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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 64

Verses 1-12

Isaiah 64:1 . A new scene of prophetic events opens here, where the prophet in time of trouble cries the more in spirit to the Messiah. Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens and come down. It is strikingly observable, that the promises of the Saviour’s coming were desired and renewed in times of affliction, and in war. Isaiah 7:9. Micah 4:5. Job 19:20-25. In Psalms 85:0. it is promised that righteousness shall look down from heaven, and truth shall spring out of the earth. So also in Isaiah 45:8. Drop down ye heavens from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness. No Jew, accounted orthodox, would dispute St. Paul’s assertion: The second Adam is the Lord from heaven.

Isaiah 64:2 . As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil. The lowest coal, as in Somerset and other places, is formed chiefly of sea-weeds, and melts in the fire. But the secondary coal, as at Dudley, Burslem, &c. is formed of timber, and burns as charcoal. The spiritual reference is to the zeal of the Lord, as on Sinai, to redeem, to save and avenge his people, and that in every age of the church, but especially in the great act of our redemption on the cross.

Isaiah 64:4 . Men have not heard, nor perceived what God hath prepared for him that waiteth for him. In the creation the Lord had every possible plan before him, and he has always followed the best. So in regard of redemption, his counsel and love have laid up treasures for them that love him, far beyond all conception. 1 Corinthians 2:9. These are unfolded in the gospel in the grace in which believers stand and in the glories of the heavenly kingdom.

Isaiah 64:5 . Those that remember thee in thy ways. The rendering of this passage does great violence to theology. It seems to mean that we shall be saved, though we continue in sin, and under God’s wrath! Our translators were led into this error by a servile adherence to Montanus, and some other Latin versions; for they widely differ. Vide Biblia Maxima. Lowth renders the text well. “Thou meetest those with joy, who work righteousness; who in thy ways remember thee. Lo, thou art angry because of our deeds, for we have sinned; we have been rebellious, and are all of us as a polluted thing, like a rejected garment are all our righteous deeds.” Castellio reads this text as an interrogation. He understands the prophet as acknowledging that we have sinned in the Lord’s ways, and that the Lord was wroth; and then asks, How shall we be saved? Others would read, In those things we have sinned for a long time, and yet we have been saved. The present English version revolts the reader; he pauses to make conjectures concerning the sense.


This chapter cannot be restricted to the Jews in Babylon; the prophets were fully aware that the sentence of exile was for seventy years. Besides, the Romans burnt the temple, and laid the cities waste, as well as the Chaldees. Hence as the scriptures were designed to comfort the church at all times, we must regard the prophet as praying for the final reëstablishment of Zion, when she should no more be defiled.

Let us learn of him, fervently to pray for the glory of the church, accompanied by an abhorrence of our own righteousness, and an ample confession of all our sins. Let us learn to pray as they did, for a discovery of those secret things which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, but which the Lord hath prepared for them that love him. For as God delivered Israel from Egypt, by means unheard of and unknown before; and as he most singularly instructed the learned Greeks by plain apostles, so in the glory of the latter day he will show a thousand marvels in converting the gentile world, and in restoring his believing people, a remnant of Israel.

Let us also adore the goodness of God, in giving the holy prophets such clear views of his justice in the burning of Jerusalem for its wickedness, and the temple for being polluted with idols. They saw the city and sanctuary in flames, and spake of it to a scoffing people, to promote repentance and reformation.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 64". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.