Isaiah 5:24
(24) Therefore as the fire devoureth.--Literally, the tongue of fire. The scene brought before us is--(1) that of a charred and burnt-up field, horrible and hideous to look upon (comp. Hebrews 6:8); (2) that of a tree decayed and loathsome. The double imagery represents the end of the riotous mirth of the unjust judges.

Verse 24. - Therefore, etc. A general judgment is now pronounced against all the forms of wickedness enumerated - a judgment of ruin or destruction. It is expressed by a mixed metaphor, or "combination of two figures," the former taken from the burning of stubble and withered grass by the farmer when he is cleaning his fields, the latter from the natural decay of a blossoming plant or tree. In either case the destruction is complete, but in the one it arises from an external force, fire; in the other from an internal failure of vitality. The ruin of Israel would include both; it would be brought about by an internal cause, their corruption, and an external one, God's anger. As the fire devoureth the stubble; literally, as a tongue of fire eats up stubble. "Tongue of fire" is an unusual phrase, occurring in all Scripture only here and in Acts 2:3. But it well depicts the power of fire to lick up clean all that comes in its way. Isaiah elsewhere notes the analogy, making it the foundation of simile (Isaiah 30:27). And the flame consumeth the chaff; rather, and as dry grass sinks down inflame. The withered grass of pastures was burnt by farmers to improve the after-growth (Lucan, 'Pharsal.,' 9:182). Their root shall be as rottenness (comp. Hosea 9:16). The root is the last thing to decay. When that fails, the case is desperate. Judah's "root" did not utterly fail (see Isaiah 11:1); but the present warning is to individuals and classes (vers. 8, 11, 18, 20-23), not to the nation. Their blossom shall go up as dust; i.e. their external glory shall crumble and waste away. Because they have cast away the Law. All the sins of Israel had this one thing in common - they were transgressions of the Law of God as delivered to them by Moses, and enforced upon them by the prophetical order (comp. 2 Kings 17:13-16). Despised the word; or, the speech. Imrah is rarely used by Isaiah. It does not refer to the written "Word," but to the declarations of God by the mouth of his prophets (see Isaiah 28:23; Isaiah 32:9).

5:24-30 Let not any expect to live easily who live wickedly. Sin weakens the strength, the root of a people; it defaces the beauty, the blossoms of a people. When God's word is despised, and his law cast away, what can men expect but that God should utterly abandon them? When God comes forth in wrath, the hills tremble, fear seizes even great men. When God designs the ruin of a provoking people, he can find instruments to be employed in it, as he sent for the Chaldeans, and afterwards the Romans, to destroy the Jews. Those who would not hear the voice of God speaking by his prophets, shall hear the voice of their enemies roaring against them. Let the distressed look which way they will, all appears dismal. If God frowns upon us, how can any creature smile? Let us diligently seek the well-grounded assurance, that when all earthly helps and comforts shall fail, God himself will be the strength of our hearts, and our portion for ever.Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble,.... Or "tongue of fire" (h); meaning the flame, the same as in the next clause; because it is in the form of a tongue; see Acts 2:3,

and the flame consumeth the chaff; which is done easily, speedily, and entirely; the metaphors denote that their destruction would be easy, swift, sudden, irresistible, and irrecoverable. Reference may be had to the burning of Jerusalem, literally understood:

so their root shall be rottenness; and so utterly perish; meaning their fathers, as Aben Ezra and Abarbinel think; or their chief and principal men, before mentioned; or their riches and substance, and whatever they gloried of, or trusted in; see Matthew 3:10,

and their blossom shall go up as dust; before the wind; either their children, or whatever was excellent or valuable with them; so Jarchi interprets it of their grandeur, pomp, and glory; it seems to express an utter destruction of them, root and branch, as in Malachi 4:1,

because they have cast away the law of the Lord; or doctrine of the Lord; that is, the Gospel; which the Jews blasphemed, contradicted, and put away from them, and judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life: the preaching of a crucified Christ, and salvation by him, and justification by his righteousness, were a stumbling block to them: this is to be understood not of the law of works, but of the law or doctrine of faith:

and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel; meaning either the same as before; expressing their great contempt of the Gospel, and the reason why they rejected it, because they loathed, abhorred, and despised it: or else Christ, the essential Word of God; so the Targum,

"they rejected the Word, the Holy One of Israel;''

as the Messiah, and received him not; and this their rejection of him, and ill treatment of his Gospel and ministers, were the cause of the burning of Jerusalem, and of their utter ruin and destruction, Matthew 22:4.

(h) "lingua ignis", Vatablus.

Isaiah 5:23
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