on Isaiah 44 :3
"Here the two last lines explain the metaphor in the two preceding."
As the gift of prophecy was the greatest which God gave to men upon earth, so the prophet, as being the immediate instrument of revealing the will of God to the people, was the greatest, the most important, the most august, venerable, and useful person in the land of Israel. Ipsi eis exeant, says St. Augustine, philosophi ipsi sapientes, ipsi theologi, ipsi prophetae, ipsi doctores probitatis ac pietatis; "They were to the people the philosophers, the wise men, the divines, the prophets, and the teachers of truth and godliness." By their intercourse with God, they were his mediators with the people; and their persons, as well as their office, were considered as peculiarly sacred. They did not mix with the people, and only appeared in public when they came to announce the will of God. They were also a kind of typical persons - whatever occurred to them was instructive, so that they were for signs, metaphors, and portents.
Most of the ancient prophets were extraordinary messengers. They were not bred up to the prophetic function; as the office was immediately from God, as well as the message they were to deliver to the people, so they had no previous education, in reference to such an office, for no man knew whom the God of Israel might please to call to announce his righteousness to the people. Several of them were taken out of the walks of common life. Jonah appears to have been a private person at Gath-heper, in Galilee, before God called him to prophesy against Nineveh. Elisha was a ploughman at Abel-meholah (1 Kings 19:16) when called to the prophetic function. Zechariah appears to have been a husbandman, and a keeper of cattle, Zechariah 13:5. Amos was a herdsman of Tekoa, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit; (Amos 1:1; Amos 7:14, Amos 7:15); and no doubt several others of the ancient prophets had an equally mean origin; but the office and the calling dignified the man. We know that our blessed Lord called not his disciples from the higher walks or offices of life; but out of fishermen, tax-gatherers, and tent-makers, he formed evangelists and apostles.
The prophets appear to have gone in mean clothing; either sack-cloth, hair-cloth, or coats of skin appear to have been their ordinary clothing. They spoke against the pride and vain-glory of man; and their very garb and manner gave additional weight to the solemn words they delivered. They lived in a retired manner; and, when not sent on special errands, they employed their vacant time in the instruction of youth; as this is probably what we are to understand by the schools of the prophets, such as those over which Elijah, Elisha, and Samuel presided; though no doubt there were some of their disciples that were made partakers of the prophetic gift.
The prophets do not appear to have been called to a life of celibacy. Isaiah was a married man, Isaiah 8:3; and so was Hosea, Isaiah 1:2; unless we are to understand the latter case enigmatically. And that the sons of the prophets had wives, we learn from 2 Kings 4:1, etc.; and from this, as well as from the case of the apostles, we learn that the matrimonial state was never considered, either by Moses or the prophets, Christ or his apostles, as disqualifying men from officiating in the most holy offices; as we find Moses, Aaron, Isaiah, Zechariah, and Peter, all married men, and yet the most eminent of their order.
Of Isaiah, the writer of this book, very little is known. He is supposed to have been of the tribe of Judah, and of the royal family of David. Himself says that he was son of Amoz; and others tell us that this Amoz was the son of Joash, and brother of Amaziah, king of Judah. "Of his family and tribe we know nothing," says R. D. Kimchi, "only our rabbins, of blessed memory, have received the tradition that Amoz and Amaziah were brothers;" and it is on this ground that he has been called the royal prophet. It has been also said that Isaiah gave his daughter in marriage to Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, king of Judah; and that himself was put to death by Manasseh, being sawn asunder with a wooden saw. But all these traditions stand on very slender authority, and are worthy of very little regard. Several commentators have thought that his prophecies afford presumptive evidence of his high descent and elegant education:
1. Because his style is more correct and majestic than any of the other prophets.
2. That his frequent use of images taken from royalty is a proof that this state was familiar to him, being much at court, as he must have been, had he been the brother of the king.
These things are spoken by many with much confidence; for my own part, I had rather look to his inspiration for the correctness of his language and the dignity of his sentiments, than to those very inferior helps. On the other hypothesis nothing is left to the Divine Spirit, except the mere matter of his prophecies. Suppositions of this kind are not creditable to Divine revelation.
Isaiah appears to have had two sons, who were typical in their names; one, Shear-jashub, "a remnant shall return," Isaiah 7:3; and the other Maher-shalal-hash-baz, "haste to the spoil; quick to the prey;" Isaiah 8:3; and it is remarkable, that his wife is called a prophetess. Other matters relative to his character will appear in the notes on his prophecies.
In the notes on this book I have consulted throughout the commentary of Rabbi David Kimchi, and have made much use of Bishop Lowth, as the reader will perceive. His various readings I have re-collated with Dr. Kennicott, and B. De Rossi; in consequence of which I have been enabled in many cases to add double weight to the authorities by which the learned bishop was supported in the readings which he has either mentioned, or received into the text. Bishop Lowth could avail himself only of the collections of Dr. Kennicott - the sheets of Isaiah in the doctor's edition of the Hebrew Bible, as they passed through the press, were sent by him to the Bishop; but the Collections of De Rossi, more numerous and more accurate than those of Dr. Kennicott, were not published till six years after the doctor had published his Bible, and about one year before this most learned and pious prelate went to his reward. I have also consulted some excellent Hebrew MSS. in my own library from six to eight hundred years old, which have afforded me additional help in estimating the worth and importance of the various readings in the above Collections of Kenicott and De Rossi, as far as they are employed in the illustration of this prophet. From the ancient English MS. Version of this prophet I have extracted several curious translations of select parts, which I have no doubt will meet with every reader's approbation. Though I have followed Bishop Lowth chiefly, yet I have consulted the best commentators within my reach, in order to remove doubts and clear up difficult passages, but have studied to be as brief as possible, that the sacred text might not be encumbered either with the multitude or length of the notes, nor the reader's time occupied with any thing not essentially necessary; besides, I wish to bring my work to as speedy a close as possible.
This book, according to Vitringa, is twofold in its matter: 1. Prophetical; 2.Historical.
1. The prophetical is divided into five parts:
on Isaiah 44 :3
For I will pour water - Floods, rivers, streams, and waters, are often used in the Scriptures, and especially in Isaiah, to denote plenteous divine blessings, particularly the abundant influences of the Holy Spirit (see the note at Isaiah 35:6-7). That it here refers to the Holy Spirit and his influences, is proved by the parallel expressions in the subsequent part of the verse.
Upon him that is thirsty - Or rather, 'on the thirsty land.' The word צמא tsâmē' refers here rather to land, and the figure is taken from a burning sandy desert, where waters would be made to burst out in copious streams (see Isaiah 35:6-7). The sense is, that God would bestow blessings upon them as signal and marvelous, as if floods of waters were made to descend on the dry, parched, and desolated earth.
And floods - The word נוזלים nôzelı̂ym, from נזל nâzal, "to flow," to run as liquids, means properly flowings, and is used for streams and rivers Exodus 15:8; Psalm 78:16; Proverbs 5:15; Jeremiah 18 It means here that the spiritual influences which would descend on the afflicted, desolate, comfortless, and exiled people, would be like torrents of rain poured on the thirsty earth. This beautiful figure is common in the Scriptures:
He shall come down like rain upon the grass,
And as showers that water the earth.
on Isaiah 44 :3
44:3 Water - Upon him that is destitute of it.