AN INTRODUCTION TO THE TIMES,
God raises up the man for the age, giving him gifts for the particular work
which the age may demand. History is not a mere faithful record of things
done, but a wise and sympathetic estimate of men doing. A man has more
power on us than a truth. A man is grander than any doctrine or any book.
Christianity, as a mere system, is a powerless thing; it never quickened
anybody from his death of trespasses and sins. The personal Christ is our
life. In the sphere of philanthropy we are interested in the doings of
Howard and Wilberforce and Nightingale; in politics we trace the influence
of Pitt and Burke and Cobden; and in the field of patriotism you kindle into
to reproduce the men of a long bygone history. The men of one period
must not be judged by the ideas and manners and social sentiments of
another period; and yet it makes a surpassing demand on us if we have to
create, with our imaginations, times wholly differing from our own. If we
could be set down amidst the ruins
of the buried
us the rooms, the furniture, the pictures, the ornaments, and the utensils,
we think that, with their help, it would be easy to reproduce the life of old
with the men and women of that age.
such helps; we are dependent on the historical and imaginative faculties.
I. THE PROPHET HIMSELF. “The vision of Isaiah, the son of Amoz.”
Little is known of his private life, and nothing of his personal appearance.
He resided in
prophetess. They had two sons; both were named with prophetic names,
the two taken together embodying the substance of Isaiah’s message. The
one was called “Maher-shalal-hash-baz” — “He hasteth to the prey” —
indicating the swift desolating forces that were coming on the people of
indicating the mercy of God towards some, the mercy with which so much
of the Book of Isaiah deals. It appears that the prophet wore a garment of
haircloth or sackcloth, the ordinary symbol of repentance among Eastern
nations; and so his very appearance reminded the people of his message.
Isaiah prophesied for nearly fifty years. No record is left of his death, but
Jewish traditions represent him as martyred in the reign of Manasseh —
sawn asunder with a wooden saw. He was a prophet, not necessarily
foretelling future events, but a directly inspired man; one who received
communications from God which he was to address to the people. The
prophet had three things to do:
(1) to awaken the nation to a sense of sin in disobeying and forsaking the
Lord their God;
(2) to counteract the delusion that an external observance of rites and
ceremonies is sufficient to satisfy God; and
(3) to oppose the delusions of those who imagined that their election as a
nation, and their covenant with Jehovah, formed an absolute security
against overwhelming national judgments.
II. THE TIMES IN WHICH THE PROPHET LIVED. They were times
of national decline and decay. Isaiah saw four kings upon the throne of
There was some appearance of prosperity; but Isaiah knew that it did but
gloze over deep national corruption that called for national judgments.
During the time of Isaiah the neighboring kingdom of the ten tribes did
actually fall — the corruptions of idolatry and sensuality, in their case,
running a swifter course; and the prophet holds up their case as a solemn
warning to the people of
referred to the reign of Uzziah, a king whose prosperity developed a strong
self-will and masterfulness, which led him to attempt a sad act of sacrilege.
Jotham was a pious king; but Ahaz plunged into all the idolatries of the
surrounding nations, making molten images for Baal, and sacrificing his
children by passing them through the burning hands of Moloch in the valley
of Hinnom. The people were only too ready for this debasing change. But
judgment quickly followed on the
heels of iniquity. Pekah of
Rezin of Damascus attacked and injured the country, though they failed to
behind. Ahaz sought help from Tiglath-Pileser, King of Assyria, who soon
turned upon him, and Assyria became
the gravest enemy of
III. THE WORK WHICH THE PROPHET HAD TO DO.
1. His first work was to make men understand that their sufferings were
actual Divine judgments on their sins, and therefore calls, like thunder peals,
to awaken them to repentance. God will not leave men in their
troubles to imagine that some evil chance has befallen them, that they are
the victims of accident. By the mouth of some prophet he will assuredly
vindicate the connection between sin and suffering.
2. But Isaiah had also to bring comfort to the people of God in the time of
national calamity. Godly people are often bowed down by the pressure of
surrounding evil, and in their despairing they sometimes say, “God hath
forgotten to be gracious.” God will never leave his faithful few to sink
3. Isaiah’s work may be more precisely stated as this: he was to prepare the
way for the spiritual
crucified yet glorified Redeemer. The old theocracy was breaking up, and
God’s rule in the world might be lost. Isaiah was to say that it was only
passing into a spiritual theocracy, giving place to the spiritual and eternal
reign of God in souls. In Isaiah messages of severity and of mercy are most
graciously blended. The following passage precisely represents his mission:
“Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell,
severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness:
otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” – Romans 11:22
v. 1. — TITLE OF THE WORK. It is questioned whether the title can
be regarded as Isaiah’s, or as properly belonging to the work, and it is
suggested that it is rather a heading invented by a collector who brought
together into a volume such prophecies of Isaiah as were known to him,
the collection being a much smaller one than that which was made
ultimately. In favor of this view it is urged
(1) that the
prophecies, as we have them, do not all “concern
(2) that there is a mistake in the title, which Isaiah could not have made,
none of the prophecies belonging to the reign of Uzziah. But it may be
answered, that, in the scriptural sense, all and
further, that it is quite impossible to prove that no part of the “vision” was
seen in the reign of Uzziah. There are no means of knowing whether Isaiah
collected his prophecies into a volume himself or whether the collection
was the work of others. In either case, the existing title must be regarded
as designed for the entire work. All the earlier prophecies — those of
Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, and Zephaniah — have some
title introducing them.
1 “The vision of Isaiah the
son of Amoz, which he saw concerning
used in a collective sense, but is also intended to suggest the intrinsic unity of the
entire body of prophecies put forth by Isaiah. As prophets were originally called
"seers" (1 Samuel 9:9), so prophecy was called "vision;" and this latter use
Isaiah is "the salvation of Jehovah." The name Amoz (Amots) is not to
be confused with Amos ('Amos), who seems to have been a contemporary
(Amos 1:1). Concerning
concern primarily the
a vast variety of nations and countries (see especially chapters 13, 15 through 21,
23 and 47.); but these nations and countries are spoken of "only because of
the relation in which they stand to
to the people of God, symbolized under those names.
:1-8; 31:4-9, etc.). In the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.
· Uzziah (or Azariah, as he is sometimes called) reigned fifty-two years –
probably from B.C. 811 to B.C. 759;
· Jotham sixteen years - from B.C. 759 to B.C. 743;
· Ahaz also sixteen years - from B.C. 743 to B.C. 727; and
· Hezekiah twenty-nine years - from B.C. 727 to B.C. 698.
Isaiah probably prophesied only in the later years of Uzziah, say from B.C. 760;
but as he certainly continued his prophetical career till Sennacherib's invasion
the prophet's office for at least fifty-six years. The lowest possible estimate of the
duration of his ministry is forty-seven years - from the last year of Uzziah, B.C. 759,
to the fourteenth of Hezekiah (ch. 38:5). The highest known to us is sixty-four
years - from the fourth year before Uzziah's death ( B.C. 762) to the
last year of Hezekiah ( B.C. 698). (See 'Speaker's Commentary,' vol. 5. p. 5.)
GOD'S COMPLAINT AGAINST HIS PEOPLE (vs. 2-6)
The groundwork of Isaiah's entire prophecy is
God's people have sinned, done amiss, dealt wickedly. The hour of vengeance
approaches. Punishment has begun, and will go on, continually increasing
in severity. National repentance would avert God's judgments, but the nation
will not repeat. God's vengeance will fall, and by it a remnant will be purified,
and return to God, and be His true people. In the present section the
indictment is laid.
2 “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have
nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.”
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth. "A grave and magnificent introduction!
All nature is invoked to hear Jehovah make complaint of the ingratitude of His
people" (Rosenmüller). The invocation is cast in the same form with that so common
in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 4:26; 30:19; 31:28; 32:1), and seems to indicate
familiarity with that book. The idea extends widely among sacred and other poets
(see Psalm 50:3-4; Micah 6:1-2. The Lord hath spoken; rather, the Lord
(literally, Jehovah) speaketh (so Lowth, Cheyne, and Gesenius). The speech
of Jehovah follows in vs. 2, 3. I have nourished and brought up children; literally,
(my) sons I have made great and high; i.e. I
and exalted him among the nations. Notwithstanding their disobedience,
God still acknowledges them as His "sons." They have rebelled against me.
The verb used is generally rendered in our version "transgressed" (see Jeremiah 3:13;
· Lowth translates, "revolted from me;"
· Gesenius, "fallen away from me;"
· Cheyne, "broken away from me."
“The ox knoweth his owner,
and the ass his master's crib: but
know, my people doth not consider.” The ox... the ass. The ox and the ass
are probably selected as the least intelligent of domesticated animals (so Jerome,
Rosenmüller, and Gesenius). Yet even they recognize their owner or master.
Jeremiah contrasts the
brutish stupidity of
that have not been domesticated, as the stork, the turtle-dove, the crane,
and the swallow (Jeremiah 8:7).
its Master and Owner, pays Him no respect, does not recognize Him as either
Owner or Master. My people. Compare the formula, so frequent in Exodus,
"Let my people go" (Exodus 7:16; 8:1,20; 9:1,
· by election (Genesis 15:13),
· by pardoning grace (Exodus 33:12-17).
Despite all their backslidings, He had not yet cast them off. They are still
"His people" in Isaiah from first to last, standing in contrast with "the nations, "
or "the Gentiles, " among whom they are to be "set as a sign" (Isaiah 66:19).
Doth not consider.
· Gesenius translates, "doth not consider thereof;"
· Cheyne, "is without understanding."
· Bishop Lowth retains the words of the Authorized Version.
The meaning would seem to be, "My people doth not consider me, doth not
reflect on my relation to them as Lord and Master."
5 “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children
that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked
the Holy One of
Ah sinful nation. These are the words of Isaiah, not of Jehovah. The prophet,
having delivered God's message in vs. 2-3, proceeds to impress and enforce it
on the people by remarks of his own. He begins with a lamentation over their
wickedness and impenitence; "Ah sinful nation!" or "Alas for the sinful
but sunk in sin and wickedness. How sad their condition! How almost hopeless!
Laden with iniquity; literally, heavy with guilt. But our version well expresses the
sense. As the psalmist says, "My sins have gone up over my head, and are like a
A seed of evil-doers. Not descendants of evil-doors, but (σπέρμα πονηρόν –
corruptly. It is not their corrupting of others, though that might follow, but
the corruption that was in themselves, which is spoken of. The corruption
was both moral and doctrinal (see v. 21). In corroboration of the fact, see
II Chronicles 27:2. They have forsaken the Lord. Not by renouncing His worship,
which they still continued (see vs. 11-15), but by reducing it to a formality.
The people "honored Him with their lips, while their hearts were far from Him"
(ch. 29:13). They have provoked to anger; rather, despised (Revised Version),
or scorched (Kay, Cheyne), or rejected with disdain (Lowth), in allusion to
their disobeying His commandments (see vs. 21-23). The Holy One of
II Kings 19:22), but then in the mouth of Isaiah; twice in Jeremiah
(Jeremiah 50:29; 51:5); and once in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 39:7). According to
Isaiah's conception of God, holiness is the most essential element of His nature
(see ch.6:3,5,7). They are gone away backward; literally, they are estranged
backwards; or, as Bishop Lowth paraphrases, "they are estranged from Him;
they have turned their back upon Him." Instead of looking to God, and following
after Him, they "followed a multitude to do evil (Exodus 23:2)."
5 “Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more:
the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.” Why should ye, etc.?
Translate, Why will ye be still smitten, revolting more and more? or, Why
will ye persist in rebellion, and so be smitten yet more? The Authorized
Version does not express the sense, which is that suffering must follow sin –
that if they still revolt, they must still be smitten for it - why, then, will they do so?
Compare Ezekiel's "Why will ye die, O house of
The whole head... the whole heart. Mr. Cheyne translates, "Every head... every
heart;" but Lowth, Gesenius, and Ewald agree with the Authorized Version.
The prophet personifies
nation is diseased, its whole heart faint, or "prostrate with langor" (Kay).
The head and heart represent respectively the intellectual and moral natures.
“From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it;
but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been
closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.”
From the sole of the foot even unto the head (compare Job 2:7). From top to
bottom, the body corporate is diseased throughout - there is no soundness in it
(compare Psalm 38:3, 7) - all is one wound, one livid bruise, one festering sore.
Note the use of the singular number in the original. They have not been closed;
literally, they have not been pressed; which is explained to mean (Aben Ezra,
Kay) that they have not had the matter formed by suppuration pressed out
of them. Neither bound up; i.e. not bandaged, Neither mollified with ointment;
rather, with oil. On the treatment of wounds and ulcers with oil m ancient times,
see 'Hippocrat., De Ulceri. bus,' § 4; Galen., 'De Compos. Medic.,' § 2; and
compare Luke 10:34. Recent medical science has revived the practice, and
wounds of all kinds are now frequently treated with nothing but carbolic oil.
The general sentiment of the entire passage is that there has been no medical
treatment of the wounds of any kind; they have been left to themselves,
to spread corruption over the whole body - no attempt has been made to cure them.
7 “Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land,
strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by
strangers” Your country is desolate. Metaphor is now dropped, and the
prophet describes in strong but simple language the judgments of God, which
have already followed the sins of the nation. First of all, their land is "a desolation."
It has been recently ravaged by an enemy; the towns have been burnt, the crops
devoured. There is nothing to determine who the enemy had been. Knobel
supposes the Edomites and
Philistines, who invaded
of Ahaz (II Chronicles 28:17-18), to be intended; Rosenmüller suggests the
Israelites under Amaziah (ibid. ch. 25:21-24); while Mr. Cheyne supposes
the devastation to have been wrought by the Assyrians under Sargon. If we
could be assured that the prophecies of Isaiah are arranged in chronological
order, we should either have to accept Rosenmüller's view, or to suppose some
no mention is made by the authors of Kings and Chronicles; but it is impossible
to be certain on what principle Isaiah's prophecies are arranged. The mention
of "strangers" is in favor of the enemy having been actual foreigners, and
therefore not the Israelites. Your cities are burned with fire. The common
fate of cities taken in war. In the Assyrian sculptures we often see the
torch applied to them. Your land. Mr. Cheyne translates, "your tillage."
Adamah means "soil" or "ground" generally; but here no doubt
denotes the ground which bore crops. Strangers devour it; i.e. "foreigners"
others than the sons of the soil - not necessarily persons of a different race,
but still probably such persons. In your presence; before your eyes, as you
look on - an aggravation of the affliction. It is desolate, as overthrown by
strangers; literally, it is a desolation, like an overthrow by strangers.
The near approach to repetition displeases moderns, who conjecture:
(1) that zarim, strangers, has another meaning, and should be here translated
by “indignation” or “deluge” (Aben Ezra, Michaelia, Lowth);
(2) that it is a wrong reading, and should Be altered into sodim, a word
not very different (Ewald, Cheyne). But "the return to words whose sounds
are yet lingering in the ear" is characteristic of ancient writing, and a favorite
practice of Isaiah's (Kay). The translation of the Authorized Version may
8 “And the daughter of
cucumbers, as a besieged city.” The daughter of
the phrase here used is repeated in the same sense. More commonly it
(Revised Version; see Leviticus 23:42). Vineyards required to be watched for
a few weeks only as the fruit began to ripen; and the watchers, or keepers,
built themselves, therefore, mere "booths" for their protection (Job 27:18).
These were frail, solitary dwellings - very forlorn, very helpless.
Such was now
Cucumber-gardens required watching throughout the season, i.e. from spring
to autumn, and their watcher needed a more solid edifice than a booth. Hence
such gardens had "lodges" in them, i.e. permanent huts or sheds, such as those
still seen in
As a besieged city. Though not yet besieged,
isolated, surrounded by waste tracts, threatened.
9 “Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we
should have been as
Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have
and to translate, "Except the Lord of hosts had left us a remnant, within a little
we should have been like
men who still inhabit
is made again in ch. 3:9, and is carried out at some length by Ezekiel
(Ezekiel 16:44-57). It implies a condition of extreme depravity.
THE PEOPLE'S PLEA IS NO EXCUSE,
BUT AN AGGRAVATION OF THEIR GUILT (vs. 10-15)
The prophet supposes the people, by the mouth of their rulers, to meet the charge
of rebellion with an appeal to the fact that they maintain all the outward ordinances
of religion, as required by the Law and are therefore blameless. This draws from
him a burst of indignant eloquence, which the Holy Spirit directs him to put,
mainly, into the mouth of God (vs. 11-15), denouncing such a pretence of religion
as an aggravation of their sin, and characterizing their whole worship as an
10 “Hear the word of the LORD,
ye rulers of
of our God, ye
speak to no purpose, but hear." The rulers are supposed to have begun their
plea, but the prophet stops them. Ye
preceding verse how nearly
corresponding to kadi in Arabic), are "rulers of
same wickedness, in "the daughter of
of the plain when God destroyed them. The law of our God. Not the Levitical Law,
though the word used has generally that sense, but the "instruction" or "direction"
11 “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD:
I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight
not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.” To what purpose is
the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? Cui bono? (who stands to gain or get a
benefit?) What good end do they serve? "Thinkest thou that I will eat the flesh of
bulls, and drink the blood of goats? "(Psalm 50:13). God "delights not in burnt
offerings." From the time of Samuel He had declared, "Behold, to obey is better
then sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Samuel 15:22). David
had said of Him, "Sacrifice and meat offering thou wouldest not; burnt
offerings and sacrifice for sin hast thou not required" (Psalm 40:6); and
again, "I will not reprove thee because of thy sacrifices, or for thy burnt offerings,
because they were not always before me. I will take no bullock out of thy house,
nor he-goat out of thy folds; for all the beasts of the forest are mine, and so are
the cattle upon a thousand hills" (Psalm 50:8-10). Not, of course, that either
David or Isaiah desired to abolish sacrifice, or had any commission so to do;
but they were, both of them, anxious to impress on men that sacrifice,
by itself, was nothing - that self-dedication, self-renunciation, true devotion
of the heart, with its necessary concomitant obedience, must accompany sacrifice,
for God to be pleased therewith. The sacrifices of a people such as is described
in vs. 21-23 could not but be an offence to Him. Saith the Lord. The phrase
employed is unusual, and almost confined to Isaiah, occurring elsewhere only in
It is explained to be emphatic, implying that this is what God says, and will say,
concerning the matter in hand, once and forever (Kay). I am full of
the burnt offerings of rams; rather, I am overfull, satiated, wearied with them.
Rams formed a part of the required sacrifice on all great occasions, as:
Ø at the Passover (Numbers 28:19),
Ø at the Feast of Weeks (ibid. 28:27),
Ø at the Feast of Tabernacles (ibid. 29:13, 17, 20, 23, 26, 29, 32, 36),
Ø at the Feast of Trumpets (ibid. v. 2), and
Ø on the great Day of Atonement (ibid. v. 8).
They were commanded as the sole sacrifice for a trespass offering (Leviticus 5:16-18).
Under David were offered on one occasion "a thousand rams" (I Chronicles 29:21);
and the occasions where seven rams formed the legitimate sacrifice were many.
Unaccompanied by a proper frame of mind, each such offering was an offence
to God, displeased Him, wearied Him. The fat of fed beasts. The fat was always
regarded, both by the Hebrews and the Greeks, as especially suitable for
sacrifice. It was burnt upon the altar in every case, even where the greater part
particularly the expression in Leviticus 3:16, "All the fat is the Lord's").
"Fed beasts" are those which were kept separate in stalls or sheds for some time
before the sacrifice, and given food in which there was nothing" unclean."
The Paschal lambs were required to be thus separated and fed for four days
(Exodus 12:3, 6). I delight not in the blood. The blood, "which is the life"
(Leviticus 17:14), was to be sprinkled on the altar in every sacrifice of a victim.
