ISAIAH CHAPTER 50
The dereliction of the Jews is not of Christ; for he hath power to save, Isaiah 50:1-4; and was obedient in that work; and God is present with him, Isaiah 50:5-9. An exhortation not to trust in ourselves, but in God, Isaiah 50:10,11.
Thus saith the Lord: this is another sermon begun here, and continued in the next chapter. The main scope of it is to vindicate God’s justice, and to convince the Jews that they were the causes of all their calamities which they imputed to God.
Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement? God had formerly espoused’ the Israelites to himself in a kind of matrimonial covenant, but seemed to cast them off when he sent them to Babylon, and did wholly reject them afterward from being his people, and took the Gentiles into their stead; which great and wonderful change was foretold in the Old Testament, as hath been already observed, and we shall see again, and accomplished in the New. And because God foresaw that those strange dispensations would provoke the Jews to murmur and quarrel with God for, casting them off without sufficient cause, as indeed they were always prone to accuse God, and to vindicate themselves, he bids them produce their bill of divorce; for those husbands which put away their wives merely out of levity or passion were obliged to give their wives a bill of divorce, which vindicated the wife’s innocency, and declared that the husband’s will and pleasure was the cause of the divorce; of which see the notes on Deuteronomy 24:1 Matthew 19:3.
Which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? have I any creditors to whom I was obliged or willing to sell you for the payment of my debt? Produce then the bill of sale to witness against me. Parents might, and in some cases were forced to sell their children to their creditors; of which see on Exodus 21:7, and 2 Kings 4:1.
For your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, & c.; you can blame none but yourselves and your own sins for all your captivities and miseries.
The general accusation delivered in the last words he now proveth by particular instances. When I came; when I, first by my prophets, and at last by my Son, came unto them, to call them to repentance, and to redeem and deliver them, as it is explained in the following clauses of this verse. No man that regarded and received me, that complied with my call and offer of grace, as it follows; whereby he implies that the generality of the Jews were guilty of gross infidelity and obstinate disobedience, and therefore might justly be rejected.
When I called; called them to repentance, or to come unto me, or to do my will, as masters call their servants.
None to answer; to come at my call, to obey my commands. Have I no power to deliver? what is the reason of this horrible contempt and rebellion? Is it because you expect no good from me, but think that I am either unwilling or unable to save you? Because you see no miracles wrought for you to save you from the Babylonians; and because my Son, your Messiah, cometh not with pomp and power, as you expect, but in the form of a servant, poor, and exposed to contempt and death; do you therefore believe that my power to deliver you is less than it was?
At my rebuke: this phrase is borrowed from Psalms 106:9, and it is used Matthew 8:26. At my word or command, whereby I rebuke and check its proud waves.
I dry up, Heb. I will dry up; or, I can dry up; the future verb being put potentially. As I did it once, so I can and will do it again, when occasion requires it. I make the rivers a wilderness; as dry and fit for travel as a wilderness.
I clothe the heavens with blackness; or, I will or can clothe &c. What I once did in Egypt, when I drew black curtains before all the heavenly lights, and caused an unparalleled and amazing darkness for three days together, to the great terror of mine enemies, so I can and will do still when it is necessary to save my people. And therefore you have no reason to distrust me.
I make sackcloth their covering; I cover them with thick and dark clouds, black as sackcloth, as is said, Revelation 6:12, or as that stuff of which the tents of Kedar were made, Song of Solomon 1:5. From this and some other expressions it appears that they wore a black sackcloth, which also was most suitable to the state of mourners, by whom it was used.
God having asserted his own power, to show the groundlessness of the infidelity of the Jews, he proceeds to show what excellent and effectual means he used to bring them to repentance and salvation; which he mentions as a great aggravation of their unbelief and rebellion, which by this means was without all excuse. This and the following passages may be in some sort understood of the prophet Isaiah, though but obscurely and imperfectly; but they are far more evidently and eminently verified in Christ, and indeed seem to be meant directly of him. For seeing there are many other passages in this prophecy which are directly meant of Christ, and of his ministry, and not at all of the prophet, why may not this be added to the number of them? especially considering that there is nothing here which forceth us to understand this place of Isaiah, and several of these passages are expounded of Christ in the New Testament, as is confessed. Besides, this seems to suit best with the coherence; for according to this exposition the same person speaketh here who hath spoken in all the foregoing verses of the chapter, even the Lord himself considered as man, because he was both God and man, as is abundantly evident from many scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament, as hath been already proved, and will hereafter be more fully evinced.
The tongue of the learned; an ability of speaking plainly, and convincingly, and persuadingly, and in all points so as becometh a person taught of God, and filled with all Divine and heavenly wisdom and knowledge, and with a singular skill of winning souls, and of working upon men’s hearts and consciences.
Him that is weary; burdened with the sense of his sad and deplorable condition, in which case a word of comfort is most seasonable and acceptable. This was the proper and principal design of Christ’s ministry, to give rest and comfort to distressed souls, according to what is said with respect to this place, Matthew 11:28; and all the doctrines, reproofs, and threatenings of Christ were directed to this end, to make men fit for comfort and salvation.
He wakeneth, to wit, me, the pronoun being oft understood; or, as it follows, mine ear. Morning by morning; from time to time, and continually.
He wakeneth mine ear to hear; because human nature is of itself weak and slothful, he by his Divine power assisteth and stirreth me up to the observation and practice of all his commands and my duties.
As the learned; either,
1. As learned men or teachers use to awaken their scholars to hear and learn of them from time to time; or rather,
2. As those that are or desire and endeavour, up to be learned use to hear with all possible attention and diligence; for this title of learned is in the former part of the verse given not to the teacher, who is said to be God, but to the person taught by him.
Hath opened mine ear; hath revealed unto me; or rather, hath given me a power and will to hear and receive his commands, as this phrase is used, Psalms 40:6 Isaiah 35:5, and elsewhere.
I was not rebellious; I readily did and suffered what he required of me.
Neither turned away back: the same thing repeated in other words. I did not turn away mine ear from hearing any of God’s commands, nor my feet from gong where God sent me, how difficult or dangerous soever my employment was. He seems to allude to the former prophets, who had, divers of them, shrunk back, and for a time refused such work as God called them to, as Moses, Exodus 3:11,13, Jonah 1:8, and others.
I gave my back to the smiters; I patiently yielded up myself, and turned my back to those who smote me. I was willing not only to do, but to suffer, the will of God, and the injuries of men. This and the following passages were literally fulfilled in Christ, as is expressly affirmed, Matthew 26:57,67 27:26,30, and elsewhere; but we read of no such thing concerning Isaiah. And therefore it is most safe and reasonable to understand it of Christ; the rather, because it is not usual with the prophets to commend themselves so highly as the prophet here commends the person of whom he speaketh.
Plucked off the hair; which was a contumely or punishment inflicted upon malefactors, Nehemiah 13:25.
I hid not my face from shame, from all manner of reproachful usages; but did knowingly and willingly submit myself there unto.
And spitting: spitting in a man’s face was used in token of contempt and detestation, Numbers 12:14 Job 30:10; and this was literally fulfilled in Christ, Matthew 26:67.
For; or rather, But, as this particle is oft rendered. For God’s favour is here opposed to the injuries of men.
The Lord God will help me; though as a man I am weak and inconsiderable, yet God will strengthen me to go through my great and hard work.
Therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore I assure myself of success in my employment, and of victory over all mine enemies.
Therefore have I set my face like a flint; I have hardened myself with resolution and courage against all opposition. So this or the like phrase is used Ezekiel 3:8,9, which elsewhere signifies obstinacy and impudence, as Jeremiah 5:3 Zechariah 7:12; so that it notes any settled and unmovable purpose, whether good or evil.
He is near; God, though he seem to be at a distance, and to hide his face from me, yet he is in truth at my right hand, and ready to help me.
That justifieth me; that will publicly acquit me from all the calumnies of mine adversaries, who say that I am a transgressor of the law, a false teacher and deceiver, a blasphemer, and a devil, and the like, in which opinion they are confirmed by my death and sufferings. But God will clear up my righteousness, and show by many and mighty signs and wonders that he is well pleased with me, and that I lived and died his faithful servant.
Let him come near to me; I challenge all my accusers to stand and appear before the Judge face to face, and to produce all their charges against me; for I am conscious of mine own innocency, and I know that God will give sentence for me.
That shall condemn me; that dare attempt it, or can justly do it.
They all, mine accusers and enemies,
shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up: shall pine away in their iniquity, as God threatened, Leviticus 26:39; shall be cut off and consumed by a secret curse and judgment of God, which is compared to a
moth, Hosea 5:12, whilst I shall survive and flourish, and the pleasure of God shall prosper in my hands, as is said, Isaiah 53:10.
Who is among you that feareth the Lord? he now turneth his speech from the unbelieving and rebellious Jews to those of them who were or should be pious.
Of his servant; of the same person of whom he hath hitherto spoken; of Christ, who is called God’s servant, Isaiah 52:13 53:11, partly by way of eminency, and partly to intimate that although he was God, yet he should take upon himself the form of a servant, as is said, Philippians 2:7. He hereby signifies that the grace of God, and the comfort here following, belongeth to none but to those that hear and believe this great Prophet of the church; which also was declared by Moses, Deuteronomy 18:15, compared with Acts 3:22,23.
In darkness; not in sin, which is oft called darkness; as walking in darkness is put for living in wickedness, 1 John 1:6; but in misery, which also frequently cometh under the name of darkness: that liveth in a most disconsolate and calamitous condition, together with great despondency or dejection of spirit.
No light; no comfort nor hope left.
Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God; let him fix his faith and hope in the name, i.e. in the most excellent and amiable nature, and infinite perfections, and especially in the free grace, and mercy, and faithfulness,
of the Lord, declared in his word; and in his propriety or interest in God, who by the mediation of this Servant is reconciled to him, and made his God.
All ye that kindle a fire, that you may enjoy the light and comfort of it, as it is explained in the following words. You that reject the light which God hath set up, and refuse the counsel of his servant, and seek for comfort, and safety, and the knowledge of God’s mind, and the enjoyment of his favour, by your own inventions; which was the common error of the Jews in all ages, and especially in the days of the Messiah, when they refused him, and that way of righteousness and salvation which he appointed, and rested upon their own traditions and devices, going about to establish their own righteousness, and not submitting unto the righteousness of God, as is expressed, Romans 10:3.
That compass yourselves about; endeavouring to warm and refresh yourselves on all sides.
With sparks; or rather, with firebrands, as this very word is fitly rendered, Proverbs 26:18, which is better than sparks or flames, which is there put in the margin, because firebrands only, and not sparks or flames, are capable of being thrown by one man at another. And this word is no where else used in Scripture. He mentions firebrands, either to imply that these fires yielded more smoke than heat or light, of because these were the usual materials of a fire.
Walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled; use your utmost endeavours to get comfort and satisfaction from these devices.
This shall ye have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow; this shall be the fruit of all, through my just judgment, that instead of that comfort and security which you expect by these means, you shall receive nothing but vexation and misery, which shall pursue you both living and dying; for this word, which is here rendered lie down, is frequently used for dying, as Genesis 47:30 Job 21:26, and elsewhere. Or it is a metaphor from a man that lying down on his bed for rest and ease, meets with nothing but trouble and pain, as Job complained, Job 7:13,14.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 50". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany