1.I have manifested myself. The Prophet now passes on to another doctrine; for he shews that God has good reason for rejecting and casting off the Jews. It is because they have profited nothing by either warnings or threatenings to be brought back from their errors into the right way. But that they might not think that the Lord’s covenant would on that account be made void, he adds that he will have another people which formerly was no people, and that where he was formerly unknown, his name Shall be well known and highly celebrated. The Jews looked on this as monstrous, and reckoned it to be altogether inconsistent with the covenant which the Lord made with Abraham, (Genesis 17:7,) if such a benefit were extended to any others than his posterity. But the Prophet intended to strip them of the foolish confidence of imagining that God was bound to the posterity of Abraham; for the Lord had not restricted himself to them but on an absolute condition, and if this were violated by them, they would be deprived, like covenant-breakers and traitors, of all the advantage derived from the covenant. Nor was this promise made to Abraham alone, and to those who were descended from him, but to all who should be ingrafted by faith into his family. But it will be more convenient to begin with the second verse, in which he explains the cause of the rejection, that we may more fully understand the Prophet’s design. (198)
2.I have stretched out my hands. He accuses the Jews, and complains of their ingratitude and rebellion; and in this manner he proves that there is no reason why they should say that the Lord does them wrong if he bestow his grace on others. The Jews conducted themselves proudly and insolently toward God, as if they had been elected through their own merit. On account of their ingratitude and insolence the Lord rejects them as unworthy, and complains that to no purpose did he “stretch out his hands” to draw and bring them back to him.
By “the stretching out of the hands” he means the daily invitation. There are various ways in which the Lord “stretches out his hands to us;” for he draws us to him, either effectually or by the word. In this passage it must relate chiefly to the word. The Lord never speaks to us without at the same time “stretching out his hand” to join us to himself, or without causing us to feel, on the other hand, that he is near to us. He even embraces us, and shews the anxiety of a father, so that, if we do not comply with his invitation, it must be owing entirely to our own fault. The heinousness of the guilt is greatly aggravated by long continuance, that, during a long succession of ages, God did not cease to send one Prophet after another, and even, as he says elsewhere, to rise early in the morning and continue the same care till the evening. (Jeremiah 7:13.)
To a rebellious people. First, he calls them “rebellious” or disobedient, but immediately afterwards he declares what is the nature of that rebellion, namely, that the people walk after their own thoughts. Nothing is more displeasing to God than for men to be αὐθάδεις “self-willed,” (2 Peter 2:10;) that is, devoted to their own inclinations; for he commands us to surrender our own judgment, that we may be capable of receiving the true doctrine. The Lord therefore testifies that it was not owing to him that he did not retain and continue to exercise towards them his wonted favor, but that they alienated themselves through their own madness, because they chose to abide by their own natural inclinations rather than to follow God as their leader.
Having pointed out the cause of this rejection, we must come to the calling of the Gentiles, who succeeded in the room of the Jews; for that is undoubtedly the subject treated in the first verse. The Lord had long ago foretold it by Moses, so that they ought not to have thought that there was anything new in this prediction.
“They have provoked me by that which is not God; they have moved me to anger by their vanities; and I also will provoke them by that which is not a people, by a foolish nation I will enrage them.” (Deuteronomy 32:21.)
Finally, the Prophet now threatens the same thing which was afterwards foretold by Christ when that blinding was at hand.
“The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation which shall bring forth fruit.” (Matthew 21:43.)
1.To them that asked not. (199) When he says that God manifested himself “to them that asked not,” he shews that the Gentiles were anticipated by the grace of God, and that they brought no merit or excellence as an inducement to God to give it to them. This obviously agrees with that passage which we quoted, in which Moses calls them “a foolish nation.” (Deuteronomy 32:21.) Thus, under a universal type, he describes what is the nature of men before the Lord anticipates them by his mercy; for they neither call on the Lord, nor seek him, nor think about him. And this passage ought to be carefully observed, in order to establish the certainty of our calling, which may be said to be the key that opens to us the kingdom of heaven; for by means of it peace and repose are given to our consciences, which would always be in doubt and uncertainty if they did not rest on such testimonies. We see, therefore, that it did not happen accidentally or suddenly that we were called by God and reckoned to be his people; for it had been predicted long before in many passages. From this passage Paul earnestly contends for the calling of the Gentiles, and says that Isaiah boldly exclaims and affirms that the Gentiles have been called by God, because he spoke more clearly and loudly than the circumstances of Ms own time required. Here we see, therefore, that we were called by an eternal purpose of God long before the event happened.
Behold I, behold I. By repeating these words twice, he confirms still more the declaration that God hath manifested himself in so friendly a manner to foreign and heathen nations, that they do not doubt that he dwells in the midst of them. And, indeed, that sudden change needed to be confirmed, because it was difficult to be believed; although by that very novelty the Prophet intended to magnify the unexpected grace of God. The meaning may be thus summed up: “When the Lord shall have offered himself to the Gentiles, and they shall have been joined to the holy family of Abraham, there will be some Church in the world, after the Jews have been driven out.” Now we see that all that is here predicted by the Prophet was fulfilled by the Gospel, by which the Lord actually offered and manifested himself to foreign nations. Whenever, therefore, this voice of the Gospel is sounded in our ears, or when we record the word of the Lord, let us know that the Lord is present, and offers himself, that we may know him familiarly, and may call on him boldly and with assured confidence.
3.A people that provoketh me. Here he describes and illustrates more largely in what respects the Jews were rebellious against God. It was because they had forsaken the command of God, and had polluted themselves by various superstitions. He had said a little before, (Isaiah 63:17,) that the Jews had estranged themselves from God, because they wandered after their inventions; and now he points out the fruit of that licentiousness, that, by giving a loose rein to their thoughts, they overturned the pure worship of God. And undoubtedly this is the origin of all superstitions, that men are delighted with their own inventions, and choose to be wise in their own eyes rather than restrain their senses in obedience to God. In vain do men bring forward their devotions, as they call them, and their good intentions, which God holds in such abhorrence and detestation that they who have followed them are guilty of breaking the covenant and deserting from their allegiance; for there is nothing which we ought to undertake of our own accord, but we ought to obey God when he commands. In a word, the beginning and perfection of lawful worship is a readiness to obey.
