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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Isaiah 59

 

 

Verse 1

Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:

The reason why Yahweh does not deliver His people, notwithstanding their religious services (Isaiah 58:3), is not want of power on His part, but because of their sins (Isaiah 59:1-8); Isaiah 59:9-15 contain their confession; Isaiah 59:16-21 the consequent promise of the Messiah.

Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save - (note, Isaiah 50:2.)

Neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear - (Isaiah 6:10.)


Verse 2

But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. Your sins have hid (his) face from you - Hebrew, have caused Him to hide His face from you (Lamentations 3:44). The awful picture here given of their iniquities, which separated between them and God, is peculiarly applicable to the period which immediately preceded the destruction of their state by Rome.


Verse 3

For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.

(Isaiah 1:15; Romans 3:13-15.)

For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity - not merely the "hands" perpetrate deeds of grosser enormity ("blood"), but the "fingers" commit more minute acts of "iniquity."

Your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. The lips "speak" openly "lies," the tongue 'mutters' malicious insinuations ("perverseness;" perverse misrepresentations of others) (Jeremiah 6:28; Jeremiah 9:4).


Verse 4

None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.

None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth - rather, 'No one calleth an adversary into court with justice' - i:e., None bringeth a just suit; 'No one pleadeth with truth.' So the Chaldaic, Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic in the main. But the Vulgate, me the English version [`Non est qui invocet justitiam'].

They trust in vanity ... and bring forth iniquity - (so Job 15:35; Psalms 7:14.)


Verse 5

They hatch cockatrice' eggs, and weave the spider's web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper.

Cockatrice. Probably the basilisk serpent cerastes (cf. note, Isaiah 11:8). Instead of crushing evil in the egg, they foster it. And weave the spider's web. This reefers not to the spider's web being made to entrap, but to its thinness, as contrasted with substantial "garments," as Isaiah 59:6 shows. Their works are vain and transitory (Job 8:14; Proverbs 11:18).

He that eateth of their eggs dieth - he who partakes in their plans, or has any thing to do with them, finds them pestiferous.

That which is crushed breaketh out into a viper - the egg, when it is broken, breaketh out as a viper; their plans, however specious in their undeveloped form like the egg, are found, when developed, pernicious. Though the viper is viviparous (from which "vi-per" is derived), yet during gestation the young are enclosed in eggs which break at the birth (Bochart); however, metaphors often combine things without representing everything to the life.


Verse 6

Their webs 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 webs shall not become garments - like the "fig-leaves" wherewith Adam and Eve vainly tried to cover their shame, as contrasted with the 'coats of skins' which the Lord God made to clothe them with (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27; Philippians 3:9). The artificial, self-deceiving sophisms of human philosophy are meant (1 Timothy 6:5; 2 Timothy 2:16; 2 Timothy 2:23).


Verse 7

Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.

Their feet run to evil - all their members are active in evil; in Isaiah 59:3 the 'hands, fingers, lips, and tongue' are specified.

And they make haste to shed innocent blood - (Romans 3:15.) Contrast David's 'running and hasting' in the ways of God (Psalms 119:32; Psalms 119:60).

Their thoughts (are) thoughts of iniquity - not merely their acts, but their whole thoughts.


Verse 8

The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.

The way of peace they know not - whether in relation to God, to their own conscience, or to their fellow-men (Isaiah 57:20-21).

And (there is) no judgment in their goings - no justice.

They have made them crooked paths - the opposite of "straightforward" (Proverbs 2:15; Proverbs 28:18).


Verse 9

Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.

Therefore is judgment far from us - retribution in kind, because, they had shown "no judgment in their goings" (Isaiah 59:8). 'The vindication of our just rights by God is withheld by Him from us.'

Us. In Isaiah 59:8, and previous verses, it was "they," the third person; here "us ... we," the first person. The nation here speaks, God thus making them out of their own mouth condemn themselves, just as He by His prophet had condemned them before. Isaiah includes himself with his people, and speaks in their name.

Neither doth justice overtake us - God's justice, bringing salvation (Isaiah 46:13).

We wait for light - the dawn of returning prosperity.

But behold obscurity - adversity (Jeremiah 8:15).


Verse 10

We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.

We grope for the wall like the blind - fulfilling Moses' threat (Deuteronomy 28:29).

We stumble at noon-day as in the night. There is no relaxation of our evils: at the time when we might look We stumble at noon-day as in the night. There is no relaxation of our evils: at the time when we might look for the noon of relief, there is still the night of our calamity.

(We are) in desolate places as dead men - rather, to suit the parallel words, "at noon-day," 'in fertile (literally, fat, Genesis 27:28) fields' ( 'ashmaniym (Hebrew #820), the same as mishmaniym (Hebrew #4924), 'fatnesses; so fat fields, from shaaman (Hebrew #8080), shemen (Hebrew #8081), oil) (Gesenius), (where all is promising) we are like the dead (who have no hope left them); or, where others are prosperous, we wander about as dead men. True of all unbelievers (Isaiah 26:10; Luke 15:17). The Vulgate translates, 'in dark places.' The English version, with Rabbi Joseph, takes the initial aleph to be radical, and the root to be asham, to desolate. But Rabbi Dones deduces it from shaaman (Hebrew #8080). The parallelism of 'in fat places' to "at noon-day" favours this.


Verse 11

We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us.

We roar all like bears - We moan plaintively, like a hungry bear which growls for food.

And mourn sore like doves - (Isaiah 38:14; Ezekiel 7:16).

We look ... for salvation, (but) it is far off from us - retribution in kind; because not salvation, but "destruction" was "in their paths" (Isaiah 59:7).


Verse 12

For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them;

For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us - (Daniel 9:5, etc.)

Thee ... us - antithesis.

For our transgressions (are) with us - i:e., we are conscious of them (margin, Job 12:3; Job 15:9).

And (as for) our iniquities, we know them - acknowledge they are our iniquities.


Verse 13

In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.

In transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing away from our God ... The particulars of the sins generally confessed in the preceding verse (Isaiah 48:8; Jeremiah 2:19-20). The act, the word, and the thought of apostasy are all marked: transgression and departing from God, lying (cf. Isaiah 59:4) and speaking oppression in relation to our fellow-men, and revolt in relation to our God; conceiving and uttering from the heart.


Verse 14

And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.

And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off - Justice and righteousness are put away from our legal courts.

For truth is fallen in the street - in the forum, the place of judicature, usually at the gate of the city (Zechariah 8:16).

And equity cannot enter - is shut out from the forum, or courts of justice.


Verse 15

Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment.

Yea, truth faileth - is not to be found.

He that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey - be that will not fall in with the prevailing iniquity exposes himself as a prey to the wicked (Psalms 10:8-9).

The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. The iniquity of Israel, so desperate as to require nothing short of Yahweh's interposition to mend it, typifies the same necessity for a Divine Mediator existing in the deep corruption of man. Israel, the model nation was chosen to illustrate this awful fact.


Verse 16

And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.

And he saw that (there was) no man, and wondered that (there was) no intercessor. "No man" - namely, to atone by his righteousness for the unrighteousness of the people. "Man" is emphatic, as in 1 Kings 2:2 : no representative man able to retrieve the cause of fallen men (Isaiah 41:28; Isaiah 63:5-6; Jeremiah 5:1; Ezekiel 22:30).

No intercessor - no one to interpose, 'to help and to uphold' (Isaiah 63:5).

Therefore his arm brought salvation unto him. "His arm" (Isaiah 40:10; Isaiah 51:5). Not man's arm, but His alone (Psalms 98:1; Psalms 44:3).

And his righteousness - the "arm" of Messiah. He won the victory for us, not by mere might as God, but by His invincible righteousness as man, having 'the Spirit without measure' (Isaiah 11:5; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 42:21; Isaiah 51:8; Isaiah 53:11; 1 John 2:1).


Verse 17

For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.

For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head ... Messiah is represented as a warrior armed at all points, going forth to vindicate His people. Owing to the unity of Christ and His people, their armour is like His, except that they have no "garments of vengeance," which is God's prerogative (Romans 12:19), or 'cloak of zeal,' in the sense of judicial fury punishing the wicked: this zeal belongs properly to God (2 Kings 10:16; Romans 10:2; Philippians 3:6). "Zeal," in the sense of anxiety for the Lord's honour, they have (Numbers 25:11; Numbers 25:13; Psalms 69:9; 2 Corinthians 7:11; 2 Corinthians 9:2); and for "salvation," which is of God alone (Psalms 3:8), they have as their helmet "the hope of salvation" (1 Thessalonians 5:8). The "helmet of salvation" is attributed to them (Ephesians 6:14; Ephesians 6:17) in a secondary sense-namely, derived from Him, and as yet only in hope, not fruition (Romans 8:24). The second coming here, as often, is included in this representation of Messiah. His "zeal" (John 2:15-17) at His first coming was but a type of His zeal and vengeance against the foes of God at His second coming (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10; Revelation 19:11-21).


Verse 18

According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompence.

According to their deeds - Hebrew, 'recompences;' 'accordiing as their dees demand.' This verse predicts the judgments at the Lord's second coming, which shall precede the final redemption of His people (Isaiah 66:13; Isaiah 66:15-16).

To the islands (note, Isaiah 41:1.) - distant countries, to be reached only by sea.


Verse 19

So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.

So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun - (Isaiah 45:6; Malachi 1:11.) The result of God's judgments (Isaiah 26:9; Isaiah 66:18-20).

When the enemy shall come in like a flood - (Jeremiah 46:7-8; Revelation 12:15.)

The Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him - from a different Hebrew root [ nuwc (Hebrew #5127), whence comes noc


Verse 20

And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD.

And the Redeemer shall come to Zion. Romans 11:26 quotes it, "out of Zion." Thus Paul, by inspiration, supplements the sense from Psalms 14:7. He was, and is to come to Zion, first with redemption, being sprung as man out of Zion. The Septuagint translates it: 'for the sake of [ heneken (Greek #1752)] Zion.' So the Hebrew preposition l


Verse 21

As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD 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 the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.

As for me, this (is) my covenent with them, saith the Lord; My Spirit that (is) upon thee. The covenant is with Christ, and with them only as united to Him (Hebrews 2:13). Yahweh addresses Messiah, the representative and ideal Israel. The literal and spiritual are His seed, to whom the promise is to be fulfilled (Psalms 22:30).

My Spirit ... shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed ... forever - (Jeremiah 31:31-37; Matthew 28:20).

Remarks: The reason why calamities are permitted to overtake the people of God is not want of power in 'the Lord's hand to save,' nor want of the will to give "ear" to their prayers; it is their own iniquities which separate between them and their God. Where 'the hands are defiled with iniquity,' and 'the lips speak lies, and mutter perversity,' and the heart 'conceiveth mischief' and 'bringeth forth iniquity,' how can good be looked for from God? With all the sinner's ingenuity, he but 'weaves the spider's web.' Such a 'web shall' never 'become a garment' to 'cover sinners themselves with.' Nay, just as there has been 'no justice in their goings,' so, in righteous retribution, justice is withheld from them in the day of their calamity. They are given up to unjust oppressors. Such has been the history of Israel. For ages they have been 'waiting for light, but behold obscurity.' As Moses foretold would be the penalty of their apostasy, 'they grope at noon-day as the blind gropeth in darkness.'

 


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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 59:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/isaiah-59.html. 1871-8.

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Sunday, May 26th, 2019
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