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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Isaiah 57

Verse 1

The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.

In the midst of the excesses of the unfaithful watchmen (Isaiah 56:10-12), most of the few that are godly perish: partly by vexation at the prevailing ungodliness; partly by violent death in persecution: prophetic of the persecuting times of Manasseh, before God's judgments in causing the captivity in Babylon; and again those in the last age of the Church, before the final judgments on the apostasy (2 Kings 21:16; Matthew 23:29-35; Matthew 23:37; Revelation 11:7-11; Revelation 11:17). The Hebrew for "perisheth" (abad), and that for "is taken away" (asaph), expresses a violent death (Micah 7:2).

The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart - as a public calamity.

Merciful men - literally, men of mercy (chesed); godly men; the subjects of mercy.

None considering - namely, what was the design of Providence in removing the godly.

That the righteous is taken away from the evil (to come) - Hebrew, from the face of the evil; i:e., both from the moral evil on every side (Isaiah 56:10-12), and from the evils about to come in punishment of the national sins, foreign invasion, etc. (Isaiah 56:9; Isaiah 57:13. So Ahijah's death is represented as a blessing conferred on him by God for his piety (1 Kings 14:10-13: see also, in the case of Josiah, 2 Kings 22:20).

Verse 2

He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.

He shall enter into peace - in contrast to the persecutions which he suffered in this world (Job 3:13; Job 3:17). The margin, not so well, translates, 'He shall go in peace' (Psalms 37:37; Luke 2:29).

They shall rest in their beds - the calm rest of their bodies in their graves (called "beds," 2 Chronicles 16:14: cf. Isaiah 14:18; because they 'sleep' in them, with the certainty of awaking at the resurrection, 1 Thessalonians 4:14) is the emblem of the eternal "rest" (Hebrews 4:9; Revelation 14:13).

Each one walking in his uprightness. This clause defines the character of those who at death "rest in their beds" - namely, all who walk uprightly.

Verse 3

But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore.

But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress. In contrast to "the righteous" and their end, he announces to the unbelieving Jews their doom.

Sons of the sorceress - i:e., ye that are addicted to sorcery: this was connected with the worship of false gods (2 Kings 21:6). No insult is greater to an Oriental than any slur cast on his mother (1 Samuel 20:30; Job 30:8). Seed of the adulterer - spiritual adultery is meant: idolatry and apostasy (Matthew 16:4).

Verse 4

Against whom do ye sport yourselves? against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood,

Against whom do ye sport yourselves? - make a mock (Isaiah 66:5). Are ye aware of the glory of Him whom you mock, by mocking His servants? ("the righteous, Isaiah 57:1; 2 Chronicles 36:16).

Against whom make ye a wide mouth? - (Psalms 22:7; Psalms 22:13; Psalms 35:21; Lamentations 2:16.)

Are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood? - not merely children of transgressors, and a seed of false parents, but of transgression and falsehood itself, utterly unfaithful to God.

Verse 5

Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks?

Enflaming yourselves with idols - burning with lust toward idols (Gesenius); or else (cf. margin), in the terebinth groves, which the Hebrew [ baa'eeliym (H410)] and the parallelism favour (note, Isaiah 1:29). If 'toward idols' were meant, after the Hebrew, haneechaamiym (H2552), there would probably have followed, to avoid confusion, not the Hebrew preposition [bª-], but the preposition [ 'el (H413)], or the preposition lª-, especially since 'eeliym (H410) means terebinth trees as well as idols (Maurer). But the Chaldaic, Septuagint, Vulgate, Arabic, and Syriac support the English version.

Under every green tree - (2 Kings 17:10.) The tree, as in the Assyrian sculptures, was probably made an idolatrous symbol of the heavenly hosts.

Slaying the children - as a sacrifice to Moloch, etc. (2 Kings 17:31; 2 Chronicles 28:3.)

In the valleys - the valley of the son of Hinnom. Fire was put within a hollow brazen statue, and the child was put in his heated arms: kettle drums (Hebrew, top (H8596)) were beaten to drown the child's cries; whence the valley was called Tophet (2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 7:32).

Under the clifts of the rocks - the gloom of caverns suiting their dark superstitions.

Verse 6

Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion; they, they are thy lot: even to them hast thou poured a drink offering, thou hast offered a meat offering. Should I receive comfort in these?

