Isaiah 47:2
Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover your locks, make bore the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers.
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(2) Take the millstones.—Always the most servile form of female labour (Exodus 11:5; Job 31:10; Matthew 24:41).

Uncover thy locks.—The picture of suffering is heightened by the fact that the female slave has to wade unveiled, and bare-legged, all sense of shame outraged, to the scene of her labours. The picture is, of course, to be taken symbolically, not literally.

47:1-6 Babylon is represented under the emblem of a female in deep distress. She was to be degraded and endure sufferings; and is represented sitting on the ground, grinding at the handmill, the lowest and most laborious service. God was righteous in his vengeance, and none should interpose. The prophet exults in the Lord of hosts, as the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel. God often permits wicked men to prevail against his people; but those who cruelly oppress them will be punished.Take the millstones, and grind meal - The design of this is plain. Babylon, that had been regarded as a delicately-trained female, was to be reduced to the lowest condition of poverty and wretchedness - represented here by being compelled to perform the most menial and laborious offices, and submitting to the deepest disgrace and ignominy. There is an allusion here to the custom of grinding in the East. The mills which were there commonly used, and which are also extensively used to this day, consisted of two stones, of which the lower one was convex on the upper side, and the upper one was concave on thee lower side, so that they fitted into each other. The hole for receiving the grain was in the center of the upper stone, and in the process of grinding the lower one was fixed, and the upper one was turned round, usually by two women (see Matthew 24:41), with considerable velocity by means of a handle. Watermills were not invented until a little before the time of Augustus Caesar; and windmills long after. The custom of using handmills is the primitive custom everywhere, and they are still in use in some parts of Scotland, and generally in the East. (See Mr. Pennant's "Tour to the Hebrides," and the Oriental travelers generally. Grinding was usually performed by the women, though it was often regarded as the work of slaves. It was often inflicted on slaves as a punishment.

Molendum in pistrino; vapulandum; habendae compedes.

Terent. Phormio ii. 1. 19.

In the East it was the usual work of female slaves see (Exodus 11:5, in the Septuagint) 'Women alone are employed to grind their corn.' (Shaw, "Algiers and Tunis," p. 297) 'They are the female slaves that are generally employed in the East at those handmills. It is extremely laborious, and esteemed the lowest employment in the house.' (Sir John Chardin, Harmer's Obs. i. 153) Compare Lowth, and Gesen. "Commentary uber Isaiah." This idea of its being a low employment is expressed by Job 31:10 : 'Let my wife grind unto another.' The idea of its being a most humble and laborious employment was long since exhibited by Homer:

A woman next, then laboring at the mill,

Hard by, where all his numerous mills he kept.

Gave him the sign propitious from within.

twelve damsels toiled to turn them, day by day

Meal grinding, some of barley, some of wheat,

Marrow of man The rest (their portion ground)

All slept, one only from her task as yet

Ceased not, for she was feeblest of them all;

She rested on her mill, and thus pronounced:

'Jove, Father, Governor, of heaven and earth!


2. millstones—like the querns or hand-mills, found in this country, before the invention of water mills and windmills: a convex stone, made by the hand to turn in a concave stone, fitted to receive it, the corn being ground between them: the office of a female slave in the East; most degrading (Job 31:10; Mt 24:41).

uncover thy locks—rather, "take off thy veil" [Horsley]: perhaps the removal of the plaited hair worn round the women's temples is included; it, too, is a covering (1Co 11:15); to remove it and the veil is the badge of the lowest female degradation; in the East the head is the seat of female modesty; the face of a woman is seldom, the whole head almost never, seen bare (see on [827]Isa 22:8).

make bare the leg—rather "lift up (literally, 'uncover'; as in lifting up the train the leg is uncovered) thy flowing train." In Mesopotamia, women of low rank, as occasion requires, wade across the rivers with stript legs, or else entirely put off their garments and swim across. "Exchange thy rich, loose, queenly robe, for the most abject condition, that of one going to and fro through rivers as a slave, to draw water," &c.

uncover … thigh—gather up the robe, so as to wade across.