Bullocks... lambs... he-goats. These, together with rams, constituted all the sacrificial
beasts of the Hebrews.
12“When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand,
to tread my courts?” When ye come to appear before me. Mr. Cheyne translates,
"to see my face;" but most other commentators (Gesenius, Delitzsch, Ewald, Kay)
Deuteronomy 16:16; and the passage as referring to that attendance in the
temple at the three great annual festivals, which was required of all adult
male Israelites. The requirement of the Law was still observed in the letter,
but not in the spirit. They came with no true religious object. Hence the
question which follows: Who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
This was not what God had enjoined - a mere bodily attendance, a trampling of
His courts with their feet, when their hearts were far from Him.
13 “Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me;
the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with;
it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.” Bring no more vain oblations. The
command is not "Bring no more oblations," as though the daily oblation
was to cease; but "bring no more oblations that are vain ones,"
i.e. empty and unreal - mere forms, without the proper corresponding spirit.
The "oblation" spoken of is the minchah, or "meat offering," compare
with oil, and generally had incense joined with it, which explains the nexus
(a causal link) of this clause with the following one. Incense is an abomination
unto me. God had commanded the use of incense in worship, as He had commanded
But incense symbolized prayer (Psalm 141:2); and if no heartfelt prayer
accompanied its use, it was emptied of all its significance, and became
hateful to God - a mere form, and consequently an "abomination."
The new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with.
The weekly festival of the sabbath, the monthly one of the "new moon,"
and the annual "assemblies" or "solemn feasts" (II Chronicles 8:13), were
the main occasions of Jewish worship. As at this time conducted, God
could endure none of them; all were tainted with the prevalent unreality.
The construction of the passage is highly rhetorical, and indicates great
excitement of feeling. Kay translates it literally, "New moon and sabbath,
the calling of assemblies, I cannot - it is ungodliness - even the solemn meeting."
The authors of the Revised Version also suppose an aposiopesis (a sudden
breaking off in the midst of a sentence, as if from inability or unwillingness to proceed).
The solemn meeting. The word thus translated is applied only to particular days
in the great festival seasons, as to the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles
of the Passover (Deuteronomy 16:8), or else to days specially appointed
religious worship were abused by the Israelites of the time, and made an
offence to God.
14 “Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a
trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.” Your new moons. (For the
ceremonies to be observed at the opening of each month, see Numbers 28:11-15.)
Your appointed feasts. The "appointed feasts" are the great festival-times:
· the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
· the Feast of Weeks, and
· the Feast of Tabernacles.
They do not include the sabbath or the "new moon, "with which they are, both
They are a trouble unto me; literally, an encumbrance (see Deuteronomy 1:12).
15 “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you:
yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.”
I will hide mine eyes, etc. A time comes when the wicked are alarmed, and seek to
turn to God; but it is too late. "Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer;
they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me" (Proverbs 1:28). When ye make
many prayers; literally, multiply prayer. Full of blood (compare v. 21). Actual
bloodshed may be pointed at, as the murder of Zechariah (II Chronicles 24:20-21),
and the fate which befell Isaiah himself, according to the tradition, would seem
to show. But cruelty and oppression, producing poverty and wretchedness, and
tending to shorten life, are no doubt also included (compare Micah 3:10-11).
These were the special sins of the time (see vs. 17, 23).
THE REQUIREMENT OF GOD IS AMENDMENT OF LIFE.
God, having put aside the worthless plea of outward religiousness made by His
people, goes on to declare, by the mouth of His prophet, what He requires. First,
in general terms (v. 16), and then with distinct specification (v. 17), He calls on
them to amend their ways, both negatively ("cease to do evil") and positively
("learn to do well"). If they will really amend, then He assures them of
forgiveness and favor; if they refuse and continue their rebellion, the sword
will devour them
16 “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before
mine eyes; cease
to do evil;”
defilement, and of washing to cleansing from sin, has been felt among men
universally wherever there has been any sense of sin. Outward purification by
water has been constantly made use of as typical of the recovery of inward purity.
of the priests in
baptism; hence the symbolical washing of hands to free from complicity
in blood-guiltiness (Matthew 27:24). "Wash you, make you clean," could not
be misunderstood by the Israelites; they would know that it was a
even apart from what follows. Put away the evil of your doings from before
mine eyes. Not "hide it, "for that was impossible; but remove it altogether –
in other words, "cease from it." "Cast off all the works of darkness;"
get rid of evil, to begin with. So much is negative.
