ISAIAH CHAPTER 58
The Jews’ hypocrisy in their fasts, Isaiah 58:1-5. A true fast described, Isaiah 58:6,7. Promises to godliness, Isaiah 58:8-12; to the keeping of the sabbath, Isaiah 58:13,14.
The prophet having in the foregoing chapter noted and censured divers gross miscarriages of the Jews, proceeds upon the same subject in this chapter, and in God’s name expostulates with them for other misdemeanours.
Spare not; forbear not to speak whatsoever I command thee for the conviction of this people.
They seek me daily; they cover all their wickedness with a profession of religion, from time to time resorting to my house, pretending to ask counsel of me, and to desire and seek my favour and blessing.
Delight to know my ways: either,
1. They seem to delight in it; for men are oft said in Scripture to be or do that which they seem or profess to be or do; as Matthew 13:12, that which he hath, is thus explained in Luke 8:18, that which he seemeth to have; and Romans 7:9, I was alive, i.e. I falsely thought myself to be alive. See also Philippians 3:9. Or,
2. They really delight; for this is evident, that there are many men who take some pleasure in the knowing of God’s will and word, and yet do not conform their lives to it.
As a nation that did righteousness; as if they were a righteous and godly people.
And forsook not the ordinance of their God; as if they were not guilty of any apostacy from God, or neglect of or disobedience to God’s precepts.
They ask of me the ordinances of justice; as if they desired and resolved to observe them.
They take delight, of which see the second note upon this verse,
in approaching to God; in coming to my temple to hear my word, and to offer sacrifices.
Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? They complain of hard usage from God, that although they prayed, and fasted, and kept the rest of God’s ordinances, all which are synecdochically comprehended under the title of fasting, all their labour was lost, and God neither regarded nor delivered them.
Afflicted our soul; defrauded and pinched our appetites with fasting, of which this phrase is used, Leviticus 16:29 23:27,29.
In the day of your fast; in those solemn days of fasting which I have appointed; or, in those times when I have called you by the course of my providence, and counsels of my prophets, unto fasting, and weeping, and mourning, &c., Isaiah 22:12. Ye find pleasure; either,
1. You indulge yourselves in sensuality, as they did, Isaiah 22:13. But this doth not agree with that afflicting of their souls which they now professed, and which God acknowledgeth, Isaiah 58:5. Or rather,
2. You pursue and satisfy your own lusts; though you abstain from bodily food, you do not mortify your own sinful concupiscences; and when you are restrained from outwards acts, yet even then your thoughts and affections are set upon and working toward those things which gratify your fleshly inclinations and worldly interests.
Your labours; your money got by your labour, and lent to others, either for their need, or your own advantage; for labour is oft put for wealth, as Deuteronomy 28:33 Isaiah 45:14, &c. Heb. your griefs; not passively, those things which are grievous to you; but actively, such as are very grievous and burdensome to others; either hard service, above the strength of your servants, or beyond the time limited by God for their service, of which see an instance, Jeremiah 34:13-16; or debts, which you require either with usury, or at least with rigour and cruelty, when either the general law of charity, or God’s particular and positive law, commanded the release, or at least the forbearance, of them; of which see an instance, Nehemiah 5:1,2, &c.
Ye fast for strife and debate; your fasting days, wherein you ought in a special manner to implore the mercy of God, and to show compassion to men, you employ in a great measure in injuring or quarrelling with your brethren, your servants, or debtors, or in contriving mischief against them, as if the design of your fasting and praying to God were only to obtain a licence to oppress men. Compare Matthew 23:14.
With the fist of wickedness; or, with a wicked fist; a genitive of the adjunct. To deal rigorously and injuriously with your servants or debtors; which servants, it may be, had sold themselves to the year of redemption, Exodus 21:2 Leviticus 25:39,40,50. You handle them with a hard hand; the word is used for fist, Exodus 21:18; the LXX. add the humble, poor, or inferior person; and that not only their debtors, with a summum jus, exact rigour, which seems elsewhere to be expressed by grinding the face; Isaiah 3:15, and in that parable by taking by the throat, Matthew 18:28; but also their servants out of mere will and pleasure, and in contempt of them, treating them opprobriously, as Christ was handled in contempt and scorn, Matthew 26:67,68 Joh 18:22.
Your voice; either,
1. In strife and debate, in which men’s passions show themselves by loud clamours. Or,
2. So as to cause the cry of the oppressed, by reason of your injuries, of what kind soever, to enter into the ears of God; which is a crying sin, whether it proceed from unmercifulness, Exodus 22:25-27, which sometimes increaseth to rage, 2 Chronicles 28:9; or from injustice, Isaiah 5:7; or from fraud and deceit, James 5:4. The Scripture doth frequently express whatever sin is against charity in special, as also general complex sins, by crying, Genesis 18:20,21 John 1:2. Or,
3. By way of ostentation, to note their hypocrisy; they love to be taken notice of by others, Mt 6 2,5,16; or their folly, supposing that they shall be heard for their much speaking, upon which account Baal’s priests are mocked by Elijah, 1 Kings 18:27,28 4. Voice here relates principally to their prayer; it is a synecdoche of the kind: so the sense is, This is not the way to have your prayers heard; if you desire that, you must first in another manner, and abstain from all kind of oppression. And this seems best to suit the context, which is to show what kind of fast the Lord reproves, and what he approves in the following verses.
That I have chosen; approve of, accept, or delight in, by a metonymy, because we delight in what we freely choose.
A day for a man to afflict his soul; or, to afflict his soul for a day. It is an hypallage, and so it may be understood either for a man to take a certain time to afflict his soul in, and that either from even to even, Leviticus 23:32, or from morning to evening, Jude 20:26 2 Samuel 3:35; or else to afflict his soul for a little time. To afflict, or keep himself low, or chastise the body for want of food, viz. outwardly, without any inward sorrow, or compunction for sin, working a true humiliation in the sight of God.
His soul, put here synecdochically for the body or person, as is usual in Scripture, Genesis 46:18,22,25 Le 5:2,4 7:20,21,27 22:11.
To bow down his head as a bulrush: here the prophet sets down those external gestures and postures in particular which they did join with their hypocritical fasts, as he had mentioned it before in general.
To bow down; bowing is the posture of mourners, Psalms 35:14; and here it is either, as if through weakness of body their heads did hang down; or counterfeitly, to represent the posture of true penitents, moving sometimes their heads this way, and that way, as the word signifieth, not unlike the balance of a clock, as the bulrush moved by the wind boweth itself down, waving to and fro, in a kind of circular or semicircular motion; the contrary motion of lifting up the head being an indication of pride, Isaiah 3:16. It is the guise of hypocrites to put on affected countenances, Mt 6 16.
To spread sackcloth and ashes under him. The Jews, to express their sorrow, made use of sackcloth and ashes two ways.
1. Sometimes by putting on sackcloth upon their bodies, as 1 Kings 21:27 Psalms 69:11, and casting ashes upon their heads, 2 Samuel 13:19. And,
2. Sometimes by spreading sackcloth under them, and lying down upon ashes, Esther 4:3 Job 2:8. The intent of
sackcloth was to afflict the body by its unpleasing harshness, and of
ashes to represent their own vileness, as being but dust and ashes; their putting of them on might note their uneasiness under sin, and laying on them their self-abhorrency, shaming themselves for it.
Quest. Are such rites now convenient on a day of humiliation to help us in our afflicting of ourselves?
Answ. Gospel services neither require them nor need them, respecting more the inward afflicting of the soul with godly sorrow and deep contrition; yet may they carry this instruction along with them, that our ornaments, our best and gaudy apparel, ought to be laid aside, as not suiting either the ground and cause, or the end and design, of days of humiliation.
Wilt thou call this a fast? i.e. canst thou upon a rational account as a mere man call it so? canst thou think, suppose, or believe it to be so? it being such a one as has nothing in it but the lifeless skeleton and dumb signs of a fast, nothing of deep humiliation appearing in it, or real reformation proceeding from it. Not that the prophet blames them for these external rites in this outward way of afflicting themselves; for, this he commands, Leviticus 23:27,31,32, and appoints certain rites to be used, Leviticus 16:19 21. And these particular rites were frequent in their solemn humiliations, 1 Kings 21:27 Esther 4:3 Daniel 9:3; used also by the heathen, Jonah 3:5,6. See Matthew 11:21. But that which he condemns is their hypocrisy in separating true humiliation from them, for bodily exercise profiteth little, 1 Timothy 4:8.
An acceptable day to the Lord; a day that God will approve of, as before. Heb. a day of acceptance, or that will turn to a good account on your behalf.
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? or, approve, as before, Isaiah 58:5: or, Ought not such a fast to be accompanied with such things as these? where he is now about to show the concomitants of a true fast, with reference to the thing in hand, namely, to exercise works of charity, consisting partly in acts of self-denial, in this verse, and partly in doing good to those in distress, in the next. In this verse he instanceth in some particulars, and closeth with a general.
The bands of wickedness, viz. the cruel obligations of usury and oppression.
