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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 59

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-8

Isa 59:1-8

Isaiah 59:1-8

Kelley stated that this chapter "can be best understood when it is seen in its post-exilic setting!" For once we wholly agree with the critical community that the prophecies of the chapter belong completely to the post-exilic community of the Jewish nation, a long, long time post-exilic, even to the times of the Son of God, the great intercessor mentioned in the closing part of this chapter standing for Jesus Christ our Lord, and impossible of any intelligent identification with anyone else. Of course, only the great eighth century prophet Isaiah was capable of writing such a marvelous description of the times of Jesus.

And it doesn’t make the slightest difference, in one sense, who actually wrote this. Even if the critics could prove some Second Isaiah, or some Fourth Isaiah, wrote it (which of course is an outright impossibility); we are absolutely certain that it was written and published in the LXX, 250 B.C.; and that fact alone makes this chapter predictive prophecy at its best. We believe, of course, that Isaiah wrote it nearly eight hundred years before these conditions described here appeared in their full extent.

Isaiah 59:1-8 describe the discouragement and dissatisfaction which the Jews of the first century felt because of their economic and political situation. They were slaves of the Romans, not actually, of course, but politically dominated by the powerful Caesars on the Tiber River. They could not even appoint their own High Priest. Powerful units of the Imperial Roman Armies were stationed in Jerusalem itself, Capernaum, Caesarea, and other strategic locations in Palestine. They did not have their own governors, these being appointed from Rome; and the vassal kings who were the titular rulers, such as Herod the Great, all held their offices under the permission of Imperial Rome. The foreign despots who ruled the Jews were often bloody and cruel tyrants; and, as the New Testament mentioned, Pilate put down an uprising in Jerusalem, mingling the blood of Galileans with their sacrifices (Luke 13:1-3).

In that dreadful situation, the Jewish leaders wanted nothing either in heaven or on earth as passionately as they wanted the restoration of that scandalous old Solomonic empire; and they had dreams that when Messiah came he would mount a white horse and chase the Romans out of the country.

If they had had the slightest understanding of Isaiah, they would have known better, of course; but they remained in darkness. When they found that Jesus did not correspond to their idea of a Messiah, they contrived his crucifixion.

Many of the people had lost heart; and, "They had begun to doubt both the goodness and the power of God. They openly complained that God’s hand was shortened, so that he could not save, and that his ear was dull so that it could not hear" (Isaiah 59:1; Isaiah 50:2)."

The wretched condition of the hardened Israel had at this point ripened into the total and complete apostasy of the Jewish nation. Paul drew upon the description in these first 8 verses in Romans 3:10-18, describing the universal sinfulness of mankind. The parables of Jesus in some instances stress the gross wickedness of the Jewish nation. The unjust Steward, the unjust Judge, and Wheat and the Tares may be cited as examples.

Isaiah 59:1-8

Isaiah 59:1-2 here give the Lord’s answer to the complaining Jews; and the next six verses (Isaiah 59:3-8) give Jehovah’s indictment of the hardened nation, then nearing the time of their destruction under the judgment of God.

"Behold, Jehovah’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue muttereth wickedness. None sueth in righteousness, and none pleadeth in truth; they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. They hatch adders’ eggs, and weave the spider’s web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth; and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper. Their web shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their paths. The way of peace they know not; and there is no justice in their goings: they have made them crooked paths; whosoever goeth therein doth not know peace."

No better description was ever written of the Jewish leaders in their devices against the Lord Jesus Christ than is this one. First, the Lord gave Israel the reasons why the nation was not being blessed, why they were under the heel of the Romans, and all the rest of it. It was simply the diabolical wickedness of the Jewish nation itself.

But look at the way they treated Jesus: (1) they told many lies against him; (2) they suborned liars to swear against him in his trials; (3) they made haste to shed the innocent blood of Jesus whom their governor declared to be innocent; (4) they wove a web of intrigue to get Jesus murdered clandestinely (Matthew 26); (5) they bribed the soldiers who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection to lie about it; (6) they pressed false charges against him before Pilate; (7) through their friend Herod Agrippa II, they planned the murder of the apostles (Acts 12); (8) their High Priest (of all people) conspired with forty murderers determined to murder Paul, all of the chief priests and elders taking part in it (Acts 23:11-15); (9) once, they even attempted to stone Jesus. This paragraph is a perfect picture of that wicked generation.

McGuiggan described the condition of the Jewish nation at the time prophesied here: "They think and act swiftly to do evil. The innocent seem to be their special target. They have crooked minds, practice crooked actions on crooked roads of their own crooked making; and anyone foolish enough to walk with them on that crooked path finds only restlessness and destruction (Isaiah 59:7-8)." The apostle Paul’s description of the same people at that same period agrees perfectly with this (Romans 2:17-29; Romans 3:1-19), the topic sentence of that entire portion of Romans is the declaration that, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you (the Jews)" (Romans 2:24).

The wickedness of the people of Israel had already been frequently mentioned by Isaiah; but God had commanded Isaiah to use a loud voice like a trumpet to reveal the sins of the house of Jacob; and this outline of their gross wickedness goes beyond other references to it. Here the final climax of the judicial hardening prophesied in Isaiah 6:6-12 seems to be in focus. As Henderson said. "The awful picture is applicable to that period of history immediately preceding the destruction of the Jewish polity by the Romans." This is surely true, but the same conditions had prevailed for a half a millennium already when Vespasian and Titus destroyed the Jewish nation in 70 A.D. God indeed waited an additional forty years, thus giving the hardened Israel a chance to repent; but the nation had deserved that destruction for many years already when the blow finally fell.

Back in Isaiah 53:8, there is the question, "Who can describe his generation?" that is, the generation that crucified the Son of God. Indeed, it was an almost indescribable generation! The total corruption of the people took place; and even the Holy of Holies in the Temple itself was stacked full of dead bodies! Josephus devoted twenty full pages (beginning on p. 744) to a detailed description of the unbelievable wickedness that overwhelmed Judah and Jerusalem prior to the fall of the city to the Romans.

In the next paragraph Isaiah identified himself with the sinful nation and confessed their sinfulness and depravity, thus, in effect, admitting that all of the hardships and disasters that had come upon Israel were fully deserved by them, due to their excessive wickedness.

Isaiah 59:1-4 BARRICADED: In chapter 58 Jehovah tells the people the virtues which would prepare them to be covenant-keepers and to carry out His messianic plans. But these people are so thoroughly entrenched in sin and rebellion against God’s program of righteousness and holiness they must be repeatedly warned of the wrath that comes to those who despise His covenant. These first verses of chapter 59 are a graphic description of Judah’s adamant hostility against God’s way and her passionate wantonness for wickedness. Isaiah is describing here the conditions during the reign of the most wicked king Judah ever had—Manasseh. Manasseh came to the throne in 687 B.C. as a boy of 12 and was seduced by a powerful group of priests, noblemen and false prophets to reintroduce the idolatry of his ancestors (Ahaz, et al). Judah’s prophets (Isaiah and Micah) predicted the wrath of Jehovah which had earlier fallen (722 B.C.) upon Israel. Manasseh outstripped all his ancestors in wickedness, (cf. 2 Kings 21:1-17; 2 Kings 23:11-14; 2 Chronicles 33:1-20). He instituted a reign of terror and persecution against Jehovah’s true prophets unequaled in the history of all Israel. Isaiah was probably executed during that persecution.

Judah and Jerusalem had been saved from her enemies when Hezekiah paid heed to Isaiah’s message from the Lord (cf. chapters 36–39). But now she has, through the leadership of the vilest king she has ever had, committed herself to a path of rebellion which will lead inexorably to captivity. Undoubtedly, there were plain indications to the nation that it was in danger of foreign invasion and captivity. Manasseh was taken captive and imprisoned by Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, in 673 B.C. It appeared that the whole nation would soon suffer the same fate. Whether the people were asking for Isaiah’s advice or not, he was giving it. He states unequivocally that they had barricaded themselves from God and He could not help them. The Lord has the power to save them from their enemies if they will turn to Him and trust Him. But as long as they choose paganism, depend upon themselves and heathen allies, He cannot and will not help them. God made man and gave man the sovereignty of his own will. He gave man the awesome freedom to make his own sovereign choices with the attendant responsibility of the consequences of those choices. When man chooses to rebel against the revealed will of God, man willingly separates himself from God’s redeeming, saving power. Of course, man is never able to separate himself from God’s judgmental power. Men perish because they refuse to love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). Men scoff and follow their own passions because they deliberately ignore God’s truths (cf. 2 Peter 3:1-7). Men will not come to the light because they love darkness (John 3:19-21). Men do not come to God because they do not want to be shepherded by Him (John 10:1-39). Men do not come to God because He tells them the truth and they had rather listen to the devil (John 8:39-47). When men build such walls of their own between themselves and God. His only alternative (in the light of man’s freedom to exercise his own sovereign will) is to give man up to a base mind and improper conduct (cf. Romans 1:18-32). When God is forced to give rebelling man up, man must save himself and man cannot do that! Man cannot save himself from nature, from death, from men more powerful than he, and last, but most important, man cannot save himself from his own conscience!