17 “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless,
plead for the widow. Learn to do well. Now comes the positive; first, in the
general form “learn," etc.; which resembles the apostle's "Put on the armor
of light" (Romans 13:12). Then follow the particulars. Seek judgment; or,
seek out justice; i.e. endeavor to get justice done to all men; see that they
"have right." Relieve the oppressed. So the Septuagint, the Vulgate, the Syriac,
and the Chaldean Versions. But the word translated "oppressed" is thought
by many to mean "oppressor" (Kimchi, Gesenius, Cheyne). This is certainly
its meaning in Psalm 71:4. Translate, tighten the oppressor; i.e. correct and
chasten him. Judge the fatherless; rather, do justice to the orphan (Cheyne);
see that he is not wronged - be his champion. Plead for the widow; i.e. plead
her cause in the courts; or, if judge, and she have no advocate, lean towards
her, as if her advocate. The widow and the orphan were taken under
God's special protection from the time of Moses, and constantly commended
18 “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins
be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson,
they shall be as wool.” Come now, and let us reason together. God has from
"controversy" here. Mr. Cheyne translates, "Let us bring our dispute
to an end." Though your sins be as scarlet... like crimson; i.e. "open,
evident, glaring." Or there may be an allusion to their blood-guiltiness
(see vs. 15, 19). They shall be as white as snow. Compare Psalm 51:7,
which is completely parallel, whether it was written before or after. There can
As wool. A weaker illustration than the preceding one, but needed for the
parallelism. (The resemblance of falling snow to wool is noted in Psalm 147:16.)
19 “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:”
If ye be willing and obedient. Rosenmüller explains this as equivalent to
"if ye be willing to obey" (compare Ezekiel 3:7); but perhaps it is better to
give each verb its separate force: "If you consent in your wills, and are also
obedient in your actions" (so Kay). Ye shall eat the good of the land; i.e. there
shall be no invasion; strangers shall not devour your crops (see v. 7); you shall
consume them yourselves. "The good of the land" is a common expression
20 “But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth
of the LORD hath spoken it. If ye refuse and rebel; i.e. "if ye neither consent
in will, nor obey in act," antithetical to the two verbs in the first clause of v. 19.
Ye shall be devoured; or, ye shall be eaten. The same verb as in the latter
clause of v. 19. With the sword. The metaphor is not a common one,
(Nahum 2:13). The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. A weighty ending,
indicating the certainty of fulfillment, JEHOVAH WHO CANNOT LIE,
HAS SPOKEN; the result will assuredly follow.
ISAIAH'S LAMENT OVER
The exhortation to amendment has been made - the results have been set forth;
the temporal reward has been promised; the temporal vengeance, unless they
amend, threatened. Time must be allowed the people for the prophet's words
to reach them, and do their work upon them, i.e. either soften or harden
them. Meanwhile, Isaiah reflects on the condition of
unlikelihood of its rulers turning to God in consequence of his preaching.
21 “How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment;
righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.” How is the faithful city
become an harlot! Not here an idolatress, but one that has left her first love,
and turned to other attractions. Faithful once to her lord her spouse (Cant., passim),
she has now cast him off - she is an adulterous wife, she no longer
obeys or loves her husband. It was full of judgment; righteousness, etc.
"She that was full" (Revised Version). Under Solomon (I Kings 3:9-28)
and again under Jehoshaphat (II Chronicles 19:5-11). It is not clear when
the systematic perversion of justice by the rulers began. Perhaps it originated
in the latter part of Uzziah's reign, when the royal authority was weakened
by being divided between Uzziah and Jotham (II Chronicles 26:21). But now
murderers (see the last note on v. 15).
22 “Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water:”
Thy silver is become dross. Primarily, "thy great men have deteriorated."
From pure silver, they have become mere dross, the vile refuse of the smelted
ore, only fit to be cast away as worthless. But perhaps there is some further
reference to all that
was once precious in
deterioration - all the silver was now a debased metal of no value.
(perhaps Americans will understand when the dollar is devalued! CY – 2020)
Thy wine mixed with water. A parallelism; but (as so often happens) a weakened
iteration of the preceding sentiment.
23 “Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth
gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither
doth the cause of the widow come unto them.” (Sounds like many in the
United States Congress, both representatives and senators and the causes
the espouse, or lack thereof! CY – 2020) Thy princes are rebellious; i.e.
"rebels against their true King, Jehovah." Companions of thieves.
Leagued with those who are engaged in filching away the inheritance of
the widow and the orphan by chicanery (the use of trickery to achieve a political,
financial, or legal purpose - an underhanded person who schemes corruption
and political chicanery behind closed doors." Synonyms:
in the law courts – (Are not most of them lawyers? CY – 2020) (see above, vs. 15-17;
and compare the Homiletics on vs. 16-20). Gifts... rewards; i.e. "bribes, "given
and taken on the condition of their perverting justice (compare Jeremiah 22:17;
how many babies in the United States that have been aborted were fatherless?
CY – 2020) They dismiss the orphan's complaint without hearing it, and are
so noted for perversion of justice that the widow does not even bring her
cause before them. (And these leaders in our country, supposingly among the most
educated people on earth? I wonder how many of them are aware of these passages
in the Bible? even care? CY – 2020)
No Return to God’s Favor without Amendment of Life
The outward show of religion, which the Israelites maintained, vain and
futile as it was, seemed to indicate that they were not wholly irreclaimable
— they did not desire to break altogether with God. The prophet,
therefore, assumes that they would wish to know the way by which they
may remove God’s anger, and enter once more into favor with Him; and he
proceeds to point out that the one and only road open to them is to amend
their ways — to reverse their course of life. This amendment consists in
two things: one negative, the other positive.
· NEGATIVELY: AMENDMENT CONSISTS IN CEASING TO DO
EVIL. This is the first thing needed. Men must break off their sins, put
away the iniquity of their doings, resolutely determine that the works of
darkness shall be done by them no more. The works will be different in
different cases. To one man they will be impure acts and words; to another,
falsehood, deception, equivocation; (the use of ambiguous language to
conceal the truth or to avoid committing oneself; prevarication.
"I say this without equivocation"
Synonyms of equivocation are:
to another, profanity of speech; to another, drunkenness; to another,
intemperate anger, and so on. To the Israelites at this time, or at any rate
to their chief men, who are here specially addressed (v. 10), the evil-doing
most common, and to which they were most prone, was cruelty and oppression.
The chief men acted as judges, held courts, heard complaints, determined
causes; but, instead of seeking to do justice between man and man, they
sought merely to advance their own interests by means of the office entrusted
to them. (Does this not go back to the recent study of Proverbs where in
ch. 1:2-3 are these words: “To know wisdom and instruction: to perceive
the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice,
and judgment, and equity.” Is this not the source of our turmoil today
where in many of our cities there are unrest and racial strife? CY – 2020)
They accepted bribes from rich suitors to determine law-suits in their favor;
they leaned in their judgments against the weak and the defenseless. They
were probably A CLIQUE (the
modern term is
who enriched themselves by playing into each others’ hands, and
ousting weak persons from their properties and estates by legal artifices.
All this whole system of evil-doing they were required, first of all, to put
aside, BEFORE THEY COULD HOPE that God would look upon them with
anything but anger and reprobation. (And then there is the guilt of the
people and is it not so with us? “......my people love to have it so:
AND WHAT WILL YE DO IN THE END THEREOF?” Jeremiah 5:31 –
CY – 2020)
· POSITIVELY: AMENDMENT CONSISTS IN LEARNING TO DO
WELL. Negative goodness is not enough. God expects each man to glorify
Him by good actions. Those who have gone astray must not only retrace
their steps, but must enter resolutely on the path of virtue. They must “set
themselves in some good way.” And this must be especially done in the
matters wherein they have failed. The Jewish judges had failed in their task
of administering justice (So has a very blood-stained Supreme Court in the
sentences, favored oppressors, dealt hardly with the widow and the orphan.
Hence the prophet’s exhortations to them are “Seek out justice; correct the
oppressor; right the orphan; plead the cause of the widow” (v. 17). And
so it must be with all the varieties of evil-doers. Each must be exhorted to
the virtue which is the opposite of the vice that he has indulged in. Each
must labor, (if he really seeks restoration to God’s favor) to do deeds the
very opposite of those which he did formerly. If he was a drunkard, he
does well to become a total abstainer; if a glutton, to chasten his flesh by
fasting; if impure, to give himself to the reclaiming of outcasts; if
greedy, cheap, money-grubbing, “to sell all that he has and give to the poor”
(Matthew 19:21 – Hopefully with better results than he who “went away
for he had great possessions.” (And
21st Century, who does not have great possessions – CY – 2020);
if violent, to suffer wrong, and turn his cheek to the smiter.
From the nature of amendment, the prophet proceeds to its consequences,
which are likewise twofold, consisting in:
· THE CLEANSING OF THE INDIVIDUAL SOUL. Here much is kept
back which is revealed later, as
Ø the mode whereby the soul is cleansed, or in other words, the doctrine
of the atonement, which appears in ch. 53:5-6;
Ø the necessity of laying hold of the atonement by faith (Romans
3:25; 4:5 – Also,The
23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9,13; 5:1; 8:1, 38-39 - CY – 2020); and
Ø the immediate removal of the guilt of sin, when God justifies us, and
the gradual removal of its taint, as He sanctifies us. But the declaration of
the fact of our cleansing is directly made, AND MADE WITH THE
UTMOST PLAINNESS! “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall
be as white as snow,” etc. (One can be low in intelligence and able to
understand it – “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it
shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over
it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall
not err therein.” ch. 35:8. The cleansing will be entire, complete,
thorough, AND THAT THROUGH THE BLOOD OF CHRIST!
Snow will not be purer than the redeemed soul, which “the blood
of Jesus Christ has cleansed from all sin” (I John 1:7).
· A REWARD, EXTERNAL TO THE SOUL ITSELF, WHICH GOD’S
FREE GRACE WILL BESTOW. Here still more is kept back. The reward
held out is merely temporal: “Ye shall eat the good of the land.” (What
would you give for
live in peace and prosperity, under your own vines and fig trees, and enjoy
the fruits of the earth, which God in his bounty gives you. (Micah 4:4;
I Kings 4:25; Zechariah 3:6-10; Jeremiah 23:5-6 – I highly recommend
Follow the link or see # 809 – this website – CY – 2020) Not a whisper of
the eternal reward — the blessedness reserved for man in heaven, the bliss
which “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the
heart of man to conceive.” (I Corinthians 2:9) Probably the Israelites of
Isaiah’s day were too gross and sensual, too much wrapped up in material
things, to have been stirred to action by anything so distant and intangible
as the heavenly life, even if they could have formed the faintest conception
of it. Here, again, “God has provided better things for us” (Hebrews 10:40),
and given us a motive for exertion far beyond any that was presented to His
THE DECLARATION OF GOD'S JUDGMENT (vs. 24-31)
It is foreknown to God that
His vehement protest) His judgment; which, however, is still conditional, so far as
individuals are concerned (not the nation – CY – 2020). His vengeance will fall
upon the land; but the result will be twofold.
Ø Destruction will come upon the unrighteous and the sinners (v. 28) –
they will be "consumed" (v. 28), and "confounded" (v. 29);
(For an interesting and instructive take on the word “consumed”
Genesis 19 –
Spurgeon Sermon – Hastening
Use link above or #321a – this website.
(use link above to see aerial view showing
from satellite photo from outer space and how basically,
the cities were reduced to powder. CY – 2020)
Ø there will be some on whom the punishment will have a purifying power,
whose dross it will purge away, and whom it will convert to God
(vs. 25, 27). From these will rise up a new Jerusalem - a "city of
righteousness," a "faithful stronghold" (v. 26)
24 “Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the mighty One of
Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies:”
The Lord, the Lord of hosts. In the original, Ha-Adon, Jehovah Sabaoth - i.e.
"The Lord" (or "Master" of men and angels), "the Self-Existing One of the hosts
of heaven" - i.e., their God, the only proper object of their worship. It gives
peculiar weight and significance to this prophecy, that it is introduced by a
triple designation of the Divine Being. The Mighty One of
unusual designation, only found here and, with the modification of
Psalm 132:2, 5. God's might would be shown alike in His vengeance on His
enemies, and in His purification of a remnant to serve Him. I will ease me
of mine adversaries; literally, I will comfort me; i.e. I will rid myself of them,
and so obtain the only comfort that they will allow me to receive from them
(compare Ezekiel 5:13, "I will cause my fury to rest upon them, and I will
25 “And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross,
and take away all thy tin:” I will turn my hand upon thee; rather, I will bring back
my hand upon thee; i.e. I will once more put forth the "strong hand and mighty
arm, with which I brought thee out of
another deliverance - the deliverance of
away thy dross; literally, will purge away thy dross like borax, which was
used as a flux in purifying the metal. The prophet continues the metaphor of
v. 22. And take away all thy tin; rather, thy lead - the alloy with which the
"silver" had become mixed.
26 “And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counselors as at the
beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the
faithful city.” I will restore thy judges as at the first - In the early times
there was no bribery, no perversion of justice (Jeremiah 2:2-3). God will
bring back a time when the nation will renew its first love, and be as it was
in the days of Moses and Joshua. Thy counselors (compare II Samuel 15:12;
The prophecy may have been fulfilled in part by the
Zerubhabel, Ezra, and the Maccabees. but is mainly fulfilled in the heavenly
- the Church of God, the true
(compare v. 21). Certainly the post-Captivity Church was "faithful" to Jehovah,
in the way of acknowledging Him, and Him only, to be God, to a very
remarkable degree, and in strong contrast to its inclination during
Redeemed with judgment; rather, delivered through judgment; i.e. God's judgment
shall have the effect of "delivering" a remnant,
who shall build up
and dwell in it. Her converts; i.e. those of her children who turn to God,
shall be delivered through God's righteousness, i.e. through the righteous
vengeance which He executes upon the unfaithful nation. Some, however,
understand both clauses to mean that the penitent remnant shall "deliver
28 “And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be
together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed.”
Transgressors... sinners... they that forsake the Lord (compare vs. 2 and 4).
These are scarcely distinct classes - rather different names for the ungodly.
All of them, by whatever name they were called, would perish "together."
29 “For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye
shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen.”
The oaks which ye have desired are, primarily, the "green trees" under
which images were set up (II Kings 17:10), but perhaps represent also any
worldly attractions which draw the soul away from God - as wealth,
or power, or honors. In the day of suffering, sinners are ashamed of
having been led away by such poor temptations as those to which they
have yielded (compare Romans 6:21, "What fruit had ye then in those
things whereof ye are now ashamed?"). The gardens. Kay suggests
as those at Daphne, near
which is a reasonable exegesis. Such were probably to be found wherever
Astarte, or the "Dea Syra," was worshipped.
30 “For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath
no water.” Ye shall be as an oak, etc. Contrast the case of the godly, whose
"leaf shall not wither" (Psalm 1:3).
31 “And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and
they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them.”
The strong (literally, the strong one) shall be as tow; i.e. weak and powerless
(compare Judges 16:9), utterly unable to resist the Divine fiat when it goes forth.
The maker of it. An extraordinary mistranslation, since po'al never means
anything but "work." His own acts would light the fire by which
the "strong one" would be consumed and perish.
"Nec lex justior ulla est,
Quam necis artifices arts perire sua."
Nor is there any law more just than that
the one seeking to harm should perish by his own devices
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