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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 56

Verses 1-12

Isaiah 56:1 . Keep ye judgment, as a preparation for the Messiah’s advent, who is here called, Salvation; and whose righteousness and mercy are the only ground of a sinner’s justification, adoption, and glory. For his coming Jacob when dying prayed, Oh Lord, I have waited for thy Salvation.

Isaiah 56:3 . The stranger that hath joined himself to the Lord. In the second temple there were three courts: Atrium Gentrium, the court of the gentiles, which is the same as the court of Israel. The court of the women was divided by a wall from the great court. Next was the Chel, surrounded with a low wall of curious work, ascended by fourteen steps. At the entrance of this court there were on the pillars an inscription in Latin and Greek, announcing the Sanctity of the place, and that no stranger must enter, nor any Israelite, if he had touched a dead body. Deuteronomy 23:1. Dr. Lightfoot.

Isaiah 56:9 . All ye beasts of the field. Rather, as in the Hebrew, beasts of the forest; that is, beasts of prey; an apostrophe to the Chaldean army, swifter than leopards, and fiercer than the evening wolves. Habakkuk 1:8. A leading cause of the Hebrew ruin, the Lord by Isaiah imputes, in the next verses, to corrupt priests and false prophets; viz. blind watchmen, and dumb dogs that could not bark. A watchman, who eats the bread of a pastor, should have piercing eyes, and be like the wakeful dog in giving alarm of danger.

Isaiah 56:10-11 . His watchmen are blind, they are all dumb dogs. The Vulgate reads, speculatores ejus ceci omnes, all his speculators are blind; that is, the priests and doctors, says Poole, in the Synopsis, who sold themselves for false prophets. Compare Ezekiel 3:17; Ezekiel 33:2; Ezekiel 33:6-7. Judges, princes, and kings were all the same. They were blind, and could not see the evils coming on their country. Dumb dogs, who saw Jerusalem full of sin, and held their peace. They imposed their own blind speculations on the people, as the hallowed revelations of the Lord. Oh pastor! see that no part of this portrait belongs to thee. The Egyptians gave the name “dog” to Sirius, the brightest of our fixed stars in Orion, because when he was seen it was as the barking of a dog, warning to prepare for the inundation of the Nile.

Isaiah 56:12 . Fetch wine. The princes, priests and prophets, drunk in time of danger, like wicked men, and filled themselves with strong drink, as in chap. 28:7, 8.


The warm exhortation to repentance and reformation, pressed in the last chapter, is here resumed, and by the consideration that God’s salvation was near to come; namely, a salvation from Babylon, and a salvation from sin and death by the Lord Jesus. The prophet so wrote that his writing might edify the church in every age, the righteousness of the Lord being no other than his faithful accomplishment of the promises, in shedding down on the church all the blessings of a full redemption.

In the evangelical age very great encouragement was to be given to strangers to embrace the new covenant, mentioned in the preseding chapter, Isaiah 56:3, who should join the Jewish, and afterwards the christian church; and these in the apostolic times are estimated at one fifth of the nation. The eunuch is here particularly comforted. Whether he was born a eunuch, whether tyrants had made him so to serve in the harem, or whether he had mistakenly made himself so for the kingdom of God, he was excluded from the sanctuary. Deuteronomy 23:1. But in better times he is promised, on keeping the sabbath, which to the heathen seemed a difficult precept, a place and a name in God’s house, better than that of sons and of daughters. The eunuchs, and all those ministers, missionaries, and eminently pious women who make Christ their whole delight, and who live solely to convert sinners and edify the church, shall have children in glory which shall be their crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord, and make their name more illustrious than the title of Patriarch. As to the strangers, the names of Rahab, of Ruth, and others stand high in the scriptures; and Elimelech, a eunuch who saved Jeremiah from perishing in the dungeon, has immortalized his memory in the church. Hence the sin- offering of those who joined the Jewish church should be accepted, and the devotion of those who joined the christian church should not be less acceptable to God.

The pious Jews and proselytes are farther comforted by a deliverance from those priests and rulers who were blind and ignorant watchmen dumb dogs, who had neither talents nor spirit for the ministry idle, dormant, and greedy dogs, who could never have enough. They almost broke Isaiah’s heart: Isaiah 28:13. Instead of profiting by his awful predictions, they seemed to drink for whole nights in the Lord’s house, and said, to-morrow shall be as to-day. In the issue he lost his life by struggling against them, and against Manasseh their wicked king. If the words be applied to the watchmen or shepherds in our Saviour’s time, or in any time, the doctrine is equally true, that God will root them out of his house. He will call the beasts of the field and of the forest to devour, which Jeremiah explains of God’s abhorring his sanctuary, taking away his glory, and giving it up to the beasts of the forests, the Chaldeans, and latterly the Romans, to be devoured: chap. 12. He mentions in particular, that the birds round about are gathered against her; just as our Saviour said, where the carcase is there will the eagles be gathered together. May the Lord then make us faithful in the ministry, for teachers of this description are the last curse to a church and nation.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 56". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.