Isaiah 6

 

                           THE VISION OF GOD SEEN BY ISAIAH

                                                            (vs. 1-4)

 

It is thought by some that this vision, and its sequel, constitute the original call of Isaiah

to the prophetical office, and in order of time precede all the other contents of the

book. But the position of the "vision" in the book is strongly against this view.

Prophets who relate their original call naturally place it in the forefront of their

narrative (Jeremiah 1:10Ezekiel 1:1). It is quite possible, as Bishop Lowth

says, that this was "a new designation, to introduce more solemnly a general

declaration of the whole course of God's dispensations in regard to His people,

and the fates of the nations." The vision itself may profitably be compared with

Ezekiel's first vision, which it much resembles (Ezekiel 1:4-28). 

 

 

1 “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne,

high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.” In the year that King

Uzziah died. The year B.C. 759, probably. We cannot determine from the

phrase used whether the vision was seen before or after Uzziah's death. 

I saw also; rather, then it was that I saw (compare Exodus 16:6). The Lord.

Not "Jehovah," as in vs. 3 and 5, but "Adonay," for greater reverence. 

Sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up. The imagery is, of course, taken

from the practice of earthly kings. Elaborate thrones were affected by the

great monarchs of Egypt and Assyria (Lepsius, 'Deutmaler,' pt. 3. pls. 2, 76,

100, 121; Layard, 'Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 150). Solomon's throne was perhaps

even grander than any of these (see I Kings 10:18-20). It was placed at the

ummit of "six steps," so that its occupant was "high and lifted up" above all

his courtiers. His train. Not his train of attendants, but "the skirts of His robe."

Flowing robes were commonly worn by great monarchs. Filled the temple; or, 

the palace. The same word is used in Hebrew for both. Dr. Kay supposes the

prophet to be "in vision gazing on the actual temple - to see its veils drawn

aside, and instead of the Shechinah enthroned on the cherubim, to behold

the King of glory, enthroned on high, the fringes of His royal robe filling

the temple, so that no human priest could minister there." But, as Mr. Cheyne

observes, "palace is more in harmony with the picture than temple." It is the

heavenly palace of the King of kings into which the prophet's gaze is allowed

to penetrate.

 

2 “Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered

his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.”

Above it stood the seraphims; rather, above Him were standing seraphim. The

"seraphim" are introduced, not as well known, with the article, but without it,

as unknown. The word means "fiery ones," and is supposed to denote the

burning love of the blessed spirits spoken of. They appeared to the prophet

as standing above the King as He sat upon His throne - "standing" to show their

readiness to minister; but why "above him" is not so clear. Perhaps, simply,

as those that stand are "above" those that sit; perhaps as ready to fly through

infinite space at the bidding of Him who was seated in His palace, as it

were upon the ground. Their form, as seen by the prophet, appears to have

been human, and only distinguished from ordinary humanity by the wings.

Thus, though in name they resembled those other "fiery ones," which had

punished the Jews in the wilderness (Numbers 21:6-9), there is nothing

to show that Isaiah in any way connected the two. Each one had six wings.

Gesenius is mistaken in saying that there are at Persepolis any six-winged

figures ('Thesaurus,' p. 1342). The Persians not infrequently represented

their genii with four wings ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 3. pp. 353, 354); but

no six-winged figures have been found, so far as I know, among the Persian

remainsWith twain he covered his face, etc. The general idea of the six wings

was probably rapid flight, the carrying out of God's behests "with speed swiftly."

But, in the Divine presence, the wings were applied to a different use. One pair

veiled the seraph's head from the intolerable effulgence of the Divine glory;

another concealed the feet, soiled in their various ministrations, and unmeet

for the all-pure presence; the third pair alone sustained the seraph in mid-air,

as he hovered in readiness to depart on any errand on which Jehovah might

send him.