The prophets of God (Isaiah and his contemporaries, Amos, Hosea and Micah) have promised a glorious salvation for God’s people and an even more glorious messianic future. Recent circumstances (the wickedness, increased tribute to Assyria, Manasseh’s capture, etc.) have brought on fear, chaos and bitterness. Judah is complaining with sarcasm that the God of Isaiah is not fulfilling His promise. They are apparently preaching that Jehovah has no power to save them (advocating at the same time that power for rescue will come from their idols and alliances with the heathen). The nation is in a mess. The easiest explanation is to blame God for it (cf. comments Isaiah 50:1-3).

God is not to blame. Their hands are filled with blood. Their lips have spouted lies. They have destroyed themselves. God has never lied to them. He has never defaulted on one of His promises. He has not cheated them, robbed them, murdered them. He can save them, but not in their condition. Should God save them, allowing them to continue in wickedness, He would be a partner in their wickedness and thus dishonest, unjust, unholy, unrighteous reducing Himself to moral impotency and consigning Himself and these people to an endless hell! God cannot be God and condone a kingdom in rebellion. If He is to rule in perfect righteousness and holiness He must rule a kingdom of citizens who have willingly surrendered to His sovereign will.

Isaiah’s description of the depravity of society in Judah is similar to Hosea’s description of Israel’s wicked anarchy in an earlier day (before 722 B.C.) (cf. Hosea 4:1 to Hosea 5:15). There was no truth, no justice, no goodness in the land. There was murder, lying, slander, robbery, vain revelry and adultery. Manasseh was eventually returned to Judah. His imprisonment in the city of Babylon apparently caused him to repent, and he instituted a religious reform in the land. God’s judgment of Judah was postponed for about a hundred years (until 606–586 B.C.). Manasseh’s reform was only superficial. Underneath a veneer of orthodoxy was a deep-seated wickedness sown by Manasseh when he was a younger man. Eventually, Judah returned to this wickedness and God’s word says it was because of Manasseh’s earlier seduction of the nation (cf. 2 Kings 24:3; Jeremiah 15:4). The student should read the first 23 chapters of Jeremiah’s prophecy as a record of the consequences of Manasseh’s leading Judah into idolatry and sin.

Isaiah 59:5-8 BARBAROUS: The adder is tziphe’oni in Hebrew and describes the most poisonous of all serpents, or fiery serpent. The Hebrew word for viper is ‘ephe’eh and is from the root word which means whisperer or hisser. Isaiah is emphasizing to his disciples the lethal danger of flirting with the majority of people in his day. Most men in the prophet’s generation were like deadly poisonous snakes. He also likened them unto cunning spiders. Poisonous snakes lay eggs which incubate poisonous embryonic snakes. Anyone who eats of the fruit (eggs) of that poisonous society will die of the same poison. Even those who try to “crush” what that society produces shall be slain by the “snake” that comes from the egg. Most spiders use their webs as snares and hiding places (“cover”). This evil generation will be trapped by their own webs and instead of being able to hide in their webs will be exposed by them. The violent consequences of their deeds are plain to everyone. The decadence of that generation is manifested in the fact that no one really cared. It is difficult to believe that people would “run” with “haste” to shed innocent blood. But even among God’s people there were “syndicates” or “mobs” of organized criminals, incredibly enough, among the priests (cf. Hosea 6:9). There is no restraint in the doing of evil. Jeremiah said they “trooped” to the houses of harlots (Jeremiah 5:7-8); they “lurked” like trappers lying in wait to ensnare men and women (Jer. ‘5:25–28). They gave their minds to dreaming, thinking, planning, plotting and preparing for wickedness all day and all night (cf. Hosea 7:4-7). They were like the wicked people of Noah’s day whose “every imagination of the thoughts of their heart was only evil continually . . .” (Genesis 6:5).

