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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 57

Verses 1-21

Isaiah 57:1 . The righteous perisheth. This was written as a tribute, it would seem, to the memory of king Hezekiah, who was recently called from an earthly to a heavenly crown. He entered into peace, beyond the reach of all the calamities impending over his country. The nation at large did not know their loss, and therefore sorrowed not as the prophet would have them do.

Isaiah 57:4 . Against whom do ye sport yourselves? The idolaters, finding the young king Manasseh decidedly in favour of heathen gods, could not contain their joy. Those awful characters, called the seed of adulterers, that is, born of idolatrous parents, or morally, children of the Amorite and the Hittite, as in Ezekiel 16:0., wantoned the more in idolatrous festivity, nor saw the calamities which in a few years more would desolate the temple, and the land.

Isaiah 57:6 . Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion. It was a general practice of the gentiles to worship near fountains and rivers, and in groves. Criminals were also put to death near rivers, as when Elijah slew the priests and prophets of Baal at the brook. 1 Kings 18:0.

Isaiah 57:8 . Behind the doors also hast thou set up thy remembrance. The penates, or houshold gods, were placed there as a memorial of their abominable superstition. Our missionaries in the island of Madagascar often found idols concealed in cupboards.

Isaiah 57:9 . Thou wentest to the king with ointment. To the king of Egypt, or Damascus, or Babylon, to tell him the joy of thy having adopted his altar and his worship. It is also a rebuke for their going to a foreign prince to ask counsel, as though the Lord was not sufficient.

Isaiah 57:12 . I will declare thy righteousness; ironically, thy hypocrisy, thy wickedness, by publicly delivering thee into the hands of thine enemies; who in a short time carried the king in chains to Babylon.


The loss of a great and good man, whether prince or prophet, is a serious calamity when viewed in itself. The church and the nation lose a father who directed them by his counsel, governed them by his prudence, and awed the wicked by his influence. They lose the great patron of piety, and the model of virtue; and the loss is irreparable when no man is raised up in the like spirit, and with rising influence, to take the helm, and faithfully discharge his duty, totally disregarding party opinions.

It is a most unnatural crime and a sure omen of the destruction of the age, when no one laments the fall of a great and good man. Blindness and infatuation have seized a people, so circumstanced, when they neither perceive that the righteous are taken from the evil to come, nor that their own lives are in jeopardy, because no successor is provided; which provision God has usually made for his church and people. Moses consecrated Joshua, Elijah threw his mantle on Elisha, and St. Paul trained up Timothy and others to succeed him among the gentiles.

King Hezekiah, and perhaps many other good men, having died about this time, Isaiah was the more desirous to magnify his ministry by pointed attacks on the idolaters, who seemed rather to rejoice at than to lament the death of the saints. He bids the children of the idolaters draw near, whose ancestors had departed from the Lord, as an adulteress departs from her husband. He prescribes the characters of their superstition, and drags into open day the dark scenes which revolt the heart. They looked on the form of their immodest idols till they approached a state not less wicked than the men of Sodom before they were burned. They slew their children in the valley of Hinnom, where Tophet and Moloch were adored. 2 Kings 23:10. They built their altars with smooth stones taken out of the brook Kidron, and in contempt of the law which enjoined altars to be made of unhewn stones. Under every green tree, and in caverns whose jaws were portentous of hell, they practised the mysteries of Satan. At home there was not a house but had its god placed behind the door to guard it from danger. God therefore resolved to declare his righteousness in punishing them as he had threatened; and with this highest mark of anger, that he would not deliver them in the day when they cried to him. Oh that the pleasure-takers, the drunkards, and the profligates of this age, would see their own portrait, in the men who brought ruin on the Hebrew nation.

When the idolaters, though they cast up a causey for their allies, had none to deliver them, hear what the Lord says to his weeping people. He calls himself the High and Lofty One who inhabiteth eternity; consequently he existed before his enemies, and shall outlive them all; for in the chaste language of scripture there is always a close connection between the perfections God assumes, and the parties addressed. The Lord dwells in the temple, his high and holy place; therefore the wicked shall not prevail over the church. This glorious God, who mocks at the impious in trouble, will dwell with the man who is poor, of a contrite heart, and who trembles at his word: yea, he prefers this heart before all temples. Hence the prophet, as is usual, now launches into evangelical times; for we must either maintain that holy men worshipped with the Messiah in view, or give up the new testament. He would comfort with peace and protection the Jews who were nigh or afar off: and ultimately send the gospel of peace to the gentiles who were far from God.

We have next the awful character of the wicked: they are like the troubled sea, spending its foaming rage on the shore. They resemble the unclean spirit, travelling through dry places, seeking rest and finding none. Hurried by impetuous passions they fly to pleasure, and find disappointment; they indulge in every concupiscence of the heart, and when mortification follows they foam with rage, blaspheme with revenge, and destroy the repose of life in faction, intrigue, and restless ambition; just and worthy preparatives for weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 57". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.