Whilst watchmen and shepherds, prophets and rulers, without troubling themselves about the flock which they have to watch and feed, are thus indulging their own selfish desires, and living in debauchery, the righteous man is saved by early death from the judgment, which cannot fail to come with such corruption as this. “The righteous perisheth, and no man taketh it to heart; and pious men are swept away, without any one considering that the righteous is swept away from misfortune. He entereth into peace: they rest upon their beds, whoever has walked straight before him.” With “the righteous” the prophet introduces, in glaring contrast to this luxurious living on the part of the leading men of the nation, the standing figure used to denote the fate of its best men. With this prevailing demoralization and worldliness, the righteous succumbs to the violence of both external and internal sufferings. אבד, he dies before his time (Ecclesiastes 7:15); from the midst of the men of his generation he is carried away from this world (Psalms 12:2; Micah 7:2), and no one lays it to heart, viz., the divine accusation and threat involved in this early death. Men of piety ( chesed , the love of God and man) are swept away, without there being any one to understand or consider that ( kı̄ unfolds the object to be considered and laid to heart, viz., what is involved in this carrying away when regarded as a providential event) the righteous is swept away “from the evil,” i.e., that he may be saved from the approaching punishment (compare 2 Kings 22:20). For the prevailing corruption calls for punishment from God; and what is first of all to be expected is severe judgment, through which the coming salvation will force its way. In Isaiah 57:2 it is intimated that the righteous man and the pious do not lose the blessings of this salvation because they lose this life: for whereas, according to the prophet's watchword, there is no peace to the wicked, it is true, on the other hand, of the departing righteous man, that “he enters into peace” ( shâlōm , acc. loci s. status ; Ges. 118, 1); “they rest upon their beds,” viz., the bottom of the grave, which has become their m ishkâb (Job 17:13; Job 21:26), “however has walked in that which lay straight before him,” i.e., the one straight plain path which he had set before him ( נכחו acc. obj. as in Isaiah 33:15; Isaiah 50:10, Ewald, §172, b, from נכ ח, that which lies straight before a person; whereas נכח with נכח נכחו, signifying probably fixedness, steadiness of look, related to Arab. nkḥ , to pierce, נכה, percutere , is used as a preposition: compare Proverbs 4:25, לנכח, straight or exactly before him). The grave, when compared with the restlessness of this life, is therefore “peace.” He who has died in faith rests in God, to whom he has committed himself and entrusted his future. We have here the glimmering light of the New Testament consolation, that the death of the righteous is better than life in this world, because it is the entrance into peace.
The reproachful language of the prophet is now directed against the mass of the nation, who have occasioned the “evil” from which the righteous is swept away, i.e., the generation that is hostile to the servants of Jehovah, and by whom those sins of idolatry are still so shamelessly carried on, which first led to the captivity. “And ye, draw nearer hither, children of the sorceress, seed of the adulterer, and of her that committed whoredom! Over whom do ye make yourselves merry? Over whom do ye open the mouth wide, and put the tongue out long? Are ye not the brook of apostasy, seed of lying?” They are to draw nearer hither ( hēnnâh as in Genesis 15:16), to the place where God is speaking through His prophet, to have themselves painted, and to hear their sentence. Just as elsewhere the moral character of a man is frequently indicated by the mention of his father (2 Kings 6:32), or his mother (1 Samuel 20:30), or both parents (Job 30:8), so here the generation of the captivity, so far as it continued to practise the idolatry by which its ancestors had brought upon themselves the Chaldean catastrophe, is called first עננה בּני (or more correctly עננה ), sons of the sorceress (possibly the maker of clouds or storm, Isaiah 2:6, Jer. auguratricis ), one who made heathen and superstitious customs her means of livelihood, viz., the community as it existed before the captivity, which really deserved no better name, on account of the crying contradiction between its calling and its conduct; and secondly, with regard to both the male and female members of the community, ותּזנה מנאף זרע, semen adulteri et fornicariae (Jer.), though Stier, Hahn, and others adopt the rendering semen adulterum et quod ( qui ) scortaris . A better rendering than this would be, “Seed of an adulterer, and one who committest adultery thyself,” viz., (what would be indicated with this explanation by the fut. consec. ) in consequence of this descent from an adulterer. But as זרע (seed, posterity), wherever it is more minutely defined, is connected with a genitive, and not with an adjective, the presumption is that ותזנה מנאף denotes the father and mother. ותּזנה is an attributive clause regarded as a genitive (Ges. §123, 3, Anm. 1), and more closely connected with מנאף htiw than if it was written ותזנה = וזונה, Isaiah 1:21): Seed of an adulterer, and consequently (Ewald, §351, b ), or similarly, of one who gave herself up to whoredom. Idolatry, prostitution, and magic are most closely allied. The prophet now asks, “Over whom do ye find your pleasure? For whom are your common contemptuous actions intended?” התענּג is only used here, and denotes the feeling which finds pleasure in the sufferings of another. The objects of this malicious contemptuous pleasure (Psalms 22:8., Psalms 35:21) are the servants of Jehovah; and the question, as in Isaiah 37:23, is one of amazement at their impudence, since the men over whom they make merry are really deserving of esteem, whereas they themselves are the refuse of Israel: Are ye not a brook of apostasy, seed of lying? As apostasy and lying, when regarded as parents, can only produce something resembling themselves; the character of those from whom they are descended is here imputed to the men themselves, even more clearly than before. The genitives of origin are also genitives of attribute. Instead of ילדי (e.g., Isaiah 2:6) we have here ילדי before m akkeph , with the shortening of a into i .
