Make thee bald - Cutting off the hair was a sign of great distress, and was practised on the death of near relatives; see Amos 8:10.
The desolation should be so great that Israel should feel it to her utmost extent; and the mourning should be like that of a mother for the death of her most delicate children.
Enlarge thy baldness as the eagle - Referring to the mounting of this bird, when in casting its feathers and breeding new ones, it is very sickly, and its strength wholly exhausted.
They are gone into captivity - This is a prediction of the captivity by Shalmaneser. Samaria, the chief city, is called on to deplore it, as then fast approaching.
Make thee bald, poll - (literally, shear thee for thy delicate children Some special ways of cutting the hair were forbidden to the Israelites, as being idolatrous customs, such as the rounding the hair in front, cutting it away from the temples, or between the eyes Deuteronomy 14:1. All shearing of the hair was not forbidden; indeed to the Nazarite it was commanded, at the close of his vow. The removal of that chief ornament of the countenance wasa natural expression of grief, which revolts at all personal appearance. It belonged, not to idolatry, but to nature. “Thy delicate children.” The change was the more bitter for those tended and brought up delicately. Moses from the first spoke of special miseries which should fall on the tender and very delicate. “Enlarge thy baldness;” outdo in grief what others do; for the cause of thy grief is more than that of others. The point of comparison in the Eagle might either be the actual baldness of the head, or its moulting. If it were the baldness of the head, the word translated eagle Unless nesher be the golden Eagle there is no Hebrew name for it, whereas it is still a bird of Palestine, and smaller eagles are mentioned in the same verse, Leviticus 11:13; namely, the ossifrage, פרס, and the black eagle, עזניה, so called from its strength, like the valeria, of which Pliny says, “the melanaetos or valeria, least in size, remarkable for strength, blackish in color.” x. 3. The same lint of unclean birds contains also the vulture, דיה, Deuteronomy 14:13, (as it must be, being a gregarious bird, Isaiah 34:15 ) in its different species Deuteronomy 14:13 the gier-eagle, (that is, Geyer) (vulture) eagle gypaetos, or vultur percnopterus, (Hasselquist, Forskal, Shaw, Bruce in Savigny p. 77.) partaking of the character of both, (רהם Leviticus 11:18; Deuteronomy 14:17 together with the falcon (דאה Leviticus 11:14 and hawk, with its subordinate species, (למינהו נץ ) Leviticus 11:18; Deuteronomy 14:15.), although mostly used of the Eagle itself, might here comprehend the Vulture. For entire baldness is so marked a feature in the vulture, whereas the “bald-headed Eagle” was probably not a bird of Palestine. On the other hand, David, who lived so long among the rocks of Palestine, and Isaiah seem to have known of effects of moulting upon the Eagle in producing, (although in a less degree than in other birds,) a temporary diminution of strength, which have not in modern times been commonly observed.
For David says, “Thou shalt renew, like the eagle, thy youth, which speaks of fresh strength after temporary weakness” Psalm 103:5; and Isaiah, “They that trust in the Lord shall put forth fresh strength; they shall put forth pinion-feathers like eagles” Isaiah 40:31, comparing the fresh strength which should succeed to that which was gone, to the eagle‘s recovering its strong pinion-feathers. Bochart however says unhesitatingly, “At the beginning of spring, the rapacious birds are subject to shedding of their feathers which we call moulting.” If this be so, the comparison is yet more vivid, For the baldness of the vulture belongs to its matured strength, and could only be an external likeness. The moulting of the eagle involves some degree of weakness, with which he compares Judah‘s mournful and weak condition amid the loss of their children, gone into captivity.
Thus closes the first general portion of the prophecy. The people had east aside its own Glory, God; now its sons, its pride and its trust, shall go away from it.
Lap.: “The eagle, laying aside its old feathers and taking new, is a symbol of penitence and of the penitents who lay aside their former evil habits, and become other and new men. True, but rare form of penitence!” Gregory the Great thus applies this to the siege of Rome by the Lombards.: “That happened to her which we know to have been foretold of Judea by the prophet, enlarge thy baldness like the eagle. For baldness befalls man in the head only, but the eagle in its whole body; for, when it is very old, its feathers and pinions fall from all its body. She lost her feathers, who lost her people. Her pinions too fell out, with which she was accustomed to fly to the prey; for all her mighty men, through whom she plundered others, perished. But this which we speak of, the breaking to pieces of the city of Rome, we know has been done in all the cities of the world. Some were desolated by pestilence, others devoured by the sword, others racked by famine, others swallowed by earthquakes. Despise we them with our whole heart, at least, when brought to nought; at least with the end of the world, let us end our eagerness after the world. Follow we, wherein we can, the deeds of the good.” One whose commentaries Jerome had read, thus applies this verse to the whole human race. “O soul of man! O city, once the mother of saints, which wast formerly in Paradise, and didst enjoy the delights of different trees, and wast adorned most beautifully, now being east down from thy place aloft, and brought down unto Babylon, and come into a place of captivity, and having lost thy glory, make thee bald and take the habit of a penitent; and thou who didst fly aloft like an eagle, mourn thy sons, thy offspring, which from thee is led captive.”