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I. THE THREEFOLD INTRODUCTION
The extent and the grand contents of Isaiah’s prophecies justify the artistic, complex form of the introduction. It is not merely one gate; there are three gates that we must pass through in order to reach the majestic principal edifice of Isaiah’s prophecy. That the entire first six chapters constitute the introduction of the whole book, yet so that this introduction itself again appears as threefold, (chap. 1, chaps. 1–4, chap. 6) becomes plain both from the contents and from the form of these chapters. That chap. 1 is introduction requires no proof. Both the contents, which comprehend in grand outlines the entire past, present and future, and also the title, with its formal reference, guarantee that. Chaps. 2–5, however, whose connection we shall show hereafter, have essentially the same contents and the same title. The same contents; for these chapters comprehend in general the present and future. Caspari has completely demonstrated how in chaps. 1, 2–4, 5 threatening and promise have still quite a general character in distinction from the later prophecies. Compare in regard to chap. 1, Beitr., p. 227 sqq., in regard to chaps. 2–4, p. 283 sqq., in regard to chap. 5, p. 325 sq., 334.—Drechsler, too, says (I. p. 225): “A certain character of generality attaches to all these chapters (1–5). Comp. Delitzsch, p. 114 sq.—Hengstenberg, Christol. I. p. 484.—Hendewerk, I. p. 64.
As regards the form: it is of the greatest significance that chap. 2 bears essentially the same title at its head as chap 1 And this title does not recur again. This repetition of the title of chap.1 at the head of chap. 2, has occasioned commentators great trouble. But they were hampered by the strange assumption that only chap. 1 could be introduction. As soon as we give up this assumption, we at once recognize the meaning of the title of chap. 2. Thereby it is outwardly and right away shown to the reader, that all which this title concerns bears the same character as chap. 1, i. e., that it is also Introduction.
Jeremiah also has a double introduction; a fact that escaped my notice when preparing my commentary on that prophet. For Jeremiah 2:0 is also introduction, because that chapter, like an overture, represents in advance all the principal thoughts of Jeremiah’s prophecy (even the warning against the expedition into Egypt, Isaiah 1:16, Isaiah 1:18, 36, 37).
That chap. 6 also bears the character of an introduction cannot be doubted, and is acknowledged by all expositors. It contains indeed the call of Isaiah to the prophetic office. But why does not this history stand at the beginning, like the story of the call of Jeremiah and Ezekiel? This question, too, has given the commentators great trouble. Many have resorted to the following explanation (comp. Caspari, p. 332): they say chap. 6 contains the account of a second calling, after Isaiah has been once already called, but had forfeited the office on account of his silence about the notorious arbitrary deed of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:16 sqq.). Others assume that chap. 6 contains only the call to a special mission, and to a higher degree of prophecy. But these are only expedients to which expositors were driven because they were controlled by the assumption that only the first chapter can be introduction. All these and other artful devices are unnecessary as soon as one knows that chap. 6 is introduction indeed, yet the third introduction.
But why does not this stand at the beginning? We will hereafter in the exposition show that Isaiah, unlike Moses, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, did not decline the divine commission, but rather, to the Lord’s question: “Whom shall I send,” Isaiah 6:8, at once boldly replied: “Here am I, send me.” That Isaiah, therefore, not only accepts the call, but offers himself, is something so extraordinary that one may easily imagine why he would not put this narrative at the head of his book. He had rather prepare the reader for it: he would give beforehand proofs of his prophetic qualification, in order thereby to explain and justify that bold speech. It does not stand outside by the gate, offering itself at once to every profane eye, but one must first pass through two other portals, by which the mind is prepared and translated into that sentiment which is necessary in order to understand and appreciate that exalted vision, and the part that Isaiah plays in it. Jeremiah and Ezekiel were not sensible of the necessity of preparing in this way for the representation of their calling, because they behaved in respect to the divine calling in quite a normal way, i. e., declining it. The one, Jeremiah, declined in express terms Jeremiah 1:6; the other, at least by silence, let himself be so understood, Ezekiel 2:8.
But why does Isaiah let two doctrinary introductions, if I may so call them, precede the historical one, whereas Jeremiah follows his historical introduction by only one doctrinary one, Jeremiah 2:0? I believe this has a double reason. First: threatening and promise form the chief contents of Isaiah’s prophecy, as of all prophecy. In every single prophetic address one or the other ever preponderates. Either threatening forms the warp and promise the woof, or the reverse. So Isaiah would even prelude with two addresses, of which the first has an undertone of threatening with which it begins and ends, while the element of promise is represented only by intermediate chords,—the second, however, has promise for undertone, for this is represented by the two fundamental prophetic lights (Isaiah 2:2-4, and Isaiah 4:2-6) in the second introduction. Second: It seems to me also that the three portals are demanded by the architectonic symmetry. On the assumption that these introductions have Isaiah himself for their author, which so far as I know has never been disputed, we have therein a strong presumption in favor of the composition of the whole book by Isaiah (therefore also the second part, 40–66). For a small building one entry is sufficient. A great, comprehensive, complex building, however, that pretends to artistic completeness, may very well require various graded approaches that the introduction to the chief building may stand in right proportion. Thus the book of Jeremiah has a twofold introduction, but the book of Isaiah, which is still grander, and more comprehensive, and altogether more artistic even down to minutiæ, has a threefold entrance.
A. THE FIRST INTRODUCTION
As regards the time of the composition of this section, it seems to me all depends on the question: was Isaiah prompted to utter this prophecy by a definite historical transaction that demands his prophetic guidance? No such transaction appears. Expositors on the contrary recognize the chapter to be of a general character. Comp. the complete proof in Drechsler I. p. 93 sq. If, therefore, the address was not composed for a definite historical event, according to which it must be understood; if it is rather meant to be only an introduction to the whole book, then the time of its origin is in itself a matter of indifference. But it is probable that Isaiah wrote the address at the time he began to put his book together, or when he had completed it. This does not exclude the possibility that some important events are reflected in the address. And such is really the case. The verses 7–9 and especially Isaiah 1:8, are so specific in their contents that one must say: the prophet describes here his personal experience, and in fact a present one (comp. the exposition).
Now, during Isaiah’s life time. Jerusalem was only twice hard pressed by enemies in its immediate neighborhood: once in the war with Syria and Ephraim (2 Kings 16:5); the other time by Sennacherib (2 Kings 17:19). If, then chap. 1 was written as a preface, it is by far the most probable that it was written in Hezekiah’s time, than in that of Ahaz. For Isaiah undertook the collection of his book certainly not in the midst of his ministry, but at the close of it. Moreover what is said in 2 Kings 18:13; 2 Kings 19:32, fits admirably the description of Isaiah 1:7-8. For in the first-named place it is said Sennacherib took all the fenced cities of Judah, which quite corresponds to עָרֵיכֶם שְׂרֻפּוֹת אֵשׁ Isaiah 1:7. In the second-named place, however, we read: “The king of Assyria shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it.” This corresponds to the specific situation in which, according to Isaiah 1:7, Jerusalem must have been. We say, therefore, chap. i. was written at the time of Sennacherib’s invasion. We know this from Isaiah 1:7-8, but do not assert that chap. 1 was written for that time, but regard the historical trait that points us to this time only as a proof of the charge that the prophet raises against the Israel of all times. The prophet adduces this proof from the present, because the conduct of the people during and after the invasion of Sennacherib could be regarded as a characteristic symptom of a stiffneckedness that was not to be subdued by any blows. Moreover the vain ceremonial service spoken of in Isaiah 1:10 sqq. would suit the times of Hezekiah. But I lay no stress on that, since there is nothing specific about it. If the prophet warns against such ceremonial service, and exhorts to sincere repentance; if, further, to the purified Israel he holds up the prospect of a glorious future, while, to those persevering in their apostacy from Jehovah, he displays a frightful one, it is not that he speaks of a specific occasion; but that, like the whole book, has regard to all times: even primitive time may be reflected in the language.
Concerning the difference between this first and the second introduction see above the general remarks on the threefold introduction. The analysis of the chapter is as follows:
1. The Title, Isaiah 1:1.
2. The mournful present, Isaiah 1:2-9.
3. The means to securing a better future, Isaiah 1:10-20.
4. Comprehensive review of the past, present and future, Isaiah 1:21-31.
1. THE TITLE
1The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, Kings of Judah.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Isaiah 1:1. &חזה אשׁר חזה is the proper word for prophetic seeing in the double sense named below; whence הֹזֶה is used synonymously with &רֹאֶה נָבִיא (1 Samuel 9:9; 2 Kings 17:13). Thence also the expressions הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר חָזָה Isaiah 2:1; דִּבְרֵי אֲשֶׁר חָזָה Amos 1:1; דְּבַר י׳ אֲשֶׁר הָזָה Micah 1:1; מַשָּׂא אֲשֶׁר הָזָה Isaiah 13:1; Habakkuk 1:1. These are the only places where חָזָה occurs as part of a superscription.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
We must consider this title in reference to three things, viz., in its relation to chap. 1 and to chap. 2, where a title essentially like this recurs, and to the entire collection. That the superscription belongs to the entire collection, is evident at once from the words, “in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” That the title is comprehensive enough to apply to the entire book is clear when we consider that חָזוֹן“the vision” has a collective meaning, (comp. Hosea 12:10; Ezekiel 7:26; Lamentations 2:9, etc.), and that Judah and Jerusalem represent the centre of the prophetic view, around which also the prophecies that relate Ephraim and the world potentates are grouped as radii servi. In this connection Caspari says very appropriately: “Jerusalem, Judah, Israel, are, from Isaiah 7:0 on, the centre of prophecy in such a way that they form three concentric circles, of which Jerusalem is the smallest. Jerusalem and Judah the wider, while Jerusalem, Judah and Israel is the widest. To these three the heathen world joins on as a fourth circle.” (Beitr. z. Einleit. in, d. B. Jes., p. 231 sq.). Therefore both חָזוֹן and “concerning Judah and Jerusalem” make a denominatio a potiori. The first, because prophetic sight, in the double sense of more or less bodily vision, (comp. chap. 6) and of pure spiritual knowing, gave origin to the nucleus of the book, so that about this nucleus doctrine, warning, comfort and history should find their place. The latter because, as has already been remarked, Judah and Jerusalem must be regarded as those to whom the prophet speaks first of all, and for whose sake he speaks of others.
But it has seemed strange, especially to Vitringa, that in Isaiah 2:1 a superscription of almost the same sound recurs; and he would infer from it that originally in this title the date (בִּימֵי וגו “in the days of”) was wanting, and the remaining words were only a title to the first chapter. Against this the following is to be remembered: 1) The two superscriptions are not quite alike. In this one we have הָזוֹן; in Isaiah 2:0:1חָזוֹן—.הַדָּבָר is plainly a word of weightier import. It is better fitted, therefore, for the beginning of the book, and in a certain measure for its title; wherefore we see (2 Chronicles 32:32), that the book even at that time was known under that title. 2) That a superscription almost alike occurs twice, has its reason in the fact that Isaiah 2:1 is the title of the second introduction. For the book of Isaiah has a threefold portal, as said above; and that the superscription “vision or word that Isaiah saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem” occurs only Isaiah 1:1, and Isaiah 2:2, and not again afterwards, is precisely proof, that with chap. 2 we enter the second portal which comprehends chapters 2–5
Finally, as regards the relation of this superscription to chap. 1, we may fittingly say that the entire Isaiah 1:1, date included, is the title of chap. 1 For chap. 1. is just the whole prophecy of Isaiah in nuce, as he delivered it under the four kings; an assertion whose correctness can only appear indeed as the result of exposition.
At the beginning of prophetic books as here we find הָזוֹןOba 1:1, Nahum 1:1.—Isaiah the son of Amoz. For the meaning of the name and the lineage of the prophet see the Introduction.—Concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Jerusalem, as the holy city and centre of the theocracy is made equal to the entire region of Judah, and distinguished from it, which also happens elsewhere; Jeremiah 9:2; Jeremiah 17:20, etc.;2 Kings 18:22, etc.;2 Chronicles 34:3; 2 Chronicles 34:5, etc.; and in a reversed order, Jeremiah 36:31; 2 Kings 24:20; Ezra 2:1. We have already remarked that the naming of Judah and Jerusalem presents no incongruity between the superscription and the whole book. It is worthy of special remark, that only in Isaiah 2:1 beside this does the expression form part of the title, and that it occurs in chap. 2–5 relatively with most frequency. For it is found beside Isaiah 2:1, also Isaiah 3:1; Isaiah 3:8; Isaiah 5:3. Beside this only in Isaiah 22:21; Isaiah 36:7; Isaiah 44:26. Comp. remarks at Isaiah 2:1.—In the days of, etc. That Isaiah lived and labored under these four kings cannot be doubted. Comp. the Introduction. The time designated is identical with that given Hosea 1:1, and with that in Micah 1:1, only that in the latter the name of Uzziah is wanting. Even the asyndeton and the form יְחִזְקִיָּהוּ instead of חִזְקִיָהוּ (about which comp. Drechslerin loc.) are to be found in both the places named.
2. THE MOURNFUL PRESENT
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth:
For the Lord 1hath spoken,
I have nourished and brought up children,
And they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knoweth his owner,
And the ass his master’s crib:
But Israel doth not know,
My people doth not consider.
4 Ah sinful nation, a people 2laden with iniquity,
A seed of evil-doers, children that are corrupters:
They have forsaken the Lord,
They have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger,
They are 3gone away backward.
5 Why should ye be stricken any more?
Ye will 4revolt more and more:
5The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it;
But wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores:
6They have not been closed, neither bound up,
Neither mollified with 7ointment.
7 Your country is desolate,
Your cities are burned with fire:
8 And the daughter of Zion is left as a 10cottage in a vineyard,
As 11a lodge in a garden of cucumbers,
As a besieged city.
9 Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant,
We should have been as Sodom,
And we should have been like unto Gomorrah.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Isaiah 1:2. The formula כִּי י׳ דִבֵּר, is found Joel 3:8; Obadiah 1:18; Micah 4:4; Jeremiah 13:15. Beside these, in Isaiah partly in the simple form as here (Isaiah 22:25; Isaiah 25:8), partly somewhat extended (Isaiah 21:17; Isaiah 24:3). The more extended form כּי פִי י׳ דִּבֵּר is found in Isaiah only, Isaiah 1:20, and Isaiah 40:5; Isaiah 58:14.——גִדֵֹּל, is often used by Isaiah especially, for bringing up children, Isaiah 23:4; Isaiah 49:21; Isaiah 51:18 : comp. Isaiah 44:14; Hosea 9:12.——It is to be seen from the exposition that we take רוֹמַמְתִּי in an emphatic sense. Although elsewhere (Isaiah 23:4; Ezekiel 31:4) it means the same as גִּדֵּל, yet our construction (which is found in Luther, Knobel, et al.) is justified here because רוֹמֵמ, does not stand in a parallel phrase to גִדֵּל, but follows with epexegetical emphasis. For if רוֹמַמְתִּי is taken as meaning just the same as גִּדַּלְתִּי, it would be empty repetition. Besides, Vitringa refers appropriately to Deuteronomy 32:6. [Ezekiel 31:4. The same words occur: Children I have made great and set on high.—M. W. J.]
Isaiah 1:3. קֹנֶה properly “the buyer,” (comp. Isaiah 24:2) then, “the owner, the possessor,” (Leviticus 25:50; Zechariah 11:5). אֵבוּם is found only in Job 39:9; Proverbs 14:4, beside this place. From these places it is not evident whether “stall” or “crib” is the correct meaning. As little decisive is the root meaning “fatten” (1 Kings 5:3, (Eng. Bib. 1 Kings 4:23), Proverbs 15:17). Still in the later Hebrew, which uses the word for the platter of the laborer (see Buxtorf Lex., p. 16. Gesenius and Delitzsch in loc.) the meaning “crib” seems to prevail. The earliest versions, moreover, all give this rendering. The context demands that the object of יָדַע and הִתְבּוֹנֵן be supplied from what precedes. For would one take the words absolutely (Rosenmueller, Fuerst) then the two members of the comparison do not harmonize. Just what ox and ass do notice, Israel does not notice. התבונן is used as verb. trans. by Isaiah, also Isaiah 43:18; Isaiah 52:15. As substantially parallel we may compare (Jeremiah 8:7)
Isaiah 1:4. הוֹי, (frequent in Isaiah, also in the 2d part; Isaiah 45:9-10; Isaiah 55:1; he uses it twenty-one times, whereas in the rest of the prophets it occurs twenty-eight times; for it is only found in the prophetic books, with the exception of 1 Kings 13:30) is distinguished from אוֹי in that the latter is more substantive, the former more adverb. Hence it is that אוֹי, with few exceptions (Numbers 24:23; Ezekiel 24:6; Ezekiel 24:9) has לִ after it, whereas הוֹי is followed by לְ only Ezekiel 13:18, and by עַל, Ezekiel 13:3; Jer. 1:27, and by אֶל, Jeremiah 48:1; everywhere else (e. g. 1 Kings 13:30; Isaiah 5:8; Isaiah 5:11, etc.) it is used without a connecting proposition. הוי therefore has more the character of a prepositive exclamation, though in regard to the meaning no essential difference is noticeable. It is taken for granted that an intentional paronomasia influenced the selection of the word גוי. On the other hand it is clear that a synonym of עַם was meant, as after this זֶרַע and בָּנִים correspond to one another.——כֶּבֶד עָוֹן is “guilt-encumbered.” Regarding the meaning, comp. Genesis 13:2; Exodus 4:10; Ezekiel 3:5-6; regarding the form (the construct-form, כֶּבֶד along with כְּבַד, like עֶרֶל along with עֲרַל, only here).——A בֵּן מַשְׁחִית is not one who destroys another, but one that acts ruinously (direct causative Hiphil, 2 Chronicles 27:2). The expression is partly stronger, partly more general than the kindred ones: בָּנִים סוֹרְרִים Isaiah 30:1; בָּנִים כֶּחָשִׁים לֹא אָבוּ שְׁמוֹעַ Isaiah 30:9. בָּנִים שׁוֹבָבִיּם Jeremiah 3:14; Jeremiah 3:22; Jeremiah 4:22. Comp. בָּנִים לֹא יְשַׁקֵּרוּ Isaiah 63:8. We see that this form of expression is especially current with Isaiah, for, excepting the phrase just quoted from Jeremiah, it is to be found in no other prophet.
Isaiah 1:5. סָרָה, Isaiah 1:5, declinatio, defectus only in Deuteronomy 13:6; Deuteronomy 19:16; Jeremiah 28:16; Jeremiah 29:32 and Isaiah 14:6; Isaiah 31:6; Isaiah 59:13.——It is true that כֹּל without the article sometimes has the meaning of “whole” (Isaiah 9:11; Ezekiel 29:7; Ezekiel 36:5; 2 Kings 23:3; see Delitzsch in loc.; Ewald § 290, c). But a comparison of these passages shows that the expressions in question are partly proverbial, (see Drechsler in loc.) partly do not admit of the meaning “all” in any wise. In the present case both meanings are in themselves possible. If, then, the prophet would convey the meaning “whole,” he must use the article. לָֽחֳלִי must, any way, be regarded as dependent on הָיָה understood. But it is doubtful whether that is to be taken in the sense of “belongs, is fallen to,” or as meaning “is become.” The latter is the more probable, because הָיָה לָֽחֳלִי bears analogy to expressions like &הָיָה לָמַם לָבוּז. It is a strong expression, stronger than &חָלָה חֳלִי is then to be taken as abstractum pro concrete. Apart from this concrete meaning of the word, we may compare the construction of הָיָה with לְ with passages like 1 Samuel 4:9 (וִהְיוּ לַֽאֲנָשִׁים) and 1 Samuel 18:17 (הֱיֵה־לי לְבֶן־חַיִל).—&וכל־לבב דוי לֵב דַּוָּי is found also Jeremiah 8:18, and Lamentations 1:22. דַּוָּי does not occur again in Isaiah.
Isaiah 1:6. The expression מכפ־רגל ועד־ראש is found only here. Every where else it reads וְעַד קָדְקֹד, (Deuteronomy 28:35; 2 Samuel 14:25; Job 2:7).—אין בו. We would expect בָּבֶם, as in Isaiah 1:5. But such changes in person and number occur frequently in Hebrew, comp. Isaiah 17:13; Psalms 5:10.—מְתֹם integrum, sanum, is found beside only Judges 20:48; Psalms 38:4; Psalms 38:8.—כֶּצַע (from פָּצַע fidit) is fissura, a wound that comes from tear or scratch; found in Isaiah only here. חַבּוּרָה (joined to פֶּצַע, also Proverbs 20:30) is “the extravasated stripe or swelling,” (see Delitzsch in loc.); only here in Isaiah. &מַכָּח טְרִיָּהּ טָרִי from טָרָה טָלָה recent fuit, found beside only in Judges 15:15) is the raw wound of a cut. זֹרוּ with accented penult cannot be derived from זָרָה dispersit: nor can it be the same as זֹרוּ in Psalms 58:4. It is either an intensive form analogous to &אֹרוּ בּשׁוּ, 1 Samuel 14:29; טֹבוּ, Numbers 24:5; Song of Solomon 4:10; or an archaic passive form from זוּר (comp. רֹמּוּ, Job 24:24). The latter seems to me likely for הַזּוּרֶהָ, Isaiah 59:5, “the squeezed, crushed” (egg), תְּזוּרֶהָ (the foot shall crush it, Job 39:15) וַיָּֽזַר (he squeezed out the fleece, Judges 6:38), as well as the substantive מָזוֹר compressio, compressum, vulnus, (Jeremiah 30:13; Hosea 5:13) prove that there is a root זוּר with the meaning “press together” (comp. צָרַר), to which then our זֹרוּ would serve as a passive, like רֹמּוּ to רוּם; comp. Gesenius Thesaur., p. 412.——חָבַשׁ in Isaiah beside this Isaiah 3:7; Isaiah 30:26; Isaiah 61:1.—The first two verbs are in the plural, which shows that the substantives are to be understood collectively: the third verb is fem. singular. No grammatical necessity appears for this. It seems as if the prophet wanted to vary the form of expression and the fem. sing, with its quality of taking a neuter construction offered the handle for it. Pual רֻכַּךְ only found here; Kal of it is found Isaiah 7:4.
Isaiah 1:7. שְׁמָמָה occurs in Isa also Isaiah 6:11; Isaiah 17:9; Isaiah 62:4; Isaiah 64:9. The expression שְׂרֻפוֹת אֵשׁ (Psalms 80:17) is only found here.——The following וּשְׁמָמָה does not belong as a second predicate to אדמתכם, for then הִיא ought not to be absent. But it is itself subject, to which הָֽיתְה must be supplied. The last, then, has the words כְּמַהְפֵּכַת זָרִים as attribute. These last-named words are explained quite variously. But as it is established that the first word is used only in reference to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the meaning of it cannot be doubtful. From the original passage, Deuteronomy 29:22 (23) we find the words cited in Amos 4:11, and in Isaiah 13:19 and Jer. 1:40 exactly alike. In Jeremiah 49:18 we find them as in Deut.
Isaiah 1:8. ונותרה בת־צ׳. The ו here is not conversive but simple conjunctive, as the whole context proves, which is only a representation of things present.——סֻכָּה from סָכַךְ, “to weave together,” the lair of the lion as well as the foliage of the feast of tabernacles, Leviticus 23:34 sqq., or the booth of the watchman, Job 27:18; found again Isaiah 4:6.——מלְוּנהָ synonym of מָלֹון locus pernoctandi, night lodging Isaiah 10:29, is used Isaiah 24:20, for the watchman’s sleeping rug, that swings to and for, having been hung up and spread out.——מִקְשָׁה, from קִשֻׁא cucumis, “field of cucumbers,” found also only Jeremiah 10:5.
Isaiah 1:9. The expression הוֹתִיר שָׂרִיד as to its meaning, is borrowed from the usus loquendi of the Pentateuch and Joshua. Only there it always reads, הִשְׁאִיר שָׂרִיד, Numbers 21:35; Deuteronomy 2:34; Deuteronomy 3:3; Joshua 8:22; Joshua 10:28 sq.—Jeremiah 44:7 reversed הוֹתִיר שְׁאֵרִית.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. The prophet first introduces Jehovah Himself speaking, (Isaiah 1:2-3). He calls heaven and earth to witness in order to enhance His lament over the people Israel. For His beneficence the Lord had only a harvest of disobedience, (Isaiah 1:2). The ox and ass are attached to their lord. Israel is not, (Isaiah 1:3). Therefore the prophet pronounces a war against the people that had forsaken the best and the greatest Lord, the Holy One of Israel, (Isaiah 1:4). Had the Lord been wanting in discipline? No. He had chastised the people so much, that for the future He hopes for nothing more from that. Israel is (inwardly, morally) incurably sick, vers. (5, 6). While outwardly (from the chastisement) it is reduced to a minimum, (Isaiah 1:7-8). Thus far, (directly and indirectly) the address of Jehovah. In the last verse, (9), the prophet himself confirms the fact, that still a little remnant exists on which to build the hope of a better future.
2. Hear heaven—do not consider it, Isaiah 1:2-3. When the Lord of the world speaks, the world must hear in silence. Comp. Deuteronomy 32:1; Psalms 50:1; Psalms 50:4; Micah 1:2; Micah 6:1-2. But here, as elsewhere, (Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 31:28; Psalms 1:4) the world is not invoked as simply an audience, but as a witness, before whom the Lord would make good His claim of right. For it concerns a matter of universal interest. The world must react with Jehovah against Israel’s infraction of law, that the מוֹסְדֵי אֶרֶץ, foundations of the earth, Psalms 82:5, may not totter. At the same time one must assent to the remark of Delitzsch: “heaven and earth were present and participants when Jehovah gave His people the law (comp. Deuteronomy 4:36, and the places cited above)—so then must they hear and witness what Jehovah, their Creator and Israel’s God, has to say and complain of,” [after seven centuries.—M. W. J.]
As Isaiah begins his book of prophecy with almost the words of Deuteronomy 32:1, he indicates that he had that prophetic song before his eyes, which, with Delitzsch, may be called, “the compendious outline and the common key to all prophecy.” He does not indeed quote verbatim, for the predicates הֶֽאְֶזִין and שָׁמַע are transposed (comp., too, Isaiah 28:23; Isaiah 32:9). But the thought is the same. The same is true in regard to the causal phrase, כִּי י׳ דִבֵּר. In Deut. it reads: הַאֲזִינוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם וַאֲדַבֵּרָה וְתִשְׁמַע הָאָרֶץ אִמְרֵי פִי. What Isaiah assigns as the reason, is in Deut. designated as object and effect. The difference is substantially a formal one. Jehovah is indeed Father of all men and all creatures. He is even called (Numbers 16:22; Numbers 27:16) “God of the spirits of all flesh;” and Psalms 145:15 sq.—comp. Psalms 104:27 sqq.—we read that the eyes of all wait on the Lord, and that He fills everything that lives with satisfaction (comp. Romans 3:29; Romans 9:24 sqq.; Isaiah 10:12 sqq.). But among the many children that He has, there is one race that He has not only brought up to maturity, but has elevated to high honor. The Lord did not suffer all peoples to attain the grown-up state; or rather, not all sons of the original Father, became the fathers of nations. But to Abraham precisely this was granted as the first promise: “I will make of thee a great nation,” Genesis 12:2; and, “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt, unto the great river, the river Euphrates,” Genesis 15:18. And this promise was fulfilled. Abraham’s seed became a great and numerous people. But this people also were the recipients of high honor. For it is the holy nation, Deuteronomy 7:6, to whom the Lord drew near and revealed Himself in an especial manner, Deuteronomy 4:6 sqq.; 32 sq.; Psalms 147:19 sq. It is therefore the peculiar people (עָם סְגֻלָּה, Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2) through whom the blessing of Jehovah shall come on all nations (Genesis 12:2 sq.; Isaiah 22:18; Jeremiah 4:2). And in consequence of all this, it is called “high above all nations,” Deuteronomy 26:19; Deuteronomy 28:1; comp. 2 Samuel 7:23. The time of David and Solomon, and Uzziah’s and Jotham’s time, the echo of the former, are to be regarded as forerunner and type of these promises. And they have rebelled against me.—According to well-known Hebrew usage, what in substance stands related as opposite is designated as equivalent in form. פָשַׁע is a current word in Isaiah 1:28; Isaiah 43:27; Isaiah 46:8; Isaiah 59:13, etc. Expositors inquire whether only idolatry is meant, or also every kind of transgression. But we can’t see why every thing should not be meant that could be called opposition to the Lord; or rather, why every transgression should not be regarded as idolatry. [They have broken away from me.—M. W. J.] The ox knoweth his owner.—An ox knoweth his owner, any ox. The words explain the rebelling, Isaiah 1:2, by a rhetorical contrast that sets this in clearer light. The unthinking brutes, even those of lowest degree, as the ox and ass, still know their masters that feed them, and the crib out of which they eat, and acquire a certain attachment for master and crib, so that they do not voluntarily forsake them.
3. Ah, sinful nation—besieged city.
Isaiah 1:4-8. Jehovah’s benefactions have not sufficed to awaken in Israel the feeling of grateful attachment. On the contrary this nation forsakes its God, rejects Him, and sinks back into the darkness of heathendom, out of which He had rescued them. The three verbs in Isaiah 1:4 b express the positive consequences of the negative “doth not know,” Isaiah 1:3; and Isaiah 1:3-4 together contain the more particular signification of “rebelled against me,” Isaiah 1:2. Thus a climax occurs in Isaiah 1:2-4. The outward construction of the language also corresponds to this. Isaiah 1:2-3 consist of four members, and Isaiah 1:4 of seven, of which the first begins with an impressive assurance. But in the first four members of Isaiah 1:4 the reason is given why Israel became untrue to its God. The reason is a subjective one. Israel itself is good for nothing—it is a bad tree with bad fruit. The meaning heathen nation need not be pressed, and so much the less, seeing the singular is often used for Israel without any secondary idea of reproach (Exodus 19:6; Joshua 3:17, etc.), and also parallel with עַם. We have translated it “Woe world” in order to re-echo the consonance of the original as nearly as possible. It has been justly remarked besides that Israel is called here גוֹי חֹטֵא, “sinful nation,” in contrast with גוֹי קָכוֹשׁ, “holy nation,” which it ought to be according to Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 14:21; and עַם כֶּבֶד עָוֹך in contrast with עַם נְשֻׂא עָוז, which it is called Isaiah 33:24. Israel is called moreover “a seed of evil doers,” though it ought to be “a holy seed” (Isaiah 6:13; Ezra 9:2). Many expositors (e. g., Drechsler) scruple to render these words as in the Genitive relation, because then the ancestors themselves would be called reprobates. They therefore take מרעים as in apposition with זרע. But, apart from the fact that then it must rather read זָּרע מֵרֵעַ, as in Isaiah 57:3, זֶרַע מְנָאֵף, that scruple is entirely groundless. For זֶרַע מְרֵעִים is not only a posterity from reprobates, but also a posterity that consists of reprobates, as Isaiah 65:23, זֶרַע בְּרוּכֵי י׳, means, not the descendants of blessed ones, but those themselves blessed, and like the expressions, בְּנֵי נָבָל בְּנֵי צֹאן בְּנֵי הַנְּבִיאִים בּנֵי בְלִיַּעַל, etc., do not mean the sons of fools, of worthless fellows, of prophets, of sheep, but sons that are themselves fools, worthless, prophets, sheep. But as the idea זֶרַע points to the essential identity in fruit and seed, and to the former being conditioned by the latter, so one must think, not of the original ancestors of the nation, but rather of the generation immediately preceding, chiefly, however, of an ideal ancestry, a notion that even underlies the expression γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν, “generation of vipers,” Matthew 3:7. זרע מרעים is therefore a genitive relation, in which the ideas of causality and of the attribute are combined. The expression is found again Isaiah 14:20.—Finally, the Israelites are called בָּנִים מרעים, “children that are corrupters,” although, according to Isaiah 1:2, they are children whom the Lord has brought up and made high; for, although any one may be called בֵּן מַשְׁחִית, who as a man (not as a son) is מַשְׁחית, all reference must not be denied to Isaiah 1:2, and all the places that express Israel’s filial relation to Jehovah, e. g.Deuteronomy 14:1.
In three phrases, now, the bad fruits are declared that the bad tree has borne. They have (negative) forsaken Jehovah, they have (positive) rejected with scorn (Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 52:5; Isaiah 60:14), the Holy One of Israel (an expression peculiarly Isaiah’s, that occurs fourteen times in the first part, and fifteen times in the second, and in other parts of the Old Testament only six times), and they have turned themselves backwards. This turning backwards can only mean the turning to idols. For the Lord had turned Israel from idols to Himself, comp. Joshua 24:2; Joshua 24:14. If the nation then turned their backs to Him, it was precisely that they might return to their idols. This is confirmed by Ezekiel 14:5, the only place beside the present in which the expression occurs.
Isaiah 1:5-6 seem to respond to an objection. For after the description in Isaiah 1:3-4, of the nation’s deep depravity, the prophet proceeds to portray the impending chastisement of it, Isaiah 1:7. But before he does so, he removes an objection that might be raised from the stand-point of forbearing love, viz. had sufficient discipline been exercised on Israel? if not, might not the renewed application of it ward off the judgment? The inquiry is negatived. For the uselessness of the smiting has long been proved by the ever-repeated backsliding of the nation. It is seen that we render the beginning of Isaiah 1:5 : “To what purpose shall one smite you still more?” For there are three expositions of these words. The first is: “On what part of the body shall one still smite you?” (thus Jerome, Saada,
Gesenius, Rosenmueller, Umbreit, Knobel and others [J. A. Alexander, Barnes].
This rests chiefly on what follows, where the body is described as beaten all over. However, four things are to be objected to this view: a) it could not then read עַל־מֶה, but אֵי זֶה הֻכּוּ עוֹד, or the like. For מָה is purely the general, abstract “what?” never the partitive, distinguishing one part from another: “which?” Job 38:6 cannot be appealed to. For the meaning of that place is not: On which foundations do the pillars of the earth rest?” But: do they rest at all on anything? b) Were the rendering: “where shall we smite?” correct, then the intermediate phrase, תּוֹסִיפוּ סָרָה, were out of place. For then one would right off look for the answer: “nowhere, for all is beaten to pieces.” The insertion of those words in this form plainly indicate that they themselves contain the answer to the inquiry, על־מה וגו׳, and that what follows is only to be viewed as the nearer explanation of this reply. It would be very different if the words were in apposition with the subject of תֻּכּוּ. c) It is remarked by Luzzatto (see in Delitzsch) that the fact that the body was beaten all over would not hinder its being smitten more d) The phrase, Isaiah 1:6 b, לא זרוּ. etc., “they have not been closed,” shows that not the being wounded itself was the matter of chief moment, but the being wounded without application of curatives. The latter, however, as little hinders the smiting as the binding up and healing would provoke it. If על־מה = “where?” then the whole phrase, Isaiah 1:6 b, would be superfluous.—A second exposition (Delitzsch) takes על־מה לָמָה, and תֻּכּוּ = ye want to be smitten. Then the remote thought would be: “That were an insane delight in self-destruction.” But the “that were” must not be adopted as the underlying thought, but: “that is indeed delight in self-destruction.” For: “that were” would involve the thought that this delight is not presupposed, consequently there can be no question about a wanting to be smitten. But if we supply “that is,” etc., that would impute too much to the simple Imperfect. The idea of wanting it must then be more strongly indicated, say by חָפֵץ, or the like.—According to the third rendering, which seems to me the correct one. על־מה means “to what purpose?” Comp. Numbers 22:32; Psalms 10:13; Jeremiah 16:10. The imperfect Passive is then simply a briefer expression for the Active: why should I, or should one smite you more? with which at least a suffix were needed. תּוֹסִיפוּ סָרָה need not then be taken as a dependent adverbial phrase; as if, “in that ye add revolt,” which involves a certain grammatical harshness, that might be easily avoided by a participial construction. But תו׳ סָרָה is principal phrase and reply to the inquiry: to what purpose shall one smite you more?
However, the following words give the reason for the saying. That is: Israel adds revolt to revolt, because it is thoroughly sick, and does not even use curatives for its sickness. We therefore construe the words כָּל־רֹאשׁ to בַּשָּׁמֶן not as describing a condition resulting from the previous smiting, much as this seems to answer the inquiry, על־מה וגו, but as a figurative expression for the moral habit of the nation. &כָּל־רֹאשׁ כָּל־לֵבָב, especially seem to favor this view. This does not mean “the whole head, the whole heart,” but “every head, every heart.” If it read כָּל־הָרֹאשׁ וגוי, the meaning might easily enough be that head and heart were already so sore and sick that no spot remained for a blow. But every head, every heart only expresses that no head, no heart remained intact.
The context closely considered forbids our understanding by head and heart “all that exercise indispensable functions in spiritual and temporal offices” (Drechsler). For by Isaiah 1:6 it plainly appears that not only the heads, but all individuals of the nation, are described as seriously sick. Head and heart are rather the central and dominant organs in the life of every single person, whereas Isaiah 1:6 speaks also of the structure of the outward manifestation of the life. From a comparison of לבב דוי with Isaiah 1:6, it seems to me that by חֳלִי not an outward wounding of the head is meant, but an internal disorder (comp. 2 Kings 4:19).—From the sole of the foot,etc. Isaiah 1:6. As has been remarked, these words describe the moral condition as to its outward manifestation, as Isaiah 1:5 b described its inward form. We must not press too far the figurative language of the prophet in regard to this inward and outward disorder, and especially the wounds of Isaiah 1:6 must not be regarded as presenting something additional.
The three substantives &חַבּוּרָה פֶּצַע and מַכָּה ט׳ are followed by three corresponding verbs, and one is tempted to construe them as if those occupying the same relative position belonged to each other. But such strict parallelism cannot be carried out. It is rather to be said that each of the three sorts of wounds referred to requires all the three means of healing. Each wound must be pressed together, and treated with healing stuffs. The former process is two-fold: first it is done by the hand in order to cleanse the wound from blood and matter, and then by the bandage, that prevents further bleeding and promotes the growing together of the several parts. Thirdly, mollifying, healing oil (see Luke 10:34; Herzog’s R. Encyc. X., p. 548) must be superadded as organic means of cure.
The words of Isaiah 1:6 b moreover contain another proof for the assertion that from כָל־רֹאשׁ, “every head,” on, only the moral habit of the nation is described. For is not the want of all bodily therapeutics a figure for the want of the spiritual; i. e. repentance? Not only is Israel inwardly sick, but also in its outward life it presents the picture of a torn and distracted existence without one trace of discipline or effort at improvement. If the chief thought of Isaiah 1:5-6, were that Israel cannot be smitten any more because it is beaten all to pieces, then, as already remarked, the phrase לֹא־זֹרוּ וגו׳, “not closed up,” would be quite without meaning. For may a bandaged-up person be sooner smitten than one not bound up? But this phrase becomes very significant if we regard the words: “every head,” etc., as portraying the moral condition of things. For it is most important in regard to a man’s moral state whether the proper curatives for the moral disorder are used or not.
Your land, etc. The outward state of the nation answers to the moral state. The nation had already begun to reap the fruits of their revolt. The country is desolate; only the metropolis still remains intact, yet isolated in the midst of a land that has been made a desert. Therefore it may be said that the train of thought that began with Isaiah 1:5 ends with Isaiah 1:8. The Lord declares, Isaiah 1:5, that for the present He will smite Israel no more. For there is no use. This is because Israel is still sick inside and out, spite of having suffered chastisement almost to annihilation. It seems to me therefore that Isaiah 1:7-8 stand in contrastive relation to the two preceding, although this contrast is indicated by no particle. Israel is morally sick, the country is turned into a desert. Had things taken a normal course, then the country had been desolated, but Israel would have been in health. Then Israel had received instruction, Proverbs 8:10; Proverbs 19:20. But now that the country is waste, and Israel still sick, one sees that whipping is of no use. Comp. Jeremiah 2:30; Jeremiah 5:3; Isaiah 9:13; Isaiah 42:25. Thus I construe Isaiah 1:7-8, not as a mere change from figurative language (Isaiah 1:5-6) to literal, because, as was shown, both Isaiah 1:5 b and 6b contain thoughts that do not answer to purely outward circumstances. Moreover, according to our explanation, it is clear that Isaiah 1:7 sqq. does not speak of future, but of present affairs. These verses do not contain threats of judgment, but a portrait of judgment already accomplished. If it were otherwise, then surely the threatenings of judgment would not stop outside of the gates of the metropolis, which yet was crater and fountain of all the revolt. This is not opposed by Jeremiah 4:27; Jeremiah 5:10; Jeremiah 5:18 : “Yet will I not make a full end,” which some adduce against our view. For threats of Judgment only for the country, but that spare the capital, are not to be found in any prophet.—The words: “your land waste,” etc., are quoted from Leviticus 26:33, where it is said: “Your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste.”
Your ground before, etc. Here, too, imprecations from the Law are in the mind of the prophet, and particularly Deuteronomy 28:33 : “The fruit of thy land, and all thy labors, shall a nation which thou knowest not, eat up.” Comp., too, 1:51; Leviticus 21:16, 32. From Deuteronomy 28:33; Deuteronomy 28:51, it is seen what is meant by זָר. It is one that Israel does not know, and whose language is not understood. That the word “stranger” includes also the idea of “enemy,” is manifest from the parallel passages in Leviticus 26:16; Leviticus 26:32, where for זָרִים we have &זָר אֹיִבְים occurs Isaiah 17:10; Isaiah 25:2; Isaiah 25:5; Isaiah 28:21; Isaiah 29:5; Isaiah 43:12; Isaiah 61:5. The participle אֹכְלִים confirms our view that the prophet speaks of present and still continuing circumstances. The metonymy (the enemies eat the land) is as in Isaiah 36:16; Genesis 3:17, etc.—לְנֶגְדְּכֶם, according to the accents and the sense, relates to what follows. Before your eyes, without your being able to hinder them, the enemies devour your land.
In our passage it is evident the prophet would compare the destruction of the land of which he speaks to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. He calls the Jewish country a second destroyed Sodom, only with the difference that that was a destruction of God, this of strangers. The question whether we have here a genitive of the subject or of the object thus settles itself. It is the genitive of the subject. For then God was the destroyer; here it is the strangers. If זָרִים, “strangers,” be taken as object, it will not suit the context. For immediately before the strangers were named as destroyers. How shall they suddenly be named the destroyed?—From the connection it appears that the “daughter of Zion” means Jerusalem. Zion is originally the mountain, then the castle, then the quarter built about it (2 Samuel 5:6-9; 1 Kings 8:1); then in an extended sense the city without the inhabitants (Lamentations 2:8) or the inhabitants without the city (Micah 4:10), or as both together, as in our passage.
Jerusalem with its inhabitants lying isolated in the midst of a desolated country is now compared to: a) a booth in a vineyard; b) to a hanging mat [hammock] in a cucumber field, which like the booth of the vineyard-keeper, is a lonely and scanty dwelling-place for men; c) to a besieged city. But why is Jerusalem only compared to a beleagured city? After all that Isaiah 1:7-8 say of it, is it not such itself? First of all we must investigate the meaning of נְצוּרָה. The verb נָצַר means primarily observare, which can be said of commandments, Psalms 78:7, and of covenants, Deuteronomy 33:9, as well as of the overseeing of a protector or keeper, Isa 27:3; 2 Kings 17:9, and of the attention of a besieger, Jeremiah 4:16; comp. 2 Samuel 11:16; Jeremiah 5:6. An עִיר נְצוּרָה is therefore either a watched or a beleaguered city. But the first does not suit the connection. The latter is equally unsuitable if Jerusalem at the time of writing was actually besieged. But Isaiah 1:7 speaks only of the desolating of the country. That Jerusalem itself was besieged or blockaded is not said directly. At the moment of saying this, therefore, the position of Jerusalem seems to have been that the enemy enclosed the city, not yet in its immediate neighborhood, but still so as to restrict all intercourse with it, so that it lay there isolated like a blockaded town No one ventured out or in, for the enemy was near, though his forces were not seen encamped around the walls of the city. The other renderings: “as a rescued city” (Gesenius,in loc.;Maurer,etc.), “as a devastated city” (Rabbins, Vulg., Luther), “as a watch tower” (Hitzig, Tingstad, Gesenius in his Thesaurus, p. 908), etc., which are to be found in Rosenmueller, either conflict with the requirements of the language or the context.
4. Had not—we were like, Isaiah 1:9. We must regard it, not as accidental, but as an evidence of the artistic design of this address, that in Isaiah 1:2-3, Jehovah Himself speaks, in Isaiah 1:4-8 the prophet in the name of Jehovah, and in Isaiah 1:9 the prophet in his own and the people’s name. It is therefore a climax descendens. The first word belongs to Jehovah the Lord. After that Jehovah’s prophet speaks in His name to the people. Last of all the prophet, who is in a sense the mediator of the people, speaks in their name to Jehovah. In this scheme is prefigured in a certain degree the direction of all prophetic discourse. For it is either Jehovah speaking, directly or indirectly, or it is a speaking to Jehovah. But Isaiah 1:9 is joined by a double band to what precedes: by הוֹתִיר, “had left,” and by the comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah. As to the former, it is recognized that something remains in Israel, ונותרה, Isaiah 1:8, and that this remnant is owing to the grace of Jehovah. But so the clear consciousness is expressed, that but for the grace of God, the resemblance to Sodom and Gomorrah, which in Isaiah 1:7 was only slightly intimated, would have been a notorious one. This is, on the one hand, an humble confession, for this comparison is not honorable for Israel; but on the other hand there is the opposite thought that underlies the hypothetic reflection: “he has, however, left something remaining; therefore we are still not like Sodom and Gomorrah;” and that forms a comforting germ of hope for the future.
The expression יהוה צבאות, Jehovah Sabaoth, is not to be found in the Pentateuch, nor in Josh., Jud., Ezek., Joel, Obad., Jonah. In Exodus 12:41כָּל־צִבְאוֹת י is said of the Israelites. If one may regard the completest form as the original one, then we must designate Hosea as the originator of the expression. For in Hosea 12:6 we find וַיחוֹה אֱלֹהֵי הַצְּבָאוֹת יהְוָֹה זִכְרוֹ; similarly Amos 3:13; Amos 6:14; Amos 9:5. Here it is seen that צְבָאוֹת is still construed as appellative. They are not the צִבְאוֹת י׳, Exodus 12:41, but כֻל־צְבָא הַשָּׁמַיִם, Isaiah 34:4, whose relation to the stars may be debated. Comp. Delitzsch,The Divine Name Jahve Zebaot, in der Zeitschrift f. d. ges. luth. Theologie u. Kirche 1874, Heft 2, p. 217.—But “Hosts” becomes gradually a proper name. It is so beyond doubt in God of Hosts, Psalms 59:6; Psalms 80:5, Psalms 80:8, Psalms 80:15, 20; Psalms 84:9, and Lord of Hosts, Isaiah 10:16. Probably it is to be so rendered in “Jehovah of Hosts,” which is very frequent in the first and second parts of Isaiah. Also Jer, Zech., Mal., use it very often.—כִּמְעַט is not added to the verb here adverbially with the meaning “almost,” but united to it substantively, and as in 2 Chronicles 12:7, is object (as apposition with the object). In Proverbs 10:20; Psalms 105:12, it is similarly a predicate. In respect to its sense, it is a dimished מעֲט, i. e. not paulum, but quasi paulum. I do not think with Delitzsch that referring to Psalms 81:14 sq.; Job 32:22, it may be construed with what follows. For with the supposition that is expressed in the first clause of the verse, they had been, not almost, but altogether a Sodom and Gomorrah. Moreover, it is affecting to observe how the man penetrates through the prophet. He began as the mouth of God, that does not distinguish himself from God; he proceeds as servant of God, that clearly distinguishes himself from God; he concludes as citizen of Jerusalem, that comprehends himself with the men against whom he directs his words of threatening.
[Isaiah 1:7. כמהפכת ז׳, like the overthrow of strangers, J. A. Alexander, “i. e. as foreign foes are wont to waste a country in which they have no interest, and for which they have no pity.” Barnes, similarly.
Isaiah 1:9. “The idea of a desolation almost total is expressed in other words, and with an intimation that the narrow escape was owing to God’s favor for the remnant according to the election of grace, who still existed in the Jewish Church. That the verse has reference to quality, as well as quantity, is evident from Romans 9:29, where Paul makes use of it, not as an illustration, but as an argument to show that mere connection with the Church could not save men from the wrath of God. The citation would have been irrelevant if this phrase denoted merely a small number of survivors, and not a minority of true believers in the midst of the prevailing unbelief.” J. A. Alexander].
3.THE MEANS FOR OBTAINING A BETTER FUTURE
10 Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom;
Give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.
11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord:
I am full of the burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts;
And I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of12he goats.
12 When ye come13to appear before me,
13 Bring no more 16vain oblations;
Incense is an abomination unto me;
The new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with;17
It Isaiah 18:0 iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth:
They are a trouble unto me;
I am weary to bear them.19
15 And when ye spread forth your hands,
I will hide20 mine eyes from you:
Yea, when ye 21make many prayers, I will not hear:
Your hands are full of 22blood.
16 Wash you, make you clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes:
17 Cease to do evil; learn to do well;
Seek judgment, 23relieve the oppressed,
Judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord:
Though your sins be as scarlet,24 they shall be as white as snow;
Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
19 If ye be willing and obedient,
Ye shall eat the good of the land:
20 But if ye refuse and rebel,
Ye shall be devoured with the sword:
For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Isaiah 1:10. קָצִין is found in Isa. also; Isaiah 3:6-7; Isaiah 22:3.
Isaiah 1:12. In regard to the construction כי תבאו לראות פני, it is to be noticed especially that we have here an old, solemn form of expression. It is found first, Exodus 23:17, where it is said: יֵרָאֶה כָּל־זְכוּרְךָ אֶל־פְּנֵי הָאָדֹן—”All thy males shall appear before the Lord;” also Psalms 84:8. This is the customary, and besides very frequent construction of the Niphal נִרְאָה, Genesis 12:7; Genesis 35:1; Exodus 3:16, etc. But then the form נִרְאָה אֶת־פְּנֵי י׳ is found in five places: Exodus 34:23 sq.; Deuteronomy 16:16; Deuteronomy 31:11; 1 Samuel 1:22. Here the question arises, whether אֵת is nota accusatavi, or preposition with the meaning “cum, coram;” or finally, whether the accusative, as in חֶרֶב תְּאֻכְּלוּ: “Ye shall be devoured by the sword,” Isaiah 1:20, is to be taken in an instrumental sense, as if it ought to be rendered: “was seen of God’s face” (so Ewald, Gram. § 279, c). This last rendering commends itself the least. For in חרב תאכלו, the חרב is conceived of as adverbial. It is as one would say in Latin: gladiatim devorabimim, “Ye shall be sword-fashion devoured.” It is essential to this construction that the substantive so used be without suffix, or a genitive following. In לֵרָאוֹת פָּנַי or נִרְאָה אֶת־פְּנֵי י׳, however, this adverbial use is not admissible. It is to be objected against the first rendering that אֵת always marks distinctly the definite object, and never is used after the question “where?” On the other hand it is admitted that אֶת־פְּנֵי means coram facie, e. g. Genesis 27:30 : יָצָא יַעֲקֹב מֵאֵת פְּנֵי יִצְחַק. Comp. 2 Kings 16:14 : Genesis 19:13. “The cry of them is waxen great, אֶת־ פְּנֵי י׳ before the face of the Lord.” Comp. 1 Samuel 22:4; Genesis 33:18. According to that we must translate the expression in question: “appear before the presence of Jehovah.” It may be remarked, in passing, that Deuteronomy 16:16, לֹא יֵרָאֶה אֶת־פְּנִי י׳ רֵיקָם, is to be translated; “the face of the Jehovah is not seen empty,” i. e. without the presentation of a gift: where the passive, according to well-known usus loquendi, is construed as active. This latter form of expression is, as to sense, like those found Exodus 23:15; Exodus 34:20,—Lastly, in two places, viz. Psalms 42:3 and in our text נִרְאָה with פְּנֵי י׳ is found without אֵת. In both places בּוֹא stands before the Niphal of רָאָה. Here, without doubt, פְּנֵי י׳ is the accusativus localis. In itself, this accusative can depend on בּוֹא as well as on the Niphal נִרְאָה. However, the original sense of the formula favors decidedly the last supposition. Thus the expression, as found in our text and in Isaiah 42:3, is to be taken as a modification of the older formula, and as having the same meaning. פָּגַי therefore is here accusativus localis in the same sense as אֶת־פְּנֵי י׳ in the places cited above.—בֵּקִּשׁ מִיַּד, Genesis 31:39; Gen 43:9; 1 Samuel 20:16.—(רְמֹם ח׳ is in restrictive apposition with זֹאת. Isaiah uses רָמַם pretty often: Isaiah 16:4; Isaiah 26:6; Isaiah 28:3; Isaiah 41:25; Isaiah 63:3. Moreover, the substantive מִרְמָם is used by him relatively oftener: Isaiah 5:5; Isaiah 7:25; Isaiah 10:6; Isaiah 28:18.
Isaiah 1:13. It is debated whether the following קְטֹרֶת, incense, is to be taken as stat. absol. as distinct from מִנְחָה, or as stat. construct., and as designating that which the מִנְחַת־שָׁוְא is to Jehovah (“it is abominable incense to me”). Grammatically both renderings are admissible. It is not decisive for the latter rendering that the Masorets have pointed קְטֹ֧רֶת with the conjunctive Darga. It seems to me important to our inquiry, that with the exception of Psalms 66:15 (which confessedly dates after the exile), neither burnt-offerings nor meat-offerings are ever called קְטֹרֶת, although הִקְטִיר is the solemn word employed for the consumption of both. Rather it is always said, that the sacrifice shall be רֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ, “a sweet savor” to the Lord. I believe, therefore, that the prophet must have written רֵיחַ תּוֹעֵבָה had he wished to express what the defenders of the second rendering take the words to mean.—The combination of חֹדֶשׁ and שַׁבָּת, beside the text, is to be found also 2 Kings 4:23; Hosea 2:13.—The expression קְרֹא מִקְרָא is only found here. Everywhere else we read: מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ, “a holy convocation,” Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:3 sqq.; Numbers 28:18 sq.; Isaiah 29:1 sqq. As regards the meaning of the phrase, it is not indictio sancti, i. e. the publication of a feast, but convocatio, the assembling of the nation to the feast. For only on the principal feast-days was the nation obliged to appear in the sanctuary, (comp. the citations immediately above, and Oehler in Herzog’s R. Encycl. IV., p. 385). The three substantives stand before as casus absoluti, and represent a premise, to which לֹא אוּכַל וגו׳ forms the conclusion: as for new moon, Sabbath, solemn assembly, I can’t bear them, etc. The word עֲצָרָה is found beside only in 2 Kings 10:20 and Joel 1:14. In the Pentateuch only the form עֲצֶרֶת (stat. absol. and constr.) is used: Leviticus 23:36; Numbers 29:35; Deuteronomy 16:8. It is absolutely parallel with מִקְרָא קֹדֶש, “holy convocation;” comp. 2 Chronicles 7:5; Nehemiah 8:18; Amos 5:21. The fundamental idea of עָצַר is cogere, conciere, continere, to draw together, to keep together. The noun, therefore, denotes coactio, concio. The fundamental idea of &אָוֶן אוּן, spirare) is halitus, breath. It is thus synonym with הֶבֶל.
Isaiah 1:14. Of the verb שָׂנֵא only the Kal (comp. Psalms 11:5) partcps. occur in our book after this: Isaiah 60:15; Isaiah 61:8; Isaiah 66:5. טֹרַח, burden (from טָרַח, fatigari, Job 37:11) is found also Deuteronomy 1:12. Niphal נִלְאָה again in Isaiah 16:12; Isaiah 47:13. The infinitive נְשׂא is only found in Isa. again Isaiah 18:3; comp. beside Genesis 4:13; Psalms 89:10.
Isaiah 1:15. The spreading out of the hands for prayer (comp. Hoelemann, Bibelstudien I., The Scriptural Form of Worship, p. 137, Æneid. I. 93, duplices tendens ad sidera palmas) is designated here by פָּרַשׂ in the Piel, and so occurs also Jeremiah 4:31; Lamentations 1:17; Psalms 143:6. Usually Kal is used: Exodus 9:29; Exodus 9:33; 1 Kings 8:22, etc.—Only the Hithpael of עָלַם occurs beside in our book, Isaiah 58:7.—The meaning of אֵינֶבִּי שׁ׳ is “not continually hearing,” in distinction from לֹא אֶשְׁמַע, Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14; Jeremiah 14:12.—Comp. this passage, Isaiah 1:11-15, with the similar one, Amos 5:21 sqq.
Isaiah 1:16. On account of the accent, הִזַּכּוּ can only be Hithpael from זָכָה, not Niphal of זָכַךְ; comp. Gesen., Thesaur., p. 413. The word is not used again by Isaiah; and this Hithpael occurs nowhere else.—The expression רֹעַ מַעַלְלֵיכֶם (which occurs first Deuteronomy 28:20, and afterward especially frequent in Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 21:12; Jeremiah 23:2; Jeremiah 26:3; Jeremiah 44:22), calls to mind the Latin usus loquendi, that makes a conception prominent by designating it by means of the abstract idea hovering, so to speak, over the single, concrete manifestation of it: agricolœ non dolent, prœterita verni temporis suavitate œstatem auctumnumque venisse (comp. Naegelsbach, Stilistik, § 74).
Isaiah 1:17. לִמְדוּ הֵיטֵיב (inf. nominascens like הָרֵעַ, Isaiah 1:16, because standing in the accusative).—As nouns of the form קָטוֹל, all have an active meaning (comp. בִּהֵן בָּחֹון גָּדֹוֹל אָדוֹם גָּבוֹהַּ, etc.) so חָמוֹץ, which occurs only here, must have the same sense as חוֹמֵץ, Psalms 71:4, i. e.=vialentus, violent (comp. חָמַם). The Piel אִשֵּׁר means then, just as Isaiah 3:12; Isaiah 9:15; Proverbs 23:19, “make direct, make go right, conduct aright.” The verbs שָׁפַט and רִיב, as so often elsewhere (Isaiah 1:23; Psalms 10:18; Psalms 82:3; Jeremiah 5:28, etc.), signify not merely a formal judging, but also rendering material justice, that is, so rendering judgment that what is just shall actually be done. רִיב, moreover, here stands for the more usual דִּין. For רִיב is not properly “judge,” but “strive,” and first attains the meaning of “helping one to justice” in the connection ריב ריב פ׳ “to manage some one’s quarrel.” It is therefore with a derivative sense that ריב is used when it means “judging,” which it does, sometimes in malam partem, as Deuteronomy 33:3; Job 10:2, again in bonam partem, as Deuteronomy 33:3; Job 10:2, again in bonam partem, as here and Isaiah 51:22; and in either sense it is joined to the accusative.
Isaiah 1:18. The Niphal נוֹכַח that occurs here, is found elsewhere only in the participle; Genesis 20:16; 2 Samuel 15:3; Proverbs 24:26; Job 23:7. The meaning is “disceptare, διαλέγεσθαι,” argue. The word is evidently used in a friendly sense. Regarding the Hiphil in הִלְבִּין (comp. Psalms 51:9 (6), the word does not again occur in Isa.) and הֶאְדִּים (ἅπαξ λεγ.) and their direct causative meaning (producing whiteness, redness, i. e, becoming white, red).
Isaiah 1:19. The fundamental meaning of אָבָה, (which it is worthy of note always has לֹא before it except here and Job 39:9, where it stands in a negative question), is “ready, to be willing.” (Psalms 81:12; 1 Kings 20:8). Accordingly the construction with vav and perfectum consecutivum is explained; when ye are willing, so that ye hearken (comp. the otherwise usual construction with just the infinitive or לְ; Isaiah 28:12; Isaiah 30:9; Ezekiel 3:7; Ezekiel 20:3; Leviticus 26:21). The construction מֵאֵן Isaiah 1:20 is evidently copied from this.—The expression טוּב הָאָרֶץ, good of the land, is first found Genesis 45:18; Genesis 45:20, where it stands parallel with חֵלֶב־הָאָרֶץ fat of the land, (comp. Deu 6:11; 2 Kings 8:9; Ezra 9:12).
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. This section refers to the future, as Isaiah 1:2-9 did to the past and present. For the theme is how to escape out of the misery of the present and attain a better future. The people had hitherto employed false means; outward ceremonies that were an abomination to the Lord, (Isaiah 1:10-15). Instead of these the people must bring the genuine fruits of repentance, (Isaiah 1:16-17). Then conference may be held with the people; then will God’s grace be greater than all guilt, (Isaiah 5:18). This is the right road. If the people will go that road they shall find salvation; if they will not, they shall find destruction, (Isaiah 1:19-20). It is seen that a simple and clear order of thought occurs in this section. Isaiah 1:18-20 must not be severed and joined to what follows. For they contain exactly the indispensable conclusion, viz.: the promise of grace in case of obedience, on the other hand denunciation of wrath in case of disobedience.
2. Hear—Gomorrah, Isaiah 1:10.—As regards the verbs, “hear,—hearken,” this beginning is like that of the preceding section, Isaiah 1:2. But the subjects are different: there heaven and earth, here the Sodom-judges and the Gomorrahnation. The dividing into judges and nation is occasioned partly by the double idea Sodom and Gomorrah, by which this section is connected with the foregoing one, partly by the contents of the positive demand, Isaiah 1:17. For, as regards its general contents, this is directed against the entire nation, but especially also against the princes and judges of the nation. Expositors correctly call attention to the fact that after Isaiah 1:9, the prophet supposes a reply on the part of the people to this effect; how have they deserved so hard a fate, seeing they had been so zealously diligent, to observe all the ceremonies of the worship of Jehovah. To this it is replied, that they are not unjustly become like Sodom and Gomorrah because for a long time they were inwardly like them. What Sodom-judges and a Gomorrahnation may be, can be learned from Ezekiel 16:48 sqq. “As I live, saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters. Behold this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her, and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me; therefore I took them away as I saw good.” Comp. Genesis 13:13; Genesis 18:20. Therefore, rude, violent selfishness, joined with sensual abomination was the sin of Sodom, and is the sin of Judah. Consequently, and in reference to our passage, the earthly Jerusalem is called in Revelation 11:8 pνευματικῶς Σόδομα και Αἵγυπτος. The prophet does not understand by תורת אלהינו, “the law of our God,” a simple parallel with דבר י׳, “the word,” etc. institutio, or תּוֹכֵהָה (chastisement) in general, but the Mosaic “Law, especially, corresponding to the context, which treats of the difference between a true and a false observance of the law. Thus the second member marks an advance in reference to the first, and תּוֹרָה is to be construed synedochically. “Docebovos,” &c., says Vitringa, “I will teach you what is the cum of the law of Moses; not this, assuredly, which ye hypocritically exhibit, but to worship God with a pure heart, and manifest zeal for justice, equity, honor and every virtue.”
3. To what purpose—full of blood, v. 11–15.—Vitringa calls attention to a gradation in these verses. Bloody sacrifices, attendance at the temple, unbloody sacrifices, feasts, prayers, make the series of religious formalities which approach step by step to a truly spiritual worship. And yet they may all of them not satisfy the Lord as Israel observed them: for the nation, notwithstanding, does not rise above the level of mere outward ceremonial service. The זְבָחִים are a comprehensive expression for bloody sacrifices, as is often the case in writers of later date than the Pentateuch, see 1 Samuel 2:29; 1 Samuel 3:14.Isaiah 19:21; HerzogR. Encycl. X. p. 621, 637. This appears from the prominence of the word in Isaiah 1:11, and from its being made parallel with מִנְחָהIsa 1:13. That the discourse of Jehovah must not be regarded as the first and only one of the sort spoken in this matter, but as a member of a continuous chain of words of the same purport, is indicated by the Imperfect.
Without exactly intending completeness, or an especially significant order of the classes of beasts and sacrifices, the prophet still enumerates the chief sorts of those sacrifices that were taken from צֹאן and בָּקָר (flocks and herds). The עוֹלוֹת as the principal sacrifice is named first: (it is קֹדֶשׁ קָדָשִׁים comp. ŒhlerinHerzog’sR. Encycl. X. p. 634). That only עֹלוֹת אֵילִים are named, is accidental. For burnt-offerings were not presented only of rams, see Leviticus 1:0. nor were offerings of rams especially holy. In all enumerations of the sacrificial beasts rams are in the second place, after bullocks. Exodus 29:0; Leviticus 8:0; Numbers 7:15 sqq.; Isaiah 29:2 sq., etc. In as much as, with the exception of the whole burnt-offering, only the fat and the blood were offered, (comp.Œhler Herzog’sR. Encycl. X. p. 632), Leviticus 3:16 sq.; Isaiah 7:23 sqq.; Ezekiel 44:15, it is natural that these should have especial prominence in this place. By מְרִיאִים we are not to understand a particular species of beast, as many have thought. The word is only found elsewhere in 2 Samuel 6:13; 1 Kings 1:9; 1 Kings 1:19; 1 Kings 1:25; Isaiah 11:6; Ezekiel 39:18; Amos 5:22. The meaning is not made out with certainty. But in this place it seems to mean fed beasts in general. If the fat were all that was offered of the solid matter of the beast, then must a beast be the better suited for an offering according as it had more fat. Thence the being fat is named as a desirable quality in the sacrificial animal, Psalms 22:0; Genesis 4:4. A further proof that the prophet does not intend an exact classification is seen in the fact that he speaks only of the blood of bullocks, of sheep, (כֶּבֶשׂ the male sheep Leviticus 14:10) and of he-goats (עַתּוּד the younger, שָׂעִיר the older he-goat), although neither the blood of only these beasts, nor yet of these beasts was only the blood offered.
Isaiah 1:12. When ye come to appear,etc.—A grade higher than the rude bloody sacrifice, this personal appearance at the place of worship stands on the platform of spirituality. It also is an homage that is paid to the divinity. But it does not suffice. Hence it may be said of the mere bodily presence, that the Lord has not demanded that.
Who hath required.—Jehovah does not require the mere bodily presence, so far as this is nothing but an useless wearing out of the courts by the feet of those that stand in them.
The unbloody sacrifices and the solemn assembles represent again a different and still higher grade of worship. No more lying meat-offerings shall they bring, (Comp. Isaiah 5:18; Isaiah 30:28) i. e., such, in which the disposition of the one sacrificing does not correspond to the outward rite. I do not believe that the text has to do only with the performances of the λαός, “laity,” as Delitzsch supposes. For the prophet rejects the entire outward ceremonial service, which, in fact, the priests solemnized only in place of the nation which ideally was itself a priestly nation, Exodus 19:6. Moreover, there would be an omission in the enumeration of the parts of worship if that very important and most holy incense offering were left out (Exodus 30:0, especially Isa 1:36). The Lord says, therefore, that incense, otherwise so like the fragrant blossom of the sacrificial worship, was itself an abomination, when offered in the false way as hitherto.
The new moon and Sabbath.—The observance of the holy days and seasons appointed by the Lord Himself was an essential part of the obedience demanded from the nation, comp. Exodus 23:10-17; Leviticus 23:0; Numbers 28:0; Numbers 29:0.; Deuteronomy 16:0. Yet even such performance is of no account in God’s sight, but, on the contrary, offensive and vexatious when it does not proceed from that disposition He would have. The new moons, “were so to speak the first born among the days of the month,” and the fixing of the other feast days that occurred in the month depended on them (“From the moon is the sign of feasts,” Sir 43:7; comp.Saalschuetz,Mos. R., p. 402 sqq.). Concerning their celebrations, see Numbers 10:10; Numbers 28:11-16; 1 Samuel 20:5; 1 Samuel 20:18 sq. By שַׁבָּת is to be understood the weekly Sabbath, as appears from the fact that, in what follows, the feasts and therefore the feast Sabbaths are especially mentioned; see Herzog’sR. Encycl. IV. p. 385. אוּכַל is used here in the pregnant sense of “surmounting, enduring, being able to hold out,” like we too could say; “nicht vermag ich Frevel und Festversammlung.” “I can’t (stand) outrage and solemn assembly,” i. e., the combination of the two, both at once surpasses my ability. In a similar sense יָכֹל is used Hosea 8:5; Psalms 101:5 sq.; Isaiah 13:5; Proverbs 30:21. God cannot put up with this combination of concentration and decentralization, of centripetal and centrifugal forces. He opposes to them a non possumus. In the following verse the prophet repeats the same thought with still stronger expressions. For he names again the new moons. But what in Isaiah 1:13 he designates by the words, “Sabbath, calling assembly and solemn meeting,” he comprehends here in the one conception &מוֹעֲדִים מוֹעֵד “the most general word for the holy seasons that occurred by established order.” ŒhlerinHerzog’sR. Encycl. IV. p. 383, comp. Leviticus 23:2). What he says to them Isaiah 1:13, in one word לֹֽא־אוּבַל, “I can’t bear,” he now expresses by three verbs. He explains his non possumus in that he says he hates those ceremonies, that they are a burden to him and a subject of loathing.
But prayer, too, although it is the fragrant blossom of the soul’s life (comp. Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3 sq.), and therefore stands high above the previously named elements of worship in regard to immateriality and spirituality, is not acceptable to the Lord in the mouth of this people. For it also is only empty lip and hand service. Jehovah shuts His eyes at the caricature of prayer; comp. 1 Samuel 12:3; Proverbs 28:27; and also much praying does not help the matter, for Jehovah does not go on hearing constantly.
Your hands are full of blood.“—In this short phrase, which is added emphatically without connecting particle, the reason is given why Jehovah cannot endure all the ceremonial observances of the nation. They are offered by hands stained with blood. It is thus a revolting lie, Isaiah 29:13.
4. Wash ye—plead for the widow, Isaiah 1:16-17.—Heart cleansing, turning away from evil, proper fruits of repentance,—such is the divine service that the Lord requires. There are nine demands made on the people; four negative, Isaiah 1:16, and five positive, Isaiah 1:17. The first two of the four negative expressions are figurative. רָחַץ is indeed often used of bodily washing (and in a medial sense as here: Exodus 2:5; Leviticus 14:8; Leviticus 15:5 sqq. etc.). זָכָה is used only of moral purity, but, according to its fundamental idea, must be regarded as a figurative expression. In what follows the prophet says the same thing without figure of speech: they must let the Lord see no more wicked works, i. e., they must cease to sin.
The five positive demands proceed from the general to the particular. For in advance stands the quite general “learn to do well.” Then follows the exhortation to “seek judgment,” (the phrase is found again only Isaiah 16:5). The Old Test. צְדָקָה, “righteousness,” consists essentially in conformity to מִשְׁפָּט, “judgment.” Whoever, under all circumstances, does what is right, even when he has the power to leave it undone, is a צַדִּיק, “righteous one.” When the powerful, then, spite of his power, suffers the poor, the wretched, the widow and the orphan to enjoy their rights, then this justice appears subjectively as gentleness and goodness, objectively as salvation. Hence צַדִּיק has so often the secondary meaning of “kindness, mercy” (comp. Psalms 37:21; Proverbs 12:10; Proverbs 21:26) and צֶדֶק or צְדָקָה that of “salvation” (Psalms 24:5; Psalms 132:9; Psalms 132:16; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 45:8, etc.). The Old Test. צְדָקָה contrasts, therefore, on the one hand with grace, that gives more than can justly be demanded, on the other hand, with oppressive unrighteousness, (comp. מְרֵצֵּחַ חָמוֹץ עָרִיץ and others) that gives less. Comp. my comment, on Jeremiah 7:5.—Whoever exercises strict justice will quite as much restrain the oppressor from doing injustice, as aid those seeking their rights to the enjoyment of them. The prophet expresses the former by the words אַשְּׁרוּ חָמוֹץ, “righten [marg. Eng. vers.] the oppressor.”
5. Come now—hath spoken it, Isaiah 1:18-20. As in Isaiah 1:15 the phrase “your hands are filled with blood” is loosely strung on without connecting particle, so also the complex thought of Isaiah 1:18-19, as to its sense, refers back to Isaiah 1:15 b. For the prophet evidently would say: your hands are indeed full of blood, but if ye truly become converted, all debts shall be forgiven, etc. Verse 18 therefore contains the necessary consequences of the premises laid down in what precedes. The discourse gains in brevity and vivacity by its members being strung together without conjunctions.—“Come, now,” etc., comp. Isaiah 2:3; Isaiah 2:5. The prophet would say: when ye shall have truly repented, then come, and then we shall easily come to an understanding. Gesenius and others would have the sense to be, not that Jehovah is represented as forgiving, but that the taking away of the blood-red guilt consists in an extirpation of the sinner. They support this view by reminding that נִשְׁפָּט and דִּבֶּר מִשְׁפָּטִים אֵת always designate God as the punitive Judge; comp. Isaiah 66:16; Joel 4 (3) 2; Jeremiah 25:31; Ezekiel 20:35, etc. But it is precisely for this reason that Isaiah does not employ the usual expression for “litigate,” but a word that does not elsewhere occur, in order to indicate that he has in mind a litigation altogether different from the usual sort. Besides, it contradicts not only the sense and the connection of our passage, but the spirit of the Holy Scriptures generally, for one to assume that pardon may not follow the fulfilling of the conditions proposed in Isaiah 1:16, or that this pardon may consist in the extirpation of the outrageous offenders and the “cleansing and clearing away” thus effected. No! just those, whose hands are full of blood, may, if they cleanse themselves, be pure and white; comp. Isaiah 43:24 sq.; Isaiah 44:22; Psalms 32, 51.—שָׁנִי and תּוֹלַעַת are one and the same color, viz., bright red, crimson. Here, evidently, it means the color of blood. In many places, as Exodus 28:5-6; Exodus 36:8, etc.;Jeremiah 4:30, we find תּוֹלַעַת שָׁנִי or הַשָּׁנִי; Leviticus 14:4; Leviticus 14:6; Leviticus 14:49; Leviticus 14:51-52; Numbers 19:0:6שְׁנִי תוֹלַעַת, Lamentations 4:5 only תּוֹלָע. The last word means “worm,” (comp. Exodus 16:20, and תּוֹלֵעָהIsa 14:11; Isaiah 66:24; Job 25:6). What the תּוֹלַעַת שָׁנִי is we are well informed. It is the female cochineal (coccus ilicis,Linne) which lays its eggs on the twigs of the holm oak, and, expiring upon them, covers them with its body. The egg nests so formed were pulverized and the color prepared therefrom. It is less certain why the color is named שָׁנִי. Comp. Leyrer,Art. crimson inHerzog’sR. Encycl. XXI., p. 606. The plural שָׁנִים is found only here and Proverbs 31:21. It seems to me in both places to mean more probably “scarlet stuffs.” That sin is here called red, has its reason in the evident reference to the bloody hands, Isaiah 1:15 b. But that the righteous estate is compared to white color, happens according to the natural and universal symbolism of colors; comp. Psalms 37:6; Mal. 3:20 (Malachi 4:2); 1Jn 1:5; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:14; Revelation 3:4; Revelation 19:14, etc.
If ye be willing, Isaiah 1:19. The exhortation Isaiah 1:16-17 is followed Isaiah 1:18 by a similar promise, i. e., by one that similarly confines itself to the inward, spiritual domain. To this is now joined a twofold word of a) promise also of outward felicity, Isaiah 1:19; b) of threatening of bodily destruction, Isaiah 1:20. The conclusion “ye shall be devoured of the sword,” Isaiah 1:20, corresponds to “ye shall eat the good of the land,” not only as to sense, but also, as near as may be, as to sound. On the formula “for the mouth,” etc., comp., at Isaiah 1:2.
[Isaiah 1:13. “The last clause, meaning of course, I cannot bear them together, is a key to the preceding verses. It was not religious observance itself, but its combination with iniquity, that God abhorred.” J. A. Alexander.
Oblations, מִנחַת. “This word properly denoted a gift of any kind, (Genesis 32:13), then especially a present or offering to the Deity. Genesis 4:3-5.—The proper translation would have been meal or flour-offering, rather than meat-offering, since the word meat with us now denotes animal food only. Leviticus 2:1; Leviticus 6:14; Leviticus 9:17.” Barnes.
Isaiah 1:16. Wash.—”It is used here in close connection with the previous verse, where the prophet says that their hands were filled with blood. He now admonishes them to wash away that blood, with the implied understanding, that, then their prayers would be heard.” Barnes.
From before mine eyes. “As God is omniscient, to put them away from before His eyes is to put them away altogether.” Barnes.
Isaiah 1:18. “God has been addressing magistrates particularly, and commanding them to seek judgment, etc., all of which are terms taken from the law. He here continues the language, and addresses them as accustomed to the proceedings of courts, and proposes to submit the” (their) “case as if on trial.” Barnes.
Scarlet.—”There is another idea here. This was a fast or fixed color. Neither dew, rain, nor washing, nor long usage would remove it. Hence it is used to represent the fixedness and permanency of sins in the heart. No human means will wash them out. No effort of man, no external rites, no tears, no sacrifice, no prayers are of themselves sufficient to take them away. An almighty power is needful to remove them.” Barnes.
Like the wool.—Instead of the wool becoming like the crimson, the crimson shall become like the wool. Regarding the sequence of Isaiah 1:16-17, and Isaiah 1:18; comp. Matthew 5:22-24.—Tr.
Isaiah 1:19. Ye shall eat.—”Instead of seeing them devoured by strangers, as in Isaiah 1:7.” J. A. Alexander].
4. COMPREHENSIVE SURVEY OF THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
21 How is the faithful city become an harlot!
It was full of judgment;
Righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.
22 Thy silver is become dross,
Thy wine mixed with water:
23 Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves:
Every one loveth gifts, and 25followeth after rewards:
They judge not the fatherless,
Neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.
24 Therefore saith the Lord,
The Lord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel,
Ah, I will 26ease me of mine adversaries,
And avenge me of mine enemies:
25 And I will turn my hand upon thee,
And take away all thy 29tin:
26 And I will restore thy judges as at the first,
And thy counsellors as at the beginning:
Afterward thou shalt be called,
The city of righteousness, the faithful city.
27 Zion shall be redeemed with judgment,
And 30her converts with righteousness.
And they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed.
29 For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired,
And ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen.
30 For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth,
And as a garden that hath no water.
31 And the strong shall be as tow,
And they shall both burn together,
And none shall quench them.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Isaiah 1:21. Concerning the distinction between &צֶדֶק צְדָקָה and מִשְׁפָּט comp. Drechsler in loc. I will only remark that the grammatical form צֶדֶק requires as its primitive, fundamental meaning “the being righteous, integrity,” therefore the idea of the verb צָדַק in its abstract generality (comp. &אַבְנֵי צֶדֶק מֹאזְנֵי צֶדֶק), whereas צְדָקָה, although also abstract, signifies integrity as the moral quality of a person, and as the prerequisite of right doing. Comp. also Ewald, § 143 a; 150 b.—מִשְׁפָּט on the other hand, involves the idea of right per se, and in every respect of its concrete realization. It is thus at once normal right, and also rightful claim, legal proceeding, verdict, and judgment. It is natural that in application the three conceptions should blend with one another.—לִין, related by root to לַיִל is properly pernoctare, then “to stay, to dwell” generally: comp. Psalms 25:13; Proverbs 15:31; Job 19:4.—The verb רצח does not again occur in Isaiah; its participle Piel only 2 Kings 6:32.—Regarding the construction of Isaiah 1:21, מלאתי מ׳ is not in a manner in apposition with נאמנה, as one might be tempted to think, out of liking for the easier grammatical connection, for the sense is decidedly against it.
Isaiah 1:22. סִיגים because of the derivation from סוּג more correct than סִגִּים, comp. Ezekiel 22:18 sq.; Psalms 119:119; Proverbs 25:4; Proverbs 26:23; only in Isaiah again, Isaiah 1:25. סֹבֶא, only found again Hosea 4:18, comp. Isaiah 56:12, that with which one carouses, intoxicates himself, in French, ce qui soule. מָהוּל ά̔π. λεγ., is kindred to מוּל circumcised, cut, comp. juglare Falernum, Martial Ephesians 1:18; castrare vinum, Plin. Hist. Nat.
Isaiah 1:23. שׂריז and סוררים (comp. Isaiah 30:1; Isaiah 65:2; Jeremiah 6:28; Hosea 9:15) is a play on words and indicates the relation of those men to God (1. Table), as the following (חברי ג׳) does their relation to men (2. Table, comp. Proverbs 29:24).—The singular כֻּלּוּ embraces the שָׂרִים as unity, as rank. שׁלמנים is ά̔π. λεγ. שֹׁחַד is in Isaiah 5:23; Isaiah 33:15; Isaiah 45:13.
Isaiah 1:24. On הוֹי comp. Isaiah 1:4. The Niphal נִחַם is used here in the sense “to breathe again refreshed,” i. e., “refresh oneself,” as Isaiah 57:6; Jeremiah 31:15; Ezekiel 31:16, etc. This meaning, however, changes to the kindred one of נָקַם to revenge, Niphal, to revenge oneself. For revenge is a refreshment. Therefore also is נִחַם joined here with מִן, which construction is the usual one for נִקַם, ultionem capere, Jdg 16:28; 1 Samuel 14:24; Jeremiah 15:15; Jeremiah 46:10, etc.
Isaiah 1:25. Whereas הֵשִׁיב יָד means either “to draw back the hand,” Genesis 38:29; Joshua 8:26; 1 Samuel 14:27; 1 Kings 13:4; Isaiah 14:27; or “to return the hand to a place,” Exodus 4:7, or “to bring the hand repeatedly somewhere” Jeremiah 6:9, הֵשִׁיב יָד עַל in most places of its occurrence (Ezekiel 38:12 : Amos 1:8; Zechariah 13:7; Psalms 81:15; comp. 2 Samuel 8:3)—to turn one’s hand in a figurative sense, i. e., to turn in an hostile way against any one. בְּדִיל stannum or plumbum nigrum, only used this once in Isa.בֹּרִית בֹּר vegetable alkali, only here in Isa., comp. Job 9:30. As the alkali does not effect the smelting process, but only promotes it, כַּבֹּר must not be construed as nominative, but as an accusative that supplies the preposition that is wanting after כְּ (alkali fashion, comp. on חרב Isaiah 1:20; Isaiah 1:12), comp. Gesenius, § 118, 3 Anm; the plural בְּדִילִים, lead pieces, is the only form of the word, which occurs only here; comp. Ezekiel 22:18; Ezekiel 22:20; Ezekiel 27:12.—Kindred passages, whose authors may have had our text in mind, are Jeremiah 6:29 sq.; Zechariah 13:7 sqq.
Isaiah 1:26. The beginning with ואשׁיבה has almost the appearance of a rhyme in relation to the same word, Isaiah 1:25. Evidently the prophet intends to emphasize the difference of sense by the similar sound of the words. The construction is an adverbial prolepsis. For whereas otherwise, in prolepsis that, which is the effect of the transaction, is adjoined to the object in the form of adjective, the adjoining occurs here in adverbial form; (comp. Jeremiah 33:7; Jeremiah 33:11; and 1 Kings 13:6).
Isaiah 1:28. As regards the sense, it does not matter whether we take שֶׁבֶר (properly fractura Isaiah 15:5; Isaiah 30:26) as predicate, as Hitzig does, or, like most others, as the object of an exclamatory phrase. As in this chapter several such nominatives occur absolutely, and representing a phrase (Isaiah 1:7; Isaiah 1:13), the latter may be more correct.
Isaiah 1:29. The singular of אֵלִים occurs only once Genesis 14:6 in the proper name אֵיל פָּארָן. As singular אֵלָה (Isaiah 1:30) is always used elsewhere. The meaning “Terebinth,” which, parallel with meanings “strength,” and “ram” (comp. the Latin robur), develops out of the fundamental meaning torquere, is now admitted by all expositors, whereas many of the older ones, following the LXX.
and Vulgate, took the word in the sense of “Idols.” Isa. mentions the אֵלִים as objects of idolatrous worship, also Isaiah 57:5, whereas, Isaiah 61:3, he opposes to these idolatrous ones the אֵילֵי צֶדֶק, trees (Terebinths) of righteousness. with plainly a pregnant meaning.—The word גַּנֹּות only Isa., uses of the groves of idols, Isaiah 65:3; Isaiah 66:17; comp. also Herzog’s R. Encycl. V. p. 474, Art. Haine.” The abrupt change of person in animated address cannot be thought strange. As חָמַד (Isaiah 44:9;) and בָּחַר (Isaiah 66:3 sq.; Joshua 24:15; Joshua 24:22, etc.), are often used of religious deciding, so, still more frequently בּוֹשׁ (Isaiah 20:5; Jeremiah 2:36; Jeremiah 48:13, etc.), and חָפֵר (Isaiah 24:23; Micah 3:7, etc.), are used for the confounding results of the assurance reposed in idols.
Isaiah 1:30. עָלֶה may be construed as the accusative of closer definition (a terebinth falling away in regard to its leaves), because נֹבֶלֶת as feminine connects more easily with אֵלָח than with the masculine עָלֶח. Yet to me it seems more probable that נבלת is to be joined to עלה, not as adjective, however, but as substantive. For, as we see from Isaiah 28:1; Isaiah 28:4; Isaiah 34:4, the participle Kal of נָבַל becomes a noun both in the masculine and in the feminine. In that case it would be rendered; a terebinth, foliage that falls, (are) its leaves. עָלֶח is to be taken collectively = foliage. Comp. Jeremiah 17:8; Psalms 1:3; Ezekiel 47:12. As the plural occurs only in the later Hebrew, (Nehemiah 8:15), the reading עָלֶיהָ is to be rejected.
Isaiah 1:31. The word חָסֹן occurs beside here only in Amos 2:9. According to this passage, and Psalms 89:9 (where the form חֲסִין occurs) and according to the noun חֹסֶן (Isaiah 33:6; Jeremiah 20:5, etc.), whence the Niphal יֵחָסֵן (Isaiah 23:18), the meaning can only be opulentus, opibus validus. The punctuation פֹּעֲלֹו does not conflict with our explanation; see Exeg. and Crit. For, apart from the fact that it is not without analogy, the use of חָסֹן for idols would be quite unusual, and the idea that the idolater plunges his idols in ruin would not only be strange, but also wholly without motive in the context.—The formula ואין מכבה occurs in Isa., only here; elsewhere Amos 5:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 21:12.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. The prophet first looks back into the past. What were the people formerly? They were a people in whom faithfulness and righteousness flourished. But then he asks: what are they now? A ruined nation, in which unrighteousness and violence hold the sceptre. (Isaiah 1:21-23). The Lord will subject this people to a severe process of purifying, (Isaiah 1:24-25): whose consequences will be a future, two-fold in form; a) the good elements will attain their original supremacy, Jerusalem will again become a city of justice, and by justice become partaker of salvation (Isaiah 1:26-27); b) but the bad elements, the apostates that have forsaken Jehovah and served idols, shall by their own works be pitiably destroyed (Isaiah 1:28-31).
2. How is the faithful city—widow come unto them.
Isaiah 1:21-23. Delitzsch justly remarks that Isaiah 1:21 calls to mind the tone of the קִינָה, the Elegy. And I have myself, in the comment on Lamentations 1:1, pointed to the dependence of that passage on this. The tone of lament, the אֵיכָה (occurring four times in Lam.), the archaic form מְלֵאֲתִי made this passage appear to the author of Lam. a suitable prototype and point of departure.—By reason of many expressions in the Pentateuch, that designate idolatry as whoredom (Exodus 34:15 sq.; Leviticus 17:7; Leviticus 20:5 sqq.; Numbers 15:39; Deuteronomy 31:16). Isa., here calls Jerusalem זוֹנה on account of its apostacy from Jehovah by grosser and more refined idolatry. Comp. Hosea 1:2; Hosea 2:6 sqq.; Hosea 4:10 sqq.; Jeremiah 2:23 sqq.; Isaiah 3:1 sqq.; Ezekiel 16:15 sqq., etc.). It was become such, however, only in process of time. For originally, so to speak, in its paradisaical or golden age it was נֶֽאֱמָנָה, faithful. It may be asked; does the prophet by this golden age mean the time of wandering in the wilderness, as Hosea 11:1; Jeremiah 2:2, or the period of David and Solomon? But as the prophet speaks here of the city (קִרְיָה) by which he can only mean Jerusalem, so one can only think immediately of the beginning period of the kingdom. The prophet seems to have especially in mind the early days of Solomon. For this, without doubt, was in respect to the administration of justice the golden age of Israel. For in answer to Solomon’s prayer for “an understanding heart, to judge the people and to discern between good and bad,” the Lord had given him “a wise and understanding heart, so that there was none like him before him, neither after him should any be like him.” 1 Kings 3:9; 1 Kings 3:12. And by the celebrated judgment Solomon rendered (ibid Isaiah 1:16 sq.), the people “saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment (ibid. Isaiah 1:28). And, moreover, as “Solomon loved Jehovah” (ibid Isaiah 1:3), he was permitted also to build the Lord “an house,” and thereby to join the Lord and the people together by an important outward tie. Hence could Jerusalem, in reference to that time, be justly named a “fixed city” (comp. מָקוֹם נֶאֶֽמָן22:23, 25; בִַּית נ׳; 1 Samuel 2:35; 1 Samuel 25:28), that “was full of justice,” and in which righteousness had, not a transitory, but a permanent abode. It is therefore doubtful whether, in addition to this elevated point represented by Solomon, we may regard the reign of Jehoshaphat, with its reformation of justice, 2 Chronicles 19:5 sq., that came an hundred years later, as referred to in this place. For that effort can only be looked on as a momentary check of the downward course that the nation began with Rehoboan. It may be asked with more justice; did not Isaiah have in mind here also an earlier age than that of Solomon? If only the city, and not the nation, is in question here, that age could only be Melchisedec’s. This occurred to Vitringa, but with a “non ausim” he left the matter in suspenso. I believe that the reference to Melchisedec’s time is not to be rejected, and shall give the reason for this at Isaiah 1:26. The phrase צדק ילין בה, “righteousness lodged in it,” is only another turn and at the same time the establishing of the sentiment “full of judgment.” For if Jerusalem is full of the concrete manifestation of a truly right-living, then this comes only from the fact that the idea of right has, so to speak, taken up its permanent abode in Jerusalem. The words “full of judgment,” therefore, belong to what follows, and stand absolutely, at the beginning (comp. Isaiah 1:13), the one full of right,—righteousness dwelt in her; but now murderers. The antithesis is, of course, not quite complete. Either מלאה must be wanting or else a corresponding adversative be found. It must either say: as regards justice, righteousness formerly dwelt in it, but now murderers,—or; full of justice, righteousness dwelt in it; devoid of justice, murderers swarm in it. But the prophet, evidently influenced by an effort at brevity, expresses in the second member of the adversative phrase only that thought that corresponds to the thought of the first member, and easily joins on to it. That one may not translate, “it was full of justice” arises from the absence of the pronomen separatum. For only in cases where this may be supplied of itself may it be dispensed with.
Thy silver is become.—With these words the prophet passes from the region of the inward and general to that of the concrete outward appearance. The silver of Jerusalem has become dross, the noble wine mixed with water. The noble metal, the noble wine can only mean the noble men. And it appears from Isaiah 1:23, which explains the figurative language, that the prophet has the princes of the people in mind. “Dicitur argentum,” etc. “The silver is said to be turned into dross, and the pure wine to be mixed with water, when judges and senators turn from purity and grave manners, from integrity, sincerity and candor, and prostitute their own dignity.” Vitringa.
As dross is related to silver, the emblem of moral purity (comp. Leyrer in Herzog’sR. Encycl. XV. p. 111, 114) so the diluting with water to the strong wine.—On the matter of the ver. comp. Jeremiah 6:28; Ezekiel 22:18 sqq.
Thy princes, etc.—By these words the prophet himself shows, as he often does, the meaning of his figurative language. On the change of number comp.Psalms 5:10. “It is not שָׁלֹום, that they chase after, but שַׁלְמֹנִים, not peace, but pacifying their greed.” Delitzsch. Comp. Isaiah 1:23 b with Isaiah 1:17 b, and the comment there.
3. Therefore—all thy tin.
Isaiah 1:24-25. From the contemplation of the past and present the prophet now turns to consider the future. The transition to it shall be made by a grand act of judgment and purifying. The prophet introduces his discourse with solemn language, especially by employing in detail all the titles of the Lord. He uses the solemn נְאֻם, which is found in Isa. much more seldom than in Jer., and Ezek. Also הָאָדוֹן occurs in Isa. relatively, not often; comp. Isaiah 1:9, on “of hosts;” אֲבִיר יִשׂ׳ “the mighty one, of Israel,” is found first Exod. 49:24, where however it reads א׳ יַעֲקֹב. The latter form appears in all the rest of the places where it is used, Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 60:16; Psalms 132:2; Psalms 132:5.—“Ah! I will ease,” etc. The Lord announces His intervention in terms that make known His determination to obtain satisfaction.
I will turn, etc.—In the passages cited (see Text. & Gram.) the hand of the subject is not said to have been previously on the object named, and as little is such the case here. The translation of Umbreit, therefore, “let come afresh” is not admissible. And for the same reason we must not, with Vitringa, who appeals to Isaiah 11:11, refer, השׁיב יד to the sanans et benefica manus, the healing and beneficent hand of God. The totality of the nation shall be subjected to a purifying process which the prophet compares to the process by which silver ore is freed from the mixture of ignoble metal, and rendered solid silver (כֶּסֶף צָרוּף or מְּזֻקָּקּPsa 12:7). The separation of the lead ore is promoted by applying alkali, comp. WinerR. W. B., word, Metals.
4. And I will restore—with righteousness.
Isaiah 1:26-27. With these words the prophet indicates the positive good that shall arise from this purifying process; such judges and counsellors as shall resemble those of the early age (Isaiah 1:21) and by whose agency Jerusalem shall become a righteous and faithful city. It is seen that the prophet ascribes a decisive effect to the influence of the chiefs of the state. He must very well have known, by what he observed in his times, how great must have been this influence for evil. This place reminds us much of Jeremiah 23:3-6; Jeremiah 33:15-16. For as Isa. in this place, so there Jer., promises the restoration of a good administration that shall exercise righteousness, and procure a name that shall be significant of that righteousness. Here as there, that name shall be an ideal one (not a name actually employed, comp. my comment on Jeremiah 23:6). The glorious end shall correspond to the glorious beginning, (comp. “faithful city,” “righteousness lodged in it,” Isaiah 1:21). It is, moreover, to me very probable that by the original and first times Isa. understands, not only Solomon’s time, but also Melchizedec’s. For עִיר צֶדֶק and מַלְכִּיצֶרֶק (city of righteousness and king of righteousness) comp. Hebrews 7:2, look quite too much alike. Also the name Adoni-zedec, Joshua 10:0; (comp. Adoni-bezek, Judges 1:5; 1 Samuel 11:8), proves that not only one king of Salem had a name composed of Zedec. It can only be objected that Melchizedec does not belong to the beginning of the Israel Jerusalem. Yet he does belong to the beginning of the Jerusalem of the history of grace. This city had not become the capital city of Israel, had it not before that been the city of Melchizedec; and all the glory and significance of the Israel Jerusalem is only a transitional fact, that would restore that ancient glory of Melchizedec. (comp. my Art. Melchizedec inHerzog’sR. Encycl. IX. p. 300 sq.). We are so much the more justified in this reasoning as the ideal fact of the future that the prophet has in view is, without doubt, identical with the Messianic future (comp. Isaiah 11:3-5; Psalms 72:1 sq.); the Messiah, however Psalms 110:4 (comp. Hebrews 5:6; Hebrews 5:10; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 7:1 sqq.), is expressly designated as the antitype of Melchizedec.
Isaiah 1:27, is difficult. The question is; by whose righteousness is Zion redeemed? To this three answers are given. Some say by the righteousness of the Israelites. Thus the Rabbins especially, “Because in it there shall be those who exercise justice, it is redeemed from its iniquities.” Raschi. But that conflicts with Isaiah 1:24-25; for according to these declarations the Lord Himself vindicates the cleansing and deliverance of Israel as His own judging and sifting operation. Others regard the judgment and righteousness in question as God’s. Against this idea there is, in itself, naturally nothing to object, in as much as there are plenty of passages in which saving effect is ascribed to the righteousness of God. Delitzsch, who adopts this view, cites especially Isaiah 4:4; Isaiah 5:16; Isaiah 28:17. But then Isaiah 1:27 would, in substance, say only in other words what is already contained in Isaiah 1:24-25. It is to be considered moreover,—and therein is seen the third answer to our inquiry—that in many passages, to which this is nearest kindred in its description of Messianic salvation, the righteousness of the administration of justice forms an essential element of that glorious time. Thus Isaiah 9:6 it is said, the Messiah shall order and support the kingdom of David with judgment and righteousness. Thus Isaiah 11:3-5 it is said of the rod out of Jesse, that he shall judge the poor with righteousness, and that righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. And Isaiah 16:5 we read that upon the throne and in the tabernacle of David one shall sit, “judging and seeking judgment, and hastening righteousness.” But in Jeremiah’s celebrated prophecies, Isaiah 23:5 sq. and Isaiah 33:15, it is emphatically said that the Lord will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and that this one shall restore judgment and righteousness in the land, and shall procure to him the name Jehovah our righteousness. And, to prevent our thinking that this righteous government is to be only the prerogative of the Messiah, it is said Isaiah 32:1, expressly of the “princes” too, “they shall rule, in judgment.” Our passage, also, which does not at all mention the person of the Messiah, speaks of judges and counsellors in the plural, which may remain undetermined whether the abstract pluralis generalis, is meant or an actual pluralis multitudinis. In the former case the plural would include the Messiah, and this is in the end, the more probable; in the latter case the righteous judges and counsellors would be distinguished from the Messiah, who is only presented in idea. In any case, by our construction, Isaiah 1:27 is a corollary of Isaiah 1:26. The righteous judges named in Isaiah 1:26, shall fulfil as the task set before them just that which is mentioned Isaiah 1:27; by righteous rule they shall procure deliverance from the evils under which Zion and the שָׁבִים (those returning, Eng. vers “converts”) had to suffer hitherto on account of the unrighteousness of their rulers.
This שׁבים, by reference to the שָׁבֵי פֶשָׁע (those turning from transgression) Isaiah 59:20 has been translated “converts;” [so Eng. ver.]. But to me it seems more likely that Isa., whose manifold use of שׁוּב is a prelude to Jeremiah’s use of the word, uses the word here in the double sense of the spiritual and bodily return, that it so often has in Jer. (comp. my comment on Jeremiah 31:22). To be sure Isa., does not, in what precedes, speak expressly of the Exile. But this notion is impliedly contained in Isaiah 1:25. For, of course the exile belonged essentially to that mighty smelting and purifying process to which the people must be subjected. Let a comparison be made of the passages that give a survey of the Messianic salvation, and it will be seen that precisely the return to the holy land, which of course cannot be conceived of without the spiritual reform, forms a principal element (see my comment Jeremiah 3:18). If therefore our text is related to later passages like the germ to the developed plant, then we are right in regarding the latter as a commentary on it, and accordingly in taking the שָׁבֶיהָ in the double sense of a spiritual and bodily return (Ezra 6:21; Nehemiah 8:17).
5. And the destruction—none shall quench them.
Isaiah 1:28-31. The reverse side of the smelting process, the fate of the “dross” is presented to us here. It is difficult to say what difference there is between פשְׁעִים, (transgressors) and חַטָּאִים (sinners). At all events the former is the more particular, (see Isaiah 1:2), the latter the more general word. Both words signify inimical conduct, the former more toward the person of Jehovah, the latter more to the idea of the good. At the same time חַטָּא as Piel form, contains an intensive force in comparison with חֹטֵא Isaiah 1:4.—The עֹזְבֵי י׳, “they that forsake,” are related to “the transgressors,” as negative to positive. Whoever does evil conducts himself, in some fashion, aggressively against the Lord. But whoever deserts from the Lord is an idolater. In this sense the expression עָזַב אֶת־י׳ is often used; so Isaiah 1:4; still more plainly Isaiah 65:11, the sole place in Isa., beside this where the participle occurs in connection with י׳; comp. Hosea 4:10; Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 16:11; Jeremiah 17:13 (in which place Jer., had our text before him); Isaiah 22:9; 1 Kings 9:9, etc.
For ye shall be ashamed, etc.—The general declaration that “the transgressors,” etc., shall be destroyed, is more particularly established by two connected sentences, each of which begins with “for,” and the second is subordinated to the first. Those that forsake the Lord would not be destroyed if they found the expected help from those to whom they deserted. But they are destroyed because they do not find in idols this help; consequently are brought to shame in the hopes they entertained in this direction. I understand, therefore, “the oaks” and “gardens” to be synecdochical for the idols that were worshipped in them. It is past comprehension how Drechsler can say that “nothing whatever in the text itself or in the context suggests the explanation of idolatry” He could only say so because he has utterly disregarded the specific meaning of עֹזְבֵי י׳, “they that forsake.”
For ye shall be as an oak, etc.—This explains how the becoming ashamed Isaiah 1:29 shall be realized. The “for” of Isaiah 1:30, is therefore not co-ordinate with the “for” of Isaiah 1:29, but subordinate to it. Thus the prophet retains his figure of speach. Those that clung with their hearts to treacherous trees and gardens, and forsook the living waters, (Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 17:13), shall themselves become withered trees and driedup gardens. The Terebinth is not evergreen, as is commonly asserted (comp. Arnold in Herzog’sR. Encycl. XI. p. 26). Therefore not the normal falling of the leaves is meant, but their abnormal wilting.
And the strong shall be, etc.
Isaiah 1:31. But the idols are not only powerless, they are positively ruinous. For this sin against the first commandment includes in itself all the elements of spiritual as well as bodily ruin. The prophet would say that the idolater, even if he be no poor, powerless man, resembling the withered tree, or the garden devoid of water, if, on the contrary, he is rich, and mighty, and like the tree abounding in sap, or a well watered garden, nevertheless, by the ruinous influences of idolatry he shall be destroyed. He compares such an idolater to the tow (Judges 16:9); his work, however, i.e., the idols to a spark (נִיצוֹץἄπ λεγ.)
[Isaiah 1:21. The faithful city (“including the ideas of a city and a state, urbs et civitas, the body politic, the church of which Jerusalem was the centre and metropolis.”) “The particle at the beginning of the verse is properly interrogative, but like the English how is used also to express surprise, ‘How has she become?’ i.e., how could she possibly become? How strange that she should become!” J. A. Alexander.
Isaiah 1:23. They judge not—doth not come unto them.—“They are not simply unjust judges, they are no judges at all, they will not act as such, except when they can profit by it.” J. A. Alexander.
Isaiah 1:24. “I will ease me.—This refers to what is said in Isaiah 1:14, where God is represented as burdened with their crimes.”—“It means that He had been pained and grieved by their crimes; His patience had been put to its utmost trial; and now He would seek relief from this by inflicting due punishment on them. Comp. Ezekiel 5:13; Deuteronomy 28:63,” Barnes.
Isaiah 1:27. “This verse means that the very same events by which the divine justice was to manifest itself in the destruction of the wicked, should be the occasion and the means of deliverance to Zion, or the true people of God,” J. A. Alexander.
“With judgment.—In a righteous, just manner. That is, God shall evince His justice in doing it; His justice to a people to whom so many promises had been made, and His justice in delivering them from long and grievous oppression. All this would be attended with the displays of judgment, in effecting their deliverance.” “With righteousness.—This refers to the character of those who shall return. They would be a reformed, righteous people,” Barnes].
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. On Isaiah 1:1. Concerning Judah and Jerusalem.—Jerome here pronounces decidedly against Chiliasm, in that he says: Scio quosdam Judaeam, etc. “I am aware that some explain Judah and Jerusalem of celestial things, and Isaiah under the person of the Lord Jesus, that He foretells the captivity of that province in our land, and the after return and ascending the sacred mount, in the last days. Which things we make no account of, holding them to be wholly contrary to the faith of Christians.”
Whether Jerome understands by these fidei Christianorum contraria, which the universa despises, Chiliasm generally, or only the giving this passage a chiliastic significance may be doubted. For, on Jeremiah 19:10, he says in regard to the Jewish expectation of a restitution of Israel to the earthly Canaan; Quæ licet non sequamur,” etc.
“Which we may not follow, nor yet can we condemn it; for many churchmen and martyrs have said that. And each is strong in his opinion and the whole may be reserved to the judgment of the Lord.” We see from this he inclined more to reject Chiliasm.
2. On Isaiah 1:1. In the days of, etc.—Sciamus quoque, Ezechiam, etc. We know, moreover, that Hezekiah began to reign in Jerusalem in the twelfth year of Romulus, who erected a city of his own name in Italy, so that it is very apparent how very much more ancient our history is than that of other nations. Jerome, comp. his Epist. ad Damasum, where it is said: Regnavit Ozias annis 52, etc. “Uzziah reigned 52 years, in the time Amulias ruled among the Latins, and Agamester 12th among the Athenians. After whose death Isaiah the prophet saw this vision, i.e., in that year that Romulus, founder of the Roman empire, was born.”
3. On Isaiah 1:2. Theodoret remarks that heaven and earth were qualified witnesses to the ingratitude of Israel because the people “received through them the most manifold benefits. For heaven extended to them from above the food of manna. For he commanded, says Psalms 78:23-24, the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven, and rained down manna upon them to eat, and he gave them bread from heaven. But the earth brought them in the desert the needed water, and in Palestine it afforded them a superabundance of all sorts of fruits.” That heaven and earth, however, can actually bear their testimony he proves by reference to the display at the death of the Lord; “for when the Jews had nailed the Saviour to the cross, the earth quaked mindful of the testimony; but heaven, unable to convey this sensation owing to its position overhead, displayed the sun in his course, robbed of his beams and brought in darkness as testimony against the impious deed.”
4. On Isaiah 1:3. “There God tells them to go to the beasts’ school and uncover their heads before the oxen and asses as their teachers, who though the stupidest and slowest beasts, still submit to their lords and drivers, and are therefore presented to us by God that we may learn from their example, how we should have reverence before our God. Is not that the greatest shame that, according to divine declaration, an ox and ass are, I will not say contrasted with us, but preferred to us because they do their duty toward their lord? Shall we not observe our duty toward God? This is expressly the wisdom and piety of men, that they are more stupid than an ox and ass, although in their own eyes they fancy they are wiser than all men. For what sort of wisdom can be left when one does not know God?” Heim and Hoffmann, “The great prophets according to Luther.”
5. On Isaiah 1:4. “A sinful people is one that altogether sticks in sin (John 9:34), that makes of sin a real trade, and its best amusement;—of the people that is loaded with iniquity, the impostures and trespasses are so great and so many, that they load their conscience therewith as with a burden (Psalms 38:5); the evil seed (John 8:39) has not the disposition of Abraham, but is of Cain’s and the serpent’s kind.” Starke. In peccato originali, etc. “In original sin are two evils: evil itself and punishment (Augustin, De civ. Dei. Isaiah 22:24). Parts of sin itself are imperfection and concupiscence (Augustin), as Gerson says: “impotent toward good, potent toward evil.” Foerster.
6. On Isaiah 1:5-9. “God has two ways by which to bring His ill-advised and disobedient children to obedience; goodness and severity (Romans 11:22).—That many men become only worse and more hardened by the divine judgments comes about, not from God, but from their own guilt (Jeremiah 2:30; Romans 2:5). The desolation of whole cities and lands is the result of sin, hence there is no better means against it than true repentance (Jeremiah 2:19; Jeremiah 18:7-8).—God is gracious even in the midst of wrath (Psalms 138:7), and does not utterly consume (Lamentations 3:22). The true Church must not be judged by outward appearance for often things look very bad within it (1 Kings 19:14).—God is never nearer His own than in cross and misfortune (Isaiah 43:2; Psalms 91:15).”—Starke.
7. On Isaiah 1:10-15. “We learn here plainly, that God did not command them to offer sacrifices because of pleasure He had in such things, but because He knew their weakness. For as they had grown up in Egypt, and had learned there to offer sacrifices to idols, they wished to retain this custom. Now in order to divert them from this error, God put up with the sacrifices and musical instruments (sic!) in that He overlooked their weakness, and directed their childish disposition. But here, after a long course of years, He forbids the entire legal observance.”—Theodoret.—“Hostiœ et,” etc. “Sacrifices and the immolation of victims are not principally sought by God, but lest, they may be made to idols, and that from carnal victims we may, as by type and image pass over to the spiritual sacrifice.”—Jerome.
8. On Isaiah 1:10. Jerome observes: “Aiunt Hebrœi,” etc. “The Jews say that Isaiah was slain on two accounts: because he had called them princes of Sodom and people of Gomorrah, and because the Lord having said to Moses, ‘thou canst not see my face,’ he had dared to say, ‘I saw the Lord sitting’ (Isaiah 6:1).”
9. Isaiah 1:10-15. “What Isaiah says here is just as if one in Christendom were to say: What is the multitude of your assemblies to me? I don’t want your Lord’s suppers. My soul loathes your feast days, and if you assemble for public prayer, I will turn my eyes from you. If one were to preach so among us, would he not be regarded as senseless and a blasphemer because he condemned what Christ Himself instituted? But the prophet condemns that which was the principal matter of the law, and commanded by God Himself, viz., sacrifices; not as if sacrifices in themselves were evil, but because the spirit in which those people sacrificed was impious. For they cast away reliance on the divine compassion, and believed they were just by the sacrifice, by the performance of the bare work. But sacrifices were not instituted by God that the Jews should become righteous through them, but that they might be signs through which the pious testified that they believed the promises concerning Christ, and expected Christ as their Redeemer.”—Heim and Hoffmann. The Great Prophets, according to Luther.
10. Isaiah 1:16-20. “A generali reformatione,” etc. “He begins with a general reformation, lest, having finished with one part, they might think it opposed a veil to God. And such in general must be the treatment of men alienated from God. Not one or other of the vices of a morbid body is to be dealt with, but, if one cares to have a true and entire recovery, they are to be called to renovation, and the contagion thoroughly purged, that they may begin to please God, who before were hateful and nauseous. And by the metaphor of washing there is no doubt but that they are exhorted to cleanse away inward filth; a little later indeed he adds the fruits of works.”—Calvin.
11.Isaiah 1:18. “My art is wonderful. For, whereas the dyers dye rose-red, and yellow and violet and purple, I change the red into snow white.”—Theodoret. “Opera crucris,” etc. “Works of blood and gore are exchanged for a garment of the Lord, which is made of the fleece of the Lamb whom they follow in the Revelation (Isaiah 3:5; Isaiah 6:11), who shine with the whiteness of virginity.”—Jerome.
12.Isaiah 1:21-23. “From the condition of Jerusalem at that day, one may see how Satan often exercises his lordship in the Church of God, as if all bands were dissolved. For if anywhere, then the church was at that time in Jerusalem. And yet Isaiah calls it a den of murderers and a cave of robbers. If Satan could so rage in it, we must not wonder if the same thing happens in our day. But we must take pains that we be not seduced by so bad an example.”—Heim and Hoffmann.
13.Isaiah 1:23. “It is great consolation for pious widows and orphans that God knows when rulers and judges will pay no heed to their want (Psalms 68:6).—Starke.
14.Isaiah 1:24-25. “God proceeds very unwillingly to punishment (Genesis 6:3).—Not only those are the enemies of God that defiantly reject His word, but those also who hypocritically glory in it.—Although one may not carnally rejoice at the misfortune of his enemies, yet it is allowable to praise the righteousness of God in it (Psalms 58:11).—If God wishes to avenge Himself on His enemies, every thing is ready for the exercise of His will (Sir 39:5 sq. ).—It is a blessing when God by persecution purifies His church from dross (Matthew 3:12).—What is tin and what silver can be easily found out by fire. So by the fire of affliction is soon made plain who has been a hypocrite and who a true Christian.”—Starke.
15.Isaiah 1:26. Regarding the fulfilment of this prophecy, many, e. g., Musculus, have found in it the promise of a return of the days of the Judges, i. e., the days of a Jephtha, Gideon, Samuel, etc. Others understand the language of the restitution of the kingdom. Others again refer the language to the return out of the Babylonish captivity under Zerubabbel, Joshua, Ezra and Nehemiah. Still others see the Apostles in the promised judges. But all these explanations are evidently too narrow and one-sided. The fulfilment has its degrees. And if Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah are justly regarded as the representatives of the first feeble beginnings of the great restitution of Israel; if, further, the Apostles are justly regarded as the founders of the new Zion on a higher plain, still by all this the prophecy is not at all fulfilled. It will only then be fulfilled when the Lord comes “into His kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
16. Isaiah 1:27. The happiness of a people is not secured by sword and spear, nor by horse and chariot, nor even by industry, flourishing commerce or any sort of outward institution. Only justice and righteousness in Christ’s sense can give true peace and true well-being.
17. Isaiah 1:27-31. “Precisely from that quarter shall ruin come upon the godless, where they looked for salvation. For their images and idols are the tinder for God’s wrath by which an unquenchable conflagration shall be kindled.”—Heim and Hoffmann.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1.Isaiah 1:2-9. The judicial process of the Lord is no secret one, but public. Yea, He gives it the greatest publicity that can be imagined. He invites heaven and earth, and all creatures that are in it, to attend the great trial He has with His people.—He is a true Father. He has let it cost Him a great deal to bring up His children. He has raised them from small beginnings to a high degree of honor and dignity.—For that they ought to be grateful to Him.—How God wrestles for human souls: 1. He nourishes and trains them with true paternal love. 2. They reward His love with ingratitude and apostasy. 3. He chastises them as they deserve. 4. They become little in order renewedly to grow up to true greatness.
4.Isaiah 1:27-31. “Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people.” Proverbs 14:34. Therefore every policy that is contrary to the commands of God, can only have God for opponent.—Now wherever the chastisements of God are disregarded, there will His judgment also go forth until He exterminates those that oppose Him. “Then it goes on to the judgment of being hardened, and sin itself must become the man’s scourge, so that he is as the tow and his work as the spark, that it may consume himself.” (Tholuck, Hours of Christian Devotion, p. 131).—False and true progress. 1. False progress is in fact a retrograde, for a) it consists in turning back from God’s command (mostly under guidance of over-shepherds); b) it necessarily occasions outward ruin. 2. True progress is a) apparently a going backwards, in that it first of all rests on a return to the eternal foundations of salvation; b) in fact, however, is a genuine movement forward; a) to a deeper comprehension of the truth; b) to an inalienable possession of true salvation.
From M. Henry on the whole chapter
[Isaiah 1:4. “Children that are corrupters.” If those that are called God’s children, that are looked upon as belonging to His family, be wicked and vile, their example is of the most malignant influence.
Isaiah 1:11-15. When sinners are under the judgments of God they will more easily be brought to fly to their devotions, than to forsake their sins and reform their lives.
“Your sacrifices.” They are your sacrifices and none of mine; I am full of them, even surfeited with them.
Dissembled piety is double iniquity. Hypocrisy in religion is of all things most abominable to the God of heaven.
Isaiah 1:16-20. Let them not say that God picks quarrels with them; no, He proposes a method of reconciliation.
“Cease to do evil; learn to do well.” 1. We must be doing; not cease to do evil and then stand idle. 2. We must be doing good, the good which the Lord requires, and which will turn to good account. 3. We must do it well, in a right manner, and for a right end; and 4. We must learn to do well: we must take pains to get the knowledge of our duty, etc.
“Let us reason.” 1. Religion has reason on its side: there is all the reason in the world that we should do as God would have us do. 2. The God of heaven condescends to reason the case with those who contradict Him, and find fault with His proceedings, for He will be justified when He speaks. Psalms 51:4. The case needs only to be stated (as here it is, very fairly), and it will determine itself.
Isaiah 1:21-23. Corruptio optimi est pessima. That which originally was the best, when corrupted becomes the worst, Luke 11:26; Ecclesiastes 3:16; Jeremiah 23:15-17. This is illustrated 1, By similitudes, Isaiah 1:22. Isaiah 1:2, By some instances, Isaiah 1:23.
Isaiah 1:24-26. Two ways in which God will ease Himself of this grievance: 1. By reforming His church and restoring good judges in the room of those corrupt ones. 2. By cutting off those that hate to be reformed, that they may not remain either as snares or as scandals to the faithful city.
Isaiah 1:30. Justly do those wear no leaves that bear no fruit: as the fig tree that Christ cursed.
Isaiah 1:10. “There could have been no more severe or cutting reproof of their wickedness than to address them as resembling the people whom God overthrew for their enormous crimes.”—Barnes.
Isaiah 1:11. “Hypocrites abound in outward religious observances just in proportion to their neglect of the spiritual requirements of God’s word. Comp. Matthew 23:23.—Barnes.
Isaiah 1:31. “The principle in this passage teaches us the following things. (1). That the wicked, however mighty, shall be destroyed. (2). That their works shall be the cause of their ruin—a cause necessarily leading to it. (3). That the works of the wicked—all that they do and all on which they depend—shall be destroyed. (4). That this destruction shall be final. Nothing shall stay the flame. No tears of penitence, no power of men or devils shall put out the fires which the works of the wicked shall enkindle.”—Barnes.
Heb. of heaviness.
Heb. alienated, or, separated.
Heb. increase revolt.
Every head, every heart,
Not pressed out.
Heb. as the overthrow of strangers.
a Sodom of stranger.
a hanging mat.
Heb. great he goats.
Heb. to be seen.
Oblations, the sacrilege—incense that is abomination to me.
I cannot bear sacrilege and solemn meeting.
I bear them no longer.
Heb. multiply prayer.
refresh myself on, and avenge me on.
Heb. according to pureness.
will melt out thy dross with lye.
Or, they that return of her.
Or, And his work.
his work a spark.
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 1". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter