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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 50

Verses 1-11

Isaiah 50:1 . Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement. That is, of Jerusalem, gone over to the worship of Baal. God did not divorce the synagogue, till she had first committed adultery, the only cause for which a man can justly put away his wife. Zion had even given hire to her lovers, and sold herself for nought. This argument is given at large in Ezekiel 16:0.

Isaiah 50:5 . The Lord hath opened mine ear. All the depths of divine wisdom, in the mystery of human redemption, were open to the view of the Messiah. He receives the book from the hand of him who sits upon the throne, and unlooses the seals thereof. The Spirit being given to him without measure, every morning, like the light of the sun, he poured a flood of instruction on the world.

Isaiah 50:6 . I gave my back to the smiters. The LXX read, to lashes, and my cheeks to slaps on the face. The Jewish history presents no character but the Saviour, to whom these words can be applied; and the version of the LXX has in it a remarkable degree of literality.

Isaiah 50:9 . The moth shall eat them up. This was the end of those who crucified the Redeemer. The Jews were burnt, as in the next verse, in their own fire.

Isaiah 50:10 . Who is among you that walketh in darkness, and hath no light. The christians in Jerusalem, incessantly persecuted, had obeyed the voice of their Lord, but were enveloped in a cloud of troubles which afforded no light; but by waiting, they saw their unbelieving countrymen routed and destroyed, and light and righteousness arose upon the church. Providence made way for their escape beyond Jordan. Joseph, the beloved son of Jacob, walked also in darkness for about twenty years, before he saw the designs of providence in his mission down to Egypt. It was the same with Job, who knew not that his case was argued in heaven. David also was in affliction for seven years, walking amidst the darkened clouds of providence; but they were to him years of instruction, while the Lord was preparing his way to the throne by the fall of his enemies, and of Jonathan his friend. Good men emerge from the cloud, while the faithless race lie down in sorrow.


God who seeks the happiness of his creatures, even in his severest visitations, is not unwilling to make the offenders judges in their own cause. They had complained at the fourteenth verse of the preseding chapter, that the Lord had forsaken and forgotten them. Here the Lord, appealing to legal customs, asks for the bill of their mother’s divorcement, as that would show the cause; which bill may be found engrossed at large in the sixteenth of Ezekiel. And as to their going into servitude, whether into Babylonia, or among the gentile nations, God had not sold them for money as a rigorous creditor: he justifies himself by declaring that it was their sins, and their sins alone which caused them to be sold, and their mother, as an idolatrous harlot, to be put away for a limited time, that the gentile church might be the married wife of the Lord: Isaiah 54:1. Yet, oh amazing love, though the old generations perished, the faithful ones were never forsaken, and a remnant was always spared to be a faithful seed to the Lord. Hence he can bring back his people from the captivity of the gentiles by the same power which clothed Egypt with sackcloth for three days, and which dried up the sea in their behalf. See Isaiah 11:16.

We have next to notice, that the Messiah continues here to be the sole speaker, and not the prophet. Great indeed was Isaiah’s eloquence, but his eloquence is that of Christ. The Lord gave him the tongue of the learned to speak a comforting word to the weary soul, and every morning something new for the church. But according to our golden rule of interpreting prophecy, the holy prophets, impelled by the Spirit, lost all their sorrows in the sorrows of the Saviour, and absorbed all their joys in the glory of his kingdom; they were consequently led to say many things not strictly true, if understood of themselves. Isaiah’s ears were indeed open: but Psalms 40:6, in which these words occur, is applied by St. Paul to Christ. Hebrews 10:7. And though Isaiah was sawn asunder by Manasseh, there is no text, no tradition to prove that he gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. The evangelists have fairly applied these indignities to Christ. Matthew 26:67; Matthew 27:30. When the Lord mentioned these insults to his disciples, he had a most obvious reference to these predictions. He set his face like a flint to go up to Jerusalem. Matthew 14:31-32. Let all ministers therefore pray that they may have the tongue of the eloquent to bind up the broken-hearted, and to comfort all that mourn; for the Lord makes his ministers partakers of his grace and gifts. Our Lord, under all the calumnies of the priests and rulers, and under all the odium of the cross, had an unshaken confidence that the Father, who was near, would justify him. To this the apostle alludes when he says, God was manifest in the flesh, and justified in the spirit, both by his miracles and his resurrection from the dead. So also he will ever justify his faithful witnesses from the imputations of an infidel world; while on the contrary, the moth shall eat up those who oppose the Lord, as it has ever happened to the enemies of the church.

Isaiah having promised deliverance from Babylon, Isaiah 48:20, and here redemption by the Messiah, exhorts the truly faithful who fear the Lord, and obey the voice of his servant, who hides not his face from the last of indignities, shame and spitting, he exhorts them, while walking in providential darkness and trouble, Isaiah 42:16, to trust in the Lord, and stay themselves upon their God. He would have them repose all their confidence on the sure promises of redemption, to take their lot with the faithful; for they who leave the Lord, and warm themselves at the idolatrous fires, shall surely lie down in sorrow.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 50". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.