(1) House of Israel.—This forms the link that connects what follows with what precedes. The “house of Israel” had been told that it was “uncircumcised in heart,” on a level with the heathen; now the special sin of the heathen, which it was disposed to follow, is set forth in words of scorn and indignation.
Great in might.—The latter is an almost technical word (as in Isaiah 33:13; Psalm 21:13; Psalm 145:11) for the Divine Omnipotence. (Compare “the Mighty God” of Isaiah 9:6.)
To thee doth it appertain.—Better, for it is thine, i.e., the kingdom over the heathen implied in the title just given.
The wise men.—The word “men” is better omitted. Jehovah is not compared with the sages of the heathen only, but with all to whom they looked as sources and givers of wisdom.
In all their kingdoms.—Better, in all their sovereignty.
The stock is a doctrine of vanities.—Better, inverting the subject and predicate, the teaching of vanities (i.e., of idols) is a word, or is a log. That is all it comes to; that one word is its condemnation.
Uphaz.—Possibly an error of transcription, or dialectical variation, for Ophir, giving the meaning “gold-coast.” The word is found only here and in Daniel 10:5. Some interpreters, however, connect it with the name of Hyphasis, one of the tributaries of the Indus. We cannot attain to greater certainty. (See Note on 1 Kings 9:28.)
Blue and purple.—Both were colours obtained from the murex, a Mediterranean shell-fish, and were used both for the curtains of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:4) and for the gorgeous apparel of the idols of the heathen. “Purple,” as elsewhere in the English of the Bible, must be understood of a deep crimson or scarlet. (Comp. Matthew 27:28; Mark 15:17.)
An everlasting king.—Here, as in other like passages, the English Version is not wrong, but the Hebrew idiom “King of Eternity” is far grander.
The world.—As contrasted with the material earth, the inhabited world, the world considered in its relation to man, as in Proverbs 8:31.
He maketh lightnings.—The last half of the verse agrees verbally with Psalm 135:7 (where see Note), and one is obviously a quotation from the other, or both from some common source. We have no data, however, for saying which is the older of the two. The idea of the “treasure chambers” from which the winds are brought appears in Job 38:22.
Every founder.—The smelter, or worker in molten metal.
In the time of their visitation.—i.e., in the time when they are visited with punishment, as in 1 Peter 2:12; Isaiah 10:3, and Luke 19:44.
The rod of his inheritance.—The phrase was familiar in the poetry of Israel (Psalm 74:2; Isaiah 63:17—Heb.), but its exact meaning is not clear. The word may be “rod” in the sense of “sceptre,” as in Genesis 49:10; Micah 7:14. Israel is that over which, or by means of which, God rules. But the other meaning in which it stands for “stem,” “division,” “tribe” (as in Isaiah 19:13; Exodus 28:21), is equally tenable.
The Lord of hosts is his name.—The time-honoured and awful name is obviously brought in as in emphatic contrast to all the names of the gods of the heathen. Among them all there was no name like “Jehovah Sabaoth,” the Lord of the armies of heaven, of the stars in their courses, of the angels in their ordered ranks, and of the armies of Israel upon earth.
That they may find it so.—In the Hebrew, the verb, though transitive, stands by itself, without an object. The ellipsis has been filled up either by “it,” as in the English Version, i.e., may feel it in all its bitterness; or by “me,” as in the Syriac version, i.e., may be led through their misery to seek and find Jehovah. The parallelism of Deuteronomy 4:29; Jeremiah 29:13, makes the latter meaning probable (see also Acts 17:27); but it may be suggested that the very omission of an object was intended to be suggestive in its abruptness. “They would find . . .;”what they found would depend upon themselves. A possible construction is that they (the enemy) may find them (the people besieged), but this is hardly the natural sequel of the exile of which the previous words speak.
Grievous.—In the sense of all but incurable.
This is a grief . . .—Better, this is my grief or plague, that which I have brought upon myself and must therefore bear. To accept the punishment was in this, as in all cases, the first step to reformation.
Therefore they shall not prosper.—Better, therefore they have not done wisely. This is the primary meaning of the word (that of prosperity, as the result of prudence, the secondary), and is adopted by the LXX., Vulg., and most other versions.
All their flocks.—Literally, all their pasture, the place, or the act, of pasturing, taken practically for the sheep that fed on it.
A den of dragons.—i.e., jackals, as in Jeremiah 9:11.
The way of man.—The path which a man takes for good or evil, for failure or success. His conduct in life depends, the prophet says, on something more than his own choice :—
“There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.”
Compare Proverbs 16:9; Proverbs 20:24, as expressing the same thought of the necessity of divine guidance. The two Hebrew words for “man” are used in the two clauses, the first expressing the weakness, the latter the strength of men. Even the strong man has to confess that he needs a hand other than his own to direct his steps.
Lest thou bring me to nothing.—Literally, lest thou make me small; but the English Version is an adequate expression of the meaning.