Among the smooth (stones) of the stream (is) thy portion. The Hebrew, chalqeey (H2511), smooth, is explained by Gesenius, 'in the bare places of the valley.' But what follows - "even to them hast thou poured a drink offering" - confirms the English version. The smooth stones, shaped as idols, are the gods chosen by thee as thy portion (Psalms 16:4-5).

Even to them ... thou hast offered a meat offering - not a bloody sacrifice, but one of meal and flour mingled with oil. "Meat," in Old English, meant food, not flesh, as it now means (Leviticus 14:10); Hebrew, minchaahh.

Should I receive comfort in these? - `Should I be delighted in these?' (Syriac.) 'Shall I bear these things with patience?' (Horsley.) So the Septuagint, Arabic, and Vulgate, 'Shall I not be indignant at these things?'

Verse 7

Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed: even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice.

Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed - image from adultery: open and shameless (Ezekiel 23:7). The "bed" answers to the idolatrous altar, the scene of their spiritual unfaithfulness to their Divine Husband (Ezekiel 16:16; Ezekiel 16:25; Ezekiel 23:41).

Verse 8

Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance: for thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it.

Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance. "Remembrance" - i:e., memorials of thy idolatry: the objects which thou holdest in remembrance, They hung up household tutelary gods "behind the doors:" the very place where God had directed them to write His laws - "on the posts and gates" of their houses (Deuteronomy 6:9; Deuteronomy 11:20), in remembrance of Him. A curse, too, was pronounced on putting up an image "in a secret place" (Deuteronomy 27:15).

For thou hast discovered (thyself to another) than me image from an adulteress For thou hast discovered (thyself to another) than me - image from an adulteress.

Thou hast enlarged thy bed - so as to receive the more paramours.

And made thee (a covenant) with them - with idols, in open violation of thy "covenant" with God (Exodus 19:5; Exodus 23:32). Or, 'hast made assignations with them within thyself' (Horsley). But the Vulgate and Chaldaic favour the English version. Karat (H3772) is literally to hew (cf. margin) or cut: hence, from the cutting up of victims in ratifying a covenant, it means to make a covenant; like the Latin phrase, to strike a league [percutere foedus, ferire pactum]: so Genesis 15:10; Genesis 15:17; Jeremiah 34:18. However, the Hebrew, meehem (H1992), means, 'from among' or, 'of them;' not as the English version, 'with them:' therefore translate, 'Thou joinest (some) of them (the idols) to thyself by covenant.' So Gesenius, after Jerome. Otherwise the margin accords with the Hebrew and the sense, 'Thou hast hewed it (thy bed) for thyself larger than theirs' - i:e., thou hast exceeded even the pagan in idolatry, making thy idol altar larger (so the Hebrew min) than theirs.' Compare next clause.

Thy bed ... thou lovedst their bed. The Jews' sin was two-fold: they resorted to places of idolatry ("their bed"), and they received idols into the temple of God, and sacrificed to them on the altar of God ("thy bed").

Where thou sawest it - rather, ever since that thou sawest it (Horsley). The Hebrew ( yad (H3027)) for where means literally a hand, then (Isaiah 56:5, note) room (margin); a place: therefore, translate, 'thou hast provided a place for it' (for "their bed") - namely, by admitting idolatrous altars in thy land. Or 'thou choosest a (convenient) place for thyself' in their bed (Maurer). So the Chaldaic and Syriac.

Verse 9

And thou wentest to the king with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy messengers far off, and didst debase thyself even unto hell.

And thou wentest to the king - the idol which they came to worship, perfumed with oil, like harlots (Jeremiah 4:30; Ezekiel 23:16; Ezekiel 23:40). So "king" means idol (Amos 5:26; Zephaniah 1:5, Malcham, meaning "king") (Rosenmuller). Rather, the king of Assyria or Egypt, and other foreign princes, on whom Israel relied, instead of on God; the "ointment" will thus refer to the presents (Hosea 12:1), and perhaps the compliances with foreigners' idolatries, whereby Israel sought to gain their favour (Lowth). (Isaiah 30:6; Ezekiel 16:33; Ezekiel 23:16; Hosea 7:11.)

And didst send thy messengers far off - not merely to neighbouring nations, but to those "far off" in search of new idols, or else alliances.

And didst debase (thyself even) unto hell - the lowest possible degradation.

Verse 10

Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved.

Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way - the length of thy journeys in seeking strange gods, or else foreign aid (Jeremiah 2:23-24). Notwithstanding thy deriving no good from these long journeys (so "didst send ... far off," Isaiah 57:9), thou dost not still give up hope (Jeremiah 2:25; Jeremiah 18:12).

Thou hast found the life of thine hand - `thou still findest life (i:e., vigour) enough in thy hand' to make new idols (Maurer), or to seek new alliances ("hand" being then taken for strength in general). Thou findest livelihood by thy hand.

Therefore thou wast not grieved (Hebrew, chaaliyt (H2470)) - 'therefore thou art not weak' (Maurer), or disheartened: inasmuch as, having 'life in thy hand,' thou art still strong in hope. Sinners having some seeming prosperity, notwithstanding that they are often wearied in the laborious greatness of their aims after gain, pleasure, and ambition, go on in their vain way.

Verse 11

And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast lied, and hast not remembered me, nor laid it to thy heart? have not I held my peace even of old, and thou fearest me not?

And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast lied, and hast not remembered me? Israel wished not to seem altogether to have denied God. Therefore they "lied" to Him. God asks, Why dost thou do so? 'Whom dost thou fear? Certainly not me. Thy feeling it needful to dissemble and play the hypocrite to me would seem to imply fear of me: but real fear me is out of the question in thy case; because thou hast not remembered me.

Nor laid (it) to thy heart - rather, 'nor hast Me at heart.

Have not I held my peace even of old, and thou fearest me not? Thou hast no regard for me: and that because I have been long silent, and have not punished thee. Literally, 'have I not held my peace, and that for long? and so thou fearest me not' (Psalms 50:21; Ecclesiastes 8:11). It would be better openly to renounce God than to 'flatter Him' with lies of false profession (Psalms 78:36) (DeDieu). However, Isaiah 51:12-13 ("who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall all die ... and forgettest the Lord thy Maker?") favours the English version of the whole verse: God's "silent" long-suffering, which was intended to lead them to repentance (Romans 2:4-5) caused them to fear man (for instance, the neighbouring idolatrous nations, whose idols they adopted in order to conciliate them), and so 'not to fear Him.'

Verse 12

I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee.

Declare thy righteousness - I will expose publicly thy (hypocritical) righteousness. I will show openly how vain thy works, in having recourse to idols or foreign alliances, shall rove (Isaiah 57:13).

Verse 13

When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take them: but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain;

When thou criest - In the time of thy trouble.

Let thy companies deliver thee - namely, of idols, collected by thee from every quarter; or else, of foreigners, summoned to thy aid.

But the wind shall carry them all away - (Job 21:18; Matthew 7:27.)

Vanity shall take (them) - or, as the Septuagint and Vulgate (Hebrew, hebel (H1892)), a breath (Lowth).

But he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain - i:e., the literal land of Judea, and "mount" Zion: the believing remnant of Israel shall return and inherit the land. Secondarily, the heavenly inheritance and the spiritual Zion, Compare as to both the literal and the spiritual lsrael's inheritance, Isaiah 49:8; Psalms 37:9; Psalms 37:11; Psalms 69:35-36; Matthew 5:5; Hebrews 12:22. 'He that putteth his trust in me,' of whatever extraction, shall succeed to the spiritual patrimony of the apostate Jew (Horsley).

Verse 14

And shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock out of the way of my people.

And shall say, Cast ye up ... prepare the way. The nominative is, 'He that trusteth in me' (Isaiah 57:13). The believing remnant shall have every obstacle to their return cleared out of the way at the coming restoration of Israel, the antitype to the return from Babylon (Isaiah 35:8; Isaiah 40:3-4; Isaiah 62:10-11).

Cast ye up - a high road before the returning Jews.

Take up the stumblingblock out of the way of my people. Jesus has been a stumblingblock to the Jews, but will not be so then any longer (1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Peter 2:8). Their prejudices shall then be taken out of the way.

Verse 15

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

For thus saith the high and lofty One ... I dwell in the high and holy (place), with him also (that is) of a contrite and humble spirit. The pride and self-righteousness of the Jews were the stumblingblock in the way of their acknowledging Christ. The contrition of Israel in the last days shall be attended with God's interposition in their behalf. So their self-humiliation, in Isaiah 66:2; Isaiah 66:5; Isaiah 66:10, etc., precedes their final prosperity (Zechariah 13:6,10-14 ). There will probably be a previous period of unbelief even after their return (Zechariah 12:8-9).

Verse 16

For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.

For - referring to the promise, in Isaiah 57:14-15, of restoring Israel when 'contrite' (Genesis 6:3; Genesis 8:21; Psalms 78:38-39; Psalms 85:5; Psalms 103:9; Psalms 103:13-14; Micah 7:18).

I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wroth. God "will not contend forever" with His people, because their human spirit would thereby be utterly crushed, whereas God's object is to chasten, not to destroy them (note, Isaiah 28:27-28; Lamentations 3:33-34; Micah 7:8-9). With the ungodly He is 'angry every day' (Psalms 7:11; Revelation 14:11).

For the spirit should fail before me - or, the human spirit which went forth from me (literally, from my face, Numbers 16:22), corresponding to "which I have made" in the parallel clause. "Fail" - Hebrew, ya'ªTowp (H5848): 'would be overwhelmed,' as Psalms 61:2; Psalms 102:1-28, title. Several commentators, after the Chalmers, refer it to the resurrection. 'For the spirit, which is from me, shall put on a body.' So Ezekiel 37:1-28, as to the revival of the Jewish state. Or, 'the Spirit shall go forth from my face and clothe the body' (Psalms 104:29-30). So the Septuagint and Vulgate. I prefer the English version.

Verse 17

For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.

For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth. "Covetousness" - akin to idolatry, and, like it, having drawn off Israel's heart from God (Isaiah 2:7; Isaiah 56:11; Isaiah 58:3; Jeremiah 6:13; Colossians 3:5).

I hid me - (Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 14:15.)

He went on frowardly in the way of his heart - the result of God's hiding His face (Psalms 81:12; Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26).

Verse 18

I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.

I have seen his ways, and will heal him - rather, 'I have seen his ways (in sin), yet will I heal him;' i:e., restore Israel spiritually and temporally (Jeremiah 33:6; Jeremiah 3:22; Hosea 14:4-5) (Horsley): However, the phrase, "his mourners," in the following clause --

I will ... restore comforts unto him, and to his mourners - favours the English version. "His ways" will thus be his ways of repentance; and God's pardon on 'seeing' them answers to the like promise, Isaiah 61:2-3; Jeremiah 31:18; Jeremiah 31:20.

Verse 19

I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him.

I create the fruit of the lips - i:e., thanksgivings, which flow from the lips. I make men to return thanks to me (Hosea 14:2; Hebrews 13:15).

Peace, peace - `perfect peace (see margin, Isaiah 26:3; John 14:27). Primarily, the cessation of the troubles now acting the Jews, as formerly, under the Babylonian exile. More generally, the peace which the Gospel proclaims both to Israel "that is near," and to the Gentiles who are "far off" (Acts 2:39; Ephesians 2:17).

Verse 20

But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.

But the wicked (are) like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest - rather [ kiy (H3588)], 'for it can have no rest' (Job 15:20, etc.; Proverbs 4:16-17). The English version represents the sea as occasionally agitated, but the Hebrew expresses that it can never be at rest.

Verse 21

There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.

(There is) no peace, saith my God, to the wicked - (Isaiah 48:22; 2 Kings 9:22.)

My God. The prophet having God as his God, speaks in the person of Israel, prophetically regarded as having now appropriated God and His "peace" (Isaiah 11:1-3), and warning the impenitent that, while they continue so, they can have no peace. This phrase marks the close of the second book of the second division of Isaiah (cf. note, Isaiah 48:22).

Remarks: The death of the righteous is a loss to the state, but a great gain to themselves. The design of God's gracious providence in removing them, is to 'take them away from the evil to come,' especially in days of apostasy, when national judgments are impending, as they were in Isaiah's time over the Jewish nation. The state of the godly at death is one of "peace." However many may have been the past troubles of the upright, "they shall rest" at last, not only from trouble, but from sin. The "children of transgression" have a very different "portion." God hath no "comfort" in their ways; and they themselves are 'wearied in the greatness of their way,' while, in their pursuit of the world and the flesh, they 'debase themselves even unto hell.' Yet worldlings do not give up the "hope" of still finding the solid satisfaction in worldly objects which as yet they have not obtained, because they find some seeming success by the efforts of their own "hand."

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 57". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.