Isaiah 9:4
For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.
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(4) For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden . . .—The text comes in the Hebrew with all the emphasis of position. The yoke of his burden . . . thou hast broken. The phrase suggests a bondage like that of Egypt, where the “task-masters” (the same word as that here rendered “oppressors”) drove the people to their labours with their rods.

As in the day of Midian.—The historical allusion was probably suggested by the division of spoil that had been in the prophet’s thoughts. Of all victories in the history of Israel, that of Gideon over the Midianites had been most conspicuous for this feature (Judges 8:24-27). In Psalm 83:9-11 (which the mention of Assur shows to have been nearly contemporary with Isaiah) we find a reference to the same battle. Men remembered “the day of Midian” centuries after its date, as we remember Poitiers and Agincourt.

Isaiah 9:4. For thou hast broken, &c. — Bishop Lowth translates this verse, For the yoke of his burden, the staff laid on his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor hast thou broken, as in the day of Midian. The Jews had been under the yoke repeatedly, to one hostile people or another, and had been sorely oppressed by them; formerly by the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, and Midianites, and, in after times, by the Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, and Macedonians; and many and successive deliverances from their oppressors had God granted them. Now, as the yokes which they had been under were emblematical of those of Satan, sin, and death, the spiritual enemies of God’s people, so their deliverances were figures of the spiritual deliverance which believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, receive through Christ. And of this spiritual deliverance and salvation, as the context shows, this verse is to be understood. For the preceding verses foretel the diffusion of gospel light, and those that follow attest the birth of the Messiah, unfold his characters and offices, and set forth the blessings of his peaceful and righteous reign. See Jeremiah 23:6; Luke 1:70-74, where Zacharias, full of the Holy Ghost, seems most admirably to expound this passage of the prophet. As in the day of Midian — When God destroyed the Midianites in so admirable a manner, and by such unlikely and contemptible means, which was an eminent type of Christ’s conquering the powers of darkness, and all his enemies, by dying on the cross, and by the preaching of a few unlearned, and poor, despised men.

9:1-7 The Syrians and Assyrians first ravaged the countries here mentioned, and that region was first favoured by the preaching of Christ. Those that want the gospel, walk in darkness, and in the utmost danger. But when the gospel comes to any place, to any soul, light comes. Let us earnestly pray that it may shine into our hearts, and make us wise unto salvation. The gospel brings joy with it. Those who would have joy, must expect to go through hard work, as the husbandman, before he has the joy of harvest; and hard conflict, as the soldier, before he divides the spoil. The Jews were delivered from the yoke of many oppressors; this was a shadow of the believer's deliverance from the yoke of Satan. The cleansing the souls of believers from the power and pollution of sin, would be by the influence of the Holy Spirit, as purifying fire. These great things for the church, shall be done by the Messiah, Emmanuel. The Child is born; it was certain; and the church, before Christ came in the flesh, benefitted by his undertaking. It is a prophecy of him and of his kingdom, which those that waited for the Consolation of Israel read with pleasure. This Child was born for the benefit of us men, of us sinners, of all believers, from the beginning to the end of the world. Justly is he called Wonderful, for he is both God and man. His love is the wonder of angels and glorified saints. He is the Counsellor, for he knew the counsels of God from eternity; and he gives counsel to men, in which he consults our welfare. He is the Wonderful Counsellor; none teaches like him. He is God, the mighty One. Such is the work of the Mediator, that no less power than that of the mighty God could bring it to pass. He is God, one with the Father. As the Prince of Peace, he reconciles us to God; he is the Giver of peace in the heart and conscience; and when his kingdom is fully established, men shall learn war no more. The government shall be upon him; he shall bear the burden of it. Glorious things are spoken of Christ's government. There is no end to the increase of its peace, for the happiness of its subjects shall last for ever. The exact agreement of this prophecy with the doctrine of the New Testament, shows that Jewish prophets and Christian teachers had the same view of the person and salvation of the Messiah. To what earthly king or kingdom can these words apply? Give then, O Lord, to thy people to know thee by every endearing name, and in every glorious character. Give increase of grace in every heart of thy redeemed upon earth.For thou hast broken - This verse, and the following, show the way in which the occasion of the joy had been furnished. The expression 'thou hast' does not necessarily refer to the past, but is a form of expression derived from the nature of the prophetic visions, where that is described as past which is seen to pass before the eyes of the prophet; see the Introduction, section 7.

