. The other objection does not count for much. To “cease from man” as well as from “idols” is surely the natural close of the great discourse which had begun with proclaiming that men of all classes and conditions should be brought low. The words “whose breath is in his nostrils” emphasise the frailty of human life (Genesis 2:7; Genesis 7:22; Psalm 146:3-4). Looking to that frailty, the prophet asks, as the psalmist had asked, “What is man? (Psalm 8:1). What is he to be valued at?” If it could be proved that the verse was not Isaiah’s, it is at least the reflection of a devout mind in harmony with his.

Isaiah 2:22. Cease ye from man — “The prophet here subjoins an admonitory exhortation to the men of his own and of all times, to dissuade them from placing any confidence in man, however excellent in dignity, or great in power; as his life depends upon the air which he breathes through his nostrils, and which, if it be stopped, he is no more; and therefore, if you abstract from him the providence and grace of God, and consider him as left to himself, he is worthy of very little confidence and regard: see Psalm 146:3-4. Vitringa is of opinion, that the prophet here alludes immediately to the kings of Egypt: see Isaiah 31:3. And he adds, that the mystical interpretation of the period from the twelfth to this verse, may refer also to other days of the divine judgment, of which there are four peculiarly noted in Scripture, as referring to the new economy. 1st, The day of the subversion of the Jewish republic; 2d, The day of vengeance on the governors of the Roman empire, the persecutors of the church, in the time of Constantine; 3d, The future day of judgment hereafter to take place upon Antichrist and his crew; of which the prophets, and St. John in the Revelation particularly, have spoken; and, 4th, The day of general judgment. It is to this third day that he thinks the present period more immediately refers: see 2 Thessalonians 2:2; Revelation 16:14.” — Dodd.

2:10-22 The taking of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans seems first meant here, when idolatry among the Jews was done away; but our thoughts are led forward to the destruction of all the enemies of Christ. It is folly for those who are pursued by the wrath of God, to think to hide or shelter themselves from it. The shaking of the earth will be terrible to those who set their affections on things of the earth. Men's haughtiness will be brought down, either by the grace of God convincing them of the evil of pride, or by the providence of God depriving them of all the things they were proud of. The day of the Lord shall be upon those things in which they put their confidence. Those who will not be reasoned out of their sins, sooner or later shall be frightened out of them. Covetous men make money their god; but the time will come when they will feel it as much their burden. This whole passage may be applied to the case of an awakened sinner, ready to leave all that his soul may be saved. The Jews were prone to rely on their heathen neighbours; but they are here called upon to cease from depending on mortal man. We are all prone to the same sin. Then let not man be your fear, let not him be your hope; but let your hope be in the Lord your God. Let us make this our great concern.Cease ye from man - That is, cease to confide in or trust in him. The prophet had just said Isaiah 2:11, Isaiah 2:17 that the proud and lofty people would be brought low; that is, the kings, princes, and nobles would be humbled. They in whom the people had been accustomed to confide should show their insufficiency to afford protection. And he calls on the people to cease to put their reliance on any of the devices and refuges of men, implying that trust should be placed in the Lord only; see Psalm 146:3-4; Jeremiah 17:5.

Whose breath is in his nostrils - That is, who is weak and short-lived, and who has no control over his life. All his power exists only while he breathes, and his breath is in his nostrils. It may soon cease, and we should not confide in so frail and fragile a thing as the breath of man; see Psalm 146:3-5 :

Put not your trust in princes,

Nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth;

In that very day his thoughts perish.

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help,

Whose hope is in the Lord his God.

The Chaldee has translated this verse, 'Be not subject to man when he is terrible, whose breath is in his nostrils; because today he lives, and tomorrow he is not, and shall be reputed as nothing.' It is remarkable that this verse is omitted by the Septuagint, as Vitringa supposes, because it might seem to exhort people not to put confidence in their rulers.

For wherein ... - That is, he is unable to afford the assistance which is needed. When God shall come to judge people, what can man do, who is weak, and frail, and mortal? Refuge should be sought in God. The exhortation of the prophet here had respect to a particular time, but it may be applied in general to teach us not to confide in weak, frail, and dying man. For life and health, for food and raiment, for home and friends, and especially for salvation, we are dependent on God. He alone can save the sinner; and though we should treat people with all due respect, yet we should remember that God alone can save us from the great day of wrath.

22. The high ones (Isa 2:11, 13) on whom the people trust, shall be "brought low" (Isa 3:2); therefore "cease from" depending on them, instead of on the Lord (Ps 146:3-5). Seeing God will undoubtedly bring down the highest and proudest of the sons of men into so much contempt and misery, from henceforth never admire nor place your trust in man, whose breath, upon which his life and strength depends, is in his nostrils, and therefore is quickly stopped and taken away.

Wherein is he to be accounted of? what one real and valuable excellency is there in him, to wit, considered in himself, and without dependence upon God?

Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils,.... "From that man" (y), meaning antichrist, the man of sin; who is but a mere man, a poor, frail, mortal man; though he sits in the temple of God, as if he was God, showing himself to be God, by taking that to himself which belongs to the Deity. This is advice to the followers of antichrist, to cease from going after him, and worshipping him, seeing he is not the living God, but a dying man:

for wherein is he to be accounted of? The Targum is,

"for he is alive today, and tomorrow he is not, and he is to be accounted as nothing;''

and much less as Peter's successor, as head of the church, and vicar of Christ, and as having all power in heaven, earth, and hell. It may be applied to men in general, in whom no confidence is to be placed, even the greatest of men, Psalm 118:8 and particularly the Egyptians, in whom the Jews were apt to trust, who were men, and not God; and whose horses were flesh, and not spirit, Isaiah 31:3 so Vitringa; but the first sense is best.

(y) .

Cease ye from man, whose {y} breath is in his nostrils: for why is he to be esteemed?

(y) Cast off your vain confidence in man, whose life is so frail that if his nose is stopped he is dead and consider that you are dealing with God.

22. whose breath … nostrils] A translation both weak and ungrammatical, although retained in R.V. Render: in whose nostrils is a breath. The breath of the nostrils symbolises the divinely imparted principle of life in man (Genesis 2:7); and the meaning of the clause is that man’s life is frail and perishable as a breath (cf. Job 7:7).

This verse is not found in the LXX., and is regarded by many as a later insertion in Isaiah’s prophecy.

Verse 22. - Cease ye from man. This verse is regarded by many as a late marginal note, which has accidentally crept into the text (Diestel, Studer, Cheyne). It is omitted in the Septuagint, and interrupts the sequence of Isaiah 3. on Isaiah 2. somewhat awkwardly. If retained, it must be regarded as an appeal to Israel on the part of the prophet to give up their trust in man, whence had flowed all their other errors. Whose breath is in his nostrils; i.e. "whose life is a mere breath; who, if he ceases to breathe, ceases to live." For wherein is he to be accounted of? or, for of what account is he? Surely, of no account at all.

Isaiah 2:22"To creep into the cavities of the stone-blocks, and into the clefts of the rocks, before the terrible look of Jehovah, and before the glory of His majesty, when He arises to put the earth in terror." Thus ends the fourth strophe of this "dies irae, dies illa," which is appended to the earlier prophetic word. But there follows, as an epiphonem, this nota bene in Isaiah 2:22 : Oh, then, let man go, in whose nose is a breath; for what is he estimated at? The Septuagint leaves this v. out altogether. But was it so utterly unintelligible then? Jerome adopted a false pointing, and has therefore given this marvellous rendering: excelsus (bâmâh!) reputatus est ipse, by which Luther was apparently misled. But if we look backwards and forwards, it is impossible to mistake the meaning of the verse, which must be regarded not only as the resultant of what precedes it, but also as the transition to what follows. It is preceded by the prediction of the utter demolition of everything which ministers to the pride and vain confidence of men; and in Isaiah 3:1. the same prediction is resumed, with a more special reference to the Jewish state, from which Jehovah is about to take away every prop, so that it shall utterly collapse. Accordingly the prophet exhorts, in Isaiah 2:22, to a renunciation of trust in man, and everything belonging to him, just as in Psalm 118:8-9; Psalm 146:3, and Jeremiah 17:5. The construction is as general as that of a gnome. The dat. Commodi לכם (Ges. 154, 3, e) renders the exhortation both friendly and urgent: from regard to yourselves, for your own good, for your own salvation, desist from man, i.e., from your confidence in him, in whose nose (in cujus naso, the singular, as in Job 27:3; whereas the plural is used in Genesis 2:7 in the same sense, in nares ejus, "into his nostrils") is a breath, a breath of life, which God gave to him, and can take back as soon as He will (Job 34:14; Psalm 104:29). Upon the breath, which passes out and in through his nose, his whole earthly existence is suspended; and this, when once lost, is gone for ever (Job 7:7). It is upon this breath, therefore, that all the confidence placed in man must rest - a bad soil and foundation! Under these conditions, and with this liability to perish in a moment, the worth of man as a ground of confidence is really nothing. This thought is expressed here in the form of a question: At (for) what is he estimated, or to be estimated? The passive participle nechshâb combines with the idea of the actual (aestimatus) that of the necessary (aestimandus), and also of the possible or suitable (aestimabilis); and that all the more because the Semitic languages have no special forms for the latter notions. The Beth is Beth pretı̄, corresponding to the Latin genitive (quanti) or ablative (quanto) - a modification of the Beth instrumenti, the price being regarded as the medium of exchange or purchase: "at what is he estimated," not with what is he compared, which would be expressed by ‛eth (Isaiah 53:12; compare μετά, Luke 22:37) or ‛im (Psalm 88:5). The word is בּמּה, not בּמּה, because this looser form is only found in cases where a relative clause follows (eo quod, Ecclesiastes 3:22), and not bama equals h, because this termination with ā is used exclusively where the next word begins with Aleph, or where it is a pausal word (as in 1 Kings 22:21); in every other case we have bammeh. The question introduced with this quanto (quanti), "at what," cannot be answered by any positive definition of value. The worth of man, regarded in himself, and altogether apart from God, is really nothing.

The proclamation of judgment pauses at this porisma, but only for the purpose of gathering fresh strength. The prophet has foretold in four strophes the judgment of God upon every exalted thing in the kosmos that has fallen away from communion with God, just as Amos commences his book with a round of judgments, which are uttered in seven strophes of uniform scope, bursting like seven thunder-claps upon the nations of the existing stage of history. The seventh stroke falls upon Judah, over which the thunderstorm rests after finding such abundant booty. And in the same manner Isaiah, in the instance before us, reduces the universal proclamation of judgment to one more especially affecting Judah and Jerusalem. The current of the address breaks through the bounds of the strophe; and the exhortation in Isaiah 2:22 not to trust in man, the reason for which is assigned in what precedes, also forms a transition from the universal proclamation of judgment to the more special one in Isaiah 3:1, where the prophet assigns a fresh ground for the exhortation.

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