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Bible Commentaries

The Church Pulpit Commentary

Isaiah 29

Verses 1-9


‘Woe to Ariel,’ etc.

Isaiah 29:1-9

I. The prophet sets forth in Isaiah 29:1-2 the theme of his discourse.—For he announces to Ariel, i.e. to the city of God, Jerusalem, that he will cause her after a time great distress, notwithstanding that she is Ariel, i.e. lion of God; that she however, in this distress will prove herself to be Ariel, i.e. the hearth of God. This thought is further developed in what follows. The Lord causes Jerusalem to be told that He will besiege and afflict her greatly ( Isaiah 29:3), so that she, bowed low in the dust, will let her voice sound faintly as the spirit of one dead ( Isaiah 29:4).

II. But the comforting promise is immediately annexed, that the enemies of Jerusalem will suddenly become as fine dust or as flying chaff ( Isaiah 29:5).—For Jehovah will come against them as with thunder, and tempest, and devouring fire ( Isaiah 29:6). The whole force, therefore, of the enemies that fight against Ariel, i.e. here the mount of God, will pass away as a vision of a dream in the night ( Isaiah 29:7); these enemies will be in the condition of one who in a dream thinks that he has eaten and drunk, and only on awaking perceives that he has been dreaming ( Isaiah 29:8).

Verses 11-12


‘And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed,’ etc.

Isaiah 29:11-12

I. There is something of truth in the representation that the Bible is a sealed book.—We always regard it as a standing proof of the Divine origin of the volume, that it is not to be unfolded by the processes which we apply to a merely human composition, and that every attempt to enter deeply into its meaning, without the assistance of its Author, issues in nothing but conjecture and confusion. The Bible is addressed to the heart, not merely to the head. The very fact that unless the Holy Spirit explains the Bible it is impossible for the student to enter into its meaning may be seized on by those who seek an apology for neglect; and men may retort upon an adviser who says, ‘Read this, I pray you,’ by asking, ‘How can we, since on your own showing the book is sealed?’ The Bible is a sealed book to all who interpret it by their own unaided strength. But, ‘if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, Who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.’ Hence the key is within reach. You are taught how the flame may be kindled by which the seals shall be dissolved. Can it, then, be any justification for the neglect with which Scripture is treated that any of its statements overpass our unassisted comprehensions?

II. If one great body of men excuse themselves by pleading that the volume is sealed, another will take refuge in their own want of scholarship.—Here, again, the excuse is based on a truth; but yet it in no degree justifies neglect. The well-educated man has undoubtedly advantages over the uneducated, when both are considered as students of Scripture. Even where there has not been a total want of common instruction, and the poor cottager is able to read the Bible for himself, it is not to be questioned that he will find many difficulties which never meet the better educated. Here comes in with fresh force all our preceding argument in regard to the office of the Spirit as the interpreter of Scripture. If the understanding of the Bible, so as to become morally advantaged by its statements, depend on the influences of the Holy Ghost, it is clear that the learned may search much and gain no spiritual benefit, and the unlearned may read little and yet be mightily profited. The instant you ascertain that the Book cannot be unsealed by mere human instrumentality, but that an agency is needed which is promised to all without exception who seek it by prayer, you place rich and poor on the same level, so far as ‘life eternal’ is concerned, which is the knowing God and Jesus Christ Whom He hath sent.

—Canon Melvill.


‘To all those who bring to the reading of the Holy Scripture not the Spirit, from Whom it proceeded, but the opposite spirit, the spirit of the world, the Scripture must be a sealed book, into which they can stare with plastered eyes, which see and yet do not see, which watch and yet at the same time sleep.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Isaiah 29". The Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.