a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

The Siege of Jerusalem


Ah, Ariel, Ariel,

the city where David encamped!

Add year to year;

let the festivals run their round.


Yet I will distress Ariel,

and there shall be moaning and lamentation,

and Jerusalem shall be to me like an Ariel.


And like David I will encamp against you;

I will besiege you with towers

and raise siegeworks against you.


Then deep from the earth you shall speak,

from low in the dust your words shall come;

your voice shall come from the ground like the voice of a ghost,

and your speech shall whisper out of the dust.



But the multitude of your foes shall be like small dust,

and the multitude of tyrants like flying chaff.

And in an instant, suddenly,


you will be visited by the L ord of hosts

with thunder and earthquake and great noise,

with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire.


And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel,

all that fight against her and her stronghold, and who distress her,

shall be like a dream, a vision of the night.


Just as when a hungry person dreams of eating

and wakes up still hungry,

or a thirsty person dreams of drinking

and wakes up faint, still thirsty,

so shall the multitude of all the nations be

that fight against Mount Zion.



Stupefy yourselves and be in a stupor,

blind yourselves and be blind!

Be drunk, but not from wine;

stagger, but not from strong drink!


For the L ord has poured out upon you

a spirit of deep sleep;

he has closed your eyes, you prophets,

and covered your heads, you seers.

11 The vision of all this has become for you like the words of a sealed document. If it is given to those who can read, with the command, “Read this,” they say, “We cannot, for it is sealed.” 12And if it is given to those who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” they say, “We cannot read.”



The Lord said:

Because these people draw near with their mouths

and honor me with their lips,

while their hearts are far from me,

and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote;


so I will again do

amazing things with this people,

shocking and amazing.

The wisdom of their wise shall perish,

and the discernment of the discerning shall be hidden.



Ha! You who hide a plan too deep for the L ord,

whose deeds are in the dark,

and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?”


You turn things upside down!

Shall the potter be regarded as the clay?

Shall the thing made say of its maker,

“He did not make me”;

or the thing formed say of the one who formed it,

“He has no understanding”?


Hope for the Future


Shall not Lebanon in a very little while

become a fruitful field,

and the fruitful field be regarded as a forest?


On that day the deaf shall hear

the words of a scroll,

and out of their gloom and darkness

the eyes of the blind shall see.


The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the L ord,

and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.


For the tyrant shall be no more,

and the scoffer shall cease to be;

all those alert to do evil shall be cut off—


those who cause a person to lose a lawsuit,

who set a trap for the arbiter in the gate,

and without grounds deny justice to the one in the right.


22 Therefore thus says the L ord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob:

No longer shall Jacob be ashamed,

no longer shall his face grow pale.


For when he sees his children,

the work of my hands, in his midst,

they will sanctify my name;

they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,

and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.


And those who err in spirit will come to understanding,

and those who grumble will accept instruction.


1. This appears to be another discourse, in which Isaiah threatens the city of Jerusalem. He calls it “Altar,” 251251     “Il l’appelle Ariel, c’est à dire, autel de Dieu;” — “He calls it Ariel, that is, Altar of God.”
    FT509 “Some, with the Chaldee, suppose it to be taken from the hearth of the great altar of burnt-offerings, which Ezekiel plainly calls by the same name; and that Jerusalem is here considered as the seat of the fire of God, la אור אלr ēl,) which should issue from thence to consume his enemies. Compare chap. Isaiah 31:9. Some, according to the common derivation of the word, ארי אלrīēl,) the lion of God, or the strong lion, suppose it to signify the strength of the place, by which it was enabled to resist and overcome all its enemies.” — Lowth. “Jonathan interprets it the altar of the Lord, and Ezekiel also (Ezekiel 43:15) gives it this name. It is so called, on account of the fire of God, which couched like ארי,) a lion on the altar. Our Rabbins explain אריאלrīēl) to denote the temple of Jerusalem, which was narrow behind, and broad in front.” — Jarchi. “The greater part of interpreters are agreed, that אריאלrīēl) compounded of ארי) and אלl,) denotes the lion of God, or, as Castalio renders it, The Lion — God. But they differ in explaining the application of this name to Jerusalem.” — Rosenmüller. “The meaning of the Prophet, in my opinion, is, that ‘God will make Jerusalem the heart of his anger, which shall consume not only the enemies but the obstinate rebellious Jews.’ This meaning is elegant and emphatic, and agrees well with the wisdom of the prophet Isaiah. Ariel is here taken, in its true signification, not for the altar, but for the hearth of the altar, as in Ezekiel. The import of the name lies here. The hearth of the altar sustained the symbol of the most holy and pure will of God, by which all the sacrifices offered to God must be tried; and to this applies the justice of God, burning like a fire, and consuming the sinner, if no atonement be found. Jerusalem would become the theater of the divine judgments.” — Vitringa. “Isaiah foresees that the city will, in a short time, be besieged by a very numerous army of the Assyrians, and will be reduced to straits, and yet will not be vanquished by those multitudes, but, like a lion, will rise by divine power out of the severest encounters.” — Doederlein

