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Nave's Topical Bible - Anointing; Hell; Idolatry; Infidelity; Perfume; Thompson Chain Reference - Anointing; Hell; Sheol; The Topic Concordance - Idolatry; Profit; Sacrifice; Vanity; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Anointing; Idolatry;
Verse Isaiah 57:9. And thou wentest to the king with ointment - "And thou hast visited the king with a present of oil"] That is, the king of Assyria, or Egypt. Hosea, Hosea 12:1, reproaches the Israelites for the same practice: -
"They make a covenant with Assyria,
And oil is carried to Egypt."
It is well known, that in all parts of the east, whoever visits a great person must carry him a present. "It is counted uncivil," says Maundrell, p. 26, "to visit in this country without an offering in hand. All great men expect it as a tribute due to their character and authority; and look upon themselves as affronted, and indeed defrauded, when the compliment is omitted." Hence שור shur, to visit a person, is equivalent to making him a present; and תשורה teshurah signifies a present made on such occasions; as our translators have rightly rendered it, 1 Samuel 9:7; on which Jarchi says Menachem exponit תשורה teshurah, quod significat oblationem sive manus, ut aliquis aspiciat faciem regis, aut alicuius magnatis. "Menachem expounds תשורה teshurah of an offering or gift which is presented in order to be admitted into the presence of the king or some great man."
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Isaiah 57:9". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/isaiah-57.html. 1832.
Corruption and idolatry (56:9-57:21)
The Assyrian captivity of the northerners and the Babylonian captivity of the southerners did not include the whole populations. Those who were of no use to the conquerors were left behind, along with scattered country people who escaped the enemy. These and their descendants soon followed the old religious practices of the Canaanite people. They worshipped idols, offered human sacrifices to the god Molech, and practised fertility rites with religious prostitutes, all in the hope of becoming prosperous (2 Kings 17:24-41). Those who engaged in these practices tried to join in the worship of Yahweh when the Jews returned from captivity.
Israel’s spiritual leaders should have been like alert watchmen, who warned the people of these dangers and instructed them in the ways of God. Instead, says the prophet, they are like lazy, overfed watchdogs who can only sleep. They are interested only in personal gain and do not care for the people. The civil leaders (likened to bad shepherds) are equally greedy and corrupt (9-12).
In such conditions the righteous are the ones who suffer. They find relief only when they rest in death (57:1-2). The wicked, meanwhile, carry on with their witchcraft, immorality, idolatry and child sacrifice. They do not realize that by their behaviour they are challenging God and inviting his judgment (3-6). Although their idolatrous practices involve costly sacrifices, shameful behaviour and tiresome journeys, they persist in them, hoping vainly for a better life (7-10).
Although the people have turned from God to worthless idols, God has been patient with them. But his patience has not led them to repentance. They will now find that their gods will not save them from God’s punishment (11-13).
By contrast, God will help those faithful to him, no matter what obstacles are in their way. Although he is exalted above the heavens, he also dwells with those who humbly acknowledge their sin and turn from it (14-15). He may punish them when they do wrong, but he does not remain angry with them. When they humbly acknowledge their wrong and show their desire to please him again, he gives them new life and strength (16-18). The repentant enjoy peace and fellowship with God, but the wicked live in a turmoil of uncleanness. They will be excluded from God’s peace for ever (19-21).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Isaiah 57:9". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/isaiah-57.html. 2005.
"And thou wentest to the king with oil, and didst increase thy perfumes, and thou didst send thine ambassadors far off, and didst debase thyself even unto Sheol. Thou wast wearied with the length of thy way; yet saidest thou not It is in vain: thou didst find a quickening of thy strength; therefore thou wast not faint."
"Thou wentest to the king ..." (Isaiah 57:9). "The word here rendered `king' is capable of being rendered `Molech,' the savage old god of the Ammonites; and the passage indicates that many Jews had made him their "king" instead of Jehovah.
