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Impending Judgment on the Earth


Now the L ord is about to lay waste the earth and make it desolate,

and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants.


And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest;

as with the slave, so with his master;

as with the maid, so with her mistress;

as with the buyer, so with the seller;

as with the lender, so with the borrower;

as with the creditor, so with the debtor.


The earth shall be utterly laid waste and utterly despoiled;

for the L ord has spoken this word.



The earth dries up and withers,

the world languishes and withers;

the heavens languish together with the earth.


The earth lies polluted

under its inhabitants;

for they have transgressed laws,

violated the statutes,

broken the everlasting covenant.


Therefore a curse devours the earth,

and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;

therefore the inhabitants of the earth dwindled,

and few people are left.


The wine dries up,

the vine languishes,

all the merry-hearted sigh.


The mirth of the timbrels is stilled,

the noise of the jubilant has ceased,

the mirth of the lyre is stilled.


No longer do they drink wine with singing;

strong drink is bitter to those who drink it.


The city of chaos is broken down,

every house is shut up so that no one can enter.


There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine;

all joy has reached its eventide;

the gladness of the earth is banished.


Desolation is left in the city,

the gates are battered into ruins.


For thus it shall be on the earth

and among the nations,

as when an olive tree is beaten,

as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is ended.



They lift up their voices, they sing for joy;

they shout from the west over the majesty of the L ord.


Therefore in the east give glory to the L ord;

in the coastlands of the sea glorify the name of the L ord, the God of Israel.


From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise,

of glory to the Righteous One.

But I say, I pine away,

I pine away. Woe is me!

For the treacherous deal treacherously,

the treacherous deal very treacherously.



Terror, and the pit, and the snare

are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth!


Whoever flees at the sound of the terror

shall fall into the pit;

and whoever climbs out of the pit

shall be caught in the snare.

For the windows of heaven are opened,

and the foundations of the earth tremble.


The earth is utterly broken,

the earth is torn asunder,

the earth is violently shaken.


The earth staggers like a drunkard,

it sways like a hut;

its transgression lies heavy upon it,

and it falls, and will not rise again.



On that day the L ord will punish

the host of heaven in heaven,

and on earth the kings of the earth.


They will be gathered together

like prisoners in a pit;

they will be shut up in a prison,

and after many days they will be punished.


Then the moon will be abashed,

and the sun ashamed;

for the L ord of hosts will reign

on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,

and before his elders he will manifest his glory.


4. The earth hath lamented. Isaiah proceeds with his subject; for all this tends to explain the desolation of the whole world, that is, of the world which was known to the Jews. According to his custom, he illustrates the judgment of God more clearly by figures, which are fitted to produce an effect on sluggish minds.

The lofty people of the earth. 122122    {Bogus footnote} By the “lofty ones” we must understand those eminent persons who held a higher rank than others; for this is more wonderful than if the common people had fallen. Yet if it be thought preferable to explain it as relating peculiarly to the Jews, I have no objection; for although the Assyrians and Egyptians excelled them in wealth and power, still the Jews held the highest rank in this respect, that they had been adopted by God. But I prefer the other exposition, which makes the meaning to be, that the Lord would inflict punishment, not only on common people, but also on those who surpassed others in rank and splendor.

5. And the earth was deceitful. 123123    {Bogus footnote} Others render it “defiled” or “polluted,” because כנף (chānăph) means “to be wicked.” Both renderings may be appropriate; but the next verse appears to demand that we explain it to mean false; for he appears to illustrate and exhibit it more fully immediately afterwards, when he says that “the earth has been consumed by a curse.”

Under its inhabitants. Whether תהת (tăhăth) be translated “Under its inhabitants,” or, “On account of its inhabitants,” is of little importance. There is a kind of mutual bargain between the land and the husbandmen, that it gives back with usury what it has received: if it does not, it deceives those who cultivate it. But he assigns a reason, imputing blame to them, that they render it barren by their wickedness. It is owing to our fault that it does not nourish us or bring forth fruit, as God appointed to be done by the regular order of nature; for he wished that it should hold the place of a mother to us, to supply us with food; and if it change its nature and order, or lose its fertility, we ought to attribute it to our sins, since we ourselves have reversed the order which God had appointed; otherwise the earth would never deceive us, but would perform her duty.