The heavy burdens, Heb. bundles; a metaphor possibly pointing at those many bundles of writings, as bills, bonds, mortgages, and acknowledgments, which the usurers had lying by them: The former may relate to unjust and unlawful obligations extorted by force or fear, which he would have cancelled; this latter to just debts contracted through poverty and necessity, the rigour whereof he would have abated, whether.by reason of loans upon too hard conditions, called a drawing them into a net, Psalms 10:9, and so much is implied, Proverbs 6:5; or under too hard circumstances, whether they were loans of food or money, of which the people so bitterly complained, Nehemiah 5:1-4, and is expressly forbid, Exodus 22:25. For debts may be called burdens,
1. Because they lie as a great load upon the debtor’s spirits, under which whoever can walk up and down easily doth not so much excel in fortitude as in folly.
2. Because they usually introduce poverty, slavery, imprisonment, &c.
The oppressed; either in a large sense, viz. any ways grieved or vexed, whether by the gripings of usury, or the bondage of slavery accompanied with cruel usage; or more peculiarly (according to some) relating to their being confined and shut up in prisons, which latter sense the word
free may possibly seem to favour, the former being comprised in that general expression that follows of
breaking every yoke. Heb. broken, i.e. like a bruised reed, so crushed and weakened, that they have no consistency or ability, either to satisfy their creditors, or support themselves; and we usually call such insolvent persons broken that cannot look upon themselves to be sui juris, but wholly at another’s mercy: you have the same kind of oppression, and the same words used, Amos 4:1.
That ye break every yoke, namely, that is grievous, a metaphor; i.e. free them from all sorts of vexation, whatever it is that held them under any bondage. The LXX. refer it to bonds and writings; but it seems more general: the word properly signifies that stick or cord that holds both ends of the yoke, that it spring not out, or fall off from the neck on which it is laid, Exodus 25:14, where the same word is used for staves; and called the bands of the yoke, Leviticus 26:13, I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright; the same thing that God would have them do here.
Is it, viz. the fast that pleaseth me, supplied from the former verse. Having showed the evil they are to abstain from in order to an acceptable fast, viz. cruelty, he here speaks of the duty that is required, viz. mercy, as a manifestation of repentance, Daniel 4:27 Luke 19:8. For there are two parts of justice, one to do no man wrong, the other to do good to all; which two ought always to accompany each other, and cannot be parted, especially in acts of humiliation: and as by those evils mentioned he understands all other evil whatsoever, that they are to be abstained from as the consequence of a day of humiliation, so under these duties mentioned are comprised all the duties that we are to set upon as the effect of true repentance; and he instanceth rather in those of the second table than those of the first, not that they are to be neglected, but because cheerful performance of external duties to our neighbour is the clearest discovery and indication of our inward piety towards God, 1 John 4:20.
To deal: the word properly signifies to divide, or break into parts, for the more equal and expeditious doing whereof they were wont of old to bake their loaves with cuts or clefts in them, more or fewer according to the bigness of the loaf, not much unlike that which we ordinarily call buns. It implies, that as none is obliged to give away all, so none is exempted from giving some, but a distribution to be made according to the abilities of rich and poor; or the meaning is, What thou sparest on thy fasting day from thine own belly, thou give it to refresh the bowels of the hungry; what thou takest from thyself give to another, that thy poor neighbour’s body may be refreshed by that from the abstinence whereof thine own is afflicted.
Thy bread: bread is taken for all necessaries for the support of human life, and here for all kind of food; and it is here limited by a term of propriety, thy, which may seem to have some emphasis in it: See Poole "Ecclesiastes 11:1". Speaking of their grinding and oppressing the poor, he would have them be sure to give of their own, not that which of right is another’s, and thou hast, it may be, unjustly gotten. For to refresh some poor with that which thou hast gotten by the oppressing of others, and thereby possibly made them poor, will turn but to a bad account; it will bring a curse upon thy house, or family, Proverbs 15:27, or will transfer thy estate over to such strangers that will manage it as thou shouldst have done, Proverbs 28:8.
That thou bring, i.e. voluntarily, without pressing. Invite, encourage, freely accommodate.
The poor, viz. that are not only needy and necessitous as to their present condition, but helpless and shiftless as to the means of getting out of it.
That are cast out; and thereby become wanderers, having no abiding place; or rather, suffered to abide no where, such are mentioned Hebrews 11:37,38. Or, this word coming from a root that signifies to rebel, it may be applied to such as have been adjudged, whether wrongfully or no, rebels, and therefore cast out, viz. of favour and protection, and so become as banished ones, or pilgrims in another country; or afflicted, as in the margin, viz. grievously oppressed by the cruelty of great men, whereby they are east out of their possessions, and so become wanderers, seeking relief abroad. To thy house; that thou be hospitable, and make thy house a shelter to them that have none of their own left, but, as we usually say, cast out of house and home: see Acts 16:34.