These verses stress two things: (1) the debasing of the people even unto Sheol by their shameless worship of pagan gods, and (2) their seeking foreign aid, instead of relying upon Jehovah. Also, Isaiah 57:10 indicates that they went far beyond their ordinary strength in such shameful activities.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Isaiah 57:9". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/isaiah-57.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
And thou wentest to the king - Margin, ‘Respectedst.’ Jerome renders this, ‘Thou hast adorned thyself with royal ointment, and hast multiplied thy painting; and evidently understands it as a continuance of the sentiment in the previous verses as referring to the kind of decoration which harlots used. The Septuagint renders it, ‘Thou hast multiplied thy fornication with them, and hast done it with many who are far from thee.’ The Chaldee renders it, ‘When thou didst keep the law thou wert prosperous in the kingdom; and when thou didst abound in good works, then thine armies were multiplied.’ Lowth supposes that the king of Egypt or Assyria is intended, and that the prophet refers to the fact, that the Hebrews had sought an alliance with them, and in order to secure it, had carried a present of valuable unguents, after the manner of the East. Rosenmuller supposes, that by the king an idol was intended, and that the sense is, that they had anointed themselves with oil, and prepared perfumes, in order to be acceptable to the idol; that is, had decorated themselves as harlots did.
Grotius supposes that it means that they had imitated foreign kings, and copied the customs of other nations, and refers to the example of Ahaz 2 Kings 16:10. Others suppose that the word ‘king’ is to be taken collectively, and that it means that they had sought the alliance, and imitated the customs of foreign nations in general. It is probable that the prophet refers to some such fact. On former occasions, they had sought the alliance of the king of Assyria (see Isaiah 7:1); and on one occasion, at least, they had meditated an alliance with the king of Egypt (Isaiah 30:2 ff.) The essential idea is, that they had proved unfaithful to Yahweh. This idea is presented here under the image of a female unfaithful to her husband, who had decorated and perfumed herself that she might allure others. Thus the Jews had forsaken God, and had endeavored to make themselves agreeable in the sight of other nations, and had courted their friendship and alliance. The word I ‘king,’ according to this, refers not to idols, but to foreign princes, whose assistance had been sought.
And didst increase thy perfumes - That is, for the purpose of rendering thyself agreeable, after the manner of a licentious female (see Proverbs 7:17). The custom of perfuming the person was common in the East, and is still practiced there.
And didst send thy messengers - That is, to distant nations, for the purpose of securing their alliance.
And didst debase thyself even unto hell - On the meaning of the word ‘hell,’ see the notes at Isaiah 5:14. The idea is, that they had sunk to the deepest possible debasement. In forsaking Yahweh; in seeking foreign alliances; in their anxiety to secure their aid when Yahweh was abundantly able and willing to protect them, they had sunk to the lowest degradation of character and condition. The sentiment is, that people degrade themselves when they do not put confidence in God, and when, distrusting his ability, they put reliance on any other aid than his. If people have God for their protector, why should they court the friendship of earthly princes and kings?
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 57:9". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/isaiah-57.html. 1870.
9. And thou wentest to the king with ointment. Here the Prophet censures another vice closely allied to the former; for ungodliness begets various errors, and leads into grievous and intricate distresses those minds which are frivolous and destitute of the fear of God; for it is proper that they who refuse to rest on God should be tossed about, or rather driven up and down. He therefore reproaches the Jews with having labored much and long in seeking the assistance of the wicked; that is, with having attempted to bring the Egyptians against the Assyrians, and next, when they had been disappointed of their hope, with having begun to betake themselves to the Babylonians. When their hearts have been estranged from God, they seek assistance from another quarter, and by great labor and expense bring upon themselves severer distresses. Yet while the Lord grants repose to his people, that they may perform their work in peace, wicked men “vex themselves in vain, rise early, go late to rest, eat the bread of sorrow,” as it is said, (Psalms 127:2) and yet do not gain a farthing, because all that they do is without God’s authority or guidance. But the Spirit inflicts on them this punishment, so that they incessantly wander and are tossed about in doubt and uncertainty, and never can find rest in their minds.