The yoke - This word is often used to denote oppression, or tyranny; Leviticus 26:13; Deuteronomy 28:48 - where oppression is described as 'an iron yoke;' compare 1 Kings 12:4; Isaiah 47:6; Isaiah 58:6.

The staff of his shoulder - The word rendered staff here may mean a bough, a branch, a staff, stick, or rod. Gesenius supposes that the expression here means the rod by which punishment is inflicted, and that the, phrase 'rod of, or for the shoulder,' denotes oppression and servitude. Rosenmuller thinks, that it refers rather to the custom among the ancients of placing a piece of wood, not unlike a yoke, on the necks and shoulders of slaves, as a mark of servitude. Hengstenberg understands it, 'the staff which strikes the neck or back.'

The rod of his oppressor - This, doubtless, refers to the chastisement which was inflicted on those in bondage, and is a phrase denoting oppression and servitude. The word 'his' here refers to Israel.

As in the day of Midian - This refers to the deliverance that was accomplished under Gideon against the Midianites; see Judges 7; 8. That deliverance was a remarkable interposition of God. It was accomplished not by human strength; but was a signal manifestation of the power of God in delivering the nation from the long oppression of the Midianites. So the prophet says here, that the deliverance will be as signal a proof of the presence and power of God as is was in that day. Herder (Hebrew Poetry, vol. ii. p. 296) says, 'At that period, in the north part of the country, a great deliverance was wrought. Then, in the obscure forests of Naphtali and Zebulun, the light of freedom went forth over all the land. So now, also, in this northern press of nations, in the way along the sea of Galilee, where now the hostile Syrians are exercising their oppressions, the light of freedom is going forth, and there shall be joy and jubilee, like that of the song of Deborah.'

4. The occasion of the "joy," the deliverance not only of Ahaz and Judah from the Assyrian tribute (2Ki 16:8), and of Israel's ten tribes from the oppressor (2Ki 15:19), but of the Jewish Christian Church from its last great enemy.

hast—the past time for the future, in prophetic vision; it expresses the certainty of the event.

yoke of his burden—the yoke with which he was burdened.

staff of … shoulder—the staff which strikes his shoulder [Maurer]; or the wood, like a yoke, on the neck of slaves, the badge of servitude [Rosenmuller].

day of Midian—(Jud 7:8-22). As Gideon with a handful of men conquered the hosts of Midian, so Messiah the "child" (Isa 9:6) shall prove to be the "Prince of peace," and the small Israel under Him shall overcome the mighty hosts of Antichrist (compare Mic 5:2-5), containing the same contrast, and alluding also to "the Assyrian," the then enemy of the Church, as here in Isaiah, the type of the last great enemy. For further analogies between Gideon's victory and the Gospel, compare 2Co 4:7, with Jud 7:22. As the "dividing of the spoil" (Isa 9:3) was followed by that which was "not joy," the making of the idolatrous ephod (Jud 8:24-27), so the gospel victory was soon followed by apostasy at the first, and shall be so again after the millennial overthrow of Antichrist (Re 20:3, 7-9), previous to Satan's last doom (Re 20:10).

Thou hast broken: this notes the matter and occasion of the foregoing joy.

The yoke of his burden; his burdensome and heavy yoke, as the throne of holiness is put for the holy throne, Psalm 47:8.

The staff of his shoulder; either the staff wherewith his shoulders were smitten, or the staff or staves by which he was forced to carry burdens upon his shoulders.

The rod, wherewith he beat him. Or, the sceptre; the power and tyranny which he exercised over him.

Of his oppressor; of all his oppressors, but especially of sin and of the devil.

