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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Isaiah 57

 

 

Verses 3-14

2. THE MOURNFUL PRESENT MARKED BY THE IDOLATROUS DOINGS OF THE NATION

Isaiah 57:3-14

3 But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress,

The seed of the adulterer and [FN1]the whore.

4 Against whom do ye sport yourselves?

Against whom make ye a wide mouth,

And draw out the tongue?

Are ye not children of transgression, a [FN2]seed of falsehood,

5 Enflaming yourselves 3] [FN4]with idols

Under every green tree,

Slaying the children in the valleys

Under the cliffs of the rocks?

6 Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion;

They, they are thy lot:

Even to them hast thou poured a drink offering.

Thou hast offered a meat offering,

[FN5]Should I receive comfort in these?

7 Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed:

Even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice.

8 Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance:

[FN6]For thou hast discovered thyself to another than me,

And art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed,

[FN7]And [FN8]made thee a covenant with them;

Thou lovedst their bed [FN9]where thou sawest it.

9 And [FN10]thou wentest to the king with ointment,

And didst increase thy perfumes,

And didst send thy messengers far off,

And didst [FN11]debase thyself even unto hell.

10 Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way;

Yet saidst thou not, There is no hope:

Thou hast found the [FN12]life of thine hand;

Therefore thou wast not [FN13]grieved.

11 And of whom hast thou been afraid [FN14]or feared,

That thou hast lied,

And hast not remembered me, nor laid it to thy heart?

Have not I held my peace even of old,

And thou fearest me not?

12 I will declare thy righteousness,

And thy works; for they shall not profit thee.

13 When thou criest, let thy [FN15]companies deliver thee;

But the wind shall carry them all away;

[FN16]Vanity shall take them:

But he that putteth his trust in me

Shall possess the land,

And shall inherit my holy mountain;

14 [FN17]And shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way,

Take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

See List for the recurrence of the words: Isaiah 57:4. התענג—ילדי־פשׁע. and זרע שׁקר. Isaiah 57:5. סְעִפֵי הַסְּלָעִים. Isaiah 57:9. שוּר—עד־מרחוק.

Isaiah 57:4. The form יִלְדֵי is found only in this place before Makkeph. Except this, יַלְדֵי three times without Makkeph: Isaiah 2:6; Exodus 2:6; Hosea 1:2.

Isaiah 57:5. The participles נחמים and שׁחטי are in apposition with and explanatory of ילדי פ׳ and נֵחָמִים .זרעשׁ׳ is part. Niph. from חמם.—The expression כל־עץ רענן, which occurs only here in Isaiah, is found beside Deuteronomy 12:2; 2 Kings 16:4; 2 Kings 17:10; 2 Chronicles 28:4; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:6; Jeremiah 3:13; Ezekiel 6:13.

Isaiah 57:6. The clause כְּחַלְּקֵ׳־נחל חלקך is very difficult; and expositors differ very much about it. The LXX. connect the words כחלקי־נחל with what precedes (σφάζοντες τὰ τέκνα αὐτῶν ἐν ταῖς φάραγξιν ἀνὰ μέσον τῶν πετρῶν ἐν ταῖς μερίσι φάραγγος. Ἐκείνη σου μερίς, οὖτός σου κλῆρος). [The words ἐν ταῖς μερίσι φάραγγος are wanting in Tischendorf’s 4 th edition of the LXX. of1869,—Tr.], but that gives an intolerable tautology. Vulg. in partibus torrentis pars tua; thus it takes חַלְּקֵי for חֶלְקֵי.—Targ. Jonatan: in laevibus locis ripae torrentis est pars tua.—Syrus: sors tua et haereditas tua cum sorte torrentium erit. Thus he takes בְּ=cum, and likewise חַלְּקֵי־נחל = חֶלְקֵי־נ׳; the double הֵם he takes as simply=et. Similarly, only still more freely, does the Arabic version in the London Polyglot translate: Sors illorum (scil. idolorum) erit portio vestra. One sees that these ancient versions were little exact in adhering to the original text. Jerome understands the “in partibus torrents,” to declare how “omnes montes, vales atque torrentes plenierant cultu daemonum,” and the “pars tua, sors tua” denotes for him that the demons were to the Israelites what the Lord should have been, according to Deuteronomy 32:9; Psalm 47:5; Psalm 73:26. Later expositors divide into five classes. Some take חַלְּקֵי also to be equal to חֶלְקֵי, which they understand variously, partly in a physical, partly in a spiritual sense. But all these views we must reject as grammatically unfounded. Others take חַלְּקֵי somehow in the sense of “laevitas, laeva, smoothness, smooth places,” but construe חלקך in the sense of “punishment.” According to this the sense would be: stoning with the smooth stones (Raschi), drowning, casting down over smooth, slippery places into the deep (Vitringa: Vos detrudemini in laevia vallis, i.e., in lubrica et salebrosa loca, quae quem in profunda vallis praecipitem agunt), the stony desert (Coccejus),—that is your well-merited portion. But it is manifest that חלקך and גורלך have here nothing to do with punishment, but continue to describe the sin. The third class of expositors construe חֶלְקֵךְ in the sense of “the right place, theatre.” Then the meaning would be: in the smooth clefts of the rock, or in the bare places of the valleys, there is the place where thou carriest on thy iniquitous work (J. D. Michaelis, Paulus, Gesen, Comment, Rueckert, Hitzig, Umbreit). But the following emphatic הֵם הֵם ו׳ and the second half of the verse show, that the mention here is not merely of the theatre of the idolatrous doings. A fourth class see in חלקי a designation of the idol images themselves. They derive the word from the Arabic chalaqa, efformavit, effinxit, so that the meaning would be: “in the images of the valley is thy portion,” or “with the idols in the valley thou carriest on thy trade” (Koppe in Lowth’s Isaiah, Knobel). But the root חָלַק in Hebrew never has this sense. Finally, the fifth class (Lowth, Rosenm, Gesen. Thes., Ewald, Delitzsch, Seinecke, Rohling, [J. A. Alex.]) take חלקך in the spiritual sense in which Jehovah is called the portion of His people (comp. the places cited above, and Psalm 119:57; Joshua 22:25; Psalm 16:5, etc.) But הַלְּקֵי־נחל are smooth stones such as, according to a widespread custom of antiquity, were objects of divine worship. Very properly reference has been made to הֲמִשָׁה חַלֻקֵי אֲבָנִים מִן־הַנַּחַל 1 Samuel 17:40. Fuerst, in the Concordance, puts our חַלְּקֵי with חַלֻּקֵי under one rubric, in that without further notice he points it חַלֻּקֵי. And indeed the two words differ only by one dot, and hence a copyist’s error were cot impossible. Fuerst in his Lex. derives our חַלְּקֵי from חַלָּק, which would be an abnormal vocalization instead of הַלָּקֵי (Olsh, § 183, a). Now if one may neither read חַלֻּקֵי instead of חַלְּקֵי, nor yet take חַלְּקֵי for an abnormal stat. const. pl. from חַלָּק, then we can only derive חַלְּקֵי either from חָלָק ( Isaiah 30:10) or from חֵלֶק. But the latter were likewise an unusual formation, for the connecting form of the plural must sound חֶלְקִי, according the sole suffix forms in use (comp חֶלְקִי,חֶלְקֵיהֶם,חֶלְקֵךְ, Hosea 5:7). The Daghesh in ל would any way be Dag. Dirimens. If then we derive our word from the adjective חָלָקlaevus, lubricus, smooth,” then חלקי־נחל would be the smooth things of the valley. But, in view of the intentional paronomasia with חֶלְקֵךּ, we may further assume that חַלְּקֵי the Prophet means nothing else than what is described in 1 Samuel 17:4, “smooth stones from the brook,” in fact that חלקי־נחל is in the end nothing more than an abbreviation of חַלְקֵי אַבִנֵי הַנַחַל, an abbreviation that of course would be understood only by one that had the passage of 1 Sam. in his mind.—בְּ before חַלְּקֵי is used as Joshua 22:25 אֵין־לָכֶם חֵלֶק בַיהוָֹה.