By the word “provoke” he describes the impudence of the people, who deliberately, as it were, provoked God, and had no reverence for his majesty so as to submit to his authority. And he heightens the description by saying, To my face; for since God may be said to be present and actually beheld by those whom he warns by his word, they sin more heinously, and are guilty of greater impudence and rebellion, than those who never heard the word.
That sacrificeth in gardens, and offereth incense on bricks. He mentions the “gardens” which they had consecrated to their idols, and says that they provoked him by them. Some think that “bricks” are mentioned by way of contempt, and are indirectly contrasted with the altar on which alone God wished that they should sacrifice; and accordingly they think that here he mentions the roofs on which superstitious persons were wont to offer sacrifices; for they were made of “bricks.” But I think that it means simply the altars which they had built for idols; for, although they were not without the plausible pretense of wishing to imitate that form of altar which God had prescribed, yet God abhorred it, because it was contrary to his word.
4.Who dwell in the graves. He enumerates other kinds of superstitions; and although, in consequence of its brevity, the description is obscure, yet we may easily learn from other passages what was the nature of them. For as necromancy was generally practiced among heathen nations, the Jews also consulted demons “in graves and deserts,” instead of consulting God alone, which they ought to have done; and, as if they were seeking answers from the dead, they took pleasure in being deceived by the illusions of demons. (200) How solemnly the Lord had forbidden it, appears very clearly from Deuteronomy 18:10, and other passages; and we have seen something of this kind in a former part of this book, (Isaiah 8:19.) In general we are taught that God demands nothing more than obedience, which he prefers to slain beasts and sacrifices. (1 Samuel 15:22.)
Who eat swine’s flesh. Formerly he complained that the worship of God was polluted by strange inventions; and now he adds that they set aside every distinction, so that they do not distinguish between the clean and the unclean; and he brings forward a single instance, that they do not abstain from “swine’s flesh.” But it may be thought that this was a small matter. Very far from it; for we ought not to judge from our own opinion, but from that of the legislator, how heinous a sin it is; and nothing which the Lord has forbidden ought to be reckoned trivial. (Leviticus 11:7; Deuteronomy 14:8.) This related to the external profession of. faith, by which the Jews were in duty bound to testify how widely they differed from the pollution of the Gentiles. From that rule, therefore, which the Lord enjoins upon us, we must not swerve even a hair’s breadth. (201)
5.Remain by thyself. (202) He points out extreme impiety in the Jews, who obstinately and rebelliously opposed God’s worshippers, and refused to listen to any warnings. There is some hope of repentance, so long as we lend an ear to warnings and reproofs; but if we reject them, our case is undoubtedly hopeless.
Though the words are apparently obscure, their meaning amounts to this, that hypocrites disdainfully and fiercely repel faithful advisers, because they either make false claims to holiness, or, on account of pride, do not suffer themselves to be reproved; for hypocrisy is never free from supercilious disdain and haughtiness. Let us not wonder, therefore, that those who are infected by this vice swell with insolent pretensions, and boast of their virtue and holiness, and value themselves more highly than all others; for Satan has blinded them to make an idle and ostentatious boast of what they call their devotions, and to despise the word of God.
Commentators think that this is a general statement; which reproves the Jews for refusing to submit to the prophets. But it appears to me that we ought to take into account a circumstance to which they do not attach sufficient weight, that this verse is in close and immediate connection with the preceding verses, and contains a sharp reproof of the Jews, for not only revolting from the true worship, but likewise following obstinately their own inventions, so as to turn with disdain from every one that did not flatter them; for that phrase, “Remain with thyself,” means nothing else than “Away with thee!” as if they declared that they would have nothing to do with honest instructors. (203)
6.Lo, it is written before me. He alludes to the ordinary custom of judges, who keep before them in writing the processes of investigation regarding any matter, together with the testimonies, acts, and everything of that nature, in order that, when it shall be found necessary to make use of them, the guilt of the culprit may be easily proved; for we write those things which we wish to be remembered by posterity The Lord therefore testifies that these things can never fade into oblivion, because they have been written; for, although for a time he pass them over in silence, yet the wicked shall not escape unpunished, but shall at length feel that he is a righteous judge.
Hence we ought to learn that we must not abuse God’s patience, because he bears with us long, and does not all at once stretch out his hand to punish us; for all our faults are nevertheless written before him, for which we must at length suffer punishment, if we do not repent. (204) True, indeed, the Lord has no need of writing as an aid to memory; but he makes use of this form of expression, that we may not think that he has forgotten anything, when he is slow in executing his judgments. Jeremiah even says expressly, that
“the sin of Judah is written with an iron pen and with the nail of a diamond.”
To recompense into the bosom is a phrase frequently employed in Scripture; for men think either that their sins are concealed, or that they will not be called to account for them; but, hurried along by unbridled lust, or laying the blame on some other person, they drive fear to a distance from them. (Psalms 79:12; Jeremiah 32:18.) On this account the Lord threatens that he will “recompense into their bosom,” that they may consider who is the judge with whom they have to do.
7.Your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together. Isaiah enlarges on that, which he had expressed briefly in the preceding verse; for he shews that the Jews are not now, for the first time, guilty of this treason, but that there is the ancient example of the fathers, in whose footsteps they closely follow. In like manner the Lord formerly complained that he had borne long with that people, and was at length wearied with them. He therefore describes the aggravated heinousness of the offense, by saying that the Jews follow the example of their fathers; as if he had said, “They are very bad eggs of bad crows;” for the more frequently and the more earnestly that men have been warned, so much the more must they be condemned for obstinacy, if they do not repent. Thus he shews that they disregarded warnings and threatenings, and persevered for many years in their baseness and impiety; that they may no longer bring forward any excuse or pretense, but, on the contrary, may know that they deserve severe punishment.
