Bible Commentary

Isaiah 9

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Isaiah 9)

Verse 1

[1] 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.

Nevertheless — The calamity of this land and its inhabitants shall be great, yet not such as that which was brought upon it by the king of Assyria, who at first indeed dealt more gently with them, but afterwards rooted them out.

He — God.

Zebulun — These parts are particularly mentioned, because this storm fell most heavily upon them; but under them the other parts of the land are understood.

Afterward — By Shalmaneser, who took Samaria, and carried Israel into captivity, 2 Kings 17:5,6. Of which calamity, though yet to come, he speaks as if it were past, as the manner of the prophet is.

The sea — In that part of the land which borders upon the sea, the lake Genesareth, upon which the portions of Zebulun and Naphtali bordered.

Galilee — Or, Galilee of the Gentiles, namely, the upper Galilee, so called because it bordered upon the Gentiles.

Verse 2

[2] The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

The people — Israel and Judah.

Darkness — The expression is general and so may well comprehend both calamity and ignorance, idolatry and profaneness, in which those parts were eminently involved.

Have seen — Shall see at the coming of the Messiah.

Verse 3

[3] Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

Thou hast — Thou hast made good thy promise to Abraham concerning the multiplication of his seed, by gathering in the Gentiles to the Jews.

Before thee — In thy presence, and in the place of thy worship.

Verse 4

[4] For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

The yoke — His burdensome yoke.

The staff — The staff or staves by which he was forced to carry burdens upon his shoulders.

The rod — Wherewith he beat him.

Oppressor — Of all his oppressors, but especially of sin and the devil.

As — When God destroyed the Midianites in so admirable a manner by three hundred men.

Verse 5

[5] For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.

Noise — With the triumphant exclamations of the conqueror, and the bitter lamentations of the conquered, and the different cries of the same persons, sometimes conquering, and sometimes conquered.

Blood — With great difficulty and slaughter.

But — But this victory which God's people shall have over all their enemies, shall be more terrible to their adversaries, whom God will utterly consume, as it were by fire.

Verse 6

[6] For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

For — Having spoken of the glorious light, and joy, and victory of God's people, he now proceeds to shew the ground of it.

Us — Unto us Jews, of whom Christ was born, and to whom he was primarily sent.

A child — The Messiah by the consent of interpreters, not only Christian, but Jewish: for so the ancient Hebrew doctors understood the place, and particularly the Chaldee paraphrast; although the latter Jews, out of opposition to Christ, wrest it to Hezekiah. Which extravagant conceit, as it hath no foundation in this or any other text of scripture, so it is fully confuted by the following titles, which are such as cannot without blasphemy and nonsense be ascribed to Hezekiah, nor indeed to any mere mortal man, as we shall see.

Is born — Or, shall be born, as the prophets generally speak.

The government — Of God's people, to whom he is given.

Shoulders — Upon him, or in his hands. He mentions shoulders, because great burdens are commonly laid upon men's shoulders.

His name — This is not to be taken for a description of his name, but of his glorious nature and qualities.

Wonderful counsellor — And so Christ is, because he hath been the counsellor of his church in all ages, and the author and giver of all those excellent counsels delivered not only by the apostles, but also by the prophets, and hath gathered and enlarged, and preserved his church, by admirable counsels and methods of his providence, and, in a word, hath in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Colossians 2:3.

Mighty God — This title can agree to no man but Christ, who was God as well as man, to whom the title of God or Jehovah is given, both in the Old and New Testament. And it is a true observation, that this Hebrew word El is never used in the singular number, of any creature, but only of the almighty God.

The father — The father of eternity. Who, though as man he was then unborn, yet was and is from everlasting to everlasting.

Verse 7

[7] 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.

No end — His peaceable and happy government shall be extended to all the ends of the earth.

The throne — Which was promised to David, and to his seed for ever.

For ever — From the beginning of it to all eternity.

The zeal — This great work shall be brought to pass by almighty God, out of that fervent affection which he hath to his own glory, to the honour of his son, and to his people.

Verse 8

[8] The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.

The Lord — The prophet, having inserted some consolatory passages for God's faithful people, returns to his former comminution against the rebellious Israelites.

And — Heb. it fell, that is, it shall fall, in the prophetical style. It shall certainly be accomplished.

Verse 9

[9] And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart,

Know — They shall know whether my word be true or false.

Even — The people of the ten tribes, and particularly Ephraim, the proudest of them all.

Samaria — The strongest place, and the seat of the king and court.

Verse 10

[10] The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.

Stones — We have received some damage; but, we doubt not we shall quickly repair it with advantage.

Verse 11

[11] Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together;

Therefore — To chastise your pride, and defeat your hopes.

Set up — The Assyrians, who, presently after this prophecy, prevailed against him, 2 Kings 16:7. He mentions Rezin, because he was confederate with Ephraim.

Join — So that they shall invade him from several quarters.

His — Not Rezin's, but Ephraim.

Verse 12

[12] The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

Syrians — For though Rezin, king of Syria was destroyed, yet the body of the nation survived, and submitted themselves to the king of Assyria, and upon his command invaded Israel afterwards.

Before — Heb. on the east: for Syria stood eastward from Israel. Behind - On the western side of the land of Israel.

Devour — Like wild beasts.

Verse 13

[13] For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts.

Him — To God.

Verse 14

[14] Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day.

Head — High and low.

Branch — The goodly branches of tall trees, the mighty and noble.

Rush — The bulrush, the weakest and meanest persons.

One day — All together, one as well as another.

Verse 15

[15] The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.

The prophet — Whose destruction he mentions, not as if it were a punishment to them to be deprived of such persons, but partly to shew the extent of the calamity, that it should reach all sorts of persons; and partly to beat down their vain presumptions of peace and prosperity, by shewing that those false prophets, which had fed their vain hopes, should perish, and their false prophecies with them.

Tail — The basest part of the whole people.

Verse 16

[16] For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.

The leaders — Their false prophets.

Cause — By false doctrines and evil counsels and persuasions.

Destroyed — Shall certainly perish.

Verse 17

[17] Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows: for every one is an hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

No joy — Shall not rejoice over them to do them good.

Fatherless — Who are the special objects of his care and pity, and much less upon others.

Every one — Not precisely; for there were seven thousand elect persons among them, when they seemed to Elijah to be universally corrupt, but the body of the people.

Hypocrite — For though they professed to worship God, yet indeed they had forsaken him.

Folly — Wickedness.

Verse 18

[18] For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke.

Burneth — Shall burn you, as it follows, shall devour.

Thorns — The low and mean persons; for these are opposed to the thickets of the forest, in the next clause.

Forest — In the wood, where the trees are tall, and stand thick, having their bows entangled together, which makes them more ready both to catch and to spread the fire.

Smoak — Sending up smoak like a vast furnace.

Verse 21

[21] Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: and they together shall be against Judah. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

Manasseh — Though more near and dear to one another than any other tribe, being both sons of Joseph.

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