Isaiah 57:8. מֵאִתִּי גִלִית, as it seems to me, must be judged after the analogy of the expressions גָלָה עַמִּי ( Isaiah 5:13), גָּֽלְתָה יְהוּדָה ( Lamentations 1:3), גָּלָה מָשׂוֹשׁ ( Isaiah 24:11; comp. 1 Samuel 4:21 sq.; Proverbs 27:25, etc..). For as גָלָה originally means “to uncover, make bare,” so that form of expression declares that by removal of the people, who as it were cover it, the land Is uncovered, made bare. It is to be noticed, moreover, that אֶרֶץ itself is by metonymy used for the people ( Judges 18:30), and that also other things, e. g., the grass, can be described as uncovering their place by their removal. It is true that only Kal is used in this sense. But had the Prophet written גָּלִית then, according to the constant and frequent usage, one must have taken this in the sense of: “in exilium abiisti.” But he would not say that. What is here spoken of, is no punitive ridding out of a place, but a very spontaneous, headstrong and willful making bare, empty. Hence the Prophet uses the Piel. Therefore I cannot approve of the other explanations that supply “the shame” or “the clothes,” or that treat מִשְׁכָּבֵךְ as the common object of the three verbs (Delitzsch.—יתרת־לך מהם (certainly not castrasti quosdam ex iis, Grotius) is properly without analogy; for 2 Chronicles 7:18 the person with whom the covenant is made is designated by לְ, in 1 Samuel 20:16; 1 Samuel 22:8 עִם is used. But these passages show that after כרת the בְּרִית may be omitted. The Prophet might then have written ותכרת לָהֶם. But then the particular would be wanting, that Israel made demands, conditions which were to be fulfilled on the part of the other. One must, to be exact, translate: thou bargainedst, madest conditions for thee from those.—The words יד חזית are likewise without analogy. The explanations: thou descriest a place (to lie down),—where thou seest but a beckoning hand,—thou dividest a hand, i.e., thou dost destine a side of the couch for the lover (Knobel)—all of them contain an unsuitable clumsy thought. One looks for something that belongs to the משׁכב in the sense indicated, or that follows on it. And thus there is much to favor the view that sees in יָד an euphemism for the masculine member. Only analogies from other languages (see Delitzsch) can be adduced, but considering the originality of our author this can be no obstacle. חָזָה then, like רָאָה, according to well known usage, stands for sentire, experiri (comp. Job 8:17; Job 15:17; Job 24:1; Psalm 58:11). [J. A. Alexander briefly dismisses the euphemistic view by saying; “the sense gratuitously put upon the phrase by Doederlein, and the praises given him for the discovery, are characteristic of neological aesthetics.” His own comment is: “The most probable interpretation of the last words of the verse is that which gives יָד the same sense as in Isaiah 56:5” (viz., “a place”). Spite of the respectable commentators that approve of this euphemistic sense (Ewald, Hitzig cited by Delitzsch who agrees), it should be rejected. Delitzsch refers to Ezekiel 16:26; Ezekiel 23:20. But the coarse, plainness of the language there is ground enough for inferring that, did Isaiah mean to express the like here, he would use language as plain. It were just as reasonable to imagine the same significance for יָד in Isaiah 56:5. There is actually no ground for doing Song of Solomon, in either case. “Thou descriest a place (to lie down)” gives a good rendering. Comp. the clause חזית—אהבת with Job 8:18, עַל־גַּל שָֽׁרָשָׁיו יְסֻבָּב֑וּ בֵּת אֲבָנים יַֽחֱזֶה.—Tr.].

Isaiah 57:10. נוֹאָשׁ is part. Niph. desperatus ( Job 6:26), The neuter only here and Isaiah 2:25; Isaiah 18:12.

Isaiah 57:11. דָאַג is sollicitum esse and has primarily intransitive meaning ( Jeremiah 17:8). In this sense it is conjoined with לְ ( 1 Samuel 9:5; 1 Samuel 10:2) or with מִן ( Psalm 38:19; Jeremiah 42:16). In our text it is used transitively, as in Jeremiah 38:19, joined with the accusative.—The תִּירְאִי with the attached Vav consec, shows that the Prophet conceives of it as the consequence of דאג. The latter accordingly denotes the inward, religious dread, of which the outward evidences are only the consequence. כִּי before תכזבי is the causal “that” after questions.

Isaiah 57:14. וְאָמַר is used impersonally as in Isaiah 25:9; Isaiah 45:24; Isaiah 65:8.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. In this section the Prophet describes the idolatrous, and hence adulterous doings that at the time of this prophecy were prevalent in the entire nation. He summons the nation to approach in order to hear his castigating words. He addresses them as posterity of adulterous parents ( Isaiah 57:3). They had often scoffed at him. Hence he asks them: Who is he whom ye derided, and who are ye? Are ye not as bastards who would supplant the genuine offshoots ( Isaiah 57:4)? And then he points out to them their untheocratic, bastard way, by enumerating facts. Ye carry on your idolatry under every green tree. Ye slay the children by the brooks and in rocky hollows ( Isaiah 57:5). These places have become the holy and promised land to you. And, that every part of the worship of Jehovah may have its idolatrous counterpart, ye do not omit drink and meat offerings for the idols ( Isaiah 57:6). Then by sacrifices ye have made the high mountains the scene of your adulterous worship of idols ( Isaiah 57:7). Jehovah’s mottoes, that should be in every house, are thrust into the corner. But ye do as a woman that forsakes the place at the side of her husband, and sets up a couch of lewdness in another place ( Isaiah 57:8). And also by seeking aid from foreigners ye carry on an adulterous idolatry. For ye sent messengers with rich gifts to foreign kings, yea, ye have boasted even of alliances with hell ( Isaiah 57:9). And ye were indefatigable in these doings; nothing availed to convince you of their vanity. Rather, as long as ye could stir, ye would never confess to sickness ( Isaiah 57:10). How wrong such conduct was appears the more manifest, when one compares whom Israel feared and whom it did not fear. Yea, what sort of beings were those whom thou fearedst, whereas thou fearedst me no more, who so long kept silence spite of thy unfaithfulness? ( Isaiah 57:11). But I will speak and make manifest your righteousness and your works. From that will be seen that ye have no claim to be helped ( Isaiah 57:12). Then let your numerous idols help you. But the wind will carry them off. Hebrews, on the contrary, that trusts in me, will receive inheritance in the holy land and on the holy mountain ( Isaiah 57:13). For these there will be a glorious return into the promised land ( Isaiah 57:14).

2. But draw near——falsehood.

Isaiah 57:3-4. וְאַתֶּם strongly reminds one of that ואתם, Isaiah 48:6, which, according to our construction, is also to be understood as an address of the Prophet to the people living in his own time. Draw near hither is like a citation before the ruler, who proposes to hold up to the subject his guilt, and to announce the punishment (comp. Isaiah 34:1; Isaiah 48:16; Isaiah 41:1; Isaiah 41:5; הֵנָּה, as in 2 Samuel 20:16, and often). The Israelites are addressed as sons of a sorceress (comp. on Isaiah 2:6). Witchcraft is only possible by reason of idolatrous superstition, because it would produce effects by supernatural powers that are not the powers of the true God. The children of the witch are such as have not only a witch for mother, but have also themselves a witch nature. Thus the idolatrous inclination of the people is charged as something inherited (comp. on Isaiah 1:4). What is here expressed in one notion is explained in the second half of the verse. For זרע מנאף is seed of the adulterer (comp. ז׳ מְרֶעִים, Isaiah 1:4; Isaiah 14:20; ז׳ קֹדֶשׁ, Isaiah 6:13; ז׳ שֶׁקֶר, Isaiah 57:4), thus the ancestors of the present generation are designated as adulterers in their relation to Jehovah, i.e., as idolaters. But that the present generation is adulterous, i.e., idolatrous, is expressed by the addition (וַתִּזְנֶה) [Eng-V. “and the whore”]. The view that this word is only the feminine of מנאפ is disproved from the fact that the simple Vav copulative (וְתִזְנֱה) would be used. Moreover, the mode of expression would be affected, and the addition superfluous. For from the view-point of polygamy, adultery is only possible with a married woman. Therefore in זרע מנאף is implied the representation, that the married woman had sinned with another Prayer of Manasseh, i.e., with idols, and that therefore the present generation no longer has Jehovah for a father de facto, though de jure He may still pass for such. But וַתִּזְנֶה expresses that this generation, sprung from adultery, though recognized as legitimate, has itself committed adultery. As is well known, זָנָה stands very often for Israel’s apostacy to idols ( Exodus 34:15 sq.; Leviticus 17:7; Numbers 15:39; Deuteronomy 31:16; Hosea 2:6 sq.; Isaiah 1:21, etc.).

