Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David, and on his kingdom, to order it…
I. CONCERNING ITS INFATUATED PRIDE. (Vers. 8-12.) The word of menace is to fall like a heavy weight upon the nation, a "burden" especially to be felt by the kingdom of the ten tribes (cf. Zechariah 9:1). It has been made tributary to the Assyrians, yet imagines it will recover its former power by violence and predatory raids. In their bravado they exclaim, "Though the bricks fall down, we will build with freestone; and though sycamores are felled, we will make cedars spring up instead!" To punish this insolence, Jehovah has armed its smaller enemies against it - Syrians in the north-east, Philistines in the south-west; and severer judgments are to follow. The cup is not yet full; the avenging hand is still stretched out. The strophe gives us a picture of infatuation, leading to obstinate resistance and incurring accumulation of punishment. We may be reminded of that fine picture in Homer of Ate, the spirit of error or bewilderment, who with soft feet walks above men's heads, and who would lead all astray to their ruin ('Iliad,' 19:91, sqq.). Yet neither the nation nor the individual falls a prey to such temptations without guilt, though where the guilt begins it may be difficult to trace. The temper of insolence and bravado is a symptom of this aberration creeping on. What need have we to pray that the "eyes of our mind may be opened," that we may never have the light of discernment between the "spirit of truth and the spirit of error" put out in our bosom!
II. CONCERNING ITS OBSTINATE IMPENITENCE. The nation "turns not to him that smote it." It hears not the rod and who hath appointed it. Suffering either changes the disposition and bends the will upon new objects, or it rouses the temper to determined perseverance in the evil course. Men must know the time to retreat and turn back no less than to go forward in a given course. For, as patient continuance in well-doing is blessed with highest promises, the harshness of the impenitent heart treasures up against itself a store of wrath. In this case a visible destruction has come upon Israel. A day of battle has taken place; "hexad and tail, palm and rush," officers and privates in the army alike, have been cut off. For the leaders of Israel have proved misleaders, and their blind followers have perished. And the prophet represents Jehovah as looking sternly on, neither rejoicing in the youth of the nation, nor pitying its disasters. Suffering unrelieved by pity, woes over which Heaven frowns rather than expands with infinite smiles of hope, - such things follow impenitence and willfulness.
III. CONCERNING ITS FLAGRANT INIQUITIES. We say flagrant, and this word exactly fits the prophet's description: "Wrong burning like fire, devouring thorn and thistle, and kindling the thickets of the forest, so that they curl up in columns of smoke." Covetousness devours and ravages like a famine or a pest. Every one begins to devour his own arm in insatiate greed; that is, one tribe its brother-tribe. Not content with mutual rapacity, Manasseh against Ephraim, and Ephraim against Manasseh, the two turn against Judah. And so again and again the deep warning reverberates: "His anger is not turned away; his hand is stretched out still."
IV. CONCERNING JUDICIAL WICKEDNESS AND THE FINAL ISSUE. Here the prophet seems to turn to Judah. As one of Jehovah's noblest attributes is that of Father of the fatherless, and as justice is his delight, so nothing can more darkly designate offense against him than the spoliation of the widow and the orphan. Here, then, the climax of denunciation is reached. And the prophet has now only to hint the future judgment and overthrow. What will they do in the day of visitation? What refuge will be open? What retreat in which a false glory may be hidden? They will cringe as prisoners, and as slain they will fall Better to have the troubled heart, which nevertheless finds its refuge in God, than the reckless self-confidence which invites his anger. Poverty of spirit - against this no prophetic doom is hurled; and adversity with honesty is no real adversity, for the hand of Jehovah is here stretched out, not to smite, but to help. - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
WEB: Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David, and on his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from that time on, even forever. The zeal of Yahweh of Armies will perform this.