The naked, i.e. either that have no clothes, or that are so meanly clothed that they have scarce enough to cover their nakedness, 1 Corinthians 4:11, where naked is to be taken as hunger and thirst is, not absolutely starved, so neither quite stripped; but either in a ragged and undecent condition, as to others’ sight, or so thinly and insufficiently clothed as not to defend him from the injury of weather, as to his own sense of feeling.
That thou cover him, i.e. that thou give him raiment suited to these wants, or that wherewith he may procure it, James 2:15,16: most of these circumstances we find were the eases of the apostles, 1 Corinthians 4:11.
That thou hide not thyself; that thou not only seek no occasion to excuse thyself, either by absence, or discountenancing and disowning of him; but that out of compassion thou apply thyself heartily to his speedy relief; that thou be not like that priest and Levite, Luke 10:31,32, but like the good Samaritan, Luke 10:33-35, not giving him occasion to complain as David, Psalms 142:4.
From thine own flesh: some confine this to our own kindred, and relations, and family; and this the LXX. seem to favour, who render it, those of thine own house, of thine own seed, overlook not; agreeable to that of 1 Timothy 5:8, where the apostle useth the same word that the LXX. doth for kindred: but this would confine our charity within too narrow a compass, inasmuch as often, nay, most commonly, the necessities of others are greater than our own; neither is it congruous that the other words should be taken in the greatest latitude, and this alone confined within so narrow a compass. It is true the Hebrews by their own flesh do mostly understand those who are of the same stock, or lineage, and tribe, as Genesis 37:27 2 Samuel 19:12,13; and thus many understand Paul’s meaning, Romans 11:14. But here it is to be taken more generally, for every man, he being thine own nature; and in this latitude our Saviour interprets the relation of neighbour to that lawyer, Luke 10:29,30, &c. We can look on no man but there we contemplate our own flesh; and therefore it is barbarous, not only to tear, but not to love and succour, our own flesh, Nehemiah 5:5. In which soever of these two senses you take it, there is a note of similitude to be understood; so that the sense is this, break thy bread, &c. to them as unto thine own flesh; be not more severe to them than thou wouldst be to thyself; and thus it agrees with that of our Saviour, Matthew 22:39, and with that of the apostle, Ephesians 5:29. In short, feed him as thou wouldst feed thyself, or have it fed; shelter him as thou wouldst shelter thyself, or have it sheltered; clothe him as thou wouldst clothe thyself, or be clothed; if in any of these respects thou wert in his circumstances.
Thy light: it is put in general for all happiness and prosperity; as all kind of adversity and calamity is set forth and resembled by darkness: but here more particularly for a comfortable and free estate after their dark and calamitous condition in the Babylonish captivity; for the like reason Josephus tells us, lib. 12. cap. 11., that the Jews instituted a feast to be observed by their posterity, upon the account of the service of the temple being re-established, which they called the feast of lights, because, saith he, so great a happiness broke forth upon them beyond their hope. Break forth as the morning: here is a metaphorical allusion in a metonymical expression, viz. of the efficient, describing the comfortable effect of humbling themselves in a right manner, which like the daylight shall
break forth from the blackness of their night of affliction, and bring with it the joy and comfort of all good things; and he doth not only say this light shall appear, but break forth, dart itself forth, notwithstanding all difficulties, as the sun breaks and pierceth through a cloud, noting how ready God is to help is people when they are rightly humbled, how quickly and how clearly salvation shall break forth upon them.
Thine health shall spring forth speedily: another metaphor to express the same thing, unless there may be this difference, the light with reference to their outward state, and health with reference to the inward delight of their minds, in both to describe the complete satisfaction they should have. Deliverances out of great pressures are often in Scripture represented by the recovery of health, as Isaiah 57:18 Jeremiah 8:22; and this prophet especially delights in this metaphor, because all affliction is as it were a sickness to the soul, altering the heart and countenance; see Nehemiah 2:2,3; and a recovery out of this estate maketh the heart glad, and the countenance cheerful, Esther 8:16,17 Jer 33:6: compare Isaiah 58:10,11. Hence the LXX. render it; medicines. Thy righteousness; either,
1. Thy uprightness and sincerity, Genesis 30:33. Or,
2. The reward of thy righteousness, by a metonymy, Isaiah 48:18 Psalms 24:5; and here perhaps it may particularly relate to their works of mercy and charity, it being the thing in hand, and often so called, Psalms 112:9, and applied by the apostle to this purpose, 2 Corinthians 9:9. It brings temporal, spiritual, and eternal blessings, and all this not of desert, but free grace, as a reward that naturally springs forth from the faithfulness of his promises, as the harvest from the earth, when the seed is sown; see Hosea 10:12; so the fruit and reward of our righteousness springs not from our deserts, but from God’s righteousness, Heb 6 10. Or,
3. The witness of thy righteousness; by what thou doest thou wilt appear to be righteous, Psalms 37:6. For such a notion as this was vulgarly sucked in, that adversity did never befall a person or people but for their sins, and was strongly urged by way of argument against Job’s integrity by his friends; therefore they being delivered shall be as a testimony of thy righteousness. Or,
4. The fruit and effect of thy righteousness, viz. the due, just, and right order of thy government, which, as Calvin saith, is a sign of God’s fatherly kindness; things that are now in a confusion he will bring into right order again, i.e. justice shall be duly administered, and men shall carry themselves justly all the land over: see Isaiah 32:16-18. Or,
5. Christ’s righteousness, Jeremiah 23:6, compared with Isaiah 33:16. Then the meaning is, He shall go in and out before thee.
Shall go before thee; as it were making way for thy better state, as the break of day or the morning star goes before the sun.
The glory of the Lord, i.e. the glory of his power and providence, or his glorious power, shall be seen in bringing thee up from captivity, and defending thee free from their pursuit; or, as some, a glorious stale shall succeed this thy calamitous condition, and called the glory of the Lord to express the greatness of this glory, as very great mountains are called the mountains of God, and tall cedars the cedars of God. The glorious Lord, by a metonymy of the adjunct.
Shall be thy rereward, Heb. shall gather thee: thus the word is used concerning Dan, who was appointed to bring up the rear, or to. close up the march of the Israelites, when they marched through the wilderness of Sinai, Numbers 10:25. This office God takes upon himself; for it argues great skill and courage, and makes much for the honour and glory of a commander, both to gather up all the stragglers, that none be picked up by the enemy, which relates to the Hebrew word of gathering, and to secure and cover the rear of his army; thus the angel of his presence secured the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt, Exodus 14:19.
They make great complaint, Isaiah 58:3, that God took no notice of their services, which complaint God seems now to satisfy: q.d. These conditions observed, call upon me, and thou shalt see I will regard, Psalms 34:15. See Isaiah 1:18.
The Lord shall answer; he will give an effectual demonstration, that he hears thee, by the real answer that he will give to thy request, Psalms 34:17 99:6 118:5.
Here I am; a phrase that notes a person to be ready at hand for work, as Isa 6 8; or for help, as God here, and Psalms 46:1; or both, Psalms 145:18,19.
From the midst; not a geometrical middle or centre, but having a place among others; the meaning is, from among you.
The yoke, i.e. all those pressures and grievances before mentioned, Isaiah 58:6; all that barbarous slavery they brought their brethren into; the particulars expressed by that one Hebrew word motah, three times used in this chapter.
The putting forth of the finger: there being often an indication of a man’s mind by the postures of several parts of the body, as of lust, malice, scorn, revenge, &c., Proverbs 6:12-14, this putting forth of the finger may point at divers things all springing from two roots; either the secret malice of the heart, or just and open violence. It is used,
1. Sometimes by way of scoff, reproof, or disdainful insulting, as the Pharisee seems to point at the publican, Luke 18:11; pointing with the finger, like winking with the eye, seeming to indicate something that may cause shame in another; and this is reckoned among great afflictions, Hebrews 11:36. See 2 Chronicles 36:16 Jeremiah 20:7 2. Sometimes for beating, or other injurious treating men, seizing either their persons or estates: such a putting forth of the hand you have mentioned 1 Samuel 22:17; and this agrees well to the fist of wickedness, Isaiah 58:4; and so the finger may be put by a synecdoche for the hand, and that which before was called the fist may be here called the finger.
3. Sometimes as a token of putting suitors by, and refusing to hear their petitions and requests, seeking to them for mercy and pity.
4. Sometimes to express an angry mind, stirring up itself, either to the imperious commanding of a thing, or to revenge, whether by the gesture alone, or accompanied with menacing expressions. signifying thereby a purpose to put our power in execution.
