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Friday, September 29th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 57

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

Verse 1

I shall give Bishop Lowth's translation of the two first verses, and give the substance of his criticisms with additional evidence.

There are very few places in Isaiah where Jesus Christ is not intended; and I am inclined to think that He is intended here, THAT Just One; and perhaps Stephen had this place in view, when he thus charged the Jews, "Ye denied τον ἁγιον και δικαιον, that HOLY and JUST One," Acts 3:14. That his death was not laid to heart by the wicked Jewish people, needs no proof.

Merciful men — If the first refers to Christ, this may well refer to the apostles, and to others of the primitive Christians, who were taken away, some by death and martyrdom, and others by a providential escape from the city that they knew was devoted to destruction.

The evil to come.] That destruction which was to come upon this disobedient people by the Romans.

Verse 2

Verse Isaiah 57:2. He shalt enter into peace - "He shall go in peace"] יבוא שלום yabo shalom; the expression is elliptical, such as the prophet frequently uses. The same sense is expressed at large and in full terms, Genesis 15:15: ואתה תבא אל אבותיך בשלום veattah libbo al abotheycha beshalom, "and thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace."

They shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness - "He shall rest in his bed; even the perfect man."] This obscure sentence is reduced to a perfectly good sense, and easy construction by an ingenious remark of Dr. Durell. He reads ינוח על משכבו תם yanuach al mishcabo tam, "the perfect man shall rest in his bed." Two MSS. (one of them ancient) have ינוח yanuach, singular; and so the Vulgate renders it, requiescat, "he shall rest." The verb was probably altered to make it plural, and so consistent with what follows, after the mistake had been made in the following words, by uniting משכבו mishcabo and תם tam into one word. See Merrick's Annotations on the Psalms, Addenda; where the reader will find that J. S. Moerlius, by the same sort of correction, and by rescuing the adjective תם tam, which had been swallowed up in another word in the same manner, has restored to a clear sense a passage before absolutely unintelligible: -

It has been often remarked that, previously to the execution of God's judgments upon a wicked place, he has removed good men from it, that they might not suffer with the wicked. When great and good men are removed by death, or otherwise, from any place, the remaining inhabitants have much cause to tremble.

Verse 6

Verse Isaiah 57:6. Among the smooth stones of the stream - "Among the smooth stones of the valley"] The Jews were extremely addicted to the practice of many superstitious and idolatrous rites, which the prophet here inveighs against with great vehemence. Of the worship of rude stones consecrated, there are many testimonials of the ancients. They were called βαιτυλοι and βαιτυλια probably from the stone which Jacob erected at Beth-el, pouring oil upon the top of it. This practice was very common in different ages and places. Arnobius, lib. i., gives an account of his own practice in this respect before he became a Christian: Si quando conspexeram lubricatum lapidem, et ex olivi unguine sordidatum; tanquam inesset vis praesens, adulabar, affabar, et beneficia poscebam nihil sentiente de trunco. - "When I have met with a smooth stone, smeared with oil, supposing a spiritual power to be connected with it, I worshipped it, paid my addresses to it, and requested blessings," c. Clemens Alex., Strom. lib. vii., speaks of a worshipper of every smooth stone in a proverbial way, to denote one given up to superstition. And accordingly Theophrastus has marked this as one strong feature in the character of the superstitious man: Και των λιπαρων λιθων των εν ταις τριοδοις παριων, εκ της ληκυθου ελαιου καταχειν, και επι γονατα πεσων και προσκυνησας απαλλαττεσθαι. "Passing by the anointed stones in the streets, he takes out his phial of oil, and pours it on them and having fallen on his knees, and made his adorations, he departs." Kimchi says: "When they found a beautiful polished stone in a brook or river, they paid Divine adoration to it." This idolatry is still prevalent among the Hindoos. The stone which is the object of their adoration is called salgram. They are found about eighty miles from the source of the river Sown, in the viceroyalty of Bahar, on the coast of Bengal. Ayeen Akbery vol. ii. p. 29.

Verse 8

Verse Isaiah 57:8. Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance - "Behind the door, and the door-posts, hast thou set up thy memorial"] That is, the image of their tutelary gods, or something dedicated to them; in direct opposition to the law of God, which commanded them to write upon the door-posts of their house, and upon their gates, the words of God's law; Deuteronomy 6:9; Deuteronomy 11:20. If they chose for them such a situation as more private, it was in defiance of a particular curse denounced in the law against the man who should make a graven or a molten image, and put it in a secret place; Deuteronomy 27:15. An ancient MS., with another, has אחר achar, without the conjunction ו vau, and.

Verse 9

Verse Isaiah 57:9. And thou wentest to the king with ointment - "And thou hast visited the king with a present of oil"] That is, the king of Assyria, or Egypt. Hosea, Hosea 12:1, reproaches the Israelites for the same practice: -

"They make a covenant with Assyria,

And oil is carried to Egypt."

It is well known, that in all parts of the east, whoever visits a great person must carry him a present. "It is counted uncivil," says Maundrell, p. 26, "to visit in this country without an offering in hand. All great men expect it as a tribute due to their character and authority; and look upon themselves as affronted, and indeed defrauded, when the compliment is omitted." Hence שור shur, to visit a person, is equivalent to making him a present; and תשורה teshurah signifies a present made on such occasions; as our translators have rightly rendered it, 1 Samuel 9:7; on which Jarchi says Menachem exponit תשורה teshurah, quod significat oblationem sive manus, ut aliquis aspiciat faciem regis, aut alicuius magnatis. "Menachem expounds תשורה teshurah of an offering or gift which is presented in order to be admitted into the presence of the king or some great man."