Because they have transgressed the laws. He immediately assigns the reason why the earth is unfaithful, and deceives her inhabitants. It is because those who refuse to honor God their Father and supporter, will justly be deprived of food and nourishment. Here he peculiarly holds up to shame the revolt of his nation, because it was baser and less excusable than all the transgressions of those who had never been taught in the school of God. The word תורה (tōrāh) is applied to “the Law,” because it denotes instruction; but here, in the plural number, תורת (tōrōth,) it denotes all the instruction that is contained in the “Law.” But as the “Law” contains both commandments and promises, he adds two parts for the purpose of explanation.

They have changed the ordinance. The Hebrew word חק (chōk) means “an ordinance,” and on that account some think that it denotes ceremonies, and others that it denotes morals. We may render it “commandments;” and I understand it to mean not only ceremonies, but everything that belongs to the rule of a holy life.

They have broken the everlasting covenant. The third term employed by him is, ברית, (bērīth,) by which he means a covenant and contract. This word is limited to those “contracts” by which the Lord, who adopted his people, promised that he would be their God. (Exodus 19:6; 29:45; Leviticus 26:12.) He therefore charges them with ingratitude, because, when the Lord revealed himself by all these methods, and gave proofs of his love, they were disobedient and rebellious, “transgressed the laws,” and “broke the holy covenant.”

But why does he address himself to the Jews? Because he knew that he had been appointed to be their Prophet, that he might especially give instructions to them. Hence we may infer what is the rule of a holy life. It is contained in that law which we ought to follow if we wish that God should approve of our life; if we turn aside from it, we must be wicked and abandoned. We ought also to remark, that it is the will of God that in his word we should consider not only his commandments and laws, but also his covenant; for the chief part of the word consists of promises, by which he adopts and receives us as his own people. Besides, the Prophet unquestionably intended to use a variety of terms in order to express his meaning more strongly; as if he had said, “There is nothing about us that is sound and pure; everything is polluted and corrupted.”

He calls it “the covenant of eternity,” or “the everlasting covenant,” because it ought to be perpetual and inviolable, and to be in force in every age. It was to be transmitted, in uninterrupted succession, from father to son, that it might never be effaced from the memory of man, but might be kept pure and entire. He therefore represents in strong terms their treachery and wickedness, because they dared to violate that covenant which God had made with them, and to overthrow what the Lord intended to be firm and permanent. This was monstrous; and therefore we ought not to wonder that the earth takes vengeance for this wickedness, and refuses to give food to men.

6. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth. Some render it perjury, 124124    {Bogus footnote} but as אלהlāh) signifies also a “curse,” I have no doubt that here he employs it to denote a “curse,” and alludes to those curses which Moses in the law threatens against wicked men and transgressors of the law, (Leviticus 26:16; Deuteronomy 28:15.) We know that the earth was cursed on account of the transgression of our first parent, so that it brought forth thorns and thistles instead of fruits. (Genesis 3:17, 18.) The Lord mitigated this curse, so that, although men were ungrateful and unworthy, still it yielded them food. But when we do not cease to sin, and when we add sin to sin, is it not in the highest degree just that the earth should become barren and unfruitful, in order that we may more clearly perceive this curse, and that it may make a deeper impression on our senses?

And its inhabitants are made desolate. I think that אשםshăm) here means “to make desolate,” rather than “to forsake;” and this is apparent from the context, on which account I have translated it “are made desolate.” But perhaps it will be thought preferable to take the copulative ו (vau) as signifying because, and then the meaning will be, “The earth accursed by God is burnt up, because its inhabitants have acted wickedly.” 125125    {Bogus footnote}

Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left. The word חרו (charu) may be taken metaphorically, and I prefer this view of it, which makes the meaning to be, that those whom the wrath of God has consumed are burned up; because the destruction is compared to a conflagration. When he adds, “that few will be left,” we learn from it that this prediction cannot be explained as relating to the last day of judgment, and that, on the contrary, the Prophet foretells and confirms those desolations which threatened various nations, and that he does so in order that the godly may fear, and may be led to repentance, and may be prepared for enduring all things.

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