    FT510 Instead of “Let them kill sacrifices,” Vitringa’s rendering, in which he has been followed by Lowth, Stock, and Alexander, is, “Let the feasts revolve.” — Ed

    FT511 Symmachus, on whom Montfaucon bestows the exaggerated commendation of having adhered closely to the Hebrew text, wherever it differed from the Septuagint, renders the clause, καὶ ἐσταὶ κατώδυνος καὶ ὀδυνωμένη, which has been closely followed by Jerome’s version, “Et erit tristis ac moerens;” — “And she shall be sad and sorrowful.” — Ed

    FT512 In both cases there are two synonyms, תאניה ואניה (thăănīāh văănīāh,) which are derived from the same root. This peculiarity is imitated by the version of Symmachus quoted above, κατώδυνος καὶ ὀδυνωμένη, and by that of Vitringa, (“mœstitia et mœror,”) who remarks: “It is somewhat unusual to bring together words of the same termination and derived from the same root, but in this instance it produces an agreeable echo, which convinces me that it must have been frequently employed in poetical writings.” — Ed

    FT513Que les ennemis feront en Jerusalem;” — “Which the enemies shall make in Jerusalem.”

    FT514 “Like a circle of tents. נדור, (kăddūr,) like a Dowar; so the Arabs call a circular village of tents, such as they still live in.” — Stock

    FT515Qu’ils parleront bas, et comme du creux de la terre;” — “That they will speak low, and as out of the heart of the earth.”

    FT516 “And from the dust thou shalt chirp thy words, or, utter a feeble, stridulous sound, such as the vulgar supposed to be the voice of a ghost. This sound was imitated by necromancers, who had also the art of pitching their voice in such a manner as to make it appear to proceed out of the ground, or from what place they chose.” — Stock

    FT517 The Septuagint renders it, καὶ ἔσται ὡς κονιορτὸς ἀπὸ τροχοὺ ὁ πλοῦτος τῶν ἀσεβῶν, “and as the small dust from the wheel shall be the multitude of the wicked.” Here it is necessary to attend to the distinction between τρόχος and τροχὸςEd

    FT518 The military forces of Sennacherib, which shall be fuel for the fire, and shall be reduced to powder.” — Jarchi

    FT519 “They shall be destroyed by the pestilential blast Simoom, whose effects are instantaneous. Thevenot describes this wind with all the circumstances here enumerated, with thunder and lightning, insufferable heat, and a whirlwind of sand. By such an ‘angel of Jehovah,’ as it is called below, (Isaiah 37:36,) was the host of Assyria destroyed.” — Stock

    FT520 “As a dream, when one thinks that he sees, and yet does not in reality see, so shall be the multitude of nations; they will indeed think that they are subduing the city of Jerusalem, but they shall be disappointed of that hope, they shall not succeed in it.” — Jarchi

    FT521 The comparison is elegant and beautiful in the highest degree, well wrought up, and perfectly suited to the end proposed: the image is extremely natural, but not obvious; it appeals to our inward feelings, not to our outward senses, and is applied to an event in its concomitant circumstances exactly similar, but in its nature totally different. For beauty and ingenuity it may fairly come in competition with one of the most elegant of Virgil, (greatly improved from Homer, Iliad, 22:199,) where he has applied to a different purpose, but not so happily, the same image of the ineffectual working of imagination in a dream. Virg. Æn. 12:908. Lucretius expresses the very same image with Isaiah, (iv. 1091.)” — Lowth

    FT522 “Cry ye out, and cry, or, Take your pleasure and riot.” — Eng. Ver. “Turn yourselves and stare around.” — Stock. Lowth’s rendering resembles this, but is somewhat paraphrastic, “They stare with a look of stupid surprise.” Professor Alexander’s comes nearer that of Calvin, “Be merry and blind!” — Ed

