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By the serpent's root may be meant king Uzziah, who was always inimical to the Philistines, whom he sometimes greatly distressed. From this root arose another prince, who was still more severely to afflict them; and, inflamed with a strong desire of vengeance, mould come upon the inhabitants of Palestina with the utmost expedition, and, advancing toward them with the most rapid motion, should strike them with a mortal wound. He is therefore spoken of as a cockatrice, and a fiery flying serpent. This description does not relate to his temper and practice, which was mild and gentle, but to that irremediable destruction which he was to be the instrument of inflicting on the Philistines. This person can be no other than Hezekiah, king of Judah. Though, at first sight, this interpretation may appear somewhat strained and unnatural, I hope you will be satisfied of its justness and propriety, by attending to the general import and design of the prophecy. In some prophetic emblems, we observe a strict agreement and resemblance between the names and figurative descriptions, and the persons who are signified by them; in others, the likeness and correspondence is not so conspicuous, as in the instance before us. This circumstance however, in some measure, arises from our unacquaintedness with ancient manners and modes of expreslion. Among the Egyptians, serpents were considered as emblematical of kings, who often dangerously wound those who provoke them, when they come within their reach. The patriarch Jacob uses the fame emblem, when blessing his sons, and pronouncing their future fortunes. * Dan (said he) shall be a serpent by
* the way, an adder in the path; that biteth the
* horse-heels, so that his rider shall fall backward *.' In like manner, Isaiah here speaks of the king of Judah, under a symbolic expression, that he might, in some measure, conceal his meaning, until the
* Gen. xlix. 17.
completion of the prophecy should discover its import. Nor ought we to be surprised at this; the genius of the prophetic style being enigmatical, this cast is sometimes purposely given to it, even when the expression is most pkin and direct.
30 And the first-born of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety: and I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall flay thy remnant.
The happy consequences which Were to arise in Judah, from the slaughter to be made among the
Philistines, are here represented* By the poor and
needy, seem to be meant the inhabitants of Judea, who were reduced to low and straitened circumstances, by the encroachments of their enemies, under the reign of Ahaz. Whilst that wicked prince fat upon the throne, the Jewish people were much harassed by the incursions of neighbouring nations, and exposed to many hardships, as Hezekiah plainly intimates, in the proclamation which he sent throughout all Israel: 'Be not ye like your fathers, and like 'your brethren, who trespassed against the Lord God * of their fathers, who therefore gave them up to de'solation, as ye fee *.' By the first-born of the poor, are meant, not the eldest sons of the poor, who, in the language of Jacob, were their might, and the beginning of their strength, but those who were extremely poor, who, instead of having a double portion of the good things of this world, had a double share of poverty, and were Oppressed with penury and want. People of this description, our prophet foretels, jball lie down in safety. God was about to elevate them, from that sorlorn state wherein many of the lower ranks had been exposed to danger and want, to a comfortable condition, in which they were to en
* 2 Chron. xxx. 7. Vol. II. L joy joy tranquillity and affluence. Even those who had been exceedingly poor, and greatly distressed, were to find agreeable relief, and deliverance from the evils and enemies by which they had been greatly afflicted.
And I will kill thy root with famine, and he Jhall /lay thy remnant. A root, properly speaking, is the lower part of the tree, by which it is fastened in the earth, by means of which it receives moisture and nourishment, and the tree itself is supported. When used in a figurative sense, and applied, as in the words before us, to a nation, it may denote whatever constitutes its strength and support, and is the means of promoting its establishment and increase. All things having this tendency, God declares, by our propher, that he would kill by famine, and so deprive the Philistines of what was necessary to strengthen and uphold them as a people. Their root was to perish, their strength was quickly to decay, and they were to lose their stability. The necessary supports of life being removed; they would lose their vigour and influence as a people, and fall from their former flourishing estate. And he Jhall flay thy remnant. The
person of whom the prophet speaks, who was to flay the remnant of the Philistines, which remained after the famine, seems to have been Hezekiah, king of Judah, who, in the preceding verse, was spoken of under the emblem of a cockatrice. The root, or great bulk of the nation, having been destroyed, through want of the necessary means of subsistence, the Jewish prince was to slay the residue, in consequence of which all their power and glory should be aboliflied. The fulfilment of this prediction is recorded, 2 Kings xviii. 8.; where we read, that * He
* zekiah smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and
* the borders thereof, from the tower of the watch
* men to the fenced city.' This slaughter was probably made after some severe famine which they suffered, arising from the ravages made upon their country by some of their enemies. How variable k the condition of mankind, and how often is it reversed in the course of divine providence! Those who were oppressed with indigence, and exposed to danger, are frequently advanced to enjoy abundance and lafety, whilst those who were ready to exult and triumph in the superior advantages of their state, are reduced to a low and deplorable condition. Their power, riches, and honours, are blasted at the root, and down they fall from their former eminence and grandeur. Day unto day makes repo;t of such revolutions, and night unto night sheweth us this knowledge. The prophecy which we have now been considering, presents this truth to our view in a very striking light; and our own experience confirms the uncertainty and mutability of every worldly enjoyment.
31 Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou whole Palestina art dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none Jhall be alone in his appointed times.
Our prophet not only dissuaded the Philistines from rejoicing, but he called them to mourning and lamentation, on account of the approaching calamities with which they were to be visited. He addresses the gate and the city. By the gate, may be meant more especially the chief magistrates, the elders, and the judges of the people, who anciently fat in the gates of the cities; and the soldiers, who were placed there, as centinels for their defence, to repel the hostile attacks of their enemies. These two classes of men constituted, in great measure, the strength of the city. By the city, might be intended the inhabitants who dwelt in it, subject to the magistrates, and defended by the military. The people residing in the sive principal cities of the Philistines, already mentioned, were probably, in a particular manner, in Isaiah's view, when he invited them to howl and to cry, in the prospect of the great calamities which, ere long, were to seize
upon therri. Thou whole Pale/tina art dissolved.
The expression is metaphorical; and borrowed from solid bodies, which, when thrown into the fire, lose their solidity, are melted, and become liquid. In like manner, the inhabitants of Philistia, being cast into the furnace of affliction, were to be divested of their former strength and firmness of mind, which was to be exchanged for timidity and terror, joined with melancholy despair. The condition of the republic in Palestina should be reversed: being deprived of its former consistency and stability, it was to be reduced to a weak, fluctuating condition, unable any
longer to resist the assaults of its adversaries. The
reason of this dissolution is subjoined:
For there Jhall come from the north asmoke, and none Jhall be alqne in his appointed times. The smoke which, should come out of the north, seems intended to signify the great Assyrian army, which was to march into Palestine in deep columns, and, like smoke, to darken the air, by the dust they would raise in their rapid movements, so that the signs of their approach
were to be visible at a great distance. None Jhall
be alone in his appointed times; or, as the bishop of London translates the Hebrew words, " There shall "not be a straggler among his levies.'* When the appointed season should arrive, for collecting and marching the powerful army, here spoken of, into Palestine, the whole troops were voluntarily, and with alacrity^ to. engage in the.service. None Ihould straggle from the main body; but all were to march forw ard with unanimity and courage, in the firm expectation of success and victory. You may fee this prophecy beautifully illustrated in the forty-seventh chapter of Jeremiah,
where the same subject is treated. Thus have we
contemplated another instance of what we may have often observed, that the time wherein the enemies of God's people are most apt to rejoice and triumph, on account of flattering appearances in their savour,