Isaiah 29 Bible Commentary

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

(Read all of Isaiah 29)


This chapter opens the series of prophecies as to the invasion of Judea under Sennacherib, and its deliverance.

1. Ariel--Jerusalem; Ariel means "Lion of God," that is, city rendered by God invincible: the lion is emblem of a mighty hero (2Sa 23:20). Otherwise "Hearth of God," that is, place where the altar-fire continually burns to God (Isa 31:9; Eze 43:15, 16).
add . . . year to year--ironically; suffer one year after another to glide on in the round of formal, heartless "sacrifices." Rather, "add yet another year" to the one just closed [MAURER]. Let a year elapse and a little more (Isa 32:10, Margin).
let . . . kill sacrifices--rather, "let the beasts (of another year) go round" [MAURER]; that is, after the completion of a year "I will distress Ariel."

2. Yet--rather, "Then."
heaviness . . . sorrow--rather, preserving the Hebrew paronomasia, "groaning" and "moaning."
as Ariel--either, "the city shall be as a lion of God," that is, it shall emerge from its dangers unvanquished; or "it shall be as the altar of burnt offering," consuming with fire the besiegers (Isa 29:6; Isa 30:30; 31:9; Le 10:2); or best, as Isa 29:3 continues the threat, and the promise of deliverance does not come till Isa 29:4, "it shall be like a hearth of burning," that is, a scene of devastation by fire [G. V. SMITH]. The prophecy, probably, contemplates ultimately, besides the affliction and deliverance in Sennacherib's time, the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome, the dispersion of the Jews, their restoration, the destruction of the enemies that besiege the city (Zec 14:2), and the final glory of Israel (Isa 29:17-24).

3. I--Jehovah, acting through the Assyrian, &c., His instruments (Isa 10:5).
mount--an artificial mound formed to out-top high walls (Isa 37:33); else a station, namely, of warriors, for the siege.
round about--not fully realized under Sennacherib, but in the Roman siege (Lu 19:43; 21:20).
forts--siege-towers (De 20:20).

4. Jerusalem shall be as a captive, humbled to the dust. Her voice shall come from the earth as that of the spirit-charmers or necromancers (Isa 8:19), faint and shrill, as the voice of the dead was supposed to be. Ventriloquism was doubtless the trick caused to make the voice appear to come from the earth (Isa 19:3). An appropriate retribution that Jerusalem, which consulted necromancers, should be made like them!

5. Moreover--rather, "Yet"; yet in this extremity help shall come, and the enemy be scattered.
strangers--foreign enemies, invaders (Isa 25:2).
it shall be--namely, the destruction of the enemy.
at an instant--in a moment (Isa 30:23).

6. Thou--the Assyrian army.
thunder, &c.--not literally, in the case of the Assyrians (Isa 37:36); but figuratively for an awful judgment (Isa 30:30; 28:17). The ulterior fulfilment, in the case of the Jews' foes in the last days, may be more literal (see as to "earthquake," Zec 14:4).

7. munition--fortress.

8. Their disappointment in the very height of their confident expectation of taking Jerusalem shall be as great as that of the hungry man who in a dream fancies he eats, but awakes to hunger still (Ps 73:20); their dream shall be dissipated on the fatal morning (Isa 37:36).
soul--simply his appetite: he is still thirsty.

9. Stay--rather, "Be astounded"; expressing the stupid and amazed incredulity with which the Jews received Isaiah's announcement.
wonder--The second imperative, as often (Isa 8:9), is a threat; the first is a simple declaration of a fact, "Be astounded, since you choose to be so, at the prophecy, soon you will be amazed at the sight of the actual event" [MAURER].
cry . . . out . . . cry--rather, "Be ye blinded (since you choose to be so, though the light shines all round you), and soon ye shall be blinded" in good earnest to your sorrow [MAURER], (Isa 6:9, 10).
not with wine--but with spiritual paralysis (Isa 51:17, 21).
ye . . . they--The change from speaking to, to speaking of them, intimates that the prophet turns away from them to a greater distance, because of their stupid unbelief.

10. Jehovah gives them up judicially to their own hardness of heart (compare Zec 14:13). Quoted by Paul, with variations from the Septuagint, Ro 11:8. See Isa 6:10; Ps 69:23.
eyes; the prophets, &c.--rather, "hath closed your eyes, the prophets; and your heads (Margin; see also Isa 3:2), the seers, He hath covered." The Orientals cover the head to sleep; thus "covered" is parallel to "closed your eyes" (Jud 4:19). Covering the face was also preparatory to execution (Es 7:8). This cannot apply to the time when Isaiah himself prophesied, but to subsequent times.

11. of all--rather, "the whole vision." "Vision" is the same here as "revelation," or "law"; in Isa 28:15, the same Hebrew word is translated, "covenant" [MAURER].
sealed-- (Isa 8:16), God seals up the truth so that even the learned, because they lack believing docility, cannot discern it (Mt 13:10-17; 11:25). Prophecy remained comparatively a sealed volume (Da 12:4, 9), until Jesus, who "alone is worthy," "opened the seals" (Re 5:1-5, 9; 6:1).

12. The unlearned succeed no better than the learned, not from want of human learning, as they fancy, but from not having the teaching of God (Isa 54:13; Jer 31:34; Joh 6:45; 1Co 2:7-10; 1Jo 2:20).

13. precept of men--instead of the precepts of God, given by His prophets; also worship external, and by rule, not heartfelt as God requires (Joh 4:24). Compare Christ's quotation of this verse from the Septuagint.

14. (Hab 1:5; Ac 13:41). The "marvellous work" is one of unparalleled vengeance on the hypocrites: compare "strange work," Isa 28:21. The judgment, too, will visit the wise in that respect in which they most pride themselves; their wisdom shall be hid, that is, shall no longer appear, so as to help the nation in its distress (compare 1Co 1:19).

15. seek deep to hide--rather, "That seek to hide deeply," &c. (compare Isa 30:1, 2). The reference is to the secret plan which many of the Jewish nobles had of seeking Egyptian aid against Assyria, contrary to the advice of Isaiah. At the same time the hypocrite in general is described, who, under a plausible exterior, tries to hide his real character, not only from men, but even from God.

16. Rather, "Ah! your perverseness! just as if the potter should be esteemed as the clay!" [MAURER]. Or, "Ye invert (turn upside down) the order of things, putting yourselves instead of God," and vice versa, just as if the potter should be esteemed as the clay [HORSLEY], (Isa 45:9; 64:8).

17. turned--as contrasted with your "turnings of things upside down" (Isa 29:16), there shall be other and better turnings or revolutions; the outpouring of the Spirit in the latter days (Isa 32:15); first on the Jews; which shall be followed by their national restoration (see on Isa 29:2; Zec 12:10) then on the Gentiles (Joe 2:28).
fruitful field--literally, "a Carmel" (see on Isa 10:18). The moral change in the Jewish nation shall be as great as if the wooded Lebanon were to become a fruitful field, and vice versa. Compare Mt 11:12, Greek: "the kingdom of heaven forces itself," as it were, on man's acceptance; instead of men having to seek Messiah, as they had John, in a desert, He presents Himself before them with loving invitations; thus men's hearts, once a moral desert, are reclaimed so as to bear fruits of righteousness: vice versa, the ungodly who seemed prosperous, both in the moral and literal sense, shall be exhibited in their real barrenness.

18. deaf . . . blind--(Compare Mt 11:5). The spiritually blind, &c., are chiefly meant; "the book," as Revelation is called pre-eminently, shall be no longer "sealed," as is described (Isa 29:11), but the most unintelligent shall hear and see (Isa 35:5).

19. meek--rather, the afflicted godly: the idea is, virtuous suffering (Isa 61:1; Ps 25:9; 37:11) [BARNES].
poor among men--that is, the poorest of men, namely, the pious poor.
rejoice--when they see their oppressors punished (Isa 29:20, 21), and Jehovah exhibited as their protector and rewarder (Isa 29:22-24; Isa 41:17; Jas 2:5).

20. terrible--namely, the persecutors among the Jewish nobles.
scorner-- (Isa 28:14, 22).
watch for--not only commit iniquity, but watch for opportunities of committing it, and make it their whole study (see Mic 2:1; Mt 26:59; 27:1).

21. Rather, "Who make a man guilty in his cause" [GESENIUS], that is, unjustly condemn him. "A man" is in the Hebrew a poor man, upon whom such unjust condemnations might be practiced with more impunity than on the rich; compare Isa 29:19, "the meek . . . the poor."
him that reproveth--rather, "pleadeth"; one who has a suit at issue.
gate--the place of concourse in a city, where courts of justice were held (Ru 4:11; Pr 31:23; Am 5:10, 12).
just--one who has a just cause; or, Jesus Christ, "the Just One" [HORSLEY].
for a thing of naught--rather, "through falsehood," "by a decision that is null in justice" [BARNES]. Compare as to Christ, Pr 28:21; Mt 26:15; Ac 3:13, 14; 8:33.

22. Join "saith . . . concerning the house of Jacob."
redeemed--out of Ur, a land of idolaters (Jos 24:3).
not now--After the moral revolution described (Isa 29:17), the children of Jacob shall no longer give cause to their forefathers to blush for them.
wax pale--with shame and disappointment at the wicked degeneracy of his posterity, and fear as to their punishment.

23. But--rather, "For."
work of mine hands--spiritually, as well as physically (Isa 19:25; 60:21; Eph 2:10). By Jehovah's agency Israel shall be cleansed of its corruptions, and shall consist wholly of pious men (Isa 54:13, 14; 2:1; 60:21).
midst of him--that is, his land. Or else "His children" are the Gentiles adopted among the Israelites, his lineal descendants (Ro 9:26; Eph 3:6) [HORSLEY].

24. They . . . that erred-- (Isa 28:7).
learn doctrine--rather, "shall receive discipline" or "instruction." "Murmuring" was the characteristic of Israel's rebellion against God (Ex 16:8; Ps 106:25). This shall be so no more. Chastisements, and, in HORSLEY'S view, the piety of the Gentiles provoking the Jews to holy jealousy (Ro 11:11, 14), shall then produce the desired effect.