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Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
The Fourfold Melodious Echo - Isaiah 25-26
A. First Echo - Isaiah 25:1-8
Salvation of the Nations after the Fall of the Imperial City
There is not merely reflected glory, but reflected sound as well. The melodious echoes commence with Isaiah 25:1. The prophet, transported to the end of the days, commemorates what he has seen in psalms and songs. These psalms and songs not only repeat what has already been predicted; but, sinking into it, and drawing out of it, they partly expand it themselves, and partly prepare the way for its further extension.
1O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.
The first echo is Isaiah 25:1-8, or more precisely Isaiah 25:1-5. The prophet, whom we already know as a psalmist from Isaiah 12:1-6, now acts as choral leader of the church of the future, and praises Jehovah for having destroyed the mighty imperial city, and proved Himself a defence and shield against its tyranny towards His oppressed church. "Jehovah, Thou art my God; I will exalt Thee, I will praise Thy name, that Thou hast wrought wonders, counsels from afar, sincerity, truth. For Thou hast turned it from a city into a heap of stones, the steep castle into a ruin; the palace of the barbarians from being a city, to be rebuilt no more for ever. Therefore a wild people will honour Thee, cities of violent nations fear Thee. For Thou provedst Thyself a stronghold to the lowly, a stronghold to the poor in his distress, as a shelter from the storm of rain, as a shadow from the burning of the sun; for the blast of violent ones was like a storm of rain against a wall. Like the burning of the sun in a parched land, Thou subduest the noise of the barbarians; (like) the burning of the sun through the shadow of a cloud, the triumphal song of violent ones was brought low." The introductory clause is to be understood as in Psalm 118:28 : Jehovah (voc.), my God art Thou. "Thou hast wrought wonders:" this is taken from Exodus 15:11 (as in Psalm 77:15; Psalm 78:12; like Isaiah 12:2, from Exodus 15:2). The wonders which are now actually wrought are "counsels from afar" (mērâcōk), counsels already adopted afar off, i.e., long before, thoughts of God belonging to the olden time; the same ideal view as in Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 37:26 (a parallel which coincides with our passage on every side), and, in fact, throughout the whole of the second part. It is the manifold "counsel" of the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 5:19; Isaiah 14:24-27; Isaiah 19:12, Isaiah 19:17; Isaiah 23:8; Isaiah 28:29) which displays its wonders in the events of time. To the verb עשׂית we have also a second and third object, viz., אמן אמוּנה. It is a common custom with Isaiah to place derivatives of the same word side by side, for the purpose of giving the greatest possible emphasis to the idea (Isaiah 3:1; Isaiah 16:6). אמוּנה indicates a quality, אמן in actual fact. What He has executed is the realization of His faithfulness, and the reality of His promises. The imperial city is destroyed. Jehovah, as the first clause which is defined by tzakeph affirms, has removed it away from the nature of a city into the condition of a heap of stones. The sentence has its object within itself, and merely gives prominence to the change that has been effected; the Lamed is used in the same sense as in Isaiah 23:13 (cf., Isaiah 37:26); the min, as in Isaiah 7:8; Isaiah 17:1; Isaiah 23:1; Isaiah 24:10. Mappēlâh, with kametz or tzere before the tone, is a word that can only be accredited from the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 17:1; Isaiah 23:13). עיר, קריה, and אמרון are common parallel words in Isaiah (Isaiah 1:26; Isaiah 22:2; Isaiah 32:13-14); and zârim, as in Isaiah 1:7 and Isaiah 29:5, is the most general epithet for the enemies of the people of God. The fall of the imperial kingdom is followed by the conversion of the heathen; the songs proceed from the mouths of the remotest nations. Isaiah 25:3 runs parallel with Revelation 15:3-4. Nations hitherto rude and passionate now submit to Jehovah with decorous reverence, and