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 57:9". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/isaiah-57.html. 1840-57.
The righteous man perishes, and no man lays it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, and none is considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come ( Isaiah 57:1 ).
There are many who see this verse as a description of what happens at the rapture of the church. As the merciful are taken away and no man considering the fact that they have been taken away from the evil that is to come, from the period of the Great Tribulation that is coming.
He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness. But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress ( Isaiah 57:2-3 ),
And so God speaks about the merciful being taken away, but now His dealings with those who were worshipping false gods, false idols. "Draw near," He's going to lay it upon them now, "ye sons of the sorceress."
the seed of the adulterer and the whore ( Isaiah 57:3 ).
Now this is, of course, talking in spiritual terms. The adulteress, the whore-that would be pagan religious system, pagan worship, the worship of Baal, Molech. You see, these people were to be married unto God. They were looked upon as the wife of God. God said, "I've joined Myself unto you." And He uses the figure of a husband and a wife. And their love was to be to God exclusively. Their devotion unto God exclusively. But they were worshipping other gods. They were worshipping the gods of the pagans, the gods of Baal and Molech and Ashtoreth and all. And they were worshipping all of these other gods. And so God said, "Look, you're supposed to be married to Me. If you're out there cavorting and worshipping with these other gods, then that's adultery." And so God speaks of it in a spiritual sense. The worship of the idols, the worship of the other gods were looked upon by God as they're following after adultery or whoredom.
Against whom do you sport yourselves? ( Isaiah 57:4 )
And that is, again, a term that is used of intimate relationship. And thus they were having, in a sense, intimate relationships with these other gods.
against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, the seed of falsehood, inflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clefts of the rocks? ( Isaiah 57:4-5 )
It seems unthinkable to us in this age in which we live-I guess it doesn't-that parents would take their little babies and throw them into the fire, which was a part of the worship of Baal and of Molech. If you go over to Jerusalem to the Museum of Natural History, in one area they have a case filled with little idols that have been uncovered in the land. I saw one of the idols of Baal, a little iron figure with arms out and hands in an upturned position like this. And in their worship of this idol, they would heat it until it would turn a glowing red-hot color from the heat, and then they would place their live babies in these little outstretched arms. And they would be consumed in the fire as they worship the god. These are the things that God is speaking out against. Practices that His people followed as they thought so little of life that they were willing to sacrifice their own babies unto their gods.
In the archaeological diggings they have found in the jars that were built into the walls of the homes, skeletons of babies that were buried alive as you would build a house for an offering unto the god. These were the practices that God said were an abomination unto Him. The things that God was forbidding, these were common practices of the people around them. You say, "Well, Chuck, I am abhorred by that thought, a sacrifice of baby. Who could ever think of killing a baby?" Well, I'm afraid that unfortunately here in the United States a million of them are being sacrificed every year. When does life begin?
So God speaks out against them. How they had "inflamed themselves with their idols under every green tree, slaying your children in the valleys under the cleft of the rocks."
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. Should I receive comfort in these? Upon a lofty and high mountain you have set up your bed ( Isaiah 57:6-7 ):
That is, a bed for an adultery, because they would make the places of worship up on the tops of the mountains like the pagans.
even thither you went to offer your sacrifices. Behind the doors also and the posts have you set up your remembrances: for you have discovered yourself to another ( Isaiah 57:7-8 ),
That is, you've uncovered yourself. You've made yourself naked, in a sense, before other gods.
you've gone up; you have enlarged your bed, you've made a covenant with them; and you loved their bed where you saw it. And you went to the king with ointment, and did increase your perfumes, and did send your messengers far off, and you did debase yourself even to hell ( Isaiah 57:8-9 ).
And so God is speaking out against the fact that these people had turned away from Him and had turned unto the practices of the heathen around them in the worship, in the developing of other little idols and gods and their worship of them.
Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet you said not, There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore you were not grieved. And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that you have lied, and have not remembered me, nor laid it to your heart? have not I held my peace even of old, and you have not feared me? I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee. And when you cry, let your companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take them ( Isaiah 57:10-13 ):
And so God speaks out against the people. And when you cry, your gods will not be able to deliver you. They will be carried away themselves by the wind. They are empty.
But now in sharp contrast,
he that puts his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain; And he shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling block out of the way of my people. For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabits 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 ( Isaiah 57:13-15 ).
So God declares now His dwelling place. It is high. It is holy. Those that will dwell with Him are those that are humble and those of a contrite heart.
For I will not contend for ever, neither will I always be angry: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made. For the iniquity of his covetousness was I angry, and I smote him: I hid, and I was angry, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart. I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners. 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 ( Isaiah 57:16-19 ).
So even though they had forsaken God and gone in these abominable practices of the heathen, yet God promises His restoration.
But to the wicked, they are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest, whose waters cast up the mire and the dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked ( Isaiah 57:20-21 ).
A person who lives in wickedness, his life is like a stormy sea. Just casting up dirt and filth. No rest. Constant turmoil. Constant troubling of the man who has set his heart against the Lord. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Isaiah 57:9". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/isaiah-57.html. 2014.
Rampant apostasy 57:3-13
Isaiah identified another mark of Israel, which boasted in its election by God and viewed righteousness in terms of correct worship ritual. This was the widespread departure of the nation from God (apostasy). She had forsaken God and had pursued idols.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 57:9". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/isaiah-57.html. 2012.
Some Israelites had also traveled far from home to worship other gods. This may be a reference to making political alliances with other nations and then worshipping their gods with them (cf. Ezekiel 23). The king in view may be the most prominent foreign ruler at the time Isaiah wrote this prophecy. These political trips involved great distances. The negotiators would take the oils and perfumes used in the worship of foreign gods with them. Over time these instances of idolatry had increased. But instead of going to foreign nations, Isaiah said these envoys were really going to Sheol because God would slay His people for their unfaithfulness to Him.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 57:9". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/isaiah-57.html. 2012.
And thou wentest to the king with ointment,.... To the kings of the earth, the singular for the plural, with whom the whore of Rome has committed fornication or idolatry, in allusion to harlots, who, in order to render themselves the more agreeable to their lovers, anointed themselves with ointment: this may respect the grace of the Spirit of God, which the church of Rome pretends to give by administration of the sacraments, which it is said confer grace "ex opere operato"; and the extreme unction given as a meetness for heaven, in the last moments of life:
and didst increase thy perfumes; after the manner of harlots, who, to ingratiate themselves with men, use much perfumes: this may signify the many ways the whore of Rome takes to make herself regarded by the kings and nations of the earth; pretending to antiquity, infallibility, power of working miracles, works of supererogation, primacy and superiority over all other churches; using great pomp and splendour in places of worship, and in all religious services:
and didst send thy messengers far off; not only into neighbouring kingdoms and states, into all the nations of Europe; but even into the most distant parts of the world, into both the Indies, in order to make proselytes, spread the religion of the see of Rome, and increase its power. The pope's "nuncios" and "legates a latere", may be here pointed at, as well as the Jesuits his emissaries, sent into all parts to promote his interest. Jarchi's note is,
"to exact tribute of the kings of the nations;''
which has been the business of the pope's legates:
and didst debase thyself even unto hell; or lay thyself low; prostitute thyself as harlots do to every lover; or didst feign thyself very lowly and humble, as the pope does when he calls himself "servus servorum"; or rather, "thou didst depress", or "bring low, even unto hell" t; that is, multitudes of men and women, who are brought down to hell by the false doctrine and worship of the church of Rome; and the followers of the man of sin say, that if he brings down thousands into hell, none ought to say, what dost thou? Cocceius thinks it may have respect to his pretended power over hell, to send as many there as do not please him; arrogating to himself the keys of heaven and hell; or over purgatory, a figment of his brain, where he pretends the souls of men are for a time, and from whence, for a sum of money, he delivers them. The Targum is,
"thou hast depressed the strength of the people; or, as some copies, the strong of the people unto hell.''
t זתשפילי עד שאול "et demisti usque ad infernum", Cocceius.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 57:9". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/isaiah-57.html. 1999.
|A Charge against the People.||B. C. 706.|
3 But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and 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 seed of falsehood, 5 Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts 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. 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: for thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it. 9 And thou wentest to the king with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy messengers far off, and didst 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 life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved. 11 And of whom hast thou been afraid 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.
We have here a high charge, but a just one no doubt, drawn up against that wicked generation out of which God's righteous ones were removed, because the world was not worthy of them. Observe,
I. The general character here given of them, or the name and title by which they stand indicted, Isaiah 57:3; Isaiah 57:3. They are told to draw near and hear the charge, are set to the bar, and arraigned there as sons of the sorceress, or of a witch, the seed of an adulterer and a whore, that is, they were such themselves, they were strongly inclined to be such, and their ancestors were such before them. Sin is sorcery and adultery, for it is departing from God and dealing with the devil. They were children of disobedience. "Come," says the prophet, "draw near hither, and I will read you your doom; to the righteous death will bring peace and rest, but not to you; you are children of transgression and a seed of falsehood (Isaiah 57:4; Isaiah 57:4), that have it by kind, and have it woven into your very nature, to backslide from God and to deal treacherously with him," Isaiah 48:8; Isaiah 48:8.
II. The particular crimes laid to their charge.
1. Scoffing at God and his word. They were a generation of scorners (Isaiah 57:4; Isaiah 57:4): "Against whom do you sport yourselves? You think it is only against the poor prophets whom you trample upon as contemptible men, but really it is against God himself, who sends them, and whose message they deliver." Mocking the messengers of the Lord was Jerusalem's measure-filling sin, for what was done to them God took as done to himself. When they were reproved for their sins, and threatened with the judgments of God, they ridiculed the word of God with the rudest and most indecent gestures and expressions of disdain. They sported themselves, and made themselves merry, with that which should have made them serious, and under which they should have humbled themselves. They made wry mouths at the prophets, and drew out the tongue, contrary to all the laws of good breeding; nor did they treat God's prophets with the common civility with which they would have treated a gentleman's servant that had been sent to them on an errand. Note, Those who mock at God, and bid defiance to his judgments, had best consider who it is towards whom they conduct themselves so insolently.
2. Idolatry. This was that sin which the people of the Jews were most notoriously guilty of before the captivity; but that affliction cured them of it. In Isaiah's time it abounded, witness the abominable idolatries of Ahaz (which some think are particularly referred to here) and of Manasseh. (1.) They were dotingly fond of their idols, were inflamed with them, as those that burn in unlawful unnatural lusts, Romans 1:27. They were mad upon their idols,Jeremiah 50:38. They inflamed themselves with them by their violent passions in the worship of them, as those of Baal's prophets that leaped upon the altar, and cut themselves,1 Kings 18:26; 1 Kings 18:28. Note, Vile corruptions, the more they are gratified the more they are inflamed. They worshipped their idols under every green tree, in the open air, and in the shade; yet that did not cool the heat of their impetuous lusts, but rather the charming beauty of the green trees made them the more fond of their idols which they worshipped there. Thus that in nature which is pleasing, instead of drawing them to the God of nature, drew them from him. The flame of their zeal in the worship of false gods may shame us for our coldness and indifference in the worship of the true God. They strove to inflame themselves, but we distract and deaden ourselves. (2.) They were barbarous and unnaturally cruel in the worship of their idols. They slew their children, and offered them in sacrifice to their idols, not only in the valley of the son of Hinnom, the headquarters of that monstrous idolatry, but in other valleys, in imitation of that, and under the cliffs of the rock, in dark and solitary places, the fittest for such works of darkness. (3.) They were abundant and insatiable in their idolatries. They never thought they could have idols enough, nor could spend enough upon them and do enough in their service. The Syrians had once a notion of the God of Israel that he was a God of the hills, but not a God of the valleys (1 Kings 20:28); but these idolaters, to make sure work, had both. [1.] They had gods of the valleys, which they worshipped in the low places by the water side (Isaiah 57:6; Isaiah 57:6): Among the smooth stones of the valley, or brook, is thy portion. If they saw a smooth carved stone, though set up but for a way-mark or a mere-stone, they were ready to worship it, as the papists do crosses. Or in stony valleys they set up their gods, which they called their portion, and took for their lot, as God's people take him for their lot and portion. But these gods of stone would really be no better a portion for them, no better a lot, than the smooth stones of the stream near which they were set up, for sometimes they worshipped their rivers. "They, they, are the lot which thou trustest to and art pleased with, but thou shalt be put off with it for thy lot, and miserable will thy case be." See the folly of sinners, who take the smooth stones of the stream for their portion, when they might have the precious stones of God's Jerusalem, and the high priest's ephod, to portion themselves with. Having taken these idols for their lot and portion, they stick at no charge in doing honour to them: "To them hast thou poured a drink-offering, and offered a meat-offering, as if they had given thee thy meat and drink." They loved their idols better than their children, for their own tables must be robbed to replenish the altars of their idols. Have we taken the true God for our portion? Is he, even he, our lot? Let us then serve him with our meat and drink, not, as they did, by depriving ourselves of the use of them, but by eating and drinking to his glory. Here, in a parenthesis, comes in an expression of God's just resentment of this wickedness of theirs: Should I receive comfort in these--in such a people as this? Can those expect that God will take any pleasure in them, or accept their devotions at his altar, who thus serve Baal with the gifts of his providence? God takes comfort in his people, while they are faithful to him; but what comfort can he take in them when those that should be his witnesses against the idolatries of the world do themselves fall in with them? Should I have compassion on these? (so some), or should I repent me concerning these? so others. "How can they expect that I should spare them, and either adjourn or abate their punishment, when they are so very provoking? Shall I not visit for these things?" Jeremiah 5:7; Jeremiah 5:9. [2.] They had gods of the hills too (Isaiah 57:7; Isaiah 57:7): "Upon a lofty and high mountain (as if thou wouldst vie with the high and lofty One himself, Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 57:15) hast thou set thy bed, thy idol, thy idol's temple and altar, the bed of thy uncleanness, where thou committest spiritual whoredom, with all the wantonness of an idolatrous fancy, and in direct violation of the covenant of thy God. Thither wentest thou up readily enough, though it was up-hill, to offer sacrifice." Some think this bespeaks the impudence they arrived at in their idolatries; at first they had some sense of shame, when they worshipped their idols in the valleys, in obscure places; but they soon conquered that, and came to do it upon the lofty high mountains. They were not ashamed, neither could they blush. [3.] As if these were not enough, they had household-gods too, their lares and penates. Behind the doors and the posts (Isaiah 57:8; Isaiah 57:8), where the law of God should be written for a memorandum to them of their duty, they set up the remembrance of their idols, not so much to keep up their own remembrance of them (they were so fond of them that they could not forget them), but to show to others how mindful they were of them, and to put their children in mind of them, and possess them betimes with a veneration for these dunghill deities. [4.] As they were insatiable in their idolatries, so they were inseparable from them. They were hardened in their wickedness; they worshipped their idols openly and in public view, as being neither ashamed of the sin nor afraid of the punishment; they went as publicly, and in as great crowds, to the idol-temples, as ever they had gone to God's house. This was like an impudent harlot, discovering themselves to another than God, making profession of another than the true religion. They took a pride in making proselytes to their idolatries, and not only went up themselves to their high places, but enlarged their bed, that is, their idol-temples, and (as the margin reads the following words) thou hewedst it for thyself larger than theirs, than theirs from whom thou copiedst it, and tookest the platform of it, as Ahaz of his altar from that which he saw at Damascus, 2 Kings 16:10. And being thus involved over head and ears, as it were, in their idolatries, there is no parting them from them. Ephraim is now joined to idols both in love and league. First, In league: "Thou hast made a covenant with them, with the idols, with the idol-worshippers, to live and die together." This was a complete renunciation of their covenant with God and an avowed resolution to persist in their apostasy from him. Secondly, In love: "Thou lovedst their bed, that is, the temple of an idol, wherever thou sawest it." Justly therefore were they given up to their own hearts' lusts.
3. Another sin charged upon them is their trusting in and seeking to foreign aids and succours, and contracting a communion with the Gentile powers (Isaiah 57:9; Isaiah 57:9): Thou wentest to the king, which some understand of the idol they worshipped, particularly Moloch, which signifies a king. "Thou didst every thing to ingratiate thyself with those idols, didst offer incense and sweet ointments at their altars." Or it may be meant of the king of Assyria, whom Ahaz made his court to, or of the king of Babylon, whose ambassadors Hezekiah caressed, or of other kings of the nations whose idolatrous usages they admired and were desirous to learn and imitate, and for that end went and sent to cultivate an acquaintance and correspondence with them, that they might be like them and strengthen themselves by an alliance with them. See here, (1.) What an expense they were at in forming and procuring this grand alliance. They went with ointments and perfumes, either bestowed upon themselves, to beautify their own faces and so make themselves considerable and worthy the friendship of the greatest king, or to be presented to those whose favour they were ambitious of, because a man's gift makes room for him and brings him before great men. "When the first present of rich perfumes was thought too little, thou didst increase them;" and thus many seek the ruler's favour, forgetting that, after all, every man's judgment proceeds from the Lord. So fond were they of those heathen princes that they not only went themselves, in all their airs, to those that were near them, but sent messengers to those that were afar off, Isaiah 18:2; Isaiah 18:2. (2.) How much they hereby disparaged themselves and laid the honour of their crown and nation in the dust: Thou didst debase thyself even unto hell. They did so by their idolatries. It is a dishonour to the children of men, who are endued with the powers of reason, to worship that as their god which is the creature of their own fancy and the work of their own hands, to bow down to the stock of a tree. It is much more a dishonour to the children of God, who are blessed with the privilege of divine revelation, to forsake such a God as they know theirs to be for a thing of nought, their own mercies for lying vanities. They likewise debased themselves by truckling to their heathen neighbours, and depending upon them, when they had a God to go to who is all-sufficient and in covenant with them. How did those shame themselves to the highest degree, and sink themselves to the lowest, that forsook the fountain of life for broken cisterns and the rock of ages for broken reeds! Note, Sinners disparage and debase themselves; the service of sin is an ignominious slavery; and those who thus debase themselves to hell will justly have their portion there.
