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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 32

Verses 1-20

Isaiah 32:3 . The eyes of them that see shall not be dim. The whole land shall be full of smiling affluence and joy; they shall have health of countenance, and look up with joy to a paternal throne. The passage applies farther to the Messiah, who opened the eyes of the blind, unstopped the ears of the deaf, and caused the dumb to publish his praise.

Isaiah 32:15 . Till the Spirit be poured upon us from on high. The glory of the latter day is uniformly said to commence with an effusion of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah 44:3. Joel 2:28. While righteousness adorns the church, agriculture shall flourish by flocks on the hills, and harvests in the vales, as Isaiah 32:20.


This prophecy respecting the king who should reign in righteousness, was delivered before many of the preseding visions; and written, of course, before Uzziah’s death, as it refers directly to the reign of Hezekiah. This pious king, on ascending the throne, did most seriously endeavour to reform religion, and the administration of justice; and he proved a subject worthy of prophecy, being one of God’s most signal gifts to his country. But we have seen how David referred all his sorrows, and all his joys, to the sorrows and joys of the Messiah. So we may say in general, that all the prophets did the same. And though this prophecy be not expressly cited in the new testament, it is because the rock, the river, and refuge are themes of prophecy so common, and so often referred to by our Saviour and his apostles, that all passages of this kind could not be particularly quoted. Whenever the pious Hebrew was oppressed with idolatrous princes, he would console himself by looking forward to the age of righteousness. When the blasts of northern winds, or affliction came upon him, he would hope in the everliving One who sheltered his flock in a lieu or warm place.

When on a journey, or labouring far from the city, he saw a collection of clouds in the western sky, he would haste to a covert. Here he would see the forked lightnings illuminate the heavens, and the fire-balls leap along the plains, leaving peals of loudest thunder to announce their progress to the trembling earth. Here true piety would make an immediate reference to the Messiah, so far as prophecy allowed a knowledge of his sufferings; and here the gospel should put in full force the covert of his almighty wings. Our sins are those portentous clouds; the frowns of divine justice and the anathemas of a violated law are those flashes of lightning, and bursting thunders. The heavens, the moral heavens are gathering black over the sinner’s head, and vengeance makes a rapid approach. It is time to seek a refuge, and a covert for his guilty head. And where can he look? Afflictions and death assail his body, and the terrors of God assail his soul. Divine vengeance rains a horrible tempest on the wicked! Who then is able to protect the sinner? It is replied, A man shall be a hidingplace from the wind and a covert from the tempest. Jesus Christ in the garden, and on the cross, bore the tempest of divine justice, the rage of men, the fury of hell, and the utmost anguish of death. Hence as the covert receives the storm, and shelters those who seek its protection, so the Saviour gives strong consolation to those who flee to his encircling arms. Here the guilty find a pardon, the unholy are sanctified, and the dying live. Here, when the judgments of God are abroad in the earth, the redeemed of the Lord lift up their heads with joy, for their Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

When the pious Hebrew, droughty in the desert, came to streams of water, and laved his burning feet, and drank of the cooling stream, while his camels cropped the verdant meads, he could not but be reminded of the waters of the Spirit which are everywhere promised in the scriptures: Isaiah 12, 44. Ezekiel 47:0. Joel 2:0. This is the river that maketh glad the city of God, and which Christ promised to every believer.

The pious Hebrew, still pursuing his way through the wilderness, would sometimes find the shadow of a rock which raised its cheering head above the weary plains; and passing at once from the burning sands to the cooling shade, he would feel a sensation too pleasurable for language to describe. And associating his feelings with piety, he would say with David, Lead me to the rock that is higher than myself. This is the rock which the Lord hath laid in Zion for a sure foundation; and this is the rock on which Christ will build his church, that it may bid defiance to the powers of hell. Oh what repose, what comfort, what delights are found under the shadow of his protecting love.

At the ninth verse, as in Isaiah 3:16, we have a hard stroke at the women of Israel, who contributed very much by effeminacy and pride to the ruin of the state. God was resolved to punish their waste with want, their dissipation with poverty, and their fine dresses with sackcloth. The harvest and the vintage should fail, that sobriety and hunger might bring them to recollection. What then would this prophet have said to the ladies of Europe, who dash away in the brilliant circles of society? They rise a little before noon. What they are pleased to call the morning is spent in lounging, in attention to their person and dress, for they usually drink their cordial or take their breakfast in bed. If they do not take a ride, they spend their time in reading novels, whose authors were rakes and ruined women. At dinner, they sit the usual time, and keep but a glass in arrears with the men. Then they roll off to the theatre, or to other places of amusement, where persons of the finest voice or most accomplished address, damn their own souls, in giving pleasure to the concupiscence of the age. When the sabbath arrives, and when the bells of finest tone are inviting them towards noon to bow with repentance before the eternal throne, they fortify themselves with the maxims of infidelity detailed by their husbands, and abandon themselves to chambering and wantonness. Or if they go at all to the house of God, they require a preacher of soft address, who will expatiate on the divine clemency, pass the highest encomiums on virtue, and immerge his portrait in the sunbeams of Elysian felicity. Nor have they any great objection that he should now and then give a gentle stroke at vice, provided it be general, and not pointed. In a word, they require a preacher and a subject so accommodating, that if Satan for once was changed into an angel of light, and was to fill the pulpit, he would change neither the text nor the subject! By and bye age and afflictions steal on, and death so often deprecated, makes his approach; then the conscience, instead of being enlightened by truth, and compassed by repentance, is lulled to slumber by opiates and night draughts. So these women, corrupt in principle, and haughty in habit, die in peace, or “sink with gay indifference down to everlasting fire.”

And thou, oh God, who didst punish the women of the east with sackcloth and hunger, who hast excluded the effeminate from thy kingdom; wilt thou punish all our crimes on the same scale, and with a hand equally severe? What then have we not to fear, when women crowd the broad way, and seem the foremost in leading us to destruction? Oh, ye court preachers, happy if I could rouse you to preach like this princely prophet, and to see converts among your hearers, like the noble Grecian ladies who attended the ministry of St. Paul. See on Acts 4:0. The sacred charge is the highest charge of heaven; you have a dread responsibility. Think of the state of your flock; think of your conscience. Socinianism can do nothing for you in death. Your new translations of the prophets, and your notes, are at issue with the prophets, as much as the common prayer is at issue with your sermons. The mitre will soon fade; and what account can you give to the bishop of souls? How will you appear before him whose glory you obscure?

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 32". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.