No wood "Its master" - I have here given the meaning, without attempting to keep to the expression of the original, עץ לא lo ets, "the no-wood;" that which is not wood like itself, but of a quite different and superior nature. The Hebrews have a peculiar way of joining the negative particle לא lo to a noun, to signify in a strong manner a total negation of the thing expressed by the noun.
"How hast thou given help (כח ללא lelo choach ) to the no-strength?
And saved the arm (עז לא lo oz ) of the no-power?
How hast, thou given counsel (חכמה ללא lelo chochmah ) to the no-wisdom?"
That is, to the man totally deprived of strength, power, and wisdom.
"Ye that rejoice (דבר ללא lelo dabar ) in nothing."
That is, in your fancied strength, which is none at all, a mere nonentity.
"For I am God, (איש ולא velo ish ), and no-man;
The Holy One in the midst of thee, yet do not frequent cities."
"And the Assyrian shall fall by a sword (איש לא lo ish ) of no-man;
And a sword of (אדם לא lo adam ) no-mortal, shall devour him."
"Wherefore do ye weigh out your silver (לחם בלוא belo lechem ) for the no-bread."
So here עץ לא lo ets means him who is far from being an inert piece of wood, but is an animated and active being; not an instrument, but an agent.
Shall the axe - In this verse God reproves the pride and arrogance of the Assyrian monarch. He does it by reminding him that he was the mere instrument in his hand, to accomplish his purposes; and that it was just as absurd for him to boast of what he had done, as it would be for the axe to boast when it had been welded with effect. In the axe there is no wisdom, no skill, no power; and though it may lay the forest low, yet it is not by any skill or power which it possesses. So with the Assyrian monarch. Though nations had trembled at his power, yet be was in the hand of God, and had been directed by an unseen arm in accomplishing the designs of the Ruler of the universe. Though himself free, yet he was under the direction of God, and had been so directed as to accomplish his designs.
The saw magnify itself - That is boast or exalt itself against or over him that uses it.
That shaketh it - Or moves it backward and forward, for the purpose of sawing.
As if the rod - A rod is an instrument of chastisement or punishment; and such God regarded the king of Assyria.
Should shake” itself - The Hebrew, in this place, is as in the margin: ‹A rod should shake them that lift it up.‘ But the sense is evidently retained in our translation, as this accords with all the other members of the verse, where the leading idea is, the absurdity that a mere instrument should exalt itself against him who makes use of it. In this manner the preposition על ‛al “over,” or “against,” is evidently understood. So the Vulgate and the Syriac.
The staff - This word here is synonymous with rod, and denotes an instrument of chastisement.
As if it were no wood - That is, as if it were a moral agent, itself the actor or deviser of what it is made to do. It would be impossible to express more strongly the idea intended here, that the Assyrian was a mere instrument in the hand of God to accomplish “his” purposes, and to be employed at his will. The statement of this truth is designed to humble him: and if there be “any” truth that will humble sinners, it is, that they are in the hands of God; that he will accomplish his purposes by them; that when they are laying plans against him, he will overrule them for his own glory; and that they will be arrested, restrained, or directed, just as he pleases. Man, in his schemes of pride and vanity, therefore, should not boast. He is under the God of nations; and it is one part of his administration, to control and govern all the intellect in the universe. In all these passages, however, there is not the slightest intimation that the Assyrian was not “free.” There is no fate; no compulsion. He regarded himself as a free moral agent; he did what he pleased; he never supposed that he was urged on by any power that violated his own liberty. If he did what he pleased, he was free. And so it is with all sinners. They do as they please. They form and execute such plans as they choose; and God overrules their designs to accomplish his own purposes. The Targum of Jonathan has given the sense of this passage; ‹Shall the axe boast against him who uses it, saying, I have cut (wood); or the saw boast against him who moves it, saying, I have sawed? When the rod is raised to smite, it is not the rod that smites, but he who smites with it.‘
No Occasion to Depreciate Character or Excuse Sin—I could wish that the curtain could be rolled back, and that those who have not spiritual eyesight might see these men as they appear in the sight of God; for now they see them as trees walking. They would not then put their human construction upon the experience and works of the men who parted the darkness from the track and prepared the way for future generations. 3SM 346.1
Living down in our own generation, we may pronounce judgment upon the men whom God raised up to do a special work, according to the light given to them in their day. Though they may have been overcome with temptation, they repented of their sins; and no opportunity is left for us to depreciate their characters or to excuse sin. Their history is a beacon of warning to us, and points out a safe path for our feet if we will but shun their mistakes. These noble men sought the mercy seat and humbled their souls before God. 3SM 346.2
Let not our voices or pens show that we are disregarding the solemn injunctions of the Lord. Let no one depreciate those who have been chosen of God, who have fought manfully the battles of the Lord, who have woven heart and soul and life into the cause and work of God, who have died in faith, and who are partakers of the great salvation purchased for us through our precious sin-bearing, sin-pardoning Saviour. 3SM 346.3Read in context »