The blessed death of the righteous. (1,2) The abominable idolatries of the Jewish nation. (3-12) Promises to the humble and contrite. (13-21)
Verses 1-2 The righteous are delivered from the sting of death, not from the stroke of it. The careless world disregards this. Few lament it as a public loss, and very few notice it as a public warning. They are taken away in compassion, that they may not see the evil, nor share in it, nor be tempted by it. The righteous man, when he dies, enters into peace and rest.
Verses 3-12 The Lord here calls apostates and hypocrites to appear before him. When reproved for their sins, and threatened with judgments, they ridiculed the word of God. The Jews were guilty of idolatry before the captivity; but not after that affliction. Their zeal in the worship of false gods, may shame our indifference in the worship of the true God. The service of sin is disgraceful slavery; those who thus debase themselves to hell, will justly have their portion there. Men incline to a religion that inflames their unholy passions. They are led to do any evil, however great or vile, if they think it will atone for crimes, or purchase indulgence for some favourite lust. This explains idolatry, whether pagan, Jewish, or antichristian. But those who set up anything instead of God, for their hope and confidence, never will come to a right end. Those who forsake the only right way, wander in a thousand by-paths. The pleasures of sin soon tire, but never satisfy. Those who care not for the word of God and his providences, show they have no fear of God. Sin profits not; it ruins and destroys.
Verses 13-21 The idols and their worshippers shall come to nothing; but those who trust in God's grace, shall be brought to the joys of heaven. With the Lord there is neither beginning of days, nor end of life, nor change of time. His name is holy, and all must know him as a holy God. He will have tender regard to those who bring their mind to their condition, and dread his wrath. He will make his abode with those whose hearts he has thus humbled, in order to revive and comfort them. When troubles last long, even good men are tempted to entertain hard thoughts of God. Therefore He will not contend for ever, for he will not forsake the work of his own hands, nor defeat the purchase of his Son's blood. Covetousness is a sin that particularly lays men under the Divine displeasure. See the sinfulness of sin. See also that troubles cannot reform men unless God's grace work in them. Peace shall be published, perfect peace. It is the fruit of preaching lips, and praying lips. Christ came and preached peace to Gentiles, as well as to the Jews; to after-ages, who were afar off in time, as well as to those of that age. But the wicked would not be healed by God's grace, therefore would not be healed by his comforts. Their ungoverned lusts and passions made them like the troubled sea. Also the terrors of conscience disturbed their enjoyments. God hath said it, and all the world cannot unsay it, That there is no peace to those who allow themselves in any sin. If we are recovered from such an awful state, it is only by the grace of God. And the influences of the Holy Spirit, and that new heart, from whence comes grateful praise, the fruit of our lips, are his gift. Salvation, with all its fruits, hopes, and comforts, is his work, and to him belongs all the glory. There is no peace for the wicked man; but let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, and he will abundantly pardon.
Isaiah 57:1-21 . THE PEACEFUL DEATH OF THE RIGHTEOUS FEW: THE UNGODLINESS OF THE MANY: A BELIEVING REMNANT SHALL SURVIVE THE GENERAL JUDGMENTS OF THE NATION, AND BE RESTORED BY HIM WHO CREATES PEACE.
In the midst of the excesses of the unfaithful watchmen ( Isaiah 56:10 Isaiah 56:11 Isaiah 56:12 ), most of the few that are godly perish: partly by vexation at the prevailing ungodliness; partly by violent death in persecution: prophetical of the persecuting times of Manasseh, before God's judgments in causing the captivity in Babylon; and again those in the last age of the Church, before the final judgments on the apostasy ( 2 Kings 21:16 , Matthew 23:29-35 Matthew 23:37 , Revelation 11:17 ). The Hebrew for "perisheth," and "is taken away," expresses a violent death ( Micah 7:2 ).
1. no man layeth it to heart--as a public calamity.
merciful men--rather, godly men; the subjects of mercy.
none considering--namely, what was the design of Providence in removing the godly.
from the evil--Hebrew, from the face of the evil, that is, both from the moral evil on every side ( Isaiah 56:10-12 ), and from the evils about to come in punishment of the national sins, foreign invasions, &c. ( Isaiah 56:9 , 57:13 ). So Ahijah's death is represented as a blessing conferred on him by God for his piety ( 1 Kings 14:10-13 ; see also 2 Kings 22:20 ).
2. Or, "he entereth into peace"; in contrast to the persecutions which he suffered in this world ( Job 3:13 Job 3:17 ). The Margin not so well translates, "he shall go in peace" ( Psalms 37:37 , Luke 2:29 ).
rest--the calm rest of their bodies in their graves (called "beds," 2 Chronicles 16:14 ; compare Isaiah 14:18 ; because they "sleep" in them, with the certainty of awakening at the resurrection, 1 Thessalonians 4:14 ) is the emblem of the eternal "rest" ( Hebrews 4:9 , Revelation 14:13 ).
each one walking in . . . uprightness--This clause defines the character of those who at death "rest in their beds," namely, all who walk uprightly.
3. But . . . ye--In contrast to "the righteous" and their end, he announces to the unbelieving Jews their doom.
sons of the sorceress--that is, ye that are addicted to sorcery: this was connected with the worship of false gods ( 2 Kings 21:6 ). No insult is greater to an Oriental than any slur cast on his mother ( 1 Samuel 20:30 , Job 30:8 ).
seed of the adulterer--Spiritual adultery is meant: idolatry and apostasy ( Matthew 16:4 ).
4. sport yourselves--make a mock ( Isaiah 66:5 ). Are ye aware of the glory of Him whom you mock, by mocking His servants ("the righteous," Isaiah 57:1 )? ( 2 Chronicles 36:16 ).
make . . . wide month--( Psalms 22:7 Psalms 22:13 , 35:21 , Lamentations 2:16 ).
children of transgression, &c.--not merely children of transgressors, and a seed of false parents, but of transgression and falsehood itself, utterly unfaithful to God.
5. Enflaming yourselves--burning with lust towards idols [GESENIUS]; or else (compare Margin), in the terebinth groves, which the Hebrew and the parallelism favor [MAURER].
under . . . tree--( 2 Kings 17:10 ). The tree, as in the Assyrian sculptures, was probably made an idolatrous symbol of the heavenly hosts.
slaying . . . children--as a sacrifice to Molech, &c. ( 2 Kings 17:31 , 2 Chronicles 28:3 , 33:6 ).
in . . . valleys--the valley of the son of Hinnom. Fire was put within a hollow brazen statue, and the child was put in his heated arms; kettle drums (Hebrew, toph) were beaten to drown the child's cries; whence the valley was called Tophet ( 2 Chronicles 33:6 , Jeremiah 7:3 ).
under . . . clifts--the gloom of caverns suiting their dark superstitions.
6. The smooth stones, shaped as idols, are the gods chosen by thee as thy portion ( Psalms 16:5 ).
meat offering--not a bloody sacrifice, but one of meal and flour mingled with oil. "Meat" in Old English meant food, not flesh, as it means now ( Leviticus 14:10 ).
Should I receive comfort--rather, "Shall I bear these things with patience?" [HORSLEY].
7. Upon . . . high mountain . . . bed--image from adultery, open and shameless ( Ezekiel 23:7 ); the "bed" answers to the idolatrous altar, the scene of their spiritual unfaithfulness to their divine husband ( Ezekiel 16:16 Ezekiel 16:25 , 23:41 ).
8. "Remembrance," that is, memorials of thy idolatry: the objects which thou holdest in remembrance. They hung up household tutelary gods "behind the doors"; the very place where God has directed them to write His laws "on the posts and gates" ( Deuteronomy 6:9 , 11:20 ); a curse, too, was pronounced on putting up an image "in a secret place" ( Deuteronomy 27:15 ).
discovered thyself--image from an adulteress.
enlarged . . . bed--so as to receive the more paramours.
made . . . covenant--with idols: in open violation of thy "covenant" with God ( Exodus 19:5 , 23:32 ). Or, "hast made assignations with them for thyself" [HORSLEY].
thy bed . . . their bed--The Jews' sin was twofold; they resorted to places of idolatry ("their bed"), and they received idols into the temple of God ("thy bed").
where--rather, "ever since that" [HORSLEY]. The Hebrew for "where" means "room" (Margin), a place; therefore, translate, "thou hast provided a place for it" (for "their bed"), namely, by admitting idolatrous altars in thy land [BARNES]; or "thou choosest a (convenient) place for thyself" in their bed [MAURER] ( Isaiah 56:5 ).
9. the king--the idol which they came to worship, perfumed with oil, like harlots ( Jeremiah 4:30 , Ezekiel 23:16 Ezekiel 23:40 ). So "king" means idol ( Amos 5:26 , Zephaniah 1:5 ); (malcham meaning "king") [ROSENMULLER]. Rather, the king of Assyria or Egypt, and other foreign princes, on whom Israel relied, instead of on God; the "ointment" will thus refer to the presents ( Hosea 12:1 ), and perhaps the compliances with foreigners idolatries, whereby Israel sought to gain their favor [LOWTH] ( Isaiah 30:6 , Ezekiel 16:33 , 23:16 , Hosea 7:11 ).
send . . . messengers far off--not merely to neighboring nations, but to those "far off," in search of new idols, or else alliances.
even unto hell--the lowest possible degradation.
10. greatness of . . . way--the length of thy journey in seeking strange gods, or else foreign aid ( Jeremiah 2:23 Jeremiah 2:24 ). Notwithstanding thy deriving no good from these long journeys (so, "send . . . far off," Isaiah 57:9 ), thou dost not still give up hope ( Jeremiah 2:25 , 18:12 ).
hast found . . . life of . . . hand--for "thou still findest life (that is, vigor) enough in thy hand" to make new idols [MAURER], or to seek new alliance ("hand" being then taken for strength in general).
grieved--rather, "therefore thou art not weak" [MAURER]; inasmuch as having "life in thy hand," thou art still strong in hope.
11. Israel wished not to seem altogether to have denied God. Therefore they "lied" to Him. God asks, Why dost thou do so? "Whom dost thou fear? Certainly not Me; for thou hast not remembered Me." Translate, "seeing that thou hast not remembered Me."
laid it to . . . heart--rather, "nor hast Me at heart"; hast no regard for Me; and that, because I have been long silent and have not punished thee. Literally, "Have I not held My peace, and that for long? and so thou fearest Me not" ( Psalms 50:21 , Ecclesiastes 8:11 ). It would be better openly to renounce God, than to "flatter Him" with lies of false professions ( Psalms 78:36 ) [LUDOVICUS DE DIEU]. However, Isaiah 51:12 Isaiah 51:13 favors English Version of the whole verse; God's "silent" long-suffering, which was intended to lead them to repentance, caused them "not to fear Him" ( Romans 2:4 Romans 2:5 ).
12. declare--I will expose publicly thy (hypocritical) righteousness. I will show openly how vain thy works, in having recourse to idols, or foreign alliances, shall prove ( Isaiah 57:3 ).
13. When thou criest--In the time of thy trouble.
companies--namely, of idols, collected by thee from every quarter; or else, of foreigners, summoned to thy aid.
wind . . . carry . . . away--( Job 21:18 , Matthew 7:27 ).
vanity--rather, "a breath" [LOWTH].
possess . . . land . . . inherit--that is, the literal land of Judea and Mount Zion; the believing remnant of Israel shall return and inherit the land. Secondarily, the heavenly inheritance, and the spiritual Zion ( Isaiah 49:8 , Psalms 37:9 Psalms 37:11 , Psalms 69:35 Psalms 69:36 , Matthew 5:5 , Hebrews 12:22 ). "He that putteth his trust in Me," of whatever extraction, shall succeed to the spiritual patrimony of the apostate Jew [HORSLEY].
14. shall say--The nominative is, "He that trusteth in Me" ( Isaiah 57:13 ). The believing remnant shall have every obstacle to their return cleared out of the way, at the coming restoration of Israel, the antitype to the return from Babylon ( Isaiah 35:8 , Isaiah 40:3 Isaiah 40:4 , Isaiah 62:10 Isaiah 62:11 ).
Cast . . . up--a high road before the returning Jews.
stumbling-block--Jesus had been so to the Jews, but will not be so then any longer ( 1 Corinthians 1:23 ); their prejudices shall then be taken out of the way.
15. The pride and self-righteousness of the Jews were the stumbling block in the way of their acknowledging Christ. The contrition of Israel in the last days shall be attended with God's interposition in their behalf. So their self-humiliation, in Isaiah 66:2 Isaiah 66:5 Isaiah 66:10 , &c., precedes their final prosperity ( Zechariah 12:6 Zechariah 12:10-14 ); there will, probably, be a previous period of unbelief even after their return ( Zechariah 12:8 Zechariah 12:9 ).
16. For--referring to the promise in Isaiah 57:14 Isaiah 57:15 , of restoring Israel when "contrite" ( Genesis 6:3 , 8:21 , Psalms 78:38 Psalms 78:39 , 85:5 , Psalms 103:9 Psalms 103:13 Psalms 103:14 , Micah 7:18 ). God "will not contend for ever" with His people, for their human spirit would thereby be utterly crushed, whereas God's object is to chasten, not to destroy them ( Lamentations 3:33 Lamentations 3:34 , Micah 7:8 Micah 7:9 ). With the ungodly He is "angry every day" ( Psalms 7:11 , Revelation 14:11 ).
spirit . . . before me--that is, the human spirit which went forth from Me ( Numbers 16:22 ), answering to "which I have made" in the parallel clause.
17. covetousness--akin to idolatry; and, like it, having drawn off Israel's heart from God ( Isaiah 2:7 , 56:11 , 58:3 , Jeremiah 6:13 , Colossians 3:5 ).
hid me--( Isaiah 8:17 , 45:15 ).
went on frowardly--the result of God's hiding His face ( Psalms 81:12 , Romans 1:24 Romans 1:26 ).
18. Rather, "I have seen his ways (in sin), yet will I heal him," that is, restore Israel spiritually and temporally ( Jeremiah 33:6 , 3:22 , Hosea 14:4 Hosea 14:5 ) [HORSLEY].
I will . . . restore comforts unto him and to his mourners--However, the phrase, "his mourners," favors English Version; "his ways" will thus be his ways of repentance; and God's pardon on "seeing" them answers to the like promise ( Isaiah 61:2 Isaiah 61:3 , Jeremiah 31:18 Jeremiah 31:20 ).
19. fruit of . . . lips--that is, thanksgivings which flow from the lips. I make men to return thanks to Me ( Hosea 14:2 , Hebrews 13:15 ).
Peace, peace--"perfect peace" (see Isaiah 26:3 , Margin; John 14:27 ). Primarily, the cessation of the trouble s now afflicting the Jews, as formerly, under the Babylonian exile. More generally, the peace which the Gospel proclaims both to Israel "that is near," and to the Gentiles who are "far off" ( Acts 2:39 , Ephesians 2:17 ).
20. when it cannot rest--rather, "for it can have no rest" ( Job 15:20 , &c. Proverbs 4:16 Proverbs 4:17 ). English Version represents the sea as occasionally agitated; but the Hebrew expresses that it can never be at rest.
21. ( Isaiah 48:22 , 2 Kings 9:22 ).
my God--The prophet, having God as his God, speaks in the person of Israel, prophetically regarded as having now appropriated God and His "peace" ( Isaiah 11:1-3 ), warning the impenitent that, while they continue so, they can have no peace.