Isaiah 33:14
The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness has surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?
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Isaiah 33:14 - Isaiah 33:15
. - 1 John 4:16.

I have put these two verses together because, striking as is at first sight the contrast in their tone, they refer to the same subject, and they substantially preach the same truth. A hasty reader, who is more influenced by sound than by sense, is apt to suppose that the solemn expressions in my first text, ‘the devouring fire’ and’ everlasting burnings,’ mean hell. They mean God, as is quite obvious from the context. The man who is to ‘dwell in the devouring fire’ is the good man. He that is able to abide ‘the everlasting burnings’ is ‘the man that walketh righteously and speaketh uprightly,’ that ‘despiseth the gain of oppression, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil.’ The prophet has been calling all men, far and near, to behold a great act of divine judgment in which God has been manifested in flaming glory, consuming evil; now he represents the ‘sinners in Zion,’ the unworthy members of the nation, as seized with sudden terror, and anxiously asking this question, which in effect means: ‘Who among us can abide peacefully, joyfully, fed and brightened, not consumed and annihilated, by that flashing brightness and purity?’ The prophet’s answer is the answer of common-sense-like draws to like. A holy God must have holy companions.

But that is not all. The fire of God is the fire of love as well as the fire of purity; a fire that blesses and quickens, as well as a fire that destroys and consumes. So the Apostle John comes with his answer, not contradicting the other one, but deepening it, expanding it, letting us see the foundations of it, and proclaiming that as a holy God must be surrounded by holy hearts, which will open themselves to the flame as flowers to the sunshine, so a loving God must be clustered about by loving hearts, who alone can enter into deep and true friendship with Him.

The two answers, then, of these texts are one at bottom; and when Isaiah asks, ‘Who shall dwell with the everlasting fire?’-the perpetual fire, burning and unconsumed, of that divine righteousness-the deepest answer, which is no stern requirement but a merciful promise, is John’s answer, ‘He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God.’

The simplest way, I think, of bringing out the force of the words before us will be just to take these three points which I have already suggested: the world’s question, the partial answer of the prophet, the complete answer of the Apostle.

I. The World’s Question.

I need only remind you how frequently in the Old Testament the emblem of fire is employed to express the divine nature. In many places, though by no means in all, the prominent idea in the emblem is that of the purity of the divine nature, which flashes and flames as against all which is evil and sinful. So we read in one grand passage in this book of Isaiah, ‘the Light of Israel shall become a fire’; as if the lambent beauty of the highest manifestation of God gathered itself together, intensified itself, was forced back upon itself, and from merciful, illuminating light turned itself into destructive and consuming fire. And we read, you may remember, too, in the description of the symbolical manifestation of the divine nature which accompanied the giving of the Law on Sinai, that ‘the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mountain,’ and yet into that blaze and brightness the Lawgiver went, and lived and moved in it.

There is, then, in the divine nature a side of antagonism and opposition to evil, which flames against it, and labours to consume it. I would speak with all respect for the motives of many men in this day who dread to entertain the idea of the divine wrath against evil, lest they should in any manner trench upon the purity and perfectness of the divine love. I respect and sympathise with the motive altogether; and I neither respect nor sympathise with the many ferocious pictures of that which is called the wrath of God against sin, which much so-called orthodox teaching has indulged in. But if you will only remove from that word ‘anger’ the mere human associations which cleave to it, of passion on the one hand, and of a wish to hurt its object on the other, then you cannot, I think, deny to the divine nature the possession of such passionless and unmalignant wrath, without striking a fatal blow at the perfect purity of God. A God that does not hate evil, that does not flame out against it, using all the energies of His being to destroy it, is a God to whose character there cleaves a fatal suspicion of indifference to good, of moral apathy. If I have not a God to trust in that hates evil because He loveth righteousness, then ‘the pillared firmament itself were rottenness, and earth’s base built on stubble’; nor were there any hope that this damnable thing that is killing and sucking the life-blood out of our spirits should ever be destroyed and cast aside. Oh! it is short-sighted wisdom, and it is cruel kindness, to tamper with the thought of the wrath of God, the ‘everlasting burnings’ of that eternally pure nature wherewith it wages war against all sin.

But then, let us remember that, on the other side, the fire which is the destructive fire of perfect purity is also the fire that quickens and blesses. God is love, says John, and love is fire, too. We speak of ‘the flame of love,’ of ‘warm affections,’ and the like. The symbol of fire does not mean destructive energy only. And these two are one. God’s wrath is a form of God’s love; God hates because He loves.

And the ‘wrath’ and the ‘love’ differ much more in the difference of the eyes that look, than they do in themselves. Here are two bits of glass; one of them sifts out and shows all the fiery-red rays, the other all the yellow. It is the one same pure, white beam that passes through them both, but one is only capable of receiving the fiery-red beams of the wrath, and the other is capable of receiving the golden light of the love. Let us take heed lest, by destroying the wrath, we maim the love; and let us take heed lest, by exaggerating the wrath, we empty the love of its sweetness and its preciousness; and let us accept the teaching that these are one, and that the deepest of all the things that the world can know about God lies in that double saying, which does not contradict its second half by its first, but completes its first by its second-God is Righteousness, God is Love.

Well, then, that being so, the question rises to every mind of ordinary thoughtfulness: ‘Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?’ A God fighting against evil; can you and I hope to hold familiar fellowship with Him? A God fighting against evil; if He rises up to exercise His judging and His punishing energies, can we meet Him? ‘Can thy heart endure and thy hands be strong, in the day that I shall deal with thee?’ is the question that comes to each of us if we are reasonable people. I do not dwell upon it; but I ask you to take it, and answer it for yourselves.

To ‘dwell with everlasting burnings’ means two things. First, it means to hold familiar intercourse and communion with God. The question which presents itself to thoughtful minds is-What sort of man must I be if I am to dwell near God? The lowliest bush may be lit by the divine fire and not be consumed by it; and the poorest heart may be all aflame with an indwelling God, if only it yield itself to Him, and long for His likeness. Electricity only flames into consuming fire when its swift passage is resisted. The question for us all is-How can I receive this holy fire into my bosom, and not be burned? Is any communion possible, and if it is, on what conditions? These are the questions which the heart of man is really asking, though it knows not the meaning of its own unrest.

‘To dwell with everlasting burnings’ means, secondly, to bear the action of the fire-the judgment of the present and the judgment of the future. The question for each of us is-How can we face that judicial and punitive action of that Divine Providence which works even here, and how can we face the judicial and punitive action in the future?

I suppose you all believe, or at least say that you believe, that there is such a future judgment. Have you ever asked yourselves the question, and rested not until you got a reasonable answer to it, on which, like a man leaning on a pillar, you can lean the whole weight of your expectations-How am I to come into the presence of that devouring fire? Have you any fireproof dress that will enable you to go into the furnace like the Hebrew youths, and walk up and down in the midst of it, well and at liberty? Have you? ‘Who shall dwell amidst the everlasting fires?’

That question has stirred sometimes, I know, in the consciences of every man and woman that is listening to me. Some of you have tampered with it and tried to throttle it, or laughed at it and shuffled it out of your mind by the engrossments of business, and tried to get rid of it in all sorts of ways: and here it has met you again to-day. Let us have it settled, in the name of common-sense {to invoke nothing higher}, once for all, upon reasonable principles that will stand; and do you see that you settle it to-day.

II. And now, look next at the prophet’s answer.

It is simple. He says that if a man is to hold fellowship with, or to face the judgment of, the pure and righteous God, the plainest dictate of reason and common-sense is that he himself must be pure and righteous to match. The details into which hid answer to the question runs out are all very homely, prosaic, pedestrian kind of virtues, nothing at all out of the way, nothing that people would call splendid or heroic. Here they are:-’He that walks righteously,’-a short injunction, easily spoken, but how hard!-’and speaketh uprightly, he that despiseth the gain of oppression, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, that shutteth his eyes from seeing evil.’ Righteous action, righteous speech, inward hatred of possessions gotten at my neighbour’s cost, and a vehement resistance to all the seductions of sense, shutting one’s hands, stopping one’s ears, fastening one’s eyes up tight so that he may not handle, nor hear, nor see the evil-there is the outline of a trite, everyday sort of morality which is to mark the man who, as Isaiah says, can ‘dwell amongst the everlasting fires.’

Now, if at your leisure you will turn to Psalm 15:1 - Psalm 15:5 and Psalm 24:1 - Psalm 24:10, you will find there two other versions of the same questions and the same answer, both of which were obviously in our prophet’s mind when he spoke. In the one you have the question put: ‘Who shall abide in Thy tabernacle?’ In the other you have the same question put: ‘Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?’ And both these two psalms answer the question and sketch the outline {and it is only an outline} of a righteous man, from the Old Testament point of view, substantially in the same fashion that Isaiah does here.

I do not need to remark upon the altogether unscientific and non-exhaustive nature of the description of righteousness that is set forth here. There are a great many virtues, plain and obvious, that are left out of the picture. But I ask you to notice one very special defect, as it might seem. There is not the slightest reference to anything that we call religion. It is all purely pedestrian, worldly morality; do righteous things; do not tell lies; do not cheat your neighbour; stop your ears if people say foul things in your hearing; shut your eyes if evil comes before you. These are the kind of duties enjoined, and these only. The answer of my text moves altogether on the surface, dealing only with conduct, not with character, and dealing with conduct only in reference to this world. There is not a word about the inner nature, not a word about the inner relation of a man to God. It is the minimum of possible qualifications for dwelling with God.

Well, now, do you achieve that minimum? Suppose we waive for the moment all reference to God; suppose we waive for the moment all reference to motive and inward nature; suppose we keep ourselves only on the outside of things, and ask what sort of conduct a man must have that is able to walk with God? We have heard the answer.

Now, then, is that me? Is this sketch here, admittedly imperfect, a mere black-and-white swift outline, not intended to be shaded or coloured, or brought up to the round; is this mere outline of what a good man ought to be, at all like me? Yes or no? I think we must all say No to the question, and acknowledge our failure to attain to this homely ideal of conduct. The requirement pared down to its lowest possible degree, and kept as superficial as ever you can keep it, is still miles above me, and all I have to say when I listen to such words is, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’

My dear friends, take this one thought away with you:-the requirements of the most moderate conscience are such as no man among us is able to comply with. And what then? Am I to be shut up to despair? am I to say: Then nobody can dwell within that bright flame? Am I to say: Then when God meets man, man must crumble away into nothing and disappear? Am I to say, for myself: Then, alas for me! when I stand at His judgment bar?

III. Let us take the Apostle’s answer.

God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God.’ Now, to begin with, let us distinctly understand that the New Testament answer, represented by John’s great words, entirely endorses Isaiah’s; and that the difference between the two is not that the Old Testament, as represented by psalmist and prophet, said, ‘You must be righteous in order to dwell with God,’ and that the New Testament says, ‘You need not be.’ Not at all! John is just as vehement in saying that nothing but purity can bind a man in thoroughly friendly and familiar conjunction with God as David or Isaiah was. He insists as much as anybody can insist upon this great principle, that if we are to dwell with God we must be like God, and that we are like God when we are like Him in righteousness and love.

‘He that saith he hath fellowship with Him, and walketh in darkness, is a liar!’ That is John’s short way of gathering it all up. Righteousness is as essential in the gospel scheme for all communion and fellowship with God as ever it was declared to be by the most rigid of legalists; and if any of you have the notion that Christianity has any other terms to lay down than the old terms-that righteousness is essential to communion-you do not understand Christianity. If any of you are building upon the notion that a man can come into loving and familiar friendship with God as long as he loves and cleaves to any sin, you have got hold of a delusion that will wreck your souls yet,-is, indeed, harming, wrecking them now, and will finally destroy them if you do not got rid of it. Let us always remember that the declaration of my first text lies at the very foundation of the declaration of my second.

What, then, is the difference between them? Why, for one thing it is this-ISAIAH tells us that we must he righteous, John tells us how we may be. The one says, ‘There are the conditions,’ the other says, ‘Here are the means by which you can have the conditions.’ Love is the productive germ of all righteousness; it is the fulfilling of the law. Get that into your hearts, and all these relative and personal duties will come. If the deepest, inmost life is right, all the surface of life will come right. Conduct will follow character, character will follow love.

The efforts of men to make themselves pure, and so to come into the position of holding fellowship with God, are like the wise efforts of children in their gardens. They stick in their little bits of rootless flowers, and they water them; but, being rootless, the flowers are all withered to-morrow and flung over the hedge the day after. But if we have the love of God in our hearts, we have not rootless flowers, but the seed which will spring up and bear fruit of holiness.

But that is not all. Isaiah says ‘Righteousness,’ John says ‘Love,’ which makes righteousness. And then he tells us how we may get love, having first told us how we may get righteousness: ‘We love Him because He first loved us.’ It is just as impossible for a man to work himself into loving God as it is for a man to work himself into righteous actions. There is no difference in the degree of impossibility in the two cases. But what we can do is, we can go and gaze at the thing that kindles the love; we can contemplate the Cross on which the great Lover of our souls died, and thereby we can come to love Him. John’s answer goes down to the depths, for his notion of love is the response of the believing soul to the love of God which was manifested on the Cross of Calvary. To have righteousness we must have love; to have love we must look to the love that God has to us; to look rightly to the love that God has to us we must have faith. Now you have gone down to the very bottom of the matter. Faith is the first step of the ladder, and the second step is love and the third step is righteousness.

And so the New Testament, in its highest and most blessed declarations, rests itself firmly upon these rigid requirements of the old law. You and I, dear brethren, have but one way by which we can walk in the midst of that fire, rejoicing and unconsumed, namely that we shall know and believe the love which God hath to us, love Him back again ‘with pure hearts fervently,’ and in the might of that receptive faith and productive love, become like Him in holiness, and ourselves be ‘baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire.’ Thus, fire-born and fiery, we shall dwell as in our native home, in God Himself.Isaiah 33:14. The sinners in Zion are afraid — This is spoken, not of the Assyrians, but of the Jews. The prophet, having foretold the deliverance of God’s people, and the destruction of their enemies, for the greater illustration of that wonderful work, may be here considered as returning to the description of the dismal condition in which the Jews, especially such of them as were unbelieving and ungodly, should be before this deliverance came. For, although the pious Jews would be, in some measure, supported by a sense of God’s favour, and by his promises, delivered to them by Isaiah, yet very many of them, probably the generality, he foresaw, would be filled with horrors, and expectations of utter destruction. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? — How shall we be able to abide the presence, and endure, or avoid, the wrath of that God, who is a consuming fire; who is now about to destroy us utterly by the Assyrians, and will afterward burn us with unquenchable fire? Or, the prophet may be considered as describing, in these words, the consternation with which the sinners in Zion would be struck, when they should see the Assyrian army destroyed; for the destruction of that is the fire spoken of immediately before, (Isaiah 33:11-12,) and they were conscious to themselves of having provoked this God, by their secret worshipping of other gods, as well as by many other sins. As if he had said, This miraculous destruction of the Assyrians shall strike even the most profane among the Jews, who used to scoff at God’s threatenings, with terror, lest he should proceed in wrath against themselves; so that they shall say, Who among us shall dwell with this devouring fire — Before which so vast an army is as thorns? Who shall dwell with these everlasting burnings — Which have made the Assyrians as the burnings of lime? How shall we be able to endure the wrath of this God, which, if it once seize upon us, will utterly consume us, and will also be a pledge and forerunner of eternal torments in hell, if not prevented by timely repentance? For, since it is sufficiently evident from both the Old and New Testaments, that the Jews, except the Sadducees, did generally believe in the rewards and punishments of a future life; it is not strange if their guilty consciences made them dread both present judgments here, and the terrible consequences of them hereafter.33:1-14 Here we have the proud and false destroyer justly reckoned with for all his fraud and violence. The righteous God often pays sinners in their own coin. Those who by faith humbly wait for God, shall find him gracious to them; as the day, so let the strength be. If God leaves us to ourselves any morning, we are undone; we must every morning commit ourselves to him, and go forth in his strength to do the work of the day. When God arises, his enemies are scattered. True wisdom and knowledge lead to strength of salvation, which renders us stedfast in the ways of God; and true piety is the only treasure which can never be plundered or spent. The distress Jerusalem was brought into, is described. God's time to appear for his people, is, when all other helpers fail. Let all who hear what God has done, acknowledge that he can do every thing. Sinners in Zion will have much to answer for, above other sinners. And those that rebel against the commands of the word, cannot take its comforts in time of need. His wrath will burn those everlastingly who make themselves fuel for it. It is a fire that shall never be quenched, nor ever go out of itself; it is the wrath of an ever-living God preying on the conscience of a never-dying soul.The sinners in Zion are afraid - This verse is evidently designed to describe the alarm that was produced in Jerusalem on impenitent sinners and hypocrites by a view of the judgment of God on the army of Sennacherib. They would see his wrath on his enemies then, and in view of the terrors of his indignation in relation to that army they would be alarmed, and would ask how it would be possible for them to endure such wrath forever. If the effect of the wrath of God even for a night, when it should blaze against that great army, was so terrible, how could it be borne forever? This seems to be the general idea of the passage. A great variety of interpretations have been proposed, which may be seen in Vitringa and Poole. The phrase, 'sinners in Zion' here refers to the wicked and rebellious in Jerusalem.

Fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites - Those who professed to serve God, and yet who were secretly depending on the aid of Egypt (see Isaiah 31:1-9; compare the note at Isaiah 9:17). The sentiment here is, that those who professedly are the friends of God, but who are secretly and really his enemies, are often alarmed at his judgments. When the judgments of God overtake sinners, they are conscious that they deserve also his wrath, and their minds are filled with consternation. So in a time of prevailing sickness, or of pestilence, they who have really no confidence in God, and no evidence that they are prepared to die, are filled with alarm. A true friend of God will be calm in such scenes; a hypocrite will show by his consternation that he has no religion.

Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? - Some have understood this as referring to the fires which they supposed the Assyrian would kindle in Jerusalem, apprehending that he would take and burn the city. But the more probable interpretation is that which refers it to the judgment that would be brought upon the Assyrians - the burning wrath of God like fire that would consume them. The destruction of the Assyrians is repeatedly represented under the image of a storm and tempest, where there would be the 'flame of devouring fire' (see the note at Isaiah 29:6). The sense is this: 'God has suddenly consumed that immense army of his foes. Such must be the awful punishment of the wicked. How can we abide it? We also, through among his people, are his foes, and are exposed to his wrath. How can we endure the terrors of that day when his burning indignation shall also overtake us?'

Shall dwell with everlasting burnings - Who among us could endure to suffer amid such burning wrath forever? If that wrath is so fierce as to consume such an immense host in a single night, who could abide it should it be continued forever and forever? This is the obvious sense of this passage; and it implies:

1. That hypocrites will be greatly alarmed when they see punishment come upon the open and avowed enemies of God.

2. That in such times they will have none of the peace and quiet confidence which his true friends have.

3. That such an alarm is evidence of conscious guilt and hypocrisy.

4. That the persons here spoken of had a belief of the doctrine of eternal punishment - a belief which hypocrites and sinners always have, else why should they be alarmed?

5. That the punishment of hypocrites in the church will be dreadful and terrific. This seems to have been the conviction here. They saw that if such judgments came upon those who had no knowledge of the true God, it must be infinitely more terrible on those who had been trained amidst the institutions of religion, and who had professed attachment to Yahweh. And so it will be in a preeminent degree among those who have been trained in the Christian church, and who have been the professed but insincere followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

14. sinners in Zion—false professors of religion among the elect people (Mt 22:12).

hypocrites—rather, "the profane"; "the abandoned" [Horsley].

who, &c.—If Jehovah's wrath could thus consume such a host in one night, who could abide it, if continued for ever (Mr 9:46-48)? Fire is a common image for the divine judgments (Isa 29:6; 30:30).

among us—If such awful judgments have fallen on those who knew not the true God, how infinitely worse shall fall on us who, amid religious privileges and profession, sin against God, (Lu 12:47, 48; Jas 4:17)?

