Isaiah 14
Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob.
But it is love to His own people which impels the God of Israel to suspend such a judgment of eternal destruction over Babylon. "For Jehovah will have mercy on Jacob, and will once more choose Israel, and will settle them in their own land: and the foreigner will associate with them, and they will cleave to the house of Jacob. And nations take them, and accompany them to their place; and the house of Israel takes them to itself in the land of Jehovah for servants and maid-servants: and they hold in captivity those who led them away captive; and become lords over their oppressors." We have here in nuce the comforting substance of chapters 46-66. Babylon falls that Israel may rise. This is effected by the compassion of God. He chooses Israel once more (iterum, as in Job 14:7 for example), and therefore makes a new covenant with it. Then follows their return to Canaan, their own land, Jehovah's land (as in Hosea 9:3). Proselytes from among the heathen, who have acknowledged the God of the exiles, go along with them, as Ruth did with Naomi. Heathen accompany the exiles to their own place. And now their relative positions are reversed. Those who accompany Israel are now taken possession of by the latter (hithnachēl, κληρονομεῖν ἑαυτῷ, like hithpattēach, Isaiah 52:2, λύεσθαι; cf., p. 62, note, and Ewald, 124, b), as servants and maid-servants; and they (the Israelites) become leaders into captivity of those who led them into captivity (Lamed with the participle, as in Isaiah 11:9), and they will oppress (râdâh b', as in Psalm 49:15) their oppressors. This retribution of life for like is to all appearance quite out of harmony with the New Testament love. But in reality it is no retribution of like for like. For, according to the prophet's meaning, to be ruled by the people of God is the true happiness of the nations, and to allow themselves to be so ruled is their true liberty. At the same time, the form in which the promise is expressed is certainly not that of the New Testament; and it would not possibly have been so, for the simple reason that in Old Testament times, and from an Old Testament point of view, there was no other visible manifestation of the church (ecclesia) than in the form of a nation. This national form of the church has been broken up under the New Testament, and will never be restored. Israel, indeed, will be restored as a nation; but the true essence of the church, which is raised above all national distinctions, will never return to those worldly limits which it has broken through. And the fact that the prophecy moves within those limits here may be easily explained, on the ground that it is primarily the deliverance from the Babylonian captivity to which the promise refers. And the prophet himself was unconscious that this captivity would be followed by another.

And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the LORD for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.
And it shall come to pass in the day that the LORD shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve,
The song of the redeemed is a song concerning the fall of the king of Babel. Isaiah 14:3, Isaiah 14:4. Instead of the hiphil hinniach (to let down) of Isaiah 14:1, we have here, as in the original passage, Deuteronomy 25:19, the form hēniach, which is commonly used in the sense of quieting, or procuring rest. עצב is trouble which plagues (as עמל is trouble which oppresses), and rōgez restlessness which wears out with anxious care (Job 3:26, cf., Ezekiel 12:18). The assimilated min before the two words is pronounced mĭ, with a weak reduplication, instead of mē, as elsewhere, before ח, ה, and even before ר (1 Samuel 23:28; 2 Samuel 18:16). In the relative clause עבּד־בך אשר, אשר is not the Hebrew casus adverb. answering to the Latin ablative qu servo te usi sunt; not do בך ... אשר belong to one another in the sense of quo, as in Deuteronomy 21:3, qu (vitul); but it is regarded as an acc. obj. according to Exodus 1:14 and Leviticus 25:39, qu'on t'a fait servir, as in Numbers 32:5, qu'on donne la terre (Luzzatto). When delivered from such a yoke of bondage, Israel would raise a mâshâl. According to its primary and general meaning, mâshâl signifies figurative language, and hence poetry generally, more especially that kind of proverbial poetry which loves the emblematical, and, in fact, any artistic composition that is piquant in its character; so that the idea of what is satirical or defiant may easily be associated with it, as in the passage before us.

