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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Isaiah 57


The blessed death of the righteous not duly lamented by the Jews; who also commit idolatry, and trusted in man: they are threatened, Isaiah 57:1-12;

Evangelical promises to the penitent, Isaiah 57:13-19.

No peace to the wicked, Isaiah 57:20,Isaiah 57:21.

Verse 1

The righteous; just and holy men, who are the pillars of the place and state in which they live; yea, as the Jews call them, the pillars of the world.

No man; few or none of the people. So he showeth that the corruption was general, in the people no less than in the priests.

Layeth it to heart; is duly affected with this severe stroke and sad sign of God’s displeasure.

Merciful; or, godly; the same whom he now called righteous, whose duty and practice it is to exercise both mercy or kindness, and justice.

From the evil to come; from those dreadful calamities which are coming upon the nation.

Verse 2

He shall enter into peace; this just and merciful man shall enter into a state of peace and rest, where he shall be out of the reach of the approaching miseries. Or, He shall go (to wit, to his fathers, as it is fully expressed, Genesis 15:15; or, he shall die; going being put for dying, as 1 Chronicles 17:11, compared with 2 Samuel 7:12; Job 10:21; Job 14:20; Luke 22:22, and elsewhere) in peace. They; just men. Here is a sudden change of the number, which is very frequent in the prophets. In their beds; in their graves, which are not unfitly called their beds, or sleeping houses, as their death is commonly called sleep in Scripture. Walking; or, that walketh or did walk, i.e. live. In his uprightness; in a sincere and faithful discharge of his duties to God and men. Or, before him, i.e. before God, according to the usual phrase of Scripture, as Genesis 17:1; 1 Kings 2:4; 1 Kings 8:25. For God is oft understood where he is not expressed, but only designed by this or the like pronoun, as Genesis 15:13, and elsewhere.

Verse 3

Draw near hither, to God’s tribunal, to answer for yourselves, and to hear what I have to say against you, and to receive your sentence.

Sons of the sorceress; not by propagation, but by imitation; such being frequently called a man or woman’s sons that learn their art, and follow their example: you sorcerers, either properly or metaphorically so called; for the Jews were guilty of it both ways.

The seed of the adulterer and the whore; not the genuine children of Abraham, as you pretend and boast, but begotten in fornication upon a common whore; which is not to be understood properly, but figuratively, because their dispositions and carriages were far more suitable to a bastardly brood than to Abraham’s seed.

Verse 4

Against whom do ye sport yourselves? consider whom it is that you mock and scoff when you deride God’s prophets, as they did, Isaiah 28:14,Isaiah 28:22, and know that it is not so much men that you abuse as God, whose cause they plead, and in whose name they speak.

Make a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue: these are the known and common gestures of mockers, of which see Job 16:10; Psalms 22:7; Psalms 35:21.

Are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood? either an adulterous brood, as was said before; or a generation of liars, whose practices grossly contradict your principles and professions, who deal deceitfully and perfidiously both with God and with men.

Verse 5

Inflaming yourselves with idols, Heb. Being inflamed, &c.; lusting after them, and mad upon them, as the phrase is, Jeremiah 50:38; fervent both in making and in worshipping of them, as was observed, Isaiah 44:12, &c. It is a metaphor borrowed from whoredom, to which idolatry is oft compared.

Under every green tree; wheresoever you see an idol erected, which was commonly done in groves, or under great and shady trees, which both defended the worshippers from the heat of the sun, and were supposed to strike them with a kind of sacred horror and reverence. See Poole "Deuteronomy 12:2"; See Poole "2 Kings 16:4"; See Poole "2 Kings 17:10".

Slaying the children, in way of sacrifice to their idols, after the manner of the barbarous heathens; of which see on Leviticus 18:21; Deuteronomy 12:31; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Kings 23:10.

In the valleys; or, beside the brooks, which run in the valleys; which was most commodious for such bloody work. He seems to allude to the valley of Hinnom, in which these cruelties were practised, Jeremiah 7:31, through which also the brook Kidron is supposed to have run.

