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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Isaiah 1

 

 

Verses 1-31


Jehovah's Arraignment of His People

This chapter is general in character, and much of it (e.g. Isaiah 1:10-17) might refer to almost any period. This general character of the prophecy renders it especially suitable as an introduction, and may account for its position at the beginning of the book. It gives us a picture of the internal condition of Judah in Isaiah's age, and not only brings out his characteristic teaching, but more than any other OT. passage indicates the general line of prophetic doctrine. Owing to the corrupt state of the nation Jehovah will avenge Himself by a judgment, through which, while it proves the destruction of sinners, the people will be purified, and its ideal character realised by the remnant that shall be left (Isaiah 1:24-26 : cp. Isaiah 1:9). Some indication of date is afforded by Isaiah 1:7-9, where the prophet states that the land is wasted by foreign invaders and the capital cut off from outside help. The prophecy might accordingly be assigned to (1) the invasion by Rezin and Pekah in the reign of Ahaz (Isaiah 7:1), 735 b.c.; (2) an invasion by Sargon (Isaiah 20:1), 711 b.c.; or (3) the invasion by Sennacherib (Isaiah 36, 37) in Hezekiah's reign, 701 b.c. It is in favour of (1) that the prophecy occurs in connexion with others belonging to the reign of Ahaz (Isaiah 2-5), and perhaps the rebuke of formal worship suits this period best; the 'strangers' of Isaiah 1:7 would then be Pekah's Syrian allies. Most recent commentators, however, assign the prophecy to date (3). There is a similar rebuke of formal religion in Isaiah 29:13 (same period), though the tone of this chapter is unlike that of those prophecies which undoubtedly refer to Sennacherib's invasion (e.g. Isaiah 29, 30).

2-9. Judah's unnatural conduct and its consequences.

10-17. Sedulous worship of Jehovah is no defence, because a merely formal service is displeasing to Him.

18-23. Jehovah offers reconciliation on condition of amendment.

24-31. The gracious offer being refused, sentence is passed.

1. See Intro.

2. Children] Jehovah claimed Israel as His son at the exodus (Exodus 4:22).

3. The unnaturalness of Israel's conduct is similarly contrasted with the behaviour of the animal creation, in Jeremiah 8:7.

4. Seed of evildoers] i.e. consisting of evildoers (Isaiah 14:20). Are corrupters] RV 'deal corruptly.' The Holy One of Israel] The use of this title is characteristic of Isaiah, and traceable to the impression made by the vision wherein he received his call and heard the seraphic 'Ter-Sanctus.' See Intro.

5. RV 'Why will ye be still stricken, that ye revolt?' etc. Why expose yourselves to further punishment? Read, 'Every head.. every heart.' The noblest parts of the body stand for the rulers and counsellors of the body politic.

7. As overthrown by strangers] lit. 'as an overthrow of strangers,' i.e. (a) as an overthrow wrought by strangers, or (b) as when strangers (whom God cares not for) are overthrown.

8. Cottage.. lodge] solitary huts where watchmen lived: cp. Lamentations 2:6 RV. The figures express isolation. Owing to the occupation and devastation of the country by invaders the city is left helpless.

9. The cities of the plain had perished through lack of a righteous remnant (Genesis 18:24-32). The possession of such a remnant had proved the salvation of Judah.

10. The rulers of Jerusalem are addressed as rulers of Sodom, and the nation as people of Gomorrah. Thus are emphasised both their wickedness and their peril: cp. Ezekiel 16:48-50.

The law of our God] referring not to the written law, but to the divine teaching which follows, delivered through the prophet: see Isaiah 2:3; Isaiah 8:16.

11. I delight not] cp. Psalms 40:6; Psalms 51:16; Amos 5:21-22; Micah 6:7.

12. Tread] RV trample'; like beasts without understanding. The worship was merely formal.

13. Vain oblations] Not the offerings in themselves, but their hypocritical character is reprobated. Iniquity] lit. 'nothingness,' 'worthlessness.'

14. New moons] referring to the monthly festivals (Numbers 28:11; 1 Samuel 20:5).

15. Your hands, etc.] The hands, uplifted in prayer, are stained with blood.

16. 17. Condition of acceptance with God.

17. Judgment] i.e. justice. Relieve the oppressed] RM 'set right the oppressor.'

18. Let us reason] i.e. that the right may appear. Forgiveness will follow obedience and repentance.

21. An harlot] figuratively expressing the faithlessness, through its idolatry, of the nation which had been betrothed to God: cp. Exodus 34:15; Deuteronomy 31:16. Judgment] i.e. justice, as in Isaiah 1:17.

22. Mixed] read, 'weakened.' The images describe the degeneracy of the rulers; the best have become debased.

23. Companions of thieves] i.e. conniving at miscarriage of justice: cp. Micah 7:3.

24. Mine adversaries] the evildoers in Jerusalem. God will purge the city of them.

25. Purely purge, etc.] RM 'purge away thy dross as with lye,' lye, or potash, being used as a flux in purifying metals. Tin] i.e. alloy.

27. With judgment.. with righteousness] i.e. (a) through the manifestation of God's justice and righteousness, or (b) through the justice and righteousness which the regenerate people exhibit. Her converts] i.e. those of her who return (to Jehovah).

29. They shall be ashamed.. ye have desired] The subject in each clause is the same in thought, though the person of the verb is changed. Such abrupt change of person is not uncommon in Hebrew, especially in the prophets, e.g. Micah 7:19; Malachi 2:15.

29. The oaks] mentioned as connected with idolatrous worship: cp. 2 Kings 16:4; 2 Kings 17:10. Sacred trees were supposed to be inhabited by a deity, to whom the worship was offered. The prophet indicates that such nature-worship will disappoint its votaries. The gardens] referred to as the scene of heathen rites: cp. Isaiah 65:3.

30. The fate of the wicked described in imagery suggested by Isaiah 1:29.

31. Read, 'And the strong' (i.e. the wealthy and powerful man) 'shall be as tow, and his work' (i.e. the idolatrous image) 'as a spark.' The meaning is that his sin will be the cause of his ruin.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 1:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/isaiah-1.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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