    FT523 “Your prophets, and your rulers (Heb. heads).” — Eng. Ver. Our translators very correctly state that the literal meaning of רשיכם (rāshēchĕm) is, “your heads.” Calvin treats it as an adjective, “your principal seers.” — Ed
because the chief defense of the city was in the “Altar;” 252252    {Bogus footnote} for although the citizens relied on other bulwarks, of which they had great abundance, still they placed more reliance on the Temple (Jeremiah 7:4) and the altar than on the other defences. While they thought that they were invincible in power and resources, they considered their strongest and most invincible fortress to consist in their being defended by the protection of God. They concluded that God was with them, so long as they enjoyed the altar and the sacrifices. Some think that the temple is here called “Ariel,” from the resemblance which it bore to the shape of a lion, being broader in front and narrower behind; but I think it better to take it simply as denoting “the Altar,” since Ezekiel also (Ezekiel 43:15) gives it this name. This prediction is indeed directed against the whole city, but we must look at the design of the Prophet; for he intended to strip the Jews of their foolish confidence in imagining that God would assist them, so long as the altar and the sacrifices could remain, in which they falsely gloried, and thought that they had fully discharged their duty, though their conduct was base and detestable.

The city where David dwelt. He now proceeds to the city, which he dignifies with the commendation of its high rank, on the ground of having been formerly inhabited by David, but intending, by this admission, to scatter the smoke of their vanity. Some understand by it the lesser Jerusalem, that is, the inner city, which also was surrounded by a wall; for there was a sort of two-fold Jerusalem, because it had increased, and had extended its walls beyond where they originally stood; but I think that this passage must be understood to relate to the whole city. He mentions David, because they gloried in his name, and boasted that the blessing of God continually dwelt in his palace; for the Lord had promised that “the kingdom of David would be for ever.” (2 Samuel 7:13; Psalm 89:37.)

Hence we may infer how absurdly the Papists, in the present day, consider the Church to be bound to Peter’s chair, as if God could nowhere find a habitation in the whole world but in the See of Rome. We do not now dispute whether Peter was Bishop of the Church of Rome or not; but though we should admit that this is fully proved, was any promise made to Rome such as was made to Jerusalem? “This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell, for I have chosen it.” (Psalm 132:14.) And if even this were granted, do not we see what Isaiah declares about Jerusalem? That God is driven from it, when there is no room for doctrine, when the worship of God is corrupted. What then shall be said of Rome, which has no testimony? Can she boast of anything in preference to Jerusalem? If God pronounces a curse on the most holy city, which he had chosen in an especial manner, what must we say of the rest, who have overturned his holy laws and all godly institutions.

Add year to year. This was added by the Prophet, because the Jews thought that they had escaped punishment, when any delay was granted to them. Wicked men think that God has made a truce with them, when they see no destruction close at hand; and therefore they promise to themselves unceasing prosperity, so long as the Lord permits them to enjoy peace and quietness. In opposition to this assurance of their safety the Prophet threatens that, though they continue to “offer sacrifices,” 253253    {Bogus footnote} and though they renew them year by year, still the Lord will execute his vengeance. We ought to learn from this, that, when the Lord delays to punish and to take vengeance, we ought not, on that account, to seize the occasion for delaying our repentance; for although he spares and bears with us for a time, our sin is not therefore blotted out, nor have we any reason to promise that we shall make a truce with him. Let us not then abuse his patience, but let us be more eager to obtain pardon.

2. But I will bring Ariel into distress. I think that ו (vau) should here be taken for a disjunctive conjunction: “And yet I will execute my judgments and take vengeance, though, by delaying them for a time, it may seem as if I had forgiven.” He next threatens that he will give them grief and mourning, instead of the joy of the festivals. אניהnīāh) is viewed by some as an adjective, 254254    {Bogus footnote} but improperly; for it is used in the same manner by Jeremiah. 255255    {Bogus footnote} (Lamentations 2:5.) He declares that the Lord will reduce that city to straits, that the Jews might know that they had to contend with God, and not with men, and that, though the war was carried on by the Assyrians, still they might perceive that God was their leader.

And it shall be to me as Ariel. This clause would not apply to the Temple alone; for he means that everything shall be made bloody by the slaughter which shall take place at Jerusalem; 256256    {Bogus footnote} and therefore he compares it to an “Altar,” on which victims of all kinds are slain, in the same manner as wicked men destined for slaughter are frequently compared to a sacrifice. In short, by alluding here to the word “Altar,” he says, that the whole city shall be “as Ariel,” because it shall overflow with the blood of the slain. Hence it is evident that the outward profession of worship, ceremonies, and the outward demonstrations of the favor of God, are of no avail, unless we sincerely obey him. By an ironical expression he tells hypocrites, (who with an impure heart present sacrifices of beasts to God, as if they were the offerings fitted to appease his anger,) that their labor is fruitless, and that, since they had profaned the Temple and the Altar, it was impossible to offer a proper sacrifice to God without slaying victims throughout the whole city, as if he had said, “There will be carnage in every part.” He makes use of the word “Sacrifice” figuratively, to denote the violent slaughter of those who refused to offer themselves willingly to God.

VIEWNAME is study