The words are addressed to the Israel of the future in the Israel of the present, as in Isaiah 12:1. The former would then sing, and say as follows. "How hath the oppressor ceased! The place of torture ceased! Jehovah hath broken the rod of the wicked, the ruler's staff, which cmote nations in wrath with strokes without ceasing subjugated nations wrathfully with hunting than nevers stays." Not one of the early translators ever thought of deriving the hap. leg. madhebâh from the Aramaean dehab (gold), as Vitringa, Aurivillius, and Rosenmller have done. The former have all translated the word as if it were marhēbâh (haughty, violent treatment), as corrected by J. D. Michaelis, Doederlein, Knobel, and others. But we may arrive at the same result without altering a single letter, if we take דּאב as equivalent to דּהב, דּוּב, to melt or pine away, whether we go back to the kal or to the hiphil of the verb, and regard the Mem as used in a material or local sense. We understand it, according to madmenah (dunghill) in Isaiah 25:10, as denoting the place where they were reduced to pining away, i.e., as applied to Babylon as the house of servitude where Israel had been wearied to death. The tyrant's sceptre, mentioned in Isaiah 14:5, is the Chaldean world-power regarded as concentrated in the king of Babel (cf., shēbet in Numbers 24:17). This tyrant's sceptre smote nations with incessant blows and hunting: maccath is construed with macceh, the derivative of the same verb; and murdâph, a hophal noun (as in Isaiah 9:1; Isaiah 29:3), with rodeh, which is kindred in meaning. Doederlein's conjecture (mirdath), which has been adopted by most modern commentators, is quite unnecessary. Unceasing continuance is expressed first of all with bilti, which is used as a preposition, and followed by sârâh, a participial noun like câlâh, and then with b'li, which is construed with the finite verb as in Genesis 31:20; Job 41:18; for b'li châsâk is an attributive clause: with a hunting which did not restrain itself, did not stop, and therefore did not spare. Nor is it only Israel and other subjugated nations that now breathe again.

That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!
The LORD hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers.
He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth.
The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing.
"The whole earth rests, is quiet: they break forth into singing. Even the cypresses rejoice at thee, the cedars of Lebanon: 'Since thou hast gone to sleep, no one will come up to lay the axe upon us.'" The preterites indicate inchoatively the circumstances into which the whole earth has now entered. The omission of the subject in the case of pâtz'chu (they break forth) gives the greatest generality to the jubilant utterances: pâtzach rinnâh (erumpere gaudio) is an expression that is characteristic of Isaiah alone (e.g., Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 49:13); and it is a distinctive peculiarity of the prophet to bring in the trees of the forest, as living and speaking beings, to share in the universal joy (cf., Isaiah 55:12). Jerome supposes the trees to be figuratively employed here for the "chiefs of the nations" (principes gentium). But this disposition to allegorize not only destroys the reality of the contents, but the spirit of the poetry also. Cypresses and cedars rejoice because of the treatment which they received from the Chaldean, who made use of the almost imperishable wood of both of them for ornamental buildings, for his siege apparatus, and for his fleets, and even for ordinary ships - as Alexander, for example, built himself a fleet of cypress-wood, and the Syrian vessels had masts of cedar. Of the old cedars of Lebanon, there are hardly thirty left in the principle spot where they formerly grew. Gardner Wilkinson (1843) and Hooker the botanist (1860) estimated the whole number at about four hundred; and according to the conclusion which the latter drew from the number of concentric rings and other signs, not one of them is more than about five hundred years old.

(Note: See Wilkinson's paper in the Athenaeum (London, Noverse 1862).)

Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us.
Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.
But whilst it has become so quiet on earth, there is the most violent agitation in the regions below. "The kingdom of the dead below is all in uproar on account of thee, to meet thy coming; it stirreth up the shades for thee, all the he-goats of the earth; it raiseth up from their throne-seats all the kings of the nations." The notion of Hades, notwithstanding the mythological character which it had assumed, was based upon the double truth, that what a man has been, and the manner in which he has lived on this side the grave, are not obliterated on the other side, but are then really brought to light, and that there is an immaterial self-formation of the soul, in which all that a man has become under certain divinely appointed circumstances, by his own self-determination, is, as it were, reflected in a mirror, and that in a permanent form. This psychical image, to which the dead body bears the same relation as the shattered mould to a cast, is the shade-like corporeality of the inhabitants of Hades, in which they appear essentially though spiritually just as they were on this side the grave. This is the deep root of what the prophet has here expressed in a poetical form; for it is really a mâshâl that he has interwoven with his prophecy here. All Hades is overwhelmed with excitement and wonder, now that the king of Babel, that invincible ruler of the world, who, if not unexpected altogether, was not expected so soon, as actually approaching. From עורר onwards, Sheol, although a feminine, might be the subject; in which case the verb would simply have reverted from the feminine to the radical masculine form. But it is better to regard the subject as neuter; a nescio quid, a nameless power. The shades are suddenly seized with astonishment, more especially the former leaders (leading goats or bell-wethers) of the herds of nations, so that, from sheer amazement, they spring up from their seats.

All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?
And how do they greet this lofty new-comer? "They all rise up and say to thee, Art thou also made weak like us? art thou become like us?" This is all that the shades say; what follows does not belong to them. The pual chullâh (only used here), "to be made sickly, or powerless," signifies to be transposed into the condition of the latter, viz., the Repahim (a word which also occurs in the Phoenician inscriptions, from רפא equals רפה, to be relaxed or weary), since the life of the shades is only a shadow of life (cf., εἴδωλα ἄκικυς, and possibly also καμόντες in Homer, when used in the sense of those who are dying, exhausted and prostrate with weakness). And in Hades we could not expect anything more than this expression of extreme amazement. For why should they receive their new comrade with contempt or scorn? From Isaiah 14:11 onwards, the singers of the mashal take up the song again.

Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.
"Thy pomp is cast down to the region of the dead, the noise of thy harps: maggots are spread under thee, and they that cover thee are worms." From the book of Daniel we learn the character of the Babylonian music; it abounded in instruments, some of which were foreign. Maggots and worms (a bitter sarcasm) now take the place of the costly artistic Babylonian rugs, which once formed the pillow and counterpane of the distinguished corpse. יצּע might be a third pers. hophal (Ges. 71); but here, between perfects, it is a third pers. pual, like yullad in Isaiah 9:5. Rimmâh, which is preceded by the verb in a masculine and to a certain extent an indifferent form (Ges. 147, a), is a collective name for small worms, in any mass of which the individual is lost in the swarm. The passage is continued with איך (on which, as a catchword of the mashal, see at Isaiah 1:21).

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
"How art thou fallen from the sky, thou star of light, sun of the dawn, hurled down to the earth, thou that didst throw down nations from above?" הילל is here the morning star (from hâlal, to shine, resolved from hillel, after the form מאן, Jeremiah 13:10, סעף, Psalm 119:113, or rather attaching itself as a third class to the forms היכל, עירם: compare the Arabic sairaf, exchanger; saikal, sword-cleaner). It derives its name in other ancient languages also from its striking brilliancy, and is here called ben-shachar (sun of the dawn), just as in the classical mythology it is called son of Eos, from the fact that it rises before the sun, and swims in the morning light as if that were the source of its birth.

(Note: It is singular, however, that among the Semitic nations the morning star is not personified as a male (Heōsphoros or Phōsphoros), but as a female (Astarte, see at Isaiah 17:8), and that it is called Nâghâh, Ashtoreth, Zuhara, but never by a name derived from hâlal; whilst the moon is regarded as a male deity (Sin), and in Arabic hilâl signifies the new moon, which might be called ben- shacar (son of the dawn), from the fact that, from the time when it passes out of the invisibility of its first phase, it is seen at sunrise, and is as it were born out of the dawn.)

