on Isaiah 37 :25
Water "Strange waters" - The word זרים zarim, strange, lost out of the Hebrew text in this place, is supplied from the other copy. A MS. supplies the word רבים rabbim, many, instead of it.
With the sole of my feet - With my infantry.
All the rivers of the besieged places "All the canals of fenced places" - The principal cities of Egypt, the scene of his late exploits, were chiefly defended by deep moats, canals, or large lakes, made by labor and art, with which they were surrounded. See Harmer's Observ. 2 p. Claudian introduces Alaric boasting of his conquests in the same extravagant manner: -
Sub pedibus montes; arescere vidimus amnes. -
Fregi Alpes, galeisque Padum victricibus hausi."
De Bello Getic. 526.
"The mountains have passed away under our feet; we have seen the rivers dried up. I have broken the Alps, and laden out the Po with our victorious helmets."
on Isaiah 37 :25
I have digged - That is, I have digged wells. This was regarded among eastern nations as an important achievement. It was difficult to find water, even by digging, in sandy deserts; and in a country abounding with rocks, it was an enterprise of great difficulty to sink a well. Hence, the possession of a well became a valuable property, and was sometimes the occasion of contention between neighboring tribes Genesis 26:20. Hence, also to stop up the wells of water, by throwing in rocks or sand, became one of the most obvious ways of distressing an enemy, and was often resorted to Genesis 26:15, Genesis 26:18; 2 Kings 3:19, 2 Kings 3:25. To dig wells, or to furnish water in abundance to a people, became also an achievement which was deemed worthy to be recorded in the history of kings and princes 2 Chronicles 26:10. Many of the most stupendous and costly of the works of the Romans in the capital of their empire, and in the principal towns of their provinces, consisted in building aqueducts to bring water from a distance into a city.
An achievement like this I understand Sennacherib as boasting he had performed; that he had furnished water for the cities and towns of his mighty empire; that he had accomplished what was deemed so difficult, and what required so much expense, as digging wells for his people; and that he had secured them from being stopped up by his enemies, so that he and his people drank of the water in peace. Gesenius, however, understands this as a boast that he had extended the bounds of his empire beyond its original limits, and unto regions that were naturally destitute of water, and where it was necessary to dig wells to supply his armies. Rosenmuller understands it as saying: 'I have passed over, and taken possession of foreign lands.' Drusius regards it as a proverbial saying, meaning 'I have happily and successfully accomplished all that I have undertaken, as he who digs a well accomplishes that which he particularly desires.' Vitringa regards it as saying, 'that to dig wells, and to drink the water of them, is to enjoy the fruit of our labors, to be successful and happy.' But it seems to me that the interpretation above suggested, and which I have not found in any of the commentators before me, is the correct exposition.
And drunk water - In 2 Kings 19:24, it is, 'I have drunk strange waters;' that is, the waters of foreign lands. I have conquered them, and have dug wells in them. But the sense is not materially changed.
And with the sole of my feet - Expressions like this, denoting the desolations of a conqueror, are found in the classic writers. Perhaps the idea there is, that their armies were so numerous that they drank up all the waters in their march - a strong hyperbole to denote the number of their armies, and the extent of their desolations when even the waters failed before them. Thus Claudian (De Bello Getico, 526) introduces Alaric as boasting of his conquests in the same extravagant manner, and in language remarkably similar to this:
Cum cesserit omnis
Obsequiis natura meis. Subsidere nostris
Sub pedibus montes; arescere vidimus amnes -
Fregi Alpes, galeisque Padum victricibus hausi.
So Juvenal (Sat. 10:176), speaking of the dominion of Xerxes, says:
- credimus altos
Defecisse amnes, epotaque ilumina Medo
The boast of drying up streams with the sole of the foot, is intended to convey the idea that he had not only supplied water for his own empire by digging wells, but that he had cut off the supplies of water from the others against whom he had made war. The idea perhaps is, that if such an army as his was, should pass through the streams of a country that they should invade, and should only take away the water that would adhere to the sole or the hollow of the foot on their march, it would dry up all the streams. It is strong hyperbolical language, and is designed to indicate the number of the forces which were under his command.
Of the besieged places - Margin, 'Fenced' or 'closed'. The word rendered 'rivers' (אורי 'rēy), may denote canals, or artificial streams, such as were common in Egypt. In Isaiah 19:6, it is rendered 'brooks,' and is applied to the artificial canals of Egypt (see the note on that place). The word rendered here 'besieged places' (מצור mâtsôr), may mean distress, straitness Deuteronomy 28:53; siege Ezekiel 4:2, Ezekiel 4:7; mound, bulwark, intrenchment Deuteronomy 20:20; or it may be a proper name for Egypt, being one of the forms of the name מצרים mitserayim or Egypt. The same phrase occurs in Isaiah 19:6, where it means Egypt (see the note on that place), and such should be regarded as its meaning here. It alludes to the conquests which Sennacherib is represented as boasting that he had made in Egypt, that he had easily removed obstructions, and destroyed their means of defense. Though he had been repulsed before Pelusium by Tirhakah king of Ethiopia (see the note at Isaiah 36:1), yet it is not improbable that he had taken many towns there, and had subdued no small part of the country to himself. In his vain boasting, he would strive to forget his repulse, and would dwell on the case of conquest, and the facility with which he had removed all obstructions from his way. The whole language of the verse therefore, is that of a proud and haughty Oriental prince, desirous of proclaiming his conquests, and forgetting his mortifying defeats.
on Isaiah 37 :25