Speaking vanity, Heb. aven; it signifies a lie, or iniquity, as Psalms 5:5 6 8; and so the sense may be, If thou dost not proceed to indecent expressions in thy strifes, brawls, and threatenings with thy finger, which seldom is done without sin; and thus the counsel here may suit with our Saviour’s, Matthew 5:21,22, viz. not only not stretch out thine hand against thy brother, but not so much as be lavish with thy tongue: so speaking vanity may be a meiosis, for not railing; the LXX. render it muttering, which is an incomplete kind of speaking, whereby we reproach another in low, unformed, undigested expressions. But it seems here rather to signify affliction, not only because the word used in this place doth properly so signify, but because it is most agreeable to the matter discoursed of, and the Chaldee render it violence; and then the sense is, speaking words of affliction, or that will vex and grieve, like those words of Nabal to David’s servants, 1 Samuel 25:10,11 Pr 18:23. And thus it relates to their harsh and unjust commands, wherewith they were wont to burden their servants; a synecdoche of the kind.
Draw out; or, open; as when we break open a store or magazine to satisfy the wants of the needy: it implies bounty and liberality. A phrase contrary to that of shutting up of the bowels, 1 John 3:17.
Thy soul; thy affection, i.e. thy pity and compassion; a metonymy of the subject, as one that condoles with them in their misery; affectionately, and with delight, Romans 12:8 2 Corinthians 9:7. God loves a cheerful giver as well as a liberal giver. Not grudgingly, not of constraint, not because thou must, but because thou wilt; not out of necessity, but of choice. Compassion and mercy in a work is more than the work of mercy itself; for this is something only without a man, but the other is something from within, and of himself. This argues a sympathy, which the other doth not; all without this being as nothing, 1 Corinthians 13:3.
And satisfy: here the prophet notes the work that is to be done, as in the former expression the affection wherewith it is to be done, otherwise it would be no more than what the apostle James reproves, Jas 2 15,16; and the psalmist joins them both together, Psalms 37:21. And then further it implies a complete and proportionable answering of his wants, that the supply answer the necessity; that is, be such as may satisfy, not barely keep him from starving.
The afflicted soul, i.e. the person afflicted with wants.
Then shall thy light rise: this is the same promise, and expressed in the same figure, as in Isaiah 58:8. See the same phrase opened there. The Hebrews delight to express the same things often by a little altering of the phrase; only here it seems to be carried to a higher degree: there the light shall break forth, but here
light shall be in
obscurity. And thy darkness be as the noon-day; in the very darkness of the affliction itself thou shalt have comfort, Psalms 112:4. There it shall be as the morning, still increasing, here as the noonday, in its zenith and height of perfection, which shall be without so much as any shadow of affliction.
Shall guide thee, viz. like a shepherd, Psalms 23:1-3; or, as the Vulgate; shall give thee rest; and so it may relate to the rest that God would give them in Judea, upon their return from captivity, as answering to their complaints in Babylon, Lamentations 5:5. And he adds continually, to show that his conduct and blessing shall not be momentary, or of a short continuance, but all along, as he did to Israel in the wilderness, not leaving them till he brought them into Canaan.
Drought, Heb. droughts; or, drought of droughts; which being in the plural number, notes extremity of drought; Psalms 78:72, skilfulnesses, that is, great skill; and Proverbs 1:20, wisdoms, i. e. excellent wisdom; and consequently great scarcity and famine. The meaning is, that when thy lot shall fall in the extremity of such a condition, either as to time or place, he will abundantly satisfy thy soul, i.e. thee, by a synecdoche; thou shalt have plenty, when others are in scarcity.
Make fat thy bones; or, make nimble; and so the expression relates to bones full of marrow, which causeth agility and nimbleness, a state of health and strength: see Proverbs 15:30. Or it notes cheerfulness, which is often the cause of bones well covered with fat; therefore a broken or a sorrowful spirit is said to dry up the bones, Proverbs 17:22. This may be spoken in opposition to the sad effects of famine, whereby the flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen, and the bones that were not seen stick out, Job 33:21; they cleave to the skin, Psalms 102:5. And thus it may have respect to their afflicted estate in Babylon, where they complain that their bones were broken, Lamentations 3:4; but now in their return their bones should not only be made whole, but strong, and in good condition: see Psa 51 8. Our English Annotations, after divers senses given, choose to close with the vulgar translation, he will deliver, or set free thy bones, and so the word doth signify, Proverbs 11:8,9. Some make each expression of these promises to answer as suitable and conditional rewards of their several duties: e.g. If thou conduct the cast-outs and harbourless to thy house, Isaiah 58:7, God will guide and conduct thee continually. If thou draw forth thy soul to the hungry, so as to satisfy them, Isaiah 58:10, God will satisfy thee in a time of drought, and in famine thou shalt have sufficient, Psalms 33:19. If thou let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke, Isaiah 58:6,9, then God will make thy bones to rejoice, by delivering them from their burdens; i.e. if thou wilt free them, he will free thee. And if thou continue thus to draw forth thy soul, that it be ever running to the refreshing of the needy, thou gault be as a spring of waters that shall never fail thee, but like the widow’s oil, ever flowing. If thou relieve the poor, thou shalt never be poor, but as a well-watered garden, always flourishing: see Proverbs 3:9 10.
