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Isaiah 9:20

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

The flesh of his own arm "The flesh of his neighbor" - "Του βραχιονος του αδελφου αυτου, the Septuagint Alexand. Duplex versio, quarum altera legit רעו reo, quae vox extat, Jeremiah 6:21. Nam רע rea, αδελφος, Genesis 43:33. Recte ni fallor." - Secker. I add to this excellent remark, that the Chaldee manifestly reads רעו reo, his neighbor, not זרעו zeroo, his arm; for he renders it by קריביה karibeyh, his neighbor. And Jeremiah has the very same expression: יאכלו רעהו בשר ואיש veish besar reehu yochelu, "and every one shall eat the flesh of his neighbor," Jeremiah 19:9. This observation, I think, gives the true reading and sense of this place: and the context strongly confirms it by explaining the general idea by particular instances, in the following verse: "Every man shall devour the flesh of his neighbor;" that is, they shall harass and destroy one another. "Manasseh shall destroy Ephraim, and Ephraim, Manasseh;" which two tribes were most closely connected both in blood and situation as brothers and neighbors; "and both of them in the midst of their own dissensions shall agree in preying upon Judah." The common reading, "shall devour the flesh of his own arm," in connection with what follows, seems to make either an inconsistency, or an anticlimax; whereas by this correction the following verse becomes an elegant illustration of the foregoing. - L.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And he shall snatch - Hebrew, ‹He shall cut off.‘ Many have supposed that this refers to a state of famine; but others regard it as descriptive of a state of faction extending throughout the whole community, dissolving the most tender ties, arid producing a dissolution of all the bonds of life. The context Isaiah 9:19, Isaiah 9:21 shows, that the latter is meant; though it is not improbable that it would be attended with famine. When it is said that he ‹would cut off his right hand,‘ it denotes a condition of internal anarchy and strife.

And be hungry - And not be satisfied. Such would be his rage, and his desire of blood, that he would be insatiable. The retarder of those on one side of him would not appease his insatiable wrath. His desire of carnage would be so great that it would be like unappeased hunger.

And he shall eat - The idea here is that of contending factions excited by fury, rage, envy, hatred, contending in mingled strife, and spreading death with insatiable desire everywhere around them.

They shall eat - Not literally; but “shall destroy.” To eat the flesh of anyone, denotes to seek one‘s life, and is descriptive of blood-thirsty enemies; Psalm 27:2: ‹When the wicked, even mine enemies and foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell;‘ Job 19:22:

Why do ye persecute me as God,

And are not satisfied with my flesh?

Compare Deuteronomy 7:16; Jeremiah 10:25; Jeremiah 30:15; Jeremiah 50:17; Hosea 7:7; see Ovid‘s Metam. 8,867:

Ipse suos artus lacero divellere morsu

Coepit; et infelix minuendo corpus alebat.

The flesh of his own arm - The Chaldee renders this, ‹Each one shall devour the substance of his neighbor.‘ Lowth proposes to read it, ‹The flesh of his neighbor.‘ but without sufficient authority. The expression denotes a state of dreadful faction - where the ties of most intimate relationship would be disregarded, represented, here by the appalling figure of a man‘s appetite being so rabid that he would seize upon and devour his own flesh. So, in this state of faction and discord, the rage would be so great that people would destroy those who were, as it were, their own flesh, that is, their nearest kindred and friends.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Those are ripening apace for ruin, whose hearts are unhumbled under humbling providences. For that which God designs, in smiting us, is, to turn us to himself; and if this point be not gained by lesser judgments, greater may be expected. The leaders of the people misled them. We have reason to be afraid of those that speak well of us, when we do ill. Wickedness was universal, all were infected with it. They shall be in trouble, and see no way out; and when men's ways displease the Lord, he makes even their friends to be at war with them. God would take away those they thought to have help from. Their rulers were the head. Their false prophets were the tail and the rush, the most despicable. In these civil contests, men preyed on near relations who were as their own flesh. The people turn not to Him who smites them, therefore he continues to smite: for when God judges, he will overcome; and the proudest, stoutest sinner shall either bend or break.
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