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Tuesday, September 26th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 48

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-22

Isaiah 48:1 . Which swear by the name of the Lord, who resents all false swearing to his covenant.

Isaiah 48:3 . I have declared the former things. The Messiah continues here to be the speaker, and the hopes of the church repose solely upon his word. In the next verses he declares the future; he puts his name to it; his favourite name with the Jews, the Lord of Hosts.

Isaiah 48:5 . I have even from the beginning declared the fall of Babylon, and all other important circumstances connected with it, lest thou shouldst say, my idol hath showed it.

Isaiah 48:8 . I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously. How lamentable it is to find this text cited by the antinomians of our own age, to promise pardon and eternal glory to the elect, even before they commit the grossest acts of apostasy; and that because the Lord is here supposed to promise the Hebrews a plenary pardon before they killed the prophets, before they gave their children to Moloch, and before they danced at Baal’s feasts! Is this treating the secret things of Moses, and the unsearchable depths of St. Paul with becoming reverence? Is this dealing honestly with the loose professors of the age, who live in full conformity to the world? Is it not far safer for ministers, like Isaiah, to threaten the gross apostates with the fire of Tophet. The false prophets among the Jews never cried, peace, peace, as those teachers do, and altogether without the authority of ancient comments. The text refers to the riches of grace promised to the church in the gospel, as the elder critics agree with common consent.

Isaiah 48:10 . I have refined thee, but not with silver. The LXX read, I have sold thee, but not for silver. This however is an obvious deviation from the Hebrew, which seems to import that God had refined them as silver, but had not made them pure like silver.

Isaiah 48:13 . My hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth. The Messiah is here introduced as the speaker. I, even I have spoken. The Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me: Isaiah 48:16. Here then is the doctrine of the adorable Trinity, or of a plurality in the Godhead; and the same ineffable mystery is declared in other passages of this enlightened and evangelical prophet. Isaiah 63:7-10; Isaiah 49:4-6.

Isaiah 48:16 . Come ye near to me, hear ye this. I have not spoken in secret from the beginning, from the time that I said, Let there be light, and there was light. I spake to your fathers; my covenant was open and clear. My ministry, says the Messiah, has no disguise, nothing of ambiguity in it, like the pretended oracles of the heathen. I speak in my Father’s name: I speak by his Spirit. All these epithets, characteristic of the Messiah’s ministry, prepare the mind for something great and decisive, with regard to the longsuffering of God towards a rebellious people.

What can be more preposterous, and in the face of all ancient theology, than for the Arians to make Isaiah the speaker here? Was Isaiah a prophet from the beginning of the world, as in the ninth verse? Did Isaiah call Jacob and Israel, as in Isaiah 48:12. Was he the first and the last? Lowth is perfectly silent here, as in all other places, about the real Godhead of Christ. There is nothing for the soul in all our new versions of the prophets. The traitors are better paid in this world than Judas; but how it will be in the next, the Lord himself only is the judge.

Isaiah 48:17 . Thus saith the Lord thy Redeemer; thy Goel, as in Job 19:25. The Lord who says, I have found a ransom. “Jehovah hath made his soul an offering for sin.” The Holy One of Israel: Isaiah 12:6. The Holy One of God. The Just and Holy One, as St. Peter calls him, that teacheth thee by his word, and by all the leadings of his providence, ever delighting, oh Israel, to do thee good.

Isaiah 48:18 . Oh that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments, to the whole of my will, and the requirements of my righteous law, as stated at large in the beginning of the hundred and nineteenth psalm.

Then had thy peace been as a river, overflowing like the Euphrates, or more still, like the Tigris in the time of the new fruits. Sir 24:25 . How full of tenderness is the commiseration of God towards his sinful and erring people, mourning over their departures from him, and the irreparable loss their backsliding had occasioned. Oh that thou hadst hearkened unto me.

And thy righteousness as the waves of the sea. By righteousness may be understood covenant blessings, as in Psalms 72:0. He shall come down as rain upon the mown grass. Also Isaiah 45:8: Drop down, ye heavens from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness. On the deliverance from Babylon, specially referred to in this chapter, the Lord loaded the Jews with righteousness. To these texts we may add, the righteousness and the salvation of the Lord, which shall never be abolished: Isaiah 51:6. The nation also, walking in the paths of holy obedience, shall become dense in population; shall be blessed with luxuriant harvests, and vintages flowing with the richest wine, like rivers abounding with water.


We now come to the last chapter which speaks expressly of the Babylonian captivity, a most ungracious subject in the ears of the Israelites. They are addressed as the descendants of Jacob, and consequently as heirs of the promises; for they themselves had sworn to keep their fathers’ covenant. But mark, as they did not swear to the Lord with true hearts, and confirm the oath with righteous lives, so he had no pleasure in their sacrifices. They are therefore called to hear the sermon on the fall of Babylon, which adumbrated the predictions of their own fall.

The wise and equitable principles of the divine government towards the Israelites had been fully developed by the prophets; yea, all the circumstances of their apostasy and punishment had been fully declared. Moses had done this at large, in Deuteronomy 28:0. All the circumstances of Sennacherib’s invasion had been foretold by Isaiah, that they might not say their idols had done it. Hence we may infer the never-ceasing care of providence over the church, and learn not to fear terrific conquerors, for their commission is limited, and their cruelties are restrained within the bounds of divine controul. The Lord, for his name’s sake, chose rather to refine than to destroy an ungrateful nation, whose ear was not open to instruction and obedience.

Before God inflicted the heavy strokes of his hand, he lamented, most feelingly lamented their disobedience; and in doing this he enumerates his gracious and relative characters. He is their Redeemer, their Holy One, who had taught them to profit. Oh that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! So Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and so St. Paul wished even to be an execration, if Israel might but be saved. Our salvation is therefore of the Lord, and our destruction wholly of ourselves. Providence had been so mindful of their temporal interests, that their harvests and vintages should flow as plentifully as the Nile, the Euphrates, and the Jordan, when they overflowed their banks; and all these temporal mercies were only shadows of the far richer spiritual blessings of the covenant. So it is with the believer: while obedient, his peace flows abundantly from the rock, even Christ: and as a river is constantly encreased by tributary streams, so divine peace flows anew in all the means of grace. Rivers are noisy among the mountains, falling in cascades from the rocks; but when they reach the plains they become deep and silent, flowing with a broad and majestic stream. Grace also is somewhat loud and noisy in the young convert; but it becomes more deep and silent in age, as it approaches the ocean of eternal love.

The chapter closes with an assurance of deliverance. Go ye forth of Babylon; flee with singing, as was said in chap. 35. Flee, flee from the Chaldeans, where you have been corrupter with marriages, with idols, and with sins. Flee, flee, for there is no peace to the wicked, whether jew or gentile. How very remarkable then is the difference between the penitent and the impenitent in their afflictions. The former have a cheering hope which shall chase away the dark scenes of their misery, while the latter are all despondency and gloom, and fall from bad to worse.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 48". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/isaiah-48.html. 1835.
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