on Isaiah 5 :18
With a cart-rope "As a long cable" - The Septuagint, Aquila, Sym., and Theod., for בחבלי bechabley, read כחבלי kechahley, ὡς σχοινιῳ, or σχοινιοις; and the Septuagint, instead of שוא shau, read some other word signifying long; ὡς σχοινιῳ μακρῳ; and so likewise the Syriac, אריכא arecha. Houbigant conjectures that the word which the Septuagint had in their copies was שרוע sarua, which is used Leviticus 21:18, Leviticus 22:23, for something in an animal body superfluous, lengthened beyond its natural measure. And he explains it of sin added to sin, and one sin drawing on another, till the whole comes to an enormous length and magnitude; compared to the work of a rope-maker still increasing and lengthening his rope, with the continued addition of new materials. "Eos propheta similes facit homini restiario, qui funem torquet, cannabe addita et contorta, eadem iterans, donec funem in longum duxerit, neque eum liceat protrahi longius." "An evil inclination," says Kimchi on this place, from the ancient rabbins, "is at the beginning like a fine hair-string, but at the finishing like a thick cart-rope." By a long progression in iniquity, and a continued accumulation of sin, men arrive at length to the highest degree of wickedness; bidding open defiance to God, and scoffing at his threatened judgments, as it is finely expressed in the next verse. The Chaldee paraphrast explains it in the same manner, of wickedness increasing from small beginnings, till it arrives to a great magnitude. - L.
I believe neither the rabbins nor Bishop Lowth have hit on the true meaning of this place, the prophet seems to refer to idol sacrifices. The victims they offered were splendidly decked out for the sacrifice. Their horns and hoofs were often gilded, and their heads dressed out with fillets and garlands. The cords of vanity may refer to the silken strings by which they were led to the altar, some of which were unusually thick. The offering for iniquity was adorned with fillets and garlands; the sin-offering with silken cords, like unto cart-ropes. Pride, in their acts of humiliation, had the upper hand.
on Isaiah 5 :18
Wo unto them ... - This is a new denunciation. It introduces another form of sin, and threatens its appropriate punishment.
That draw iniquity with cords of vanity - The general idea in this verse and the next, is, doubtless, that of plunging deeper and deeper into sin. The word "sin" here, has been sometimes supposed to mean "the punishment" for sin. The word has that meaning sometimes, but it seems here to be taken in its usual sense. The word "cords" means strings of any kind, larger or smaller; and the expression "cords of vanity," is supposed to mean "small, slender, feeble" strings, like the web of a spider. The word vanity שׁוא shâv', May, perhaps, have the sense here of falsehood or deceit; and the cords of deceit may denote the schemes of evil, the plans for deceiving people, or of bringing them into a snare, as the fowler springs his deceitful snare upon the unsuspecting bird. The Chaldee translates it, 'Woe to those who begin to sin by little and little, drawing sin by cords of vanity; these sins grow and increase until they are strong, and are like a cart-rope.' The Septuagint renders it, 'Woe to those who draw sin with a long cable;' that is," one sin is added to another, until it comes to an enormous length, and the whole is drawn along together. Probably the true idea is that of the ancient interpretation of the rabbis, 'An evil inclination is at first like a fine hair string, but the finishing like a cart-rope.' At first, they draw sin with a slender cord, then they go on to greater deeds of iniquity that urge them on, and draw them with their main strength, as with a cart-rope. They make a strong "effort" to commit iniquity.
on Isaiah 5 :18
5:18 That draw - That are not only drawn to sin by the allurements of the world; but are active and illustrious in drawing sin to themselves. Cords - Or, with cords of lying, as the last word frequently signifies, with vain and deceitful arguments and pretences, whereby sinners generally draw themselves to sin. A rope - With all their might, as beasts commonly do that draw carts with ropes.