Isaiah 28:4
And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looks on it sees, while it is yet in his hand he eats it up.
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(4) And the glorious beauty . . .—Better, And the fading flower of his glorious beauty . . . shall be us the early fig before the fruit-gathering. The “early fig,” as a special delicacy (Hosea 9:10; Micah 7:1), becomes a type of the beauty and pride of Samaria, doomed to inevitable destruction. (Comp. Nahum 3:12.) Such a fig the passer-by seizes, and eagerly devours. So, the prophet says, with a Dante-like homeliness of comparison, should the Assyrian king treat Samaria.

28:1-4 What men are proud of, be it ever so mean, is to them as a crown; but pride is the forerunner of destruction. How foolishly drunkards act! Those who are overcome with wine are overcome by Satan; and there is not greater drudgery in the world than hard drinking. Their health is ruined; men are broken in their callings and estates, and their families are ruined by it. Their souls are in danger of being undone for ever, and all merely to gratify a base lust. In God's professing people, like Israel, it is worse than in any other. And he is just in taking away the plenty they thus abuse. The plenty they were proud of, is but a fading flower. Like the early fruit, which, as soon as discovered, is plucked and eaten.As the hasty fruit before the summer - The word rendered 'hasty fruit' (בכוּרה bikûrâh); in Arabic, bokkore; in Spanish, albacore), denotes the "early fig." this ripens in June; the common fig does not ripen until August. Shaw, in his "Travels," p. 370, says: 'No sooner does the "boccore" (the early fig) draw near to perfection in the middle or latter end of June, than the "kermez" or summer fig begins to be formed, though it rarely ripens before August, about which time the same tree frequently throws out a third crop, or the winter fig, as we may call it. This is usually of a much longer shape and darker complexion than the kermez, hanging and ripening on the tree after the leaves are shed; and provided the winter be mild and temperate it is gathered as a delicious morsel in the spring.' Robinson (George), ("Travels in Palestine and Syria," vol. i. p. 354), says, 'The fig tree, which delights in a rocky and parched soil, and is therefore often found in barren spots where nothing else will grow, is very common in Palestine and the East. The fruit is of two kinds, the "boccore" and the "kermouse." The black and white boccore, or early fig, is produced in May; but the kermouse, or the fig properly so called, which is preserved and exported to Europe, is rarely ripe before September.' Compare Hosea 9:10. The phrase 'before the summer' means before the heat of the summer, when the common fig was usually ripe. The idea here is this, the early fig would be plucked and eaten with great greediness. So the city of Samaria would be seized upon and destroyed by its enemies.

Which when he that looketh upon it seeth ... - That is, as soon as he sees it he plucks it, and eats it at once. He does not lay it up for future use, but as soon as he has it in his hand he devours it. So soon as the Assyrian should see Samaria he would rush upon it, and destroy it. It was usual for conquerors to preserve the cities which they took in war for future use, and to make them a part of the strength or ornament of their kingdom. But Samaria was to be at once destroyed. Its inhabitants were to be carried away, and it would be demolished as greedily as a hungry man plucks and eats the first fig that ripens on the tree.

4. Rather, "the fading flower, their glorious beauty (Isa 28:1), which is on the head of the fat (fertile) valley, shall be as the early fig" [G. V. Smith]. Figs usually ripened in August; but earlier ones (Hebrew bikkurah, Spanish bokkore) in June, and were regarded as a delicacy (Jer 24:2; Ho 9:10; Mic 7:1).

while it is yet—that is, immediately, without delay; describing the eagerness of the Assyrian Shalmaneser, not merely to conquer, but to destroy utterly Samaria; whereas other conquered cities were often spared.