III. The aggravations of their sin. 1. They had been tired with disappointments in their wicked courses, and yet they would not be convinced of the folly of them (Isaiah 57:10; Isaiah 57:10): "Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; thou hast undertaken a mighty task, to find out true satisfaction and happiness in that which is vanity and a lie." Those that set up idols, instead of God, for the object of their worship, and princes, instead of God, for the object of their hope and confidence, and think thus to better themselves and make themselves easy, go a great way about, and will never come to their journey's end: Thou art wearied in the multitude, or multiplicity, of thy ways (so some read it): those that forsake the only right way wander endlessly in a thousand by-paths, and lose themselves in the many inventions which they have sought out. They weary themselves with fresh chases and fierce ones, but never gain their point, like the Sodomites, that wearied themselves to find the door (Genesis 19:11) and could not find it at last. The pleasures of sin will soon surfeit, but never satisfy; a man may quickly tire himself in the pursuit of them, but can never repose himself in the enjoyment of them. They found this by experience. The idols they had often worshipped never did them any kindness; the kings they courted distressed them, and helped them not; and yet they were so wretchedly besotted that they could not say, "There is no hope; it is in vain any longer to expect that satisfaction in creature-confidences, and in the worship of idols, which we have so often looked for, and never met with." Note, Despair of happiness in the creature, and of satisfaction in the service of sin, is the first step towards 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." 2. Though they were convinced that the way they were in was a sinful way, yet, because they had found some present sensual pleasure and worldly profit by it, they could not persuade themselves to be sorry for it: "Thou hast found the life of thy hand" (or the living of it); thou boastest how fortune smiles upon thee, and therefore thou art not grieved, any more than Ephraim when he said (Hosea 12:8), "I have become rich; I have found out substance." Note, Prosperity in sin is a great bar to conversion from sin. Those that live at ease in their sinful projects, are tempted to think God favours them, and therefore they have nothing to repent of. Some read it ironically, or by way of question: "Thou hast found the life of thy hand, hast found true satisfaction and happiness, no doubt thou hast; hast thou not? And therefore thou art so far from being grieved that thou blessest thyself in thy own evil way; but review thy gains once more, and come to a balance of profit and loss, and then say, What fruit hast thou of those things whereof thou art ashamed and for which God shall bring thee into judgment?" Romans 6:21. 3. They had dealt very unworthily with God by their sin; for, (1.) It should seem they pretended that the reason why they left God was because he was too terrible a majesty for them to deal with; they must have gods that they could be more free and familiar with. "But," says God, "of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast lied, that thou hast dealt falsely and treacherously with me, and dissembled in thy covenants with me and prayers to me? What did I ever do to frighten thee from me? What occasion have I given thee to think hardly of me, that thou hast gone to seek a kinder master?" (2.) However, it is certain that they had no true reverence of God nor any serious regard to him. So that question is commonly understood, "Of whom hast thou been afraid, or feared? Of none; for thou hast not feared me whom thou shouldst fear; for thou hast lied to me." Those that dissemble with God make it to appear they stand in no awe of him. "Thou hast not remembered me, neither what I have said nor what I have done, neither the promises nor the threatenings, nor the performances of either; thou hast not laid them to thy heart, as thou wouldst have done if thou hadst feared me." Note, Those who lay not the word of God and his providences to their hearts do thereby show that they have not the fear of God before their eyes. And multitudes are ruined by fearlessness, forgetfulness, and mere carelessness; they do not aright nor to good purpose fear any thing, remember any thing, nor lay any thing to heart. Nay, (3.) They were hardened in their sin by the patience and forbearance of God. "Have not I held my peace of old, and for a long time? These things thou hast done and I kept silence. And therefore, as it follows here, thou fearest me not;" as if because God had spared long he would never punish, Ecclesiastes 8:11. Because he kept silence the sinner thought him altogether such a one as himself, and stood in no awe of him.
IV. Here is God's resolution to call them to an account, though he had long borne with them (Isaiah 57:12; Isaiah 57:12): "I will declare (like that, Psalms 50:21, But I will reprove thee), I will declare thy righteousness, which thou makest thy boast of, and let the world see, and thyself too, to thy confusion, that it is all a sham, all a cheat, it is not what it pretends to be. When thy righteousness comes to be examined it will be found that it was unrighteousness, and that there was no sincerity in all thy pretensions. I will declare thy works, what they have been and what the gain thou pretendest to have gotten by them, and it will appear that at long-run they shall not profit thee, nor turn to any account." Note, Sinful works, as they are works of darkness, and there is no reason nor righteousness in them, so they are unfruitful works and there is nothing got by them; and, however they look now, it will be made to appear so another day. Sin profits not, nay, it ruins and destroys.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Isaiah 57:9". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/isaiah-57.html. 1706.
the Third Week after Epiphany