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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 6

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

Verses 1-13

The excellence of the prophet’s labours during the war with Pekah and Rezin, seems to be the cause why this vision occupies but a secondary place. God gave it to console the church on the death of so great and good a king as Uzziah. It shows his divine commission to be a prophet, and with the brightest seals of his mission. Moses produced his credentials in Egypt, and Paul in addressing his epistles to the gentiles.

Isaiah 6:1 . I saw also, or I then saw the LORD. The Hebrew is Adonai, as in Psalms 110:1. But bishop Lowth has collected from the critics, that in the first verse fifty one manuscripts and one printed edition, in the eighth verse forty four manuscripts and one printed edition, and in the eleventh verse fifty three manuscripts and one printed edition, for Adonai read JEHOVAH. Hence he infers that JEHOVAH is probably the true reading, as the superstitions of later Jews have apparently changed the term. Which soever of the terms be the true reading, the Godhead of Christ is hereby incontestably proved. See John 12:41. Sitting upon a throne, after the manner of kings. Revelation 4:2; Revelation 20:11. His throne in the temple, a figure of heaven, is called his rest: Isaiah 11:10. It is also called a glorious high throne, and the place of the soles of his feet. Jeremiah 17:12. Ezekiel 43:7.

Isaiah 6:2 . The seraphim, the burning ones, more fully noticed in Ezekiel 1:0. He makes his angels spirits, his messengers as flames of fire. Hebrews 1:7. To write seraphims is injudicious. These, it would seem, were only two in the temple, but four in Ezekiel, and in the Revelation. Here they seem to make only two choirs.

Isaiah 6:10 . Make the heart of this people fat. [gross] When God foretels an event, he is said to do it, as when he said to Abraham, “I have made thee a father of many nations.” And Jacob said, “with corn and wine have I blessed him.” Isaiah’s new mission was to call the Jews to repentance, on the death of so good a king, when every family wept, as having lost a father. But the ultimate bearing of the mission regarded the final obduracy of the Jews in the rejection of their humble Messiah, as all the prophets had witnessed. The mission of Isaiah was therefore a mission of defiance, like that of Jehu to the elders of Samaria, for God knows how to talk to rebels. Pride blinded the mind of the Jews, while every evil propensity entered their hearts. Nothing would do with them but a Messiah reigning on the throne of David in Jerusalem, and a world of gentile worshippers crowding their courts with gifts and offerings to the Lord. Thus the god of this world hath blinded the minds of those who believe not. To this day the veil is on their hearts; they do not distinguish the two grand traits of prophecy, first the sufferings, and then the glory of Christ.

Isaiah 6:13 . As an oak. Dr. William Stukeley, our learned antiquary, and a principal founder of the Royal Society, says here, “As an oak whose misletoe plant is alive upon it, when its leaves fall off, so the holy seed shall be like this plant. In this obscure passage, which commentators avoid, Isaiah seems to make the misletoe symbolical of the Messiah, and of christianity grafted on the Jewish stock.”


Truly the Lord lives, though princes die. He sitteth above the waterfloods, and reigneth king for ever. Fear not then, oh Zion, the vicissitudes of nations, for Jehovah dwells within thy palaces. The vision is one of the most glorious and important which the sacred writings exhibit. The scene opens in the temple: the veil is dropped, and heaven for a few moments stands disclosed to mortal eyes. The seraphim surround the throne, each having six wings. The upper pair, probably small, served him for a veil; for though his face shone with the image of God, and never blushed with sin, yet he dared not to look on the uncreated Messiah. The lower wings were the covering of modesty, for so the phrase to cover the feet imports; but though his walk was perfect, yet he hides his conduct as unworthy of his Lord’s regard. The other wings, large and extended, served for flight, swift as thought, at the divine behest. Now from this most glorious vision we learn the constant care of God over his church. The good old king Uzziah, after reigning fifty-two years, like our beloved sovereign, George 3., was dead. And who in wavering times could fully tell the mind of the new monarch?

We learn that a discovery of God in creation, providence and grace, should be followed by worship. In the book of Revelation every new vision is followed by new devotion: and who can see the blessed God, and not adore? Who can behold his works, or study his ways, and withhold the glory due unto his name. The discovery of the infinite Majesty on this occasion led the seraphim thrice to cry, Holy, holy, holy! This seems to import, as Ambrose observes, a discovery of the Holy Trinity. And I am the more inclined to embrace this opinion, because the praises of God are usually only doubled in Hebrew poetry. The cry therefore of holy three times is a singular deviation from their usual mode of praise.

That which attracted the attention of the seraphim was, the purity and equity of the divine judgments. All God’s perfections are worthy of praise; but as holiness characterizes his government of the nations, and forms the ground of all moral happiness, both of angels and men, it worthily attracts their praise.

While the seraphim responsive cry, it was with a voice so fervent, that the doorposts moved as they spake. Let therefore our worship be distinguished with modesty, with fear, and with fervour.

A discovery of the divine purity, and of angelic devotion, is the most likely way to convince mortals of their sin, and to shame the supineness of their worship. Woe is me, said Isaiah! If that be heaven, I have now no hope. If that be the devotion of angels, mine, and the whole congregation’s, are but hypocrisy and lies. Our lips are all unclean, as the gentile nations. Our devotion is languid. We do not say with David, Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.

God justifies those who condemn themselves. One of the seraphs touched the prophet’s lips with a coal from the altar of atonement, and with assurance that this holy fire had purged his sin. So while Christ’s divine words sounded on the ears of the two disciples going to Emmaus, their hearts burned with holy fire. No sinner should rest without a sense of God’s love shed abroad in his heart; which sense of pardon is often accompanied with some promise softly whispered to the penitent.

This love of God shed abroad in the heart is the enkindling flame and soul of evangelical preaching. When God was graciously pleased to propose a new mission to the nation on the death of the king, Isaiah, burning like the holy apostles and apostolic men on the day of pentecost, said, here am I, send me. Ministers should never run before their call, nor delay when duty opens. And oh how pleasant is the work when done, not for filthy lucre, but from love to Christ, constraining them to cry aloud and spare not.

The ministry of heaven we see is clothed with the power and majesty of God. Ministers are the plenipotentiaries of Christ. They address the nations in the language of grace and justice, and all the perfections of God stand engaged to confirm their words. Thus when Israel rejected conversion by their prophets, God confirmed all the words of his judgments on the guilty country; and by a succession of devastations he left only a tenth part to germinate as the oak. They hardened their own hearts by wickedness, and God then hardened their hearts in justice, by withdrawing the grace which they had abused. St. Paul, citing the Septuagint, has illustrated this passage in the twenty eighth of the Acts; which clearly proves that Israel’s obduracy first proceeded from themselves, and not from the Lord. May the christian church be instructed by Israel’s errors.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 6". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/isaiah-6.html. 1835.
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