 

 3 “And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts:

the whole earth is full of His glory.”  One cried; rather, kept crying (compare

Revelation 4:8, "They rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy"). But the

prophet scarcely goes so far; he describes only his vision - they did not rest

while the vision was vouchsafed him. Holy, holy, holy. The Church on earth

has taken pattern by the Church above; and the "Trisagion" (a hymn to or

invocation of God as the thrice holy) is ever being repeated in one part

of the earth or another without ceasing: "Thou continuest holy, O thou Worship

of Israel." There is no attribute so essential to God as this. It is for His holiness,

more than for anything else, that His creatures worship Him. The triple

repetition has been understood in all ages of the Church as connected with

the doctrine of the Trinity.

 

Ø      Holy is He who has created us, and bidden us worship

Him in the beauty of holiness!

 

Ø      Holy is He who has redeemed us, and washed away

our sins, and made us by profession holy!

 

Ø      Holy is He who day by day sanctifies us, and makes us in very

deed and truth, so far as we will permit Him, holy! The

whole earth is full of his glory. Even in heaven the seraphic

thoughts are turned to earth, and its relation to its Divine Creator

is made the subject of angelic utterances (compare I Corinthians 4:9

Hebrews 12:22). The lesson which they gather from their

contemplation, even under all the miserable circumstances of the

time, is a cheering one: "THE WHOLE EARTH IS FULL OF

GOD’S GLORY!" Men, whether they will it or not, are working

out God's purposes, advancing His designs, accomplishing the

ends that He desires (see Homily below).

 

 

                                            Wicked Men Used by God

                                                                 as

                        Instruments for Working Out His Purposes (vs. 25-29)

 

The psalmist declares the wicked to be “God’s sword” (Psalm 17:13).  In a later

chapter Isaiah calls Assyria “the rod of God’s anger” (ch. 10:5). Nothing is more

clearly set forth in the prophetical writings than the fact that:

 

·         CONQUERING NATIONS ARE RAISED UP BY GOD TO

CHASTISE THE NATIONS THAT ARE HIS ENEMIES.

 

Ø      Assyria was “the axe” with which God hewed down offending peoples

(ch. 10:14), “the rod’ wherewith He smote them. God exalted her, in

order that she might “lay waste defensed cities into ruinous heaps”

(ch. 37:26). This was her raison detre, the purpose of her existence

(ibid.). She was sent against one openly wicked or “hypocritical

nation’ after another, and given a charge “to take the spoil, and to take the

prey, and to tread them down like the mire in the streets” (ch. 10:6).

 

Ø      Babylon was raised up for the castigation of Tyre (Ezekiel 26:7), of

Egypt (ibid. ch.29:19-20; 30:10-26), and of Judah (Jeremiah 25:9).

 

Ø      Media and Persia were raised up to work the will of God upon Assyria

and Babylon (ch. 13:17; 21:2; Jeremiah 51:11, etc.).

 

Ø      Greece and Macedon were raised up to punish Persia and Media

(Daniel 8:5-8); and so on. Each of these nations was ungodly — full of

impurity, pride, selfishness, greed, cruelty. Yet God made use of them for

His purposes, and does not scruple to call their rulers His servants,” “HHis

shepherds,” “those who performed all His pleasure” (ch. 44:28;

Jeremiah 25:11; 27:6, etc.).

 

·         BAD MEN ARE EXALTED TO POWER TO CHASTISE BOTH

NATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS. Samson, Sennacherib, and

Nebuchadnezzar seem to have been rather instruments for punishing

nations and states. But such men as Joab, Jehu, Hazael, effected God’s

purposes mainly with respect to individuals. God made use of them, and of

their sinful tempers, to execute vengeance upon certain special offenders.

Jehu was anointed king by God’s prophet to punish Jezebel and the house

of Ahab (II Kings 9:2-26; 10:1-11). Fired by ambition, he rushed into

crime, and “the blood of Jezreel was afterwards avenged upon his house

(Hosea 1:4). But for Joab the crimes of Abner and of Absalom would

probably have gone unpunished. He may be viewed as God’s instrument to

requite their ill deeds; but as he punished the one treacherously and the

other against his king’s commands, their blood, or at any rate that of

Abner, “returned upon the head of Joab” (I Kings 2:33). Hazael’s case

is like that of Jehu, only not set before us with such distinctness. He was

“God’s sword” to the wicked Benhadad; but not thereby excused. God

turns the wickedness of men into particular channels, making it effect His

ends; but it is wickedness none the less.