In Isaiah 57:4 the Prophet charges the people with the audacious scoffing with which they persecuted the followers of Jehovah in general and himself, the worthy Prophet in particular. For the question על מי can, of course, in itself have a quantitative sense: are there then men at all, about whom ye make yourselves merry? But why might there not have been men, about whom even such a degenerate people might with a certain justice make themselves merry? For this reason we must take the question על מי in a qualitative sense as in Isaiah 37:23. There it is asked: whom hast thou derided, etc.? Answer: the holy One of Israel. Thus here, also, the sense of qualis must be in the מי (comp. Isaiah 57:11; Isaiah 51:12). The imperfects תתעננו, etc., denote that these derisions still continue. Here also we have that personal אַתֶּם, which makes so entirely the impression of immediate living presence. And if the contemporaries derided Jehovah’s true followers and His prophets especially, who amongst them all was more exposed to the derision and deserved it less, than Isaiah. Hence there seems to me in this על־מי to be expressed the consciousness of personal worth and of outrage perpetrated by wounding it. התעננ, “delectari aliquare, to delight one’s self, to take pleasure from something,” is found only here in a bad sense. Opening wide the mouth along with derisive laughter is mentioned also Psalm 22:8; Psalm 35:21. Sticking out the tongue as a gesture of derision is not mentioned elsewhere in the Scripture. Expositors cite Livy, VII. Isaiah 10 : linguam ab irrisu exserens. The point of the verse consists in the distinction between the one scoffed at and the scoffers. What the former Isaiah, is not said. But we guess it. What the latter are, the Prophet states with the words: are ye not children of sin (i.e., such whose own nature partakes of the sin of those that begot), a spurious seed? That Isaiah, I think that זרע שׁקר is the antithesis of זרע אֱמֶת ( Jeremiah 2:21). Then it is not a seed in which materially the species “lie.” appears out of the sphere of the genus “sin;” but זרע שׁקר is a seed which any how formally is not what it pretends to be; i.e., a false, spurious seed. Thus the same is expressed as by מנאף זרע Isaiah 57:3.

3. Inflaming——yourselves comfort in these.

Isaiah 57:5-6. In what follows the Prophet enumerates all the sorts of idolatry by which the Israelites of his times proved themselves to be “children of sin” and “a spurious seed.” אֵלִים here means terebinths and not “gods,” as appears from the כל־עץ י׳ (see on Isaiah 1:29) that stands in parallelism. As a beautiful, shady tree, the terebinth played a great part in the idolatrous tree worship of the Hebrews (comp. Ezekiel 6:13; Hosea 4:13). It enticed to idolatry. Hence it is said, that the idolatrous fervor, that was only too closely joined to fleshly voluptuousness, was kindled by the terebinths. But not only stately, shady terebinths, every green tree kindled the idolatrous desire. But worse still than the tree-worship, was the murderous Baal and Moloch worship, to which especially the poor children fell a sacrifice (comp. my remarks on Jeremiah 17:2). Although this horrible worship exacted the burning of children, still the word שָׁחַט is used in connection with it, beside other expressions referring to it ( Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:5; Ezekiel 16:20-21. At the same time it seems to me that the Prophet (who in what follows pursues the thought that Israel in a sacrilegious way transferred all parts of Jehovah’s worship to its idolatrous worship), would here, by the choice of this word שׁחט, express the thought that the children were their עוֹלוֹת. For the slaying of beasts destined for whole-burnt-offerings was expressed by שׁחט, whereas זָבַח was the specific word for the slaying of the שׁלמים (see on Isaiah 5:7-8). In the valleys, under the clifts of the rocks, thus not only in the vale of Hinnom, but elsewhere also, in forbidding rocky defiles, were those horrid sacrifices offered.

Isaiah 57:6. Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion. See Text. and Gram. By these smooth stones are any way to be understood the sacred anointed stones (Bayetilia). The earliest trace of this usage appears in Genesis 28:18; Genesis 35:14. But what was originally a simple act of consecration to serve for sacred remembrance, became gradually the substratum of an idolatrous worship, the stone worship (comp. Jeremiah 3:9; Ezekiel 20:32). As the name βαίτυλος, βαιτύλια is of Phœnician origin, the view is not without foundation that this name is to be referred back to בֵּית־אֵל. Comp. [Smith’sDic. of the B. Art. Stones]; Leyrer in Herz. R-Encycl. XVI. p322; Kurtz, Hist. of theOld Covenant, I. § 75, 3; Grimmel, De lapidum cultu, Marburg, 1853. The baetylia were indeed stones smooth with oil. Arnobius (Adver. Gentes I:39) relates of the heathen period of his life: “Si quando conspexeram lubricatum lapidem et ex olivi unguine sordidatum, tanquam inesset vis praesens, adulabar, affabar et beneficia poscebam nihil sentiente de trunco.” Lowth cites at our text a passage from Theophrast (to Autolykos I:15) where it is said of a superstitious man: “Καί τῶν λιπαρῶν λίθων τῶν ἐν ταῖς τριόδοις παριὼν ἐκ τῆς ληκύθου ἔλαιον καταχεῖν καὶ ἐπὶ γόνατα πεσὼν καὶ προσκυνήσας ἁπαλλάττεσθαι.” Comp. Clement of Alex. Strom. VII:843. Our passage indeed does not seem to speak of oily, smooth stones. But it appears that that worship, apart from the smoothing by oil, was only given to stones that by nature or art had a smooth surface. At least we could not suppose that Jacob chose a rough stone for his pillow. And our text favors the idea that one did not choose for adoration any sort of stone remarkable for size or form, but especially smooth stones. The emphatic הֵם הֵםthese, these, refers to the stones as something that Israel in a shameful way made rivals of Jehovah. נּוֹרָל, properly lapillus, Isaiah, indeed, no where else so used that Jehovah Himself is called “the lot” of His people. But the word is chosen here because the Prophet intended an allusion to the notion “stone” contained in חלקי־נהל. The thought underlying also the second half of verse6 Isaiah, that the idolatrous Israelites gave to their lumpish idols what was due to Jehovah alone. For here, too, the aping is rebuked, by which they transferred the various parts of Jehovah worship to the idol worship. For נֶסֶךְdrink offering, and מִנְחָהmeat offering were essential parts of Jehovah’s worship. The latter consisted of flour in various forms, with salt, olive oil and incense in addition ( Leviticus 2). The former represented the drinking suited to eating, and consisted only of wine ( Exodus 29:40; Numbers 15:5 sqq.). הֶ‍ֽעֱלָה with the object מנחח = altari imposuit fertum occurs again Isaiah 66:3. How deeply the Lord feels the insult, is declared in the words: should I console myself (be quiet) concerning such? Niph. נִחַם with עַל denotes1) to pity one’s self, 2) to feel regret, sorrow, 3) to console one’s self, to quiet one’s self ( 2 Samuel 13:39; Jeremiah 31:15; Ezekiel 32:31). A modification of the last meaning given is “to revenge one’s self,” which we had Isaiah 1:24. The context shows that only the meaning given under3) suits here.

4. Upon a lofty——sawest it.

Isaiah 57:7-8. In these two verses the Prophet shows how in idolatrous worship, Israel even (נם־שׁם עלית Isaiah 57:7) aped the peace offering, the זֶבַח שְׁלָמִים. And he joins with it, in a particularly marked way, the adulterous conduct of which it was thereby guilty. Why the Prophet connects the latter particular just with שְׁלָמִים may have this reason, that these sacrifices were always united with meals, and just these may have given occasion for abandonment to joviality and especially to fleshly debauchery, particularly when celebrated in the open air on mountain elevations. Hosea 4:13 also mentions the offering of the idolatrous זֶבַח on mountain tops and connected with licentiousness. The expression חר־נבה ונשֹא is found so exactly only here; but comp. Isaiah 2:2; Isaiah 30:25. שַׂמְתְּ מִשְׁכָּבֵךְ is a figurative expression for the act of idolatrous worship. It cannot be doubted that by לִזְבֹּחַ זֶבַח the Prophet means the Shelamim sacrifice. For the זבח was most closely joined with that. “For the Shelamim offering [peace offering] the Pentateuch also uses simply the expression זֶבַח, i.e., killing; indeed this word in the Pentateuch has only this narrower sense, as further the meal of the שׁלמים as often designated by the verb זבח. The reason of this mode of expression was, that, as in the burnt-offering, the peculiar feature was the bringing up of the entire sacrifice on to the altar, so the sacrificial meal belonged essentially to the peace offering. זָבַח denotes the killing with reference to a meal that was to be held (comp. especially Leviticus 17:3 sqq.; Deuteronomy 12:15); it is thus distinguished from שָׁחַט which has no such reference.” (Œhler in Herz, R-Encycl. X. p637).