those that were previously oppressive (‛arı̄tzim, as in Isaiah 13:11, in form like pârı̄tzim, shâlı̄shı̄m) with humble fear. The cause of this conversion of the heathen is the one thus briefly indicated in the Apocalypse, "for thy judgments are made manifest" (Revelation 15:4). דּל and אביון (cf., Isaiah 14:30; Isaiah 29:19) are names well known from the Psalms, as applying to the church when oppressed. To this church, in the distress which she had endured (לו בּצּר, as in Isaiah 26:16; Isaiah 63:9, cf., Isaiah 33:2), Jehovah had proved Himself a strong castle (mâ'ōz; on the expression, compare Isaiah 30:3), a shelter from storm and a shade from heat (for the figures, compare Isaiah 4:6; Isaiah 32:2; Isaiah 16:3), so that the blast of the tyrants (compare ruach on Isaiah 30:28; Isaiah 33:11, Psalm 76:13) was like a wall-storm, i.e., a storm striking against a wall (compare Isaiah 9:3, a shoulder-stick, i.e., a stick which strikes the shoulder), sounding against it and bursting upon it without being able to wash it away (Isaiah 28:17; Psalm 62:4), because it was the wall of a strong castle, and this strong castle was Jehovah Himself. As Jehovah can suddenly subdue the heat of the sun in dryness (tzâyōn, abstract for concrete, as in Isaiah 32:2, equivalent to dry land, Isaiah 41:18), and it must give way when He brings up a shady thicket (Jeremiah 4:29), namely of clouds (Exodus 19:9; Psalm 18:12), so did He suddenly subdue the thundering (shâ'on, as in Isaiah 17:12) of the hordes that stormed against His people; and the song of triumph (zâmı̄r, only met with again in Sol 2:12) of the tyrants, which passed over the world like a scorching heat, was soon "brought low" (‛ânâh, in its neuter radical signification "to bend," related to כּנע, as in Isaiah 31:4).
2For thou hast made of a city an heap; of a defenced city a ruin: a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built.
3Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear thee.
4For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.
5Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers, as the heat in a dry place; even the heat with the shadow of a cloud: the branch of the terrible ones shall be brought low.
6And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.
Thus the first hymnic echo dies away; and the eschatological prophecy, coming back to Isaiah 24:23, but with deeper prayerlike penetration, proceeds thus in Isaiah 25:6 : "And Jehovah of hosts prepares for all nations upon this mountain a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things rich in marrow, of wines on the lees thoroughly strained." "This mountain" is Zion, the seat of God's presence, and the place of His church's worship. The feast is therefore a spiritual one. The figure is taken, as in Psalm 22:27., from the sacrificial meals connected with the shelâmim (the peace-offerings). Shemârim mezukkâkim are wines which have been left to stand upon their lees after the first fermentation is over, which have thus thoroughly fermented, and have been kept a long time (from shâmar, to keep, spec. to allow to ferment), and which are then filtered before drinking (Gr. οἶνος σακκίας, i.e., διΰλισμένος or διηθικὸς, from διηθεῖν, percolare), hence wine both strong and clear. Memuchâyı̄m might mean emedullatae ("with the marrow taken out;" compare, perhaps, Proverbs 31:3), but this could only apply to the bones, not to the fat meat itself; the meaning is therefore "mixed with marrow," made marrowy, medullosae. The thing symbolized in this way is the full enjoyment of blessedness in the perfected kingdom of God. The heathen are not only humbled so that they submit to Jehovah, but they also take part in the blessedness of His church, and are abundantly satisfied with the good things of His house, and made to drink of pleasure as from a river (Psalm 36:9). The ring of the v. is inimitably pictorial. It is like joyful music to the heavenly feast. The more flexible form ממחיים (from the original, ממחי equals ממחה) is intentionally chosen in the place of ממּסהים. It is as if we heard stringed instruments played with the most rapid movement of the bow.
7And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.
