Isaiah 26:16
LORD, in trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) Lord, in trouble have they visited thee.—Better, have they missed Thee (as in 1Samuel 20:6; 1Samuel 25:15), or sought after Thee, or, remembered Thee.

They poured out a prayer . . .—The word for “prayer” is a peculiar one, commonly used, as in Isaiah 3:3; Isaiah 8:19, for the whispered incantations of the heathen. Here it appears to mean the low-toned prayers, pitched as in a minor key, of the afflicted. In Isaiah 29:4 we have the same thought more fully developed.

Isaiah 26:16-18. O Lord, in trouble — Amidst the various calamities brought upon them for their correction and especially in their captivity; have they — Namely, thy people; visited thee — Come into thy presence with their prayers and supplications; they poured out a prayer — Prayed much and earnestly, as the expression implies; when thy chastening was upon them — When thou wast punishing them for their sins. Like as a woman is in pain, &c. — A comparison often used to express men’s consternation under great calamities, from which they cannot deliver themselves; so have we been in thy sight — Such has been our anguish and danger, of which thou, O Lord, hast been a witness. We have been with child — That is, we have had great expectation of a speedy and happy deliverance, have been big with hopes; and we have been in pain — Have comforted ourselves with this, that the joyful birth would make us forget our misery, but, alas! we have, as it were, brought forth wind — We have had the torment of a woman in child-bearing, but not the comfort of a living child. “We have had no good issue of all our pangs and throes; they did not produce deliverance and ease, as in the case of travailing women, but all our own labours proved abortive: in vain we struggled with our enemies, who were still too mighty for us,” and we were utterly unable to effect our deliverance. To bring forth wind, is much the same kind of phrase with feeding on wind, and reaping wind, Hosea 12:1; Hosea 8:7; and signifies, to take a great deal of pains to no purpose. This seems to be spoken of the siege which the Jewish people endured, and of all their other labours and sufferings to prevent their coming under the Chaldean yoke. Thus the attempt of Zedekiah to withstand Nebuchadnezzar we find only brought greater evils upon the country, 2 Chronicles 36:13. We have not wrought any deliverance in the earth — In our land, where we had far greater advantages than we could have had elsewhere. Neither have the inhabitants of the world — The Assyrians, Chaldeans, or our other enemies; fallen — By our means.

26:12-19 Every creature, every business, any way serviceable to our comfort, God makes to be so; he makes that work for us which seemed to make against us. They had been slaves of sin and Satan; but by the Divine grace they were taught to look to be set free from all former masters. The cause opposed to God and his kingdom will sink at last. See our need of afflictions. Before, prayer came drop by drop; now they pour it out, it comes now like water from a fountain. Afflictions bring us to secret prayer. Consider Christ as the Speaker addressing his church. His resurrection from the dead was an earnest of all the deliverance foretold. The power of his grace, like the dew or rain, which causes the herbs that seem dead to revive, would raise his church from the lowest state. But we may refer to the resurrection of the dead, especially of those united to Christ.Poured out a prayer - Margin, 'Secret speech.' The Hebrew word לחשׁ lachash means properly a whispering, muttering; and thru a sighing, a calling for help. This is the sense here. In their calamity they sighed, and called on God for help. 16. visited—sought.

poured out—(Ps 62:8), as a vessel emptying out all its contents.

prayer—literally, "a whispered prayer," Margin, "a secret sighing" to God for help (compare Jer 13:17; De 8:16).

They, to wit, thy people, as appears both from the matter of this verse, and from the following verses.

Visited thee; come into thy presence, with their prayers and supplications, as the next clause explains it.

They poured out; which notes the plenty or rather the earnestness of their prayers, as Psalm 42:4 142:2.

A prayer, Heb. a muttering or lowly speech, such as charmers use, and such as Hezekiah used when he was in great distress, Isaiah 38:14, Like a crane or swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove; and such as is usual in case of great humiliation and dejection of mind. When thy chastening was upon them; when thou wast punishing them for their sins.

Lord, in trouble have they visited thee,.... This, and the two following verses Isaiah 26:17, represent the troubles and disappointments of the church and people of God, before the destruction of antichrist; in which time of trouble they will visit the Lord, frequent the throne of grace, as saints in afflictions are wont to do; and sometimes this is the end to be answered by afflictions, Hosea 5:15,

they poured out a prayer; or "muttering" (e); they will pray with a low voice, in an humble and submissive way, as persons in dejected circumstances; not a few words, but many, will they use; their petitions will be numerous; they will continue praying, and be constant at it, and out of the abundance of their hearts their mouth will speak; and they will pour out their souls and their complaints to the Lord, though privately, and with a low voice, and with groans unutterable:

when thy chastening was upon them; the afflicting hand of God, not as a punishment, but as a fatherly chastisement upon them; so all their persecutions from men are considered as permitted by the Lord for their instruction and correction; and these will not drive them from God, but bring them to him to seek him by prayer and supplication.

(e) "mussitationem", Montanus; "submissam orationem", Junius & Tremellius.

LORD, in trouble have they {p} visited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them.