As the hasty fruit; which coming before the season, and before other fruits, is most acceptable; which as soon as a man sees he covets it, and plucks it off, yet doth not long enjoy it, but through greediness devours it almost as soon as he can get it into his hand. And so shall it be with Ephraim’s glory, which his enemies, as soon as they observe, shall covet and spoil, and devour it greedily, and with delight. And the glorious beauty which is on the head of the fat valley,.... Meaning the riches and fruitfulness of the ten tribes, and especially of Samaria the head of them:

shall be a fading flower; as before declared, Isaiah 28:1 and here repeated to show the certainty of it, and to awaken their attention to it:

and as the hasty fruit before the summer; the first ripe fruit, that which is ripe before the summer fruits in common are. The Septuagint render it the first ripe fig; and so the Targum and Aben Ezra:

which when he that looketh upon it seeth it; that it is goodly and desirable, and so gathers it, Micah 7:1,

while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up; and as soon as he has got it into his hand, he cannot keep it there to look at, or forbear eating it, but greedily devours it, and swallows it down at once; denoting what a desirable prey the ten tribes would be to the Assyrian monarch, and how swift, sudden, and inevitable, would be their destruction.

And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the rich valley, shall be a fading flower, and as {d} the early fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up.

(d) Which is not of long continuance, but is soon ripe and first eaten.

4. Render: And the fading flower of his glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley (Isaiah 28:1), shall be like the early fig before the fruit-harvest, &c. These “early figs,” which might be found in the end of June, several weeks before the proper fig-season (in August), were esteemed a great delicacy; Hosea 9:10; Micah 7:1; Nahum 3:12; Jeremiah 24:2.

which when he … seeth] Render: which when any one seeth (lit. “(the seer) seeth”; indef. subj., Davidson, Synt. § 108, R. 1). To see, to snatch, to swallow, is the work of a moment. So greedily and hastily and easily shall the Assyrians devour Samaria!Verse 4. - And the glorious beauty, etc. Translate, And the fading flower of his glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be like an early fig (that comes) before the harvest. Such an "early fig" is a tempting delicacy, devoured as soon as seen (comp. Hosea 9:10; Nahum 3:12; Jeremiah 24:2, etc.). The "beauty" of Samaria would tempt the Assyrians to desire it so soon as they saw it, and would rouse an appetite which would be content with nothing less than the speedy absorption of the coveted morsel. Samaria's siege, once begun, was pressed without intermission, and lasted less than three years (2 Kings 18:9, 10) - a short space compared to that of other sieges belonging to about the same period; e.g., that of Ashdod, besieged twenty-nine years (Herod., 2. 157); that of Tyre, besieged thirteen years ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 3:492). The prophet said this from out of the midst of the state of punishment, and was therefore able still further to confirm the fact, that the punishment would cease with the sin, by the punishment which followed the sin. "For the strong city is solitary, a dwelling given up and forsaken like the steppe: there calves feed, and there they lie down, and eat off its branches. When its branches become withered, they are broken: women come, make fires with them; for it is not a people of intelligence: therefore its Creator has no pity upon it, and its Former does not pardon it." The nation without any intelligence (Isaiah 1:3), of which Jehovah was the Creator and Former (Isaiah 22:11), is Israel; and therefore the fortress that has been destroyed is the city of Jerusalem. The standpoint of the prophet must therefore be beyond the destruction of Jerusalem, and in the midst of the captivity. If this appears strange for Isaiah, nearly every separate word in these two vv. rises up as a witness that it is Isaiah, and no other, who is speaking here (compare, as more general proofs, Isaiah 32:13-14, and Isaiah 5:17; and as more specific exemplifications, Isaiah 16:2, Isaiah 16:9; Isaiah 11:7, etc.). The suffix in "her branches" refers to the city, whose ruins were overgrown with bushes. Synonymous with סעפּים, branches (always written with dagesh in distinction from סעפים, clefts, Isaiah 2:21), is kâtzir, cuttings, equivalent to shoots that can be easily cut off. It was a mistake on the part of the early translators to take kâtzir in the sense of "harvest" (Vulg., Symm., Saad., though not the lxx or Luther). As kâtzir is a collective term here, signifying the whole mass of branches, the predicate can be written in the plural, tisshâbarnâh, which is not to be explained as a singular form, as in Isaiah 28:3. אותהּ, in the neuter sense, points back to this: women light it האיר, as in Malachi 1:10), i.e., make with it a lighting flame (אור) and a warming fire (אוּר, Isaiah 54:16). So desolate does Jerusalem lie, that in the very spot which once swarmed with men a calf now quietly eats the green foliage of the bushes that grow between the ruins; and in the place whence hostile armies had formerly been compelled to withdraw without accomplishing their purpose, women now come and supply themselves with wood without the slightest opposition.
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