As in the day of Midian; when God destroyed the Midianites in so admirable a manner, and by such unlikely and contemptible means, by three hundred men, and they not fighting, but only holding lamps in their hands, and sounding their trumpets; which was an eminent type of Christ’s conquering the devil, and all his enemies, by dying upon the cross, and by the preaching of a few unlearned and despicable persons, &c.

For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden,.... Of Galilee, of the nation multiplied, of the spiritual inhabitants of it, whose joy was increased; and this is one reason of it, because they were delivered by the Lord from the burdensome yoke of the ceremonial law, which was broken off and abolished by Christ; and from the tyranny of Satan, the god of this world, out of whose hands they were ransomed and delivered; and from the dominion of sin, under the power of which they had been in bondage.

And the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor; different phrases, expressive of the same thing; the bondage and slavery of the law, sin, and Satan:

as in the day of Midian; when Gideon got an entire victory over the Midianites, with a few unarmed men, by the sound of trumpets, and breaking of pitchers, Judges 7:16 and may denote the easy manner in which Christ obtained a conquest over all his and our enemies; and the means by which it is made known unto us, and we are freed from bondage to spiritual enemies; namely, by the ministration of the Gospel, compared to the blowing of trumpets; and which is a treasure put into earthen vessels, frail and weak men.

For thou hast broken the {h} yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

(h) You gave them perfect joy by delivering them, and by destroying the tyrants, that had kept them in cruel bondage, as you delivered them by Gideon from the Midianites, Jud 7:21.

4. Change the order as in R.V. For the yoke of his burden, &c.… thou hast broken.

the staff of his shoulder] (better back) means the staff with which his back was beaten; the pronouns refer to Israel.

rod of his oppressor] task-master, as in Exodus 5:6.

in the day of Midian] when the dominion of the Midianites was for ever broken (Judges 7; cf. Isaiah 10:26). “Day” here means “day of battle,” as often in Arabic. The Arabs speak of the hero of many fights as dhu-l’ ayyâmîn, “master of days.”

4, 5. The destruction of the oppressor.

Verse 4. - Thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, etc. The coming of the Messiah sets the Israelites free, removes the yoke from off their neck, breaks the rod wherewith their shoulders were beaten, delivers them from bondage into the "glorious liberty of the children of God." Not, however, in an earthly sense, since the Messiah's kingdom was not of this world. The "yoke" is that of sin, the "oppressor" is that prince of darkness, who had well-nigh brought all mankind under his dominion when Christ came. His oppressor; literally, his task-master - the same word which is used of the Egyptian taskmasters in Exodus 5:6. As in the day of Midian. The "day of Midian" is probably the time of Israel's deliverance from the Midianite oppression by Gideon (Judges 7:19-25). The special characteristic of the deliverance was, as Dr. Kay well observes, "that it was accomplished without military prowess by a small body of men selected out of Israel, selected expressly in order that Israel might not vaunt itself against the Lord, saying, My own hand hath saved me (Judges 7:2)." Isaiah 9:4"For the yoke of its burden and the stick of its neck, the stick of its oppressor, Thou hast broken to splinters, as in the day of Midian." The suffixes refer to the people (hâēâm). Instead of soblō, from sōbel, we have intentionally the more musical form סבּלו (with dagesh dirimens and chateph kametz under the influence of the previous u instead of the simple sheva). The rhythm of the v. of anapaestic. "Its burden" (subbolo) and "its oppressor" (nogēs bō) both recall to mind the Egyptian bondage (Exodus 2:11; Exodus 5:6). The future deliverance, which the prophet here celebrates, would be the counterpart of the Egyptian. But as the whole of the great nation of Israel was then redeemed, whereas only a small remnant would participate in the final redemption, he compares it to the day of Midian, when Gideon broke the seven years' dominion of Midian, not with a great army, but with a handful of resolute warriors, strong in the Lord (Judges 7). The question suggests itself here, Who is the hero, Gideon's antitype, through whom all this is to occur? The prophet does not say; but building up one clause upon another with כּי, he gives first of all the reason for the cessation of the oppressive dominion of the imperial power - namely, the destruction of all the military stores of the enemy.
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