(p) That is, the faithful by the rods were moved to pray to you for deliverance.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. in trouble (“distress” or “straits,” as ch. Isaiah 25:4) have they visited thee] i.e. sought after thee. The verb might also mean “missed thee”—felt their need of thee. This was no doubt a spiritual gain, but the author’s complaint is that so little outward benefit has accrued from the nation’s discipline of sorrow.

they poured out … upon them] A difficult clause. The rendering of A.V. (and R.V.) is perhaps the best that can be made of the received text, but it can hardly be defended. The root-meaning of the word for “prayer” is “whisper,” but in usage it is confined to the sense of “enchantment.” It is questionable if it could mean “whispered prayer,” although the cognate verb in 2 Samuel 12:19 and Psalm 41:7 might be appealed to in support of this view. Moreover, the verbal form “they poured out” is anomalous, and the syntax of “when thy chastisement was upon them” is at least hard. The only alternative translation that requires notice is that of Koppe (adopted by several good commentators): “the binding of a spell was thy chastisement unto them,” i.e. it acted on them with the potency of a spell. The construction there is easy enough and the textual change is only in the vowel-points; but the noun “binding” (“pressure”) does not occur, and the simile is perhaps too bold.

16–18. The poet plunges abruptly into a train of reflection on the depressing side of the nation’s experience.

Verse 16. - Lord, in trouble have they visited thee. Here, at any rate, the redeemed go back in thought to their time of trouble. They remember that what brought them back to God from that alienation which they have confessed (ver. 13) was the affliction which they so long endured. Their present bliss is the result of their former woe, and recalls the thought of it. They poured out a prayer; rather, as in the margin, a secret speech, or a low whisper (Kay); comp. Isaiah 29:4. The word elsewhere means "the muttering of a charm," but must here signify the "whispered prayer" of one in deep humiliation. Isaiah 26:16The tephillâh now returns to the retrospective glance already cast in Isaiah 26:8, Isaiah 26:9 into that night of affliction, which preceded the redemption that had come. "Jehovah, in trouble they missed Thee, poured out light supplication when Thy chastisement came upon them. As a woman with child, who draws near to her delivery, writhes and cries out in her pangs, so were we in Thy sight, O Jehovah. We went with child, we writhed; it was as if we brought forth wind. We brought no deliverance to the land, and the inhabitants of the world did not come to the light." The substantive circumstantial clause in the parallel line, למו מוּסר, castigatione tua eos affilgente (ל as in Isaiah 26:9), corresponds to בּצּר; and לחשׁ צקוּן, a preterite עצוּק etire equals יצק, Job 28:2; Job 29:6, to be poured out and melt away) with Nun paragogic (which is only met with again in Deuteronomy 8:3, Deuteronomy 8:16, the yekōshūn in Isaiah 29:21 being, according to the syntax, the future of kōsh), answers to pâkad, which is used here as in Isaiah 34:16; 1 Samuel 20:6; 1 Samuel 25:15, in the sense of lustrando desiderare. Lachash is a quiet, whispering prayer (like the whispering of forms of incantation in Isaiah 3:3); sorrow renders speechless in the long run; and a consciousness of sin crushes so completely, that a man does not dare to address God aloud (Isaiah 29:4). Pregnancy and pangs are symbols of a state of expectation strained to the utmost, the object of which appears all the closer the more the pains increase. Often, says the perfected church, as it looks back upon its past history, often did we regard the coming of salvation as certain; but again and again were our hopes deceived. The first כּמו is equivalent to כּ, "as a woman with child," etc. (see at Isaiah 8:22); the second is equivalent to כּאשׁר, "as it were, we brought forth wind." This is not an inverted expression, signifying we brought forth as it were wind; but כמו governs the whole sentence in the sense of "(it was) as if." The issue of all their painful toil was like the result of a false pregnancy (empneumatosis), a delivery of wind. This state of things also proceeded from Jehovah, as the expression "before Thee" implies. It was a consequence of the sins of Israel, and of a continued want of true susceptibility to the blessings of salvation. Side by side with their disappointed hope, Isaiah 26:18 places the ineffectual character of their won efforts. Israel's own doings - no, they could never make the land into ישׁוּעת (i.e., bring it into a state of complete salvation); and (so might the final clause be understood) they waited in vain for the judgment of Jehovah upon the sinful world that was at enmity against them, or they made ineffectual efforts to overcome it. This explanation is favoured by the fact, that throughout the whole of this cycle of prophecies yōshbē tēbēl does not mean the inhabitants of the holy land, but of the globe at large in the sense of "the world" (Isaiah 26:21; Isaiah 24:5-6). Again, the relation of יפּלוּ to the תּפּיל in Isaiah 26:19, land the figure previously employed of the pains of child-birth, speak most strongly in favour of the conclusion, that nâphal is here used for the falling of the fruit of the womb (cf., Wis. 7:3, Il. xix. 110, καταπεσεῖν and πεσεῖν). And yōshbē tēbēl (the inhabitants of the world) fits in with this sense (viz., that the expected increase of the population never came), from the fact that in this instance the reference is not to the inhabitants of the earth; but the words signify inhabitants generally, or, as we should say, young, new-born "mortals." The punishment of the land under the weight of the empire still continued, and a new generation did not come to the light of day to populate the desolate land (cf., Psychol. p. 414).
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