The sinners in Zion are afraid: this is spoken, not of the Assyrians, as some would have it, but of the Jews, as appears both from the words themselves, and from the following verses. The prophet having foretold the deliverance of God’s people, and the destruction of their enemies, Isaiah 33:10-12, for the greater illustration of that wonderful mercy, here returns to the description, and gives a lively representation of the dismal and frightful condition in which the Jews, especially such of them as were ungodly and unbelieving, were before this deliverance came. Although the godly Jews were, in some measure, supported by the sense of God’s favour, and by God’s promises delivered to them by Isaiah; yet the generality of the people were filled with horrors, and expectation of utter destruction. Who amongst us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? how shall we be able to abide the presence, and endure or avoid the wrath, of that God, who is a consuming fire; who is now about to destroy us utterly by the Assyrians, and will afterwards burn us with unquenchable fire? For seeing it is sufficiently evident, from both Old and New, Testament, as hath been formerly observed and proved, that the Jews, except the Sadducees, did generally believe the rewards and punishments of the future live and these temporal judgments, as they did frequently cut men off from this life, so they transmitted them into that future and endless life; it is not strange if their guilty consciences made them dread both the present judgment here, and the terrible consequences of it hereafter. Heb. who shall dwell for us, &c., i.e. in our stead? who will interpose himself between God’s anger and us? How shall we escape these miseries? That this is the sense of this question may be gathered from the answer given to it in the following verse; in which he directs them to the right course of removing God’s wrath, and regaining his favour. The sinners in Zion are afraid, and fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites,.... Meaning not persons of such a character that dwelt in Jerusalem, who had the guise and form of religion, and not the power of it, and were for fleeing to Egypt, and trusting in Pharaoh, and not in the Lord; who were seized with dread and terror, when the Assyrian army besieged them, or when it was so awfully destroyed by the angel in the night; when, observing the visible and immediate hand of God in it, they might fear the like judgment would fall upon them for their irreligion and hypocrisy; but rather formal professors, and hypocritical persons, in the reformed churches, or Protestants having only a form of godliness, without the power of it, are meant; who, observing God's judgments upon antichrist, shall be seized with a panic, lest the like should come down upon them for their hypocrisy and deceit; unless it should be rather thought that antichrist, and his followers themselves, are designed, who himself is said to sit in the temple of God, and who claim to themselves the name of the church of God, and pretend to be Christians, though they are not; when they shall see the city of Rome in flames, and the vials of God's wrath poured on the antichristian states, shall dread the vengeance of eternal fire, which they express in the following words:

Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? that is, the wrath of God in hell, which is the fire that feeds upon and devours Christless sinners; which shall never be quenched, and is called everlasting fire, in which the followers of antichrist will be tormented for ever; and the smoke of which will ascend for ever and ever, and will be intolerable; none will be able to abide and endure it; see Revelation 14:9. So the Targum interprets it of the place where the ungodly are to be judged and delivered into hell, an everlasting burning.

The {s} sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?

(s) Which do not believe the words of the prophet, and the assurance of their deliverance.

14. The sinners … hypocrites] Rather: The sinners are afraid in Zion, trembling hath seized the impious (see on ch. Isaiah 9:17). An ungodly party still exists, in spite of the fact that Zion is filled with judgment and righteousness (Isaiah 33:5). The reason of their terror is expressed in what immediately follows.

Who among us shall dwell …] The questions are not merely rhetorical, introducing the description of the righteous man, as in Psalm 15:1; Psalm 24:3; but an exclamation put into the mouths of the sinners. They realise at last what Jehovah is, and begin to wonder how they can live with Him who is a consuming fire. The word “dwell” means strictly “sojourn as a protected guest,” and is the same as that used in Psalm 15:1.

everlasting burnings] There is of course no allusion here to eternal punishment. The “fire” is Jehovah’s holiness, manifested in the destruction of His enemies; and this is called eternal because the Divine wrath against sin is inexhaustible.