Here we see that the corruption which has flowed from the fathers is so far from being an excuse to the children, (as is alleged by ignorant persons, who commonly make use of this shield,) that, on the contrary, they draw down on themselves severer judgment. He adds יחדו, (yachdcav,) together. As if the Lord had said, that he gathers together, and, as it were, forms into a bundle, the crimes of the fathers and of the children, that he may at length punish them. Not that
“the son bears the iniquity of the father,” (Ezekiel 18:20,)
and endures the punishment which the father deserved, but that, since they carry on the crimes of their fathers, they must be included and condemned in the same judgment, while obstinacy shews that their diseases are incurable.
Because they have offered incense on the mountains. He glances at one kind of sin, under which, by a figure of speech in which a part is taken for the whole, he describes also the rest of their sins; for he means by it the whole of the revolt by which the people withdrew from the true worship, and devoted and gave themselves up to strange gods. This is the utmost verge of iniquities; for, when the fear of God has been taken away, we can have nothing sound or healthy in us. Thus he points out the source of all evils, which ought to be the more diligently observed, because men are highly pleased with themselves, and think that they deserve great praise, when they worship God according to their own fancy, and do not understand that nothing is more abominable in the sight of God than pretended worship, which proceeds from human contrivance. Beyond all doubt, the people desired to be acceptable to God by “offering incense on the mountains;” but it is not from the purpose of their mind, and from their intention, as they call it, that we must judge of their work. In preference to all men, we must listen to the voice of the Lord, who testifies that he is greatly dishonored, that we may not endeavor to defend ourselves by pleading our intention, which will render us doubly guilty before God.
Therefore I will measure back their ancient work. The word ראשנה (rishonah) may be explained in various ways, either “I will measure back with their antiquity,” or, “in the first place,” or “formerly,” or, “from the beginning.” But we must take into account the connection of the passage, from which the Prophet’s meaning will be clearly seen. Having spoken a little before about the works of the fathers, he undoubtedly ridicules those who made them a bulwark. It is a slight and useless defense, and indeed it is idle to plead before God the practices of the fathers, that is, their long-continued corruption; for in this way we bring down on ourselves a heavier judgment. And yet many men are so intoxicated by this pretense, that they think that no objection can be brought against it, and even refuse to listen to anything else. (205) Antiquity, indeed, is highly venerable; but no man ought to value it so highly as to make the smallest diminution of the honor of God. This is a remarkable passage for convincing those who uphold superstitions by length of years, as if old established error ought to be accounted a law.
8.Thus saith Jehovah. Here the Prophet softens the preceding statement; for otherwise it would have been very hard to say that the iniquities of the fathers would be brought to remembrance in such a manner, that the Lord would destroy the fathers and the children along with them; and these things might strike believers with such horror as to lead them to think that their salvation was past all hope. We must therefore be carefully on our guard, and observe the reason why the Lord is angry with us; for he wishes to terrify us, so as to lead us to himself, and not so as to throw us into despair. For this reason he holds out hope to believers, that they may not lose courage; and, by exhibiting consolation, he encourages them to repentance. He confirms it by a comparison.
As if one found a grape in a cluster. As if a person who has determined to root out a vine that is inconvenient or injurious to him, and finds a fruit-bearing branch, shall spare it; so the Lord will refrain from tearing up those in which he shall find no strength or flavor. Formerly he complained that the people were useless, and even that they yielded bitter fruits. (Isaiah 5:2.) Isaiah retains the same comparison, but applies it in a different manner. “Though the people may be said to be an unfruitful and degenerate vine, yet there are still left some fruit-bearing branches which the Lord will not suffer to perish.
But this may be understood in two ways; either that the Lord will preserve his people for the sake of the elect, or that, when the reprobate are destroyed, he will rescue believers from destruction. There is a wide difference between these two interpretations. As to the first, we know that the wicked are sometimes spared on account of good men, whom God does not wish to destroy or to involve in the same judgment, as various examples of Scripture sufficiently shew. The Lord would have spared Sodom, if he had found but ten good men in it. (Genesis 18:32.) All who sailed along with Paul, to the number of “two hundred and seventy-six,” (Acts 27:37,) were “given to him” and rescued from shipwreck, that the power which He manifested in his servant might be more illustriously displayed. (Acts 27:24.) The Lord blessed the house of Potiphar, and made it to prosper in all things, for the sake of Joseph who was in his family. (Genesis 39:5.) There are other examples of the same kind, which every one will easily collect for himself.
But I approve more highly of the other interpretation, that the Lord will punish the sins of his people in such a manner as to have regard nevertheless to his own, and not to involve all universally in the same destruction. Nor does he mean only that believers shall be saved, but that a people shall be left amongst whom men shall call on his name. And the comparison ought to be carefully observed; for he shews that the remnant will be small, as compared with the multitude which was at that time, as has been already explained. (Isaiah 1:9.)
Now, as to believers being often punished along with the reprobate, let us not think that it is wrong; for the Lord will often find in each of us enough of blame to afflict and punish us. Besides, he wishes to instruct and arouse us by his chastisements; and seeing that we have been joined to a certain people, and, as it were, ingrafted into their body, we undoubtedly ought not to think it strange if we, who may be said to be diseased members, shall share in the same strokes and pains. Yet the Lord moderates the punishment, so as not to tear up by the roots the elect plants.
9.And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob. He explains the preceding verse by other words, and shews that the Lord wishes to reserve for himself some “seed” that shall call upon him; for the Lord is wont to chastise his people in such a manner as to determine that the Church shall exist, in which his truth and the pure religion may be preserved, and which Paul for that very reason calls “the pillar and foundation of truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15.) We must not, therefore, judge of the Church from the present condition of things, (for nothing in this world can be permanent,) but from the purpose of God, which will not suffer it to be overturned or destroyed. This ought to be carefully remembered by us, that we may not be terrified by any calamities or ruins, or by any hideous desolation of the Church.
And out of Judah the heir of my mountains. He gives the appellation of “heirs of the mountains” to those who, having returned from captivity, shall again inhabit their native land. Judea, as is well known, was a mountainous country. He again explains what might have appeared to be somewhat obscure.
And my elect shall possess it by inheritance. He means that the Jews shall return to their original condition, that they may enjoy that country as their own inheritance, from which they had been driven out. Judea was soon afterwards reduced to the utmost desolation. The Lord testifies that this shall not be of long duration; and, in order to confirm it the more, he mentions in a compendious manner the covenant by which that land was destined for them, that they might possess it by the right of inheritance. Thus, although they were long in captivity, yet this word “inheritance” ought to arouse them to cherish the confident hope that they would at length regain the possession of it. But it ought to be observed that this grace is confined to the elect and true worshippers of God, that every one may not apply it to himself without distinction. (206)
10.And Sharon shall be an abode of flocks. By these figures he means nothing else than that the land, which was a desert, shall be again inhabited; for there is an implied comparison. “Although, in consequence of the banishment of her inhabitants into a distant country, she shall be forsaken and desolate, yet she shall at length be inhabited, so as to abound in flocks and herds, and have lands that are fertile and that are fit for pasture, and supply abundantly everything that is necessary for the food and support of men.” Sharon was a place adapted to pasture, and so was Achor; but the former was adapted to flocks, and the latter to herds.
Here we see that the promises of God contain blessings not only of the future but also of the present life, that we may taste more and more his bounty and kindness; for by the latter (207) we are invited to the greater and more excellent blessings of the heavenly life. When the Lord extends his bounty to flocks and herds, this ought to confirm us the more and make us more certain of his fatherly care and anxiety about us; for if he pays attention to flocks which were created for our sake, much more will he supply us with all that is necessary
“for the life that now is, and for that which is to come.”
(1 Timothy 4:8.)
Yet we must likewise keep in view the spiritual meaning (of which we have spoken formerly) that leads us from God’s earthly blessing to Christ’s spiritual kingdom, which the prophets shadow out under that image.
For my people. Here also he excludes the reprobate, who were not ashamed of glorying vainly and falsely of the name of God. Although they confidently boast of promises and sacraments, yet they have nothing in common with the children, and, having been shut out from all hope of God’s favors, they receive the reward of their iniquity. By adding, Who have sought me, he describes more plainly who are they that shall be partakers of these benefits, in order that, as has been already said, he may entirely cut off reprobates and hypocrites. The sure mark by which lambs are distinguished from kids, and lawful children from bastards, is to “seek” the Lord; for it is not enough to shelter ourselves under a name and title, but we must seek the Lord with a pure conscience, that we may cleave to him with the whole heart. (Deuteronomy 6:5.)
11.But ye forsakers of Jehovah, who forget the mountain of my holiness. That hypocrites may not abuse these promises, or think that what is said about the restoration of the people relates to them, he again addresses them by these words, and calls them “forsakers,” (208) because they “have forgotten” Mount Zion; that is, have revolted from the true worship of God. By “the mountain of holiness” he denotes figuratively the rule of a holy life which had been laid down in the word of the Lord; for the temple had been built by the command of the Lord, that these men might call upon him; and likewise the altar on which the Lord wished that sacrifices should be offered. Thus those sacrifices and oblations were impure which were offered in other places, or to other gods, or in any way different from the strict observance of the ceremonies of the Law. It is not lawful for men to undertake anything at their own suggestion; for the Lord demands nothing but obedience, (1 Samuel 15:22,) and there is no obedience without faith; and there is no faith without the word, (Romans 10:17,) by which alone we are at liberty to inquire or think concerning God.
Who prepare a table for the army (209) He enumerates their superstitions. The word גד (Gad) is variously explained. Some think that it denotes Jupiter, or the star of Jupiter; and others that it denotes Fortune. Jerome translates the words, “Ye who spread a table for fortune;” for he thinks that it means prosperity. But I think it more probable that גד (Gad) means “a band,” or “a troop,” or even “an army;” and this agrees well with the etymology of the word and the context. One passage is especially worthy of notice, (Genesis 30:11,) in which Leah rejoices on account of the addition of children; for I think that the word which he employs, בגד (begad), ought to be understood as if she had said, “Now, I have plenty of children;” for she had many children before that time, and hence she gave the name גד (Gad) to her fifth son. Accordingly, I think that גד (Gad) ought to be interpreted, in this passage, as meaning “a troop,” or “an army;” because their false gods were so numerous, that they could scarcely be numbered for multitude.
And fill an oblation to the number. To fill may here be taken in two senses; either that they supplied everything largely and bountifully for the worship of idols; (for superstition has no limit or measure, and they who are niggardly in the worship of God very cheerfully spend all that they have for the sake of idols;) or that they passed by no idol to which they did not render their worship. I prefer the latter meaning; for idolaters do not think that they have done enough, if they do not give honor to each of the saints; and the more numerous the saints whom they have honored, they think that they will have better success. We have too great experience of this every day in the Papists.
By “number” he means the same thing as he formerly meant by “army;” for it is a repetition which is very customary among Hebrew writers. He means, therefore, that “a table is prepared,” that is, sacrifice is offered, not to a single idol, but to a great number of idols; in order to shew clearly how grievous are the punishments which they have deserved.
12.Therefore I will number you to the sword. He alludes to the number of the gods; and the Lord declares that he will easily ascertain how numerous they are, for he “will number them to the sword.” And hence we see that the Prophet, in the preceding verse, does not speak of the two planets, Jupiter and Mercury, as some think, but means that they were not satisfied with one God, and collected for themselves various idols. It is an idle conjecture that the word מני (meni) denotes Mercury, because מנה (manah) signifies “to number,” and Mercury presided over numbers and merchants. (210) The design of the Prophet is manifest, who declares that the people “shall be numbered to the sword,” because they delighted in a vast number of gods, and did not choose to rely on one God.
