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32. Kingdom of Righeousness

Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. 2And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. 3And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. 4The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly. 5The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful. 6For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the Lord, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. 7The instruments also of the churl are evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right. 8But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.

9Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto my speech. 10Many days and years shall ye be troubled, ye careless women: for the vintage shall fail, the gathering shall not come. 11Tremble, ye women that are at ease; be troubled, ye careless ones: strip you, and make you bare, and gird sackcloth upon your loins. 12They shall lament for the teats, for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine. 13Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers; yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city: 14Because the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be left; the forts and towers shall be for dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks; 15Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest. 16Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. 17And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. 18And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places; 19When it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place. 20Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass.

1. Behold, a King shall reign. He means that God will still be gracious to his Church, so as to restore her entirely; and the best method of restoring her is, when good government is maintained, and when the whole administration of it is conducted with propriety, and with good order. This prediction undoubtedly relates to Hezekiah and his reign, under which the Church was reformed and restored to its former splendor; for formerly it was in a wretched and ruinous condition. Ahaz, who was a wicked and disgraceful hypocrite, had corrupted everything according to his own wicked dispositions, and had overturned the whole condition of civil government and of religion. (2 Kings 16:2, 3.) He therefore promises another king, namely, Hezekiah, whose power and righteousness shall restore the state of affairs which is thus wretched and desperate. In a word, he presents to us in this passage a lively picture of the prosperous condition of the Church; and as this cannot be attained without Christ, this description undoubtedly refers to Christ, of whom Hezekiah was a type, and whose kingdom he foreshadowed.

In righteousness and judgment. Here he follows the ordinary usage of Scripture, which employs those expressions to denote good government; for by righteousness is meant equity and good government, and by judgment is meant that part of equity which upholds good men, and defends them from the assaults of the wicked. It is undoubtedly true that the duty of a good prince embraces a wider extent than “righteousness and judgment;” for his great aim ought to be to defend the honor of God and religion. But the ordinary usage of Scripture is, to describe the whole observation of the law by the works of the second table; for, if we refrain from acts of injustice, if we aid, as far as lies in our power, those who are oppressed by others, and, in a word, if we maintain brotherly kindness, we give evidence of the fear of God, from which such fruits spring and grow. From a part, therefore, the Prophet has described the whole.

And princes shall rule. It is not without good reason that he likewise mentions nobles; 328328     In our Author’s version, from which the heading of this paragraph is taken, he makes use of the word principes, which commonly means “rulers,” but sometimes also (as in the phrases, “facile princeps, femina princeps,”) denotes persons of high rank, or those who in any respect are highly distinguished. But here he employs the word proceres, “nobles;” and he does so evidently for the purpose of removing ambiguity, and of stating clearly that view which is contained in the conclusion of this sentence. — Ed.
    FT585 The singular mildness of the Roman Emperor Nerva, which made him personally beloved, was carried to such an excess as to impair the efficiency of his government, and compelled him to resign the throne to the able and excellent Trajan. On the other hand, Nero, whose name cannot be mentioned without awakening the remberance of his monstrous cruelty, held the reins with a firmer hand, and prevented the repetition of many disorders which had been committed under the reign of his amiable predecessor Nerva. — Ed

    FT586Duquel il soit le chef.”

    FT587 “The heart also of the rash. (Heb. hasty.)” — Eng.Ver. “The heart also of the hasty.” — Stock

    FT588 This observation is founded on the Hebrew word נמהרים, (nimharim,) which our Author translates Fools, and which literally means Hasty. — Ed

    FT589 The allusion would be better brought out by rendering it, “The fool will speak folly.” — Ed

    FT590 Συμπάθεια, a more extensive term than the English word “sympathy,” literally denotes “fellow-feeling,” and is frequently employed by our Author to express that kind of feeling which every man ought to cherish towards his fellow-men. — Ed

    FT591Quelque trahison;” — “Some treachery.”

    FT592 “Even when the needy speaketh right;” or, “when he speaketh against the poor in judgment.” — Eng. Ver.

    FT593 “Ye provinces that dwell at ease.” — Jarchi

    FT594 “Ye cities that dwell carelessly.” — Jarchi. In this, as well as in the former case, he refers to Jonathan’s Targum. — Ed

    FT595 “Many days and years; (Heb. days above a year.)” — Eng. Ver. “In a year and more.” — Alexander. “Shortly after a year; Heb. days upon a year: that is, the time will soon come after the expiration of one year, when ye shall be troubled with a dearth.” — Stock

    FT596 “It may be better translated, striking your breasts, because of the pleasant fields and fruitful vines, which should be destroyed by the Assyrians. It was a common gesture used on all mournful occasions, to strike the breasts; though others think teats may be taken metaphorically for the pleasant fields and fruitful vine by which they subsisted, as infants by the mother’s paps.” — Samuel White

    FT597 “For all that desolation shall be on all joyful houses.” — Jarchi

    FT598 “And the wilderness become a fruitful field.” Such is the Author’s own translation of the clause, which corresponds to our authorized version. — Ed

    FT599 See our Author’s Commentary on that passage. — Ed

    FT600 “And the city shall be low in a low place;” or, “And the city shall be utterly abased.” — Eng. Ver.

    FT601 “Some by the Forest understand Nineveh, some Babylon, some Jerusalem, and some the Assyrian army; but Gataker, and Vatablus before him, think the words may be rendered, he shall hail with hail on the forest, and cities shall be built in low places; as if he had said, God shall preserve the fruits of the earth from the injuries of unseasonable weather, and, when he sends a storm of hail, cause it to fall on the woods and deserts; and he shall give them so great security, that for the future they shall build their cities in low grounds, to shew that they are under no apprehension of being overrun any more by an enemy.” — White

    FT602 “Happy ye who shall enjoy as great fertility as if all your lands lay on the side of a running stream. Your corn shall grow so thick and fast that ye shall be forced to let your cattle crop the luxuriant ears; a practice still in use among our husbandmen.” — White
for it would not be enough to be a good prince, if he were not supported by upright ministers and counselors. Frequently has the condition of the people, under good princes, been very bad; as we read of Nerva, 329329    {Bogus footnote} under whose reign every kind of conduct was tolerated, so that many persons were far less favourably situated under his reign than under Nero; for the carelessness and indolence of a single individual gave freedom of action to many wicked men. It is therefore necessary that a king shall have good governors, who shall supply the place of eyes and hands, and aid him in the righteous exercise of his authority. If this be not the case, a good king cannot advance a step without being more or less retarded by other men; and unless rulers move with a harmony resembling that which we find in musical instruments, the government of a state cannot be carried on with advantage.

On this subject, men ought to listen to the advice of Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, to unite with him

“able men fearing God, men of truth, and hating covetousness, and to appoint such men to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” (Exodus 18:21.)

But at the present day, those who aid, or pander to their lusts, and who favor and flatter them, are promoted by kings to honors and high rank, which are bestowed on them as the just reward of their flattery or base servility. Nor ought we to wonder if we see, almost throughout the whole world, states thrown into confusion, ranks overturned, and all good government despised and set aside; for this is the just punishment of our iniquities, and we deserve to have such governors, since we do not allow God to rule over us. How shall this extraordinary kindness of God be enjoyed by men who are openly rebellious and profane, or by wicked hypocrites who cast God behind them, and cannot bear the yoke of Christ, through whom this prosperity and restoration of a declining Church is promised?

2. And that man shall be. How great is the importance of well-regulated government the Prophet shews plainly by these words, when he calls that king a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the rain; for mankind can never be so happy as when every one voluntarily abstains from every kind of violence and injustice, and when they conduct themselves peaceably and without restraint. Since, therefore, most men are urged and driven by their furious passions to acts of injustice, men would be embroiled in incessant quarreling if a remedy were not provided in the laws and courts of justice; but as many rulers, by a tyrannical exercise of power, raise more troubles than they allay, it is not without good reason that the good king is honored by this peculiar commendation. If this was said with truth concerning Hezekiah, much more may it be said concerning Christ, in whom we have our best, or rather, our only refuge in those storms by which we must be tossed about as long as we dwell in this world. Whenever, therefore, we are scorched by oppressive heat, let us learn to retire under his shadow; whenever we are tossed about by tempests, and think that we are overwhelmed by the violence of the waves, let us learn to betake ourselves to him as our safest harbour; he will speedily bring every storm to a calm, and will completely restore what was ruined and decayed.

3. and 4. Then the eyes of them that see. Hence we see more clearly that, while the Prophet describes the reign of Hezekiah, he intends to lead us farther; for here he discourses concerning the restoration of the Church, which indeed was shadowed out by Hezekiah, but has been actually fulfilled in Christ. We know that the Church is never in a healthy condition, unless she be internally ruled by righteous and wise governors. Now, this cannot be, unless Christ reign; and here, therefore, Christ and his reign are specially recommended to us. This promise is contrasted with the dreadful threatening which he had uttered in a former chapter, (Isaiah 29:10,) that he would blind the Jews; for here, on the other hand, he promises the true light, that they who were formerly blind may be enlightened, that “the deaf may begin to hear, that fools may understand, and that stammerers may speak.”

He calls them seeing and hearing who ought to have seen and heard when the word of God was exhibited to them; but they chose to be blind and deaf, and turned away their thoughts and hearts from doctrine. The Lord promises that he will restore to these persons eyes, ears, a tongue, and understanding. Now, it is certain that nothing is here promised which does not proceed from the grace of God; for he does not merely declare what men will do, but what God himself will do in men. These are extraordinary gifts of God; as, on the contrary, when he blinds, when he takes away understanding and the right use of speech, when he suffers ignorance and barbarism to prevail, these are dreadful punishments by which he takes vengeance on men for their ingratitude and for their contempt of the word. He promises that, at length, in compassion towards his people, the Lord will restore what he had justly taken away from them; and it must have been through the kindness of Christ that a tongue to speak, a mind to understand, and ears to hear, are restored to us; for formerly we were dull of apprehension, and were struck with frightful stupidity.

Let us therefore know that out of Christ there is no spiritual life in the world, because here they are declared to be destitute of sight, hearing, sound understanding, and the proper use of speech,

“till they be united in one body, of which he is the head.” 330330    {Bogus footnote} (Ephesians 4:15, 16.)

Hence it follows that, when the kingdom of Christ is overthrown, these blessings are also taken away. It ought also to be observed, that the blessings which are here recommended are above all others excellent and desirable; for riches, and possessions, and everything else in which men commonly judge the happiness of life to consist, ought to be reckoned of no value in comparison of these blessings. Amidst the abundance of all things we shall be miserable, unless the Lord restore those spiritual blessings of which the Prophet speaks in this passage; and therefore, when they are taken away, let us know that Christ also is at a distance from us, and that we are strangers to him, seeing that it is from him alone, as Paul informs us, that all spiritual blessings flow. (Ephesians 1:3.) When we see that those blessings which had been taken away for a long period are now restored to us, let us be ashamed of our ingratitude in not rendering to Christ that glory which was due to him, and in not employing the understanding which he gave to us in spreading his kingdom and promoting his worship; for we plainly shew that he has no dominion over us.

And the heart of fools. 331331    {Bogus footnote} As fools are commonly hasty and rash, so the Hebrew writers take the word haste 332332    {Bogus footnote} as denoting folly; for wise men are usually cautious.


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