Like a watered garden; like a garden for the pleasure and beauty of it, a paradise; like a garden watered for the continual flourishing of thy estate; there shall be no withering or decay upon thy prosperous condition, Psalms 1:3, contrary to what is said of the wicked, Psalms 37:2,10,20,35,36. And thus Jeremiah speaks of the return of this same people, Jeremiah 31:12.
Like a spring of water, whose water’s fail not, Heb. deceive not; a metaphor which further notes also the continuance of this flourishing state, which will not be like a land flood, or brooks, that will soon be dried up with drought; see Job 6:15; but will be fed with a spring of blessing that will never fail: a very significant metaphor; it being the nature of springs, spontaneously and freely, as it were, to pour out their bowels to all that upon their wants come to receive it; neither is ever scanty, but flows still like fresh milk to the breast the more it is drawn; hence God is called a Fountain of goodness.
They that shall be of thee, i.e. either,
1. A remnant of thee among the captivity, that shall be as persons raised from the dead; or,
2. Thy posterity, expressed thus, because they sprang or proceeded from them.
The old waste places, Heb. wastes of eternity, i.e. which have lain long waste; for holam doth not always signify what is bounded by no time, but what respects a long time, looking either forward, as Genesis 13:15 Exodus 21:6, or backward, as here, viz. the space of seventy years, and so may truly be rendered the wastes of an age. By waste places he means the city and temple, with cities and places adjacent, turned as it were all into a waste, or wilderness, void and untilled, and which was done not only by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, but by Sennacherib also, and the other kings of Assyria. They had lain so long desolate, that the foxes inhabited them instead of men, Lamentations 5:18. And it was turned so much into a desert, that they were forced to fight with the beasts that possessed it to get their food, Lamentations 5:9.
The foundations of many generations; either the foundations that were laid many generations ago, as those of Jerusalem, which was not only built, but was the head of a kingdom, in the days of Melchizedek, who was king thereof in the days of Abraham, as appears, Genesis 14:18; if that Salem were Jerusalem, as is generally agreed, and Josephus writes, lib. 1. Antiquit. cap. 10; who was born about the three hundredth year after the flood: the superstructures were now destroyed, viz. of Jerusalem, and divers other cities. Or, that shall continue for many generations yet to come.
Thou shalt be called; thou shalt be honoured with this title, as we use to say the father of our country, i.e. deservedly so called, because thou art so; the like phrase Isaiah 48:8.
The repairer of the breach: breach is put here collectively for breaches, which were made by God’s judgment breaking in upon them in suffering the walls of their towns and cities to be demolished, and their state broken, Isaiah 5:5.
The restorer of paths; such a one was Moses, Psalms 106:23. And this tends to the same sense with the former expression, because men were wont to make paths over those breaches, to go the nearest way. Or it may more particularly point at the recovering of the ancient paths, and bringing them into their wonted course, which were either those chief streets through the gates of the cities, or other lanes out of those streets, which were now forgotten and lost, partly by being covered with rubbish, and partly by those shorter paths that were trod and made over the breaches; such a restorer of paths was Nehemiah, Nehemiah 6:1. And we read of the several repairers he made use of, Ne 3. Or those paths that leads from city to city, which being now laid desolate, and uninhabited, were grown over with grass and weeds, for want of travellers, or safety of travelling, (of something a like case we read in the time of the judges, Jude 5:6,7) and so lost as in a wilderness, wherein there is no way; and by building up those cities again the several paths leading to them would be restored.
To dwell in; these accommodations being all recovered, their ancient cities might be fit to be reinhabited.
If thou turn away thy foot: this is taken either properly, i.e. If thou take no unnecessary journeys, or do any servile works, either of hand or foot, that are forbidden on the sabbath day, the instrument being here put for the work; or metaphorically, i.e. If thou keep thy mind and affections clear, and restrain thyself from whatever may profane it, as David did concerning the word, Psalms 119:101. Feet are often put for the affections, Ecclesiastes 5:1, because the mind is moved by the affections, as the body is by the feet; If we do not let our thoughts be extravagant either upon impertinencies or unlawful things. The sum is, If thou be careful not to break the sabbath.
