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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Isaiah 58

 

 

Verse 1

Isaiah 58:1 Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.

Ver. 1. Cry aloud.] Heb., Cry with the throat, or, With full throat. {as Jeremiah 12:6} (a) Plenis faucibus, voce sonora, et quasi tubali: Set up thy note; not only say to the wicked, "It shall be ill with him," [Isaiah 3:11] there is no peace to him, [Isaiah 57:21] but cry it aloud.

Spare (b) not.] Singulae particulae habent emphasin; use utmost intention of spirit and contention of speech. Thou hast to do with a hypocritical nation, than which kind of people nothing is more stupid, more uncounsellable, or impenitent; for how should such repent as have converted conversion itself into a form, yea, into sin? Bestir thee therefore against these deaf sea monsters. Sic clames ut stentora vincere possis. If a man’s house be on fire, we must not speak softly, as loath to awaken him: Sir, your house is on fire.

Lift thy voice like a trumpet.] Non ut tibia, sed ut tuba; not as a pipe for delight, but as a trumpet alarm against sin and Satan. As all the country was filled with the sound of that trumpet at the giving of the law, [Exodus 19:16] and as all the world shall hear the sound of that trumpet of God [1 Thessalonians 4:16] when the law shall be required, so let the preacher’s voice be a summons to speedy repentance, or else to unavoidable judgment. There is one (c) that descanteth thus upon the words: Various things there are, saith he, that sound louder than a trumpet - the sea, the thunder, or such like - yet he saith not, lift up thy voice as the sea, or as the thunder, but as "a trumpet"; because a trumpeter, when he sounds his trumpet, he winds it with his mouth, and holds it with his hands; and so a preacher, which is a spiritual trumpeter, must not only, by preaching well, sound forth the word of truth with his mouth, but also, by doing well, he must support and hold it up with his hands, and then doth he "lift up his voice as a trumpet."

And show my people their transgressions.] Let God’s watchmen cast away the inverse trumpets of Furius Fulvius, which sounded a retreat when they should have sounded an alarm; but deal freely and faithfully with men’s souls, taking the same liberty to cry down sin that men take to commit sin.


Verse 2

Isaiah 58:2 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.

Ver. 2. Yet they seek me daily.] In pretence at least; and this, their dissembled sanctity, double iniquity, is one of those great transgressions of theirs, against which thou must declaim, yea, proclaim hell fire, in case they amend it not.

And delight to know my ways.] They seem to do so, by frequenting mine ordinances, and attending to my priests, whose lips preserve and present knowledge.

As a nation that did righteousness.] But it is but as a nation that did it; they had but a "form of knowledge," [Romans 2:20] and a "form of godliness." [2 Timothy 3:5] Eiusdem farinae nobiscum sunt religiosi quidam in speciem, saith Oecolampadius: the Church is still full of such hypocrites, that only act religion, play devotion, wherein they may outdo better men, for the external part of religion and pretence of zeal, as the Pharisees in the Gospel fasted more than the disciples, wansing their visages, and weakening their constitutions with much abstinence. The sorcerers of Egypt seemed to do as much as Moses; so do these as much or more than sound Christians. The apostles were as deceivers, and yet true, [2 Corinthians 6:8] but these are as true, and yet deceivers.

They ask of me the ordinances of justice.] As not willing to deviate; but they are ever learning, yet never come to the knowledge of the truth.

And take delight in approaching to God.] Which yet no hypocrite can do from the heart; [Job 27:10] for God is light and holiness, and therefore hated by the blind and foul hypocrite, [John 3:20] all whose devotions are effects rather of art and parts than of the heart and grace; hence God abhorreth them, for he "desireth truth in the inward parts." [Psalms 51:6]


Verse 3

Isaiah 58:3 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.

Ver. 3. Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not?] Here they begin to bluster, and their hypocrisy to blister out at their lips. (a) God, they held, was not a little beholden to them, and now also in arrears with them. For as that heathen emperor (b) said once of his gods, Non sic deos coluimus, ut iste nos vinceret, We have not served our gods, that they should serve us no better than to allow our enemies to get the better of us; so were these proud pretenders ready to say of God Almighty, We have better deserved than to be so served; rated by these prophets, and evil entreated by our enemies; beaten on both sides. A rich chapman, that hath had a good stock and trading, is loath to be a journeyman again; he will be trading, though it be but for pins; so we, bankrupt in Adam, yet will be doing, and think to be saved for a company of poor beggarly duties, dead prayers, formal fastings, &c., and to set off with God by our good deeds for our bad, as the Papists do, and not a few ignorants among us.

Behold, in the day of your fast.] Which is called a day of restraint, because therein you should amerce yourselves and abridge yourselves of all sorts of delights.

Ye find pleasure.] Ye find your own desire, pleasure, or will; (c) ye gratify your flesh, pursue your sinful lusts and purposes. Grande malum propria voluntas, saith Bernard, qua fit ut bona tua tibi bona non sint. A man’s own will or pleasure proves a great evil to him many times, making his good duties (fastings, prayers, and the like) no way good to him. In vain is the body macerated, if men’s lusts be not mortified.

And exact all your labours,] i.e., Your debts and dues with rigour and extremity, not considering that utmost right is utmost wrong; and that, howsoever, you should take another time for such work. Feriis iurgia amovento, brawl not on a holiday, was one of the laws of the Twelve Tables in Rome.


Verse 4

Isaiah 58:4 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.

Ver. 4. Behold.] Take notice whence it is, that ye so miscarry in your services, and leave muttering against me.

Ye fast for strife and debate.] Or, Unto strife and debate - i.e., On your fast days ye contend and quarrel; being hungry, you are angry, as emptiness whetteth choler. Sed quid prodest pallor in ore, si sit livor in corde? to what purpose is a pale face and a spiteful spirit? and what is a humbling day without a humbled heart! not only an irreligious incongruity, but a high provocation; like Zimri’s act, when all the congregation were weeping before the door of the tabernacle. Get thee behind, saith Jehu to the messenger, "what hast thou to do with peace?" Confessions and prayers are our messengers; but if the heart be not broken, there is no peace to such wicked.

And to smite with the fist of wickedness,] scil., Your servants or your debtors, as Matthew 18:28. They should have had, on such a day especially, Pacem cum hominibus, cum vitiis bellum (which was Otho II’s motto), Peace with men, and war with their wickednesses.

Ye shall not fast as ye do this day.] For ye fast not to God, [Zechariah 7:5; Zechariah 7:11-12] but bear fruit to yourselves, like that "empty vine" Ephraim, [Hosea 10:1] and so are not a button the better for all you do; Jeremiah 14:12, "When they fast, I will not hear their cry."

To make your voices to be heard on high.] Out of ostentation of devotion; but secrecy here were a better argument of sincerity. Or, do you think to be heard on high, i.e., in heaven, for such outside services?


Verse 5

Isaiah 58:5 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?

Ver. 5. Is it such a fast that I have chosen?] No; for God hates that mar-good formality; and displeasing service is double dishonour.

A day for a man to afflict his soul,] i.e., His body a whole day at least, from evening till evening, [Leviticus 23:32] or from morning till evening. [ 20:26 2 Samuel 3:35] Yet so as that nature be chastised, not disabled for service; and that we take not the more liberty afterwards to pamper the flesh which we have pined, as those dames of Athens did in their Thesmophoria, a feast of Ceres, to the which they prepared themselves with fasting; but after that took their liquor more freely than was fit (a) And as the Turks do at this day in their solemn fasts; they will not so much as taste a cup of water, or wash their mouths with water all the day long, before the stars appear in the sky; but then they lay the reins in the neck and run riot. (b)

Is it to bow down the head as a bulrush?] While the heart is unbowed, and stands bolt upright. Hypocrites, like bulrushes, hang down their heads for a day, while some storm of trouble is upon them; but when a fair sunshine day is come to dry it up again, they lift up their heads as before. Fitly, saith a grave divine, is formality compared to a bulrush; the colour is fresh, the skin smooth; he is very exact that can find a knot in a bulrush; but if you peel it, what is under but a kind of spungeous, unsubstantial substance, of no use in the world worth the speaking of. Such are hypocrites; a fair outside, specious pretences of piety, &c., all the rest not worth a rush. Pictures, saith another, are pretty things to look on, and that is all they are good for. Christ looked on, and loved the young Pharisee, &c.

And to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?] The Jews did so usually in their solenm mournings. [Esther 4:3 Jeremiah 6:26] The heathens also did the like. [Jonah 3:5 Matthew 11:21]

Wilt thou call this a fast?] Is it not a mere mock fast, as was that of the Pharisees? and is that of the Papists, who pride themselves that day with opinion of merit, for their mere outward abstinence. Some Protestants also fast; but they had need to send, as God speaks, for mourning women, that by their cunning they may be taught to mourn, [Jeremiah 9:17] and for reformation (the main business of a fast) they mind it not.

And an acceptable day to the Lord.] Heb., A day of goodwill or well liking, therefore called elsewhere a day of atonement or expiation, and hath most excellent promises made to it. [Joel 2:12; Joel 2:18] Only there must be withal a turning from wicked works; without which God seeth no work or worth in a fast, [John 3:10] nor can it be an acceptable day to the Lord.


Verse 6

Isaiah 58:6 [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?

Ver. 6. Is not this the fast that I have chosen?] There is a threefold fast, from meat, mirth, sin; this last crowns both the former, and yet we say not (as the Papists falsely say we hold) that fasting is no more but a moral temperance, a fasting from sin, a matter of policy.

To loose the bands of wickedness,] i.e., Iuramentum, literariam cautionem, vincula, carceres, servitutem; the unjust bonds and obligations of usurers and oppressors, whereby poor non-solvents were imprisoned or embondaged. These are also here further called "heavy burdens" and "yokes," as elsewhere "nets"; [Psalms 10:9] that is, saith Chrysostom, bonds, debts, mortgages.

And to let the oppressed go free.] Heb., The bruised or broken, scil., in their estates.

And that ye break every yoke.] Cancel every unjust writing, say the Septuagint. They took twelve in the hundred in Nehemiah’s time; this was a yoke intolerable. "I pray you let us leave off this usury," saith he. [Isaiah 5:10] At this day the Jews are in all places permitted to strain up their usury to eighteen in the hundred upon the Christians; (a) but then they are used, as the friars, to suck from the meanest, and to be sucked by the greatest.


Verse 7

Isaiah 58:7 [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?

Ver. 7. Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry?] Thine "own bread" it must be, and that especially whereof thou hast on the fast day abridged thyself; for what the rich spare on such a day the poor should spend. Hereby (1.) Men’s prayers shall speed the better; [Acts 10:4] (2.) They shall make God their debtor; [Proverbs 19:17] (3.) That is best and most pleasing alms to God that is given in Church assemblies; for (1.) It is an ordinance of God, and a Sabbath duty; [1 Corinthians 16:1-2] (2.) Christ there sitteth, and seeth the gift and mind of every almsgiver, [Luke 21:1-2] setting it down in his book of remembrance. [Malachi 3:16]

And that thou briny the poor that are cast out.] Scilicet tanquam rebelles, as those poor Albigenses were in France, and their posterity lately in Piedmont; the Protestant Lorainers, proscribed for religion by their duke, and entertained by the state of Strasburg, at the earnest suit of the ministers there, till they could be conveniently provided for elsewhere, there being some thousands of them, which, till then, were forced to feed upon hips, haws, leaves of trees, and grass of the field. (a)

That thou cover him.] Duties of the second table only are here enjoined, because they are excellent evidences of true piety and pure religion. [James 1:27]

And that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh.] Thy poor brother, who is of the same nature with thee, and is as capable of grace and glory as thyself. Learn to see Christ in thy poor petitioner, and thou wilt the sooner yield. [Matthew 25:34-40] Consider also what is said of him that "shutteth up his bowels of compassion" from his necessitous brother. [1 John 3:17]


Verse 8

Isaiah 58:8 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.

Ver. 8. Then shall thy light break forth as the morning.] He saith not "shall appear," but "shall break forth," ut velocitatem et copiam dantis exprimeret, saith Chrysostom, that he might express the swiftness and bountifulness of God the giver of it.

And thy health shall spring forth speedily.] "The Sun of righteousness shall arise unto thee with healing under his wings." [Malachi 4:2] {See Trapp on "Malachi 4:2"}

And thy righteousness shall go before thee.] Thou shalt have the comfort and credit of thy bounty and charity, which is oft called "righteousness," as in Psalms 112:9, Daniel 4:24, Acts 10:35.

And the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward,] i.e., The glorious Jehovah shall see to thy safety. See Psalms 27:10. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 27:10"} See also Isaiah 52:12.


Verse 9

Isaiah 58:9 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;

Ver. 9. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer.] Thou shalt have the royalty of his ear, easy access to, and all best success at, the throne of grace; no such cause to complain, as thou didst, [Isaiah 58:3] that thy prayers were lost.

If thou take away from the midst of thee.] E meditullio tui, from thy very heart, by an inward reformation; si animo, opere, et sermone aversaberis inhumanitatem, (a) if thou heartily hate cruelty and act accordingly.

The yoke.] As Isaiah 58:6.

The putting forth of the finger.] The finger of that wicked fist, [Isaiah 58:4] or that finger wherewith thou threatenest thy servants, or pointest at others in scorn or disdain, as the proud Pharisee seemeth to have done at the poor publican, when he said, I am not as that fellow. [Luke 18:11]

And speaking vanity.] Or, Violence, as the Chaldee here talk concerning the wringing and wronging of others. All this must be done, or else no hope that God will hear prayers; look to it. See Psalms 66:18. {See Trapp on "Psalms 66:18"}


Verse 10

Isaiah 58:10 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:

Ver. 10. And if thou draw out thy soul (a) to the hungry.] Not thy sheaf only; relieving the necessitous out of deep commiseration, and couldst part with thy very life also for them, if duly called thereunto. Compassion excelleth alms and outward works of mercy; for when one giveth an alms, he giveth something without himself; but by compassion we relieve another by somewhat within and from ourselves.

And satisfy.] Not save him alive only by a scant allowance, - prisoners pittance.

Then shall thy light arise in obscurity.] Thou shalt abound with blessings of all sorts. See my Commonplace of Alms.

And thy darkness be as the noonday.] In agone et horrore morris erit tibi consolatio et spes salutis ac lucis. God will make thy bed in all thy sickness, and comfort thee at the hour of death.


Verse 11

Isaiah 58:11 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.

Ver. 11. And the Lord shall guide thee.] Or, Lead thee, as thou leadest the harbourless outcast into thine house. [Isaiah 58:7]

And satisfy thy soul in drought.] As thou didst satisfy the poor hungry man’s soul. [Isaiah 58:10] See Psalms 33:19, Proverbs 28:27. {See Trapp on "Psalms 33:19"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 28:27"}

And make fat thy bones,] i.e., Cheer up thy heart, for a sorrowful spirit drieth up the bones. [Proverbs 17:22] The Vulgate translation hath it, He will deliver or set free thy bones, scil., from bands and fetters, as thou hadst loosed or set free thy poor brethren from their bands and yokes. [Isaiah 58:6]

And thou shalt be like a watered garden.] "Filled with the fruits of righteousness," and with spiritual consolations, "unspeakable and glorious joys."

And like a spring of water, whose waters fall not.] Similitudines et allegoriae magnam habent gratiam. Who would not now turn spiritual purchaser?


Verse 12

Isaiah 58:12 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.

Ver. 12. And they that shall be of thee.] Thy posterity, that have taken their being and beginning from thee.

Shall build the old waste places.] Heb., The wastes of antiquity, i.e., the ruinous places of Jerusalem. The apostles, also, as master builders, and others as builders together with them, have a happy hand in rearing the fair fabric of the new man, that "hidden man of the heart." See Ephesians 2:20-22.

And thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach.] The father of thy country, the repairer of peace, the restorer of lost liberty, &c. Such honour had Nehemiah of old; Hunniades of late, who, having overthrown Mesites, the Turkish general, at his return into the camp a wonderful number of the poor captives came, and falling at his feet and kissing them, gave God thanks for their deliverance by him; some called him the father, some the defender of his country; the soldiers, their invincible general; the captives, their deliverer; the women, their protector; the young men and children, their most loving father. He again, with tears standing in his eyes, courteously embraced them, rejoicing at the public good; and himself giving most hearty thanks to God, commanded the like to be done in all the churches of that province, &c. (a) On the contrary, our Henry III, for his ill managing of matters, was called Regni dilapidator, destroyer of the kingdom; and Richard III, the calamity of his country.


Verse 13

Isaiah 58:13 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:

Ver. 13. If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath.] If thou abstain from journeys and all secular businesses as much as may be. [Ezekiel 22:26] Otherwise God will sue thee upon an action of waste; and the superstitious Jew will rise up and condemn thee, who if in his journey he be overtaken by the Sabbath he must stay, though in the midst of a field or wood, though in danger of thieves, storms, or hunger, he may not budge.

From doing thy pleasure on mine holy day.] Plutarch thought Sabbath was from Sabbos a name of Bacchus, that signifieth to live jocundly and jovially. The Sabbath that many pleasure mongers keep may well have such a derivation, and their Dies dominicus the Lord’s day, be called Dies daemoniaeus; the Devil’s day, for they make it as Bacchus’ orgies rather than God’s holy solemnity, as doing thereon things no day lawful, but then most abominable.

And call the Sabbath a delight.] Counting it so, and making it so. The Jews call it Desiderium dierum, the desirable day. They meet it with these words, Veni sponsa mea, Come, my spouse. Of old, they blessed God for it, [Nehemiah 9:14] and gave the whole week the denomination from it; [Luke 18:12] they strictly and spiritually kept it: but now they think the Sabbath is not sufficiently observed except they eat and drink largely, and give themselves to other sensual delights. (a) After dinner, the most of their discourse is about their usuary, and other worldly businesses, &c. They pray indeed, but it is that Elias would hasten his coming, even the next Sabbath if he please, that he might give them notice of the Messiah’s coming, &c. Let us take heed of being weary of the Sabbath, and wishing it over, as they did. [Amos 8:5 Malachi 1:12-13] Walk into God’s garden, taste how good the Lord is in his ordinances, feel a continual increase of sweetness in the pleasure and dainties of holy duties, whereof we have such variety that we cannot easily be sated: so little need is there that we should, with the Rabbis, expound this delight in the text, of dainty and delightful meats to be eaten on this day.

The holy of the Lord, honourable.] And therefore "honourable" because "holy"; as it is said also of the "Lord of the Sabbath" - "Holy and reverend is his name." [Psalms 111:9] "A holy convocation" the Sabbath is called. [Leviticus 23:3] See Leviticus 19:30; Leviticus 26:2. Let us sanctify this holy rest, else it will degenerate into idleness, which is a sin any day (one of Sodom’s sins), but on the Lord’s day a double sin. Better not do our own work any day, than not God’s work on his day. Debet tutus dies festivus a Christiano expendi operibus sanctis, saith Rob. Grosthead, Bishop of Lincoln: (b) The whole Sabbath should be spent in holy duties. Debemus die Dominico solummodo spiritualibus gaudiis repleri; we should be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and be filled with spiritual delights only, saith the Council of Paris, held A.D. 829. Christ hath for this purpose made us a "holy nation, and a kingdom of priests" [Exodus 19:6] - that is, holy and honourable; and God hath sanctified it for a day of blessing to those that sanctify it. [Exodus 20:11 Ezekiel 20:12] He hath called it "an everlasting covenant" by way of eminence, [Exodus 31:16] as if nothing of God’s covenant were kept if this were not kept holy.

Not doing thine own ways.] Ea tantum facias quae ad animae salutem pertinent, saith Jerome, Those things only are then to be done that pertain to thy soul’s health - works of piety, of charity, and of necessity, none else. Tantum divinis cultibus serviamus, saith Augustine. What meant, then, that good King Edward VI - and where were those that should have better instructed him, Cranmer, Ridley, &c. - to deliver to his council these articles following: - That upon Sundays they intend public affairs of the realm, despatch answers to letters for good order of the state, and make full despatches of all things concluded in the week before; provided that they be present at common prayer, &c. (c)

Nor speaking thine own words.] These words of vanity or vexation, [Isaiah 58:9] but words of wisdom and sobriety suitable to the holiness of the day.


Verse 14

Isaiah 58:14 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].

Ver. 14. Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.] Find such inexplicable sweetness in communion with God, use of his heart ravishing ordinances, meditation on his word and works, especially that of our redemption, as far far exceedeth all the dirty delights of profane sensualists and Sabbath breakers. [Job 27:10 Proverbs 14:10]

And I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth.] Yea, upon the heights of heaven, where thou shalt keep an everlasting Sabbath, in which all Sabbaths meet, and whereof there is no evening; - ανεσπερος ημερα.

And feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father,] i.e., With heavenly manna, such food as eye hath not seen, ear heard, or mouth of natural man ever tasted.

For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.] The Lord, cuius ego sum os et organon, will certainly do all this; you may build upon it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 58:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/isaiah-58.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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