Because I called, and ye did not answer. He heightens the extent and heinousness of that treason, by saying that the Jews sinned through deliberate malice, and on purpose, rather than through ignorance. They had been often instructed and warned, but had disdainfully rejected all warnings, and consequently were far less excusable than others, to whom no prophets were sent; for although ignorance cannot be pleaded as an excuse by any man, yet much less can it be pleaded by the Jews and those to whom the word of God is proclaimed, and who, on that account, will be condemned and punished more severely than others.
I spake, and ye did not hear. He describes the manner of calling, namely, that he exhorted the people by the prophets; for by the word “speak” he twice repeats the same thing, as we have already stated to be the custom of Hebrew writers. To “hear” the Lord is to obey his word; for it would be a trivial matter to lend our ears, if we did not submit to the word; and it would then be with us as the proverb says, “They listen with the ears of an ass.” (211) God wishes to be heard sincerely, and does not approve of a pretended hearing; and he shews how it came that they rejected the calling. It was because they shut their ears to the doctrine of the prophets; for the beginning of obedience is to bring a desire to learn.
And ye did evil before mine eyes. The phrase, “before mine eyes,” is of the same import as “to my face;” a mode of expression which he made use of a little before. (Verse 3.) All men, indeed, sin “before the eyes” of the Lord, and none can withdraw from his presence. But in a peculiar sense we are said to sin “before his eyes,” when, having been called by him, we do not dread his presence; for he approaches nearer to those whom he calls by the prophets, and, so to speak, exhibits himself as present to them. Far more detestable, therefore, and worthy of severe chastisements, is the impiety of those who, laying aside all shame, despise and scorn God when he draws near to call and invite them.
And chose the things in which I took no pleasure. From this concluding clause of the verse it is evident that they are condemned, not for gross crimes, but for foolish devotions, by which they corrupted the worship of God. Although they zealously devoted themselves to sacrifices contrived by themselves, because they thought that in this way they would become entitled to the favor of God; yet he declares that he abhors their wicked practices. It is not permitted that any person shall have a free choice to follow whatever he thinks fit, but all must observe what God approves, and must not turn aside from it in any way whatever. Now we see that it was not a fault peculiar to a single age that men should follow their own caprice in the worship of God, and should adore their own inventions instead of God; but whatever “pleasure” men “take in these things,” the Lord solemnly declares that he condemns and abhors them.Greek proverbs of the same kind are still more abundant. ́̓Ονῳ τὶς ἔλεγε μῦθον· ὁ δὲ τὰ ὦτα ἐκίνει “One told a story to an ass, and he pricked up his ears.” ́̓Ονος λύρας ἀκοῦων κίνει τὰ ὦτα “An ass, listening to a lyre, pricks up his ears.” — Ed.
13.and 14.Behold, my servants shall eat. Here also the Prophet more deafly distinguishes between hypocrites, who held a place in the Church, and the true and lawful children; for, although all without distinction were called children, yet he skews that many shall be disowned as not belonging to the family, and that they who proudly and haughtily exalted themselves, under the name of the people of God, shall be disappointed of their hope, which is vain and false. We must carefully observe the highly emphatic contrast between “the servants of God,” and those who falsely pretend to his name; for he shews that empty titles, and false boasting, or vain confidence, shall avail them nothing.
Shall eat, shall drink. By these words he denotes happiness and a prosperous condition of life; as if he had said, that he will take care that believers shall not be in want of anything. But the Lord promises to his servants something different from what he actually bestows; for they often “are hungry and thirsty,” (1 Corinthians 4:11,) while the wicked abound in enjoyments of every kind, and abuse them for luxury and intemperance. But it ought to be observed, that the kingdom of Christ is here described under figures; for otherwise we could not understand it. Accordingly, the Prophet draws comparisons from earthly kingdoms, in which, when the people abound in wealth and enjoy comforts of every kind, there is a visible display of the blessing of God from which we may judge of his fatherly love.
But since it is not proper that good men should have their minds engrossed by earthly advantages, it is enough that some taste of those advantages should support their faith. And if they are sometimes oppressed by hunger, yet, being satisfied with a moderate portion of good, they nevertheless acknowledge that God is their Father, and that he is kind to them, and in their poverty have greater riches than kings and nobles. On the other hand, the wicked, whatever may be their abundance of good things, cannot enjoy them with a good conscience, and therefore are the most wretched of all men. The Prophet, therefore, has in his eye the right use of the gifts of God; for they who serve God in a right manner receive, as children from the hand of a father, all that is necessary for this life, while others, like thieves and profane persons, take violent possession of it. Wicked men are never satisfied with any amount of wealth, however great; they have continual fear and trembling, and their conscience can never be at ease.
The Lord, therefore, does not promise here what he does not actually bestow; and this happiness must not be estimated by the outward condition of things. This is still more evident from what follows, where he speaks of joy and thanksgiving. The Prophet undoubtedly intends to state in a few words, that contentment does not lie in abundance of earthly enjoyments, but in calm peace of mind and spiritual joy; for unbelievers have no relish for such things, but to believers a persuasion of God’s fatherly love is more delightful than all earthly enjoyments. Yet let us observe that we ought to look for all prosperity from God alone, who will not permit his people to be in want of anything that belongs to a happy life.
15.And ye shall leave your name for a curse (212) to my elect. He continues the same doctrine, and teaches that God will at length separate hypocrites from the true servants. And indeed we need not wonder that the Prophet dwells so much on this point; for there is nothing of which it is harder to convince hypocrites, who, puffed up with pride, deceive and blind themselves. He affirms that “their name” shall be “accursed,” because they thought that they were the holy seed, and that nothing else under heaven was worthy of being remembered. Such is also the import of the word “Leave;” as if he had said that false boasting, to which they were so strongly attached, shall be shaken off by violence; and therefore, that they may not flatter themselves with a glory that is temporal, and that shall speedily pass away, the Lord rebukes that haughtiness, and declares that he will have other servants, to whom they shall be a curse, so that even in solemn cursing this shall be taken as an example, “May God curse thee as he has cursed the Jews!”