The initial words of Isaiah 57:8 have experienced a double explanation. The ancient expositors from Jerome down understand by זכרון, remembrance, any sort of idolatrous emblem, especially the household gods, Lares. But first it is to be objected, that the expression is a strange one to denote that, and then to put behind the doors and the posts seems rather to describe contemptuous than honorable treatment. Hence modern expositors have justly understood זכרון to mean what in Deuteronomy 6:8; Deuteronomy 11:20, was prescribed to be written on the מְזִוּזוֹת and on the שְׁעָרִים, especially since in Exodus 13:9 a similar memorial is expressly called זִכָּרוֹן. Therefore we may justly regard our text as a reference to the passages of the Pentateuch just cited. The Prophet charges the Israelites with putting those memorials containing the principles of the Theocracy behind the posts and doors, instead of on them, of course to get those hated reminders as far out of sight as possible. This done, they shamelessly left vacant (see Text. and Gram.) the place at the side of their husband, like an adulterous wife, in order to betake themselves to the couch of a lover.—מאתי נלית states how the adulterous wife made empty the place at her husband’s side; ותעלו, how she ascended to the elevation ( Isaiah 57:7); הרחבת משׁבּבך, how she made the lewd bed, i.e. broad, to give room for the lover. יכרת־לך מהם (see Text. and Gram.), describes the coarseness of this relation. The shameless harlot demands her price. What it was is not said. Any way it was agreed to. For the text continues: thou lovedest their embrace (משׁכב frequent in this sense: Numbers 31:17-18; Numbers 31:35; Judges 21:11-12, etc.).

5. And thou wentest—wast not grieved.

Isaiah 57:9-10. The Prophet has hitherto described what we may call the immediate worship of idols. Now he turns to what may be called the political or indirect idolatry of the Israelites. For when they turned to heathen nations for help, instead of relying on the Lord, that also was idolatry. And it was such not merely in the subtile sense of trusting in an arm of flesh (comp. Jeremiah 17:5-6; Isaiah 30:1 sq.; Isaiah 31:1-3; 2 Kings 16:7), but also in the grosser sense, inasmuch as trusting in a heathen nation involved trusting in its gods ( Isaiah 10:10-11; Jeremiah 2:33; Jeremiah 2:36; Ezekiel 23:7; Ezekiel 23:30; Hosea 12:1). If this is the correct understanding of the fundamental thought of our passage, it is clear that we are not to understand מֶלֶךְ as meaning an idol, as many expositors do. It is therefore neither Moloch (comp. Isaiah 8:21; Amos 5:26; Jeremiah 49:1; Jeremiah 49:3; Zephaniah 1:5), nor Anamelech, the Chronos of the Sepharvaim ( 2 Kings 17:31), as Hitzig thinks, nor the Phœnician Baal (מֶלֶך בַּעַל) as Knobel says. It seems to me also incorrect to suppose it refers directly to the king of Assyria. For there is nowhere any trace of his having been directly “the king” for the Israelites. And one cannot appeal to Isaiah 30:30 to show that he was, for there, according to the context (comp. Isaiah 57:31, אַשׁוּר), only the Assyrian king can be thought of. Hence it seems to me that the Prophet would say: Israel has ever turned to him who, according to existing relations, was for the time the king, κατ’ ἐξοχήν. Nearly like, but not identical, is the construction of Saadia, who understands מלך as collective. Also the choice of the word שׁוּר seems to favor our constructions, for it means “circuire, to go about” (comp. שָׁרָה, the wandering about, for caravans, Ezekiel 27:25). בַּשֶׁמֶן is “with oil.” But it remains doubtful whether that means “as one anointed with oil” (in order to charm the senses, Ezekiel 23:40) or “with presents of oil and ointments.” Grammatically either is allowable. Comp. for the former use, Genesis 32:11. But I prefer the latter, because it cannot be said that Israel itself came to the king, but sent ambassadors to remote places. Rather, according to Isaiah’s style, the latter is the explanation of the figure. The great rulers, now Assyria, now Egypt, lived far away. Did Israel perhaps send ambassadors further than that? Any way one may not press the significance of “oil and ointments.” The simple meaning Isaiah, that Israel sent the noblest and costliest gifts of its land as presents. The olive tree grew nowhere so well as in Palestine; comp. Leyrer, Herzog’sReal-Enc. X. p547. One of the ingredients of the רִקֻּהִים (ἅπ. λεγ., otherwise רֹקַה), “ointments,” perfumes, were בְּשָׂמִים, and Palestine was regarded as the exclusive home of the balsam shrub, ibid. I:673. Isaiah 39:2 shows that costly oil and noble ointment belonged to the royal treasures. עִיר=“messenger,” as in Isaiah 18:2. But Israel’s attempts to find helpers not only went far, but also deep. It is common to understand ער־שׁאול to mean the humble gestures and words of those seeking help. But that were a bad and senseless hyperbole. I believe the Prophet by didst send thy messengers far off refers chiefly to chaps28–33, and by thou wentest down to hell has especially in mind Isaiah 28:15, where the rulers of Jerusalem are made to say: “We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement.” The Hiph. השׁפיל, therefore, has not an ethical, but a local sense (comp. Isaiah 25:12; Isaiah 26:5; Psalm 113:6).

Isaiah 57:10. Thus Israel had wearied itself with much running (דֶּרֶד is abstractum here: the going, running, as often, comp. 1 Kings 18:27 and Isaiah 47:12; 1 Kings 19:7); but did not learn to see the uselessness of its efforts. Rather, because the weak hand from time to time felt some life, Israel never came to feel sick, i.e. to know and feel its powerlessness in its complete reality.

6. And of whom hast thou——way of my people.

Isaiah 57:11-14. Having thus described the idolatrous practices of the nation, the Prophet next asks for the reasons of it. These may be positive and negative: the idols may have advantages that Jehovah has not, and Jehovah may have defects that the idols are free from. I do not believe that את־מי refers to the heathen nations or their rulers, to whom Israel had looked for protection. For the whole context treats essentially of Israel’s religious conduct, and here especially of the reasons Israel might have for preferring idols to Jehovah. And, indeed, according to our remark on Isaiah 57:9, the dreadfulness of a nation depended on the power of its gods. מִי therefore refers to the idols. It is to be taken in the same sense as in Isaiah 57:4. Indeed one may say that this את־מי stands in a certain antithetical relation to that על־מי. For if על־מי, Isaiah 57:4, relates primarily to the Prophet, still it refers indirectly also to Jehovah, because the Prophet is such a one only through Jehovah. Of whom wast thou apprehensive, and so wast afraid. See Text. and Gram. It might be thought that what could move Israel to unfaithfulness to its Lord must be very considerable, grand in power and glory, far superior to Jehovah. But is such the case? No. One might expect the Prophet to dwell here on the contemptible quality of idols, that is intimated only by מִי. But what were the use? Has he not abundantly done so in the first Ennead? See Isaiah 40:18 sqq.; Isaiah 41:6 sq.; 21sqq.; Isaiah 42:17; Isaiah 43:9 sqq.; Isaiah 44:9 sqq.; Isaiah 45:20; Isaiah 46:1 sqq.; Isaiah 47:12; Isaiah 48:3 sqq.—That thou liedst. The meaning of כִּזֵּב here appears from what follows. It denotes the unfaithfulness, covenant-breaking nature of Israel. For by its deeds it proved its words to be lying words (comp. Psalm 78:36 sq.). Apart from single covenants ( Exodus 19:8; Exodus 24:3; Exodus 24:7; Deuteronomy 5:27 sqq.; Joshua 24:16; Joshua 24:24) the confession of Jehovah was the standing law in Israel. The sense is: What is the quality of those things that thou fearest, that (בִּי, see Text. and Gram.) thou couldest be seduced by them to break faith with thy God? But, from the antithesis to על־מי, Isaiah 57:4, and from what the Prophet has already said of the idols, it is seen that Israel found no sufficient motive for apostacy in the nature of its idols. There is another motive, viz. the silence of Jehovah. This must have been of such a nature as to explain the absence of fear of Him who was with Israel. This appears from the apodosis; therefore thou fearest Me not.—Therefore we are not to understand a not-speaking, but a not-doing. The Lord had kept His peace, and indeed from very ancient time (וְ before עולמ=“and indeed,” comp. Isaiah 13:10; Isaiah 32:7; Isaiah 44:28), He had looked on, spared, used forbearance. Of course this must be understood relatively, for single chastisements were not wanting. But in comparison with the language the Lord used in leading Israel into exile, all that had been before was silence. Thus the Lord speaks of such a silence with reference to Israel as He had before spoken of with reference to the Gentiles, Isaiah 42:14. If one supposes the Prophet to speak from the stand-point of the Exile, it is verily not evident what so terrible happened to the wicked Israelites after the Exile, as to make all that happened before seem silence in comparison.

