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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Isaiah 6


Isaiah, in a vision of the Lord in his glory, being terrified, is confirmed and receiveth his message: he sheweth the obstinacy of the people, even to their desolation. A remnant shall be saved.

Before Christ 760.

Verse 1

Isaiah 6:1. In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw, &c.— We have in this chapter the fourth sermon, containing an account of a wonderful and august vision wherewith the prophet was favoured by the Lord: The design of which is two-fold; to exhibit a figure of the kingdom of the Son of God, hereafter to be manifested in the world, and to foretel the future blindness and hardness of heart of the greatest part of the Jewish nation. There are three parts of this discourse. The first contains a symbolical manifestation of the glorious Majesty of the God of Israel, Isaiah 6:1-4.; the second, the sanctification of Isaiah to the performance of an important prophetic office, Isaiah 6:5-7.; the third, a peculiar command which the prophet received from God, concerning the future and unhappy state of the Jews, 8-13. There seems to be no doubt that this vision is to be immediately referred to the times of the gospel, though it is possible that it has some reference also to the men of Isaiah's own time. See Vitringa.

I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up In this first part of the vision, we have the species of revelation which happened to the prophet, which he calls a vision, but in which the prophet seems to have been rather passive than active;—and the object of the vision, which consists of various parts: first, the appearance of Jehovah, sitting on a lofty throne, clothed as it were with a royal robe, the skirts of which filled the temple: Secondly, of the seraphim next to the throne, celebrating the majesty and greatness of God; Isaiah 6:2-3. And, thirdly, the consequences of this glorious appearance; the commotion of the posts of the temple, and its repletion with smoke, Isaiah 6:4. The place of this vision is supposed to be in the temple. We are not to imagine that Isaiah saw the Godhead itself, but some symbolical representation of it, most likely the appearance of Christ in the human form in glory. See John 12:41. For there seems to be no doubt, from the description, that the appearance was human. See Vitringa, and Waterland's sixth sermon on the Trinity.

Verse 2

Isaiah 6:2. Above it stood The state, figure, and actions of the Seraphim are here described: The word שׂופים seraphim, says Vitringa, signifies fiery and shining bodies, from ףּשׂר seraph, to burn; (see Numbers 21:6.) and is in this place to be understood of persons of a bright and splendid appearance, covered with wings, and in a human form. This part of the vision seems manifestly to be taken from the representation of the Divine Glory, as it was exhibited in the Holy of Holies; where was the mercy-seat, and the cherubim representing the Divine Majesty, attended with the angelic host; and thus also the fourth verse refers to the temple, and the priest offering up the incense, more especially when he entered into the Holy of Holies. This passage, mystically understood, represents the future dominion of Christ as Mediator, and the diffusion of his gospel through the world by his messengers and ministers; the filling the earth with his glory, and spreading throughout the world the merits of his divine intercession. For a large and learned application of each particular the reader is referred to Vitringa.

Verses 5-7

Isaiah 6:5-7. Then said I, &c.— The second part of this vision contains the sanctification of the prophet for the undertaking of a great prophetical office, and consists of two parts: the first describes the prophet's state of mind upon the sight of the preceding illustrious vision: His consternation upon the sense of his great unworthiness. He expresses his fear of perishing, (I am undone,) because, being a man of unclean lips, and dwelling amongst an unclean people, he was therefore unfit to join in the celebration of the Godhead with the seraphim. The uncleanness of the lips means, not only offence in words, but the want of due qualifications for the important office in which he was to be employed. We have, secondly, in the 6th and 7th verses, the benefit of sanctification conferred upon the prophet by a singular mode of lustration. The idea is here again from the temple; and it has been generally allowed, that the live coal, or fire, is a symbol of the purifying and sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit. See Acts 2:3.Matthew 3:11; Matthew 3:11.; and this coal, taken from the altar, refers to the participation of the gift of the Spirit, as it proceeds from the merit of the great Sacrifice for the sins of the world. See Hebrews 9:14. The designation of Isaiah to the prophetical office is here particularly taught, and more remotely the sanctification of men to the ministry of the gospel; some of whom, like St. Paul, being men of impure lips, and unholy lives, are by the word of grace illuminated, sanctified, made holy and seraphic, and glowing with love and zeal for the glory of Christ. See Vitringa.

Verse 8

Isaiah 6:8. Also I heard the voice of the Lord We have here the third part of this vision, comprehending, first, a trial of the disposition of the prophet, now sanctified, with his reply to the Lord, in the present verse; secondly, the command delivered to him concerning the execution of the divine judgment upon the Jews, of blindness and hardness of heart, Isa 6:9-10 thirdly, a more full and explicit declaration of a most grievous temporal judgment, which should be joined with this spiritual one; Isaiah 6:11-13. The present verse is to be understood humano more, (after the manner of men) and as principally designed to call forth the zeal and activity of the prophet to his office.

Verses 9-10

Isaiah 6:9-10. And he said, Go, &c.— In this commission given by God to the prophet, we have, first, the preface, in which he is enjoined to bear God's denunciation to the Jewish people; whom God does not as usual call his people, but this people; Go and tell this people. We have, secondly, the words themselves, comprehending the divine command, and which God puts into the mouth of the prophet; words, which we find frequently repeated, at least as to their sense, in the gospels, where we shall have occasion to speak more fully concerning them. See Exodus 9:34. In the style of Scripture, the prophets are said to do what they declare will be done; therefore the words, Make the heart of this people fat, is as much as to say, "Denounce my judgments upon this people, that their hearts shall be fat, &c." This prophesy might relate, in some measure, to the state of the Jews before the Babylonish captivity, but it did not receive its full completion till the days of our Saviour; and in this sense it is understood and applied by the writers of the New Testament, and by our Lord himself. The prophet is informed in the 11th and 12th verses, which contain the third part of the divine commission, that this infidelity and obstinacy of his countrymen will be of long duration. There is a remarkable gradation in denouncing these judgments: Not only Jerusalem and the cities should be wasted without inhabitant, but even the single houses should be without men; and not only the houses of the city should be without men, but even the country should be utterly desolate; not only the people should be removed out of the land, but the Lord should remove them far away; and they should not be removed for a short period, but there should be a great, or rather a long forsaking in the midst of the land. And has not the world seen all these particulars exactly fulfilled? Have not the Jews laboured under a spiritual blindness and infatuation, in hearing but not understanding, in seeing but not perceiving the Messiah, after the accomplishment of so many prophesies, after the performance of so many miracles? And in consequence of their refusal to convert and be healed, have not their cities been wasted, and their houses without men? Have they not been removed far away, into the most distant parts of the earth? and has not their removal or banishment been now of about 1700 years duration? And do they not still continue deaf and blind, obstinate and unbelieving? The Jews, at the time of the delivery of this prophesy, gloried in being the peculiar church and people of God; and would any Jew of himself have thought or have said, that this nation would, in process of time, become an infidel and rejected nation; infidel and rejected for many ages, oppressed by men, and forsaken as a nation by God? It was above 750 years before Christ that Isaiah predicted these things; and how could he have predicted them, unless he had been illuminated by the divine vision; or how could they have succeeded accordingly, unless the spirit of prophesy had been the Spirit of God? See Bishop Newton on the Prophesies, vol. 1: p. 233 and Vitringa.

Verse 13

Isaiah 6:13. But yet, &c.— But though there shall yet remain in it a tenth part, even that shall be for a prey. As an elm and as an oak, of which, when they are lopped, the trunk remaineth; so the holy seed shall be the trunk thereof. See Vitringa, and compare Romans 11:19.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Isaiah had before, at God's command, begun his prophetic employment: a solemn confirmation of it is made in this august vision, as a means to strengthen his faith, and quicken his diligence in the discharge of his important office. The date of the vision is the year in which Uzziah died, after a long and pious reign of fifty-two years; though during the latter part of it the leprosy, under which he laboured, excluded him from the administration, which was lodged in the hands of his son. We have,

1. What the prophet saw; I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, the Lord Jesus Christ, enthroned in the glory which he had with the Father before the worlds were; for to him is this expressly applied, Joh 12:41 and contains one of the most incontestable proofs of the essential Godhead of our incarnate Redeemer; high and lifted up, exalted above all blessing and praise, infinitely transcending all created excellence; the king eternal, to whom every knee must bow, and every tongue confess: and his train filled the temple, either the bright angelic spirits who graced his presence, or the irradiation which beamed around him: and perhaps it may typically refer to his church on earth, filled with the gifts and graces which, on the day of Pentecost, were so eminently bestowed upon the apostles; by whose preaching a vast accession of converts was quickly made to the church. Above it, or near him, stood the seraphims, the burners, the heavenly hosts, or those emblematic representatives of the ministers of the gospel. Ezekiel 1:13. Each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, as unable to bear the transcendent brightness of the Redeemer's glory; with twain he covered his feet, as in his best services unworthy of God; and with twain he did fly, delighted, ready and swift to obey God's high commands. Thus do Christ's minister's with shame acknowledge their unworthiness to look up to God, and disclaim all merit even from their holiest walk; while, burning with zeal, they are ready to fly at his word to preach his gospel and fulfil his pleasure. Note; (1.) We cannot form ideas of the glory of our Immanuel according to his excellent greatness; it surpasseth knowledge. (2.) Before God, the highest creature stands ashamed; and how much more cause hath man, a sinful worm, to blush and be confounded when he appears before the throne of Jesus. (3.) Burning zeal for God is the character of his faithful ministers. (4.) Delight and cheerful readiness for God's work and will is the way to rise to fellowship with angels.

2. What he heard. One cried unto another, with fervency and unanimity, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts, the triune God, glorious in all his attributes, and especially in his holiness; the whole earth is full of his glory, manifested in all the works of creation and providence, but especially in those of redemption and grace. Thus do God's ministers of flame on earth unite in preaching the one glorious gospel, and giving to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the praise of that holiness displayed in the justification of the sinner's person, and the sanctification of his soul, by the atoning blood of Jesus, and by his efficacious grace.

3. The effect of this cry. The posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, denoting the removal of the temple worship and service; or the powerful effect of the gospel on men's consciences, shaking their vain confidence, and awakening their souls to a sense of sin: and the house was filled with smoke, in allusion to the cloud of incense which covered the mercy-seat on the day of atonement, and intimating God's acceptance of his ministers' services; or signifying the judgments which would come upon the Jewish people, when their city and temple should be destroyed; or, finally, the smoke of the sinner's torment that ascendeth up for ever and ever.

2nd, Struck with the astonishing vision, the prophet is confounded, conscious of his own sinfulness, and inability to stand before this holy Lord God.
1. He laments over himself. Woe is me, a sinful worm, for I am undone, if this holy God be strict to mark what is amiss; because I am a man of unclean lips, defiled in nature, and probably conscious of fear and want of boldness in the delivery of the awful messages with which he was charged; and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, whose iniquities were, to his bitter sorrow, ready to draw down the heavy judgments of God upon them: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts, the Lord Christ, whose perfection of holiness, like the bright beams of day, discovered those spots and impurities which in the dark before he did not perceive. Note; (1.) The more we know of God's purity and perfections, the more shall we discover of our own vileness. (2.) The highest saints of God, who know him best, are most lowly in their own eyes. (3.) A good man not only laments over his own unfaithfulness; but, when he looks around, his heart is grieved with the filthy conversation of the wicked, and he trembles for their approaching ruin.

2. A gracious message is sent him for his encouragement. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, on his humbling confession, having a live coal in his hand, signifying the powerful and lively word of the gospel, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar of burnt-offering, which was the type of the Lord Christ, whose atoning sacrifice alone can procure the sinner's pardon; and he laid it upon my mouth, not to consume his unclean lips, but to purify them from their pollution; and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips, inti-mating the application of the pardoning word of God to the sinner's soul, by which he is enabled to take the comfort of the promise; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged, or expiated, utterly blotted out before God, wiped away from his conscience, and perfectly expiated by the promised sacrifice of Jesus. Note; (1.) God delights to comfort the mourners in Zion; penitent prayers will find an answer of peace and joy. (2.) Nothing can heal the heart broken under sin, but the precious balm of atoning blood applied by faith in the word of promise. It must be this coal from the altar, not strange fire, which can quicken the perishing soul. (3.) They who would speak to God, or for God, with confidence, must first hear him speak to them pardon and peace. (4.) None are so fit or able feelingly to preach to sinners the grace of a Redeemer, as they who have, by experience, tasted the riches of his love to their own souls. (5.) The ministers of God, like burning seraphs, should fly to the relief of the poor and broken-hearted sinner, with the invigorating word of kind consolation.

3. Isaiah offers himself for God's service. God is introduced deliberating on the choice of a messenger, and the prophet is ready to go. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, the Father, speaking with his coequal Son and Spirit, Whom shall I send on this dangerous errand, to reprove a hardened nation, and who will go for us? (Compare Joh 12:41 and Acts 28:25.) an evidence of the Trinity of the Persons in the unity of the Godhead. Then said I, Here am I; send me: Since God had purged his pollution, he is now ready to undertake any service for his glory, however difficult or dangerous. Note; (1.) None can rightly speak for God, who have not a divine mission from him, and heard his voice teaching their own hearts the truths which they must deliver to others. (2.) The ordination of a minister is a matter of solemn weight, seeing it is (comparatively speaking) so rare to find that zeal for God, that love for men's souls, that acquaintance with the mysteries of godliness, which are such essential qualifications for a preacher of the gospel. (3.) If a desire to glorify God, and a delight to serve him in the gospel of his dear Son, do not engage us as volunteers in the service, exclusive of all worldly prospects, and regardless of all sufferings, it is a horrid profanation to offer ourselves for the ministry, merely because destined by our parents, or to procure a maintenance.

3rdly, Isaiah having offered himself, his service is accepted, and his commission given him, Go; but he is informed, that, though to the majority it would be utterly ineffectual, to a few it would be blessed with success.

1. He is commanded to tell this people, now abandoned to their own hearts' lusts, Hear ye indeed the words of the prophets, but especially of Christ and his apostles, in reference to whose preaching this Scripture is several times quoted in the New Testament, but understand not, either the glories of his person, or his doctrine; and see ye indeed his miracles so great and strange, but perceive not the proof of his divine mission therein contained. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes: God gives them up to judicial hardness and blindness; because they desire not the knowledge of the truth, in judgment they shall be deprived of it, and find that gospel which was ordained unto life, to them a savour of death unto death: lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed, to which the preaching of the word was adapted; or at least might see so far as to make some national reformation, which might avert the judgments that God had resolved to bring upon them for the rejection of his Son, which had filled up the measure of their iniquities; and therefore he left them to a reprobate mind. Note; (1.) The clearest truths of God's word are darkness to the fallen mind; the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (2.) Wherever the word of God is preached, it serves to harden those who receive it not in the light and love of it. (3.) They who are converted will find the wounds healed which sin had made in their souls, while the impenitent perish in their iniquities.

2. He is informed of the desolations to be accomplished upon them, in answer to his question, How long should these divine judgments upon them continue? even till the whole nation should be destroyed and dispersed, the country depopulated, and utter ruin brought upon them by the Roman sword. Note; (1.) The ruin of men's souls is the necessary consequence of the rejection of the gospel. (2.) Temporal judgments are often the punishment of national sins.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 6". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.