Take the millstones; betake thyself to the millstones; as we commonly say, Take thy bed, or, Betake thyself to thy bed. The meaning is, Thou shalt be brought down to the basest kind of slavery, which grinding at the mill was esteemed; of which see on Exodus 11:5 Judges 16:21 Job 31:10 Lamentations 5:13. For this work was not performed by horses, as now it is, but by the labour of slaves and captives.

Grind meal; grind bread corn into meal for thy master’s use. Such metonymical expressions we find Isaiah 28:28 Hosea 8:7, and elsewhere. Uncover thy locks; or, thine hair. Take off the ornaments wherewith such women as were free and of good quality used to cover and dress their heads. This and the following passages, though delivered in the form of a command, are only predictions of what they should be forced to do or suffer, as appears from the next verse.

Make bare the leg, uncover the thigh; gird up thy garments close and short about thee, that thou mayst be fit for service, and for travelling on foot, and, as it follows, for passing over those rivers, through which thou wilt be constrained to wade, in the way to the land of thy captivity. Take the millstones, and grind meal,.... Foretelling that the Chaldeans should be taken captives, and used as such, and sent to prison houses, where they should turn the mill, and grind corn into meal; a very servile work, and which used to be done by captives and slaves, even by female ones, Exodus 11:5. The Targum is,

"go into servitude;''

of which this was a sign:

uncover thy locks: the attire and dress of the head, by which the locks were bound up and kept together; but being taken off, would hang loose, and be dishevelled, as in captives and mourners. The Targum is,

"uncover the glory of thy kingdom:''

make bare the leg; or the shoulder, as the Vulgate Latin version, to be scourged by the Persians:

uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers: they are bid to tuck up their clothes so high, that they might pass over the rivers which lay between them and Persia, whither they were carried captives. The Targum is,

"thy princes are broken, the people of their army are scattered, they pass away as the waters of the river.''

Take the millstones, and {c} grind meal: uncover thy locks, {d} make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers.

(c) You will be brought to most vile servitude: for to turn the mill was the office of slaves.

(d) The things in which she sets her greatest pride, will be made vile, even from the head to the foot.

2. Take the millstones &c.] The luxurious lady must betake herself to the occupation of the meanest female slaves in the household: Exodus 11:5; Job 31:10.

uncover thy locks] Rather: take off thy veil (Song of Solomon 4:1; Song of Solomon 4:3; Song of Solomon 6:7).

