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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 57

Verses 1-21

This section is not so argumentative in tone as the last. Its distinguishing feature is the development of the prophet’s teaching concerning the Servant of Jehovah. The conception seems to arise, as has been noted, with the nation considered collectively as a Servant of God (Isaiah 41:8-9; Isaiah 44:1-2, Isaiah 44:21; Isaiah 45:4). So long as the attitude and work of God in relation to the nation are solely in view, there is no limitation of the idea; but when the nation’s work and attitude to Him and the fulfilment of His purposes come to be considered, the Servant of God seems to take on a narrower sense. The actual Israel, with its many shortcomings—its blindness to the truth, its deafness to God’s message—gives way to those more select souls—a part only of the people—through whom the duties and destiny of the nation will be fulfilled. At the same time, it is clear that the idea passes on to an individual distinct from the nation (Isaiah 49:5-6), in whom are concentrated all the attributes of the ideal nation, and who shall realise all that Israel was intended to be. His character and office are thus delineated: (a) He is prepared by Jehovah from the womb for His lifework (Isaiah 49:1-2); (b) He is endowed with the Divine Spirit (Isaiah 42:1); (c) He is not ostentatious or unduly severe (Isaiah 42:2-3); (d) He is to be the embodiment of a New Covenant between Jehovah and His people (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:8); (e) and to teach all nations true religion (Isaiah 42:1, Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6); (f) but most remarkable of all, and especially characteristic of this division of the book, are the passages which intimate that this great work is only to be accomplished through humiliation, suffering, and death, issuing in a new and glorious life. The first hint that the Servant’s work is to be carried on in face of difficulty and discouragement is found in Isaiah 42:4. His exposure to insult and contumely in the exercise of His mission is expressly indicated in Isaiah 50:6 then follows (Isaiah 52:13; Isaiah 53) a section entirely devoted to the subject, in which the prominent features are the Servant’s gentleness and patience under affliction, the vicarious nature of His sufferings, which are not endured on His own account, but for the sins of His people, and the intimation that after pain and death there awaits Him new life full of joy in the contemplation of the success of His work. The correspondence, even in detail, with the Passion of Jesus Christ cannot fail to arrest attention. The way in which the Servant is despised and misunderstood by His contemporaries (Isaiah 53:3), His patience and silence before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7), and His association with malefactors in His death (Isaiah 53:9): these read like a description of what happened in the case of our Lord. How far the prophet understood the meaning of his own words it is difficult to say. No doubt he was thinking at the outset of the faithful core of Israel as being Jehovah’s Servant with a great mission to accomplish, and the experience of the exile showed him that this great work for the whole world was only to be wrought through contumely and suffering; yet Jehovah sometimes spake ’with a strong hand’ (Ezekiel 3:14), and we can scarcely doubt that the Divine Spirit in these wonderful passages through the prophet foreshadowed the things that should be suffered and accomplished by the perfect Servant of God, the embodiment of Israel’s splendid ideal, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Verses 9-21


The Idolatries of Israel

It is difficult to determine the date of this section with certainty. Many scholars assign it, with the rest of Isaiah 40-66, to the period of the exile, or to a date after the return; but some give it a pre-exilic date, on the following grounds: (a) The picture that is drawn of the self-indulgent and infatuated leaders of the nation (Isaiah 56:10-12) would, it is thought, apply more accurately to the period preceding the exile, than to the exile. (b) The idolatrous rites alluded to (Isaiah 57:5-9) are those practised in the later days of the Jewish monarchy, (c) Isaiah 57:1 implies persecution of the true servants of Jehovah, such as marked the reign of Manasseh. (d) The natural features in Isaiah 57:5-6 are Palestinian, (e) The allusion in Isaiah 57:9-10 seeking foreign alliances suits the days of the monarchy better than the exile period. Those who assign the section to the exile period maintain that the above reasoning is scarcely conclusive, because the writings of Jeremiah and Ezekiel show that heathen rite, such as are here described prevailed right up to the exile, and the tendency to practise them no doubt was strong amongst the Jews generally during the exile: cp. Isaiah 65:3-5, Isaiah 65:11; Again, there were other and later persecutions than that under Manasseh; and that the Jewish exiles were subject to persecution is shown by the case of Daniel and his friends. The Palestinian setting of the idolatrous sacrifices referred to may be accounted for by supposing that these are described as they had been practised by the nation in Palestine.

Chs. Isaiah 56:9-12 - Isaiah 57:2. Rebuke of the unworthy leaders of the nation. Israel is exposed to danger because the rulers are infatuated, self-seeking, self-indulgent, and careless of justice.

C. Isaiah 57:3-10. Rebuke of those given to idolatry. A picture of the idolatrous rites in which they have indulged.

11-14. Jehovah will not endure this, but will interpose.

15-21. He points the way of restoration through penitence.

Verses 1-21

2. The peace of the grave is better than the condition of unrest under their rulers (Isaiah 57:1).

Shall enter.. shall rest] RV ’entereth.. rest.’

3, 5. Sons, etc.] i.e. descendants, perpetuating the character of their ancestors. Seed, etc.] i.e. through your idolatry violating the mystical union between Jehovah and His people: cp. Ezekiel 16:44.

4. Sport yourselves] implying that they find delight in the misfortune of the servants of Jehovah.

5. Enflaming] The word describes the excitement attending the orgies which accompanied the celebration of heathen rites: cp. 1 Kings 18:26, 1 Kings 18:28. Slaying, etc.] referring to human sacrifices practised under Ahaz and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Kings 21:6).

6. An allusion to stone-worship (Jeremiah 3:9). Large stones, such as those referred to, were fetiches of the Semitic races in early times, and were thought to be abodes of a deity: cp. the action of Jacob, Genesis 28:11, Genesis 28:18. Thy lot] whereas Jehovah was their true portion (Jeremiah 10:16; Psalms 16:5). Should.. these?] RV ’shall I be appeased for these things?’

7. Thy bed] Idolatry is in OT. commonly figured as adultery (Exodus 34:15; Deuteronomy 31:16); hence bed is put for the place of idol-worship.

8. Remembrance] RV ’memorial,’ i.e. idolatrous inscription, in place of the memorial of God’s law (Deuteronomy 6:9).

9. The figure is that of a woman trying to attract admirers. Judah had coquetted with foreign kings, especially with the king of Assyria (2 Kings 16:7, 2 Kings 16:10). Or perhaps for the king we should read ’Moloch’; the reference then is to idolatry, as in the preceding vv.

Messengers] RV ’ambassadors.’ Unto hell] i.e. Hades, put for the lowest abasement.

10. In the greatness] RV ’with the length.’ Hast found.. hand] RV ’didst find a quickening of thy strength,’ i.e. Judah imagined her power increased by foreign alliances.

Grieved] RV ’faint.’

11. Of whom] i.e. heathen gods. Lied] in outwardly recognising Jehovah, while in heart faithless to Him.

Of old] RV ’of long time.’

12. Ironical.

And thy works, etc.] RV ’and as for. thy works, they shall not profit thee.’

13. Companies] RM ’rabble,’ alluding to the numerous gods introduced. Vanity, etc.] RV ’a breath shall carry them away.’

14. Let all barriers to the return be removed.

15. Jehovah remembers and will restore the faithful among the exiles.

16. For the spirit should fail] i.e. mankind could not survive God’s judgments.

17. God hid His face and was angry, in order to turn His people from their sins. Covetousness] cp. Jeremiah 6:13; Amos 8:4.

18. His ways] of repentance.

19. I create, etc.] i.e. Jehovah gives men occasion to praise Him. Far off.. near] referring to the dispersed Israelites, those far off from Jerusalem, and those near to it: cp. Daniel 9:7.

Verses 1-21

2. The peace of the grave is better than the condition of unrest under their rulers (Isaiah 57:1).

Shall enter.. shall rest] RV ’entereth.. rest.’

3, 5. Sons, etc.] i.e. descendants, perpetuating the character of their ancestors. Seed, etc.] i.e. through your idolatry violating the mystical union between Jehovah and His people: cp. Ezekiel 16:44.

4. Sport yourselves] implying that they find delight in the misfortune of the servants of Jehovah.

5. Enflaming] The word describes the excitement attending the orgies which accompanied the celebration of heathen rites: cp. 1 Kings 18:26, 1 Kings 18:28. Slaying, etc.] referring to human sacrifices practised under Ahaz and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Kings 21:6).

6. An allusion to stone-worship (Jeremiah 3:9). Large stones, such as those referred to, were fetiches of the Semitic races in early times, and were thought to be abodes of a deity: cp. the action of Jacob, Genesis 28:11, Genesis 28:18. Thy lot] whereas Jehovah was their true portion (Jeremiah 10:16; Psalms 16:5). Should.. these?] RV ’shall I be appeased for these things?’

7. Thy bed] Idolatry is in OT. commonly figured as adultery (Exodus 34:15; Deuteronomy 31:16); hence bed is put for the place of idol-worship.

8. Remembrance] RV ’memorial,’ i.e. idolatrous inscription, in place of the memorial of God’s law (Deuteronomy 6:9).

9. The figure is that of a woman trying to attract admirers. Judah had coquetted with foreign kings, especially with the king of Assyria (2 Kings 16:7, 2 Kings 16:10). Or perhaps for the king we should read ’Moloch’; the reference then is to idolatry, as in the preceding vv.

Messengers] RV ’ambassadors.’ Unto hell] i.e. Hades, put for the lowest abasement.

10. In the greatness] RV ’with the length.’ Hast found.. hand] RV ’didst find a quickening of thy strength,’ i.e. Judah imagined her power increased by foreign alliances.

Grieved] RV ’faint.’

11. Of whom] i.e. heathen gods. Lied] in outwardly recognising Jehovah, while in heart faithless to Him.

Of old] RV ’of long time.’

12. Ironical.

And thy works, etc.] RV ’and as for. thy works, they shall not profit thee.’

13. Companies] RM ’rabble,’ alluding to the numerous gods introduced. Vanity, etc.] RV ’a breath shall carry them away.’

14. Let all barriers to the return be removed.

15. Jehovah remembers and will restore the faithful among the exiles.

16. For the spirit should fail] i.e. mankind could not survive God’s judgments.

17. God hid His face and was angry, in order to turn His people from their sins. Covetousness] cp. Jeremiah 6:13; Amos 8:4.

18. His ways] of repentance.

19. I create, etc.] i.e. Jehovah gives men occasion to praise Him. Far off.. near] referring to the dispersed Israelites, those far off from Jerusalem, and those near to it: cp. Daniel 9:7.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 57". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/isaiah-57.html. 1909.