The participles which follow in the next v. are in apposition to אתּ, and confirm the predicates already applied to them. They soon give place, however, to independent sentences. “Ye that inflame yourselves by the terebinths, under every green tree, ye slayers of children in the valleys under the clefts of the rocks. By the smooth ones of the brook was thy portion; they, they were thy lot: thou also pouredst out libations to them, thou laidst meat-offerings upon them. Shall I be contented with this?” The people of the captivity are addressed, and the idolatry handed down to them from their ancestors depicted. The prophet looks back from the standpoint of the captivity, and takes his colours from the time in which he himself lived, possibly from the commencement of Manasseh's reign, when the heathenism that had for a long time been suppressed burst forth again in all its force, and the measure of iniquity became full. The part. niphal הנּחמים is formed like נחן in Jeremiah 22:23, if the latter signifies miserandum esse . The primary form is נחם, which is doubled like נגּר from גּרר in Job 20:28, and from which נחם is formed by the resolution of the latent reduplication. Stier derives it from; but even if formed from this, נחם would still have to be explained from נחם, after the form נצּת . 'Elı̄m signifies either gods or terebinths. But although it might certainly mean idols, according to Exodus 15:11; Daniel 11:36 (lxx, Targ., and Jerome), it is never used directly in this sense, and Isaiah always uses the word as the name of a tree (Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 61:3). The terebinths are introduced here, exactly as in Isaiah 1:29, as an object of idolatrous lust: “who inflame themselves with the terebinths;” ב denotes the object with which the lust is excited and inf Lamed . The terebinth ( 'ēlâh ) held the chief place in tree-worship (hence אלנם, lit., oak-trees, together with אלם, is the name of one of the Phoenician gods),
(Note: See Levy, Phönizische Studien, i. 19.)
possibly as being the tree sacred to Astarte; just as the Samura Acacia among the heathen Arabs was the tree sacred to the goddess ' Uzza .
(Note: Krehl, Religioin der vorisl . Araber, p. 74ff.)
The following expression, “under every green tree,” is simply a permutative of the words “with the terebinths” in the sense of “with the terebinths, yea, under every green tree” (a standing expression from Deuteronomy 12:2 downwards) - one tree being regarded as the abode and favourite of this deity, and another of that, and all alluring you to your carnal worship.