And shall call his servants by another name. He shews how ill-founded is the confidence of that nation, which thought that God would have no people, if he had not the posterity of Abraham; for he solemnly declares that he will adopt a new people, and that he is not confined to the Jews, so as not easily to find others whom he shall adorn with the “name” of his people. The opinion entertained by some, that by “another name” is meant the Christian name, is exceedingly unnatural; and even from the context it is evident that the Prophet had quite a different object in view; for, in consequence of the Jews boasting proudly of the antiquity of their name, and growing insolent at having been elected by God long ago, as if God could not do without them, he shews that he will elect and adopt another people, and yet that he cannot be accused of capriciousness or fickleness, as if he had changed his mind. He will execute his purpose and his righteous judgments against those who, under a false pretense of his name, obscure his glory and corrupt all godliness.
16.He who blesseth himself in the earth. Here the whole world is contrasted with a corner of Judea, in which the worship of God might be said to be shut up. Since the time when God has been manifested everywhere, he is not now worshipped in one particular district, but in all places without distinction; as Christ also teacheth, (John 4:21,) “The hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father;” and Paul also saith,
“I wish that men in every place may lift up clean hands, without wrath and disputing.”
(1 Timothy 2:8.)
Thus the word “earth,” by which he denotes, in this passage, the whole world, is employed by him in an indirect contrast with Judea.
Shall bless himself in the true God. Shall swear by the true God. By “blessing” and “swearing” he denotes the whole of the worship of God. “Swearing,” as we have formerly seen, (213) is a kind of worship of God; for by it we declare that all judgment belongs to God, and acknowledge that he is perfectly acquainted with all that we do. We “bless,” when we wish to obtain from him all prosperity, and render thanksgiving to him alone; and, in short, when we acknowledge that our prosperity comes from no other source than from his undeserved kindness. By “the true God” is meant that he is faithful to his promises and steadfast to his purpose; though perhaps there is an implied and indirect contrast between “the true God” and the false gods of the Gentiles.
For the former afflictions are surrendered to forgetfulness. This promise relates to believers only. God declares that he will put an end to their afflictions and distresses, that the calamity of the Church may not be perpetual. This began to be accomplished when the people were brought out of Babylon; for, although they were afflicted in various ways both during the journey and at home, yet the severity of the punishments was mitigated; because the return to their native country, the rebuilding of the temple, the restoration of regular government, soothed their griefs, and supported their hearts by good hope till the coming of Christ.
17.For, lo, I will create new heavens and a new earth. By these metaphors he promises a remarkable change of affairs; as if God had said that he has both the inclination and the power not only to restore his Church, but to restore it in such a manner that it shall appear to gain new life and to dwell in a new world. These are exaggerated modes of expression; but the greatness of such a blessing, which was to be manifested at the coming of Christ, could not be described in any other way. Nor does he mean only the first coming, but the whole reign, which must be extended as far as to the last coming, as we have already said in expounding other passages.
Thus the world is (so to speak) renewed by Christ; and hence also the Apostle (Hebrews 2:5) calls it “a new age,” and undoubtedly alludes to this statement of the Prophet. Yet the Prophet speaks of the restoration of the Church after the return from Babylon. This is undoubtedly true; but that restoration is imperfect, if it be not extended as far as to Christ; and even now we are in the progress and accomplishment of it, and those things will not be fulfilled till the last resurrection, which has been prescribed to be our limit.
The former things shall not be remembered. Some refer these words to heaven and earth; as if he had said that henceforth they shall have no celebrity and no name. But I choose rather to refer them to the former times; for he means that the joy at being restored shall be so great that they shall no longer remember their miseries. Or perhaps it will be thought preferable to view them as relating to benefits which, though they were worthy of being recorded, lost their name when God’s amazing- grace shone forth. In this sense the Prophet said elsewhere, “Remember ye not the former things.” (Isaiah 43:18.) Not that God wished the first deliverance to be set aside or blotted out of the hearts of believers; but because by comparison the one brought a kind of forgetfulness over the other, just as the sun, when he rises, deprives the stars of their brightness.
Let us remember that these things take place in us so far as we are renewed. But we are only in part renewed, and therefore we do not yet see a new heaven and a new earth. We need not wonder, therefore, that we continue to mourn and weep, since we have not entirely laid aside the old man, but many remains are still left. It is with us also that the renovation ought to begin; because we hold the first rank, and it is through our sin that “the creatures groan, and are subject to vanity,” as Paul shews. (Romans 8:20.) But when we shall be perfectly renewed, heaven and earth shall also be fully renewed, and shall regain their former state. And hence it ought to be inferred, as we have frequently remarked, that the Prophet has in his eye the whole reign of Christ, down to its final close, which is also called
“the day of renovation and restoration.” (Acts 3:21.)
18.But rejoice ye and be glad for ever. He exhorts believers to rejoice, in such a manner as they ought, on account of such a benefit bestowed by God. And this was added for the sake of amplification; because men do not adequately consider God’s other benefits, and especially that which is the highest and most excellent of all; for either they disregard them altogether, or value them less than they ought to do. On this account believers must be aroused and urged by such exhortations as these, that they may not chew themselves to be unthankful or unmindful, or think that it ought to be lightly passed by, that, having been redeemed by the hand of Christ, they carry in their hearts the pledge of eternal and heavenly life. That is the reason why Isaiah chews that believers do not give due praise for redemption in any other way than by continuing their joy through the whole course of their life, and employing themselves in celebrating the praises of God.
For, lo, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. At first sight this might be thought harsh; but an excellent meaning is obtained, that the ground of joy in the deliverance of the Church shall be so great as to remove every cloud of sadness. And, indeed, since even afflictions aid our salvation, (Romans 8:28,) we have good reason for rejoicing in them.
