(1) Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty . . .—The chapters from 24 to 27, inclusive, are to be taken as a continuous prophecy of the overthrow of the great world-powers which wore arrayed against Jehovah and His people. Of these Assyria was then the most prominent within the horizon of the prophet’s view; but Moab appears in Isaiah 25:10, and the language, with that exception, seems deliberately generalised, as if to paint the general discomfiture in every age (and, above all, in the great age of the future Deliverer) of the enemies of Jehovah and His people. The Hebrew word for “earth” admits (as elsewhere) of the rendering “land”; but here the wider meaning seems to predominate, as in its union with the “world,” in Isaiah 24:4.
They that dwell therein are desolate.—Better, bear their punishment, or are dealt with as guilty.
Are burned.—The word determines, perhaps, the sense of the word “devour” in the previous clause. The curse, the symbol of the wrath of Jehovah, is the consuming fire that burns.
Every house is shut up—i.e., to complete the picture, not because its gates are barred, but because its own ruins block up the entrance.
All joy is darkened.—The English verb exactly expresses the force of the Hebrew, which is used, as in Judges 19:9, of the gloom of sunset. (Comp. Micah 3:6.) The light of joy had passed into the blackness of darkness.
But I said, My leanness, my leanness . . .—The prophet is recalled from the ideal to the actual, from the glory of the future to the shame and misery of the present. “Leanness,” as in Psalm 22:17; Psalm 109:24, was the natural symbol of extremest sorrow. In the “treacherous dealers,” literally, robbers, or barbarians, we may find primarily the Assyrian invaders, who were making the country desolate, or the unjust rulers of Judah, who oppressed the people.
After many days shall they be visited.—The verb is the same as that translated “punish” in the previous verse, but does not in itself involve the idea of punishing, and in some of its forms is used of visiting in mercy. Interpreters have, according to their previous bias, assigned this or that meaning to it. Probably the prophet used it in a neutral sense, drawing his imagery from the custom of Eastern kings, who, after leaving their enemies in prison for an appointed time, came to inspect them, and to award punishment or pardon according to their deserts. In such a company there might be “prisoners of hope” (Zechariah 9:12), waiting with eager expectation for the coming of the king. The passage is interesting in the history of Christian doctrine, as having furnished to Origen and his followers an argument in favour of the ultimate restitution of all created spirits.
The Lord of hosts shall reign . . .—Better, hath become king, the phrase being that used as in 2 Samuel 5:4; 1 Kings 15:1, for a king’s accession to his throne.
And before his ancients gloriously.—Better, and before his elders shall he glory. The “elders” are, like the seventy of Exodus 24:9, like the twenty-four of Revelation 4:4, the chosen ones of the new Jerusalem, to whom it shall be given, as the counsellors of the great King, to see His glory, that glory resting on them as in old time it rested upon Moses.