From the tree-worship with its orgies, which was so widely spread in antiquity generally, the prophet passes to the leading Canaanitish abomination, viz., human sacrifices, which had been adopted by the Israelites (along with שׁחטי we find the false reading שׂחטי, which is interpreted as signifying self-abuse). Judging from the locality named, “under the clefts of the rocks,” the reference is not to the slaying of children sacrificed to Moloch in the valley of Hinnom, but to those offered to Baal upon his bâmōth or high places (Jeremiah 19:5; Ezekiel 16:20-21; Hosea 13:2; Psalms 106:37-38). As we learn from the chronique scandaleuse many things connected with the religious history of Israel, which cannot be found in its historical books, there is nothing to surprise us in the stone-worship condemned in Isaiah 57:6. The dagesh of חלּקי is in any case dagesh dirimens . The singular is wither חלק after the form חכמי (cf., עצבי, Isaiah 58:3), or חלק after the form ילדי . But חלק, smoothness, never occurs; and the explanation, “in the smoothnesses, i.e., the smooth places of the valley, is thy portion,” has this also against it, that it does not do justice to the connection בּ חלק, in which the preposition is not used in a local sense, and that it leaves the emphatic הם הם quite unexplained. The latter does not point to places, but to objects of worship for which they had exchanged Jehovah, of whom the true Israelite could say ה חלקי, Psalms 119:57, etc., or בה לי חלק, Joshua 22:25, and גּורלי תּומי ך אתּה (Thou art He that maintaineth my lot), Psalms 16:5. The prophet had such expressions as these in his mind, and possibly also the primary meaning of גורל = κλῆρος, which may be gathered from the rare Arabic word 'garal , gravel, stones worn smooth by rolling, when he said, “In the smooth ones of the valley is thy portion; they, they are thy lot.” In the Arabic also, achlaq (equilvaent to c hâlâq , smooth, which forms here a play upon the word with חלק, c hâlâq ) is a favourite word for stones and rocks. חלּקי־נחל, however, according to 1 Samuel 17:40 (where the intensive form חלּוּק, like שׁכּוּל, is used), are stones which the stream in the valley has washed smooth with time, and rounded into a pleasing shape. The mode of the worship, the pouring out of libations,
(Note: Compare the remarks made in the Comm. on the Pentateuch, at Genesis 29:20, on the heathen worship of anointed stones, and the Baetulian worship.)
and the laying of meat-offerings upon them, confirm this view. In Carthage such stones were called abbadires (= אדיר, אבן ); and among the ancient Arabs, the asnâm or idols consisted for the most part of rude blocks of stone of this description. Herodotus (3:8) speaks of seven stones which the Arabs anointed, calling upon the god Orotal. Suidas ( s.v. Θεῦς ἄρης ) states that the idol of Ares in Petra was a black square stone; and the black stone of the Ka'aba was, according to a very inconvenient tradition for the Mohammedans, an idol of Saturn ( zuhal ).
(Note: See Krehl, p. 72. In the East Indies also we find stone-worship not only among the Vindya tribes (Lassen, A.K. i. 376), but also among the Vaishnavas, who worship Vishnu in the form of a stone, viz., the sâlagrâm , a kind of stone from the river Gandak (see Wilson's Sanscrit Lexicon s.h.v . and Vishnu - Purân, p. 163). The fact of the great antiquity of stone and tree worship has been used in the most ridiculous manner by Dozy in his work on the Israelites at Mecca (1864). He draws the following conclusion from Deuteronomy 32:18 : “Thus the Israelites sprang from a divine block of stone; and this is, in reality, the true old version of the origin of the nation.” From Isaiah 51:1-2, he infers that Abraham and Sara were not historical persons at all, but that the former was a block of stone, and the latter a hollow; and that the two together were a block of stone in a hollow, to which divine worship was paid. “This fact,” he says, “viz. that Abraham and Sarah in the second Isaiah are not historical persons, but a block of stone and a hollow, is one of great worth, as enabling us to determine the time at which the stories of Abraham in Genesis were written, and to form a correct idea of the spirit of those stories.”)
Stone-worship of this kind had been practised by the Israelites before the captivity, and their heathenish practices had been transmitted to the exiles in Babylon. The meaning of the question, Shall I comfort myself concerning such things? - i.e., Shall I be contented with them ( אנּחם niphal, not hithpael )? - is, that it was impossible that descendants who so resembled their fathers should remain unpunished.
