Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Isaiah 8:21

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Hardly bestead "Distressed" - Instead of נקשה niksheh, distressed, the Vulgate, Chaldee, and Symmachus manifestly read נכשל nichshal, stumbling, tottering through weakness, ready to fall; a sense which suits very well with the place.

And look upward "And he shall cast his eyes upward" - The learned professor Michaelis, treating of this place (Not. in de Sacr. Poes. Hebr. Prael. ix.) refers to a passage in the Koran which is similar to it. As it is a very celebrated passage, and on many accounts remarkable, I shall give it here at large, with the same author's farther remarks upon it in another place of his writings. It must be noted here that the learned professor renders נבט nibbat, הביט hibbit, in this and the parallel place, Isaiah 5:30, which I translate he looketh by it thundereth, from Schultens, Orig. Ling. Hebr. Lib. 1 cap. 2, of the justness of which rendering I much doubt.

This brings the image of Isaiah more near in one circumstance to that of Mohammed than it appears to be in my translation: -

"Labid, contemporary with Mohammed, the last of the seven Arabian poets who had the honor of having their poems, one of each, hung up in the entrance of the temple of Mecca, struck with the sublimity of a passage in the Koran, became a convert to Mohammedism; for he concluded that no man could write in such a manner unless he were Divinely inspired.

"One must have a curiosity to examine a passage which had so great an effect upon Labid. It is, I must own, the finest that I know in the whole Koran: but I do not think it will have a second time the like effect, so as to tempt any one of my readers to submit to circumcision. It is in the second chapter, where he is speaking of certain apostates from the faith. 'They are like,' saith he, 'to a man who kindles a light. As soon as it begins to shine, God takes from them the light, and leaves them in darkness that they see nothing. They are deaf, dumb, and blind; and return not into the right way. Or they fare as when a cloud, full of darkness, thunder, and lightning, covers the heaven. When it bursteth, they stop their ears with their fingers, with deadly fear; and God hath the unbelievers in his power. The lightning almost robbeth them of their eyes: as often as it flasheth they go on by its light; and when it vanisheth in darkness, they stand still. If God pleased, they would retain neither hearing nor sight.' That the thought is beautiful, no one will deny; and Labid, who had probably a mind to flatter Mohammed, was lucky in finding a passage in the Koran so little abounding in poetical beauties, to which his conversion might with any propriety be ascribed. It was well that he went no farther; otherwise his taste for poetry might have made him again an infidel." Michaelis, Erpenii Arabische Grammatik abgekurzt, Vorrede, s. 32.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And they shall pass - The people who have been consulting necromancers. This represents the condition of these who have sought for counsel and direction, and who have not found it. They shall be conscious of disappointment, and shall wander perplexed and alarmed through the land.

Through it - Through the land. They shall wander in it from one place to another, seeking direction and relief.

Hardly bestead - Oppressed, borne down, agitated. The meaning is, that the people would wander about, oppressed by the calamities that were coming upon the nation, and unalleviated by all that soothsayers and necromancers could do.

And hungry - Famished; as one effect of the great calamities that would afflict the nation.

They shall fret themselves - They shall be irritated at their own folly and weakness, and shall aggravate their sufferings by self-reproaches for having trusted to false gods.

Their king and their God - The Hebrew interpreters understand this of the false gods which they bad consulted, and in which they had trusted. But their looking upward, and the connection, seem to imply that they would rather curse the true God - the ‹king and the God‘ of the Jewish people. They would be subjected to the proofs of his displeasure, and would vent their malice by reproaches and curses.

And look upward - For relief. This denotes the condition of those in deep distress, instinctively casting their eyes to heaven for aid. Yet it is implied that they would do it with no right feeling, and that they would see there only the tokens of their Creator‘s displeasure.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The prophet foresaw that the Lord would hide his face; but he would look for his return in favour to them again. Though not miraculous signs, the children's names were memorials from God, suited to excite attention. The unbelieving Jews were prone to seek counsel in difficulties, from diviners of different descriptions, whose foolish and sinful ceremonies are alluded to. Would we know how we may seek to our God, and come to the knowledge of his mind? To the law and to the testimony; for there you will see what is good, and what the Lord requires. We must speak of the things of God in the words which the Holy Ghost teaches, and be ruled by them. To those that seek to familiar spirits, and regard not God's law and testimony, there shall be horror and misery. Those that go away from God, go out of the way of all good; for fretfulness is a sin that is its own punishment. They shall despair, and see no way of relief, when they curse God. And their fears will represent every thing as frightful. Those that shut their eyes against the light of God's word, will justly be left to darkness. All the miseries that ever were felt or witnessed on earth, are as nothing, compared with what will overwhelm those who leave the words of Christ, to follow delusions.