Lucifer, as a name given to the devil, was derived from this passage, which the fathers (and lately Stier) interpreted, without any warrant whatever, as relating to the apostasy and punishment of the angelic leaders. The appellation is a perfectly appropriate one for the king of Babel, on account of the early date of the Babylonian culture, which reached back as far as the grey twilight of primeval times, and also because of its predominant astrological character. The additional epithet chōlēsh ‛al-gōyim is founded upon the idea of the influxus siderum:

(Note: In a similar manner, the sun-god (San) is called the "conqueror of the king's enemies," "breaker of opposition," etc., on the early Babylonian monuments (see G. Rawlinson, The Five Great Monarchies, i.160).)

cholesh signifies "overthrowing" or laying down (Exodus 17:13), and with ‛al, "bringing defeat upon;" whilst the Talmud (b. Sabbath 149b) uses it in the sense of projiciens sortem, and thus throws light upon the cholesh ( equals purah, lot) of the Mishnah. A retrospective glance is now cast at the self-deification of the king of Babylon, in which he was the antitype of the devil and the type of antichrist (Daniel 11:36; 2 Thessalonians 2:4), and which had met with its reward.

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
"And thou, thou hast said in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, and sit down on the mount of the assembly of gods in the corner of the north. I will ascend to the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High. Nevertheless, thou wilt be cast down into the region of the dead, into the corner of the pit." An antithetical circumstantial clause commences with veattah, just as in Isaiah 14:19, "whilst thou," or "whereas thou." The har hammōēd (mount of assembly) cannot be Zion, as is assumed by Schegg and others, who are led astray by the parallel in Psalm 48:3, which has been entirely misunderstood, and has no bearing upon this passage at all. Zion was neither a northern point of the earth, nor was it situated on the north of Jerusalem. The prophet makes the king of Babylon speak according to the general notion of his people, who had not the seat of the Deity in the midst of them, as the Israelites had, but who placed it on the summit of the northern mountains, which were lost in the clouds, just as the Hindus place it on the fabulous mountains of Kailâsa, which lie towards the north beyond the Himalayas (Lassen, i. 34ff.). ירכתים (with an aspirated כ in a loosely closed syllable) are the two sides into which a thing parts, the two legs of an angle, and then the apex at which the legs separate. And so here, צפון ירכּתי (with an unaspirated Caph in a triply closed syllable) is the uttermost extremity of the north, from which the northern mountains stretch fork-like into the land, and yarcethe-bor the interior of the pit into which its two walls slope, and from which it unfolds or widens. All the foolhardy purposes of the Chaldean are finally comprehended in this, "I will make myself like the Most High;" just as the Assyrians, according to Ctesias, and the Persians, according to the Persae of Aeschylus, really called their king God, and the Sassanidae call themselves bag, Theos, upon coins and inscriptions ('eddammeh is hithpael, equivalent to 'ethdammeh, which the usual assimilation of the preformative Tav: Ges. 34, 2, b). By the אך in Psalm 48:14, the high-flying pride of the Chaldean is contrasted with his punishment, which hurls him down into the lowest depths. אך, which was originally affirmative, and then restrictive (as rak was originally restrictive and then affirmative), passes over here into an adversative, just as in Psalm 49:16; Job 13:15 (a change seen still more frequently in אכן); nevertheless thou wilt be hurled down; nothing but that will occur, and not what you propose. The prophetic tūrad is language that neither befits the inhabitants of Hades, who greet his advent, nor the Israel singing the mashal; but the words of Israel have imperceptibly passed into words of the prophet, who still sees in the distance, and as something future, what the mashal commemorates as already past.

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;
The prophet then continues in the language of prediction. "They that see thee look, considering thee, look at thee thoughtfully: Is this the man that set the earth trembling, and kingdoms shaking? that made the world a wilderness, and destroyed its cities, and did not release its prisoners (to their) home?" The scene is no longer in Hades (Knobel, Umbreit). Those who are speaking thus have no longer the Chaldean before them as a mere shade, but as an unburied corpse that has fallen into corruption. As tēbēl is feminine, the suffixes in Isaiah 14:17 must refer, according to a constructio ad sensum, to the world as changed into a wilderness (midbâr). Pâthach, to open, namely locks and fetters; here, with baithâh, it is equivalent to releasing or letting go (syn. shillēach, Jeremiah 50:33). By the "prisoners" the Jewish exiles are principally intended; and it was their release that had never entered the mind of the king of Babylon.

That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?
All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house.
The prophet, whose own words now follow the words of the spectators, proceeds to describe the state in which the tyrant lies, and which calls for such serious reflections. "All the kings of the nations, they are all interred in honour, every one in his house: but thou art cast away far from thy sepulchre like a shoot hurled away, clothed with slain, with those pierced through with the sword, those that go down to the stones of the pit; like a carcase trodden under feet." Every other king was laid out after his death "in his house" (b'bēthō), i.e. within the limits of his own palace; but the Chaldean lay far away from the sepulchre that was apparently intended for him. The מן in מקברך signifies procul ab, as in Numbers 15:24; Proverbs 20:3. He lies there like nētzer nith‛âb, i.e., like a branch torn off from the tree, that has withered and become offensive, or rather (as neetzer does not mean a branch, but a shoot) like a side-shoot that has been cut off the tree and thrown away with disgust as ugly, useless, and only a hindrance to the regular growth of the tree (possibly also an excrescence); nith‛âb (cast away) is a pregnant expression, signifying "cast away with disgust." The place where he lies is the field of battle. A vaticinium post eventum would be expressed differently from this, as Luzzatto has correctly observed. For what Seder 'Olam says - namely, that Nebuchadnezzar's corpse was taken out of the grave by Evilmerodach, or as Abravanel relates it, by the Medo-Persian conquerors - is merely a conclusion drawn from the passage before us, and would lead us to expect הוצת rather than השלכת. It is a matter of indifference, so far as the truth of the prophecy is concerned, whether it was fulfilled in the person of Nebuchadnezzar I, or of that second Nebuchadnezzar who gave himself out as a son of Nabonet, and tried to restore the freedom of Babylon. The scene which passes before the mind of the prophet is the field of battle. To clear this they made a hole and throw stones (abnē-bor, stones of the pit) on the top, without taking the trouble to shovel in the earth; but the king of Babylon is left lying there, like a carcase that is trampled under foot, and deserves nothing better than to be trampled under foot (mūbâs, part. hoph. of būs, conculcare). They do not even think him worth throwing into a hole along with the rest of the corpses.

But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet.
Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.
"Thou art not united with them in burial, for thou hast destroyed thy land, murdered thy people: the seed of evil-doers will not be named for ever." In this way is vengeance taken for the tyrannical manner in which he has oppressed and exhausted his land, making his people the involuntary instruments of his thirst for conquest, and sacrificing them as victims to that thirst. For this reason he does not meet with the same compassion as those who have been compelled to sacrifice their lives in his service. And it is not only all over for ever with him, but it is so with his dynasty also. The prophet, the messenger of the penal justice of God, and the mouthpiece of that Omnipotence which regulates the course of history, commands this.

Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.
"Prepare a slaughter-house for his sons, because of the iniquity of their fathers! They shall not rise and conquer lands, and fill the face of the earth with cities." They exhortation is addressed to the Medes, if the prophet had any particular persons in his mind at all. After the nocturnal storming of Babylon by the Medes, the new Babylonian kingdom and royal house which had been established by Nabopolassar vanished entirely from history. The last shoot of the royal family of Nabopolassar was slain as a child of conspirators. The second Nebuchadnezzar deceived the people (as Darius says in the great inscription of Behistan), declaring, "I am Nabukudrac ara the son of Nabunita." בּל (used poetically for אל, like בּלי in Isaiah 14:6 for לא) expresses a negative wish (as pen does a negative intention): Let no Babylonian kingdom ever arise again! Hitzig corrects ערים into עיּים (heaps of ruins), Ewald into עריצים (tyrants), Knobel into רעים, and Meier into עדים, which are said to signify conflicts, whilst Maurer will not take ערים in the sense of cities, but of enemies. But there is no necessity for this at all. Nimrod, the first founder of a Babylonio-Assyrian kingdom, built cities to strengthen his monarchy. The king of Asshur built cities for the Medes, for the purpose of keeping them better in check. And it is to this building of cities, as a support to despotism, that the prophet here refers.

For I will rise up against them, saith the LORD of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the LORD.
Thus far the prophet has spoken in the name of God. But the prophecy closes with a word of God Himself, spoken through the prophet. "And I will rise up against them, saith Jehovah of hosts, and root out in Babel name and remnant, sprout and shoot, saith Jehovah. And make it the possession of hedgehogs and marshes of water, and sweep it away with the bosom of destruction, saith Jehovah of hosts." שם ושאר and נין ונכד are two pairs of alliterative proverbial words, and are used to signify "the whole, without exception" (compare the Arabic expression "Kiesel und Kies," "flint and pebble," in the sense of "altogether:" Nldecke, Poesie der alten Araber, p. 162). Jehovah rises against the descendants of the king of Babylon, and exterminates Babylon utterly, root and branch. The destructive forces, which Babylon has hitherto been able to control by raising artificial defences, are now let loose; and the Euphrates, left without a dam, lays the whole region under water. Hedgehogs now take the place of men, and marshes the place of palaces. The kippod occurs in Isaiah 34:11 and Zephaniah 2:14, in the company of birds; but according to the derivation of the word and the dialects, it denotes the hedgehog, which possesses the power of rolling itself up (lxx ἔρημον ὥστε κατοικεῖν ἐχίνους), and which, although it can neither fly, nor climb with any peculiar facility, on account of its mode of walking, could easily get upon the knob of a pillar that had been thrown down (Zephaniah 2:14). The concluding threat makes the mode of Babel's origin the omen of its end: the city of טיט, i.e., Babylon, which had been built for the most part of clay or brick-earth, would be strangely swept away. The pilpel טאטא (or טאטא, as Kimchi conjugates it in Michlol 150ab, and in accordance with which some codices and early editions read וטאטאתיה with double zere) belongs to the cognate root which is mentioned at Psalm 42:5, with an opening ד, ט, ס (cf., Isaiah 27:8), and which signifies to drive or thrust away. מטאטא is that with which anything is driven out or swept away, viz., a broom. Jehovah treats Babylon as rubbish, and sweeps it away, destruction (hashmēd: an inf. absol. used as a substantive) serving Him as a broom.

I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts.
The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:
There now follows, apparently out of all connection, another prophecy against Asshur. It is introduced here quite abruptly, like a fragment; and it is an enigma how it got here, and what it means here, though not an enigma without solution. This short Assyrian passage reads as follows. "Jehovah of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, that takes place; to break Asshur to pieces in my land, and upon my mountain will I tread him under foot: then his yoke departs from them, and his burden will depart from their neck. This is the purpose that is purposed over the whole earth; and this the hand that is stretched out over all nations. For Jehovah of hosts hath purposed, and who could bring it to nought? And His hand that is stretched out, who can turn it back?" It is evidently a totally different judicial catastrophe which is predicted here, inasmuch as the world-power upon which it falls is not called Babel or Chasdim, but Asshur, which cannot possibly be taken as a name for Babylon (Abravanel, Lowth, etc.). Babylon is destroyed by the Medes, whereas Asshur falls to ruin in the mountain-land of Jehovah, which it is seeking to subjugate - a prediction which was literally fulfilled. And only when this had taken place did a fitting occasion present itself for a prophecy against Babel, the heiress of the ruined Assyrian power. Consequently the two prophecies against Babel and Asshur form a hysteron-proteron as they stand here. The thought which occasioned this arrangement, and which it is intended to set forth, is expressed by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 50:18-19, "Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria." The one event was a pledge of the other. At a time when the prophecy against Assyria had actually been fulfilled, the prophet attached it to the still unfulfilled prophecy against Babylon, to give a pledge of the fulfilment of the latter. This was the pedestal upon which the Massâh Bâbel was raised. And it was doubly suited for this, on account of its purely epilogical tone from Isaiah 14:26 onwards.

That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.
This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations.
For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?
In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden.
This is one of the prophecies the date of which is fixed in Isaiah 14:28. "In the year of the death of king Ahaz the following oracle was uttered." "The year of the death of king Aha"Z was (as in Isaiah 6:1) the year in which the death of Ahaz was to take place. In that year the Philistines still remained in those possessions, their hold of which was so shameful to Judah, and had not yet met with any humiliating retribution. But this year was the turning-point; for Hezekiah, the successor of Ahaz, not only recovered the cities that they had taken, but thoroughly defeated them in their own land (2 Kings 18:8).

Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.
It was therefore in a most eventful and decisive year that Isaiah began to prophesy as follows. "Rejoice not so fully, O Philistia, that the rod which smote thee is broken to pieces; for out of the serpent's root comes forth a basilisk, and its fruit is a flying dragon." Shēbet maccēk, "the rod which smote thee" (not "of him that smote thee," which is not so appropriate), is the Davidic sceptre, which had formerly kept the Philistines in subjection under David and Solomon, and again in more recent times since the reign of Uzziah. This sceptre was now broken to pieces, for the Davidic kingdom had been brought down by the Syro-Ephraimitish war, and had not been able to recover itself; and so far as its power over the surrounding nations was concerned, it had completely fallen to pieces. Philistia was thoroughly filled with joy in consequence, but this joy was all over now. The power from which Philistia had escaped was a common snake (nâchâsh), which had been either cut to pieces, or had died out down to the very roots. But out of this root, i.e., out of the house of David, which had been reduced to the humble condition of its tribal house, there was coming forth a zepha‛, a basilisk (regulus, as Jerome and other early translators render it: see at Isaiah 11:8); and this basilisk, which is dangerous and even fatal in itself, as soon as it had reached maturity, would bring forth a winged dragon as its fruit. The basilisk is Hezekiah, and the flying dragon is the Messiah (this is the explanation given by the Targum); or, what is the same thing, the former is the Davidic government of the immediate future, the latter the Davidic government of the ultimate future. The figure may appear an inappropriate one, because the serpent is a symbol of evil; but it is not a symbol of evil only, but of a curse also, and a curse is the energetic expression of the penal justice of God. And it is as the executor of such a curse in the form of a judgment of God upon Philistia that the Davidic king is here described in a threefold climax as a snake or serpent. The selection of this figure may possibly have also been suggested by Genesis 49:17; for the saying of Jacob concerning Dan was fulfilled in Samson, the sworn foe of the Philistines.

And the firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety: and I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant.
The coming Davidic king is peace for Israel, but for Philistia death. "And the poorest of the poor will feed, and needy ones lie down in peace; and I kill thy root through hunger, and he slays thy remnant." "The poorest of the poor:" becōrē dallim is an intensified expression for benē dallim, the latter signifying such as belong to the family of the poor, the former (cf., Job 18:13, mors dirissima) such as hold the foremost rank in such a family - a description of Israel, which, although at present deeply, very deeply, repressed and threatened on every side, would then enjoy its land in quietness and peace (Zephaniah 3:12-13). In this sense ורעוּ is used absolutely; and there is no necessity for Hupfeld's conjecture (Ps. ii. 258), that we should read בכרי (in my pastures). Israel rises again, but Philistia perishes even to a root and remnant; and the latter again falls a victim on the one hand to the judgment of God (famine), and on the other to the punishment inflicted by the house of David. The change of persons in Isaiah 14:30 is no synallage; but the subject to yaharōg (slays) is the basilisk, the father of the flying dragon. The first strophe of the massah terminates here. It consists of eight lines, each of the two Masoretic Isaiah 14:29, Isaiah 14:30 containing four clauses.

Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone in his appointed times.
The massah consists of two strophes. The first threatens judgment from Judah, and the second - of seven lines - threatens judgment from Asshur. "Howl, O gate! cry, O city! O Philistia, thou must melt entirely away; for from the north cometh smoke, and there is no isolated one among his hosts." שׁער, which is a masculine everywhere else, is construed here as a feminine, possibly in order that the two imperfects may harmonize; for there is nothing to recommend Luzzatto's suggestion, that שׁער should be taken as an accusative. The strong gates of the Philistian cities (Ashdod and Gaza), of world-wide renown, and the cities themselves, shall lift up a cry of anguish; and Philistia, which has hitherto been full of joy, shall melt away in the heat of alarm (Isaiah 13:7, nâmōg, inf. abs. niph.; on the form itself, compare Isaiah 59:13): for from the north there comes a singing and burning fire, which proclaims its coming afar off by the smoke which it produces; in other words, an all-destroying army, out of whose ranks not one falls away from weariness or self-will (cf., Isaiah 5:27), that is to say, an army without a gap, animated throughout with one common desire. (מועד, after the form מושב, the mass of people assembled at an appointed place, or mō'ed, Joshua 8:14; 1 Samuel 20:35, and for an appointed end.)

What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the LORD hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.
To understand Isaiah 14:32, which follows here, nothing more is needed than a few simple parenthetical thoughts, which naturally suggest themselves. This one desire was the thirst for conquest, and such a desire could not possibly have only the small strip of Philistian coast for its object; but the conquest of this was intended as the means of securing possession of other countries on the right hand and on the left. The question arose, therefore, How would Judah fare with the fire which was rolling towards it from the north? For the very fact that the prophet of Judah was threatening Philistia with this fire, presupposed that Judah itself would not be consumed by it.

And this is just what is expressed in Isaiah 14:32 : "And what answer do the messengers of the nations bring? That Jehovah hath founded Zion, and that the afflicted of His people are hidden therein." "The messengers of the nations" (maleacē goi): goi is to be taken in a distributive sense, and the messengers to be regarded either as individuals who have escaped from the Assyrian army, which was formed of contingents from many nations, or else (as we should expect pelitē in that case, instead of mal'acē) messengers from the neighbouring nations, who were sent to Jerusalem after the Assyrian army had perished in front of the city, to ascertain how the latter had fared. And they all reply as if with one mouth (yaaneh): Zion has stood unshaken, protected by its God; and the people of this God, the poor and despised congregation of Jehovah (cf., Zechariah 11:7), are, and know that they are, concealed in Zion. The prophecy is intentionally oracular. Prophecy does not adopt the same tone to the nations as to Israel. Its language to the former is dictatorially brief, elevated with strong self-consciousness, expressed in lofty poetic strains, and variously coloured, according to the peculiarity of the nation to which the oracle refers. The following prophecy relating to Moab shows us very clearly, that in the prophet's view the judgment executed by Asshur upon Philistia would prepare the way for the subjugation of Philistia by the sceptre of David. By the wreck of the Assyrian world-power upon Jerusalem, the house of David would recover its old supremacy over the nations round about. And this really was the case. But the fulfilment was not exhaustive. Jeremiah therefore took up the prophecy of his predecessor again at the time of the Chaldean judgment upon the nations (Jeremiah 47:1-7), but only the second strophe. The Messianic element of the first was continued by Zechariah (Zechariah 9).

Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch [1857-78].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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