Under the clifts of the rocks; which they chose either for shade, or for those dark vaults and hollow places which were either by nature or art made in rocks, and which were convenient for and frequently appointed to idolatrous uses.

Verse 6

Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion; thou hast chosen for thy portion those idols which were either made of those smooth stones which were cast up by rivers, or which were worshipped upon altars made of such stones, or which were worshipped by the sides of brooks or rivers, where such smooth stones commonly lie.

They are thy lot; thou hast forsaken me, and chosen idols for the great object of thy worship and trust.

To them hast thou poured a drink-offering, thou hast offered a meat-offering; for the devil is God’s ape, and idolaters used the same rites and offerings in the worship of idols which God had prescribed in his own, Numbers 15:4, &c.

Should I receive comfort in these? should I be pleased with such a people and such actions? must I not needs be highly provoked, and show my displeasure by an exemplary punishment of such wicked and foolish actions? This is a usual figure, called meiosis, or litotes, when less is said, and more is understood.

Verse 7

Upon a lofty and high mountain, in high places, which were much used for religious worship, both by Israelites and by heathens,

hast thou set thy bed; thine altar, as appears from the sacrifice here following, in which thou didst commit spiritual whoredom with idols. Compare Ezekiel 23:17,Ezekiel 23:41.

Verse 8

Behind the doors also and the posts; which by a figure called hendiaduo may be put for the door-posts, as it is expressed, Deuteronomy 11:20. Behind the posts of the doors of thine house; where the heathens are said to have placed their tutelar gods, to whose protection they committed themselves and their houses, that so they might have their eyes and minds upon them, whensoever they went out or came in. Here also the Israelites might put them in some close corner, that they might keep them secret, it being opprobrious, and ofttimes dangerous, for them to worship idols.

Thy remembrance; those images or monuments and tokens which thou didst make and set up there as remembrances of those idol-gods whom they represented, or to whom they belonged. He saith,

thy remembrance, in opposition to God’s remembrances, or to that writing of God’s law upon their door-posts, which God prescribed to keep him and his law in their remembrance, Deuteronomy 6:9; Deuteronomy 11:20.

Thou hast discovered thyself to another than me; thou hast uncovered thy nakedness, i.e. prostituted thy body, (as the phrase commonly signifies,) to others besides me, thine Husband. Heb. from with me (departing from me, or as it were rising out of my bed) thou hast uncovered or prostituted thyself to others, like an impudent and insatiable strumpet. Art gone up into the adulterous bed, as this very word is used, Genesis 49:4.

Thou hast enlarged thy bed, that it might receive many adulterers together. Thou hast multiplied thine idols and altars. Made a covenant with them; thou hast covenanted to serve them, and to expect help from them. But because the verb here used being thus put by itself never signifies to make a covenant, it seems to be better rendered in the margin of our Bible, and by others, hast hewed it (to wit, thy bed, which is expressed both in the next foregoing and in the next following words) for thyself (for thine idolatrous uses) larger than theirs; than their bed, as it follows: or thus, didst hew down (to wit, trees, which is easily understood, both from the verb, and from the nature of the thing) to or for thyself (to make images or other things relating to thy false gods) more than they; more than the heathens, of whom thou hast learned these practices, as God complains, 2 Kings 21:9; Ezekiel 16:46,Ezekiel 16:47,Ezekiel 16:52. Thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it; no sooner didst thou see their idols but thou wast enamoured with them, and didst fall down and worship them, like an unchaste and lewd woman, who upon all occasions, and at the very first view of any man, is inflamed with lust towards them. Heb. thou lovedst their bed (i.e. their filthy conversation) in the place (for so this Hebrew word frequently signifies, as Deuteronomy 23:12; Isaiah 22:18, and elsewhere) where thou sawest it. Or thus, thou lovedst their bed, thou didst provide (as this word signifies, Exodus 18:21, and so doth a word of the very same signification, Genesis 22:8) a place for it, to receive their bed, to set up their idols in thine own house.

Verse 9

Thou wentest, either by thyself, or by thy messengers, as it follows. Or, thou didst look, to wit, earnestly, with expectation and vehement affection.

To the king; either to Moloch, which was as it were the king or chief of their idols, and which signifies a king. Or to the great king of Assyria, called the king by way of eminency, to whom the Israelites in the days of Isaiah were very prone to seek, and trust, and send presents. Although the word king may be here taken collectively for the kings of Assyria or Egypt, or any other king, from whom they desired or expected help in their straits. And so the prophet passeth here from their idolatry to another sin, even to their carnal confidence in heathen princes, for which they are oft severely reproved; although these two sins were commonly joined together, and they easily received idolatry from those kings whose help they desired.

With ointment; with precious ointments, and particularly with balm, which was of great price, and was a commodity peculiar to those parts, and was sometimes sent as a present: see Genesis 43:11; Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 46:11.

Didst increase thy perfumes; didst send great quantities thereof to them to procure their aid.

Didst send thy messengers far off; into Assyria, which was far from Judea.

Didst debase thyself even unto hell; thou wast willing to submit to the basest terms to procure their aid.

Verse 10

Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; thou hast not eased or relieved, but only tired thyself with all thy tedious journeys and laborious endeavours.

Yet saidst thou not, There is no hope; and yet thou wast so stupid under all thy discouragements and disappointments, that thou didst not perceive that thy labour was lost, and that thy case was not mended, but made worse and desperate by these practices.

Thou hast found the life of thine hand; thou hast found (i.e. thou falsely imaginest that thou hast found, or shalt assuredly find by these courses) the life (i.e. the strength and rigour) of thine hand, that thine hand is strengthened by these practices; or, life by thine hand, i.e. by these endeavours and applications of thyself to others for help. Or, thou hast sometimes found success in these ways.

Therefore thou wast not grieved; therefore thou didst not repent of thy sin and folly herein, but didst persist and applaud thyself in such courses.

Verse 11

And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared? and what or who are they the fear of whom drives thee to these wicked and desperate courses? Are they not men, weak and mortal creatures, such as wholly depend upon me, and can do nothing to thee either against me or without me?

That thou hast lied; that thou hast dealt thus disloyally and perfidiously with me, and sought for such foreign assistances, contrary to my command, and thy solemn covenant,

and hast not remembered me: hast thou forgotten all those great things which I have done for thee, and all those promises which I have made to thee, and constantly performed, when thou hast not grossly violated the conditions upon which they were made?

Nor laid it to thy heart; or thus, nor set me upon thine heart, as these very words are rendered, Song of Solomon 8:6. And so this is a repetition of what is said in the foregoing clause in other words. The sense is, Thou hast not seriously and affectionately considered what I am, how all-sufficient, and faithful, and gracious, for then thou wouldst not have distrusted or disobeyed me.

Have not I held my peace even of old? have not I forborne to reprove and punish thee for this and for other sins, from time to time, ever since thou wast my people, that by this goodness I might oblige thee to love me, and to cleave unto me?

And thou fearest me not; or, therefore thou dost not fear or regard me. Thus thou abusest mine indulgence and long-suffering, taking occasion from thence to despise me.

Verse 12

I will declare; I will no longer be silent and patient towards thee.

Thy righteousness and thy works; which may be put for the righteousness of thy works, by that known figure, of which See Poole "Isaiah 57:8", whereby he means their wickedness, which he calleth their

righteousness, either ironically, or because it was covered with a pretence of righteousness, and they alleged that this was a just and lawful thing, when they were distressed to seek for help from their neighbours or allies. The sense is, I will discover whether thy works be righteous, as thou pretendest they are; my punishments shall manifest the wickedness of thy actions.

They shall not profit thee; these actions shall do thee no good, but much hurt.

Verse 13

When thou criest, to wit, unto me for deliverance,

let thy companies deliver thee; expect it not from me, whom thou hast forsaken and despised, but from those foreign troops to whom thou hast sought and trusted for succour.

But the wind shall carry them all away; but they shall be so far from saving thee, that they shall not be able to deliver themselves, but shall be carried away suddenly and violently by the blast of mine anger.

Vanity; a vapour or puff of breath which quickly vanisheth away. It is the same thing in effect with the wind. Shall take them; or, take them away, as this verb signifies, Hosea 4:11, and elsewhere.

Shall inherit my holy mountain; shall enjoy my favour and presence in my temple.

Verse 14

And shall say, Heb. And he shall say; or, And one shall say. God will raise up a man who shall say these words, and that with authority and efficacy, so as the thing shall be done.

Cast ye up; make causeways, where it is needful, for their safe and easy passage.

Take up the stumblingblock out of the way of my people; remove all things which may hinder them in their return.

Verse 15

Whose name is Holy; who is omnipotent, everlasting, and unchangeable, holy in all his words and ways, and therefore both can and will deliver his people, as he hath promised to do.

With him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit; with such also whose spirits are broken and humbled by afflictions, and by a sense of their sins for which they were afflicted; which doubtless was the case of many of the Jews in the Babylonish captivity; whom therefore he here implies that God would pity and deliver out of their distresses.

Verse 16

I will not contend for ever; I will not constantly proceed to the utmost severity with sinful men in this life, and therefore I will put an end to the miseries of the Jews, and turn their captivity.

For the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made; for then their spirits would sink and die under my stroke, and I should do nothing else but destroy the works of mine own hands. Therefore I consider their infirmity, and spare them. Compare Psalms 78:38,Psalms 78:39; Psalms 103:13,Psalms 103:14.

Verse 17

Covetousness; of which sin the Jews were eminently guilty, as is expressly affirmed, Jeremiah 6:13; Jeremiah 8:10. But this is not mentioned exclusively as to other sins, but synecdochically, so as to comprehend all those sins for which God contended with them.

I hid me; I withdrew my favour and help from him, and left him in great calamities.

And he went on frowardly in the way of his heart; yet he was not reformed by corrections, but in his distresses trespassed more and more, as was said of Ahaz, and obstinately persisted in those sinful courses which were chosen by and were most pleasing to the lusts of his own corrupt heart.

Verse 18

I have seen his ways; I have taken notice of these evil ways in which he seems resolved to walk, and that he is neither bettered by mercies nor judgments.

And will heal him; or, yet I will heal him. Although I might justly destroy him, and leave him to perish in his own ways, yet of my mere mercy, and for my own name’s sake, I will pity him, and turn him from his sins, and bring him out of his troubles. And, or, to wit, the copulative conjunction being put expositively, as it is frequently,

to his mourners; to those who are humbled under God’s hand, that mourn in Zion, Isaiah 61:2,Isaiah 61:3, for their own and others’ sins, Ezekiel 9:4, and for the calamities of God’s church and people, Isaiah 66:10.

Verse 19

I create, I will by my almighty power and in a wonderful manner produce,

the fruit of the lips; Peace: either,

1. Praise or thanksgiving, which is called the fruit of our lips, Hosea 14:2; Hebrews 13:15, and peace: or rather,

2. That peace which is not wrought by men’s hands, but only by God’s lips or word; peace with God, and in a man’s own conscience, which God hath promised to his people, and which he hath published and offered to all sorts of men by the preaching of the prophets, and especially of the apostles; as may be gathered both from the object of this peace in the following words, and by the exclusion of all wicked men from this peace, Isaiah 57:20-21.

Peace: the doubling of the word signifies the certainty and abundance of this peace.

To him that is far off, and to him that is near; to the Gentiles, who are far from God and from salvation, Acts 2:38,Acts 2:39; Ephesians 2:12, &c., as well as to the Jews, who are called a people near unto God, Psalms 148:14.

Verse 20

Their minds are restless, being perpetually hurried and tormented with their own lusts and passions, and with the horror of their guilt, and the dread of the Divine vengeance due unto them, and ready to come upon them.

Verse 21

Though they may have as great a share of prosperity as the best of men have, as appears from Psalms 37:35; Psalms 73:3, &c.; Ecclesiastes 8:14; Ecclesiastes 9:2; yet they have no share in this inward, and spiritual, and everlasting peace.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 57". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.