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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Isaiah 57

Isaiah 57:0

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASBNKJVNRSVTEVNJB
Evil Leaders RebukedIsrael's Futile IdolatryAgainst IdolatryIsrael's Idolatry Is CondemnedThe Unworthiness of the Nations' Leaders(Isaiah 56:10-2)
Isaiah 57:1-10(1-10)Isaiah 57:1-2(1-2)Isaiah 57:1-10(1-10)Isaiah 57:1-2
Against Idolatry
Isaiah 57:3-6(3-6) Isaiah 57:3-10Isaiah 57:3-13(3-13)
Isaiah 57:7-10(7-10)
Isaiah 57:11-13(11-13)Isaiah 57:11-13(11-13)Isaiah 57:11-13(11-13)Isaiah 57:11-13
Healing For the BacksliderPoem of ConsolationGod's Promises of Help and HealingSalvation For the Weak
Isaiah 57:14-21(14-21)Isaiah 57:14(14)Isaiah 57:14-21(14-21)Isaiah 57:14Isaiah 57:14-16(14-16)
Isaiah 57:15-18(15-18) Isaiah 57:15-17
Isaiah 57:17(17)
Isaiah 57:18-21Isaiah 57:18-21(18-21)
Isaiah 57:19-20(19-20)
Isaiah 57:21(21)

READING CYCLE THREE (see Guide to Good Bible Reading)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Obviously the context of Israel's sin continues from Isaiah 56:0.

B. This describes the OT choice of “the two ways”; one of life and peace and the other of self, sin, and ruin (cf. Deuteronomy 30:15, Deuteronomy 30:19).

C. Leupold makes the interesting comment (p. 271) that as Isaiah 56:0 ended on faithless leaders, Isaiah 57:0 deals with faithless people.

D. The setting of the idolatry is not Mesopotamia but Canaan's fertility cults (i.e., Ba'al, Asherah, Molech). This reached its apex under King Manasseh. See Special Topic: Molech.

Verses 1-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 57:1-10 1”The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart; And devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from evil, 2He enters into peace; They rest in their beds, Each one who walked in his upright way. 3But come here, you sons of a sorceress, Offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute. 4Against whom do you jest? Against whom do you open wide your mouth And stick out your tongue? Are you not children of rebellion, Offspring of deceit, 5Who inflame yourselves among the oaks, Under every luxuriant tree, Who slaughter the children in the ravines, Under the clefts of the crags? 6Among the smooth stones of the ravine Is your portion, they are your lot; Even to them you have poured out a drink offering, You have made a grain offering. Shall I relent concerning these things? 7Upon a high and lofty mountain You have made your bed. You also went up there to offer sacrifice. 8Behind the door and the doorpost You have set up your sign; Indeed, far removed from Me, you have uncovered yourself, And have gone up and made your bed wide. And you have made an agreement for yourself with them, You have loved their bed, You have looked on their manhood. 9You have journeyed to the king with oil And increased your perfumes; You have sent your envoys a great distance And made them go down to Sheol. 10You were tired out by the length of your road, Yet you did not say, 'It is hopeless.' You found renewed strength, Therefore you did not faint.”

Isaiah 57:1 Evil triumphs when the righteous are persecuted and murdered, and no one seems to care!

1. no man takes it to heart

2. no one understands

“is taken away from evil” As the wicked seek self and sin, the righteous are delivered from the terrible influence of the Fall (cf. Genesis 3:0; Genesis 6:5, Genesis 6:11-12). See Special Topic: The Fall.

Isaiah 57:2 This verse describes the spiritual condition of the righteous man.

1. enters into peace (because of Isaiah 57:1 this must be mental)

2. rest in their beds (BDB 1012). There is a word play on this word used here of the righteous, but in Isaiah 57:7, Isaiah 57:8, of the wicked.

a. bed for sleep

b. bed for sex

c. the grave

3. walked in his upright way (i.e., lifestyle faithfulness)

Isaiah 57:3-4 These verses describe the wicked ones mentioned in Isaiah 57:1. They are characterized as

1. sons of a sorcerer (BDB 778 II)

2. offspring of an adulterer (BDB 610)

3. offspring of a prostitute (BDB 275)

YHWH calls them to approach (Qal IMPERATIVE, BDB 897, KB 1132) His presence for judgment.

4. offspring of deceit (BDB 833)

a. against whom do you jest

b. against whom do you open wide your mouth

c. against whom do you stick out your tongue (these described their accusations against the righteous)

5. children of rebellion (BDB 1055)

Isaiah 57:5-6 The idolatry is described as

1. inflame yourself among the oaks (Niphal PARTICIPLE, BDB 328, KB 328, this refers to the fertility worship of Ba'al and Asherah, i.e., Jeremiah 2:23-27)

2. slaughter the children (Qal PARTICIPLE, BDB 1006, KB 1458, this refers to the worship of Molech)

3. pour out a libation (Qal PERFECT, BB 1049, KB 1629)

4. make a grain offering (Hiphil PERFECT, BDB 748, KB 828)

SPECIAL TOPIC: FERTILITY WORSHIP OF THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST

SPECIAL TOPIC: MOLECH

57:6e

NASB“Shall I relent concerning these things” NKJV“Should I receive comfort in these” NRSV“Shall I be appeased for these things” TEV“Do you think I am pleased with all this”

The Israelites' fertility worship, even if done in YHWH's name, was unacceptable!

Isaiah 57:7 This refers to the Ba'al and Asherah altars which were placed on the tops of hills (cf. Deuteronomy 12:2; 2 Kings 17:10; Jeremiah 3:6; Jeremiah 17:2; Hosea 4:13). The phrase “made their bed” refers to the ritual sexual activities offerred for the fertility of the land, herds, and human population (cf. Isaiah 57:8b-d).

Isaiah 57:8 The first two lines are ambiguous. This could refer to an idolatrous image set up

1. in their homes

2. on their village walls

3. in the temple itself (cf. Ezekiel 8-10)

One wonders if this is somehow related to political/military alliances with pagan nations who demanded the worship of foreign gods (cf. Isaiah 57:0:8d-e, 9).

NASB“you have looked on their manhood” NKJV“where you saw their hand” TEV“there you satisfy your lust” NJB“with your eyes on the sacred symbol” JPSOA“you have chosen lust” NRSV, NIV, PESHITTA“where you saw their nakedness” NET Bible“gaze longingly on their genitals”

The problem is יד (BDB 388, KB 386) which is literally “hand.” In Ugaritic ידד means “love”; in Arabic ידו means “penis” (cf. NIDOTTE, vol 2, p. 56). It could refer to “strength” here in a fertility worship sense. There are several euphemisms used by Hebrew authors to refer to the sex organs (another example is “feet,” BDB 919, cf. Exodus 4:25; Deuteronomy 28:57; Judges 3:24; Ruth 3:8; 1 Samuel 24:3; Ezekiel 16:25).

Isaiah 57:9-10 This seems to refer to the political rituals to assure their safety against foreign invasion.

Isaiah 57:9 “king” This could be understood as referring to the fertility god Molech, whose name has the same consonants as “king” in Hebrew. The UBS Text Project gives “king” a B rating (some doubt), p.150.

“Sheol” See Special Topic: Where Are the Dead?.

Verses 11-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 57:11-13 11”Of whom were you worried and fearful When you lied, and did not remember Me Nor give Me a thought? Was I not silent even for a long time So you do not fear Me? 12I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, But they will not profit you. 13When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you. But the wind will carry all of them up, And a breath will take them away. But he who takes refuge in Me will inherit the land And will possess My holy mountain.”

Isaiah 57:11-13 This strophe starts with a series of questions from YHWH to His faithless covenant people. The tragedy was that they were “religious” (cf. Isaiah 57:12, Isaiah 57:13a) but had

1. not remembered (Qal PERFECT, BDB 269, KB 269, negated) Him

2. nor give Me a thought (lit. “lay it to heart of you,” Qal PERFECT, BDB 962, KB 1321, negated)

The reasons they had neglected YHWH was His silence (Isaiah 57:11d). This may refer to true prophets who were not sent or at least not heard.

The idols are “vanity” and “emptiness.” The wind will carry them away and along with them, those who trust in them.

Isaiah 57:11

NASB, NJB“for a long time” NKJV“from of old” TEV“for so long” JPSOA“so long” REB“look away” NAB“unseeing”

The JPSOA mentions an emendation that results in “and shut my eyes” (p. 898), which is followed by REB and NAB. The same Hebrew consonants ומעלם can be translated “and from eternity” or “and being hidden.”

Isaiah 57:13d-e But those few faithful ones who trust in YHWH and take “refuge” (Qal PARTICIPLE, BDB 340, KB 337) in Him will be preserved and rewarded by the giving of

1. the Promised Land

2. YHWH's presence (i.e., the temple)

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 57:14-21 14And it will be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, Remove every obstacle out of the way of My people.” 15For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite. 16For I will not contend forever, Nor will I always be angry; For the spirit would grow faint before Me, And the breath of those whom I have made. 17Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry and struck him; I hid My face and was angry, And he went on turning away, in the way of his heart. 18I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners, 19Creating the praise of the lips. Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,” Says the LORD, “and I will heal him.” 20But the wicked are like the tossing sea, For it cannot be quiet, And its waters toss up refuse and mud. 21”There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

Isaiah 57:14 There is a series of IMPERATIVES whereby YHWH commands that all necessary preparations be made for His faithful ones to return from exile (cf. Isaiah 40:3-4; Isaiah 62:10).

1. build up (twice) - Qal IMPERATIVE, BDB 699, KB 757

2. prepare the way - Piel IMPERATIVE, BDB 815, KB 937

3. remove every obstacle - Hiphil IMPERATIVE, BDB 926, KB 1202

Isaiah 57:15 Notice the titles and characterizations of God.

1. the high One - Qal PARTICIPLE, BDB 926, KB 1202 (same VERB used in Isaiah 57:14 translated “remove,” i.e., lift up)

2. the exalted One - Niphal PARTICIPLE, BDB 669, KB 724 (same VERB used in Isaiah 57:7, Isaiah 57:13, but in different senses)

3. who lives forever - Qal PARTICIPLE, BDB 1014, KB 1496, (lit. “who inhabits eternity”; the NET Bible [p. 1275] thinks in this context it should be understood as “the One who rules forever”)

4. whose name is Holy (see Special Topic: Holy)

5. dwells on a high and holy place - Qal IMPERFECT, BDB 1014, KB 1496 (in contrast to the fertility gods)

6. with a contrite (BDB 194 I) and lowly (BDB 1050) spirit (BDB 924)

7. to revive the heart of the contrite - Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT, BDB 310, KB 309, used twice

a. of YHWH, #6

b. of His faithful

Isaiah 57:16a-b This continues a description of YHWH by YHWH.

1. “I will not contend forever” - Qal IMPERFECT, BDB 936, KB 1224, cf. Genesis 6:3

2. “neither will I always be angry” - Qal IMPERFECT, BDB 893, KB 1124, cf. Psalms 79:5; Psalms 85:5; Psalms 103:9; Micah 7:18-19

This should not be interpreted as a period of time set by God after which His grace ceases, but the reality that when humans ignore and violate His word and will, there is a terrible consequence of hardening. The human heart becomes unable to hear and respond!

It is interesting that the OT contrasts the human emotions of love and anger when describing God.

1. love is long lasting and sure - Deuteronomy 5:10; Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalms 30:5; Isaiah 54:7-8; Jeremiah 31:3

2. anger is short lived - Deuteronomy 5:9; Psalms 30:5; Isaiah 26:20; Isaiah 54:7-8; Isaiah 57:16-19

Isaiah 57:16c-d YHWH reveals the reasons why He does not remain angry (see Special Topic: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN [ANTHROPOMORPHISM]). This is very similar to Psalms 103:8-14.

1. for the spirit (see Special Topic: Spirit in the Bible) would grow faint before Me

2. the breath would grow faint

Notice the parallelism of “spirit” (BDB 924) and “breath” (BDB 675) as in Isaiah 42:5. The frail physical and now psychological condition of fallen mankind cannot endure the silence (Isaiah 57:11, Isaiah 57:17) and anger (Isaiah 57:16, Isaiah 57:17) of their Creator and Redeemer!

Isaiah 57:17 YHWH's judgment is analogous to a parent's punishment (cf. Hosea 11:0). He does it so His children will learn and turn from it, but sadly some will not, cannot (Isaiah 57:17c; Isaiah 1:3, Isaiah 1:4).

Isaiah 57:18-21 There is an obvious contrast between the way YHWH will treat the contrite and the rebellious.

1. contrite - Isaiah 57:15-16, Isaiah 57:18-19

2. rebellious - Isaiah 57:17, Isaiah 57:20-21

Isaiah 57:18-19 Notice what YHWH will do for the contrite and lowly of spirit (Isaiah 57:15), those both near and far (Isaiah 57:19).

1. revive, Isaiah 57:15 - Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT (BDB 310, KB 309)

2. I will not contend, Isaiah 57:16 - Qal IMPERFECT (BDB 936, KB 1224)

3. I will not always be angry, Isaiah 57:16 - Qal IMPERFECT (BDB 893, KB 1124)

4. I will heal, Isaiah 57:18 - Qal IMPERFECT (BDB 950, KB 1272)

5. I will lead, Isaiah 57:18 - Hiphil IMPERFECT (BDB 634, KB 685)

6. I will restore comfort, Isaiah 57:18 - Piel IMPERFECT (BDB 1022, KB 1532)

7. I will create their praise of peace, Isaiah 57:19 Qal PARTICIPLE (BDB 135, KB 153)

8. I will heal them, Isaiah 57:19 Qal PERFECT (BDB 950, KB 1272)

Isaiah 57:20-21 The rebellious, faithless covenant people are described as

1. the tossing sea

2. sea that cannot be quiet

3. sea that tosses up refuse

4. sea that tosses up mud

5. no peace

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Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Isaiah 57". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/isaiah-57.html. 2021.