Verse 10

Verse Isaiah 57:10. Yet saidst thou not, There is no hope - "Thou hast said, There is hope"] In one of the MSS. at Koningsberg, collated by Lilienthal, the words לא אמרת lo amarta, are left in the text unpointed, as suspected; and in the margin the corrector has written ותאמרי vattomari. Now if we compare Jeremiah 2:25 and Jeremiah 18:12, we shall find that the subject is in both places quite the same with this of Isaiah; and the sentiment expressed, that of a desperate resolution to continue at all hazards in their idolatrous practices; the very thing that in all reason we might expect here. Probably, therefore, the latter is the true reading in this place. - L.

Verse 11

Verse Isaiah 57:11. Nor laid it to thy heart - "Nor revolved it in thy hand"] Eight MSS., (four ancient,) and the two oldest editions, with another, add the conjunction ו vau, ולא velo: which is confirmed by all the ancient Versions.

Even of old - "And winked"] For ומעולם umeolam, which makes no good sense or construction in this place, twenty-three MSS. (seven ancient) and three editions have מעלם, (to be thus pointed מעלם malim;) παροπω, Septuagint; quasi non videns, "as if not seeing," Vulgate. See Psalms 10:1. The truth of this reading, so confirmed, admits of no doubt. In one of my own MSS. the ו vau has been written, but afterwards struck out. Is it not because I was silent, and winked?

Verse 12

Verse Isaiah 57:12. Thy righteousness - "My righteousness"] For צדקתך tsidkathech, THY righteousness, the Syriac, Septuagint, MSS. Alex. and Pachom., and I. D. II., and Marchal. and οἱ Γ, and the Arabic, read צדקי tsidki, MY righteousness.

Verse 13

Verse Isaiah 57:13. Let thy companies deliver thee - "Let thine associates deliver thee"] Thirty-nine MSS. (ten ancient) of Dr. Kennicott's, and two of my own, and the two oldest editions have יצילכו yatstsiluchu, plural.

Verse 14

Verse Isaiah 57:14. And shall say - "Then will I say"] ואמר vaomer, to be pointed as the first person future. They are the words of God, as it is plain from the conclusion of the verse; my people, עמי ammi.

Verse 15

Verse Isaiah 57:15. For thus saith the high and lofty One - "For thus saith JEHOVAH, the high and the lofty"] A MS. adds יהוה Yehovah, after אמר amar, and edition Prag. 1518. So the Septuagint, Alex., and Arabic. An ancient MS. adds יה Yah.

With him also that is of a contrite and humble spiritTwelve MSS. have את eth, without the conjunction ו vau. Pro ואת veeth, forte legendum ואראה veerah: confer Psalms 113:5, et Psalms 138:6. - SECKER. "We should perhaps read ואראה veerah, instead of ואת veeth. See Psalms 113:5; Psalms 138:6."

Verse 16

Verse Isaiah 57:16. For I will not contend for ever — The learned have taken a great deal of pains to little purpose on the latter part of this verses which they suppose to be very obscure. After all their labours upon it, I think the best and easiest explication of it is given in the two following elegant passages of the Psalms, which I presume are exactly parallel to it, and very clearly express the same sentiment.

For the spirit — רוח ruach, the animal life.

And the souls — נשמות neshamoth, the immortal spirits. The Targum understands this of the resurrection. I will restore the souls of the dead, i.e., to their bodies.

Verse 17

Verse Isaiah 57:17. For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth - "Because of his iniquity for a short time was I wroth"] For בצעו bitso, I read בצע betsa, a little while, from בצע batsa, he cut off, as the Septuagint read and render it, βραχυ τι "a certain short space." Propter iniquitatem avaritiae ejus, "because of the iniquity of his avarice," the rendering of the Vulgate, which our translators and I believe all others follow, is surely quite beside the purpose.

Verse 18

Verse Isaiah 57:18. I have seen his ways — Probably these verses refer to the restoration of the Jews from captivity.

Verse 19

Verse Isaiah 57:19. I create the fruit of the lips — "The sacrifice of praise," saith St. Paul, Hebrews 13:15, "is the fruit of the lips." God creates this fruit of the lips, by giving new subject and cause of thanksgiving by his mercies conferred on those among his people, who acknowledge and bewail their transgressions, and return to him. The great subject of thanksgiving is peace-reconciliation and pardon, offered to them that are nigh, and to them that are afar off, not only to the Jew, but also to the Gentile, as St. Paul more than once applies those terms, Ephesians 2:13; Ephesians 2:17. See also Acts 2:39.

Peace to him that is far off - "That is, to the penitent; and to him that is near, i.e., the righteous." - Kimchi.

Verse 21

Verse Isaiah 57:21. There is no peace, saith my God — For אלהי Elohai, twenty-two MSS. (five ancient) of Kennicott's, thirty of De Rossi's, and one ancient of my own, read יהוה Yehovah; the Vulgate, Septuagint, Alex., and Arabic, and three MSS. have both. This verse has reference to the nineteenth. The perseveringly wicked and impenitent are excluded from all share in that peace above mentioned, that reconcilement and pardon which is promised to the penitent only. The forty-eighth chapter ends with the same declaration, to express the exclusion of the unbelievers and impenitent from the benefit of the foregoing promises. - L.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Isaiah 57". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/isaiah-57.html. 1832.
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