Reproofs of sin and wickedness. (1-8) Confession of sin, and lamentation for the consequences. (9-15) Promises of deliverance. (16-21)
Verses 1-8 If our prayers are not answered, and the salvation we wait for is not wrought for us, it is not because God is weary of hearing prayer, but because we are weary of praying. See here sin in true colours, exceedingly sinful; and see sin in its consequences, exceedingly hurtful, separating from God, and so separating us, not only from all good, but to all evil. Yet numbers feed, to their own destruction, on infidel and wicked systems. Nor can their skill or craft, in devising schemes, as the spider weaves its web, deliver or save them. No schemes of self-wrought salvation shall avail those who despise the Redeemer's robe of righteousness. Every man who is destitute of the Spirit of Christ, runs swiftly to evil of some sort; but those regardless of Divine truth and justice, are strangers to peace.
Verses 9-15 If we shut our eyes against the light of Divine truth, it is just with God to hide from our eyes the things that belong to our peace. The sins of those who profess themselves God's people, are worse than the sins of others. And the sins of a nation bring public judgments, when not restrained by public justice. Men may murmur under calamities, but nothing will truly profit while they reject Christ and his gospel.
Verses 16-21 This passage is connected with the following chapters. It is generally thought to describe the coming of the Messiah, as the Avenger and Deliverer of his church. There was none to intercede with God to turn away his wrath; none to interpose for the support of justice and truth. Yet He engaged his own strength and righteousness for his people. God will make his justice upon the enemies of his church and people plainly appear. When the enemy threatens to bear down all without control, then the Spirit of the Lord shall stop him, put him to flight. He that has delivered, will still deliver. A far more glorious salvation is promised to be wrought out by the Messiah in the fulness of time, which all the prophets had in view. The Son of God shall come to us to be our Redeemer; the Spirit of God shall come to be our Sanctifier: thus the Comforter shall abide with the church for ever, ( John 14:16 ) . The word of Christ will always continue in the mouths of the faithful; and whatever is pretended to be the mind of the Spirit, must be tried by the Scriptures. We must lament the progress of infidelity and impiety. But the cause of the Redeemer shall gain a complete victory even on earth, and the believer will be more than conqueror when the Lord receives him to his glory in heaven.
Isaiah 59:1-21 . THE PEOPLE'S SIN THE CAUSE OF JUDGMENTS: THEY AT LAST OWN IT THEMSELVES: THE REDEEMER'S FUTURE INTERPOSITION IN THEIR EXTREMITY.
The reason why Jehovah does not deliver His people, notwithstanding their religious services ( Isaiah 58:3 ), is not want of power on His part, but because of their sins ( Isaiah 59:1-8 ); Isaiah 59:9-15 contain their confession; Isaiah 59:16-21 , the consequent promise of the Messiah.
1. hand . . .
ear heavy--( Isaiah 6:10 ).
2. hid--Hebrew, "caused Him to hide" ( Lamentations 3:44 ).
3. ( Isaiah 1:15 Romans 3:13-15 ).
hands . . . fingers--Not merely the "hands" perpetrate deeds of grosser enormity ("blood"), but the "fingers" commit more minute acts of "iniquity."
lips . . . tongue--The lips "speak" openly "lies," the tongue "mutters" malicious insinuations ("perverseness"; perverse misrepresentations of others) ( Jeremiah 6:28 , 9:4 ).
4. Rather, "No one calleth an adversary into court with justice," that is, None bringeth a just suit: "No one pleadeth with truth."
they trust . . . iniquity--(So Job 15:35 , Psalms 7:14 ).
5. cockatrice--probably the basilisk serpent, cerastes. Instead of crushing evil in the egg, they foster it.
spider's web--This refers not to the spider's web being made to entrap, but to its thinness, as contrasted with substantial "garments," as Isaiah 59:6 shows. Their works are vain and transitory ( Job 8:14 , Proverbs 11:18 ).
eateth . . . their eggs--he who partakes in their plans, or has anything to do with them, finds them pestiferous.
that which is crushed--The egg, when it is broken, breaketh out as a viper; their plans, however specious in their undeveloped form like the egg, when developed, are found pernicious. Though the viper is viviparous (from which "vi-per" is derived), yet during gestation, the young are included in eggs, which break at the birth [BOCHART]; however, metaphors often combine things without representing everything to the life.
6. not . . . garments--like the "fig leaves" wherewith Adam and Eve vainly tried to cover their shame, as contrasted with "the coats of skins" which the Lord God made to clothe them with ( Isaiah 64:6 , Romans 13:14 , Galatians 3:27 , Philippians 3:9 ). The artificial self-deceiving sophisms of human philosophy ( 1 Timothy 6:5 , 2 Timothy 2:16 2 Timothy 2:23 ).
7. feet--All their members are active in evil; in Isaiah 59:3 , the "hands, fingers, lips, and tongue," are specified.
run . . . haste--( Romans 3:15 ). Contrast David's "running and hasting" in the ways of God ( Psalms 119:32 Psalms 119:60 ).
thoughts--not merely their acts, but their whole thoughts.
8. peace--whether in relation to God, to their own conscience, or to their fellow men ( Isaiah 57:20 Isaiah 57:21 ).
crooked--the opposite of "straightforward" ( Proverbs 2:15 , 28:18 ).
9. judgment far--retribution in kind because they had shown "no judgment in their goings" ( Isaiah 59:8 ). "The vindication of our just rights by God is withheld by Him from us."
us--In Isaiah 59:8 and previous verses, it was "they," the third person; here, "us . . . we," the first person. The nation here speaks: God thus making them out of their own mouth condemn themselves; just as He by His prophet had condemned them before. Isaiah includes himself with his people and speaks in their name.
justice--God's justice bringing salvation ( Isaiah 46:13 ).
light--the dawn of returning prosperity.
obscurity--adversity ( Jeremiah 8:15 ).
10. grope--fulfilling Moses' threat ( Deuteronomy 28:29 ).
stumble at noon . . . as . . . night--There is no relaxation of our evils; at the time when we might look for the noon of relief, there is still the night of our calamity.
in desolate places--rather, to suit the parallel words "at noonday," in fertile (literally, "fat"; Genesis 27:28 ) fields [GESENIUS] (where all is promising) we are like the dead (who have no hope left them); or, where others are prosperous, we wander about as dead men; true of all unbelievers ( Isaiah 26:10 , Luke 15:17 ).
11. roar--moan plaintively, like a hungry bear which growls for food.
doves--( Isaiah 38:14 , Ezekiel 7:16 ).
salvation--retribution in kind: because not salvation, but "destruction" was "in their paths" ( Isaiah 59:7 ).
12. ( Daniel 9:5 , &c.).
thee . . . us--antithesis.
with us--that is, we are conscious of them ( Job 12:3 , Margin; Job 15:9 ).
know--acknowledge they are our iniquities.
13. The particulars of the sins generally confessed in Isaiah 59:12 ( Isaiah 48:8 , Jeremiah 2:19 Jeremiah 2:20 ). The act, the word, and the thought of apostasy, are all here marked: transgression and departing, &c.; lying (compare Isaiah 59:4 ), and speaking, &c.; conceiving and uttering from the heart.
14. Justice and righteousness are put away from our legal courts.
in the street--in the forum, the place of judicature, usually at the gate of the city ( Zechariah 8:16 ).
cannot enter--is shut out from the forum, or courts of justice.
15. faileth--is not to be found.
he that departeth . . . prey--He that will not fall in with the prevailing iniquity exposes himself as a prey to the wicked ( Psalms 10:8 Psalms 10:9 ).
Lord saw it--The iniquity of Israel, so desperate as to require nothing short of Jehovah's interposition to mend it, typifies the same necessity for a Divine Mediator existing in the deep corruption of man; Israel, the model nation, was chosen to illustrate his awful fact.
16. no man--namely, to atone by his righteousness for the unrighteousness of the people. "Man" is emphatic, as in 1 Kings 2:2 ; no representative man able to retrieve the cause of fallen men ( Isaiah 41:28 , Isaiah 63:5 Isaiah 63:6 , Jeremiah 5:1 , Ezekiel 22:30 ).
no intercessor--no one to interpose, "to help . . . uphold" ( Isaiah 63:5 ).
his arm--( Isaiah 40:10 , 51:5 ). Not man's arm, but His alone ( Psalms 98:1 , 44:3 ).
his righteousness--the "arm" of Messiah. He won the victory for us, not by mere might as God, but by His invincible righteousness, as man having "the Spirit without measure" ( Isaiah 11:5 , Isaiah 42:6 Isaiah 42:21 , 51:8 , 53:11 , 1 John 2:1 ).
17. Messiah is represented as a warrior armed at all points, going forth to vindicate His people. Owing to the unity of Christ and His people, their armor is like His, except that they have no "garments of vengeance" (which is God's prerogative, Romans 12:19 ), or "cloak of zeal" (in the sense of judicial fury punishing the wicked; this zeal belongs properly to God, 2 Kings 10:16 , Romans 10:2 , Philippians 3:6 ; "zeal," in the sense of anxiety for the Lord's honor, they have, Numbers 25:11 Numbers 25:13 , Psalms 69:9 , 2 Corinthians 7:11 , 9:2 ); and for "salvation," which is of God alone ( Psalms 3:8 ), they have as their helmet, "the hope of salvation" ( 1 Thessalonians 5:8 ). The "helmet of salvation" is attributed to them ( Ephesians 6:14 Ephesians 6:17 ) in a secondary sense; namely, derived from Him, and as yet only in hope, not fruition ( Romans 8:24 ). The second coming here, as often, is included in this representation of Messiah. His "zeal" ( John 2:15-17 ) at His first coming was but a type of His zeal and vengeance against the foes of God at His second coming ( 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10 Revelation 19:11-21 ).
18. deeds--Hebrew, "recompenses"; "according as their deeds demand" [MAURER]. This verse predicts the judgments at the Lord's second coming, which shall precede the final redemption of His people ( Isaiah 66:18 Isaiah 66:15 Isaiah 66:16 ).
19. ( Isaiah 45:6 , Malachi 1:11 ). The result of God's judgments ( Isaiah 26:9 , 66:18-20 ).
like a flood--( Jeremiah 46:7 Jeremiah 46:8 , Revelation 12:15 ).
lift up a standard--rather, from a different Hebrew root, "shall put him to flight," "drive him away" [MAURER]. LOWTH, giving a different sense to the Hebrew for "enemy" from that in Isaiah 59:18 , and a forced meaning to the Hebrew for "Spirit of the Lord," translates, "When He shall come as a river straitened in its course, which a mighty wind drives along."
20. to Zion-- Romans 11:26 quotes it, "out of Zion." Thus Paul, by inspiration, supplements the sense from Psalms 14:7 : He was, and is come to Zion, first with redemption, being sprung as man out of Zion. The Septuagint translates "for the sake of Zion." Paul applies this verse to the coming restoration of Israel spiritually.
them that turn from--( Romans 11:26 ). "shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob"; so the Septuagint, Paul herein gives the full sense under inspiration. They turn from transgression, because He first turns them from it, and it from them ( Psalms 130:4 , Lamentations 5:21 ).
21. covenant with them . . . thee--The covenant is with Christ, and with them only as united to Him ( Hebrews 2:13 ). Jehovah addresses Messiah the representative and ideal Israel. The literal and spiritual Israel are His seed, to whom the promise is to be fulfilled ( Psalms 22:30 ).
spirit . . . not depart . . . for ever--( Jeremiah 31:31-37 , Matthew 28:20 ).