make bare the leg] remove the skirt. The last word does not occur elsewhere. pass over the rivers] Render: pass through streams, omitting the article. The words are commonly taken to describe the hardships of a journey into exile, but they may simply refer to the degradations which she would have to undergo in performing the drudgery of a common slave (so Dillmann).Verse 2. - Take the millstones, and grind meal. Do the hard work commonly allotted to female slaves. Turn the heavy upper millstone all day long upon the nether one (comp. Exodus 11:5). Babylon having been personified as a female captive, the details have to be in unison. Uncover thy locks. Babylonian women are represented in the Assyrian sculptures as wearing closefitting caps upon their heads (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2, p. 500). Make bare the leg... pass over the rivers. On the way from their own city to the land of their captivity, they would have to wade through streams, and in so doing to expose parts of their persons which delicacy required to be concealed. The second admonition is addressed to those who would imitate the heathen. "Remember this, and become firm, take it to heart, ye rebellious ones! Remember the beginning from the olden time, that I am God, and none else: Deity, and absolutely none like me: proclaiming the issue from the beginning, and from ancient times what has not yet taken place, saying, My counsel shall stand, and all my good pleasure I carry out: calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a distant land: not only have I spoken, I also bring it; I have purposed it, I also execute it." The object to which "this" points back is the nothingness of idols and idolatry. The persons addressed are the פושׁעים (those apostatizing), but, as התאשׁשׁוּ shows, whether it mean ἀνδιρίζεσθε or κραταιοῦσθε (1 Corinthians 16:13), such as have not yet actually carried out their rebellion or apostasy, but waver between Jehovahism and heathenism, and are inclined to the latter. התאשׁשׁו is hardly a denom. hithpalel of אישׁ in the sense of "man yourselves," since אישׁ, whether it signifies a husband or a social being, or like אנושׁ, a frail or mortal being, is at any rate equivalent to אנשׁ, and therefore never shows the modification u. אשׁשׁ (אשׁה) signifies to be firm, strong, compact; in the piel (rabb.), to be well-grounded; nithpael, to be fortified, established; here hithpoel, "show yourselves firm" (Targ., Jer.: fundamini ne rursum subitus idololatriae vos turbo subvertat). That they may strengthen themselves in faith and fidelity, they are referred to the history of their nation; ראשׁנות are not prophecies given at an earlier time - a meaning which the priora only acquire in such a connection as Isaiah 43:9 - but former occurrences. They are to pass before their minds the earlier history, and indeed "from the olden time." "Remember:" zikhrū is connected with the accusative of the object of remembrance, and כּי points to its result. An earnest and thoughtful study of history would show them that Jehovah alone was El, the absolutely Mighty One, and 'Elōhı̄m, the Being who united in Himself all divine majesty by which reverence was evoked. The participles in Isaiah 46:10, Isaiah 46:11 are attached to the "I" of כּמוני. It is Jehovah, the Incomparable, who has now, as at other times from the very commencement of the new turn in history, predicted the issue of which it would lead, and miqqedem, i.e., long before, predicted things that have not yet occurred, and which therefore lit outside the sphere of human combination - another passage like Isaiah 41:26; Isaiah 45:21, etc., in which what is predicted in these prophecies lays claim to the character of a prediction of long standing, and not of one merely uttered a few years before. The ראשׁית, in which the ראשׁנות are already in progress (Isaiah 42:9), is to be regarded as the prophet's ideal present; for Jehovah not only foretells before the appearance of Cyrus what is to be expected of him, but declares that His determination must be realized, that He will bring to pass everything upon which His will is set, and summons the man upon the stage of history as the instrument of its accomplishment, so that He knew Cyrus before he himself had either consciousness or being (Isaiah 45:4-5). The east is Persis (Isaiah 41:2); and the distant land, the northern part of Media (as in Isaiah 13:5). Cyrus is called an eagle, or, strictly speaking, a bird of prey (‛ayit),

(Note: The resemblance to ἀετός (αἰετός) is merely accidental. This name for the eagle is traceable, like avid, to a root vâ, to move with the swiftness of the wind. This was shown by Passow, compare Kuhn's Zeitschrift, i. 29, where we also find at 10, 126 another but less probable derivation from a root i, to go (compare eva, a course).)

just as in Jeremiah 49:22 and Ezekiel 17:3 Nebuchadnezzar is called a nesher. According to Cyrop. vii. 1, 4, the campaign of Cyrus was ἀετὸς χρυσοῦς ἐπὶ δόρατος μακροῦ ἀνατεταμένος. Instead of עצתו אישׁ, the keri reads more clearly, though quite unnecessarily, (עצתי אישׁ (see e.g., Isaiah 44:26). The correlate אף (Isaiah 46:11), which is only attached to the second verb the second time, affirms that Jehovah does not only the one, but the other also. His word is made by Him into a deed, His idea into a reality. יצר is a word used particularly by Isaiah, to denote the ideal preformation of the future in the mind of God (cf., Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 37:26). The feminine suffixes refer in a neuter sense to the theme of the prophecy - the overthrow of idolatrous Babel, upon which Cyrus comes down like an eagle, in the strength of Jehovah. So far we have the nota bene for those who are inclined to apostasy. They are to lay to heart the nothingness of the heathen gods, and, on the other hand, the self-manifestation of Jehovah from the olden time, that is to say, of the One God who is now foretelling and carrying out the destruction of the imperial city through the eagle from the east.

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