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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Isaiah 58

 

 

Verse 1

Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.

Cry aloud (Hebrew, b


Verse 2

Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.

Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God ... Put the stop at "ways;" and connect "as a nation that," etc., with what follows. "As a nation that did righteousness," thus answers to, 'they ask of me just judgments' (i:e., as a matter of justice due to them, salvation to themselves, and destruction to their enemies); and "forsook not the ordinance of their God," answers to, 'they desire the drawing near of God' (that God would draw near to exercise these 'just judgments' in behalf of them, and against their enemies) (Maurer). So Jerome, 'In the confidence, as it were, of a good conscience, they demand a just judgment, in the language of the saints: Judge me, O Lord, for I have walked in mine integrity.' So in Malachi 2:17, they affect to be scandalized at the impunity of the wicked, and impugn God's justice (Horsley).

Thus "seek me daily, and desire to know my ways," refers to their requiring to know why God delayed so long in helping them. But this puts a forced sense on the Hebrew, "they seek me ... and delight to know my ways:" and the Vulgate, Septuagint, Chaldaic, Syriac, and Arabic translate as the English version, 'they desire' or 'delight to approach to God.' I prefer the English version, which gives a good sense-namely, dispelling the delusion that God would be satisfied with outward observances, while the spirit of the law was violated and the heart unchanged (Isaiah 58:3-14; Ezekiel 33:31-32 : cf. John 18:28, scrupulosity side by side with murder). The prophets were the commentators on the law, the Magna Charta of Israel, in its inward spirit, and not the mere letter. In the clause, "they ask of me the ordinances of justice," Horsley's view is doubtless correct, 'they demand of me judgment in their favour as a matter of justice;' which prepares for their murmuring in Isaiah 58:3.


Verse 3

Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.

Here breaks out a spirit of cavilling at God's punitive dealings, in self-justification, which shows that their professed 'seeking of God' (Isaiah 58:2) was only hypocrisy.

Wherefore have we fasted ... and thou seest not? - The words of the Jews: 'Why is it that, when we fast, thou dost not notice it' (by delivering us)? They think to lay God under obligation by their fasting (Psalms 73:13; thou dost not notice it' (by delivering us)? They think to lay God under obligation by their fasting (Psalms 73:13; Malachi 3:14).

(Wherefore) have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? - (Leviticus 16:29.)

Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure - God's reply.

Pleasure - in antithesis to their boast of having 'afflicted their soul;' it was only in outward show; they really enjoyed themselves. Gesenius, after the Chaldaic [`quoe sunt necessaria vobis'], not so well, translates, cheepets (Hebrew #2656), 'business.' However, as what follows refers to self-seeking and gain-seeking, rather than pleasure iff the restricted sense, cheepets (Hebrew #2656) must be taken as we sometimes use 'your pleasure' - i:e., your own will or desire. So the Vulgate, Septuagint, Arabic, and Syriac.

Exact all your labours , [ `atsbeeykem (Hebrew #6092)] - 'oppressive labours' (Maurer). Horsley, with Vulgate, translates, 'exact the whole upon your debtors:' those who owe you labour, (Nehemiah 5:1-5; Nehemiah 5:8-10, etc.) The Septuagint and Arabic, 'ye oppress all that am subject to you.' Gesenius, 'ye press all your workmen to labour.' The English version is best.


Verse 4

Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.

Ye shall not fast as (ye do this) day, to make your voice to be heard on high - or, 'ye do not fast at this time so as to make your voice to be heard on high,' i:e., in heaven; your aim in fasting is strife, not to gain the ear of God (Maurer), as in the case of the Jezreelites' fast and murder of Naboth (1 Kings 21:9; 1 Kings 21:12-13). The English version is confirmed by the Septuagint, Vulgate, Chaldaic, Arabic, and Syriac: the sense is. If you wish acceptance with God, ye must not fast as ye now do to make your voice heard high in strife.


Verse 5

Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?

Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? The pain felt by abstinence is not the end to be sought, as if it were meritorious; it is of value only so far as it leads us to amend our ways (Isaiah 58:6-7).

(Is it) to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth? - to affect the outward tokens, so as to "appear to men to fast" (Matthew 6:17-18; 1 Kings 21:27; Esther 4:3).


Verse 6

Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

To loose the bands of wickedness - i:e., to dissolve every tie wherewith one has unjustly bound his fellow-men, (Leviticus 25:49, etc.) Servitude, a fraudulent contract, etc.

Undo the heavy burdens - Hebrew, loose the bands of the yoke.

To let the oppressed go free - literally, the broken. The expression, to let go free implies that those broken with the yoke of slavery are meant (Nehemiah 5:10-12; Jeremiah 34:9-11; Jeremiah 34:14; Jeremiah 34:16). Jerome interprets it, broken with poverty; bankrupt.


Verse 7

Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

(Is it) not to deal thy bread to the hungry? - distribute (Job 31:16-21).

And that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house. "Cast out," or reduced (Horsley). But the English version is virtually supported by the Septuagint, Vulgate, Chaldaic, Arabic, and Syriac, merudim, from rud to wander: or marad or marah to cast out: so homeless.

When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him - (Matthew 25:36.)

And that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? - kindred (Genesis 29:14). Also brethren in common descent from Adam, and brethren in Christ (James 2:15-16). "Hide ... thyself," means to be strange toward them, and not to relieve them in their poverty (Matthew 15:5).


Verse 8

Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.

Then shall thy light break forth as the morning - "light," emblem of prosperity (Isaiah 58:10; Job 11:17).

And thine health - literally, a long bandage ( 'aruwkaah (Hebrew #724), from 'aarak (Hebrew #748), to make long), applied by surgeons to heal a wound (cf. Isaiah 1:6). Hence, restoration from all past calamities.

And thy righteousness shall go before thee. Thy conformity to the divine covenant acts as a leader, conducting thee to peace and prosperity. Not as the ground of justification, but as its inseparable accompaniment (cf. Revelation 14:13).

The glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward - like the pillar of cloud and fire, the symbol of God's "glory," which went behind Israel, separating them from their Egyptian pursuers (Isaiah 52:12; Exodus 14:19-20).


Verse 9

Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;

Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer. When sin is renounced (Isaiah 65:24). When the Lord's call, is not hearkened to, He will not hear our "call" (Psalms 66:18; Proverbs 1:24; Proverbs 1:28; Proverbs 15:29; Proverbs 28:9).

If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke - (cf. note, Isaiah 58:6.)

The putting forth of the finger - the finger of scorn pointed at simple-minded godly men. The middle finger was so used by the Romans.

And speaking vanity - every injurious speech (Lowth).


Verse 10

And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:

And (if) thou draw, out thy soul - `impart of thine own subsistence,' or 'sustenance'

To the hungry (Horsley). "Soul" is figurative for 'that wherewith thou sustainest thy soul,' or 'life.' Then shall thy right rise in obscurity - calamities shall be suddenly succeeded by prosperity (Psalms 112:4).


Verse 11

And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.

And the Lord shall ... satisfy thy soul in drought (Isaiah 41:17-18) - literally, in droughts, parched places.

And make fat - rather, strengthen (Noyes).

Thy bones - `give thee the free use of thy bones' (Jerome); or, of thy strength (Horsley).

Like a watered garden - an Oriental picture of happiness.

And like a spring of water, whose waters fail not - Hebrew, 'deceive not;' like streams that disappoint the caravan which expected to find water there as formerly, but find it dried up (Job 6:15-17).


Verse 12

And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.

(They that shall be) of thee - thy people, the Israelites.

Shall build the old waste places - the old ruins of Jerusalem (Isaiah 61:4; Ezekiel 36:33-36).

Thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations - i:e., the buildings which had lain in ruins, even to their foundations, for many ages: called in the parallel passage, Isaiah 61:4, "the former desolations;" and in the preceding clause here, "the old waste places." The literal and spiritual restoration of Israel is meant, which shall produce like blessed results on the Gentile world (Amos 9:11-12; Acts 15:16-17).

And thou shalt be called - appropriately: the name truly designating what thou shalt do.

The repairer of the breach - the calamity wherewith God visited Israel for their sin (Isaiah 30:26; 1 Chronicles 15:13).

The restorer of paths to dwell in - not that the paths were to be dwelt in, but the paths leading to their dwellings were to be restored; 'paths, so as to dwell in the land' (cf. Judges 5:6).


Verse 13

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, (from) doing thy pleasure on my holy day - (Isaiah 56:2; Nehemiah 13:15-22.) The Sabbath, even under the new dispensation, is designed to be obligatory (Isaiah 66:23).

Foot - the instrument of motion (cf. Proverbs 4:27); men are not to travel for mere pleasure on the Sabbath (Acts 1:12). The Israelites were forbidden to travel on it further than the tabernacle or temple. If thou keep thy foot from going on thy own ways and "doing thy pleasure," etc. (Exodus 20:10-11.)

My holy day. God claims it as His day; to take it for our pleasure is to rob Him of His own. This is the very way in which the Sabbath is mostly broken; it is made a day of carnal pleasure instead of spiritual "delight."

And call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable - not the predicate, but the subject: 'if thou call the holy (day) of Yahweh honourable;' if thou treat it as a day to be honoured.

And shalt honour him - or else, it, the Sabbath.

Not doing thine own ways - answering to "turn away thy foot from the Sabbath."

Nor finding thine own pleasure - answering to "doing thy pleasure." 'To keep the Sabbath in an idle manner is the Sabbath of oxen and donkeys; to pass it in a jovial manner is the Sabbath of the golden calf, when the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose again to play; to keep it in surfeiting and wantonness is the Sabbath of Satan, the devil's holiday' (Dr. Andrewes).

Nor speaking (thine own) words - answering to, "call the Sabbath a delight ... honourable." Man's "own words" would "call" it a 'weariness;' it is the spiritual nature given from above which "calls it a delight" (Amos 8:5; Malachi 1:13).


Verse 14

Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord - God rewards in kind, as He punishes in kind. As we "delight" in keeping God's "Sabbath," so God will give us "delight" in Himself (Genesis 15:1; Job 22:21-26; Psalms 37:4).

I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth - I will make thee supreme lord of the land; the phrase is taken rein a conqueror riding in his chariot, and occupying the hills and fastnesses of a country (Vitringa). (Deuteronomy 32:13; Micah 1:3; Habakkuk 3:19.) Judea was a land of hills: the idea thus is, 'I will restore thee to thine own land' (Calvin). The parallel words, "heritage of Jacob" confirm this (Genesis 27:28-29; Genesis 28:13-15).

For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. A formula to assure men of the fulfillment of any solemn promise which God has made (Isaiah 40:5).

Remarks: The minister of God must speak boldly and plainly, not "sparing" the guilty, if he would awaken his hearers to the conviction of "their sins." Especially so, when he perceives in them tendency to compound for obedience with ritualism, and to be self-righteously scrupulous about the letter of the law, while they set at nought its spirit. Formalists wonder, that though 'they ask of God the ordinances of justice,' yet many things go adverse to their wishes. The secret is, they go before God as though He were under a debt to them for so going, and as though their observances, fastings, almsgivings, and such like, imposed on God an obligation to prosper them. Often, too, all the while that they affect to ask mercy from God, they show no mercy to their fellow-men who are under them. Self-seeking is their real aim in their apparent seeking after God, as it palpably is their dealings with their fellow-men. Sometimes they even turn religion itself into an instrument of "strife," or a cloak for covetousness. Such religion cannot be 'acceptable to the Lord.'

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 58:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/isaiah-58.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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