They did not know the “way of peace.” The Hebrew word shalom is translated peace but means primarily, soundness, wholeness, well-being, prosperity, health, goodness. In all of the following scriptures the word shalom is in the original text: (Psalms 122:7; Psalms 35:27; Psalms 73:3; Job 9:4; Job 22:21; 1 Kings 9:25; Deuteronomy 27:6; Joshua 8:31; Genesis 29:6; Genesis 37:14; Genesis 43:27; 2 Samuel 18:28; 2 Kings 4:23; 2 Kings 4:26; 2 Kings 5:21-22; 2 Kings 9:11). In 2 Samuel 11:7, David asked Uriah concerning the shalom of Joab and the shalom of the people and the shalom (peace?) of the war. In each instance here we have a graphic illustration of the usage of the word shalom being primarily, well-being, prosperity, wholeness, integrated-goodness. In Deuteronomy 27:6 and Joshua 8:31 the word shalom is translated “uncut” stones. Only whole, sound, perfect (in the sense of uncut) stones were to be used for altars. The people of Isaiah’s day did not know the way to soundness, wholeness, prosperity, (shalom). They thought they did! Apparently they believed security, well-being, prosperity would result from copying their pagan neighbors and worshipping in the fertility cults of idolatry. They felt secure in allying themselves politically, militarily and economically with pagan empires. Moral crookedness, social injustice and exploitation, compromise with pagan unbelief always leads to spiritual, moral, physical and social disintegration. Sin fractures; it does not produce wholeness. Man was not made for sin; he was made for righteousness. Falsehood disorients, divides, alienates, deranges; truth solidifies, integrates, consolidates and frees. Faith in God and Christ makes whole (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31; Mark 5:34; Luke 8:48; Luke 17:19; John 5:6; John 5:14). Peace (shalom) is a prominent feature of the messianic kingdom according to the prophets (cf. Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 11:6; Ezekiel 34:25; Micah 4:2-4; Zechariah 9:10, etc.). Ephesians 2:11-22 is a vivid illustration that the eirene (peace) of the New Testament church is of the same essence as the shalom of the Old Testament; that is, wholeness, integration, unification, well-being, soundness.

Materialism, sensuality, carnality and idolatry leads to “foolishness, faithlessness, heartlessness and ruthlessness.” It leads to barbarity! (cf. Romans 1:30).

Verses 9-14

Isa 59:9-14

Isaiah 59:9-14

"Therefore is justice far from us, neither doth righteousness overtake us: we look for light, but, behold, darkness; for brightness, but we walk in obscurity. We grope for the wall like the blind; yea, we grope as they that have no eyes; we stumble at noonday as in the twilight; among them that are lusty, we are as dead men. We roar all like bears, and moan sore like doves: we look for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us; our transgressions are with us, and as for our iniquities, we know them: transgressing and denying Jehovah, and turning away from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. and justice is turned away backward, and righteousness standeth afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and uprightness cannot enter. Yea, truth is lacking: and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey."

The meaning of these verses is simple enough. The thrust of the passage is that "We, the Jewish nation, are suffering the wretched consequences of our wickedness." Take it verse by verse. Isaiah 59:9 means `We wait in vain for deliverance from the cruel Romans.’ Isaiah 59:10 means that, `We stumble around like blind men, unable to discern truth everyone but us can see.’ Isaiah 59:11, `In our misery we groan like suffering animals.’ Isaiah 59:12-13, `Our consciences are guilty and they burden us with condemnation.’ Isaiah 59:14-15 a, `Justice in our land is dead and truth is not available anywhere.’

Isaiah 59:10 is especially interesting, because the blindness of Israel to the reality of Messiah when he came was simply phenomenal. Mark 10:46 ff has the story of the physically blind man screaming to high heaven for "Jesus thou Son of David (the True Messiah, properly addressed), (to) have mercy on us!" and the spiritually blind public trying to silence him! Also, the blind man (having then received his sight from Jesus) said, "Herein is the marvel, that ye know not whence he is, and yet he opened my eyes" (John 9:30)! Here are two New Testament examples of truth which blind men saw clearly but which were hidden to Israel. The hopelessness of a people so blinded and hardened and deluded by wickedness was expressed by Wardle: "No gleam of hope brightens our darkness. We grope like blind men along a wall instead of treading firmly; we stumble in broad daylight.”

Sin is described with an impressive vocabulary in this chapter. Muilenburg wrote that, "Few chapters in the Bible are so rich and diverse in their vocabulary of sin.”

Isaiah 59:9-11 CONFUSION: The first part of chapter 59 is Jehovah’s indictment. In Isaiah 59:1-8 the Lord, speaking through Isaiah, tells Judah that He knows their sin. This section (Isaiah 59:9-15) is an evaluation of Judah’s predicament from man’s (Isaiah) perspective. It is, as it were, Isaiah concurring with the Lord’s indictment. It cannot be a penitent confession of sin by the nation of Judah. The attitude of the populace grew more and more rebellious and not penitent as evidenced clearly by Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Isaiah says, in effect, “Lord, You are correct! This nation is filled with confusion because of its sin.” The stupefying effect of the rejection of God’s truth is seen in their clamoring, roaring, moaning for light and salvation while at the same time clamoring for more and more wickedness. They were like disoriented blind men groping, feeling, grasping for some object by which they might find their way. The way is there but they cannot see it because they have deliberately chosen not to see it. One is reminded of King Zedekiah who when faced with the consequences of his disobedience to God, sent for Jeremiah the prophet and asked, “Is there any word from the Lord?” (Jeremiah 37:17). Jeremiah had been preaching the “word from the Lord” for at least 23 years (Jeremiah 25:3)—why had Zedekiah been unable to find the way for 23 years? Why all of a sudden roar and moan for salvation, Zedekiah? Because he had come to the “end of his rope.” He could no longer solve his problems by himself.

The nation of Judah was fast approaching the end of its rope. Isaiah recognized it. Many of the people, however, had not yet admitted it. Not until they had been violently dragged off into pagan captivity and had gotten their fill of idolatry did they confess their own helplessness and turn to God for salvation.

The interesting thing in our text here is the incongruity of moaning for salvation while running to evil and making haste to shed innocent blood (Isaiah 59:7). But what they are doing is nothing new. Israel did the same thing during the wilderness wandering, during the period of the Judges, during the period of the Seleucids and during the Roman occupation and the days of Jesus. Nation after nation has acted in the same stupid way—moaning for light while increasingly practicing darkness and roaring for salvation while continuing to. enslave itself with falsehood and wickedness. This senseless paradox fits certain segments of our own society and our own country. Some Americans run around roaring for liberty while burning and looting and shedding innocent blood. Others moan for truth in politics and religion while cheating on their income tax, stealing their neighbor’s wife, violating every law they can without getting caught. People want their sins but they do not want the consequences. Judah was no different from every other generation.

Isaiah 59:12-15 CONFESSION: AS we stated earlier, this is not so much a confession of repentance as it is an admission, on Isaiah’s part, that the Lord is correct about His charge against Judah. Even if this does represent a confession of sin by the nation, it is one thing to confess one’s sins and another thing to repent of them. Sin and its consequences may even be regretted and still not repented of. Judas regretted betraying Christ but did not repent—he hanged himself.

As a matter of fact, it would be difficult for a nation as saturated with wickedness as Judah was not to be aware of its sin! The consequences of sin are usually apparent even to the sinner himself. When the consequences of sin are felt more by the society as a whole than by the individual sinner it is easier to admit the sin and the consequences, than it is when those consequences cause individual catastrophe. Individual sinners profiteering from their sin without any privations or calamity may hypocritically bemoan the sins of others in their society and go right on sinning themselves.

Apparently these verses are the righteous moanings of Isaiah the prophet concurring with God that Judah is a wicked nation. The depravity of the entire society was plainly evident. Anyone could see the nation had deliberately turned away from Jehovah and had become idolatrous. Anyone could see there was no truth anywhere in that nation; not in government, not in business, not in religion! Truth had fallen dead in the streets. Honesty and uprightness was not permitted. Any man who tried to give up his wickedness made himself a victim, a prey! He became a hunted man! Could any society become that wicked! Jeremiah was told to “run through the streets of Jerusalem . . . to see if he could find a man, one who does justice. . . .” (Jeremiah 5:1). Jeremiah, only some 80 or 90 years removed from Isaiah, found the people of Judah totally committed to wickedness. Not only so, they loved it that way (Jeremiah 5:30-31); they could not be shamed (Jeremiah 6:15); no one repented of wickedness (Jeremiah 8:5-6); and Jeremiah was told not to pray for that people (Jeremiah 7:16-17; Jeremiah 11:14; Jeremiah 14:11; Jeremiah 15:1). Yes, a society can become that wicked! And it happens to any nation when its preachers do not proclaim the word of the Lord and when its rulers transgress God’s commandments (cf. Jeremiah 2:7-13).

Verses 15-21

Isa 59:15-21

Isaiah 59:15-21

"And Jehovah saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his own arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it upheld him. And he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a mantle. According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, wrath to his adversaries, recompense to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompense. So shall they fear the name of Jehovah from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come as a rushing stream, which the breath of Jehovah driveth. And a Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith Jehovah. And as for me, this is my covenant with them, saith Jehovah: my Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith Jehovah, from henceforth and forever."

Despite the fact of this description of Jewish wickedness having a legitimate application to ages other than that of the Messiah:

"It quite appropriately describes the moral condition of the world that laid the foundation for the necessity of Divine intervention by the Messiah. Indeed, this final paragraph of the chapter undoubtedly refers to Him. No one can attentively read this passage and doubt it. This is a most beautiful description of the Redeemer, and of the effects of his coming."

Jehovah’s concern at the terrible, near hopeless, condition of mankind; and the statement in Isaiah 59:16 that he "wondered that there was no intercessor" falls short of expressing the fullness of God’s concern. The word should be rendered, "He was appalled." The utter hopelessness of mankind had reached such a state that it even appalled God.

"He put on righteousness as a breastplate ..." (Isaiah 59:17). God does not need, nor does He resort to physical armor. He would need such things like He needs a hole in His head! People who talk about the "Battle of Armageddon" should read their Bibles. There will be no "battle," that word being in the commentaries, but not in the Biblical description of Armageddon!

The apostle Paul evidently made this verse the foundation of his describing the panoply of the Christian’s armor in Ephesians 6:13-19.

As Rawlinson noted, "The Isaianic anthropomorphism is far less gross than that of Homer, in whose writings the pagan gods actually put on armor, and took up sword and shield." As Jamieson noted, the Christian’s armor is like that of God’s, except that, "We do not possess any `garments of vengeance, or cloak of zeal.’ Vengeance belongs to God (Romans 12:19)."

As frequently observed in all the prophets, the first advent and the second advent of Christ are often telescoped together in the vision of the sacred writers, mentioning characteristics of both in the single reference. Here, the vengeance upon God’s enemies is an ear-mark of the last advent, not the first; but, in the sense that God’s word is the judge of all men; and since Christ brought God’s Word in the first advent, it does have an application.

"A Redeemer will come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob ..." (Isaiah 59:20). No passage in the Bible could more clearly distinguish the impenitent and disobedient transgressors of the hardened, deluded, and blinded Israel, and mark their exclusion from the blessings of the New Covenant, than does this verse. True, the Lord would come to Zion, but not to all the Jewish nation, only "unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob."

As Archer pointed out:

"Redeemer here is [~go’el], `kinsman-redeemer,’ which involves a blood relationship (into which it would have been impossible for God to enter, except through the Incarnation of Christ)."

Note the passages here which apply to Jesus Christ: (1) he is the one who is the covenant (Isaiah 35 prophesies the Christ who is the New Covenant, but the word `covenant’ is not used); (2) the Spirit of God is upon him (Matthew 3:16 f); (3) God put his words in Jesus’ mouth (John 12:49-50); (4) Heaven and earth shall pass away but Jesus’ words shall not pass away (1 Peter 1:24-25). These very things have already been stated many times in Isaiah, as in Isaiah 55:3; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:8; Isaiah 54:10; Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 61:1. The tremendous meaning here is that:

"There will always be a seed (a remnant) holding faithfully to God’s Word, passing it on from one generation to the next. This promise has been fulfilled in the Christ who received his words from the Father, in the gospel, and in the true church of Christ."

Cheyne correctly identified Isaiah 59:21 as, "A special word of promise to the True Israel," thus making that necessary distinction so vital in studying this prophecy, namely, that of always determining which Israel is meant.

Before leaving this chapter, it should be noted that Isaiah is here going forward with exactly what he promised in Isaiah 28:10; Isaiah 28:13, that is, "precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little and there a little, here a little and there a little." All of these themes, all of them, had previously been mentioned at least half a dozen times. This is true of practically everything in these final seventeen chapters; and this identifies them, absolutely, as the writings of Isaiah. This chapter affords a good example of what we mean. See the next paragraph.

The hardening of Israel was foretold in Isaiah 6:6-12; God’s righteousness (his breastplate) appears in Isaiah 11:5; Isaiah 42:6, etc.; sins hide God’s face from the wicked as in Isaiah 8:17; the Redeemer here is mentioned in Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:7, etc.; the new covenant is gloriously prophesied in Isaiah 35. The deficiency of the spider web as a covering and the inability of the people to cover them with their works (Isaiah 59:6) is an echo of Isaiah 28:20 where the bed was too short and the blanket too narrow!

The application of this chapter to the period of Jesus’ personal ministry is required by the references to the Repairer and the Restorer (Isaiah 58:12) and that of "The Redeemer" (Isaiah 59:20), bracketing, as it were, the whole chapter and identifying it with the times of Christ.

Isaiah 59:15-18 MEDIATION: These last verses form a fitting climax and summation to the two sections entitled, Salvation Through God’s Servant (ch. 40–53) and Communion Through God’s Covenant (ch. 54–59). In this text (Isaiah 59:15 b–21) the prediction that God Himself will become the atoning Intercessor and that God in The Spirit will Himself become the Covenant is summarized.

What the Lord God saw in the wickedness of Isaiah’s generation agitated His heart. The Hebrew phrase is ra’—be’ayin which is translated in the KJV “. . . it was evil in His eyes . . .” but means more precisely, “it excited His displeasure . . .” The point is that what Jehovah saw not only excited His displeasure but it also moved Him to compassion as is evidenced by the subsequent plans to intercede Himself for salvation to those who will accept His covenant. Jehovah’s agitation of spirit here is similar to that of Jesus at the graveyard in Bethany when He groaned and wept over the death of Lazarus (caused by sin) and the trying of the faith of Mary and Martha (cf. John 11).

The Hebrew word maphegi’a is translated intercessor. It means literally, to strike upon or against, or to assail anyone with petitions. In Ruth 1:16 it is translated urge or beg. It is the word used in Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 27:18; Job 21:15; Genesis 23:8; Isaiah 53:12 (of the Servant) and in Jeremiah 36:25. When the Lord saw the wickedness and lostness of Judah, He also saw that there was no man interested or capable of petitioning Him on their behalf. They were all sinners, even Isaiah (“undone” Isaiah 6:5). Who will intercede, who will stand between their wickedness and lostness and the just vengeance of Jehovah? He will! God interposes Himself in the Incarnate Servant (cf, our comments on Isaiah 45:23; Isaiah 53:12; Isaiah 54:9). God’s own “arm” brought salvation (comments on “arm” see Isaiah 40:10; Isaiah 51:5; Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 53:1). God upheld His own absolute faithfulness by imputing or supplying His righteousness to unrighteous man through the incarnated intercession of Himself! He accomplished both a vindication of His justness and the justification of those who believe through the vicarious, substitutionary atonement of Christ (cf. Romans 3:21-26).

See our comments on Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 55:1-5; (and Daniel 9:24-27 in Daniel, by Butler, College Press) for extended discussion of God’s imputed righteousness.

It was the zeal of the Lord who sent Him into this world as the incarnate Son clothed in righteousness, salvation and judgment (justice). See comments Isaiah 9:6-7. It was zeal for God’s “house” that consumed Christ (John 2:17).

These words of Isaiah may have been intended initially to predict the salvation of Judah from the Babylonian captivity by the intercession and mighty arm of Jehovah. As we have already seen, however, the release from captivity had a much more glorious goal (the messianic redemption) as its ultimate fulfillment. And these words of Isaiah are no less messianic-oriented! Indeed, Jehovah delivered Judah from exile and recompensed her Gentile captors (“the islands”). But He also judged all earthly kingdoms when He established His own eternal kingdom through the work of the Messiah as we have already pointed out. By the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ God demonstrated with all the finality and absoluteness He could that the kingdoms of this world were judged. The great apostle Paul makes that the authentication of the world’s judgment in Acts 17:30-31; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Colossians 2:14-15, etc. These words of Isaiah, then, point ultimately to the Messiah and His kingdom.

Isaiah 59:19-21 MEMBERSHIP: The mediation (intercession) provided by God also provides membership or communion with God through covenant relationship. And that is precisely what this whole section of Isaiah (ch. 54–59) is all about. The “isles” of the Gentiles, from the west and east will fear Jehovah’s name and His glory. Jehovah’s name and glory will flood the world (“as a rushing stream”). The Hebrew word ruakh is translated breath (Isaiah 59:19), but is more generally translated spirit. Ruakh is the same word that is translated Spirit in Isaiah 59:21. It would make more sense to us to translate the word spirit in Isaiah 59:19. Thus the name and the glory of Jehovah that floods the world will be by the power of His Holy Spirit as He converts Gentiles and Jews through the preaching of the gospel of Christ.

The Hebrew word goel is translated redeemer. The original meaning of the word was to demand back, or to extricate. In Leviticus 25-27 the word signifies the liberation of property from a mortgage against it or a vow against it by payment or exchange. In cases of poverty, where no payment was possible, the nearest of kin was made responsible for performing the work of redemption. Thus a kinsman came to be called by the name goel, (cf. Numbers 5:8; 1 Kings 16:11; Ruth 2:20; Ruth 3:2; Ruth 3:9; Ruth 3:12, etc.). Jesus is our goel (kinsman) (see Hebrews 2:10-18). That this message is messianic is well established by its quotation in Romans 11:26-27. “All Israel ” in Romans 11:26 is the New Israel (Galatians 6:14-16) the church of Christ. The salvation of “all Israel ” is accomplished when the Redeemer redeems both Gentiles and Jew in one body (cf. Ephesians 2:11 ff) and that is the intent of Isaiah 59:15 b–21 and Romans 11:26-27! Goel is a favorite theme of Isaiah (Isaiah 35:9; Isaiah 41:14; Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 44:22-24; Isaiah 47:4; Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 51:10; Isaiah 52:3; Isaiah 62:12; Isaiah 63:4). The Redeemer comes to redeem those who wish to be redeemed and express that wish in a voluntary “turn from transgression.”

Two Hebrew pronouns are side by side at the beginning of Isaiah 59:21; ‘eni zo’th would read literally, “I, this very One,” am covenant for them. God interposed Himself with an oath. He, Himself became covenant. All the promises of God find their “Amen” in Him (2 Corinthians 1:20-21). His life (atoning death and justifying resurrection) became the New covenant (Matthew 26:26-29). To partake of Christ’s life is to partake of His Spirit (John 6:52-63). To partake of Christ’s word is to partake of His life and His Spirit (John 14:21-23; Acts 2:38; Acts 5:32; 2 Peter 1:3-5; see comments in The Gospel of John, by Butler, College Press, chapters 14–17). The Spirit of Christ dwells in man through faith (Ephesians 3:17); faith comes by hearing and obeying the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). The exclusiveness of the instrumentality of the Word in the dwelling and working of the Spirit is emphasized even here (Isaiah 59:21). The Spirit of God was in the prophets (1 Peter 1:10-12) but He functioned through their preaching. The Spirit of God was in the apostles, but He functioned through their preaching. The Spirit of God is in Christians, but He functions through their printing or preaching the Word which the apostles preached and printed and left for the salvation of the world. The apostolic message is the only message of the Spirit; He has no further word for the world! He will not function in the life of any one in the world except through the instrumentality of the apostolic Word. Covenant relationship to God has always been made available exclusively through the instrumentality of a revealed Word. God has always limited the delivery of His Word to a few selected individuals in order to preclude the possibility of deception (1 John 4:1-6). God has always authenticated His messengers by signs and wonders (Hebrews 2:1-4). Once the messengers have been authenticated and the message has been delivered in human language and committed to the printed page, anyone claiming to have a revelation of the Spirit beyond that message is a false messenger! All that is needed for the rest of the world to come into covenant relationship is that the completed, perfected message of the Spirit be passed on by printing or preaching from one generation to another.

The covenant accomplished by the Redeemer and inscripturated by the Spirit will last forever. It will never need updating, changing or superseding. It will need simply to be passed on from generation to generation. It is for the whole world so long as the world shall last!

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Isaiah 59". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/isaiah-59.html.
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