Although the feast is one earth, it is on an earth which has been transformed into heaven; for the party-wall between God and the world has fallen down: death is no more, and all tears are for ever wiped away. "And He casts away upon this mountain the veil that veiled over all peoples, and the covering that covered over all nations. He puts away death for ever; and the Lord Jehovah wipes the tear from every face; and He removes the shame of His people from the whole earth: for Jehovah hath spoken it." What Jehovah bestows is followed by what He puts away. The "veil" and "covering" (massēcâh, from nâsac equals mâsâc, Isaiah 22:8, from sâcac, to weave, twist, and twist over equals to cover) are not symbols of mourning and affliction, but of spiritual blindness, like the "veil" upon the heart of Israel mentioned in 2 Corinthians 3:15. The penē hallōt (cf., Job 41:5) is the upper side of the veil, the side turned towards you, by which Jehovah takes hold of the veil to lift it up. The second hallōt stands for הלּט (Ges. 71, Anm. 1), and is written in this form, according to Isaiah's peculiar style (vid., Isaiah 4:6; Isaiah 7:11; Isaiah 8:6; Isaiah 22:13), merely for the sake of the sound, like the obscurer niphal forms in Isaiah 24:3. The only difference between the two nouns is this: in lōt the leading idea is that of the completeness of the covering, and in massēcâh that of its thickness. The removing of the veil, as well as of death, is called בּלּע, which we find applied to God in other passages, viz., Isaiah 19:3; Psalm 21:10; Psalm 55:10. Swallowing up is used elsewhere as equivalent to making a thing disappear, by taking it into one's self; but here, as in many other instances, the notion of receiving into one's self is dropped, and nothing remains but the idea of taking away, unless, indeed, abolishing of death may perhaps be regarded as taking it back into what hell shows to be the eternal principle of wrath out of which God called it forth. God will abolish death, so that there shall be no trace left of its former sway. Paul gives a free rendering of this passage in 1 Corinthians 15:54, κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος (after the Aramaean netzach, vincere). The Syriac combines both ideas, that of the Targum and that of Paul: absorpta est mors per victoriam in sempiternum. But the abolition of death is not in itself the perfection of blessedness. There are sufferings which force out a sigh, even after death has come as a deliverance. But all these sufferings, whose ultimate ground is sin, Jehovah sweeps away. There is something very significant in the use of the expression דּמעה (a tear), which the Apocalypse renders πᾶν δάκρυον (Revelation 21:4). Wherever there is a tear on any face whatever, Jehovah wipes it away; and if Jehovah wipes away, this must be done most thoroughly: He removes the cause with the outward symptom, the sin as well as the tear. It is self-evident that this applies to the church triumphant. The world has been judged, and what was salvable has been saved. There is therefore no more shame for the people of God. Over the whole earth there is no further place to be found for this; Jehovah has taken it away. The earth is therefore a holy dwelling-place for blessed men. The new Jerusalem is Jehovah's throne, but the whole earth is Jehovah's glorious kingdom. The prophet is here looking from just the same point of view as Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:28, and John in the last page of the Apocalypse.
8He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.
9And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
After this prophetic section, which follows the first melodious echo like an interpolated recitative, the song of praise begins again; but it is soon deflected into the tone of prophecy. The shame of the people of God, mentioned in Isaiah 25:8, recals to mind the special enemies of the church in its immediate neighbourhood, who could not tyrannize over it indeed, like the empire of the world, but who nevertheless scoffed at it and persecuted it. The representative and emblem of these foes are the proud and boasting Moab (Isaiah 16:6; Jeremiah 48:29). All such attempts as that of Knobel to turn this into history are but so much lost trouble. Moab is a mystic name. It is the prediction of the humiliation of Moab in this spiritual sense, for which the second echo opens the way by celebrating Jehovah's appearing. Jehovah is now in His manifested presence the conqueror of death, the drier of tears, the saviour of the honour of His oppressed church. "And they say in that day, Behold our God, for whom we waited to help us: this is Jehovah, for whom we waited; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation." The undefined but self-evident subject to v'âmar ("they say") is the church of the last days. "Behold:" hinnēh and zeh belong to one another, as in Isaiah 21:9. The waiting may be understood as implying a retrospective glance at all the remote past, even as far back as Jacob's saying, "I wait for Thy salvation, O Jehovah" (Genesis 49:18). The appeal, "Let us be glad," etc., has passed over into the grand hodu of Psalm 118:24.
10For in this mountain shall the hand of the LORD rest, and Moab shall be trodden down under him, even as straw is trodden down for the dunghill.
In the land of promise there is rejoicing, but on the other side of the Jordan there is fear of ruin. Two contrasted pictures are placed here side by side. The Jordan is the same as the "great gulf" in the parable of the rich man. Upon Zion Jehovah descends in mercy, but upon the highlands of Moab in His wrath. "For the hand of Jehovah will sink down upon this mountain, and Moab is trodden down there where it is, as straw is trodden down in the water of the dung-pit. And he spreadeth out his hands in the pool therein, as the swimmer spreadeth them out to swim; but Jehovah forceth down the pride of Moab in spite of the artifices of his hands. Yea, thy steep, towering walls He bows down, forces under, and casts earthwards into dust." Jehovah brings down His hand upon Zion (nūach, as in Isaiah 7:2; Isaiah 11:1), not only to shelter, but also to avenge. Israel, that has been despised, He now makes glorious, and for contemptuous Moab He prepares a shameful end. In the place where it now is תּחתּיו, as in 2 Samuel 7:10; Habakkuk 3:16, "in its own place," its own land) it is threshed down, stamped or trodden down, as straw is trodden down into a dung-pit to turn it into manure: hiddūsh, the inf. constr., with the vowel sound u, possibly to distinguish it from the inf. absol. hiddosh (Ewald, 240, b). Instead of בּמו (as in Isaiah 43:2), the chethib has בּמי (cf., Job 9:30); and this is probably the more correct reading, since madmēnâh, by itself, means the dunghill, and not the tank of dung water. At the same time, it is quite possible that b'mo is intended as a play upon the name Moab, just as the word madmēnâh may possibly have been chosen with a play upon the Moabitish Madmēn (Jeremiah 48:2). In Isaiah 25:11 Jehovah would be the subject, if b'kirbo (in the midst of it) referred back to Moab; but although the figure of Jehovah pressing down the pride of Moab, by spreading out His hands within it like a swimmer, might produce the impression of boldness and dignity in a different connection, yet here, where Moab has just been described as forced down into the manure-pit, the comparison of Jehovah to a swimmer would be a very offensive one. The swimmer is Moab itself, as Gesenius, Hitzig, Knobel, and in fact the majority of commentators suppose. "In the midst of it:" b'kirbo points back in a neuter sense to the place into which Moab had been violently plunged, and which was so little adapted for swimming. A man cannot swim in a manure pond; but Moab attempts it, though without success, for Jehovah presses down the pride of Moab in spite of its artifices עם, as in Nehemiah 5:18; ארבּות, written with dagesh (according to the majority of MSS, from ארבּה, like the Arabic urbe, irbe, cleverness, wit, sharpness), i.e., the skilful and cunning movement of its hands. Saad. gives it correctly, as muchâtale, wiles and stratagems; Hitzig also renders it "machinations," i.e., twistings and turnings, which Moab makes with its arms, for the purpose of keeping itself up in the water. What Isaiah 25:11 affirms in figure, Isaiah 25:12 illustrates without any figure. If the reading were מבצרך חומות משׂגּב, the reference would be to Kir-Moab (Isaiah 15:1; Isaiah 16:7). But as the text stands, we are evidently to understand by it the strong and lofty walls of the cities of Moab in general.
11And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim: and he shall bring down their pride together with the spoils of their hands.
12And the fortress of the high fort of thy walls shall he bring down, lay low, and bring to the ground, even to the dust.