19.And I will be glad in Jerusalem. He expresses more than in the preceding verse; for by these words he means that he not only will give to men ground for rejoicing, but even will be a partaker with them in that joy. So great is his love toward us, that he delights in our prosperity not less than if he enjoyed it along with us. And hence we obtain no small confirmation of our faith, when we learn that God is moved, and so powerfully moved, by such an affection toward us. If we are in painful and distressed circumstances, he says that he is affected by grief and sorrow; and, on the other hand, if our condition is pleasant and comfortable, he says that he takes great pleasure in our prosperity. Hence also we have formerly seen that “the Spirit of the Lord is sad and vexed,” (Isaiah 63:10,) when that order which he demands and approves is overturned and confounded; and in another passage he takes upon himself the character of a husband who is satisfied with the love of his wife. (Isaiah 62:5.)
20.There shall be no more thence an infant of days. Some think that this points out the difference between the Law and the Gospel; because “the Law, as a schoolmaster,” (Galatians 3:24,) kept scholars in the first elements, but the Gospel leads us on to mature age. Others suppose it to mean that there will no longer be any distinction of age; because, where life is eternal, no line is drawn between the child and the old man. But I interpret the words of the Prophet in this manner, “Whether they are children or old men, they shall arrive at mature age so as to be always vigorous, like persons in the prime of life; and, in short, they shall always be healthful and robust;” for it is on account of our sins that we grow old and lose our strength. “All our days,” saith Moses, “pass away when thou art angry: we close our years quicker than a word. The days of our years in which we live are seventy years, or, at the utmost, eighty: what goeth beyond this in the strongest is toil and vexation; our strength passeth swiftly, and we fly away.” (Psalms 90:9.) But Christ comes to repair our strength, and to restore and preserve our original condition.
For the son of a hundred years shall die young. It is proper to distinguish between the two clauses; for, after having said that the citizens of the Church shall be long-lived, so that no one shall be taken out of the world till he has reached mature age and fully completed his course, he likewise adds that, even in old age, they shall be robust. Although the greater part of believers hardly support themselves through weakness, and the strength of others decays even before the time, yet that promise is not made void; for, if Christ reigned truly and perfectly in us, his strength would undoubtedly flourish in us, and would invigorate both body and soul. To our sins, therefore, it ought to be imputed, that we are liable to diseases, pains, old age, and other inconveniences; for we do not permit Christ to possess us fully, and have not advanced so far in newness of life as to lay aside all that is old. (214)
Here it ought also to be observed, that blessings either of soul or body are found only in the kingdom of Christ, that is, in the Church, apart from which there is nothing but cursing. Hence it follows that all who have no share in that kingdom are wretched and unhappy; and, however fresh and vigorous they may appear to be, they are, nevertheless, in the sight of God, rotten and stinking corpses.
21and 22.They shall build houses and inhabit them. In these verses he mentions what is written in the Law; for these are the blessings of the Law, that they who have obeyed God shall dwell in the houses which they have built, and shall gather fruit from the trees which they have planted. (Leviticus 26:10.) On the other hand, the disobedient shall be expelled from the houses which they built, and shall give place to foreigners, and shall be deprived of the fruits of the trees which they planted. “The Lord,” saith Isaiah, “shall protect you from that curse, so as to enjoy your property.” Now the Prophets hold out those things which relate to the present life, and borrow metaphors from them; but it is in order that they may teach us to rise higher and to embrace eternal and blessed life. We must not fix our whole attention on these transitory blessings, but must make use of them as ladders, that, being raised to heaven, we may enjoy eternal and immortal blessings. To the Church, which has been renewed, and which rests on nothing but God’s good pleasure and undeserved favor, is justly promised the enjoyment of those blessings of which unbelievers had deprived themselves.
According to the days of a tree. Some think that this is a promise of eternal life; as if men had the tree of life; but that is forged ingenuity, and far removed from the Prophet’s meaning. And I do wonder that commentators give themselves so much trouble in explaining this passage; for the Prophet speaks, not only of life, but of a peaceful condition of life; as if he had said, “Ye shall plant vineyards, and shall eat the fruit of them; and ye shall not be removed from this life before receiving the fruit, which shall be enjoyed, not only by yourselves, but by your children and posterity. He employs the metaphor of a tree, because he had formerly spoken of planting vineyards; and accordingly he promises that the people shall peacefully enjoy both their houses and their vineyards, and shall not be molested by enemies or robbers, and this peaceful condition shall last as long as the life of a tree.
And my elect shall perpetually enjoy (215) the work of their hands. A work is said to be continued or perpetuated when the result of it is prosperous; for otherwise men would subject themselves to long and severe toil, and all to no purpose, if God did not grant success. Enemies will either take away or destroy what we have begun, and the completion of it will be out of our power; and therefore it is strictly said to be continued, not when merely some progress is made, but when it is brought to a close. Here it ought to be observed, that we cannot possess our wealth and have the peaceful and lawful enjoyment of it in any other way than by dwelling in the kingdom of Christ, who is the only heir of the world, and without being ingrafted into his body. Wicked men may indeed enjoy, for many years, the good things of this life; but they will continually be uneasy, and will wretchedly devour themselves, so that even possession shall be destructive and deadly; for it is only by faith that we obtain all that belongs to a blessed life, and they who have not faith cannot be members of Christ.
23.They shall not toil in vain. He enumerates other kinds of blessings which God promises to the kingdom of Christ; for, although God always blessed his people, yet the blessings were in some measure suspended till the coming of Christ, in whom was displayed full and complete happiness. In a word, both Jews and Gentiles shall be happy, in all respects, under the reign of Christ. Now, as it is a token of God’s wrath and curse when we obtain no advantage front our labor, so, on the other hand, it is a token of blessing when we clearly see the fruit of our labor. For this reason he says that they who shall have returned from captivity, in order that they may obtain a true and complete deliverance, shall not spend their labor in vain or lose their pains. The Law threatens the death of relatives, destructive wars, losses of property, and terror in their hearts. (Leviticus 26:22; Deuteronomy 28:48.) Here, on the contrary, are promised fertility, peace, the fruit of labor, and repose. And blessings of this kind ought to be carefully observed; for there are few who, amidst their labors, think of the blessing of God, so as to ascribe everything to him alone, and to be fully convinced that they will accomplish nothing whatever unless the Lord grant to them a prosperous result. Wherefore, as every blessing should be sought from God, so, when it has been received, thanksgiving should be rendered for it to God alone.
