And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares…
It seems that the reign of Uzziah was famous for the invention of new weapons of war (2 Chronicles 26:11-15). Isaiah, observing this, contrasts with it the good time coming, when righteousness rules the relations of kings and kingdoms; and when Messiah, the Prince of righteousness, and therefore Prince of peace, judges among the nations. If Christ really reigned, and held the allegiance of every man and of every nation, all disputes could be settled by arbitration; if each man, and each nation, only wants what is right and what is kind, there need be no more war. Matthew Henry well says, "The design and tendency of the gospel are to make peace and to slay all enmities. It has in it the most powerful obligations and inducements to peace, so that one might reasonably have expected it should have this effect; and it would have had it if it had not been for those lusts of men from which come wars and fightings." Christianity has, in some measure, already triumphed over war and the war-spirit.
I. THE HORRORS OF WAR ARE RELIEVED. Certainly they are so far as concerns civilized and Christian nations. Compare ancient and modern warfare in respect
(1) of giving no quarter;
(2) of unbridled license on taking a city;
(3) of the treatment of captives;
(4) of provisions for the care of the wounded;
(5) of the respectful burial of the dead. So far as the teaching of Christ has influenced international polity and law, he has been the supreme Arbitrator of their disputes. "It is undeniable that Christianity has greatly contributed to ameliorate the political condition of mankind, by diminishing the horrors of war, promoting mutual intercourse, and advancing the useful arts."
II. THE IMPLEMENTS OF WAR ARE DEVOTED TO OTHER USES. The expression, "beat their swords into ploughshares," is figurative, and what it represents is met by the fact that commerce and manufactures advance faster than the making of war-tools. Time was when men and energies were given to the manufacture of weapons and implements of war, and when kings lived to make war. That is all past and gone. Only a small fringe of human labor is related to war material; and kings have discovered that national prosperity and national peace go together hand in hand. Contrast the life in England under the Edwards, and under Victoria. "In such states of society as that among the Hebrews, the peasantry, when summoned to the field, are obliged to provide their own weapons. When, therefore, they were poor, and material for weapons was too expensive for their resources, it would be an obvious thought to turn the ploughshare, which was thin, long, and light for such an instrument, into a sword, which was short and thick as compared with our sword. When the war was over, the change might easily be made back again. A sword would, of course, with equal facility, be changed into a ploughshare. Pruning-hooks may include anything employed in reaping or mowing; such as a sickle or scythe, as well as the long knives used for trimming vines." Show that commerce, knitting lands together by mutual interest, is a handmaid to Christianity in her work of peace.
III. THE WASTE OF TIME AND POWER IN LEARNING WAR ARE CHECKED, Illustrate from the formation of our volunteer army, the members of which give their best energies to peaceful pursuits, and only their leisure to learning the art of war. Note the growing feeling that the soldier-class is almost a useless class; that the money expended on them is a waste; and that the nation suffers by having so much of her young manhood idle, and getting into the moral mischiefs of the idle. The results we thus can recognize have been attained by the triumph of the great Christian principles, of peace, brotherhood, and care for others rather than for self. But we may not rest with any present attainments; we must witness and work for that glorious coming time, when the ideal king is to "judge among the nations," and in reliance on his wisdom and equity, the nations will refer their disputes to his decision, instead of the arbitrament of war. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
WEB: He will judge between the nations, and will decide concerning many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.