14–16. Being thus assured of a speedy answer to his prayers, the writer proceeds, in language of great force and beauty, to describe the moral effect on the Jewish people.Verse 14. - The sinners in Zion are afraid. The prophet proceeds to speak in his own person. The judgment on Assyria, he says, cannot but strike terror into the hearts of the immoral and irreligious in Zion. They cannot fail to realize their own danger, and to tremble at it. Who among us, they will say, can dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? They will recognize God as "a consuming Fire" (Deuteronomy 4:24), whose next outbreak may be upon themselves, and will shudder at the prospect. The prophet has thus run through the whole train of thought with a few rapid strides, in accordance with the custom which we have already frequently noticed; and now he commences afresh, mourning over the present miserable condition of things, in psalm-like elegiac tones, and weeping with his weeping people. "Behold, their heroes weep without; the messengers of peace weep bitterly. Desolate are roads, disappeared are travellers; he has broken covenant, insulted cities, despised men. The land mourns, languishes; Lebanon stands ashamed, parched; the meadow of Sharon has become like a steppe, and Bashan and Carmel shake their leaves." אראלּם is probably chosen with some allusion to 'Ariel, the name of Jerusalem in chapter 29; but it has a totally different meaning. We have rendered it "heroes," because אראל is here synonymous with אראל in the Nibelung-like piece contained in 2 Samuel 23:20 and 1 Chronicles 11:22. This 'ărı̄'ēl, which is here contracted into 'er'el (compare the biblical name 'Ar'ēlı̄ and the post-biblical name of the angels, 'Er'ellı̄m), is compounded of 'arı̄ (a lion) and ‛El (God), and therefore signifies "the lion of God," but in this sense, that El (God) gives to the idea of leonine courage merely the additional force of extraordinary or wonderful; and as a composite word, it contents itself with a singular, with a collective sense according to circumstances, without forming any plural at all. The dagesh is to be explained from the fact that the word (which tradition has erroneously regarded as a compound of להם אראה) is pointed in accordance with the form כּרמל (כרמלּו). The heroes intended by the prophet were the messengers sent to Sennacherib to treat with him for peace. They carried to him the amount of silver and gold which he had demanded as the condition of peace (2 Kings 18:14). But Sennacherib broke the treaty, by demanding nothing less than the surrender of Jerusalem itself. Then the heroes of Jerusalem cried aloud, when they arrived at Jerusalem, and had to convey this message of disgrace and alarm to the king and nation; and bitterly weeping over such a breach of faith, such deception and disgrace, the embassy, which had been sent off, to the deep self-humiliation of Judah and themselves, returned to Jerusalem. Moreover, Sennacherib continued to storm the fortified places, in violation of his agreement (on mâ'as ‛arı̄m, see 2 Kings 18:13). The land was more and more laid waste, the fields were trodden down; and the autumnal aspect of Lebanon, with its faded foliage, and of Bashan and Carmel, with their falling leaves, looked like shame and grief at the calamities of the land. It was in the autumn, therefore, that the prophet uttered these complaints; and the definition of the time given in his prophecy (Isaiah 32:10) coincides with this. קמל is the pausal form for קמל, just as in other places an ē with the tone, which has sprung from i, easily passes into a in pause; the sharpening of the syllable being preferred to the lengthening of it, not only when the syllable which precedes the tone syllable is an open one, but sometimes even when it is closed (e.g., Judges 6:19, ויּגּשׁ). Instead of כּערבה we should read כּערבה (without the article), as certain codd. and early editions do.

(Note: We find the same in Zechariah 14:10, and כּערבים in Isaiah 44:4, whereas we invariably have בּערבה (see Michlol, 45b), just as we always find בּאבנים, and on the other hand כּבנים.)

Isaiah having mourned in the tone of the Psalms, now comforts himself with the words of a psalm. Like David in Psalm 12:6, he hears Jehovah speak. The measure of Asshur's iniquity is full; the hour of Judah's redemption is come; Jehovah has looked on long enough, as though sitting still (Isaiah 18:4). Isaiah 33:10 "Now will I arise, saith Jehovah, now exalt myself, now lift up myself." Three times does the prophet repeat the word ‛attâh (now), which is so significant a word with all the prophets, but more especially with Hosea and Isaiah, and which always fixes the boundary-line and turning-point between love and wrath, wrath and love. ארומם (in half pause for ארוממא is contracted from עתרומם (Ges. 54, 2, b). Jehovah would rise up from His throne, and show Himself in all His greatness to the enemies of Israel.

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