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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Isaiah 64



The church’s prayer continued, for the illustration of God’s glory, Isaiah 64:1-23.64.5;

with a confession of their sins, and complaint of their afflictions, Isaiah 64:6-23.64.12.

Verse 1

Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens: either the earnest desire of the prophet, or the Jews’ strong wish, for the coming of the Messias: or rather, their cry to God for vengeance upon their adversaries, on consideration of the enemy’s unmerciful dealing with them, and their insolent and opprobrious usage of God in his temple; partly expressing their haste and earnestness, and partly intimating that God would do it with violence and fury, implied in the word rending them, Psalms 18:6,Psalms 18:7, &c., spoken after the manner of man, who, if he were shut up, must have room made for his coming forth. This God is said to do, when he puts forth some signal manifestation of his power, Psalms 144:5; a metaphor taken from men, that when they would resolutely and effectually help one in distress, break and fling open doors, and whatever may hinder coming to their relief.

That the mountains might flow down; or melt, Psalms 68:1,Psalms 68:2; Psalms 97:5; Micah 1:3,Micah 1:4; that all impediments might be removed out of the way: possibly an allusion to God’s coming down upon Mount Sinai in those terrible flames of fire, Judges 5:4,Judges 5:5.

Verse 2

As when the melting fire burneth; come with such zeal for thy people, that the solid mountains may be no more before thy breath than metal that runs, or water that boils by the force of a vehement fire; and thus, for the most part, when God will take vengeance of his enemies, the Scripture expresseth him coming with fire.

Thy name known; thy power known, that thine enemies and persecutors of try church may know thy power, and that thy name may be dreaded among them; his name put for his power, Psalms 106:8.

The nations; not the Babylonians only, but the nations round about.

Verse 3

When thou didst terrible things: this may relate to what he did among the Egyptians, though it be not recorded, and afterward in the wilderness.

Which we looked not for, viz. our forefathers, of whose race we are; before we expected them; or such things as we could never expect.

The mountains flowed down: q.d. Seeing thou hast made the mountains thus to melt, thou canst do the same again. This may allude either,

1. To those showers of rain that fell with that terrible thunder and lightning, and so ran violently down those mountains, and the adjacent, as is usual in such tempests. Or rather,

2. The running along of the fire upon the ground, Exodus 9:23,Exodus 9:24. It is possible it may allude to those mountains that do cast forth sulphurous matter, running down into the valleys and sea, like melted streams of fire. And kings, princes, and potentates may also metaphorically be understood by these mountains.

Verse 4

Whereas there are but three ways whereby men ordinarily come to the knowledge of a thing, viz. by the ear, either our own hearing, or by hearsay; and by the eye; and by reason, which the apostle adds, where he makes use of this text, 1 Corinthians 2:9; two of them are mentioned here.

Besides thee; with reference either to the gods that do them. never any other god could do like time; or to things done, never any

besides thee could do such things as were never seen or heard of. He refers to those terrible things mentioned in the former verse. It seems to be clear by comparing this with Deuteronomy 4:31-5.4.35. Not to be restrained to these, but to be applied to all the wonderful works that God at all times wrought for his people. And thus they are a plea with God, that they might well expect such things from him now, that had done such wonderful things for their fathers of old.

That waiteth for him; the apostle hath it, that love him, 1 Corinthians 2:9, to show that none can wait on him that love him not; so all that love him will wait on him. This may be taken with reference both to the state of grace and glory, those incomprehensible things that are exhibited through Christ in the mysteries of the gospel, as well as the good things of this present life, which the prophet may here literally aim at; it being not unusual for the mentioning these temporal things to point at spiritual, especially being things that do so well suit with each other.

Verse 5

Thou meetest him; or, wast wont to meet him; or, thou preventest him, Isaiah 65:24; Psalms 21:2,Psalms 21:3, as the father the prodigal. That rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, viz. that rejoice to work righteousness; the same thing expressed by two words, by a figure called hendiadis.

That remember thee in thy ways; an amplification of the former words: q.d. To walk in thy ways, whether of providence, precept, or counsel, by virtue of the covenant they have with thee.

Thou art wroth; for we have sinned: or, greatly angry; for or because we have sinned, and provoked thee to wrath thereby, 1 Kings 8:46.

In those is continuance, i.e. to those that work righteousness; in for to.

We shall be saved, viz. in so doing, in working righteousness. Or, as some, by way of interrogation; in those, i.e. in our sins, is continuance, and shall we be saved? Or, in those, viz. works of righteousness, in keeping in them, is our continuance and means to be saved. Or, thou continuest to show mercy, and or therefore we shall be saved. The meaning of the place is to comfort the godly, that though they may have provoked God by their sins, yet, looking upon the ways of God’s former proceedings, (in which he still continues, being unchangeable,) they may find hopes of salvation; and this is that which is amplified in the three following verses.

Verse 6

We are all as an unclean thing: he alludes either to things unclean under the ceremonial law, wherein the leprosy was found, and was to be burnt, Leviticus 13:55; or rather to persons unclean. They compare their present state with the former: q.d. Formerly there were some that feared thee, and walked uprightly before thee, and were in thy favour; but now we are all as one polluted mass, nothing of good left in us, by reason of a universal degeneracy, Isaiah 1:4,Isaiah 1:6.

Our righteousnesses: this, according to the most commentators, refers either to the observances of the rites and ceremonies of the law, wherein they thought their righteousnesses did much consist; or to the best work and actions that can be performed by us; or to our natural, universal depravities: but the best interpreters, and such aim at the peculiar sense of the place, refer it to the gross provocations that this people were guilty of, causing God to cast them out of their habitations; or else to their persons, i.e. the most righteous among us; and being plural, it raiseth it up to the highest degree, the Scripture frequently putting the abstract for the concrete, as wisdoms for the greatest wisdom, Proverbs 9:1, and many the like instances formerly given; so that the meaning is, the very best of us all are no better than the uncleanest things or persons; see Micah 7:2-33.7.4; and the rather, because he lived about the time of Isaiah.

As filthy rags; a cloth made up of patches, or such as come from a putrid sore, or defiled with the menstruous blood of a woman; the LXX., as a rag of one that sits down, possibly alluding to Rachel, Genesis 31:34,Genesis 31:35, or whatever may be most filthy.

As a leaf blown off the tree, and so withers.

Taken us away; carried us away to Babylon from our habitations, as leaves hurried away by a boisterous wind; our iniquities have been the procuring cause.

Verse 7

And there is none; or, yet there is none, i.e. few, Psalms 14:3; they are not to be discerned among the multitude.

That calleth; such as call upon thee as they ought, as Jacob, and Moses, and David, &c. did, which often prevents the ruin of a state or kingdom: it points out the universal apostacy of the last times of the Jewish state, for which they were cut off.

To take hold of thee; either to stay thee from departing from us; see Luke 24:28,Luke 24:29; or to fetch thee back, when departed, Jeremiah 12:7; or it is an allegorical allusion to one struck down and still smitten, but never stirs to lay hold on the arm that smites him, Isaiah 27:5; it notes their great slothfulness and carelessness, and some refer it to their lukewarmness and dead-heartedness, relying upon their privileges before they went into captivity, and so a great presage of their approaching judgments.

For, or when; so the particle is used Job 5:21; Psalms 75:2.

Consumed us; or, melted us; our sins have kindled such a fire of thy wrath, that we are melted with it.

Because of our iniquities, Heb. in the hands of our iniquities, i.e. either, in the place of our iniquities, the land wherein they were committed; or, into the hands of our iniquities, to be punished by them, and as it were consumed, or melted down, or our strength exhausted by them, as wax before the fire, Leviticus 26:39; Ezekiel 33:10; or, as we translate it, our iniquities being the procuring cause of it.

Verse 8

But now, O Lord, thou art our Father; an argument or pathetical plea for pity; or, Notwithstanding all this, thou art our Father, both by creation and by adoption, therefore pity us thy children.

We are the clay; a metonymy of the matter, clay for the vessels made of clay; or, we are clay, pointing at our original matter; or it may relate to their state, that God framed them in a body civil and ecclesiastical, out of a confused multitude; they plead at the same time their own frailty, why they would be pitied; and God’s covenant interest in them, why he should pity them.

We all are the work of thy hand; another argument of the same nature with the former, Psalms 138:8, not only as men, but as a body of men made thy peculiar.

Verse 9

Be not wroth very sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity for ever, viz. Thou hast been angry with us a long time, be not so for ever; but deal with us as may best consist with a father’s bowels. It hath reference both to quantity and time, that it might not be very great, nor of long durance. See on Psalms 79:8.

We are all thy people, thy peculiar people, Isaiah 28:9. Though we are very bad in ourselves, and very badly handled by our enemies, thou sufferest in our sufferings, for thou hast not people in covenant but us, and wilt thou not leave thyself a people in the world?

Verse 10

Thy holy cities; either Zion and Jerusalem, being the cities they instance in: q.d. Thy holy cities, viz. Zion and Jerusalem: or rather, other cities also in the land of Judea besides those two; called holy, either,

1. Because they were built upon God’s inheritance, Isaiah 63:17. Or,

2. Because they were inhabited by the Jews, who were a holy people, Deuteronomy 7:6; Daniel 12:7. Or,

3. Because God had his synagogues in them, Psalms 74:8. For all which reasons also they are called thy cities.

A desolation; utterly waste; not only the ordinary cities, but even Jerusalem and Zion themselves; the one called the upper Jerusalem, or the city of David, because it was built upon Mount Zion; the other the lower city, because it lay under the hill of Zion in the valley: he particularizeth Zion and Jerusalem, though he had mentioned the other cities before, because the chiefest of the cities; it being usual, notwithstanding the mentioning of generals, in which all the particulars or individuals are included, to name the particular again; as, and from the hand of Saul, Psalms 18:1.

Verse 11

Our holy and our beautiful house; the temple, Isaiah 60:7; q.d. Not only our cities, and our principal cities, but even our temple, which we thought sacred and inviolable, in which we have gloried, because it was thine, and our fathers, and ours, the place where thy holy service was performed, and thy glory and presence was manifested.

Our fathers; not presuming to mention themselves, they had been so every way abominable, but their fathers.

All our pleasant things; the king’s palace, and the houses of the nobles, and other places of state and magnificence, 2 Kings 25:9; Lamentations 1:7,Lamentations 1:10; or, their synagogues; or, those stately pieces about the temple.

Verse 12

Wilt thou refrain thyself for these things, viz. that are done by the Babylonians? do none of these things move thee to take vengeance on them?

Wilt thou hold thy peace; wilt thou be as one that regards not? Wilt thou be still, and suffer them?

And afflict us very sore: see Isaiah 64:9; for these our sins, or for these our sufferings; shall we feel the smart of it, that have done no such things, but have been sufferers under the Babylonians? to which God answers in the next chapter.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 64". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.