on Isaiah 31 :5
Passing over "Leaping forward" - The generality of interpreters observe in this place an allusion to the deliverance which God vouchsafed to his people when he destroyed the first-born of the Egyptians, and exempted those of the Israelites sojourning among them by a peculiar interposition. The same word is made use of here which is used upon that occasion, and which gave the name to the feast which was instituted in commemoration of that deliverance, פסח pesach. But the difficulty is to reconcile the commonly received meaning of that word with the circumstances of the similitude here used to illustrate the deliverance represented as parallel to the deliverance in Egypt.
"As the mother birds hovering over their young,
So shall Jehovah God of hosts protect Jerusalem;
Protecting and delivering, passing over, and rescuing her."
This difficulty is, I think, well solved by Vitringa, whose remark is the more worthy of observation, as it leads to the true meaning of an important word, which hitherto seems greatly to have been misunderstood, though Vitringa himself, as it appears to me, has not exactly enough defined the precise meaning of it. He says, "פסח pasach signifies to cover, to protect by covering: σκεπασω ὑμας, Septuagint. Jehovah obteget ostium; 'The Lord will cover or protect the door:'" whereas it means that particular action or motion by which God at that time placed himself in such a situation as to protect the house of the Israelite against the destroying angel; to spring forward, to throw one's self in the way, in order to cover and protect. Cocceius comes nearer to the true meaning than Vitringa, by rendering it gradum facere, to march, to step forward; Lexicon in voc. The common meaning of the word פסח pasach upon other occasions is to halt, to be lame, to leap, as in a rude manner of dancing, (as the prophets of Baal did, 1 Kings 18:26), all which agrees very well together; for the motion of a lame person is a perpetual springing forward, by throwing himself from the weaker upon the stronger leg. The common notion of God's passage over the houses of the Israelites is, that in going through the land of Egypt to smite the first-born, seeing the blood on the door of the houses of the Israelites, he passed over, or skipped, those houses, and forbore to smite them. But that this is not the true notion of the thing, will be plain from considering the words of the sacred historian, where he describes very explicitly the action: "For Jehovah will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood on the lintels and on the two side posts, Jehovah will spring forward over (or before) the door, ופסח יהוה על הפתח upasach Yehovah al happethach, and will not suffer the destroyer to come into your houses to smite you, "Exo 12:23. Here are manifestly two distinct agents, with which the notion of passing over is not consistent, for that supposes but one agent. The two agents are the destroying angel passing through to smite every house, and Jehovah the Protector keeping pace with him; and who, seeing the door of the Israelite marked with the blood, the token prescribed, leaps forward, throws himself with a sudden motion in the way, opposes the destroying angel, and covers and protects that house against the destroying angel, nor suffers him to smite it. In this way of considering the action, the beautiful similitude of the bird protecting her young answers exactly to the application by the allusion to the deliverance in Egypt. As the mother bird spreads her wings to cover her young, throws herself before them, and opposes the rapacious bird that assaults them, so shall Jehovah protect, as with a shield, Jerusalem from the enemy, protecting and delivering, springing forward and rescuing her; ὑπερβαινων, as the three other Greek interpreters, Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, render it. The Septuagint, περιποιησεται· instead of which MS. Pachom. has περιβησεται, circumeundo proteget, "in going about he shall protect, "which I think is the true reading. - Homer, 2 viii. 329, expresses the very same image by this word: -
Αιας δ' ουκ αμελησε κασιγνητοιο πεσοντος,
Αλλα θεων περιβη, και οἱ σακος αμφεκαλυψε:
" - But Ajax his broad shield displayed,
And screened his brother with a mighty shade."
- Ὁς Χρυσην αμφιβεβηκας.
Which the scholiast explains by περιβεβηκας, ὑπερμαχεις, i.e., "Thou who strictly guardest Chryses." - L. On this verse Kimchi says, "The angel of the Lord which destroyed the Assyrians is compared to a lion, Isaiah 31:4, for his strength: and here (Isaiah 31:5) to flying birds, for his swiftness."
on Isaiah 31 :5
As birds flying - This is another comparison indicating substantially the same thing as the former, that Yahweh would protect Jerusalem. The idea here is, that He would do it in the same manner as birds defend their young by hovering over them, securing them under their wings, and leaping forward, if they are suddenly attacked, to defend them. Our Saviour has used a similar figure to indicate his readiness to have defended and saved the same city Matthew 23:27, and it is possible that he may have had this passage in his eye. The phrase 'birds flying,' may denote the "rapidity" with which birds fly to defend their young, and hence, the rapidity with which God would come to defend Jerusalem; or it may refer to the fact that birds, when their young are attacked, fly, or flutter around them to defend them; they will not leave them.
And passing over - פסוח pâsoach. Lowth renders this, 'Leaping forward.' This word, which is usually applied in some of its forms to the Passover Exodus 12:13, Exodus 12:23, Exodus 12:27; Numbers 9:4; Joshua 5:11; 2 Chronicles 30:18, properly means, as a verb, "to pass over," and hence, to preserve or spare. The idea in the passage is, that Yahweh would protect Jerusalem, as a bird defends its young.
on Isaiah 31 :5
31:5 As birds - Which come from above, and so cannot be kept off; which fly swiftly, and engage resolutely, when their young ones are in danger. Passing over - The destroying angel shall pass over Jerusalem.