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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Isaiah 6

 

 

Verse 1

Isaiah 6:1. In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord — “As this vision,” says Bishop Lowth, “seems to contain a solemn designation of Isaiah to the prophetical office, it is by most interpreters thought to be the first in order of his prophecies. But this perhaps may not be so: for Isaiah is said, in the general title of his prophecies, to have prophesied in the time of Uzziah, whose acts, first and last, he wrote, (2 Chronicles 26:22,) and the phrase, in the year when Uzziah died, probably means, after the death of Uzziah; as the same phrase, (Isaiah 14:28,) means, after the death of Ahaz. Not that Isaiah’s prophecies are placed in exact order of time: chapters 2., 3., 4., 5. seem, by internal marks, to be antecedent to chapter 1.; they suit the time of Uzziah, or the former part of Jotham’s reign: whereas, chapter 1. can hardly be earlier than the last years of Jotham: see note on Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 1:7; Isaiah 2:1. This might be a new designation of the whole course of God’s dispensations in regard to his people, and the fates of the nation; which are even now still depending, and will not be fully accomplished till the final restoration of Israel.”

I saw the Lord — In a vision or ecstasy. The place of this vision is supposed to be the temple, from which the particular scenery of it is taken. The Divine Majesty is represented as seated upon a throne, high and lifted up — Probably above the ark in the most holy place, where the glory appeared above the cherubim, surrounded by his attendant ministers. “The veil, separating the most holy place from the holy, or the outermost part of the temple, is supposed to be taken away, for the prophet, to whom the whole is exhibited, is manifestly placed by the altar of burnt-offering, at the entrance of the temple, (compare Ezekiel 43:5-6,) which was filled with the train of the robe, the spreading and overflowing of the divine glory. The Lord upon the throne, according to St. John, (John 12:41,) was Christ, and the vision related to his future kingdom; when the veil of separation was to be removed, and the whole earth was to be filled with the glory of God, revealed to all mankind. It respects, indeed, primarily the prophet’s own time, and the obduration of the Jews of that age, and their punishment by the Babylonish captivity; but extends, in its full latitude, to the age of the Messiah, and the blindness of the Jews to the gospel; the desolation of their country by the Romans, and their being rejected by God; that, nevertheless, a holy seed, a remnant, should be preserved, and that the nation should sprout out and flourish again from the old stock. — Bishop Lowth.


Verse 2

Isaiah 6:2. Above it — Or, rather, above him, as ממעל לוmight be better rendered; stood the seraphim — As ministers attending upon their Lord, and waiting to receive and execute his commands. The word seraphim, which, like cherubim, is plural, signifies burning, or flaming ones, from the verb שׂרŠ, seraph, to burn or flame. The expression here means spiritual beings, qui a claritate et aspectus splendore, quasi flammantes et ignei visi sunt, “who, from their brightness, and the splendour of their aspect, appeared as if they were fiery and flaming.” It is probable that both their name and their fiery, burning appearance were intended to signify, 1st, Their nature, which is bright and glorious, subtle and pure; and, 2d, Those qualities of fervent love to God, and zeal for his glory and service, which they possess. Each one had six wings — For the purpose immediately mentioned. With twain he covered his face — Out of profound reverence, as being sensible of the infinite distance between God and him, so that he durst not presume to look directly upon him, and judged himself neither able nor worthy to behold the brightness of his glory. And with twain he covered his feet — To signify the sense he had of his own natural, though not moral, infirmity; and his desire that God would not too severely examine all his ways and actions, commonly signified by the feet; because, though they did not swerve from God’s commands, yet they were not worthy of the acceptance, nor suitable to the dignity of so glorious a majesty. And with twain he did fly — Which implies his great readiness and alacrity, his activity and celerity in executing God’s commands. We may infer from this description of the seraphim, that they appeared in a human form: but whether that is the form they always bear, or whether it was only assumed on this occasion, cannot be determined.


Verse 3

Isaiah 6:3. And one cried unto another — Divided into two choirs, they sung responsively one to the other; and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts — “God’s holiness,” says Lowth, “or the superlative purity of his nature, implies in it all the rest of his attributes, especially his justice and mercy, which are dispensed by the most exact rules of rectitude. The Christian Church has always thought the doctrine of the Trinity to be implied in this threefold repetition of holy: as it is also intimated in several other passages of the Old Testament, particularly in that form commanded to be used in blessing the people, Numbers 6:24-26; and Isaiah 48:16, of this book;” where see the notes. Thus Jerome observes the design of their hymn was “to show that there is a Trinity in the one Godhead; and to testify, that, not the Jewish temple, as formerly, (for that was to be forsaken of God,) but the whole earth was full of his glory:” namely, of the effects and demonstrations of his glorious holiness, as well as of his power, wisdom, and goodness.


Verse 4

Isaiah 6:4. And the posts of the door moved — Together with the door itself. Such violent motions were commonly tokens of God’s anger. And here, it seems, this concussion of the temple was intended to signify God’s displeasure against his people for their sins, and to be a token of its destruction, by the Babylonians first, and afterward by the Romans; and the house was filled with smoke — Which elsewhere is a token of God’s presence and acceptance, but here, of his anger; and may be considered likewise as an emblem of the darkness and blindness of that generation of Jews, accustomed to worship in that temple, as also of that future generation of the same people, who should worship there in the days of the Messiah, before its second destruction by the Romans.


Verse 5

Isaiah 6:5. Then said I, &c. — The second part of this vision begins here, containing the sanctification of the prophet, in order to his undertaking of a great prophetical office, and showing, 1st, his state of mind upon the sight of the preceding illustrious vision: his consternation under a sense of his great unworthiness; and, 2d, describing the singular mode of his sanctification — Wo is me, for I am undone, &c. — That is, if God deal with me in strict justice. For I have made myself obnoxious to his displeasure; because I am a man of unclean lips — I am a great sinner, having offended him, as in many other ways, so particularly by my lips. And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips — I am an unclean branch of an unclean tree; besides my own uncleanness, I have, both by want of zeal and of diligence, and faithfulness in the discharge of my duty, involved myself in the guilt of their sins, and therefore may justly fear to partake with them in their plagues. Add to this, his consternation probably also arose, in part, from a sense of his want of due qualifications for the important office in which he was to be employed, and of his unworthiness to be God’s messenger to his people, or even to join with the seraphim in praising him. For mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts — The sight of this glorious and holy God gives me cause to fear that he is come to enter into judgment with me. Observe, reader, while sinners are presumptuous and secure, even in the acts of their worship, though merely formal and hypocritical, holy persons have always been filled with reverence and humiliation before God: and the more extraordinary the manifestations of God’s presence have been to them, the more have they reverenced and stood in awe of him, and the more have they abhorred themselves. Thus Job 42:5-6, Now mine eye seeth thee, wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes! And thus may not only every penitent sinner, but every justified believer, say,

My humbled soul, when thou art near, In dust and ashes lies; How shall a sinful worm appear, Or meet thy purer eyes!


Verse 6-7

Isaiah 6:6-7. Then flew one of the seraphim unto me — By God’s command; having a live coal in his hand — Both a token and an instrument of purification, as the next verse explains it; which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar — Of burnt-offering, which stood in the court of the priests, where the prophet appeared to himself to be during the vision. The seraph took it from the altar, to show that men are to expect the expiation of sin, and purification from it, only by such means as God hath appointed, and particularly by the mediation of Christ, whom that altar manifestly represented, and by that purifying and refining grace of the Holy Spirit, which was signified by this live coal, and is conferred on none except through the merit of Christ’s sacrifice; see Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 13:10. And he laid it upon my mouth — So as only to touch my lips, and not to burn them. This was done to signify, not only that all the gifts and graces that purify the mind, and fit us for the discharge of any particular duty or function, come from God; but that there must be a real application and communication of them to our souls. It is not sufficient that we hear, think, and speak of them; or even that we desire them, and believe them to be attainable; but we must really receive and possess them. Observe this, reader. It is of infinite consequence to thy salvation. Lo, this hath touched thy lips, and thy iniquity is taken away — This is a sign that the guilt of thy sin is removed by pardoning mercy, and thy corrupt disposition and inclination to sin, by renewing grace; and, therefore, nothing can hinder thee from being accepted of God, as a worshipper, in concert with the holy angels; or from being employed for God, as a messenger to the children of men. Those only, who are thus purged from an evil conscience, are prepared to serve the living God, Hebrews 9:14. The taking away of sin is necessary, in order to our speaking with confidence and comfort, either to God in prayer, or from God in preaching. Nor are any so fit to display to others the riches and power of gospel grace, as those who have themselves tasted the sweetness, and felt the influence of that grace.


Verse 8

Isaiah 6:8. Also I heard the voice of the Lord — We have here the third part of this vision, comprehending, 1st, A trial of the disposition of the prophet, now sanctified, with his reply to the Lord, in this verse; 2d, The command delivered to him concerning the execution of the divine judgment upon the Jews, of blindness, &c., Isaiah 6:9-10; Isaiah 3 d, A more full and explicit declaration of a most grievous temporal judgment, which should be joined with the spiritual one, Isaiah 6:11-13. — Vitringa. Whom shall I send? — God asks this question, not as if he were unresolved whom to send, but that Isaiah might have an opportunity of voluntarily offering his service. And who will go for us? — To deliver the following message. The change of the number, I and us, is very remarkable; and both being meant of one and the same Lord, do sufficiently intimate a plurality of persons in the Godhead. Then said I, Here am I, &c. — God’s last and great favour to him both encouraged and obliged him to be thus forward in his service.


Verse 9-10

Isaiah 6:9-10. And he said, Go, and tell this people — Not my people, for I disown them as they have rejected me. Hear ye indeed, but understand not, &c. — The Hebrew words are imperative; yet they are not to be taken as a command, enjoining what the people ought to do, but only as a prediction foretelling what they would do. The sense is, Because you have so long heard my words, and seen my works, to no purpose, and have hardened your hearts, and will not learn nor reform, I will punish you in your own way; your sin shall be your punishment. I will still continue my word and works to you, but will withdraw my Spirit, so that you shall be as unable, as now you are unwilling, to understand. Make the heart of this people fat — Stupid and senseless. This making of their hearts fat, is here ascribed to the prophet, as it is ascribed to God in the repetition of this prophecy, (John 12:40,) because God inflicted this judgment upon them by the ministry of the prophet, partly by way of prediction, foretelling that this would be the effect of his preaching, and partly by withdrawing the light and help of his Spirit. Make their ears heavy — Make them dull of hearing. Lest they see with their eyes — That they may not be able, as before they were not willing to see. And convert — Turn from their sinful practices unto God; and be healed — Of sin, (which is the disease of the soul,) by remission and sanctification, and of all the deadly effects of sin. This prophecy might relate, in some measure, to the state of the Jews before the Babylonish captivity, but certainly it did not receive its full accomplishment till the days of our Lord; and in this sense it is understood and applied by the writers of the New Testament, and by Christ himself.


Verse 11-12

Isaiah 6:11-12. Then said I, Lord, how long? — An abrupt speech, arising from the prophet’s great passion and astonishment: how long shall this dreadful judgment last? Until the cities be wasted, &c. — Until this land be totally destroyed, first by the Babylonians, and afterward by the Romans. And the Lord have removed men far away — Hath caused this people to be carried away captive into far countries. And there be a great forsaking — Till houses and lands be generally forsaken of their owners. The reader wilt observe, “There is a remarkable gradation in denouncing these judgments; not only Jerusalem and the cities should be wasted without inhabitant, but even the single houses should be without man; and not only the houses of the cities, but even the country should be utterly desolate; and not only the people should be removed out of the land, but the Lord should remove them far away; and they should not be removed for a short period, but there should be a great, or rather, a long forsaking in the midst of the land. And hath not the world seen all these particulars exactly fulfilled? Have not the Jews laboured under a spiritual blindness and infatuation, in hearing, but not understanding, in seeing, but not perceiving the Messiah, after the accomplishment of so many prophecies, after the performance of so many miracles? And, in consequence of their refusal to convert and be healed, have not their cities been wasted without inhabitants, and their houses without man? Have they not been removed far away into the most distant parts of the earth? and hath not their removal, or banishment, been now of above 1700 years duration? And do they not still continue deaf and blind, obstinate and unbelieving? The Jews, at the time of the delivery of this prophecy, gloried in being the peculiar church and people of God; and would any Jew, of himself, have thought or have said, that his nation would, in process of time, become an infidel and reprobate nation; infidel and reprobate for many ages, oppressed by man, and forsaken of God? It was above 750 years before Christ that Isaiah predicted these things; and how could he have predicted them, unless he had been illuminated by the divine vision; or could they have succeeded accordingly, unless the Spirit of prophecy had been the Spirit of God?” See Bishop Newton on the Prophecies, vol. 1. p. 233.


Verse 13

Isaiah 6:13. But yet in it shall be a tenth — A small remnant reserved, that number being put indefinitely. And it shall return — Out of the Babylonish captivity, into their own land. And shall be eaten — Or, shall be for a prey, as Dr. Waterland translates it: that is, that remnant shall be devoured a second time by the kings of Syria, and afterward by the Romans. Yet as a teil-tree, and as an oak, &c. — Yet there shall be another remnant, not such a one as that which came out of Babylon, but a holy seed, who shall afterward look upon him whom they have pierced, and mourn over him. Whose substance is in them when they cast their leaves, &c. — Who, when their leaves are cast in winter, have a substance within themselves, a vital principle, which preserves life in the root of the tree, and in due time sends it forth into all the branches. So the holy seed shall be the substance, or, rather, the support thereof — Of the people, who, were it not for the sake of these, should be finally rooted out and destroyed.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 6:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/isaiah-6.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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