 

4 “And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house

was filled with smoke.”  The posts of the door moved; rather, the bases of the

thresholds shook (compare Revised Version). The shout of the seraphs shook the

very foundations on which the thresholds of the gates of heaven rested –

a testimony to the energy with which it was uttered. At the voice of him that

cried; i.e. "at the voice of each and all." The house was filled with smoke. 

"Smoke" is sometimes the mere sign of the presence of God, as in ch. 4:5; but

more often it indicates His presence in anger or judgment (see Exodus 19:18

20:18Revelation 15:8). Here there had been no smoke at first, and we must

suppose it, therefore, a sign of the anger which finds vent in vs. 9-12.

 

 

 

                                    THE SEQUEL OF THE VISION,

                   THE PROPHET'S SENSE OF UNWORTHINESS.

                                                            (vs. 5-7)

 

The vision of God in this life, whether natural or ecstatic, cannot but produce

in the beholder a deep feeling of his unworthiness. God "is of purer eyes than

to behold iniquity" (Habakkuk 1:13_; even "the heavens are not clean in His sight"

(Job 15:15).  Man, being never wholly purged from sin while on earth, cannot

but shrink from contact with the absolutely Holy. Hence Isaiah's cry (v. 5); and

hence, to comfort him, the symbolic action of the seraph (v. 6) and his encouraging

words (v. 7). 

 

5 “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean

lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have

seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”  I am undone; literally, cut offdestroyed 

(compare ch. 15:1Jeremiah 47:5Hosea 4:5-6, etc.). God once said Himself,

"There shall no man see me and live" (Exodus 33:20). Men expected to die

even when they had seen angels of God (Genesis 32:30Judges 6:22-2313:22).

How we are to reconcile Exodus 33:20 with this passage, Job 42:5, and Ezekiel

1:26-28, is uncertain. Perhaps the ecstatic sight was not included in the "seeing" 

of which God spoke to Moses. I am a man of unclean lips. A man must be

indeed" perfect" never to offend in word (James 3:2). Isaiah felt that he had

often so offended. His lips were not "clean" in God's sight, and if not his lips,

then not his heart; for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh"

(Matthew 12:34). I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. Men catch

up the phraseology of their time, and use wrong forms of speech, because they

hear them daily. "Evil communications corrupt good manners" (I Corinthians 15:33).

 

6 “Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, 

which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:”  A live coal; or, a glowing

stone, as Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Knobel, and Mr. Cheyne understand (compare 

I Kings 19:6, where a cognate word is used). The tongs... the altar. The presence

of an altar in the heavenly dwelling, with the usual appurtenances, is assumed

(compare Revelation 6:9 8:3). The altar is, no doubt, an altar of incense,

and of gold, not of stone; but the incense is burnt upon stones heated to a glow,

and it is one of these stones which the angel takes with the golden tongs of the

sanctuary (Exodus 25:38).

 

7 “And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips;

and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” He laid it upon my

mouth; literally, he caused it to touch my mouth; i.e. "he touched my mouth

with it." He brought it into contact with that part of him which the

prophet had recognized (v. 5) as the seat of impurity. Thine iniquity is taken away.

By the contact the prophet's impurity is purged, and he is freed from it. The

symbolical act showed:

 

Ø      that sin could be purged;

Ø      that the highest angelic nature could not, alone and of its own force,

purge it; and

Ø      that the purging could come only from that fire which consumes the

incense that is laid upon the altar of God.

 

 

 

            THE PROPHET ENTRUSTED WITH A SPECIAL MISSON.

                                                     (vs. 8-13)

 

We do not know what special call Isaiah had had previously. Perhaps he had been

brought up in the "schools of the prophets." (1 Samuel 19:18–24II Kings ch. 2 and

4:38–44.  Perhaps, when the "word of the Lord" came to him, he had accepted

the fact as sufficient call. Now, however, he had, in vision, a clear and distinct call

and mission (vs. 8-9). He was told to "go," and instructed as to what he was to say

(vs. 9-10). As before (chapters 1-5.), while in the main he was to denounce woe,

he was still to proclaim the survival of a remnant (vs. 10-12).

 

8 “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will

go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.”  Whom shall I send? (compare

I Kings 20:20). Such questions enable those who wait in the courts of heaven to

show their zeal and readiness. Who will go for us? Some explain the plural

pronoun as used of the Almighty and those with whom He is consulting.

But He does not really "consult" His creatures (ch. 40:14; Romans 11:34), nor do

His messengers do His errands for them. The plural form is best explained by

the light which v. 3 throws on it, as indicative of the doctrine of the Trinity

(compare “Let us make man in our own  image.”  Genesis 1:26).

 

9 “And He said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not;

and see ye indeed, but perceive not.”  Hear ye indeed... see ye indeed; literally, 

In hearing hear... in seeing see - with the force of "Listen and hear; look and see;"

"Attend, "that is," with the outward sense, and catch all that sense can catch,

but without perception of the inward meaning" (see Matthew 13:14Mark 4:12, etc.).

This is what they would do. Isaiah is bidden to exhort them, in grave irony, to do it.

 

10 “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their

eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with

their heart, and convert, and be healed.”  Make the heart of this people fat. 

Isaiah is commanded to effect by his preaching that which his preaching would,

in fact, effect. It would not awaken the people out of their apathy, it would not

stir them to repentance; therefore it would only harden and deaden them.

The words have a national, not an individual, application. Shut their eyes;

literallybesmear their eyes; or, seal them up. Such sealing has been employed

by Oriental monarchs as a punishment. And convert; i.e. "turn to God." Our

translators have used the word in an intransitive sense.

 

11 “Then said I, Lord, how long? And He answered, Until the cities be

wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land

be utterly desolate,”  Then said I, Lord, how long? Either, "How long am I

to continue this preaching?" or, "How long is this blindness and callousness

of the people to continue?" Isaiah assumes that he has not heard as yet

God's final purpose; that there is some merciful intention kept in reserve,

which is to take effect after the close of the period of judgment. The cities...

the houses; rather, cities... houses. An entire desolation of the whole land,

and extermination of its inhabitants, is not prophesied, and never took place.

Nebuchadnezzar "left of the poor of the land to be vinedressers and

husbandmen" (II Kings 25:12Jeremiah 39:10). Even when the great mass of

these persons went into Egypt and perished there (ibid.  44:11-27),

a certain number escaped and returned to Palestine (ibid. vs. 14, 28). 

The land; rather, the groundthe soil.

 

12 “And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking

in the midst of the land.”   And the Lord have removed men far away. The Assyrian

and Babylonian policy of deportation is pointed at. Pul had attacked the kingdom of

Israel ten or twelve years before Uzziah's death, and had perhaps made the

Assyrian policy known, though he had allowed himself to be bought off

(II Kings 15:19-20). And there be a great forsaking; rather, and the desolation

be greati.e. till a great portion of Judah be depopulated.

 

 

13 “But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten:

as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they

cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.”

But yet in it shall be a tenth, etc.; rather, and should there still be in it a tenth; 

i.e. should there still remain, after the great deportation, a tenth part

of the inhabitants, "this again shall be burned up," i.e. shall be destined to

further judgment and destruction. The trials of the Jewish nation under

the Persian, Egyptian, and Syrian monarchies may be intended. As a teil tree,

and as an oak, etc.; rather, as the terebinth tree and as the oak trees which

shoot up again from the stock after being cut down; or, as the prophet

expresses it, "have a stem in their destruction." So to Judah shall remain,

after all, a "holy seed," which shall be its "stem" or "stock, "and from which

it shall once more "take root downward, and bear fruit upward" (ch. 37:31).

 

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