And they shall not bring forth in terror. When it is said that women “shall not bring forth in terror,” some explain it to mean, that they shall have no uneasiness or dread of childbirth, because they shall be free from pain. We know that this punishment was inflicted on the woman on account of sin, to bring forth with difficulty, and to be in danger of death. Children are brought into the world with fear and trembling, when there is any expectation of war; and it is probable that the Prophet rather looks to this, that there shall be such settled peace that neither women nor men shall have any reason to fear; for this must be viewed as relating to both parents, who will have no dread about their children, as commonly happens when any danger is threatened.
For they shall be the seed of the blessed of Jehovah. This reason is highly appropriate; for whence come fears and terrors, whence come alarms, but from the curse of God? When the curse has been removed, the Prophet therefore says justly that parents, together with their offspring, shall be free from dread and anxious solicitude; because they shall be convinced that they shall always be safe and sound through the favor of God.
And their offspring with them. This is contrasted with childlessness, which is reckoned in the number of the curses of God; and therefore it is the same as if he had said, “I will no longer deprive them of their children, but will cause them to enjoy them, along with the rest of the blessings which I shall bestow upon them.”
24.Before they cry, I will listen. A remarkable promise; for nothing is more desirable than to have God reconciled to us, and to have it in our power to draw near to him with freedom and boldness; for, although we are surrounded by innumerable distresses and calamities, yet we cannot be miserable so long as we are at liberty to betake ourselves to the Lord. Here therefore the Lord promises that we shall not pray in vain. Yet this was also promised to the fathers under the Law. It is certain that, since the beginning of the world, God listened to the fathers, to all that called upon him; for this is the most valuable fruit of faith. But he confirms this more and more. Because the Jews would be exiles for a long time, the Lord solemnly declares that he will not permit them any longer to languish in banishment, and will no longer delay his assistance, but will “listen to them even before they cry.”
This relates chiefly to the kingdom of Christ, through whom we are heard and have access to God the Father, as Paul admirably explains. (Ephesians 2:18.) The fathers indeed enjoyed the same access, and there was no other way in which they could be heard but through Christ; but the door was still narrow and might be said to be shut, whereas now it has been most widely and perfectly thrown open. Under the law the people were wont to stand at a distance in the porch; but now nothing hinders us from entering into the sanctuary itself, because
“the veil of the temple hath been rent.” (Matthew 27:51.)
Thus we have admission into heaven through Christ,
“that we may approach with freedom and boldness to the throne of grace, to obtain mercy and find needful assistance.”
A question will be put. “Are there no believers in the world, and is there no kingdom of Christ, in the present day? For it does not appear that God is so ready to render assistance, and there is no visible fruit of our prayers.” I reply. Though it becomes fully evident that we have been heard when the event actually proves it, yet God does not in the meantime overlook us; for he does not permit us to faint, but supports us by the power of his Spirit, that we may wait for him patiently. Nor does he delay, as men do, because he has need of time, but because he wishes to exercise and try our patience. In a word, there are two ways in which God listens to us; first, when he renders assistance openly; and secondly, when he aids us by the power of his Spirit, that we may not sink under the weight of afflictions. And if this doctrine were deeply fixed in the hearts of men, they would fly to God more readily and boldly, and would not dispute so eagerly about calling on saints. For how comes it that men contrive for themselves such a variety of intercessors, to whom they betake themselves rather than to Christ, but because they do not receive that doctrine, and because they reject such large and bountiful promises?
25.The wolf and the lamb shall feed together. He means that everything shall be fully restored, when Christ shall reign. And here it appears as if there were an implied comparison between Adam and Christ. We know that all the afflictions of the present life flowed from the sin of the first man; for at that time we were deprived of the dominion and sovereignty which God had given to man (Genesis 1:28) over animals of every kind, all of which at first undoubtedly bowed cheerfully to the dominion of man, and were obedient to his will; but now the most of them rise up against man, and even carly on mutual war against each other. Thus, when wolves, bears, lions, and other savage animals of that kind, are hurtful to man and to other beasts from which we obtain some advantage, and when even animals which ought to have been useful to man are hostile to him, this ought to be imputed to his sin, because his disobedience overthrew the order of things. But since it is the office of Christ to bring back everything to its condition and order, that is the reason why he declares that the confusion or ruin that now exists in human affairs shall be removed by the coming of Christ; because at that time, corruptions having been taken away, the world shall return to its first origin.
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. “The lion” shall eat harmlessly, and shall no longer seek his prey. The serpent, satisfied with his dust, shall wrap himself in it, and shall no longer hurt by his envenomed bite. In a word, all that is disordered or confused shall be restored to its proper order. Yet beyond all controversy the Prophet speaks allegorically of bloody and violent men, whose cruel and savage nature shall be subdued, when they submit to the yoke of Christ. But first we must carefully consider that confusion which befell all the creatures in consequence of the fall of man; for if this were not taken into view, it would be impossible for us to have sufficiently just and correct views of this blessing of restoration. At the same time, we must keep in remembrance what we said in expounding a similar allegory in the eleventh chapter. (216) Here we are taught what is the nature of men before the Lord convert them and receive them into his fold; for they are cruel and untamed beasts, and only begin to abstain from doing any injury, when the Lord subdues their wicked inclination and their furious desire to do harm.
In all my holy mountain. This is added because, when rubbish and filth have been taken out of the way, the Lord will gather to himself a Church without spot. By the word all he means cleansing. Yet we ought not to think it strange that still so many are ferocious; for there are few that are the true inhabitants of God’s mountain, few that are upright and faithful, even among those who profess to be Christians. Seeing that the old man still reigns and is vigorous in them, contentions and wars must also exist and prevail amongst them.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 65". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany