ISAIAH CHAPTER 56
Blessedness of the godly, without any respect of persons, Isaiah 56:1-8. Blind watchmen shall be destroyed, Isaiah 56:9-12.
This verse and the rest of this chapter, until verse 9, seems to belong to the foregoing prophecy. From the consideration of God’s promises made to them he moveth them to perform their duty to him.
Keep ye judgment, and do justice: this phrase elsewhere signifies the duties which one man oweth to another, but here it seems to signify the duties which men owe to God, as it is explained in the following verses.
My salvation; that eminent salvation by the Messiah, so largely promised and insisted upon in the foregoing chapters; for which it behooves you to prepare yourselves, and in which, without this condition, you shall have no share nor benefit.
Is near to come: so the Scripture useth to speak of things which are at a great distance, as if they were present or at hand: see Habakkuk 2:3 James 5:8,9 Re 22:20.
My righteousness: the same thing which he now called salvation, and here calleth his righteousness, because it is an evident demonstration of God’s righteousness, as in the fulfilling of his promises, so in the punishment of sin, and in the salvation of sinners upon just and honourable terms.
Blessed is the man; every man, not only Jews, but Gentiles, or strangers, as it is explained in the following verses. That were this; judgment and justice, mentioned Isaiah 56:1.
That layeth hold on it; or, that holdeth it fast; that is resolute and constant in so doing; that not only begins well, but perseveres in it.
That keepeth the sabbath, from polluting it; that guardeth the sabbath from profanation, and doth not defile it, either by forbidden practices, or by the neglect of commanded duties. And the sabbath seems to be put here, as sacrifice is elsewhere, synecdochically for the whole worship of God, whereof this is an eminent part, and the bond of all the rest.
Keepeth his hand; which being the great instrument of action, is put for all the kinds and means of action.
From doing any evil, to wit, to one’s neighbour, as it is more fully expressed, Psalms 15:3.
The son of the stranger; the stranger, as the son of man is the same with the man, Isaiah 56:2; the Gentile, who by birth is a stranger to God, and to the commonwealth of Israel.
That hath joined himself to the Lord; that hath turned from dumb idols to the living God, and to the true religion; for such shall be as acceptable to me as the Israelites themselves, and the partition-wall between Jews and Gentiles shall be taken down, and repentance and remission of sins shall be preached and offered to men of all nations.
The eunuch; who is here joined with the stranger, because he was forbidden to enter into the congregation of the Lord, Deuteronomy 23:1, as the stranger was, and by his barrenness might seem no less than the stranger to be cast out of God’s covenant, and cut off from his people, to whom the blessing of a numerous posterity was promised. And under these two instances he understands all those persons who either by birth, or by any ceremonial pollution, were excluded from the participation of church privileges; and so he throws open the door to all true believers, without any restriction whatsoever. A dry tree; a sapless and fruitless tree, accursed by God with the curse of barrenness, which being oft threatened as a curse, and being a matter of reproach among the Jews, might easily occasion such discouraging thoughts as are here expressed.
Choose the things that please me; that observe my commands, not by custom, or force, or fear, but by free choice, and full consent, with love to them and delight in them.
Take hold of my covenant; that resolvedly and stedfastly keep the conditions of my covenant.
In mine house; in my temple, to serve me there as priests, which eunuchs were not allowed to do, Leviticus 21:17, &c.; Deuteronomy 23:1.
Within my walls; in the courts of my temple, which were encompassed with walls. This seems to be added with respect to the people, who were admitted into the court, but not into the house itself.
A place and a name better than of sons and of daughters; a far greater blessing and honour than that of having posterity, which was but a temporal mercy, and that common to the worst of men; even my favour, and my Spirit, and eternal felicity.
That join themselves to the Lord; that with purpose of heart cleave unto him, as is said, Acts 11:23.
To serve him, and to love the name of the Lord; to serve him out of love to him, and to his worship.
To my holy mountain; to my house, as it is explained in the following clause, which stood upon Mount Zion, largely so called, including Mount Moriah. Formerly the Gentiles neither had any desire to come thither, nor were admitted there; but now I will incline their hearts to come, and I will give them admission and free liberty to come into my church.
Make them joyful, by accepting their services, and comforting their hearts with the sense of my love, and pouring down all sorts of blessings upon them.
In my house of prayer; in my temple, in and towards which prayers are daily made and directed unto me, 1 Kings 8:28,29.
Their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; they shall have as free access to my house and altar as the Jews themselves, and their services shall be as acceptable to me as theirs. Evangelical worship is here described under such expressions as agreed to the worship of God which then was in use, as it is Malachi 1:11, and elsewhere. See also Romans 12:1 Hebrews 13:15.
Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people; Jews and Gentiles shall have equal freedom of access to my house, and shall there call upon my name. Possibly he may call it
a house of prayer, either to imply that prayer to God, whereof thanksgiving is a part, is a more considerable part of God’s worship than sacrifice, which being considered in itself is little valued by him, as he frequently declareth; or to signify that in the New Testament, when the Gentiles should be called, all other sacrifices should cease, except that of prayer, and such-like spiritual services; which also is confirmed from the nature of the thing. For seeing sacrifices were confined to the temple at Jerusalem, and it was impossible that all nations should resort thither to offer up Levitical sacrifices in such time and manner as God appointed, it was necessary upon supposition of the general conversion of the Gentiles, that that way of worship should be abolished, and such a way prescribed as they were capable of practicing.
Which gathereth the outcasts of Israel; which will gather to himself, and bring into their own land, those poor Israelites which are, or shall be, cast out of their own land, and from God’s presence, and dispersed in divers parts of the world.
Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him; as there are some few Gentiles whom I have made proselytes, and added to the Jewish church, so I shall make another and a far more comprehensive gathering of the Gentiles, whom I shall bring into the same church with the Jews, making both Jews and Gentiles one fold under one Shepherd, as it is promised, John 10:16.
This invitation or proclamation is a prediction of Israel’s destruction by their cruel enemies, which are oft expressed in Scripture under the names of ravenous beasts. But the great question is, What connexion this part of the chapter hath with the former? Which may be thus conceived: The prophet having largely discoursed concerning the Messiah, and his church and kingdom, and particularly of the great accession and conversion of the Gentiles to it, and of the infidelity, apostacy, and manifold wickednesses of the Jewish nation, and having comforted and encouraged the Gentiles with God’s gracious promises made to them, he now proceeds to terrify the unbelieving and ungodly Jews, and to show that as the Gentiles should believe, and be saved, so they should reject their Messiah, and be utterly destroyed; although we need not labour much about the coherence; for this may be a new sermon, and therefore many learned interpreters make this the beginning of the 57th chapter.
His; Israel’s, as is evident from the following verses; the pronoun relative being put without and instead of the antecedent; of which I have given divers instances before.
Watchmen; priests and prophets, or other teachers, who are commonly called watchmen, as Ezekiel 3:17 33:2 Hosea 9:8. He mentions only the teachers, because ignorance was most shameful in them; but hereby he supposeth the gross ignorance of the people, who neither pretended nor desired to be wiser than their teachers.
They are all ignorant of God’s will and word, and of their own and the people’s duty, and of the true Messiah.
They are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; they are also slothful and negligent in instructing the people, and do not faithfully reprove them for their sins, nor warn them of their dangers, nor keep them from errors and corruptions in doctrine, and worship, and conversation, as they ought to do.
Sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber; minding their own ease and safety more than the people’s benefit.
Greedy dogs which can never have enough; insatiably covetous.
That cannot understand, Heb. that know not to understand; that do not care, or love, or desire (as knowing is frequently taken) either to understand the law or word of God themselves, or to make the people to understand it.
They all look to their own way; they regard neither God’s command and glory, nor the people’s good, but only the satisfaction of their own base lusts. See Poole "Isaiah 53:6".
Every one for his gain, from his quarter; in their several places and stations, as they have opportunity. Heb. from his or their end or extremity, i.e. universally, or all from one end of that body or society of men unto the other; as the same word signifies, Genesis 19:4; from one end of the city to the other; or, as we there render it,
from every quarter; and as the same word is by divers learned men rendered, 1 Kings 12:31, out of the meanest of the people, but out of all the people, or indifferently out of every tribe; of which See Poole "1 Kings 12:31". But if that phrase be rightly rendered there, out of the meanest of the people, as divers also expound the same phrase, Genesis 47:2, of the meanest of his brethren, why may it not as well be rendered here, even from the meanest or poorest of his flock? which is a great aggravation of their covetousness and cruelty, to extort gains from such as needed their charity.
Say they, unto their brethren, by office and in iniquity; unto their fellow priests, or other jolly companions.
We will fill ourselves; we will drink not only to delight, but even to drunkenness, as the word signifies, Nahum 1:10, and elsewhere.
To-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant; which showeth their dreadful security and contempt of God, and of his judgments, and their total and resolved abandoning of all care of their own or people’s souls.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 56". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany