Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation…
Let me venture to give what I conceive to be the true rendering of the prophecy — a rendering which at least in its main particulars has the support of the best modern interpreters — and the striking beauty and force and consistency of the whole will become evident. The prophet has been speaking in the previous chapter of a time of terrible distress and perplexity which was close at hand. King and people had forsaken their God. Ahaz had refused the sign of deliverance offered him and was hoping, by an alliance with Assyria, to beat off his enemies. The people in their terror were resorting to wizards and to necromancers for guidance instead of resorting to God. And the prophet warns them that the national unbelief and apostasy shall bring its sure chastisement in national despair. They will look around them in vain for succour. The heavens above and the earth beneath shall be wrapt in the same awful gloom. Nothing can exceed the dramatic force of the picture; it is a night at noonday, the very sun blotted from the heavens; it is a darkness which might be felt. But even while the prophet's gaze is fixed upon it he sees the light trembling on the skirts of the darkness. The sunrise is behind the cloud. "The darkness," cries the prophet, "is driven away." So I venture to render the last words of the eighth chapter. "For there shall no more be gloom to her (i.e., to the land) that was in anguish. In the former time He made light of (not 'lightly afflicted' as our A.V. has it), poured contempt upon the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, but in the latter time He hath made it glorious by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee (the circuit) of the nations." Take this rendering and you have a perfectly exact end very striking prediction. It was not true that the land had first been lightly afflicted and afterwards was more grievously afflicted. But it was true that in the former time the land had been despised; Zebulun and Naphtali and Galilee of the nations had been a byword among the Jews; their territory had been trampled under foot by every invader who had ever entered Palestine. In the former time He did make light of it, He did abase it, but in the latter time He made it glorious with a glory far transcending the glory of any earthly kingdom. For it was here, amid this despised half heathen population, that the true Light shined down, here the Lord of Glory lived, it was here that He wrought His wonderful works and uttered His wonderful words, it was here that He gathered fishermen and tax gatherers to be His first disciples and missionaries to the world. This land was of a truth made glorious by the feet of Jesus of Nazareth. Well may the prophet continue, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, on them hath the light shined. Thou hast multiplied the nation, Thou hast increased their joy." The insertion of the negative is an unfortunate mistake which, though found in our present Hebrew text, can be easily explained, and indeed has been corrected by the Hebrew scribes themselves. "They joy before Thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men exult when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff upon his shoulder, the rod of his oppression Thou hast broken, as in the day of Midian. For the greaves of the greaved warrior and the battle tumult and the garments rolled in blood shall be for burning for fuel of fire." The A.V., by the insertion of the words "but this," introduces an antithesis which destroys the whole force and beauty of the picture. Strike out those words and all becomes clear and consistent. The meaning is that at the advent of the Prince of Peace all wars shall cease. The soldier's sandals and the soldier's cloak and all the bloodstained gear of battle shall be gathered together and east into the fire to be burned. The heir of David's throne is no earthly warrior; He does not win His kingdom by force of arms. "For a Child is born unto us, a Son is given unto us, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; He shall wear the insignia of royalty. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with judgment and with righteousness, from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this." Such is the majestic vision of light and Peace that dawns upon the prophet's soul in the midst of the national apostasy.
Parallel VersesKJV: Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
WEB: But there shall be no more gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time, he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the latter time he has made it glorious, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.