Isaiah 57:12. I will declare.—In contrast with His former silence, the Lord says He will speak. He will declare the righteousness of Israel and its fruits, the works. The whole verse is ironically meant. First of all there is irony in אניד. At first sight it seems as if the Lord presented the prospect of an imposing proclamation of the great, hitherto-ignored deserts of Israel. Second, one supposes on this account that by “righteousness” and “works” are to be understood the manifestations of an actually existing righteousness of Israel’s. But in fact the Lord means that the unrighteousness, the malignity, of Israel shall, by a suitable judicial Acts, be pilloried before the whole world. Third, the expression: but they will not profit thee is an ironical meiosis. For what Israel has to show in fruits of righteousness is so much the opposite of true righteousness that no other fruit than destruction can come of it. It is seen that I do not follow the punctuation of the Masorets. I cannot therefore approve of the rendering: “and as regards thy handiwork (the idols), they will not profit thee (Delitzsch, Seinecke, Rohling, Weber). For1) the brief words, Isaiah 57:12 b a, would be no suitable expression for the important thought that the Lord will bring Israel’s sin to light by great judgments; 2) it were strange to say, Isaiah 57:12 b, of the idols: “they will not help thee,” and then to continue, Isaiah 57:13 : “when thou criest let them help thee.”—Thus I believe that not till in Isaiah 57:13 is declared the incapacity of the heaps of idols (קבּוּצִים., ἅπ. λεγ., properly “gatherings” in the sense of “pantheon”).—[“Aben Ezra appears to understand the word generically, as denoting all that they could scrape together for their own security, including idols, armies and all other objects of reliance.” J. A. Alex. This comprehensive meaning would suit the reference of Isaiah 57:9-10, which, spite of the Author’s interpretation, that makes the main reference in the end to be to idols, certainly does not exclude reliance on foreign kings and their armies.—Tr.]—The wind, yea, a breath will carry away the whole pantheon (Hengstenbebg, Delitzsch, comp. Isaiah 41:16; Isaiah 41:29). On the other hand, those that put their trust in the Lord, even if the general calamity shall have carried them off into the Exile, will take possession of the holy hand and of the holy mountain as their inheritance. Hence return out of the Exile is the concluding thought, which is expressed in Isaiah 57:14 with great emphasis.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - and who thyself playest harlot.

FN#2 - spurious seed.

FN#3 - Or, among the oaks.

FN#4 - by means of the terebinths.

FN#5 - Should I after this have pity.

FN#6 - For the place by me thou modest empty.

FN#7 - And modest terms for thee from them.

FN#8 - Or, hewed it for thyself larger than theirs.

FN#9 - Or, thou providest room.

FN#10 - Or, thou respeetedst the king.

FN#11 - thou didst descend to hell.

FN#12 - Or, living.

FN#13 - sick.

FN#14 - so that thou fearedst.

FN#15 - collections of gods=pantheon.

FN#16 - breath.

FN#17 - And one shall say.


Verses 15-21

3. GOD’S LOVE SMITES AND HEALS THOSE THAT LET THEMSELVES BE HEALED

Isaiah 57:15-21

15 For thus saith the high and lofty One

[FN18]That inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy;

I dwell in the high and holy place,

With him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit,

To revive the spirit of the humble,

And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

16 For I will not contend for ever,

Neither will I be always wroth:

[FN19]For the spirit should fail before me,

And the souls which I have made.

17 For the iniquity of his covetousness [FN20]was I wroth,

And smote him: I hid me, and was wroth,

[FN21]And he went on [FN22]fowardly in the way of his heart.

18 I have seen his ways, and will heal him:

I will lead him also, and restore comforts

Unto him [FN23]and to his mourners.

19 [FN24]I create the fruit of the lips;

Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near,

Saith the Lord; and I will heal him.

20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea,

When it cannot rest,

Whose waters cast up mire and dirt.

21 There is no peace, saith my God to the wicked.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

See List for the recurrence of the words: Isaiah 57:15. דַּכָּא as an adjective, comp. Psalm 34:19. Isaiah 57:16. עָטַף frequent in the Psalm 61:3; Psalm 73:6; Psalm 77:4; Psalm 107:5; Psalm 142:4; Psalm 143:4. Isaiah 57:17. בֶּצַע, comp. Jeremiah 6:13. Isaiah 57:20. דֶפֶשׁ.

Isaiah 57:17. הַסְתֵּר is the inf. absol. placed after, expressing the notion of what is constant, continuous; one might say here, expressive of the constant practice. Instead of ואקצף it would properly read וְקָצוֹף. But, as is well known, there occur many modifications in this sort of construction. Especially it happens not seldom that the inf. absol. changes in the last member into the finite verb or participle (comp. 2 Samuel 16:13; Genesis 26:13; Jeremiah 41:6; 2 Samuel 15:20; 2 Samuel 16:5, etc.). Therefore we translate: “and I smite him, in that I being angry hide myself.” הסתר direct causative Hiph.=to make concealment, hiding.—The clause וילכ שׁובב ונו׳ states the further consequence of the divine smiting. But for this is used the Vav consec. imperf., denoting, not a single, historical fact, but a manifestation constantly repeated, according to the usage that expresses aoristically what is yet something continuous. Comp. וַתִּזְנֶה Isaiah 57:3; וַיִּנְרְשׁוּ Isaiah 57:20.—שׁוֹבָב comp. Jeremiah 3:14; Jeremiah 3:22; concerning its distinction from שׁוֹבֵב see on Jeremiah 31:22.

Isaiah 57:18. One may (according to the view in the comment below) understand ארפאהו de conatu, as the word is evidently used in Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:11, which passages, also, on account of בֶּצַע in the foregoing verse, and on account of the double שָׁלוֹם, accord in sound with our text. The construction of Isaiah 57:18 is as in Isaiah 57:17 a. As there קצפתי is followed by ואכהו, so here ראיתי is followed by וארפאהו ונ‍׳.

Isaiah 57:19. Instead of נוּב the K’ri reads נִיב, because the only passage beside where the substantive occurs, Malachi 1:12, has נִיבוֹ, The singular suffix in רפאתיו is to be referred to the collective singulars רהוק and קרוב.

Isaiah 57:20. As it does not read הַנִּרְנָּשׁ, we are not to regard this verbal form as a participle, but as the third pers. perf, and to supply אֲשֶׁר before it.—The words השִׁקט לא יוכל are quoted Jeremiah 49:23. That in Jeremiah they are not original, appears from his using them as outward adornment, as embellishment of his discourse, whereas in our text they are organically grounded in the context.—רֶפֶשׁ, comp. רָפַם pedibus calcavit, turbavit. Concerning the Aorist וַיִּנְרְשׁוּ, comp. on וַיִּלֶךְ Isaiah 57:17.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

The Prophet here gives a worthy conclusion to the Ennead whose centre is the humble Servant of God. He points us to the fact, that the ground of all salvation is the unity of highness and lowness in God that love mediates. For God is enthroned as the highest and absolutely holy Being in the highest majesty and glory, and yet at the same time He dwells with the wretched and contrite in order to give them new life ( Isaiah 57:15). For He is angry for a while, but the foundation of His being is still love. Hence He cannot let the spirit, the soul of men, His own creatures, be destroyed ( Isaiah 57:16). On account of sin, indeed, He smites a man. But when the Prayer of Manasseh, not reformed by the outward chastisement, perseveres in his own chosen way ( Isaiah 57:17), still He does not for this reason give him up. He now applies the opposite mode of treatment: He heals him, by working inwardly on his heart by gentle means, as far, of course, as there is the necessary receptivity for this healing treatment, that Isaiah, the capacity of being sorry for the ways of the past ( Isaiah 57:18). In conclusion, the Prophet designates the announcement of this divine saving treatment as the flower of the word of prophecy ( Isaiah 57:19), but which of course will not profit all. For the wicked, that are like the sea, which lashed by storms throws up dirty foam ( Isaiah 57:20)—the wicked find no peace ( Isaiah 57:21). We wonder to hear these profound, evangelical words from the mouth of the Old Testament Prophet. Were they perhaps written by a scholar of the beloved disciple and smuggled in here? And how artistically the Prophet recapitulates the fundamental thought of this section, and returns to the refrain with which he would conclude this as all three sections.

2. For thus saith——I have made.

Isaiah 57:15-16. That Isaiah 57:15, and not Isaiah 57:14, begins the concluding word appears from the formula “For thus saith” which as a rule begins sections ( Isaiah 56:4; Isaiah 52:4; Isaiah 45:18; Isaiah 31:4; Isaiah 21:6; Isaiah 21:16; Isaiah 18:4, etc.), partly, too, from the divine title, which is wont to be employed at the head of sections ( Isaiah 1:24; Isaiah 10:24; Isaiah 22:15; Isaiah 30:15, Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 43:16; Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 45:11; Isaiah 45:18; Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 49:7, etc.). A third reason Isaiah, that the Isaiah 57:15-21 relate to a wider sphere than those that precede. For from Isaiah 56:10 on, the Prophet had Israel in mind, while in this concluding word his gaze comprehends humanity entire.—First he describes the Lord in respect to His infinite exaltation. He calls Him first רם ונשׂא, an expression that occurs only Isaiah 6:1, and which describes that exaltation of God primarily according to its outward appearance. Thus he calls Him שׂכֵן עַד (i. e., not: He who inhabits eternity,—a representation incapable of accomplishment, but: who eternally sits enthroned, i. e., maintains His house, His place, thus also His dignity and honor eternally, can never like a man be driven out of it, Isaiah 9:5; Isaiah 30:8; Isaiah 26:4; Isaiah 45:17; Isaiah 64:8; Isaiah 65:18). Third he designates Him as the One whose name is “The Holy One,” sanctus. Thus one would think He was too holy to resort to fellowship with sinful men. But no! He declares of Himself: although I dwell on high (heaven is meant, the high place of God that overlooks all, comp Isaiah 33:5, and the modified expression ibid. Isaiah 57:16) and in the holy place (קָדוֹשׁ in the sense of קדֶֹשׁ as in Psalm 46:5; Psalm 65:5; it is the upper sanctuary that is meant, Exodus 25:9; Exodus 25:40; Exodus 26:30; Acts 7:44; Hebrews 8:5), still I dwell also with him that is of a contrite and lowly spirit ( Proverbs 16:19; Proverbs 29:23). What contrasts, therefore, God is capable of! He dwells at the same time in the highest and in the lowliest. But that is no contradiction. For the “lowly spirit” is also just a choice and worthy dwelling, yea the choicest of all, since it is a living, personal habitation. But it is so choice for the reason that the humble man surrenders himself wholly, adds nothing from his own, will only accept God and let himself be illuminated by Him. Thus God supplies what is wanting in him. For He makes His dwelling in him precisely for the purpose of filling spirit and heart (i. e., mind and soul, thinking and willing), of the humble and contrite with a new, fresh divine life (comp. Galatians 2:20). It appears from “to revive the spirit” and “to revive the heart,” that the Prophet means such humble souls as are also bowed down deep with sorrow. Hence, Isaiah 57:16, he can proceed with for I will not to eternity contend, nor be perpetually angry (comp. Psalm 103:9). God cannot do this for the reason, also, that else the whole being of men would be destroyed. For as a creature, man cannot in the long run endure the wrath of God. By continued smiting the spirit of man that “stands before God,i. e., as kindred with God, is capable ( Matthew 18:10) of His presence and fellowship, and the soul that became נִשְמַת חַיִּים ( Genesis 2:7) by the inbreathing of the Spirit, must pine away and perish. In this way God would destroy His own work.

3. For the iniquity——his mourners.

Isaiah 57:17-18. The sorrows that God decrees are not blows of destruction ( Lamentations 3:31-42). He is angry and chastises only on account of sin. But that sin is here made prominent which is in 1 Timothy 6:10 called the root of all evil things, viz., the πλεονεξία ( Colossians 3:5) or φιλαργυρία. It is here named metonymically, the thing striven for (בֶּצַע, “cutting, gain”) being put for the striving. What guilt is so great that a man will not burden his conscience with it for the sake of gain? The perf. קצפתי describes the anger as an actual foundation that the Lord feels in His heart. The consequence and expression of this anger is the smiting. But as it is not said וָאַכֵּהוּ but וְאַבֵּהוּ, we may not translate: and I smote, but: “and I smite.” From this it appears, that the Lord has not in mind concrete, definite facts, as say His conduct toward the people Israel, but He describes here the conduct He observes everywhere and toward all men. Therefore we must translate: I am angry and I smite, in that being angry (see Text. and Gram.) I hide Myself. The clause but he went off rebelliously in the way of his heart, declares the further consequence of the divine smiting. The observation continually repeats itself, that the divine chastisement is disregarded by men. It was verified in the case of Israel as in that of the majority of mankind. Therefore the chastisement was of no avail. One would suppose then that the Lord must leave the contumacious man to his well deserved fate. But no! The forbearance, the patience, the compassionate love of God is without bounds. He sees (surveys) the ways of a Prayer of Manasseh, their beginning, middle and end. He sees whither these ways lead. They lead to everlasting destruction. He cannot suffer this. Therefore He approaches a man not only outwardly by angry smiting ( Isaiah 57:17 a), He also makes the attempt inwardly. He heals the man; self-evidently the man who lets himself be healed. For God lays His grace indeed as near a man as possible. But He never forces it on him. The manner of the healing is explained in the following words: and I will lead him,etc. God brings the man from the way of error on to the right way, and then extends to him what is needful to comfort and strengthen him. שַׁלֵּם נִחֻמים is properly “to requite, compensate consolations,” i. e., offer consolations as compensation. The ולאבליו joined on contains the plainest restriction of the וארפאהו. That is one must, with Stier, Delitzschet al., take וְ in the sense of “and indeed, viz.” (comp. Isaiah 57:11). The Lord cannot guide all and refresh all with His consolations, but only those that are of a troubled spirit. They are therefore the same that in Isaiah 57:15 are called contrite and humble of spirit.

4. I create the fruit——the wicked.

Isaiah 57:19-21. So much is certain, Isaiah 57:19 introduces the conclusion. The thought “peace” joins Isaiah 57:19-21 close to one another. But what of בורא נוב שׂפתים? Grammatically the words may be joined either with what precedes or with what follows. And as regards the sense, “sprout, fruit of the lips” does not necessarily mean only thanks and praise, although the words of our text are so understood, Hebrews 13:15. In Proverbs 10:31 wisdom is designated as the outgrowth of the mouth, in Proverbs 12:14; Proverbs 13:2; Proverbs 18:20 satiety with good generally is described as פְּרִי פֶה and תְּבוּאַת שְׂפָתַיִם. Therefore נוב שׂפתים may be the word of prophecy, either that before us or the word of prophecy in general. Now can I one say, that the Lord extends comfort in that He creates thanks and praise? Not very well. At least in our context one looks for: in order to make (לִבְרֹא) thanksgiving, or “I create fruit of the lips, in that I extend comfort” But if by “fruit of the lips” one understands the prophetic word, then would be said, that the Lord heals, guides, comforts, in that He makes the fruit of the lips, i. e., of the prophetic lips. But that were a very forced and artificial manner of expression. For the Lord can after all only indirectly heal and comfort by making the Prophet speak divine words. It comes about directly only by means of the Lord’s opening the hearts to give heed to what is spoken by His Spirit ( Acts 16:14). Therefore it does not seem to me to be proper to connect בורא נ׳ שׂ׳ with what precedes. But if we connect it with what follows, the same reasons already given determine against the meaning “thanks and praise.” Therefore if we refer it to the prophetic word, we must first of all not forget that these words are spoken with a certain emphasis. The expression though kindred, is still not the same in meaning as פְרִי or תְּבוּאַת שׂפתים. For נוּב is not the usual word for “budding, sprouting” (the most usual are פָרַח or צָמַח). It occurs only in poetry and only in four places, and, as remarked, is always used with a certain emphasis. For Psalm 62:11 it designates a vigorous sprouting, and the same also Psalm 92:15, which speaks of an impelling force effective even in old age. Proverbs 10:31 would say, that the mouth of the righteous is gifted with the power to produce that which is noblest, wisdom. Zechariah 9:17, finally, also speaks of a power of production whose intensity is attested by the excellence of what it produces. So then I believe that here נוב שׂ׳ does not mean in general “offspring of the lips,” but “splendid offspring, noble offspring.” That Isaiah, the Prophet would say, that he regards the proclamation of peace and healing for those far and near as the highest and noblest flower of his prophecy. Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, and I will heal him, saith the Lord, therewith creating the flower of the (prophetic) lips, i. e., in that He utters the highest and most glorious thing that He commissions His Prophet to proclaim. אמר יהוה stands elsewhere only at the end of the discourse ( Isaiah 22:14; Isaiah 39:6; Isaiah 45:13; Isaiah 49:5; Isaiah 54:1; Isaiah 54:6; Isaiah 54:8; Isaiah 54:10; Isaiah 59:21; Isaiah 65:7; Isaiah 65:25; Isaiah 66:9; Isaiah 66:20-21; Isaiah 66:23). Here it stands, as in Isaiah 57:21; Isaiah 48:22 (comp. לִי אָמַר45:24; Jeremiah 30:3) as an insertion. The double שָׁלוֹם sounds solemn and emphatic (comp. Isaiah 26:3; Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:11; 1 Chronicles 12:18). By the “far and near” I cannot understand “the Israelites scattered far and wide.” How should the remote or nearer distance of the place of banishment from Palestine have any importance for the Lord? And if not for Him, then certainly they would have no importance for the believing Israelites. To give explanation on this Point was not necessary for the “flower of prophecy.” But it was important to declare, that also the heathen, that hitherto had been far off, were to come near and partake of the salvation of Israel (comp. Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 65:1; Hosea 2:23, etc.). Thus Paul understood the passage ( Ephesians 2:17). ורפאתיו connects with וארפאהו Isaiah 57:18, and shows that the Lord knows no salvation without healing. There is indeed no salvation for those not healed, the spiritually sick, the wicked ( Isaiah 57:20-21). Thus ורפאתיו mediates in an artistic way the connection between what precedes and what follows.

Isaiah 57:20. The wicked are like the sea that is stirred up. The Prophet distinguishes two particulars. First the unrest of the sea. This is the effect of storms that do not allow the sea to rest. The other is the foam and mud that the sea throws out of its depths. The likings and cravings, the passions are the storms that stir up the human heart and let it have no rest. The wicked works are the foam and slime that then come to the surface and make manifest the uncleanness, the depravity, therefore the malady within. For it cannot rest: these words are quoted in Jeremiah 49:23, see Text. and Gram. [This verse recalls Judges 13, which may be an allusion to it.—Tr.].

Isaiah 57:21 gives the refrain-like conclusion of the Ennead which we had Isaiah 48:22. It does not come in abruptly as there, but is duly prepared. The only difference between this and Isaiah 48:22 is that here we have אלהי while there it reads יהוה. In this “my God” is uttered the absolute reliability of what has been said. How could that be incorrect that was said to the Prophet by his God?

Footnotes:

FN#18 - The One dwelling eternally.

FN#19 - For the spirit that goes out from me would pine away,

FN#20 - am I angry, and smite him, in that being angry I hide myself.

FN#21 - But.

FN#22 - Heb. turning away.

FN#23 - even.

FN#24 - He that creates the noblest bloom of the lips.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. On Isaiah 56:11. (Every one looks to his own way). “Potest intelligi de externis criminibus, sed magis placet, ut accipiatur de speciosis viis, in quibus ambulant hypocritae. Sic Franciscanus Francisci regulam sequitur, decalogum et evangelii doctrinam negligit tanquam rem vulgarem, quae ad vulgus pertirneant.”—Luther.

2. On Isaiah 56:12. In the Alexandrian and Vatican texts of the LXX, the words from מקצהו Isaiah 56:11 to the end of Isaiah 56:12 are wanting, which even Jerome remarks on. He adds: “denique hos versiculos nullus ecclesiasticorum interpretum disseruit, sed quasi patentem in medio foveam transiliunt atque transmittunt.”—That the Fathers, unacquainted as they were with Hebrew, pass the words by, is simply explained by the LXX. omitting them. Jerome, because he knew Hebrew, as he himself says, “added them ex hebraico.” But why the Greek translator left them out is doubtful: Theodotion (see Hexapla Orig. ed. Montfaucon II, p179) has them.—“Ab hoc vitio (ebrietatis) abstinere debent pii ecclesiae ministri memores interdicti apostolici 1 Timothy 3:2-3, considerantes secum, nullam horulam ipsis esse adeo liberam ac vacuam, qua non ad officia functionis suis possint avocari.”—Foerster.—“Let one point the rough figure for himself for the more delicate spiritual form also, quite as Matthew 24:49; Ephesians 5:18, and the like are meant. For there is a drunkenness and voluptuousness in all kinds of wine and intoxication, which only the eye of the Spirit beholds in many an honorable Bishop, General-superintendent or Superior-court-preacher. Stier. “Vita concionatoris optimus syllogismus.” Chrysostom.

3. On Isaiah 57:1. “Against the heedlessness of the world, that regards the life and death of men alike. For because Pharaoh and Moses, Saul and Jonathan, Judas and Peter, must temporally die, the one as the other, they suppose it is as much to one as to the other. But on the contrary, one should lay it to heart when useful and pious men fall, because, first, one must miss them afterwards, especially their prayers by which they stand in the breach and run to the walls ( Ezekiel 22:30); second, because the destruction of such people is wont to be an evil omen of a great impending misfortune and change, [“It is a sign that God intends war when He calls home His ambassadors.”—M. Henry]. Examples: When Noah turns his back on the world and shuts himself in the ark, the deluge comes ( Genesis 7:17). When Lot goes out of Sodom and Gomorrah, fire from heaven falls on them ( Genesis 19:24). When Joseph dies in Egypt, the bondage of the children of Israel begins, together with the murder of their infant boys ( Exodus 1:8). When Hezekiah died, then followed the tyranny of Manasseh ( 2 Kings 20, 21) When Christ and His disciples were made way with, then began the destruction of Jerusalem.”—Cramer.—“Sicut ad Josiam dicit: tolleris, ne videant occuli tui hoc malum, etc. ( 2 Kings 22:18-20). Sic excidio Hierosolymitano erepti sunt apostoli et reliqui Sancti. Idem nobis accidet. Vivunt adhuc passim quidam pii homines, propter iliis Deus differt poenam. Sublatis autem iis sequetur Germaniae ruina.”—Luther.—“Blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord, for they rest from their labor ( Revelation 14:13). And hellish enemies, as little as human, can do them any harm.”—“It is a misfortune for the whole country when distinguished and deserving people are taken out of the midst by temporal death. For them, indeed, it is well; but God have mercy on those that are left. For as in a great storm, when the heavens are overcast with clouds, the shepherd leads in the sheep, the husbandman hastily gathers his sheaves, the parents call in the children from the streets, so our dear God calls His dearest children together, that the calamity may not touch them.”—Cramer.—“The men of grace or mercy are receivers and distributers, thus also the mediators of the grace of God for their people; the men of grace, that atoningly represent the land by intercessions and conduct, postpone its judgment ( Genesis 18:24; Ezekiel 22:30).” Stier.—“The mere presence of an honest man is still a, restraint on the unbridledness of blasphemers.” G. Mueller in Stier.

4. On Isaiah 57:2. “Against the idle fancy of the fire of purgatory. For here it is said of those who have walked uprightly, not that they get into trouble, unrest, pain and torment, by which they must be purged; but that, with respect to their souls, they come to peace. But as to their bodies, they rest in their sleeping chamber. They are not on this account driven about; they seek also no mass or soul baths, as the Papists pretend.”—Cramer.

Nam stultum est mortem matrem timuisse quietis,

Quam fugiunt morbi, moestaque pauperies.”

(Attributed to Cornelius Gallus, the friend of Virgil).

5. On Isaiah 52:4. It should be a wreath of honor to all faithful teachers and preachers, that they are regarded as monsters and are lampooned by the wise of this world. For if the great Prophet Isaiah in this passage, item, Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 20:8), Elijah ( 2 Kings 2:24), Ezekiel ( Ezekiel 33:31), Job ( Job 17:6), yea, even Christ Himself had to suffer this, what wonder is it if the scoffing birds sharpen their beaks on us and chatter like the storks?” Cramer.

6. [On Isaiah 52:8. “When a people forget God, the memorials of their apostacy will be found in every part of their habitations. The shrines of idol gods may not be there; the beautiful images of the Greek and Roman mythology, or the clumsy devices of less refined heathens may not be there; but the furniture, the style of living will reveal from ‘behind every door and the posts” of the house that God is forgotten, and that they are influenced by other principles than a regard for His name. The sofa, the carpet, the chandelier, the centre-table, the instruments of music, the splendid mirror, may be of such workmanship as to show, as clearly as the image of a heathen god, that Jehovah is not honored in the dwelling, and that His law does not control the domestic arrangements.” Barnes].

7. [On Isaiah 57:10. “Thou art wearied——no hope. This is a striking illustration of the conduct of men in seeking happiness away from God. They wander from object to object; they become weary in the pursuit, yet they do not abandon it; they still cling to hope though often repulsed—and though the world gives them no permanent comfort—though wealth, ambition, gayety, and vice all fail in imparting the happiness which they sought, yet they do not give it up in despair. They still feel that it is to be found in some other way, than by the disagreeable necessity of returning to God, and they wander from object to object, and from land to land, and become exhausted in the pursuit, and still are not ready to say there is no hope, we give it up in despair, and we will now seek happiness in God.” Barnes.

“Note.—Despair of happiness in the creature, and of satisfaction in the service of sin, is the first step toward a well-grounded hope of happiness in God, and a well-fixed resolution to keep to His service; and those are inexcusable who have had sensible convictions of the vanity of the creature, and yet will not be brought to say, ‘There is no hope to be happy short of the Creator.’—Note.—Prosperity in sin (Thou hast found the life of thy hand) is a great bar to conversion from sin.” M. Henry].

8. On Isaiah 57:11. “God keeps silence only for a while, but yet not for ever and continually, with respect to men’s sins; but the longer He has kept silence, the harder He punishes afterwards.”—Starke.

9. On Isaiah 57:12. “Tuam justitiam. Est emphasis in pronomine tuam. Quasi dicat: mea justitia firma et perpetua Esther, tua non item.… In calamitate nihil desperatius est justitiariis, cum secundis rebus nihil quoque iis sit confidentius.—Luther.”

10. On Isaiah 57:15 sq. “God has three sorts of dwellings: first in the highest, second in the sanctuary, third in humble hearts. The first dwelling is the universalis praesentia, the universal presence, by which He fills all ( Jeremiah 23:24); but there He is too high and incomprehensible for us. The other is gratiosa, the gracious presence, by which He lets Himself be found in the word and sacraments, and also comes finally to us and makes His dwelling in our hearts ( John 14:23).” Cramer, comp. Renner, p199.—“Humilis anima est Dei sessio et delectabile cubile.” “Excelsus es Domine, sed humiles corde sunt domus tua” ( Psalm 113:6; Psalm 138:6). Augustin.—“Fluenta gratiae deorsum non sursum fluunt.” Bernhard.—“Here is a principal passage beaming with evidence, that “holy” means not merely the tremenda majestas, but essentially comprehends the self-communicating condescension of love.” Stier.—Comp. His Reden Jesu V, p499, and the essays of Schoeberlein and Achelis in Stud. and Krit. 1847, I, IV.

11. On Isaiah 57:18. Here again we have one of those words in which Isaiah shows Himself to be the Evangelist of the Old Testament. For in the old covenant God does not yet heal men, else the new were superfluous. The law only effects knowledge of sin, but it does not give the power to overcome sin. One fancies here again that he hears the Apostle that wrote Romans 8.

12. On Isaiah 57:19-21. “The gospel in a sermon of peace to the heathen that were far off, and to the Jews that were near. For by it we both have access in one Spirit to the Father ( Ephesians 2:18). But the wicked quakes all his life and what he hears terrifies him ( Job 15:20; Isaiah 48:22). And especially in conflicts, and notably in the last hour, and when they see God’s judgment near, one sees this in them, that they not only therefore often spit out blasphemies, but that for great anguish they have laid hands on themselves. Examples: Saul, Ahithophel, Judas, Franciscus Spiera. For because such peace is not to be brought about with works, they must ever stick in anger, resentment, discontent and disfavor with and before God. And it is only pure folly to wish to give the terrified hearts rest by their own expiation, merit and self-elected holiness. Much less will there be rest if one teaches such people to doubt the forgiveness of sins.” Cramer.

HOMILETICAL HINTS

1. On Isaiah 56:10 to Isaiah 57:2. These words may be used as the text of a sermon for a fast-day, or also for a synodical sermon. One might then regard the Prophet’s words as a mirror, or as a measure whereby to measure the condition of the church (of the country, of the times). From this would then come1) earnest warning to those that belong to the wicked here described, or who do not oppose their doings; 2) comfort for those that have “walked straight before them,” for, though hated and persecuted by men, they shall still come to peace.

2. On Isaiah 57:1-2. These words (also “a Jewish formula solennis for the pious dead,” Stier) have very often been used as texts for funeral discourses for celebrated men.

3. On Isaiah 57:2. Those that have walked in their uprightness, i. e., who during their lives have served the Lord in a living faith, need not fear death. It is to them a bringer of joy. For it brings1) eternal peace to their soul, 2) rest to their body in the chamber of the grave, till the day of the blessed resurrection.

4. On Isaiah 57:3-10. A description of the coarse idolatry, to which in our day correspond only too many appearances of the modern and subtile heathenism. Only too many have sucked in with their mother’s milk superstition and unbelief, which as a rule go together. As Ishmael, who was begotten after the flesh, mocked and persecuted Isaac that was born according to the promise ( Galatians 4:28 sqq.), so also now. The false seed, i. e., those that are not born of the Spirit of the church, although by their fleshly birth they belong to it, mock and persecute the genuine children of the church. With insatiable greed people run daily, but especially on the Lord’s day, under all green trees, i. e., to the places of worldly pleasure-seeking, where the idols of the belly and of mammon are served! And how many children are from their earliest youth led away to the service of these idols! Are not thereby their immortal souls spiritually slain? And is not that, in the end, a worse sacrifice of children than that ancient sort? All that puts men in mind of the service of God, men get out of their sight (pious customs, Sunday, feast days, church Acts, as baptism, marriage, burial), in order to be able to surrender themselves undisturbed and wholly to the modern idols. Men no longer seek their strength in the covenant with the Lord, but among men in associations of every kind. And, because that does not instantly reveal its ruinous effects, but often seems to have a good effect, men never weary of this conduct, but confirm themselves in it more and more.

5. On Isaiah 57:12. Many men will not by any means believe that their good works are wholly insufficient to obtain the righteousness that is of avail with God. Now God will, indeed, not suffer to go unrewarded the cup of water that we give to the thirsty in the proper spirit ( Matthew 10:42; Mark 9:41). But could we point to ever so many such cups, still they do not suffice to pay our ten thousand talents ( Matthew 18:24 sqq.). One must therefore remind his charge of the great reckoning that the Lord will one day have with us. In this1) will be had a complete and perfectly correct investigation into our indebtedness and assets2) Then it will appear that our assets will be too defective to be of any use whatever against our indebtedness.

6. On Isaiah 57:13-14. It depends very much on the sort of spirit with which one turns to God for help. If one does it in order to make a trial also with the dear God, then one will certainly be denied. But if one does it because one knows no other helper, and wishes to know no other, then one may confidently count on being heard. How differently the answers sound that God gives to the cries for help that reach Him. 1) To the one it is said: let thy gatherings help thee2) But to the others is called out: a. make a road, clear the way, take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people; b. inherit the land, possess my holy mountain.

7. On Isaiah 57:15-16. “I know that these sayings speak especially of penitent sinners and aroused consciences; but I do not see why they may not with good right be applied also to other alarmed and anxious people. One has here to look also at the examples of the dear children of God who are presented to us in the Holy Scriptures full of fear and alarm. Think of Job ( Job 9:34; Job 13:21), David ( Psalm 25:17; Psalm 55:5 sqq.), Daniel ( Daniel 8:17 sq.), Paul ( 1 Corinthians 2:3; 2 Corinthians 7:5), yea, of Jesus Christ Himself ( Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33; Luke 22:44). From this thou seest clearly, thou lover of God, but timid and frightened soul, that thou art not the first among the children of God, that suffer His terrors and must go about with an anxious heart. It is also therewith sufficiently shown that such an event is not a reminder of anger, but rather of the grace of the kind and gracious God.”—Scriver.

8. On Isaiah 57:15-16. “A holy shudder goes through my soul when, in receiving Thy body and blood, I think of who they are to whom Thou so communicatest Thyself! That is Thy way, Thou wonderful Lord, that Thou utterly humblest and castest down to the ground before Thou raisest up. Thou sayest: ‘I who dwell in the high and holy place am with those that are of a contrite and humble spirit.’ Has the greatness of my sin already melted my heart, it melts still more at the greatness of Thy grace.”—Tholuck.

9 On Isaiah 57:15-16. Sermon for Whitsun week: “Wherein do we behold the greatest glory of the God of grace? 1) Therein, that He does not despise a poor sinner’s heart for a dwelling2) Therein, that He manifests Himself in it not as a Judges, but as a comforter.” Taube, in Gottes Bruenl. hat Wassers die Fuelle. Hamburg, 1872.

10. On Isaiah 57:17-18. One is reminded here of 1 Kings 19:11 sq. God is not in the tempest, nor in the earthquake, but He is in the still, gentle breeze. The gospel goes more to the hearts of men, and lays deeper hold on them than the law. The conversion of men. 1) It is prepared by being angry and smiting ( Isaiah 57:17). 2. It is accomplished by God’s inwardly healing the heart.

11. On Isaiah 57:19. Missionary Sermon. The work of missions: 1) By whom is it accomplished? 2) On whom is it accomplished? 3) What end does it serve?

12. On Isaiah 57:20. “The whole Scripture testifies that what it says of the grace of God, of the forgiveness of sins and of the assurance of bliss belongs to the penitent. For those that are ever stirred up and driven on by their malignant desires (like the sea by the winds), and commit one sin after another (like the sea casts out all sorts of dirt), are wicked men, and have no peace to expect.”—Scriver.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 57:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/isaiah-57.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, June 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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