From the sabbath; or for the sabbath’s sake, whether we understand it more largely, of the occasional sabbath in solemn humiliations or otherwise set apart for sacred services, which is called a sabbath, Leviticus 16:31 23:32. Days of this nature were set apart before the captivity, Isaiah 22:12 Jeremiah 36:9, and also in the captivity, Zechariah 7:5. And thus it may be pertinent to the occasion of this discourse, Isaiah 58:3. And further, though sabbath be here only mentioned, yet it may take in every institution of God that they were in a capacity of observing during their captivity; thus I conceive it is understood Isaiah 56:1,2. Or whether we take it more particularly, for the weekly sabbath, such a carriage doth God expect as doth become it. From doing thy pleasure, satisfying thy lusts, and the corruption of thy will, on my holy day, i.e. on my sabbath, which is a holy day. A delight; full of delights in thy judgment, not looking on it as a burden; and practice, performing the duties of it with cheerfulness, delighting in the ordinances of it: and so the sabbath by a metonymy is put for the works of the sabbath, the time being put for the things that ought to be done in that time; therefore calling here is not only a verbal, but affectionate calling, the understanding assenting, the will consenting, and the actions conforming thereto: this delight appears in the saints of God, in their breathings after it, as it did frequently in David, Psalms 27:4 36:8 42:1, with many more.
The holy of the Lord; or to the Lord, i.e. dedicated to him, consecrated to his service. The Jews had a law that no man might take from the sabbath to add to the profane days but he might on the contrary.
Honourable, viz. the chief of days; worthy of all honour, and therefore honourable, because holy; and so shall honour, either it, i.e. the day; or him, i.e. the Lord, whose day it is. For to sanctify God and to sanctify his day is all one; compare Isaiah 8:13, with Exodus 20:8; thus esteem it an honour as well as a pleasure.
Not doing thine own ways, or works, or course of life; a man’s whole course being described by a way or walk, Genesis 17:1 Ephesians 5:8.
Nor speaking thine own words, viz. that are properly thine own, i.e. thine own in opposition to what God commands, proceeding from the corruption of nature, and vanity of the mind; or not speaking words, i.e. vainly, impertinently, and not suitable to the work of the day, tending neither to thy profit nor pleasure; or rather injurious, revengeful, or reproachful words, contrary to rest, quiet, and sedate composedness of the sabbath. And thus it refers to what was their usual practice upon their solemn assemblies or sabbaths towards their poor brethren, which they are charged with, Isaiah 58:3, and is called speaking vanity, Isaiah 58:9; see there; and accordingly the LXX. render it, if thou speak not a word in anger.
Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord: this hath reference to the foregoing verse. If thou wilt delight thyself in the sabbath, then thou shalt delight in the God of the sabbath; or thou shalt have cause to delight in the Lord, viz. in his goodness and faithfulness to thee, and so shalt live by faith in him as the Fountain of all good, as Psalms 37:4, in the assurance of his love and favour, Psalms 33:21, and that in great abundance, Psalms 36:8; such delights as no wicked man call have, Proverbs 14:10.
I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth; thou shalt be above the reach of danger, Isaiah 33:16. Or it may have respect to their being brought out of Babylon, which lay very low in respect of Judea, called the earth, as it is elsewhere, Luke 23:44; and high, both in respect of the situation of it, as also its mountainousness. Or the expression may import the subduing of their enemies, as it is Deuteronomy 33:29. Riding is oft used for conquering, Psalms 45:4; see the note there; Revelation 6:2. The sense is, they shall come out of Babylon, not sneakingly, as on foot, but triumphantly and gloriously, riding, as God brought Israel out of Egypt harnessed, in good order, and with a high hand; or, they shall ride to and fro in their chariots at their pleasure.
And feed thee with the heritage of Jacob, i.e. thou shalt enjoy the good of the land of Canaan, which God had promised as a heritage of Jacob and his seed, Genesis 35:12, and feed on the fruits of it.
Quest. Why doth he say of the heritage of Jacob, and not of Abraham or Isaac.
Answ. Because the whole posterity of Jacob was within the covenant, but Ishmael and Esau, one the seed of Isaac, the other the seed of Abraham, were both excluded.
For the mouth of the Lord: this is to express the certainty and indubitableness of it, being from the mouth of him who cannot lie: see of the same expression of assurance, Isaiah 1:20 40:5. And this Calvin refers both to what was spoken in the beginning of the chapter, that it was in vain for those hypocrites to contend with God; and also as the confirmation of his promise, if they would rightly observe those promises. The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it: he speaks of himself, as of a man, by a prosopopoeia; or it may relate to the prophet, the Lord, whose mouth and instrument I am.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 58". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany