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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
Isaiah 59



Verse 1-2

This second prophetic address continues the reproachful theme of the first. In the previous prophecy we found the virtues which are well-pleasing to God, and to which He promises redemption as a reward of grace, set in contrast with those false means, upon which the people rested their claim to redemption. In the prophecy before us the sins which retard redemption are still more directly exposed. “Behold, Jehovah's hand is not too short to help, nor His ear too heavy to hear; but your iniquities have become a party-wall between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.” The reason why redemption is delayed, is not that the power of Jehovah has not been sufficient for it (cf., Isaiah 50:2), or that He has not been aware of their desire for it, but that their iniquities ( עונתיכם with the second syllable defective) have become dividers ( מבדּלים , defective), have grown into a party-wall between them and their God, and their sins (cf., Jeremiah 5:25) have hidden pânı̄m from them. As the “hand” ( yâd ) in Isaiah 28:2 is the absolute hand; so here the “face” pânı̄m ) is that face which sees everything, which is everywhere present, whether uncovered or concealed; which diffuses light when it unveils itself, and leaves darkness when it is veiled; the sight of which is blessedness, and not to see which is damnation. This absolute countenance is never to be seen in this life without a veil; but the rejection and abuse of grace make this veil a perfectly impenetrable covering. And Israel had forfeited in this way the light and sight of this countenance of God, and had raised a party-wall between itself and Him, and that משּׁמוע , so that He did not hear, i.e., so that their prayer did not reach Him (Lamentations 3:44) or bring down an answer from Him.

Verse 3

The sins of Israel are sins in words and deeds. “For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips speak lies, your tongue murmurs wickedness.” The verb גּאל , to spot (see Isaiah 63:3), is a later softening down of גּעל (e.g., 2 Samuel 1:21); and in the place of the niphal נגאל (Zephaniah 3:1), we have here, as in Lamentations 4:14, the double passive form נגאל , compounded of niphal and pual . The post-biblical nithpaël , compounded of the niphal and the hithpael , is a mixed form of the same kind, though we also meet with it in a few biblical passages (Deuteronomy 21:8; Proverbs 27:15; Ezekiel 23:48). The verb hâgâh (lxx μελετᾶ ) combines the two meanings of “thought” (meditation or reflection), and of a light low “expression,” half inward half outward.

Verses 4-6

The description now passes over to the social and judicial life. Lying and oppression universally prevail. “No one speaks with justice, and no one pleads with faithfulness; men trust in vanity, and speak with deception; they conceive trouble, and bring forth ruin. They hatch basilisks' eggs, and weave spiders' webs. He that eateth of their eggs must die; and if one is trodden upon, it splits into an adder. Their webs do not suffice for clothing, and men cannot cover themselves with their works: their works are works of ruin, and the practice of injustice is in their hands.” As קרא is generally used in these prophetic addresses in the sense of κηρύσσειν , and the judicial meaning, citare , in just vocare , litem intendere , cannot be sustained, we must adopt this explanation, “no one gives public evidence with justice” (lxx οὐδεὶς λαλεῖ δίκαια ). צדק is firm adherence to the rule of right and truth; אמוּנה a conscientious reliance which awakens trust; משׁפּט (in a reciprocal sense, as in Isaiah 43:26; Isaiah 66:16) signifies the commencement and pursuit of a law-suit with any one. The abstract infinitives which follow in Isaiah 59:4 express the general characteristics of the social life of that time, after the manner of the historical infinitive in Latin (cf., Isaiah 21:5; Ges. §131, 4, b ). Men trust in tōhū , that which is perfectly destitute of truth, and speak שׁוא , what is morally corrupt and worthless. The double figure און והוליד עמל הרו is taken from Job 15:35 (cf., Psalms 7:15). הרו (compare the poel in Isaiah 59:13) is only another form for הרה (Ges. §131, 4, b ); and הוליד (the western or Palestinian reading here), or הולד (the oriental or Babylonian reading), is the usual form of the inf. abs. hiph. (Ges. §53, Anm. 2). What they carry about with them and set in operation is compared in Isaiah 59:5 to basilisks' eggs ( צפעוני , serpens regulus , as in Isaiah 11:8) and spiders' webs ( עכּבישׁ , as in Job 8:14, from עכּב , possibly in the sense of squatter, sitter still, with the substantive ending ı̄sh ). They hatch basilisks' eggs ( בּקּע like בּקע , Isaiah 34:15, a perfect, denoting that which has hitherto always taken place and therefore is a customary thing); and they spin spiders' webs ( ארג possibly related to ἀράχ-νη ;

(Note: Neither καῖρος nor ἀράχνη has hitherto been traced to an Indian root in any admissible way. Benfey deduces the former from the root dhvir (to twist); but this root has to perform an immense number of services. M. Müller deduces the latter from rak ; but this means to make, not to spin.)

the future denoting that which goes on occurring). The point of comparison in the first figure is the injurious nature of all they do, whether men rely upon it, in which case “he that eateth of their eggs dieth,” or whether they are bold or imprudent enough to try and frustrate their plans and performances, when that (the egg) which is crushed or trodden upon splits into an adder, i.e., sends out an adder, which snaps at the heel of the disturber of its rest. זוּר as in Job 39:15, here the part. pass. fem. like סוּרה (Isaiah 49:21), with a - instead of - like לנה , the original of the feminine ( zūrăth ) having returned from its lengthening into to the weaker lengthening into . The point of comparison in the second figure is the worthlessness and deceptive character of their works. What they spin and make does not serve for a covering to any man ( יתכּסּוּ with the most general subject: Ges. §137, 3), but has simply the appearance of usefulness; their works are מעשׂי־און (with m etheg , not m unach , under the Mem ), evil works, and their acts are all directed to the injury of their neighbour, in his right and his possession.

Verse 7

This evil doing of theirs rises even to hatred, the very opposite of that love which is well-pleasing to God. “Their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of wickedness; wasting and destruction are in their paths.” Paul has interwoven this passage into his description of the universal corruption of morals, in Romans 3:15-17. The comparison of life to a road, and of a man's conduct to walking, is very common in proverbial sayings. The prophet has here taken from them both his simile and his expressions. We may see from Isaiah 59:7 , that during the captivity the true believers were persecuted even to death by their countrymen, who had forgotten God. The verbs ירוּצוּ and וימהרוּ (the proper reading, with m etheg , not m unach , under the מ ) depict the pleasure taken in wickedness, when the conscience is thoroughly lulled to sleep.

Verse 8

Their whole nature is broken up into discord. “The way of peace they know not, and there is no right in their roads: they make their paths crooked: every one who treads upon them knows no peace.” With דּר ך , the way upon which a man goes, the prophet uses interchangeably (here and in Isaiah 59:7) מסלּה , a high-road thrown up with an embankment; מעגּל (with the plural in ı̂m and ôth ), a carriage-road; and נתיבה , a footpath formed by the constant passing to and fro of travellers. Peaceable conduct, springing form a love of peace, and aiming at producing peace, is altogether strange to them; no such thing is to be met with in their path as the recognition of practice of right: they make their paths for themselves ( להם , dat. ethicus ) , i.e., most diligently, twisting about; and whoever treads upon them ( bâh , neuter, as in Isaiah 27:4), forfeits all enjoyment of either inward or outward peace. Shâlōm is repeated significantly, in Isaiah's peculiar style, at the end of the verse. The first strophe of the prophecy closes here: it was from no want of power or willingness on the part of God, that He had not come to the help of His people; the fault lay in their own sins.

Verses 9-11

In the second strophe the prophet includes himself when speaking of the people. They now mourn over that state of exhaustion into which they have been brought through the perpetual straining and disappointment of expectation, and confess those sins on account of which the righteousness and salvation of Jehovah have been withheld. The prophet is speaking communicatively here; for even the better portion of the nation was involved in the guilt and consequences of the corruption which prevailed among the exiles, inasmuch as a nation forms an organized whole, and the delay of redemption really affected them. “Therefore right remains far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold darkness; for brightness - we walk in thick darkness. We grope along the wall like the blind, and like eyeless men we grope: we stumble in the light of noon-day as in the darkness, and among the living like the dead. We roar all like bears, and moan deeply like doves: we hope for right, and it cometh not; for salvation - it remaineth far off from us.” At the end of this group of verses, again, the thought with which it sets out is palindromically repeated. The perfect רחקה denotes a state of things reaching from the past into the present; the future תשּׂיגנוּ a state of things continuing unchangeable in the present. By m ishpât we understand a solution of existing inequalities or incongruities through the judicial interposition of God; by ts e dâqâh the manifestation of justice, which bestows upon Israel grace as its right in accordance with the plan of salvation after the long continuance of punishment, and pours out merited punishment upon the instruments employed in punishing Israel. The prophet's standpoint, whether a real or an ideal one, is the last decade of the captivity. At that time, about the period of the Lydian war, when Cyrus was making one prosperous stroke after another, and yet waited so long before he turned his arms against Babylon, it may easily be supposed that hope and despondency alternated incessantly in the minds of the exiles. The dark future, which the prophet penetrated in the light of the Spirit, was indeed broken up by rays of hope, but it did not amount to light, i.e., to a perfect lighting up ( n e gōhōth , an intensified plural of n e gōhâh , like n e khōchōth in Isaiah 26:10, pl. of n e khōchâh in Isaiah 59:14); on the contrary, darkness was still the prevailing state, and in the deep thick darkness ( ' ăphēlōth ) the exiles pined away, without the promised release being effected for them by the oppressor of the nations. “We grope,” they here complain, “like blind men by a wall, in which there is no opening, and like eyeless men we grope.” גּשּׁשׁ (only used here) is a synonym of the older משּׁשׁ (Deuteronomy 28:29); נגשׁשׁה (with the elision of the reduplication, which it is hardly possible to render audible, and which comes up again in the pausal נגשּׁשׁה ) has the âh of force, here of the impulse to self-preservation, which leads them to grope for an outlet in this ἀπορία ; and עינים אין is not quite synonymous with עורים , for there is such a thing as blindness with apparently sound eyes (cf., Isaiah 43:8); and there is also a real absence of eyes, on account of either a natural malformation, or the actual loss of the eyes through either external injury or disease.

In the lamentation which follows, “we stumble in the light of noon-day ( צהרים , m eridies = m esidies , the culminating point at which the eastern light is separated from the western) as if it were darkness, and בּאשׁמנּים , as if we were dead men,” we may infer from the parallelism that since בּאשׁמנּים must express some antithesis to כּמּתים , it cannot mean either in c aliginosis (Jer., Luther, etc.), or “in the graves” (Targ., D. Kimchi, etc.), or “in desolate places” (J. Kimchi). Moreover, there is no such word in Hebrew as אשׁם , to be dark, although the lexicographers give a Syriac word אוּתמנא , thick darkness (possibly related to Arab. ‛atamat , which does not mean the dark night, but late in the night); and the verb shâmēn , to be fat, is never applied to “fat, i.e., thick darkness,” as Knobel assumes, whilst the form of the word with נ c. dagesh precludes the meaning a solitary place or desert (from אשׁם = שׁמם ). The form in question points rather to the verbal stem שׁמן , which yields a fitting antithesis to כמתים , whether we explain it as meaning “in luxuriant fields,” or “among the fat ones, i.e., those who glory in their abundant health.” We prefer the latter, since the word m ishmannı̄m (Daniel 11:24; cf., Genesis 27:28) had already been coined to express the other idea; and as a rule, words formed with א prosth. point rather to an attributive than to a substantive idea. אשׁמן is a more emphatic form of שׁמן (Judges 3:29);

(Note: The name of the Phoenician god of health and prosperity, viz., Esmoun, which Alois Müller (Esmun, ein Beitrag zur Mythologie des orient . Alterthums. 1864) traces to חשׁמן (Psalms 68:32) from אשׁם = חשׁם , “the splendid one ( illustris ),” probably means “the healthy one, or one of full health” (after the form אשׁחוּר , אשׁמוּרה ), which agrees somewhat better with the account of Photios: ̓́Εσμουνον ὑπὸ Φοινίκων ὠνομασμένον ἐπὶ τῇ θέρμη τῆς ζωῆς .)

and אשׁמנּים indicates indirectly the very same thing which is directly expressed by משׁמנּים in Isaiah 10:16. Such explanations as “ in opimis rebus ” (Stier, etc.), or “in fatness of body, i.e., fulness of life” (Böttcher), are neither so suitable to the form of the word, nor do they answer to the circumstances referred to here, where all the people in exile are speaking. The true meaning therefore is, “we stumble (reel about) among fat ones, or those who lead a merry life,” as if we were dead. “And what,” as Doederlein observes, “can be imagined more gloomy and sad, than to be wandering about like shades, while others are fat and flourishing?” The growling and moaning in Isaiah 59:11 are expressions of impatience and pain produced by longing. The people now fall into a state of impatience, and roar like bears ( hâmâh like fremere ), as when, for example, a bear scents a flock, and prowls about it ( vespertinus circumgemit ursus ovile : Hor. Ep . xvi. 51); and now again they give themselves up to melancholy, and moan in a low and mournful tone like the doves, quarum blanditias verbaque murmur habet (Ovid). הגה , like murmurare , expresses less depth of tone or raucitas than המה . All their looking for righteousness and salvation turns out again and again to be nothing but self-deception, when the time for their coming seems close at hand.

Verse 12-13

The people have already indicated by על־כּן in Isaiah 59:9 that this benighted, hopeless state is the consequence of their prevailing sins; they now come back to this, and strike the note of penitence ( viddui ), which is easily recognised by the recurring rhymes ānu and ênu . The prophet makes the confession (as in Jeremiah 14:19-20, cf., Isaiah 3:21.), standing at the head of the people as the leader of their prayer ( ba‛al t e phillâh ): “For our transgressions are many before Thee, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are known to us, and our evil deeds well known: apostasy and denial of Jehovah, and turning back from following our God, oppressive and false speaking, receiving and giving out from the heart words of falsehood.” The people acknowledge the multitude and magnitude of their apostate deeds, which are the object of the omniscience of God, and their sins which bear witness against them ( ענתה the predicate of a neuter plural; Ges. §146, 3). The second כּי resumes the first: “our apostate deeds are with us ( את as in Job 12:3; cf., עם , Job 15:9), i.e., we are conscious of them; and our misdeeds, we know them” ( ידענוּם for ידענון , as in Genesis 41:21, cf., Isaiah 59:8, and with ע , as is always the case with verbs ל ע before נ , and with a suffix; Ewald, §§60). The sins are now enumerated in Isaiah 59:13 in abstract infinitive forms. At the head stands apostasy in thought and deed, which is expressed as a threefold sin. בּה (of Jehovah) belongs to both the “apostasy” (treachery; e.g., Isaiah 1:2) and the “denial” (Jeremiah 5:12). נסוג is an inf. abs. (different from Psalms 80:19). Then follow sins against the neighbour: viz., such speaking as leads to oppression, and consists of sârâh , that which deviates from or is opposed to the law and truth (Deuteronomy 19:16); also the conception ( concipere ) of lying words, and the utterance of them from the heart in which they are conceived (Matthew 15:18; Matthew 12:35). הרו and הגו are the only poel infinitives which occur in the Old Testament, just as שׁושׂתי (Isaiah 10:13) is the only example of a poel perfect of a verb ל ה . The poël is suitable throughout this passage, because the action expressed affects others, and is intended to do them harm. According to Ewald, the poel indicates the object or tendency: it is the conjugation employed to denote seeking, attacking, or laying hold of; e.g., לושׁן , lingua petere , i.e., to calumniate ; עוין , oculo petere , i.e., to envy.

Verses 14-18

The confession of personal sins is followed by that of the sinful state of society. “And right is forced back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth has fallen in the market-place, and honesty finds no admission. And truth became missing, and he who avoids evil is outlawed.” In connection with m ishpât and ts e dâqâh here, we have not to think of the manifestation of divine judgment and justice which is prevented from being realized; but the people are here continuing the confession of their own moral depravity. Right has been forced back from the place which it ought to occupy ( hissı̄g is the word applied in the law to the removal of boundaries), and righteousness has to look from afar off at the unjust habits of the people, without being able to interpose. And why are right and righteousness - that united pair so pleasing to God and beneficial to man - thrust out of the nation, and why do they stand without? Because there is no truth or uprightness in the nation. Truth wanders about, and stands no longer in the midst of the nation; but upon the open street, the broad market-place, where justice is administered, and where she ought above all to stand upright and be preserved upright, she has stumbled and fallen down (cf., Isaiah 3:8); and honesty ( n e khōchâh ), which goes straight forward, would gladly enter the limits of the forum, but she cannot: people and judges alike form a barrier which keeps her back. The consequence of this is indicated in Isaiah 59:15 : truth in its manifold practical forms has become a missing thing; and whoever avoids the existing voice is m ishtōlēl ( part. hithpoel , not hithpoal ), one who is obliged to let himself be plundered and stripped (Psalms 76:6), to be made a shōlâl (Micah 1:8), Arab. maslûb , with a passive turn given to the reflective meaning, as in התחפּשׂ , to cause one's self to be spied out = to disguise one's self, and as in the so-called niphal tolerativum (Ewald, §133, b , 2).

The third strophe of the prophecy commences at Isaiah 59:15 or Isaiah 59:16. It begins with threatening, and closes with promises; for the true nature of God is love, and every manifestation of wrath is merely one phase in its development. In consideration of the fact that this corrupt state of things furnishes no prospect of self-improvement, Jehovah has already equipped Himself for judicial interposition. “And Jehovah saw it, and it was displeasing in His eyes, that there was no right. And He saw that there was not a man anywhere, and was astonished that there was nowhere an intercessor: then His arm brought Him help, and His righteousness became His stay. And He put on righteousness as a coat of mail, and the helmet of salvation upon His head; and put on garments of vengeance as armour, and clothed Himself in zeal as in a cloak. According to the deeds, accordingly He will repay: burning wrath to His adversaries, punishment to His foes; the islands He will repay with chastisement.” The prophet's language has now toilsomely worked its way through the underwood of keen reproach, of dark descriptions of character, and of mournful confession which has brought up the apostasy of the great mass in all the blacker colours before his mind, from the fact that the confession proceeds from those who are ready for salvation. And now, having come to the description of the approaching judgment, out of whose furnace the church of the future is to spring, it rises again like a palm-tree that has been violently hurled to the ground, and shakes its head as if restored to itself in the transforming ether of the future. Jehovah saw, and it excited His displeasure (“it was evil in His eyes,” an antiquated phrase from the Pentateuch, e.g., Genesis 38:10) to see that right (which He loves, Isaiah 61:8; Psalms 37:28) had vanished form the life of His nation. He saw that there was no man there, no man possessing either the disposition or the power to stem this corruption ( אישׁ as in Jeremiah 5:1, cf., 1 Samuel 4:9; 1 Kings 2:2, and the old Jewish saying, “Where there is no man, I strive to be a man”). He was astonished (the sight of such total depravity exciting in Him the highest degree of compassion and displeasure) that there was no מפגּיע , i.e., no one to step in between God and the people, and by his intercession to press this disastrous condition of the people upon the attention of God (see Isaiah 53:12); no one to form a wall against the coming ruin, and cover the rent with his body; no one to appease the wrath, like Aaron (Numbers 17:12-13) or Phinehas (Numbers 25:7).

What the fut. consec. affirms from ותּושׁע onwards, is not something to come, but something past, as distinguished form the coming events announced from Isaiah 59:18 onwards. Because the nation was so utterly and deeply corrupt, Jehovah had quipped Himself for judicial interposition. The equipment was already completed; only the taking of vengeance remained to be effected. Jehovah saw no man at His side who was either able or willing to help Him to His right in opposition to the prevailing abominations, or to support His cause. Then His own arm became His help, and His righteousness His support (cf., Isaiah 63:5); so that He did not desist from the judgment to which He felt Himself impelled, until He had procured the fullest satisfaction for the honour of His holiness (Isaiah 5:16). The armour which Jehovah puts on is now described. According to the scriptural view, Jehovah is never unclothed; but the free radiation of His own nature shapes itself into a garment of light. Light is the robe He wears (Psalms 104:2). When the prophet describes this garment of light as changed into a suit of armour, this must be understood in the same sense as when the apostle in Eph speaks of a Christian's panoply. Just as there the separate pieces of armour represent the manifold self-manifestations of the inward spiritual life so here the pieces of Jehovah's armour stand for the manifold self-manifestations of His holy nature, which consists of a mixture of wrath and love. He does not arm Himself from any outward armoury; but the armoury is His infinite wrath and His infinite love, and the might in which He manifests Himself in such and such a way to His creatures is His infinite will. He puts on righteousness as a coat of mail ( שׁרין in half pause, as in 1 Kings 22:34 in full pause, for שׁריון , passing into the broader a , as is generally the case in יחפּ ץ , יחבשׁ ; also in Genesis 43:14, שׁכלתי ; Genesis 49:3, עז ; Genesis 49:27, יטרף ), so that His appearance on every side is righteousness; and on His head He sets the helmet of salvation: for the ultimate object for which He goes into the conflict is the redemption of the oppressed, salvation as the fruit of the victory gained b y righteousness. And over the coat of mail He draws on clothes of vengeance as a tabard (lxx περιβόλαιον ), and wraps Himself in zeal as in a war-cloak. The inexorable justice of God is compared to an impenetrable brazen coat of mail; His joyful salvation, to a helmet which glitters from afar; His vengeance, with its manifold inflictions of punishment, to the clothes worn above the coat of mail; and His wrathful zeal ( קנאה from קנא ), to be deep red) with the fiery-looking c hlamys . No weapon is mentioned, neither the sword nor bow; for His own arm procures Him help, and this alone. But what will Jehovah do, when He has armed Himself thus with justice and salvation, vengeance and zeal? As Isaiah 59:18 affirms, He will carry out a severe and general retributive judgment. גּמוּל and גּמלה signify accomplishment of (on gâmal , see at Isaiah 3:9) a ῥῆμα μέσον ; גּמלות , which may signify, according to the context, either manifestations of love or manifestations of wrath, and either retribution as looked at from the side of God, or forfeiture as regarded from the side of man, has the latter meaning here, viz., the works of men and the double-sided gemūl , i.e., repayment, and that in the infliction of punishment. כּעל , as if, as on account of, signifies, according to its Semitic use, in the measure ( כּ ) of that which is fitting ( על ); cf., Isaiah 63:7, uti par est propter . It is repeated with emphasis (like לכן in Isaiah 52:6); the second stands without rectum , as the correlate of the first. By the adversaries and enemies, we naturally understand, after what goes before, the rebellious Israelites. The prophet does not mention these, however, but “the islands,” that is to say, the heathen world. He hides the special judgment upon Israel in the general judgment upon the nations. The very same fate falls upon Israel, the salt of the world which has lost its savour, as upon the whole of the ungodly world. The purified church will have its place in the midst of a world out of which the crying injustice has been swept away.

Verse 19-20

The prophet now proceeds to depict the ישׁוּעה , the symbol of which is the helmet upon Jehovah's head. “And they will fear the name of Jehovah from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun: for He will come like a stream dammed up, which a tempest of Jehovah drives away. And a Redeemer comes for Zion, and for those who turn from apostasy in Jacob, saith Jehovah.” Instead of ויראוּ , Knobel would strike out the metheg, and read ויראוּ , “and they will see;” but “seeing the name of Jehovah” (the usual expression is “seeing His glory”) is a phrase that cannot be met with, though it is certainly a passable one; and the relation in which Isaiah 59:19 stands to Isaiah 59:19 does not recommend the alteration, since Isaiah 59:19 attributes that general fear of the name of Jehovah (cf., Deuteronomy 28:58) and of His glory (see the parallel overlooked by Knobel, Psalms 102:16), which follows the manifestation of judgment on the part of Jehovah, to the manner in which this manifestation occurs. Moreover, the true Masoretic reading in this passage is not ויראו (as in Micah 7:17), but וייראו (see Norzi). The two מן in ממּערב (with the indispensable metheg before the c hateph , and a second to ensure clearness of pronunciation)

(Note: See the law in Bär's Metheg-Setzung , §29.)

and וּממּזרח־שׁמשׁ (also with the so-called strong m etheg )

(Note: See idem , §28.)

indicate the terminus a quo . From all quarters of the globe will fear of the name and of the glory of Jehovah become naturalized among the nations of the world. For when God has withdrawn His name and His glory from the world's history, as during the Babylonian captivity (and also at the present time), the return of both is all the more intense and extraordinary; and this is represented here in a figure which recals Isaiah 30:27-28; Isaiah 10:22-23 (cf., Ezekiel 43:2). The accentuation, which gives pashta to כנּהר , does indeed appear to make צר the subject, either in the sense of oppressor or adversary, as in Lamentations 4:12, or in that of oppression, as in Isaiah 25:4; Isaiah 26:16; Isaiah 30:20. The former is quite out of the question, since no such transition to a human instrument of the retributive judgment could well take place after the לצריו חמה in Isaiah 59:18. In support of the latter, it would be possible to quote Isaiah 48:18 and Isaiah 66:12, since צר is the antithesis to shâlōm . But according to such parallels as Isaiah 30:27-28, it is incomparably more natural to take Jehovah (His name, His glory) as the subject. Moreover, בּו , which must in any case refer to כנהר , is opposed to the idea that צר is the subject, to which בו would have the most natural claim to be referred - an explanation indeed which Stier and Hahn have really tried, taking נוססח as in Psalms 60:4, and rendering it “The Spirit of Jehovah holds up a banner against him, viz., the enemy.” If, however, Jehovah is the subject to יבא , צר כנּהר must be taken together (like מכסּים ... כּמּים , Isaiah 11:9; טובה רוּחך , Psalms 143:10; Ges. §111, 2, b ), either in the sense of “a hemming stream,” one causing as it were a state of siege (from tsūr , Isaiah 21:2; Isaiah 29:3), or, better still, according to the adjective use of the noun צר (here with tzakeph , צר from צרר ) in Isaiah 28:20; Job 41:7; 2 Kings 6:1, a closely confined stream, to whose waters the banks form a compressing dam, which it bursts through when agitated by a tempest, carrying everything away with it.

Accordingly, the explanation we adopt is this: Jehovah will come like the stream, a stream hemmed in, which a wind of Jehovah, i.e., (like “the mountains of God,” “cedars of God,” “garden of Jehovah,” Isaiah 51:3, cf., Numbers 24:6) a strong tempestuous wind, sweeps away ( בּו נססה , nōs e sa - b - bô , with the tone drawn back and dagesh forte conj. in the monosyllable, the pilel of nūs with Beth : to hunt into, to press upon and put to flight) - a figure which also indicates that the Spirit of Jehovah is the driving force in this His judicially gracious revelation of Himself. Then, when the name of Jehovah makes itself legible once more as with letters of fire, when His glory comes like a sea of fire within the horizon of the world's history, all the world form west to east, from east to west, will begin to fear Him. But the true object of the love, which bursts forth through this revelation of wrath, is His church, which includes not only those who have retained their faith, but all who have been truly converted to Him. And He comes ( וּבא ) a continuation of יבא ) for Zion a Redeemer, i.e., as a Redeemer (a closer definition of the predicate), and for those who turn away from apostasy ( פשׁע שׁבי , compare Isaiah 1:27, and for the genitive connection Micah 2:8, מלחמה שׁוּבי , those who have turned away form the war). The Vav here does not signify “and indeed,” as in Isaiah 57:18, but “more especially.” He comes as a Redeemer for Zion, i.e., His church which has remained true, including those who turn again to Jehovah from their previous apostasy. In Romans 11:26 the apostle quotes this word of God, which is sealed with “Thus saith Jehovah,” as a proof of the final restoration of all Israel; for יהוה (according to the Apocalypse, ὁ ὤν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος ) is to him the God who moves on through the Old Testament towards the goal of His incarnation, and through the New Testament towards that of His parousia in Christ, which will bring the world's history to a close. But this final close does not take place without its having become apparent at the same time that God “has concluded all in unbelief that He may have compassion upon all” (Romans 11:32).

Verse 21

Jehovah, having thus come as a Redeemer to His people, who have hitherto been lying under the curse, makes an everlasting covenant with them. “And I, this is my covenant with them, saith Jehovah: My Spirit which is upon thee, and my word which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, and out of the mouth of thy seed, and out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith Jehovah, from henceforth and for ever.” In the words, “And I, this is my covenant with them,” we have a renewal of the words of God to Abram in Genesis 17:4, “As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee.” Instead of אתּם we have in the same sense אתם (not אותם , as in Isaiah 54:15); we find this very frequently in Jeremiah. The following prophecy is addressed to Israel, the “servant of Jehovah,” which has been hitherto partially faithful and partially unfaithful, but which has now returned to fidelity, viz., the “remnant of Israel,” which has been rescued through the medium of a general judgment upon the nations, and to which the great body of all who fear God from east to west attach themselves. This church of the new covenant has the Spirit of God over it, for it comes down upon it from above; and the comforting saving words of God are not only the blessed treasure of its heart, but the confession of its mouth which spreads salvation all around. The words intended are those which prove, according to Isaiah 51:16, the seeds of the new heaven and the new earth. The church of the last days, endowed with the Spirit of God, and never again forsaking its calling, carries them as the evangelist of God in her apostolic mouth. The subject of the following prophecy is the new Jerusalem, the glorious centre of this holy church.


Copyright Statement
The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Bibliography Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Isaiah 59:4". 1854-1889.

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Monday, May 20th, 2019
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