The prophet now proceeds with perfects, like שׁפכתּ and העלית (addressed to the national community generally, the congregation regarded as a woman). The description is mostly retrospective. “Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set up thy bed; thou also ascendedst thither to offer slain offerings. And behind the door and the post thou didst place thy reminder: for thou uncoveredst away from me, and ascendedst; thou madest thy bed broad, and didst stipulate for thyself what they had to do: thou lovedst their lying with thee; thou sawest their manhood.” The lovers that she sought for herself are the gods of the heathen. Upon lofty mountains, where they are generally worshipped, did she set up her bed, and did all that was needed to win their favour. The zikkârōn , i.e., the declaration that Jehovah is the only God, which the Israelites were to write upon the posts of their houses, and upon the entrances (Deuteronomy 6:9; Deuteronomy 11:20), for a constant reminder, she had put behind the door and post, that she might not be reminded, to her shame, of her unfaithfulness. That this explanation, which most of the commentators adopt, is the true one, is proved by the expression מאתּי כּי which follows, and according to which זכרון is something inconvenient, which might and was intended to remind them of Jehovah. מאתּי, away, far from me, as in Jeremiah 3:1, and like מתּחתּי, which is still more frequently used. It is unnecessary to take gillı̄th with ערות ך understood (Ezekiel 23:18) as equivalent to “thou makest thyself naked,” or with reference to the clothes = ἀνασύρεις . משׁכּב is the common object of all three verbs, even of ותּעלי (with double m etheg ), after Genesis 49:4. On ותּכרת for ותּכרתי (cf., Jeremiah 3:5), see Ewald, §191, b . The explanation “thou didst bind,” or “thou didst choose (some) of them to thyself,” is contrary to the general usage, according to which ל כּרת signifies spondere (2 Chronicles 7:18), and ( עם כּרת pacisci (1 Samuel 22:8), in both cases with בּרית to be supplied, so that מן ( בּרית ) כּרת would mean stipulari ab aliquo , i.e., to obtain from a person a solemn promise, with all the force of a covenant. What she stipulated from them was, either the wages of adultery, or the satisfaction of her wanton lust. What follows agrees with this; for it is there distinctly stated, that the lovers to whom she offered herself gratified her lust abundantly: adamasti concutibum eorum ( m ishkâb , cubile, e.g., Proverbs 7:17, and concubitus , e.g., Ezra 23:17), manum conspexisit . The Targum and Jewish commentators adopt this explanation, loco quem delegisti , or ( postquam ) locum delegisti . This also is apparently the meaning of the accents, and most of the more modern commentators have adopted it, taking יד in the sense of place or side. But this yields only a very lame and unmeaning thought. Doederlein conjectured that יד was employed here in the sense of ἰθύφαλλος ; and this is the explanation adopted by Hitzig, Ewald, and others. The Arabic furnishes several analogies to this obscene use of the word; and by the side of Ezekiel 16:26 and Ezekiel 23:20, where the same thing is affirmed in even plainer language, there is nothing to astonish in the passage before us. The meaning is, that after the church of Jehovah had turned away from its God to the world and its pleasures, it took more and more delight in the pleasures afforded it by idolatry, and indulged its tastes to the full.
In the closest reciprocal connection with this God-forgetting, adulterous craving for the favour of heathen gods, stood their coquetting with the heathen power of the world. “And thou wentest to the king with oil, and didst measure copiously thy spices, and didst send thy messengers to a great distance, and didst deeply abase thyself, even to Hades. Thou didst become weary of the greatness of thy way; yet thou saidst not, It is unattainable: thou obtainedst the revival of thy strength: therefore thou wast not pained.” The first thing to be noticed here, is one that has been overlooked by nearly all the modern commentators, viz., that we have here a historical retrospect before us. And secondly, a single glance at Isaiah 57:11 is sufficient to show that the words refer to a servile coquetry from the fear of man, and therefore to a wicked craving for the favour of man; so that “the king,” is not Baal, or any heathen god whatever (according to Isaiah 8:21 and Zephaniah 1:5), but the Asiatic ruler of the world. Ahaz sent messengers, as we read in 2 Kings 16:7., to Tiglath-pileser, the king of Assyria, to say to Him, “I am thy servant and thy son.” And Ahaz took the silver and gold that were in the house of Jehovah, and in the treasures of the palace, and sent a bribe to the king of Assyria. And again, at 2 Kings 16:10., Ahaz went to Damascus to meet the king of Assyria, and there he saw an altar, and sent a model of it to Jerusalem, and had one like it put in the place of the altar of burnt-offering. Such acts as these are here described in the figure of Israel travelling with oil to the king, and taking a quantity of choice spices with it to gain his favour, and also sending messengers, and not only bowing itself to the earth, but even stooping to Hades, that is to say, standing as it were on its head in its excessive servility, for the purpose of obtaining allies. It seems most natural to take בּשׁמן as equivalent to בשמן משׁוּחה : thou wentest in oil (dripping with pomade), and didst apply to thyself many spices; but Beth after verbs of going signifies to go with anything, to take it with one and bring it, so that the oil and spices are thought of here as presents, which she took with her as sensual stimulants, with a view to the amorous pleasures she was seeking (Ezekiel 23:41, cf., Hosea 12:2). השׁפּיל signifies to go deep down in Jeremiah 13:18; the meaning here is, to bow very low, or to degrade one's self. By “the greatness or breadth of the way” (a similar expression to that in Joshua 9:13), all the great sacrifices are intended which it cost her to purchase the favour of the heathen ruler. Although they were a great trouble to her, yet she did not say נואש, “it is hopeless;” the niphal of יאשׁ signifies in 1 Samuel 27:1, to betake one's self to a thing with despair of its success. The participle in Job 6:26 means a despairing person; it also occurs in a neuter sense in Jeremiah 2:26; Jeremiah 18:12, viz., given up, i.e., absolutely in vain. She did not give up hope, although the offerings nearly exhausted her strength; on the contrary, she gained יד חיּת, “life of her arm,” i.e., (according to the use of חיה in the sense of reviving, and החיה, to bring to life again) new life in her arm, in other words, “the renewing of her strength” ( recentem vigorem virium suarum ). Thus, without noticing the sighs and groans forced from her by the excessive toil and fatigue, but stirring herself up again and again, she pursued the plan of strengthening her alliances with the heathen. Ezekiel's picture of Aholah and Aholibah is like a commentary on Isaiah 57:3-10 (see Ezek 23).
From fear of man, Israel, and still more Judah, had given up the fear of Jehovah. “And of whom hast thou been afraid, and ( whom ) didst thou fear, that thou becamest a liar, and didst not continue mindful of me, and didst not take it to heart?” It was of men - only mortal men, with no real power (Isaiah 51:12) - that Israel was so needlessly afraid, that it resorted to lies and treachery to Jehovah ( kı̄ , ut , an interrogative sentence, as in 2 Samuel 7:18; Psalms 8:5): purchasing the favour of man out of the fear of man, and throwing itself into the arms of false tutelar deities, it banished Jehovah its true shelter out of its memory, and did not take it to heart, viz., the sinfulness of such infidelity, and the eventful consequences by which it was punished (compare Isaiah 47:7 and Isaiah 42:25).
With Isaiah 57:11 the reproaches are addressed to the present. The treachery of Israel had been severely punished in the catastrophe of which the captivity was the result, but without effecting any improvement. The great mass of the people were as forgetful of God as ever, and would not be led to repentance by the long-suffering of God, which had hitherto spared them from other well-merited punishments. “Am I not silent, and that for a long time, whereas thou wast not afraid of me?” A comparison with Isaiah 42:14 will show that the prophecy returns here to its ordinary style. The lxx and Jerome render the passage as if the reading were מעלם (viz., עיני = παρορῶν, quasi non videns ), and this is the reading which Lowth adopts. We may see from this, that the original text had a defective ומעלם, which was intended, however, to be read וּמעלם . The prophet applies the term ‛ōlâm (see Isaiah 42:14) to the captivity, which had already lasted a long time - a time of divine silence: the silence of His help so fas as the servants of Jehovah were concerned, but the silence of His wrath as to the great mass of the people.
But this silence would not last for ever. “I will proclaim thy righteousness; and thy works, they will not profit thee. When thou criest, let thy heaps of idols save thee: but a wind carries them all away; a breath takes them off; and whoever putteth trust in me will inherit the land, and take possession of my holy mountain.” According to the context, צדקת ך cannot be a synonym of ישׁוּעה f here. It is neither salvation nor the way of salvation that is intended; nor is this even included, as Stier supposes. But the simple reference is to what Israel in its blindness regarded as righteousness; whereas, if it had known itself, it would have seen that it was the most glaring opposite. This lying-righteousness of Israel would be brought to a judicial exposure by Jehovah. ואת־מעשׂי ך is not a second accusative to אגּיד, for in that case we should have ומעשׂיך את־צדקתך ; but it commences a second sentence, as the accents really indicate. When Jehovah begins thus to speak and act, the impotence of the false gods which His people have made for themselves will soon be exposed; and “as for thy works (i.e., thine idols, Isaiah 41:29, cf., Isaiah 1:31), they will do thee no good” (Isaiah 44:9-10, compare Jeremiah 23:33; for the question מה־משׂא ), here an empatic elevation of the subject, compare Isaiah 53:8, ואת־דורו, Ewald, § 277, p. 683). This determines the meaning of קבּוּצי ך, which Knobel supposes to refer to the large army of the Babylonians, with which the apostates among the exiles had formed an offensive and defensive alliance. But the term is really applied to the heaps ( qibbūts , collectio , not an adjective of the form limmūd ) of different idols, with which Israel had furnished itself even in its captivity (compare qibbâtsâh in Micah 1:7). It was in vain for them to turn to these pantheons of theirs; a single rūăch would carry them all away, a hebhel would sweep them off, for they themselves were nothing but hebhel and rūăch (Isaiah 41:29). The proper punctuation here is יקּח־הבל ; the first syllable of יקח, which is attached to a word with a disjunctive accent, has a so-called heavy Gaya, the second a euphonic Gaya, according to rules which are too little discussed in our grammars. When Knobel supports his explanation of קבוצי ך on the ground that the idols in Isaiah 57:13 and the worshippers of Jehovah in Isaiah 57:13 do not form a fitting antithesis, the simple reply is, that the contrast lies between the idols, which cannot save, and Jehovah, who not only saves those who trust in Him, but sends them prosperity according to His promises. With the promise, “Whoso trusts in me will inherit the land,” this prophecy reaches the thought with which the previous prophecy (Isaiah 51:7-8) closed; and possibly what is here affirmed of קבּוּצי ך forms an intentional antithesis to the promise there, לנקבּציו עליו אקבּ ץ עוד : when Jehovah gathers His faithful ones from the dispersion, and gathers others to them (from among the heathen), then will the plunder which the faithless have gathered together be all scattered to the winds. And whilst the latter stand forsaken by their powerless works, the former will be established in the peaceful inheritance of the promised land. The first half of the prophecy closes here. It is full of reproach, and closes with a brief word of promise, which is merely the obverse of the threat. The second half follows an opposite course. Jehovah will redeem His people, provided it has been truly humbled by the sufferings appointed, for He has seen into what errors it has fallen since He has withdrawn His mercy from it. “But the wicked,” etc. The whole closes here with words of threatening, which are the obverse of the promise. Isaiah 57:13 forms the transition from the first half to the second.
The promise is now followed by a appeal to make ready the way which the redeemed people have to take. “And He saith, Heap up, heap up, prepare a way, take away every obstruction from the way of my people.” This is the very same appeal which occurs once in all three books of these prophecies (Isaiah 40:3-4; Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10). The subject of the verb ( ' âmar ) is not Jehovah; but the prophet intentionally leaves it obscure, as in Isaiah 40:3, Isaiah 40:6 (cf., Isaiah 26:2). It is a heavenly cry; and the crier is not to be more precisely named.
The primary ground for this voice being heard at all is, that the Holy One is also the Merciful One, and not only has a manifestation of glory on high, but also a manifestation of grace below. “For thus saith the high and lofty One, the eternally dwelling One, He whose name is Holy One; I dwell on high and in the holy place, and with the contrite one and him that is of a humbled spirit, to revive the spirit of humbled ones, and to revive the heart of contrite ones.” He inflicts punishment in His wrath; but to those who suffer themselves to be urged thereby to repentance and the desire for salvation, He is most inwardly and most effectually near with His grace. For the heaven of heavens is not too great for Him, and a human heart is not too small for Him to dwell in. And He who dwells upon cherubim, and among the praises of seraphim, does not scorn to dwell among the sighs of a poor human soul. He is called râm (high), as being high and exalted in Himself; נשּׂא (the lofty One), as towering above all besides; and עד שׁכן . This does not mean the dweller in eternity, which is a thought quite outside the biblical range of ideas; but, since עד stands to שׁכן not in an objective, but in an attributive or adverbial relation (Psalms 45:7, cf., Proverbs 1:33), and שׁכן, as opposed to being violently wrested from the ordinary sphere of life and work (cf., Psalms 16:9; 102:29), denotes a continuing life, a life having its root in itself, עד שׁכן must mean the eternally (= לעד ) dwelling One, i.e., He whose life lasts for ever and is always the same. He is also called qâdōsh , as One who is absolutely pure and good, separated from all the uncleanness and imperfection by which creatures are characterized. This is not to be rendered sanctum nomen ejus , but sanctus ; this name is the facit of His revelation of Himself in the history of salvation, which is accomplished in love and wrath, grace and judgment. This God inhabits m ârōm v e qâdōsh , the height and the Holy Place (accusatives of the object, like m ârōm in Isaiah 33:5, and m e rōmı̄m in Isaiah 33:16), both together being equivalent to φῶς ἀπρόσιτον (1 Timothy 6:16), since qâdōsh (neuter, as in Psalms 46:5; Psalms 65:5) answers to φῶς, and m ârōm to ἀπρόσιτον . But He also dwells with ( את as in Leviticus 16:16) the crushed and lowly of spirit. To these He is most intimately near, and that for a salutary and gracious purpose, namely “to revive ... .” ההיה e and היּה always signify either to keep that which is living alive, or to restore to life that which is dead. The spirit is the seat of pride and humility, the heart the seat of all feeling of joy and sorrow; we have therefore spiritum humilium and cor contritorum . The selfish egotism which repentance breaks has its root in the heart; and the self-consciousness, from whose false elevation repentance brings down, has its seat in the spirit ( Psychol. p. 199).
The compassion, by virtue of which God has His abode and His work of grace in the spirit and heart of the penitent, is founded in that free anticipating love which called man and his self-conscious spirit-soul into being at the first. “For I do not contend for ever, and I am not angry for ever: for the spirit would pine away before me, and the souls of men which I have created.” The early translators (lxx, Syr., Jer., possibly also the Targum) give to יעטף the meaning egredietur , which certainly cannot be established. And so also does Stier, so far as the thought is concerned, when he adopts the rendering, “A spirit from me will cover over, and breath of life will I make;” and so Hahn, “When the spirit pines away before me, I create breath in abundance.” But in both cases the writer would at any rate have used the perf. consec. ועשׂיתי, and the last clause of the v. has not the syntactic form of an apodosis. The rendering given above is the only one that is unassailable both grammatically and in fact. כּי introduces the reason for the self-limitation of the divine wrath, just as in Psalms 78:38-39 (cf., Psalms 103:14): if God should put no restraint upon His wrath, the consequence would be the entire destruction of human life, which was His creative work at first. The verb עטף, from its primary meaning to bend round ( Comm. on Job, at Job 23:9), has sometimes the transitive meaning to cover, and sometimes the meaning to wrap one's self round, i.e., to become faint or weak (compare עטוּף, fainted away, Lamentations 2:19; and התעטּף in Psalms 142:4, which is applied to the spirit, like the kal here). מלּפני is equivalent to “in consequence of the wrath proceeding from me.” נשׁמות (a plural only met with here) signifies, according to the fixed usage of the Old Testament (Isaiah 2:22; Isaiah 42:5), the souls of men, the origin of which is described as a creation in the attributive clause (with an emphatic אני ), just as in Jeremiah 38:16 (cf., Zechariah 12:1). Whether the accents are intended to take עשׂיתי אני in this attributive sense or not, cannot be decided from the tiphchah attached to ונשׁמות . The prophet, who refers to the flood in other passages also (e.g., Isaiah 54:9), had probably in his mind the promise given after the flood, according to which God would not make the existing and inherited moral depravity an occasion for utterly destroying the human race.
This general law of His action is most especially the law of His conduct towards Israel, in which such grievous effects of its well-deserved punishment are apparent, and effects so different from those intended, that the compassion of God feels impelled to put an end to the punishment for the good of all that are susceptible of salvation. “And because of the iniquity of its selfishness, I was wroth, and smote it; hiding myself, and being angry: then it went on, turning away in the way of its own heart. I have seen its ways, and will heal it; and will lead it, and afford consolations to it, and to its mourning ones.” The fundamental and chief sin of Israel is here called בּצע, lit., a cut of slice (= gain, Isaiah 56:11); then, like πλεονεξία, which is “idolatry” according to Colossians 3:5, or like φιλαργυρία, which is “the root of all evil” according to 1 Timothy 6:10, greedy desire for worldly possession, self-seeking, or worldliness generally. The future ואכּהוּ, standing as it does by the side of the perfect here, indicates that which is also past; and ואקצף stands in the place of a second gerund: abscondendo (viz., pânai , my face, Isaiah 54:8) et stomachando . When Jehovah had thus wrathfully hidden His gracious countenance from Israel, and withdrawn His gracious presence out of the midst of Israel (Hosea 5:6, מהם חל ), it went away from Him ( שׁובב with שׁובב, like עולל with עולל ), going its own ways like the world of nations that had been left to themselves. But Jehovah had not seen these wanderings without pity. The futures which follow are promising, not by virtue of any syntactic necessity, but by virtue of an inward necessity. He will heal His wounded (Isaiah 1:4-6) and languishing people, and lead in the right way those that are going astray, and afford them consolation as a recompense for their long sufferings ( נחוּמים is derived from the piel נחם, and not, as in Hosea 11:8, from the hiphal hinnâchēm , in the sense of “feelings of sympathy”), especially ( Vav epexeget .; Ges. §155, 1) its mourning ones (Isaiah 61:2-3; Isaiah 66:10), i.e., those who punishment has brought to repentance, and rendered desirous of salvation.
But when the redemption comes, it will divide Israel into two halves, with very different prospects. “Creating fruit of the lips; Jehovah saith, 'Peace, peace to those that are far off, and to those that are near; and I heal it.' But the wicked are like the sea that is cast up for it cannot rest, and its waters cast out slime and mud. There is no peace, saith my God, for the wicked.” The words of God in Isaiah 57:19 are introduced with an interpolated “inquit Jehova” (cf., Isaiah 45:24, and the ellipsis in Isaiah 41:27); and what Jehovah effects by speaking thus is placed first in a determining participial clause: “Creating fruit ( נוב = נוּב, נוב, keri ניב ) of the lips,” καρπὸν χείλεων (lxx, Hebrews 13:15), i.e., not of His own lips, to which בּורא would be inapplicable, but the offering of praise and thanksgiving springing from human lips (for the figure, see Psychol. p. 214, trans.; and on the root נב, to press upon forward): “Jehovah saith shâlōm , shâlōm ,” i.e., lasting and perfect peace (as in Isaiah 26:3), “be the portion of those of my people who are scattered far and near” (Isaiah 43:5-7; Isaiah 49:12; compare the application to heathen and Jews in Ephesians 2:17); “and I heal it ” (viz., the nation, which, although scattered, is like one person in the sight of God). But the wicked, who persist in the alienation from God inherited from the fathers, are incapable of the peace which God brings to His people: they are like the sea in its tossed and stormy state ( נגרשׁ pausal third pers. as an attributive clause). As this cannot rest, and as its waters cast out slime and mud, so has their natural state become one of perpetual disturbance, leading to the uninterrupted production of unclean and ungodly thoughts, words, and works. Thus, then, there is no peace for them, saith my God. With these words, which have even a more pathetic sound here than in Isaiah 48:22, the prophet seals the second book of his prophecies. The “wicked” referred to are not the heathen outside Israel, but the heathen, i.e., those estranged from God, within Israel itself.
The transition form the first to the second half of this closing prophecy is formed by ואמר in Isaiah 57:14. In the second half, from Isaiah 57:11, we find the accustomed style of our prophet; but in Isaiah 56:9-57:11 a the style is so thoroughly different, that Ewald maintains that the prophet has here inserted in his book a fragment from some earlier writer of the time of Manasseh. But we regard this as very improbable. It is not required by what is stated concerning the prophets and shepherds, for the book of Ezekiel clearly shows that the prophets and shepherds of the captivity were thus debased. Still less does what is stated concerning the early death of the righteous require it; for the fundamental idea of the suffering servant of Jehovah, which is peculiar to the second book, is shadowed forth therein. Nor by what is affirmed as to the idolatrous conduct of the people; for in the very centre (Isaiah 57:4) the great mass of the people are reproached for their contemptuous treatment of the servants of Jehovah. Nor does the language itself force us to any such conjecture, for Isaiah 53:1-12 also differs from the style met with elsewhere; and yet (although Ewald regards it as an earlier, borrowed fragment) it must be written by the author of the whole, since its grandest idea finds its fullest expression there. At the same time, we may assume that the prophet described the idolatry of the people under the influences of earlier models. If he had been a prophet of the captives after the time of Isaiah, he would have rested his prophecies on Jeremiah and Ezekiel. For just as Isaiah 51:18. has the ring of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, so does Isaiah 57:3. resemble in many respects the earlier reproaches of Jeremiah (compare Jeremiah 5:7-9, Jeremiah 5:29; Jeremiah 9:8, with the expression, “Should I rest satisfied with this?”); also Jeremiah 2:25 ( נואשׁ ), Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:6, Jeremiah 3:13 (“upon lofty mountains and under green trees”); also the night scene in Ezek 23.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Isaiah 57". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany