COMMENTARY

THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH

BY JOHN CALVIN

TRANSLATED FROM THE ORIGINAL LATIN,

By The Rev. William Pringle,

VOLUME FIRST

 


CHAPTER 21

Go To Isaiah 21:1-17

1. The burden of the desert of the sea. The Prophet, after having taught that their hope ought to be placed, not on the Egyptians, but on the mercy of God alone, and after having foretold that calamities would come on the nations on whose favor they relied, adds a consolation in order to encourage the hearts of the godly. He declares, that for the Chaldeans, to whom they will be captives, a reward is prepared; from which it follows, that God takes account of the injuries which they endure. By the desert F319 he means Chaldea, not that it was deserted or thinly inhabited, but because the Jews had a desert on that side of them; just as if, instead of Italy, we should name “the Alps,” because they are nearer to us, and because we must cross them on our road to Italy. This reason ought to be kept in view; for he does not describe the nature of the country, but forewarns the Jews that the destruction of the enemies, which he foretells, is near at hand, and is as certain as if the event had been before their eyes, as that desert was. Besides, the prophets sometimes spoke ambiguously about Babylon, that believers alone might understand the hidden mysteries, as Jeremiah changes the king’s name. F320

As storms from the south. He says from the south, because that wind is tempestuous, and produces storms and whirlwinds. F321 When he adds that “it cometh from the desert,” this tends to heighten the picture; for if any storm arise in a habitable and populous region, it excites less terror than those which spring up in deserts. In order to express the shocking nature of this calamity, he compares it to storms, which begin in the desert, and afterwards take a more impetuous course, and rush with greater violence.

Yet the Prophet appears to mean something else, namely, that as they burst forth like storms from that direction to lay Judea desolate, so another storm would soon afterwards arise to destroy them; and therefore he says that this burden will come from a terrible land. By this designation I understand Judea to be meant, for it was not enough to speak of the ruin of Babylon, if the Jews did not likewise understand that it came from God. Why he calls it “a terrible land” we have seen in our exposition of the eighteenth chapter. F322 It was because, in consequence of so many displays of the wrath of God, its disfigured appearance might strike terror on all. The occasion on which the words are spoken does not allow us to suppose that it is called “terrible” on account of the astonishing power of God by which it was protected. Although therefore Babylon was taken and plundered by the Persians and Medes, Isaiah declares that its destruction will come from Judea; because in this manner God will revenge the injuries done to that nation of which he had promised to be the guardian.

2. A harsh vision. As the object was to soothe the grief of the people, it may be thought not to be appropriate to call a vision, which is the occasion of joy, a harsh vision. But this refers to the Babylonians, who, puffed up with their prosperity, dreaded no danger; for wealth commonly produces pride and indifference. As if he had said, “It is useless to hold out the riches and power of the Babylonians, and when a stone is hard, there will be found a hard hammer to break it.”

The spoiler. As Babylon had gained its power by plundering and laying waste other nations, it seemed to be free from all danger. Although they had been a terror to others, and had practiced every kind of barbarity and cruelty, yet they could not avoid becoming a prey and enduring injuries similar to those which they had inflicted on others. The Prophet goes farther, and, in order to obtain credit to his statements, pronounces it to be a righteous retaliation, that violence should correspond to violence.

Go up, O Elam. Elam is a part of Persia; but is taken for the whole of Persia, and on this account also the Persians are called Elamites. It is worthy of observation, that, when Isaiah foretold these things, there was no probability of war, and that he was dead a hundred years before there was any apprehension of this calamity. Hence it is sufficiently evident that he could not have derived his information on this subject from any other than the Spirit of God; and this contributes greatly to confirm the truth and certainty of the prediction.

Besiege, O Mede. By commanding the Medes and Persians, he declares that this will not befall the Babylonians at random or by chance, but by the sure decree of God, in whose name, and not in that of any private individual, he makes the announcement. Coming forward therefore in the name of God, he may, like a captain or general, command his soldiers to assemble to give battle. In what manner God employs the agency of robbers and wicked men, has been formerly explained at the tenth chapter. F323

I have made all his groaning to cease. Some understand it to mean, that the groaning, to which the Babylonians had given occasion, ceased after they were subdued by the Medes and Persians; for by their tyrannical measures they had caused many to groan, which must happen when wicked and ungodly men possess rank and power. Others approach more closely, perhaps, to the real meaning of the Prophet, when they say, that “the groaning ceased,” because the Babylonians experienced no compassion, having formerly shewn none to others. But I explain it more simply to mean, that the Lord was deaf to their groanings; as if he had said, that there would be no room for their groanings and lamentations, because having been cruel and barbarous, it was just that they should receive back the same measure which they had meted out to others. (<400702>Matthew 7:2.)

3. Therefore are my loins, filled with pain. Here the Prophet represents the people as actually present, for it was not enough to have simply foretold the destruction of Babylon, if he had not confirmed the belief of the godly in such a manner that they felt as if the actual event were placed before their eyes. Such a representation was necessary, and the Prophet does not here describe the feelings of his own heart, as if he had compassion on the Babylonians, but, on the contrary, as we have formerly said, F324 he assumes, for the time, the character of a Babylonian. F325 It ought undoubtedly to satisfy our minds that the hidden judgments of God are held out to us, as in a mirror, that they may arouse the sluggishness of our faith; and therefore the Prophets describe with greater beauty and copiousness, and paint in lively colors, those things which exceed the capacity of our reason. The Prophet, thus expressing his grief, informs believers how awful is the vengeance of God which awaits the Chaldeans, and how dreadfully they will be punished, as we are struck with surprise and horror when any sad intelligence is brought to us.

As the pangs of a woman that travaileth. He adds a stronger expression of grief, when he compares it to that of a woman in labor, as when a person under fearful anguish turns every way, and writhes in every part of his body. Such modes of expression are employed by the Prophets on account of our sluggishness, for we do not perceive the judgments of God till they be pointed at, as it were, with the finger, and affect our senses. We are warned to be on our guard before they arrive.

4. My heart was shaken. Others render it not amiss, “my heart wandered;” for excessive terror moves the heart, as it were, out of its place. He declares how sudden and unlooked for will be the destruction of Babylon, for a sudden calamity makes us tremble more than one which has been long foreseen and expected. Daniel relates, that what Isaiah here foretells was accomplished, and that he was an eye-witness. Belshazzar had that night prepared a magnificent banquet, when the Persians suddenly rushed upon him, and nothing was farther from his expectation than that he would be slain. High delight was thus suddenly changed into terror. (<270530>Daniel 5:30.)

5. Prepare the table. These verbs may be taken for participles; as if he had said, “While they were preparing the table and appointing a guard, while they were eating and drinking, sudden terror arose; there was a call to arms, Arise ye princes,” etc.. But Isaiah presents lively descriptions, so as to place the actual event, as it were, before our eyes. Certainly Xenophon does not describe so historically the storming of the city; and this makes it evident that it was not natural sagacity, but heavenly inspiration, that taught Isaiah to describe so vividly events that were unknown. Besides, we ought to observe the time when these predictions were uttered; for at that time the kingdom of Babylon was in its most flourishing condition, and appeared to have invincible power, and dreaded no danger. Isaiah ridicules this vain confidence, and shews that this power will speedily be laid in ruins.

Let it not be thought absurd that he introduces the watchmen as speaking; for although the siege had not shaken off the slothfulness of a proud and foolish tyrant so as to hinder him from indulging in gaiety and feasting, still there is no room to doubt that men were appointed to keep watch. It is customary indeed with princes to defend themselves by guards, that they may more freely and without any disturbance abandon themselves to every kind of pleasure; but the Prophet expressly mixes up the sentinels with the delicacies of the table, to make it more evident that the wicked tyrant was seized with a spirit of giddiness before he sunk down to drunken reveling. The king of Babylon was thus feasting and indulging in mirth with his courtiers, when he was overtaken by a sudden and unexpected calamity, not that he was out of danger, but because he disregarded and scorned the enemy. The day before it happened, it might have been thought incredible, for the conspiracy of Gobryas, and of that party which betrayed him, had not yet been discovered. At the time when Isaiah spoke, none would have thought that an event so extraordinary would ever take place.

6. For thus hath the Lord said to me. The Prophet is commanded to set a watchman on the watchtower, to see these things at a distance; for they cannot be perceived by the eyes, or learned by conjecture. In order, therefore, that all may know that he did not speak at random, he declares that he foretells these things; for although they are unknown to men, and incredible, yet he clearly and distinctly knows them by the spirit of prophecy, because he is elevated above the judgment of men. This ought to be carefully observed; for we must not imagine that the prophets learned from men, or foresaw by their own sagacity, those things which they made known; and on this account also they were justly called “Seers.” (<090909>1 Samuel 9:9.) Though we also see them, yet our sight is dull, and we scarcely perceive what is at our feet; and even the most acute men are often in darkness, because they understand nothing but what they can gather by the use of reason. But the prophets speak by the Spirit of God, as from heaven. The amount of what is stated is, that whosoever shall attempt to measure this prophecy by their own judgment will do wrong, because it has proceeded from God, and therefore it goes far beyond our sense.

Go, appoint a watchman. It gives additional weight that he “appoints a watchman in the name of God.” If it be objected, “You relate incredible things as if they had actually happened,” he replies that he does not declare them at random; for he whom the prince has appointed to be a watchman, sees from a distance what others do not know. Thus Isaiah saw by the revelation of the Spirit what was unknown to others.

7. And he saw a chariot. What he now adds contains a lively description of that defeat. Some think that it is told by the king’s messenger. This is a mistake; for the Prophet, on the contrary, foretells what he has learned from the watchman whom he appointed by the command of God. Here he represents the watchman as looking and reporting what he saw. As if at the first glance he had not seen it clearly he says that there is “a chariot,” and afterwards observing more closely, he says that there is “a couple of horses” in the chariot. At first, on account of the novelty and great distance of the objects, the report given is ambiguous and confused; but afterwards, when a nearer view is obtained, they are better understood. There is no absurdity in applying to prophets or to divine visions what belongs to men; for we know that God, accommodating himself to our feeble capacity, takes upon himself human feelings.

8. And he cried, A lion. “Having hearkened diligently with much heed,” at length he observes a lion. This is supposed to mean Darius who conquered and pillaged Babylon, as we learn from Daniel. (<270528>Daniel 5:28, 31.)

I stand continually. When the watchman says that he is continually on his watchtower by day and by night, this tends to confirm the prediction, as if he had said that nothing can be more certain than this vision; for they whom God has appointed to keep watch are neither drowsy nor dim-sighted. Meanwhile, by this example, he exhorts and stimulates believers to the same kind of attention, that by the help of the lamp of the word, they may obtain a distant view of the power of God.

9. Babylon is fallen, is fallen. This shews plainly that it is not king Belshazzar’s watchman who is introduced, for this speech would be unsuitable to such a character. The Prophet therefore makes known, by the command of God, what would happen. Now, this may refer either to God or to Darius, as well as to the watchman; and it makes little difference as to the meaning, for Darius, being God’s servant in this matter, is not inappropriately represented to be the herald of that judgment. There would be greater probability in referring it to God himself; for Darius had no such thoughts when he overthrew the idols of the Babylonians. But the speech agrees better with the character of a guardian, as if an angel added an interpretation to the prophecy.

And all the graven images of her gods. There is here an implied contrast between the living God and dead idols. This mode of expression, too, deserves notice, when he calls them “images of gods;” for the Babylonians knew, as all idolaters loudly proclaim, that their images are not gods. Yet they ascribed to them divine power, and when this is done, “the truth of God is changed into a lie,” (<450125>Romans 1:25,) and not only so, but God himself is denied. But on this subject we shall afterwards speak more largely. Here we see, that by her destruction Babylon was punished for idolatry, for he assigns the reason why Babylon was destroyed. It was because the Lord could not endure that she should glory in her “graven images.”

10. My thrashing, and the son of my floor. F326 The wealth of that powerful monarchy having dazzled the eyes of all men by its splendor, what Isaiah foretold about its destruction might be reckoned fabulous. He therefore leads their minds to God, in order to inform them that it was God who had undertaken to destroy Babylon, and that it is not by the will of men, but by divine power, that such loftiness will fall to the ground. The “thrashing” and “the son of the floor” mean the same thing; for this mode of expression is frequently employed by Hebrew writers, who often repeat the same statement in different language.

This passage ought to be carefully observed, that we may correct a vice which is natural to us, that of measuring the power of God by our own standard. Not only does our feebleness place us far below the wisdom of God; but we are wicked and depraved judges of his works, and cannot be induced to take any other view of them than of what comes within the reach of the ability and wisdom of men. But we ought always to remember his almighty power, and especially when our own reason and judgment fail us. Thus, when the Church is oppressed by tyrants to such a degree that there appears to be no hope of deliverance, let us know that the Lord will lay them low, and, by trampling on their pride and abasing their strength, will shew that they are his “thrashing-floor; “ for the subject of this prediction was not a person of mean rank, but the most powerful and flourishing of all monarchies. The more they have exalted themselves, the more quickly will they be destroyed, and the Lord will execute his “thrashing” upon them. Let us learn that what the Lord has here given as a manifestation of inconceivable ruin, applies to persons of the same stamp.

That which I have heard from the Lord of hosts. When he says that he has “heard it from the Lord of hosts,” he sets a seal, as it were, on his prophecy; for he declares that he has not brought forward his own conjectures, but has received it from the Lord himself. Here it is worthy of our notice, that the servants of God ought to be fortified by this boldness to speak in the name of God, as Peter also exhorts, “He that speaketh, let him speak as the oracles of God.” (<600411>1 Peter 4:11.) Impostors also boast of the name of God, but his faithful servants have the testimony of their conscience that they bring forward nothing but what God has enjoined. Observe, also, that this confirmation was highly necessary, for the whole world trembled at the resources of this powerful monarchy.

From the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel. It is not without reason that he gives to God these two appellations. As to the former, it is indeed a title which always applies to God; but here, undoubtedly, the Prophet had his eye on the matter in hand, in order to contrast the power of God with all the troops of the Babylonians, for God has not a single army, but innumerable armies, to subdue his enemies. Again, he calls him “the God of Israel,” because by destroying Babylon he shewed himself to be the defender and guardian of his people; for the overthrow of that monarchy procured freedom for the Jews. In short, all these things were done for the sake of the Church, which the Prophet has here in view; for it is not the Babylonians, who undoubtedly laughed at these predictions, but believers, whom he exhorts to rest assured that, though they were oppressed by the Babylonians, and scattered and tossed about, still God would take care of them.

11. The burden of Dumah. It is evident from <012514>Genesis 25:14, that this nation was descended from a son of Ishmael, to whom this name was given, and hence his posterity are called Dumeans. F327 The cause of their destruction, which is here foretold, cannot be known with certainty, and this prophecy is obscure on account of its brevity. Yet we ought always to remember what I have formerly remarked, that it was proper that the Jews should be fortified against the dreadful stumbling-blocks which were approaching. When so many changes take place, particularly if the world is turned upside down, and if there is a rapid succession of events, we are perplexed and entertain doubts whether all things happen at random and by chance, or are regulated by the providence of God. The Lord therefore shews that it is he who effects this revolution, and renews the state of the world, that we may learn that nothing here is of long duration, and may have our whole heart and our whole aim directed to the reign of Christ, which alone is everlasting.

Since therefore these changes were near at hand, it was proper that the Jews should be forewarned, that when the event followed, they should call them to remembrance, contemplate the wisdom of God, and strengthen their faith. Besides, there is no room to doubt that the Jews were harassed by various thoughts, when they saw the whole world shaken on all sides, and desired to have some means of avoiding those storms and tempests; for we always wish to be in safety and beyond the reach of danger. Some might have wished to find new abodes, that they might better provide for their own safety; but when storms raged on every hand, they were reminded to remain at home, and to believe that no safer habitation could anywhere be found than in the company of the godly.

This example ought also to be a warning to many who separate themselves from the Church through fear of danger, and do not consider that a greater danger awaits them out of it. These thoughts might therefore distress the Jews, for we have seen in the eighth chapter that their minds were restless. F328 When they were thus tossed about in uncertainty, and fleeing to foreign nations, they would naturally lose heart; and this, I think, is the chief reason why the destruction of the Dumeans is foretold, namely, that the Jews might seek God with their whole heart, and that above all things they might commit to his care the safety of the Church. Let us therefore learn to keep ourselves within the Church, though she be afflicted by various calamities, and let us bear patiently the fatherly chastisements which are inflicted on children, instead of choosing to go astray, that we may drink the dregs which choke the wicked. (<197508>Psalm 75:8; <235117>Isaiah 51:17.) What shall become of strangers and reprobates, if children are thus chastised? (<600417>1 Peter 4:17, 18.) Yet it is possible that the chosen people suffered some molestation from the people of God, when their neighbors assailed them on every side.

Out of Seir. Mount Seir, as we learn from the book of Genesis, was a mountain of the Edomites. (<011406>Genesis 14:6; 32:3; 36:8, 9.) Under the name of this mountain he includes the whole kingdom. In this place he represents, as in a picture, those things which called for an earnest address.

Watchman, what of the night? It is probable that the Edomites, who put the question, were not at a great distance from them, and that they were solicitous about the danger as one in which they were themselves involved. He introduces them as inquiring at the “watchman,” not through curiosity, but with a view to their own advantage, what he had observed in “the night,” just as when one has asked a question, a second and a third person follow him, asking the same thing. This is the meaning of the repetition, that the inquiry is made not by one individual only, but by many persons, as commonly happens in cases of doubt and perplexity, when every man is afraid on his own account, and does not believe what is said by others.

12. The morning cometh. This means that the anxiety will not last merely for a single day, or for a short time, as if the watchman had replied, “What I tell you to-day, I will tell you again to-morrow; if you are afraid now, you will also be afraid to-morrow.” It is a most wretched condition when men are tortured with anxiety, in such a manner that they hang in a state of doubt between death and life; and it is that dismal curse which the Lord threatens against wicked men by Moses,

“Would that I lived till the evening; and in the evening, would that I saw the dawn!” (<052867>Deuteronomy 28:67.)

The godly indeed are beset with many dangers, but they know that they and their life are committed to the hand of God, and even in the jaws of death they see life, or at least soothe their uneasy fears by hope and patience. But the wicked always tremble, and not only are tormented by alarm, but waste away in their sorrows.

Return, come. These words may be explained in two ways; either that if they run continually, they will lose their pains, or in this way, “If any among you be more careful, let them go to Dumah, and there let them tremble more than in their native country, for nowhere will they be safe.” But since God always takes care of his Church, nowhere shall we find a safer retreat, even though we shall compass sea and land.

13. The burden upon Arabia. He now passes on to the Arabians, and foretells that they too, in their own turn, will be dragged to the judgment-seat of God; so that he does not leave unnoticed any of the nations which were known to the Jews. He declares that they will be seized with such fear that they will leave their houses and flee into the woods; and he states the direction in which they will flee, that is, to “Dedanim.”

14. To meet the thirsty bring waters. F329 He heightens the description of that trembling with which the Lord had determined to strike the Arabians in such a manner that they thought of nothing but flight, and did not take time even to collect those things which were necessary for the journey. Isaiah therefore declares that the Arabians will come into the country of Dedanim, empty and destitute of all things, and that they will not be provided with any food. On this account he exhorts the inhabitants to go out and meet them with bread and water, because otherwise they will faint through the want of the necessaries of life.

I am aware that this passage is explained differently by some commentators, who think that the Prophet mocks at the Arabians, who had been cruel and barbarous towards the Jews; as if he had said, “How gladly you would now bring water to the thirsty!” But that exposition is too constrained. And yet I do not deny that they received the reward of their cruelty, when they ran hither and thither in a state of hunger. But the meaning which I have given is twofold, F330 that the Arabians in their flight will be so wretched that they will not even have the necessary supply of water, and they will therefore faint with thirst, if they do not quickly receive assistance; and he intimates that there will be a scarcity both of food and of drink. He calls on the neighbors to render assistance; not to exhort them to do their duty, but to state the fact more clearly; and he enjoins them to give their bread to them, not because it is deserved, but because they are suffering extreme want. Yet as it is founded on the common law of nature and humanity, the Prophet indirectly insinuates that the hungry and thirsty are defrauded of their bread, when food is denied to them.

15. For they flee from the face of the swords. F331 He means that the calamity will be dreadful, and that the Arabians will have good reason for betaking themselves to flight, because the enemies will pursue them with arms and with swords, so that they will have no other way of providing for their safety than by flight. The reason why he foretells this defeat is plain enough; for it was necessary that the Jews should obtain early information of that which should happen long after, that they might learn that the world is governed by the providence of God and not by chance, and likewise that they should be taught by the example of others to behold God as the judge of all nations, wherever they turned their eyes. We do not know, and history does not inform us, whether or not the Arabians were enemies of the Jews. However that may be, it is certain that these things are spoken for the consolation of the godly, that they may behold the justice of God towards all nations, and may acknowledge that his judgment-seat is at Jerusalem, from which he will pronounce judgment on the whole world.

16. For thus hath the Lord said to me. He adds that this defeat of the Arabians, of which he prophesied, is close at hand; which tended greatly to comfort the godly. We are naturally fiery, and do not willingly allow the object of our desire to be delayed; and the Lord takes into account our weakness in this respect, when he says that he hastens his work. He therefore declares that he prophesies of things which shall happen, not after many ages, but immediately, that the Jews may bear more patiently their afflictions, from which they know that they will be delivered in a short time.

Yet a year according to the years of the hireling. Of the metaphor of “the year of the hireling,” which he adds for the purpose of stating the matter more fully, we have already spoken. F332 It means that the time will not be delayed. The same comparison is used by heathen authors, where they intend to describe a day appointed and desired; as appears from that passage in Horace, “The day appears long to those who must render an account of their work.” F333

17. And the residue of the archers. He threatens that this slaughter will not be the end of their evils, because if there be any residue in Arabia, they will gradually decrease; as if he had said, “The Lord will not merely impoverish the Arabians by a single battle, but will pursue to the very utmost, till all hope of relief is taken away, and they are utterly exterminated.” Such is the vengeance which he executes against the ungodly, while he moderates the punishment which he inflicts on the godly, that they may not be entirely destroyed.

Of the mighty men. He means warlike men and those who were fit to carry arms, and says, that although they escaped that slaughter, still they will be cut off at their own time. He formerly threatened similar chastisements against the Jews, but always accompanied by a promise which was fitted to alleviate their grief or at least to guard them against despair. It frequently happens that the children of God are afflicted as severely as the reprobate, or even with greater severity; but the hope of favor which is held out distinguishes them from the whole world. Again, when we learn that God visits on the wicked deadly vengeance, this is no reason why we should be immoderately grieved even at the heaviest punishments; but, on the contrary, we ought to draw from it this consolation, that he chastises them gently, and “does not give them over to death.” (<19B818>Psalm 118:18.)

The God of Israel hath spoken it. The Prophet shews, as we have frequently remarked on former occasions, that we ought not only to acknowledge that these things happened by divine appointment, but that they were appointed by that God whom Israel adores. All men are sometimes constrained to rise to the acknowledgment of God, though they are disposed to believe in chance, because the thought that there is a God in heaven comes into their minds, whether they will or not, and that both in prosperity and in adversity; but then they imagine a Deity according to their own fancy, either in heaven or on earth. Since therefore irreligious men idly and foolishly imagine a God according to their own pleasure, the Prophet directs the Jews to that God whom they adore, that they may know the distinguished privilege which they enjoy in being placed under his guardianship and protection. Nor is it enough that we adore some God as governor of the world, but we must acknowledge the true God, who revealed himself to the fathers, and hath manifested himself to us in Christ. And this ought to be earnestly maintained, in opposition to the profane thoughts of many persons who contrive some strange and confused notion of a Deity, because they dare not openly deny God.


CHAPTER 22

Go To Isaiah 22:1-25

1. The burden of the valley of vision. Isaiah again prophesies against Judea, which he calls the valley of vision. He gives this appellation to the whole of Judea rather than to Jerusalem, of which he afterwards speaks; but now in the preface he includes the whole of Judea. He appropriately calls it a “valley,” for it was surrounded on all sides by mountains. It is a harsher view of the metaphor, which is adopted by some, that Jerusalem is called “a valley,” because it was thrown down from its loftiness. The reason why he adds the words, of vision, is plain enough. The Lord enlightened the whole of Judea by his word; the prophets were continually employed in it, and that was the reason why they called them seers. (<090909>1 Samuel 9:9.) There is also an implied contrast here, for valleys have less light than open plains, because the height of the mountains intercepts the light of the sun. Now, this valley, he tells us, is more highly enlightened than those countries which were exposed on all sides to the sun. It was by the extraordinary goodness of God that this happened; for he means, that it was enlightened, not by the rays of the sun, but by the word of God.

Besides, the Prophet unquestionably intended to beat down that foolish confidence with which the Jews were puffed up, because God had distinguished them above others by remarkable gifts. They abused his word and prophecies, as if by means of them they had been protected against all danger, though they were disobedient and rebellious against God. He therefore declares that visions will not prevent God from punishing their ingratitude; and he even aggravates their guilt by this mark of ingratitude, that amidst such splendor of heavenly doctrine they still continued to stumble like the blind.

What hast thou here? or, What hast thou now? He now addresses Jerusalem; not that this defeat affects Jerusalem alone, but because the whole country thought it safe to take refuge under the shadow of the sanctuary which then existed, and to lead the Jews to reflect, since this befell a fortified city, what would become of other cities which had no means of defense. He asks in astonishment, “What does it mean that every person leaves his house and flies to the house-top for the purpose of saving his life?” Among the Jews the form of house-tops was different from what is now customary with us, and hence arose that saying of Christ,

“What you have heard in the ear proclaim on the housetops.” (<401027>Matthew 10:27.)

When the inhabitants of Jerusalem fled to the house-tops, they left their houses open to be a prey to enemies, and this was a proof that they were exceedingly afraid. It is likewise possible that they went up to the house-tops for the purpose of throwing down javelins and other weapons against the enemies, whose arrival not only terrified them, but made them flee in consternation, and yet they did not escape danger.

2. Thou that art full of noises. He means that it was exceedingly populous; for where great multitudes of people are brought together, noise abounds; and therefore, amidst so crowded a population, there was less cause of fear. In order to make the representation still more striking, Isaiah has therefore added this circumstance, that instead of being, as they ought to have been, walls and bulwarks to defend the city, when there was no scarcity of men, they ignominiously turned their backs on the enemies, and fled to the tops of their houses. By these words he urges the Jews more strongly to consider the judgment of God; for when such overwhelming fear has seized the hearts of men, it is certain that God has struck them with trembling; as if he had said, “How comes it that you have not greater firmness to resist? It is because God pursues and chases you.”

These statements are taken from the writings of Moses, from which, as we have frequently remarked, the prophets borrow their instructions, but with this difference, that what Moses spoke in general terms they apply to the matter in hand.

“The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies; thou shalt go out one way against them, and shalt flee seven ways before them. The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart.”
(<052825>Deuteronomy 28:25, 28.)

He reproaches the Jews for their distressed condition, and with good reason; for it was proper to press the accusation more closely home, that they might learn to ascribe to their sins and transgressions all the afflictions and sufferings that they endured. The Lord had promised that they would continually assist them; and when they are now left destitute, let them acknowledge that they do not deserve such assistance, and that God has cast them off on account of their rebelliousness. The Lord does not deceive or make false promises, but by their own fault those wretched persons have shut themselves out from his aid and favor; and this is still more strongly expressed by the question, What hast thou here? It means that God gave practical evidence that Jerusalem had been deprived of her protector and guardian; for this mode of expression denotes something strange and extraordinary.

Thy slain men are not slain by the sword. To exhibit still more clearly the vengeance of God, he affirms that they who were slain there did not die bravely in battle. Thus he shews that all that they wanted was manly courage; for a timid and cowardly heart was a sure proof that they had all been forsaken by the Lord, by whose assistance they would have bravely and manfully resisted. He therefore does not mean that the defeat would be accompanied by shame and disgrace, but ascribes it to the wrath of God that they had not courage to resist; and unquestionably by this circumstance he beats down their foolish pride.

3. All thy rulers are fled together. This verse has been interpreted in various ways. The fact is abundantly plain, but there is some difficulty about the words. As m (mem) signifies before and more than, some explain qwjrm (merachok) F334 to mean, “They fled before others, though they were situated in the most distant parts of the country, and were in greater danger.” Others render it, “Although they were at a great distance from Jerusalem, still they did not cease to flee like men who are seized with terror, and never stop in their flight, because they continually think that the enemy is at their heels.”

But a more natural interpretation appears to me to be. They have fled from afar; that is, “they who have resorted to Jerusalem as a safe retreat will be seized by enemies and vanquished; “ for Jerusalem might be regarded as the general protection of the whole of Judea, and therefore, when a war broke out, the inhabitants rushed to it from every quarter. While they looked upon their habitation in Jerusalem as safe, they were taken prisoners. Others suppose it to refer to the siege of Sennacherib. (<121813>2 Kings 18:13; <143201>2 Chronicles 32:1.) But I cannot be persuaded to expound the passage in this manner, for he speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem. When it was besieged by Sennacherib, the Lord immediately delivered it; none were taken or made prisoners, and there was no slaughter of men. These events therefore happened long after the death of the Prophet, and sacred history relates them, and informs us that in that destruction even the rulers betook themselves to flight; but they derived no advantage from their flight, nor did Jerusalem afford them any defense, for they fell into the hands of their enemies.

When he expressly mentions the rulers, this shews more strongly the shamefulness of the transaction, for they ought to have been the first to expose their persons for the safety of the people. They might be viewed as the shields which ought to have guarded and defended the common people. So long as Jerusalem kept its ground and was in a prosperous condition, these statements might be thought incredible, for it was a very strong and powerfully fortified city. But they chiefly boasted of the protection of God, for they thought that in some way God was bound to his “Temple; “ and their pride swelled them with the confident hope that, though all should be leagued against it, no power and no armies could bring it down. (<240704>Jeremiah 7:4.) This prophecy might therefore be thought very strange, that they would have no courage, that they would betake themselves to flight, and that even in that manner they could not escape.

4. Therefore I said. Here the Prophet, in order to affect more deeply the hearts of the Jews, assumes the character of a mourner, and not only so, but bitterly bewails the distressed condition of the Church of God. This passage must not be explained in the same manner as some former passages, in which he described the grief and sorrow of foreign nations; but he speaks of the fallen condition of the Church of which he is a member, and therefore he sincerely bewails it, and invites others by his example to join in the lamentation. What has befallen the Church ought to affect us in the same manner as if it had befallen each of us individually; for otherwise what would become of that passage? “The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up.” (<196909>Psalm 69:9.)

I will be bitter in my weeping. F335 He does not mourn in secret, or without witnesses; first, because he wishes, as I have already said, to excite others by his example to lamentation, and not to lamentation only, but much more to repentance, that they may ward off the dreadful judgment of God against them, which was close at hand, and henceforth may refrain from provoking his displeasure; and secondly, because it was proper that the herald of God’s wrath should actually make evident that what he utters is not mockery.

Because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people. That he expresses the feelings of his own heart may be inferred from what he now declares, that he is bitterly grieved “on account of the daughter of his people.” Being one of the family of Abraham, he thought that this distress affected his own condition, and intimates that he has good grounds for lamentation. By a customary mode of expression he calls the assembly of his people a daughter. Hence it ought to be observed, that whenever the Church is afflicted, the example of the Prophet ought to move us to be touched (sumpaqei>a|) with compassion, if we are not harder than iron; for we are altogether unworthy of being reckoned in the number of the children of God, and added to the holy Church, if we do not dedicate ourselves, and all that we have, to the Church, in such a manner that we are not separate from it in any respect. Thus, when in the present day the Church is afflicted by so many and so various calamities, and innumerable souls are perishing, which Christ redeemed with his own blood, we must be barbarous and savage if we are not touched with any grief. And especially the ministers of the word ought to be moved by this feeling of grief, because, being appointed to keep watch and to look at a distance, they ought also to groan when they perceive the tokens of approaching ruin.

The circumstance of his weeping publicly tended, as we have said, to soften the hearts of the people; for he had to deal with obstinate men, who could not easily be induced to lament. There is a passage that closely resembles it in Jeremiah, who bewails the miserable and wasted condition of the people, and says, that through grief “his heart fainteth,” F336 (<240431>Jeremiah 4:31;) and in another passage, “O that my head were full of waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might bewail the slain of my people!” (<240901>Jeremiah 9:1.) When the prophets saw that they labored in vain to subdue the obstinacy of the people, they could not avoid being altogether overwhelmed by grief and sorrow. They therefore endeavored, by their moving addresses, to soften hard hearts, that they might bend them, if it were at all possible, and bring them back to the right path.

5. It is a day of trouble. He again declares that the Lord is the author of this calamity, and that the Jews may not gaze around in all directions, or wonder that their enemies prevail against them, he pronounces that they are fighting against God. Though this doctrine is frequently taught in Scripture, still it is not superfluous, and cannot be so earnestly inculcated as not to be forgotten when we come to practice. The consequence is, that we are not humbled in the presence of our Judge, and that we direct our eyes to outward remedies rather than to God, who alone could cure our distresses. He employs the word day, as is usual in Scripture, to signify an appointed time; for when God winks at the transgressions of men, he appears to make some abatement of the claims of his rank, which, however, he may be said to receive back again at the proper and appointed time.

In the valley of vision. It is not without good reason that he again calls it “the valley of vision,” for the Jews believed that they would be protected against every calamitous event, because the Lord shone on them by the word. But having ungratefully rejected his instruction, they vainly trusted that it would be of avail to them; and indeed the Lord punishes the unbelief of men, not only out of the Church, but within the Church itself; and not only so, but he begins his chastisement at the Church, so that we must not abuse the gifts of God, or vainly glory in his name. (<600417>1 Peter 4:17.)

And crying to the mountain. F337 This may refer either to God or to the Babylonians, or even to the exiles themselves. Conquerors raise a cry for the sake of increasing terror, and the vanquished either utter what is fitted to awaken compassion, or give vent to their grief by lamentation. The singular number may be taken for the plural, or rather it denotes that part of the city in which the temple was situated. Both meanings will agree well with the context, and it makes little difference whether we say that the enemies cried to Mount Zion, in order to encourage each other, or that, while they were destroying and plundering the city, a cry was heard in the neighboring mountains, or that the citizens themselves caused their lamentations to resound to the mountains which surrounded the plain of Judea. F338

6. But Elam carrying the quiver. Here commentators think that the discourse proceeds without any interruption, and that he makes known to the Jews the same judgment which he formerly proclaimed. But when I examine the whole matter more closely, I am constrained to differ from them. I think that the Prophet reproaches the Jews for their obstinacy and rebellion, because, though the Lord had chastised them, they did not repent, and that he relates the history of a past transaction, in order to remind them how utterly they had failed to derive advantage from the Lord’s chastisements. Such then is the manner in which these statements ought to be separated from what came before. First, he foretold those things which would come on the Jews, and now he shews how justly they are punished, and how richly they deserve those sharp chastisements which the Lord inflicts on them; for the Lord had formerly called them to repentance, not only by words, but by deeds, and yet no reformation of life followed, though their riches were exhausted, and the kingdom weakened, but they obstinately persisted in their wickedness. Nothing therefore remained but that the Lord should miserably destroy them, since they were obstinate and refractory.

The copulative w (vau) I have translated But, which is the meaning that it frequently bears. Those who think that the Prophet threatens for a future period, preserve its ordinary meaning, as if the Prophet, after having mentioned God, named the executioners of his vengeance. But I have already given the exposition which I prefer, and the context will make it still more clear, that I had good reasons for being of that opinion.

When he speaks of the “Elamites” and the “Cyrenaeans,” this applies better, I think, to the Assyrians than to the Babylonians; for although those nations had never make war against the Jews by troops under their own command, yet it is probable that they were in the pay of the Assyrian king, and that they formed part of his army while he was besieging Jerusalem. We have already remarked that, taking a part for the whole, by the “Elamites” are meant the eastern nations.

And Kir making bare the shield. F339 By Kir he undoubtedly means the inhabitants of Cyrenaica. F340 Because they were (peltastai<) shieldsmen, he says that they “laid bare the shield; “for when they enter the field of battle, they draw the shields out of their sheaths.

7. And the choice of the valleys F338 was full of chariots. I do not find fault with the translation given by some interpreters, “in a chariot of horsemen,” but I have chosen rather to translate literally the words of the Prophet; for I think that he means “a military chariot.” At that time they made use of two kinds of chariots, one for carrying baggage, and another for the field of battle. Here he means those chariots in which the horsemen rode.

Had it been a threatening, it would have been proper to translate it in the future tense, “And it shall be; “ but as the words which immediately follow are in the past tense, and as there is reason to believe that the Prophet is relating events which have already taken place, I have not hesitated to make this beginning agree with what follows. “The choice of the valleys” means “the choicest valleys.” He reminds the Jews of those straits to which they were reduced when the enemies were at their gates. They ought at that time to have sought help from God; but those wretched people became more strongly alienated from God, and more shamefully manifested their rebellion, which shewed them to be men utterly abandoned, and therefore he reproaches them with this hardened obstinacy.

8. And he took away the covering of Judah. He shews in what distress of mind the Jews were when they were so closely besieged. Some refer this verb to God, and others to the enemy; but I rather think it ought to be taken indefinitely, for by a mode of expression frequently used in the Hebrew language, “he took away,” means that “the covering of Judah was taken away.” By the word covering almost all think that either the Temple or God himself is meant, in whose name the Jews falsely boasted. But I interpret it more simply as denoting the armory, in which, as a secret place, they kept the instruments of war. He calls it a “covering,” because they were not exposed to public view, but were concealed in a more sacred place. In short, he describes what commonly happens in a season of great alarm, because at such a time men run to arms, and the instruments of war, which had been formerly concealed, are brought forward.

And thou didst look in that day to the armory of the house of the forest. This latter clause agrees with what has been remarked, that they sought out, on such an occasion, every place which contained the means of arming themselves for a case of extreme urgency, the instruments of war having lain long concealed during peace. Sacred history informs us, that this “house of the forest” was built by Solomon, in order to contain the armory of the whole kingdom. F342 (<110702>1 Kings 7:2.) The change of person, thou didst look, does not obscure the meaning, but rather confirms what I have already remarked, that the Prophet relates how eagerly the Jews at that time made every preparation for defending the city.

9. And you have seen the breaches. He proceeds with his narrative, for during prosperity and peace no one cares about bulwarks or instruments of war. It is necessity alone that arouses men and makes them active; peace and quietness make us indolent and cowardly. So long as they thought that they were far from danger, they disregarded the breaches of the wall; but when a report of war arose, they began to be anxious about them, and to make arrangements for preventing the entrance of the enemy.

Of the city of David. By “the city of David,” he means the interior part of the city; for, like many other cities which we see, the city was divided into two parts. The whole of Jerusalem was surrounded by walls and ramparts; but the interior part was more strongly fortified, and was called “the city of David.” The Temple was afterwards fortified, in consequence of which the city might be said to consist of three parts. Isaiah means that the Jews had nearly despaired as to the safety of the whole city, when they withdrew to the inmost and best fortified part of it; and indeed it is evident from sacred history that everything was in a desperate condition. Hence also we may infer, that the prophecies were not collected in a regular order, and that those who drew them up in one volume paid no attention to the arrangement of dates.

The waters of the lower pool. He adds, that water was collected for necessary purposes, that the besieged might not be in want of it, and that the pool served for cisterns.

10. And you numbered the houses of Jerusalem. He means that the city was closely examined on all sides, that there might not be a house or building which was not defended. Others think that the houses were numbered, that they might have a supply of watchmen. But the former interpretation is preferable, and is confirmed by what the Prophet afterwards adds, that the houses were thrown down for the purpose of rebuilding the walls of the city. This is commonly neglected in the time of peace, and the houses of private individuals are often built on the very walls, and, on that account, must be thrown down in the time of war, to supply the means of fighting and of repelling the enemy, and also lest, by means of houses so near the wall, secret communications with the enemy should be maintained.

11. You made also a ditch. The first clause of this verse relates to the former subjects; for he means that they were reduced to the last necessity, and that the great approaching danger struck them with terror, so that they adopted every method in their power for defending themselves against the enemy.

And you have not looked to its Maker. This second clause reproves them for carelessness, because they had given their whole attention to earthly assistance, and had neglected that which is of the greatest importance. Instead of resorting first of all to God, as they ought to have done, they forgot and despised him, and directed their attention to ramparts, and ditches, and walls, and other preparations of war; but their highest defense was in God. What I said at first is now more evident, that the Prophet does not foretell the destruction of the Jews, but declares what they have experienced, in order to shew how justly the Lord was angry with them, because they could not be amended or reformed by any chastisement. The alarming dangers to which they were exposed ought to have warned them against their impiety and contempt of God; but those dangers have made them still more obstinate. Though there is hardly any person so obstinate as not to be induced by adversity, and especially by imminent dangers, to bethink himself, and to consider if they have justly befallen him, if he has offended God and provoked his wrath against himself; yet the Prophet says, that there was not one of the Jews who remembered God in the midst of such distresses, and that therefore God justly ceased to take any concern about them.

Hence infer that it is a token of extreme and desperate wickedness, when men, after having received chastisements or afflictions, are not made better. We ought, first, to follow God and to render to him cheerful obedience; and secondly, when we have been practically warned and chastised, we ought to repent. And if stripes do us no good, what remains but that the Lord shall increase and double the strokes, and cause us to feel them heavier and heavier till we are hurled down to destruction? For it is vain to apply remedies to a desperate and incurable disease. This doctrine is highly applicable to our own times, in which so many strokes and afflictions urge us to repentance. Since there is no repentance, what remains but that the Lord shall try to the very utmost what can be done until he destroy us altogether?

To its maker. By these words he indirectly acknowledges that God does not blame our eagerness to repel the enemy and to guard against dangers; but that he blames the vain confidence which we place in outward defences. We ought to have begun with God; and when we disregard him, and resort to swords and spears, to bulwarks and fortifications, our excessive eagerness is justly condemned as treason. Let us therefore learn to flee to God in imminent dangers, and to betake ourselves, with our whole heart, to the sure refuge of his name. (<201810>Proverbs 18:10.) When this has been done, it will be lawful for us to use the remedies which he puts into our hand; but all will end in our ruin if we do not first commit our safety to his protection.

He calls God the maker and fashioner of Jerusalem, because there he had his dwelling, and wished that men should call upon him. (<110903>1 Kings 9:3.) As Jerusalem was a lively image of the Church, this title belongs also to us, for in a peculiar manner God is called the Builder of the Church. (<19D213>Psalm 132:13, 14.) Though this may relate to the creation of the whole world, yet the second creation, by which he raises up from death, (<490201>Ephesians 2:1,) regenerates, and sanctifies us, (Psalms 110:3,) is peculiar to the elect, the rest have no share in it. This title does not express a sudden but a continual act, for the Church was not at once created that it might afterwards be forsaken, but the Lord preserves and defends it to the last. “Thou wilt not despise the work of thy hands,” says the Psalmist. (Psalms 138:8.) And Paul says,

“He who hath begun a good work in you will perform it till the day of Christ.” (<500106>Philippians 1:6.)

This title contains astonishing consolation, for if God is the maker, we have no reason to fear if we depend on his power and goodness. But we cannot look to him unless we are endued with true humility and confidence, so that, being divested of all haughtiness and reduced to nothing, we ascribe the glory to him alone. This cannot be, unless we can also trust that our salvation is in his hand, and are fully convinced that we shall never perish, even though we be surrounded by a thousand deaths. It was an aggravation of their baseness, that the Lord’s election of that city, which had been established by so many proofs, could not arouse the Jews to rely on the protection of God. As if he had said, What madness is it to think of defending the city when you despise him who made it!

From a distance, or long ago. The Hebrew word denotes either distance of place or length of time. If we refer it to place, the meaning will be, that the Jews are doubly ungrateful, because they have not beheld the Lord even at a distance. Here it ought to be observed, that we ought to look to God not only when he is near, but also when he appears to be at a very great distance from us. Now, we think that he is absent, when we do not perceive his present aid, and when he does not instantly supply our wants. In short, he shews what is the nature of true hope; for it is a carnal and gross looking at God, when we do not perceive his providence unless by visible favor, since we ought to ascend above the heavens themselves. Strictly and truly, no doubt, the Lord is always present, but he is said to be distant and absent with respect to us. This must be understood therefore to refer to our senses, and not to the fact itself; and therefore, although he appear to be at a distance during those calamities which the Church endures, still we ought to elevate our minds towards him, and arouse our hearts, and shake off our indolence, that we may call on him.

But the other meaning is equally admissible, that they did not look to God who created his Church, not yesterday or lately, but long ago, and who had proved himself to be her Maker during many ages. He is therefore called the ancient Maker of his Church, because if the Jews will apply their thoughts and careful search to the long succession of ages, they will perceive that he is the perpetual preserver of his workmanship; and this makes their ingratitude the less excusable.

12. And the Lord of hosts called. The wicked obstinacy of the people is exhibited by the Prophet with additional aggravations. What left them altogether without excuse was the fact, that while they were exposed to so great dangers, they despised the godly remonstrances of the prophets, and rejected the grace of God, when he wished to heal and restore them. It is a proof of consummate depravity, when men have so completely laid aside all feeling that they fearlessly despise both instruction and chastisements, and obstinately “kick against the pricks,” (<440905>Acts 9:5,) and this makes it evident that they have been “given over to a reprobate mind.” (<450128>Romans 1:28.)

When he says, that “the Lord called” them, this may be explained in two ways; for although the Lord does not speak, still he calls loudly enough by stripes and chastisements. Let it be supposed that we are destitute of all Scripture, of prophets, teachers, and advisers, still he instructs us by distresses and afflictions, so that we may state, in a few words, that every chastisement is a call to repentance. But, unquestionably, the Prophet intended to express something more, namely, that in despising godly warnings, they did not scruple to treat with scorn God’s fatherly invitation.

In that day. There is great weight also in mentioning the day of affliction, when danger threatened them, for they were admonished at the same time by the word and by strokes. The signs of God’s anger were visible, the prophets uttered incessant cries, and still they became no better.

To baldness and girding with sackcloth. When he mentions sackcloth and baldness, F343 he employs the signs themselves to describe repentance; for repentance does not consist in sackcloth or haircloth, F344 or anything outward, but has its place in the heart. Those who sincerely repent are displeased with themselves, hate sin, and are affected with such a deep feeling of grief, that they abhor themselves and their past life; but as this cannot be done without, at the same time, making itself known by confession before men, on this account he describes the outward signs by which we give evidence of our conversion. Now, these things were at that time cast away among the Jews, when they made public declarations of repentance. The Prophet therefore means that they were called to repentance, to humble themselves before God, and to exhibit the evidences of repentance before men. Of themselves, indeed, the signs would not be sufficient, for repentance begins at the heart; and Joel gives warning to that effect,

“Rend your hearts, and not your garments.” (<290213>Joel 2:13.)

Not that he wished signs to be laid aside, but he shewed that they are not sufficient, and that of themselves they are not acceptable to God.

Hence infer what is our duty, when the tokens of God’s anger are visible to us. We ought to declare publicly our repentance, not only before God, but also before men. The outward ceremonies, indeed, are of little consequence, and we are not commanded to wear sackcloth or to pull out our hair; but we must practice honestly and sincerely what is actually meant by these signs, disapprobation and confession of our guilt, humility of the heart, and reformation of the life. If we do not confess that we are guilty, and that we deserve punishment, we shall not return to a state of favor with God. In short, as culprits allow their beards to grow, and wear tattered clothes, in order to affect the hearts of the judges, so we ought to betake ourselves as suppliants to the mercy of God, and make a public declaration of our repentance.

But here we ought also to observe the usefulness of outward signs of repentance; for they serve as spurs to prompt us more to know and abhor sin. In this way, so far as they are spurs, they may be called causes of repentance; and so far as they are evidences, they may be called effects. They are causes, because the marks of our guilt, which we carry about us, excite us the more to acknowledge ourselves to be sinners and guilty; and they are effects, because, if they were not preceded by repentance, we would never be induced to perform them sincerely.

13. And, behold, joy and gladness. The Prophet does not here find fault with joy viewed in itself; for we see that Paul exhorts the godly to true joy, the “joy” which is “in the Lord,” (<500404>Philippians 4:4;) but now he censures the joy which is opposite to that sadness which commonly springs from repentance, of which Paul also speaks. (<470710>2 Corinthians 7:10.) No man can be under the influence of repentance and of a sincere feeling of the wrath of God, without being led, by the grief which accompanies it, willingly to afflict himself The joy which is opposite to this grief is therefore sinful, because it proceeds from brutish indifference, and is justly blamed, since the Lord curses it. (<420625>Luke 6:25.)

Slaying oxen and killing sheep. From what has been said, it is easy to see the reason why he censures them for “slaying oxen and killing sheep.” These things are not in themselves sinful, and are not displeasing to God; but as fasting is a part of a solemn declaration of repentance, which we make before men, so to slay cattle for feasting, when we ought to fast, is a proof of obstinacy and contempt of God; for in this way men despise God’s threatenings, and encourage themselves in their crimes.

Such is the statement which Isaiah intended to make in general terms. But it is absurd in the Papists to think of drawing from it an approbation of abstinence from eating flesh. Why do they not also include what the Apostle adds about wine? They are so far from abstaining from the use of wine, that they freely indulge in drinking it, as a compensation for the want of flesh. But let us pass over these absurdities. Isaiah does not absolutely condemn the use of flesh or the drinking of wine, but he condemns the luxury and wantonness by which men are hardened in such a manner that they obstinately set aside God’s threatenings, and treat as false all that the prophets tell them.

This ought to be carefully observed, for we do not always wear sackcloth and ashes; but we cannot have true repentance without making it manifest by the fruits which it must unavoidably produce. In short, as he had described repentance by its signs, so he marks out obstinacy by its signs; for as by fasting and other outward acts we testify our repentance, so by feasting and luxury we give proofs of an obstinate heart, and thus provoke more the wrath of God, in a similar manner to what we read about the days of Noah. (<010605>Genesis 6:5; <402438>Matthew 24:38, 39; <421727>Luke 17:27.) After having described intemperance and luxury in general terms, he particularly mentions eating and drinking, in which the Jews indulged to such an extent as if they had been able, in some measure, to combat the wrath of God, and to obliterate the remembrance of his threatening

For to-morrow we shall die. This clause shews plainly enough why the Prophet complained so loudly about eating flesh and drinking wine. It was because all the threatenings uttered by the prophets were turned by them into a subject of jesting and laughter. It is supposed that Paul quotes this passage, when, in writing to the Corinthians, he uses nearly the same words. (<461532>1 Corinthians 15:32.) But I am of a different opinion; for he quotes the opinion of the Epicureans, who lived for the passing day, and gave themselves no concern about eternal life, and therefore thought that they should follow their natural disposition, and enjoy pleasures as long as life lasted. Isaiah, on the other hand, relates here the speeches of wicked men, who obstinately ridiculed the threatenings of the prophets, and could not patiently endure to be told about chastisements, banishment, slaughter, and ruin. They employed the words of the prophets, and in the midst of their feasting and revelry, turned them into ridicule, saying, in a boasting strain, “To-morrow we shall die. If the prophets tell us that our destruction is at hand, let us pass the present day, at least, in cheerfulness and mirth.”

Thus, obstinate minds cannot be struck with any terror, but, on the contrary, mock at God and the prophets, and give themselves up more freely to licentiousness. It certainly was frightful madness when, through indignation and wrath, they quoted with bitter irony the words which not only ought to have affected their minds, but ought to have shaken heaven and earth. Would that there were not instances of the same kind in the present day! For whenever God threatens, the greater part of men either vomit out their bitterness, or sneeringly ridicule everything that has proceeded from God’s holy mouth.

14. This is revealed. F345 As if he had said, “Do you think that you can escape punishment for your wantonness, when God calls you to repentance?” It might be thought that here the Prophet says nothing that is new; for undoubtedly all things are known to God. But he adds this for the purpose of shaking off the indolence of men, who never would rise so fiercely against God, if they did not think that they could deceive him; for whosoever knows that God is his witness, must also acknowledge that God is his judge. Hence it follows that wicked men, in their wantonness, rob God of his power; and therefore it is not without reason that they are summoned to his tribunal, that they may know that they must render an account to him.

If this iniquity shall be forgiven you till you die. He adds a dreadful threatening, that this wickedness shall never be forgiven. In the Hebrew language, the conditional particle, if, contains a denial, as if the Lord had said, “Do not think that I am true, or that I have any divine perfections, if I do not take vengeance on so great wickedness.” The reason why the Jews, in their oaths, reserve something which is not expressed, is to accustom us to deeper reverence in this matter; for we entreat God to be our Judge and avenger if we speak falsely, and therefore we ought to restrain ourselves, so as not to make oaths at random. Here Isaiah states generally, that nothing is so displeasing to God as impenitence, by which, as Paul says, (<450205>Romans 2:5,) we “heap up for ourselves the treasures of God’s wrath,” and shut out all hope of pardon.

15. Thus saith the Lord. This is a special prediction against a single individual; for, having spoken of the whole nation, he turns to Shebna, whom he will afterwards mention. (<233702>Isaiah 37:2.) To this person the Prophet gives two titles, that of “scribe” or “chancellor,” and that of “steward of the house,” for while in this passage he calls him “steward,” in the thirty-seventh chapter he calls him “scribe.” This has led some to think that, at the time of this prediction, he had resigned his office as steward, and that Eliakim was put in his room. But this is uncertain, though the words of the Prophet, in reference to Shebna himself, lead us to conclude that he cherished wicked envy, which led him to attempt to degrade Eliakim from his rank. Nor is it improbable that this prediction was uttered, when Sennacherib’s army was discomfited, and Jerusalem was saved in a miraculous manner. (<121935>2 Kings 19:35; <233736>Isaiah 37:36.) During the interval, many things might have happened which are now unknown to us; and it is not improbable that this treacherous scoundrel, having obtained the highest authority, made an unjust use of it to the injury of Eliakim. It is evident, from the history of the Book of Kings, that Shebna was a “scribe” or “secretary,” and one of high rank, such as we now call chancellor.

There is greater difficulty about the word! ˆks, (sochen.) Some think that it means “treasurer,” because! ˆks (sachan) signifies to store up; but, as he elsewhere calls him “chancellor,” I think it is not probable that he was treasurer. Besides, the Prophet shews plainly enough that his office as governor was such as allowed others to have scarcely any share of authority along with him. Such a rank could not belong to a treasurer, and therefore I think that the Prophet means something else. As! ˆks (sachan) sometimes signifies “to abet,” and “to foment,”! ˆks (sochen) may here mean “an abettor,” or, as we commonly say, “an accomplice.” It is certain that this Shebna had communications with the enemy, and was a cunning and deceitful person; for he cherished a concealed friendship with the Egyptians and Assyrians, and held treacherous communications with them, so as to provide for his own safety in any event that might arise, and to maintain his authority.

Others think that! ˆks (sochen) is a word denoting the country to which he belonged, and that he was called a Sochnite from the city of which he was a native; for he is said to have been all Egyptian. I certainly do not reject that opinion, but I prefer the former; for he abetted both sides, and thought that, by his cunning, he would be preserved, even though everything should be turned upside down.

The particle hzh, (hazzeh,) this, is evidently added in contempt. It is as if he had said, “That cunning man, ready for all shifts, (panou~`rgov,) who abets various parties, who curries favor on all sides.” In this sense! ˆks (sochen) is used (<110102>1 Kings 1:2) when it relates to a maid who was about to be brought to the aged king in order to cherish him. Yet, if it be thought preferable to understand it as meaning a hurtful and injurious person, I do not object, for the word signifies also “to impoverish.”

16. What hast thou here? Shebna had built a sepulcher at Jerusalem, as if he were to live there continually, and to die there. The Prophet therefore asks why he built a splendid and costly sepulcher in a lofty and conspicuous place, as is commonly done by those who wish to perpetuate the memory of their name in the world. He appears to glance at the ambition of a foreigner and a stranger in longing to be so magnificently buried out of his country, and yet eagerly joining with enemies for the destruction of Judea What could have been more foolish than to erect a monument in that country for whose ruin he was plotting? And therefore he adds —

17. Behold, the Lord will carry thee away. As if he had said, “Thou shalt be cast out of that place into a distant country, where thou shalt die ignominiously.” rbg (geber) is commonly translated as in the genitive case; that is, “with the casting out of a man thou shalt be cast out.” Again, rbg (geber) denotes not an ordinary man, but a strong and brave man, and thus it comes to mean, “with a mighty and powerful casting out.” Others render it in the vocative case, “O man!” as if he were addressing Shebna in mockery, “O illustrious man, who so proudly vauntest of thy greatness, who thinkest that thou art some hero!” But the former reading will be more appropriate. Yet here also commentators disagree; for, besides the exposition which I have mentioned, another is brought forward, that men will be carried to a greater distance than women. But I rather think that he alludes to the pride of Shebna, who had built so splendid a sepulcher, in order that his memory, like that of some distinguished man, might be handed down to posterity. “Thou wishest to be renowned after thy death: I will ennoble thee in a different manner. By a remarkable transportation will I remove thee to a foreign and distant country, where thou shalt be buried in an extraordinary manner.”

First, on the word! ˆks (sochen) it is proper to remark how much God is displeased with a false and deceitful heart; for there is nothing which God more earnestly recommends to us than simplicity. He is called a ruler, because, being placed above others, he was likely to be dazzled by the luster of his present greatness, as happens to those who, elated and puffed up by their success, dread no adversity, as if they had been placed beyond the reach of all danger. The Lord threatens that he will be the judge of such persons. Here it also deserves notice, that Isaiah could not, without making himself the object of strong dislike, utter this prediction, especially when addressed to a man of such an elevated station and so haughty; and yet he must not refuse this office, but must approach and threaten this man, as God had commanded him.

As to the sepulcher, we know that solicitude about burying the dead is not wholly condemned; for although “the want of burial,” as one remarks, “is of little importance, yet the desire of being buried is natural to man, and ought not to be entirely disregarded.” He does not blame him, therefore, for wishing, to be buried, but for his ambition in building a tomb, by which he shewed his eagerness to obtain vain and empty renown. But there is another circumstance connected with Shebna that must be observed; for, having wished to deliver the city into the hands of the Assyrians by treachery, he thought that he would reign permanently. He hoped that the Assyrians, if they were successful, would bestow on him the government of the kingdom as the reward of his treachery, and that, if they were defeated, he would permanently retain his rank and authority.

But this will appear more clearly from the words themselves, What hast thou here? He was a foreigner, and as such he could honestly become united to the people of God; but, being a traitor and a foreigner, he had no right to that city or country which the Lord had specially assigned to his own people. Isaiah therefore asks, “Of what country art thou? Though thou hast no connection with the people of God by blood or relationship, dost thou wish not only to reign in this country during thy life, but to procure for thyself a settled abode in it after thou art dead? Wilt thou betray us to the Assyrians, and drive out the actual possessors, that thou, who art a foreigner, mayest enjoy that country, of which not even an inch belongs to thee?”

Hence infer that God is highly displeased with that ambition by which men endeavor to obtain undying renown in the world, instead of being satisfied with those honors which they enjoy during their life. They wish to be applauded after death, and in some measure to live in the mouth of men; and although death sets aside everything, they foolishly hope that their name will last through all ages. But God punishes their haughtiness and presumption, and causes those things which they wished to be the records of their glory to become their disgrace and shame. Either their memory is abhorred, so that men cannot see or hear anything connected with them without utter loathing, or he does not even permit them to be laid in their graves, but sends them to gibbets and to ravens, of which we read many instances in history, (<170710>Esther 7:10,) and we have seen not a few in our own times.

Whenever I read this passage, I am forcibly reminded of a similar instance, resembling it indeed more closely than any other, that of Thomas More, who held the same office as Shebna; for it is well known that he was Lord Chancellor to the king of England. Having been a very bitter enemy of the gospel, and having persecuted good men by fire and sword, he wished that on this account his reputation should be extensive, and his wickedness and cruelty permanently recorded. He therefore ordered the praises of his virtue to be inscribed on a tomb which he had caused to be built with great cost and splendor, and sent his epitaph, which he had drawn up, to Basle, to Erasmus, along with a palfrey which he gave him as a present, to get it printed. He was so desirous of renown, that he wished to obtain during his life the reputation and praises which he hoped to enjoy after his death. Among other applauses the most conspicuous was, that he had been a very great persecutor of the Lutherans, that is, of the godly. F346 What happened? He was accused of treason, condemned, and beheaded; and thus he had a gibbet for his tomb. Do we ask more manifest judgments of God, by which he punishes the pride, the unbounded eagerness for renown, and the blasphemous vaunting, of wicked men? In this inveterate enemy of the people of God, not less than in Shebna, we ought undoubtedly to acknowledge and adore God’s overruling providence.

Another circumstance worthy of notice is, that this Shebna was a foreigner. Thus, all the tyrants and enemies of the people of God, though they be foreigners, would wish to cast out the actual lords of the soil, that they alone might possess the land; but at length the Lord drives them out, and strips them of all possession, so that they do not even continue to have a tomb. F347 There are innumerable instances in history. True, this does not always happen; but the instances which the Lord holds out to us, ought to lead our thoughts farther to consider his judgments against tyrants and wicked men, who wished to be applauded and celebrated, but are distinguished by some remarkable kind of death, so that their infamy becomes universally known. Thus, the renown of that sepulcher which Shebna had built is indirectly contrasted with the ignominy which quickly followed it.

18. Turning he will turn thee. F348 Isaiah continues the same discourse, in which he ridiculed the pride of Shebna, who had bestowed so much cost on building a sepulcher. This statement is connected with the first clause of the former verse; for, as he formerly said “He will remove thee by an extraordinary removal so he now says, “He will toss thee as a ball into an open plain.” By this comparison he means that nothing will prevent the Lord from casting him out into a distant country, though he thinks that his power is firmly established; and since he had been so careful about his sepulcher, and had given orders about it, as if he had been certain as to his death, Isaiah declares that he will not die in Jerusalem, but in a foreign country, to which he shall be banished.

The chariot of thy glory. Under the word chariot he includes all the fame and rank of Shebna; as if he had said that disgrace would be his reputation among foreigners. Thus, the Lord ridicules the mad ambition of those who look at nothing but the world, and who judge of their happiness by the glory of fading and transitory objects.

The shame of thy lord’s house. He calls it “the shame of” the royal “house,” either because he had polluted that holy place which might be regarded as the sanctuary of the Lord, or because Hezekiah had judged ill in elevating him to that station. That the mask of his high rank might not screen him from this prediction, the Prophet expressly states, that the office which he holds aggravates his guilt and renders him more detestable. Let princes, therefore, if they do not wish to expose themselves and their houses to reproaches, learn to act with judgment in appointing men to hold office.

19. And I will cast thee out. He says nothing new, but concludes the former prediction. Though in the next verse he will again mention Shebna, yet now he gives a brief summary of what has been already said. Shebna thought that he had a fixed abode in Jerusalem, so that, whatever might happen, he thought that he could not be driven or removed from it. But the Lord threatens that he will cast him out, and will banish him to a distant country. Thus, the Lord frequently overturns the thoughts of the wicked, (<193310>Psalm 33:10,) who, relying on their cunning and dexterity, toss about public affairs according to their own pleasure. The change of person shews that the Prophet speaks sometimes in his own name, and sometimes in the name of God.

20. And it shall come to pass in that day. It is uncertain at what time Eliakim was substituted in the room of Shebna; for we shall see, in the thirty-seventh chapter, that Eliakim was steward of the king’s house when Shebna was chancellor. Whether or not any change took place during the interval cannot with certainty be affirmed; yet it is probable, as I lately hinted, that through the stratagems of this wicked man, Eliakim was afterwards driven from his office, and that Shebna, after having triumphed, was punished for his frauds which had been detected, and, having been driven or banished from Judea, fled to the Assyrians, and there received the reward of his treachery. In like manner does it frequently happen to traitors, who, when they cannot fulfill their engagements, are hated and abhorred by those whom they have deceived; for, having been bold and rash in promising, they must be discovered to be false and treacherous.

The Jews allege that at last he was torn in pieces on account of his treachery, but no history supports that statement. Leaving that matter doubtful, it is certain that he was cast out or banished, and that he ended his days in a foreign country, and not at Jerusalem. It is probable that, after his banishment, Eliakim was again placed in his room.

I will call. It is certain that all princes and magistrates are called by the Lord, even though they be wicked and ungodly; for “all authority is from God,” as Paul affirms. (<451301>Romans 13:1.) But here the Prophet speaks of a peculiar calling, by which the Lord manifests his goodness towards his people, when he appoints such persons to be his servants, that it may be known that God governs by them; and they, on the other hand, are well aware of the purpose for which they have been appointed by God, and faithfully discharge the office assigned to them. Shebna had indeed been called for a time, but it was that he might be God’s scourge; for nothing was farther from his thoughts than to obey God. Eliakim was a different kind of person; for he acknowledged himself to be a servant of God, and obeyed the holy calling.

I will call, means, therefore, “I will give a sign to my servant, that he may know that it is I who have raised him to that honorable rank.” There is in this case a peculiar relation between the master and the servant, which does not apply to ungodly men when they obey their own inclination and wicked passions; but this man acknowledged the Lord and sincerely obeyed him. Lastly, this mark distinguishes the true servant of God from a wicked and hypocritical person, who had risen to honor by wicked practices.

21. And I will clothe him. He now explains more fully what he had briefly noticed in the former verse, that it was only by the purpose of God that Shebna was deposed, in order that Eliakim might succeed him. It is true, indeed, that all the changes that happen in the world are directed by the providence of God; for he “girds kings with a girdle,” as we are told in the book of Job, “and ungirds them, according to his pleasure.” (<181218>Job 12:18.) A witty saying was at one time current about the Roman emperors “that they were theatrical kings; “ because, as players, who perform their parts in the theater, no sooner have laid aside the rank of a king, than they presently become poor mechanics; so the emperors, after having been thrown down from their lofty station, were speedily hurried to a disgraceful punishment. And yet it is certain that those insurrections did not take place by chance, or merely through the designs of men, or by military forces, but by the purpose of God, which directed the whole. But the Prophet declares, that there is this peculiarity in the case of Shebna, that his deposition will be a clear proof of the vengeance of God, and that the restoration of Eliakim will be regarded as a lawful form of government.

With thy robes and with thy girdle. By the robes and girdle are meant the badges of the magistrates’ office. The girdle was an emblem of royalty, and the chief magistrates undoubtedly wore it as an honorable distinction. At Rome, also, the praetors wore this badge. Job says, that God ungirds kings when he deprives them of their royal rank. (<181218>Job 12:18.) These things were foretold by the Prophet, that all might not only see clearly in this instance the providence of God, and acknowledge his purpose, but might perceive that this wicked man, who had raised himself improperly and by unlawful methods, was justly deposed.

He shall be Father. Wicked magistrates are indeed appointed by God, but it is in his anger, and because we do not deserve to be placed under his government. He gives a loose rein to tyrants and wicked men, in order to punish our ingratitude, as if he had forsaken or ceased to govern us. But when good magistrates rule, we see God, as it were, near us, and governing us by means of those whom he hath appointed. The Prophet means that Eliakim will perform the part of a father, because he has been endued with the Spirit of God. At the same time he reminds all godly persons that they will have good reasons for wishing the government of Eliakim, because it tends to the general advantage of the Church.

By the appellation father, he shews what is the duty of a good magistrate. The same thing has been taught by heathen writers, that “a good king holds the place of a father; “ and when they wished to flatter those who crushed the commonwealth by the exercise of tyranny, nature suggested to them to call the tyrants by the honorable title of “fathers of their country.” In like manner, philosophers, when they say that a family is the picture of a kingdom, shew that a king ought to hold the place of a father. This is also proved by the ancient titles given to kings, such as “Abimelech,” (<012002>Genesis 20:2, 8,) that is, “my father the king,” and others of the same kind, which shew that royal authority cannot be separated from the feelings of a father. Those who wish to be regarded as lawful princes, and to prove that they are God’s servants, must therefore shew that they are fathers to their people.

22. And the key of the house of David. F349 This expression is metaphorical, and we need not spend much time, as some do, in drawing from it an allegorical meaning; for it is taken from an ordinary custom of men. The keys of the house are delivered to those who are appointed to be stewards, that they may have the full power of opening and shutting according to their own pleasure. By “the house of David” is meant “the royal house.” This mode of expression was customary among the people, because it had been promised to David that his kingdom would be for ever. (<100713>2 Samuel 7:13; <19D211>Psalm 132:11, 12.) That is the reason why the kingdom was commonly called “the house of David.”

The key is put in the singular number for keys. Though “keys” are usually carried in the hands, yet he says that they are laid on the shoulders, F350 because he is describing an important charge. Yet nothing more is meant than that the charge and the whole government of the house are committed to him, that he may regulate everything according to his pleasure; and we know that the delivering of keys is commonly regarded as a token of possession.

Some commentators have viewed this passage as referring to Christ, but improperly; for the Prophet draws a comparison between two men, Shebna and Eliakim. Shebna shall be deprived of his office, and Eliakim shall succeed him. What has this to do with Christ? For Eliakim was not a type of Christ, and the Prophet does not here describe any hidden mystery, but borrows a comparison from the ordinary practice of men, as if the keys were delivered to one who has been appointed to be steward, as has been already said. For the same reason Christ calls the office of teaching the word, (<401619>Matthew 16:19,) “the keys of the kingdom of heaven; “ so that it is idle and foolish to spend much time in endeavoring to find a hidden reason, when the matter is plain, and needs no ingenuity. The reason is, that ministers, by the preaching of the word, open the entrance into heaven, and lead to Christ, who alone is “the way.” (<431406>John 14:6.) By the keys, therefore, he means here the government of the king’s house, because the principal charge of it would be delivered to Eliakim at the proper time.

23. And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place. The particle of comparison roust here be supplied, and therefore I have inserted in the text the word as. By! ˆman, (neeman,) faithful, he means what is “firm and sure.” The original idea of the word is “truth;” for where “truth” is, there firmness and certainty are found; F351 and therefore Hebrew writers employ the word “truth” to denote what is firm and certain. Isaiah employs an elegant metaphor, from which godly magistrates, who are few in number, ought to draw large consolation. They may conclude that not only has God raised them to that honorable rank, but they are confirmed and established, as if they had been fixed by his hand, And indeed, where the fear of the Lord dwells, there the stability, and power, and authority of kings, as Solomon says, are established by justice and judgment. (<201612>Proverbs 16:12; 25:5; 29:14.)

This consolation ought to be of advantage to princes, not only that they may meet all danger courageously, but likewise that they may firmly and resolutely proceed in their office, and not turn aside on any account, or shrink from any danger. But there are very few who call actually relish this doctrine. Almost all are like Jeroboam, (<111228>1 Kings 12:28,) and think that religion should yield to them, and, so far as they imagine, that it will be of service to them, follow it, or rather bend and change it for their own convenience. Their last thought is about God and religion; and we need not wonder if they are always in doubt about their own affairs, and are scarcely ever at rest; for they do not direct their thoughts to him from whom all authority proceeds. (<451301>Romans 13:1.) Hence springs treachery, hence springs cruelty, covetousness, violence, and frauds and wrongs of every kind, in which the princes of the present day indulge with less restraint and with greater impudence than all others. Yet there are some in whom we see what is here said of Eliakim. The Lord guards and upholds them, and blesses that regard to equity and justice which he had bestowed upon them. If the Lord permits even tyrants for a time, because they have some appearance of regular government, what shall happen when a prince shall endeavor, to the utmost of his power, to defend justice and judgment, and the true worship of God? Will he not be still more confirmed and established by him who is the continual guardian of righteousness?

24. And they shall hang upon him. It is as if he had said that Eliakim would be fully qualified for discharging his duties, and would not be indolent in his office. Hence we infer that God does not exalt princes to honor, in order that they may live in indolence or gratify their own passions. The office of a prince is very labourious, if he discharges it properly, and if he do not copy the unmeaning countenances of those who imagine that they have been raised to that honor, that they may live in splendor and may freely indulge in every kind of luxury. If a prince wish to discharge his office in a proper manner, he must endure much toil. It must not be thought that the comparison of a nail is inapplicable to princely government, since it denotes an office full of activity and cares; and we know that metaphors do not apply at all points, but we ought to observe the purpose for which they are introduced.

All the glory of his father’s house, F352 the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. F353 The expression, “his father’s house,” leaves no room to doubt that Eliakim was of royal blood; and therefore by his successors I understand not only those who were nearly related to him, but the whole family of David. He will have the charge of all that shall be in the king’s house. By adding grandchildren, he likewise shews that this princely government will be of long duration, that it will not only last during the life of one individual, but will also extend to his successors. F354 For good princes are useful not only to their own age, but also to posterity, to whom they leave good laws, salutary regulations, and the traces of good government; so that their successors, even though they be wicked men, are ashamed to give themselves up all at once to abandoned wickedness, and, even against their will, are compelled through shame to retain something that is good. He shews that this will be the case with Eliakim, whose government will be so righteous that even posterity shall reap advantage from it.

The smaller vessels. F355 Metaphorically it denotes that there will be uniform justice, or equal laws, as the phrase is; and it is as if he had said, “He will not only support the nobles, but will likewise attend to the interests of the lowest rank.” The more rarely this is found in a prince, so much higher praise does he deserve than if he favored none but the rich and powerful; for these can guard and protect themselves, but the poor and feeble lie open as a prey to the attacks of others, and there is hardly any one that pleads their cause.

To all vessels of music. F356 By vessels the Hebrew writers denote instruments of all kinds, and the meaning is very extensive. When he speaks of musical F357 vessels, he follows out what he had said in a single word; for it serves to explain the word! ˆfq, (katan,) little; as if he had said that there would be nothing so small, or minute, or insignificant, that he would not take charge of it.

25. In that day. It might be thought that this is inconsistent with what he had formerly said; but he no longer speaks of Eliakim, for he returns to Shebna, who was about to be cast down from his rank, as Isaiah had said. But for this, it might have been thought that there was no way by which Eliakim could arrive at that honor, but by the deposition of Shebna, who had arranged his matters so well, that no person thought it possible that he could be driven from his position. Yet though he has fortified himself by many defences, and thinks that he is at a great distance from all danger, still he shall be deprived of his office, and Eliakim shall be placed in his room.

In a sure place. When he calls it “a sure place,” this must be understood with respect to men; for men judge that what is defended on all sides will be of long duration; but God casts it down with the smallest breath. It was only by way of concession that he called it “a sure place.” Hence it ought to be inferred how foolishly men boast, and rely on their greatness, when they have been exalted to a high rank of honor; for in a very short time they may be cast down and deprived of all honor.

And the burden that was upon it shall be cut off. When wicked men are ruined, all who relied on their authority must also be ruined; and indeed it is in the highest degree reasonable that they who were united by the same bond of crimes, and who aided this wicked man as far as lay in their power, should share in the same punishment. It is difficult for those who place themselves under the protection of wicked men, and employ all their influence in behalf of them, not to be also partakers of their crimes; and if they were guiltless of crime, (which seldom, or rather, we may say, never happens,) still they are justly punished on this ground, that they have placed their trust on them as a very sure defense, and have depended wholly on their will and authority.


CHAPTER 23

Go To Isaiah 23:1-18

1. The burden of Tyre. Tyre was very wealthy, and highly celebrated, both on account of the variety and extent of its commercial intercourse with all nations, and on account of the flourishing colonies which sprang from it: Carthage, which was the rival of the Roman Empire, Utica, Leptis, Cadiz, and other towns, which also sent every year a present to Tyre, by which they acknowledged that they looked on Tyre as their mother. Isaiah threatens its destruction, because it had been hostile to the people of God, as we may infer from what is said by Ezekiel; for we ought carefully to attend to the cause of the destruction, because it was the design of the Prophet to shew that God testifies his fatherly regard to his people by opposing all her enemies. (<262602>Ezekiel 26:2.) Some think that this refers to the storming of Tyre by Alexander, who took it with great difficulty. But the argument on which they rely, that Isaiah mentions Chittim, F358 has little force. By that name the Hebrew writers unquestionably denote the Macedonians, but under this word they likewise include other nations, such as the Greeks, and the countries that were beyond the sea. Nebuchadnezzar employed in that siege not only his own soldiers, but also foreigners, whom he brought from Greece and other places. It is for a reason altogether different, as we shall immediately see, that he mentions the Greeks, namely, that henceforth they will not take their ships to Tyre for the sake of carrying on merchandise.

But from the conclusion of this chapter I draw an argument for a contrary opinion, for Isaiah speaks of the restoration of Tyre, and it was never restored after having been stormed by Alexander. Besides, when I compare Ezekiel’s words with those of Isaiah, I think that I see one and the same prediction. Now, he does not speak of Alexander, but of Nebuchadnezzar; and I cannot doubt that it must be explained in that manner. Not only so, but in the days of Ezekiel and Isaiah that city was under the dominion of a king, but historians relate that, when it was stormed by Alexander, it had been brought to the form of a republic. And if we consider the object of the prophecy, we shall be sufficiently confirmed in this opinion, for his aim is to comfort the Jews by threatening that the inhabitants of Tyre, by whom they had been oppressed, will not pass unpunished. For it would have been highly inconsistent that the Lord should punish other nations, and that this nation, which had been not less hostile, should escape punishment altogether, or be punished five hundred years afterwards. Every conjecture, therefore, leads us to this conclusion, that we should expound this passage as relating to Nebuchadnezzar.

Howl, ye ships of Tarshish. He employs various figures of speech, according to his custom, in illustrating the ruin of Tyre, in order to obtain greater credit to the prediction; for a plain narrative would have been ineffectual, or would not have exerted a powerful influence on minds naturally dull and sluggish, and therefore he sets before their eyes a lively portrait. This calamity, he declares, will be very grievous, because it will be felt even in distant countries. He bids the “ships howl,” because, when Tyre has been destroyed, they will have nothing to do. The ships of the Cilicians are particularly mentioned by him, because, being neighbors, they traded often and extensively with the inhabitants of Tyre; and Cilicia is called by the Hebrews “Tarshish.” It was impossible that there should not have arisen great inconvenience to that country at the destruction of Tyre; not only because commerce ceased for a time, but also because the articles of merchandise were carried off, and there was a disturbance of commercial relations F359 as usually happens when the fortunes of rich men have been overthrown.

That there may be no entering in from the land of Chittim. What I have translated “that there maybe no entering in,” is explained by some to signify, that there may be no house “into which you can enter,” but I think that I have faithfully conveyed the Prophet’s meaning. And yet he does not mean that the Cilicians or the Greeks will be hindered from entering, but that they will not hold intercourse with Tyre as they were formerly accustomed to do, because it will not be, as formerly, a mart of nations.

Those who think that the Prophet speaks of the defeat accomplished by Alexander, separate this clause of the verse “from the land of Chittim” from what goes before, and connect it thus, “from the land of Chittim it was revealed to them.” But, on the contrary, I join it differently in this way, “From not going from the land of Chittim; “ that is that the Greeks may no more enter as they were formerly accustomed to do. By the word “Chittim,” he means both the Greeks and the western nations; as if he had said “There will be an end put to commerce with the Greeks so that they will no longer take their ships thither.” Under this designation he includes also the inhabitants of Cyprus, F360 Sicily, and Italy, and other nations.

This was revealed to them. These words may be understood to refer both to the Greeks and to the inhabitants of Tyre. If they refer to the inhabitants of Tyre, the meaning will be, “When the report of the ruin of the city shall reach them, they will put an end to their wonted voyages, for they will avoid that harbour as they would avoid a rock;” and this is the meaning which I more readily adopt. Yet I do not reject the other interpretation, that the Prophet confirms his prediction, as we commonly speak of a thing that is certain, “Let this be regarded as addressed to you.”

2. Be silent, ye inhabitants of the islands. This is intended to place in a more striking light the ruin of Tyre. There is a change of number in the word island; for although he uses the singular number, yet he means the islands of the Mediterranean sea, and the countries beyond the sea, especially the neighbors who frequently performed voyages to Tyre, and traded with it. He enjoins on them silence and stillness, because they will perform no more voyages to Tyre. He bids them “be silent” like persons who are stunned, on account of the grievous calamity which has befallen them, so that they do not even venture to open their mouth; for it was impossible that the nations who traded there should not feel it to be a heavy stroke, when a mercantile city like this was ruined, just as at the present day Venice or Antwerp could not be destroyed without inflicting great injury on many nations.

The merchants of Sidon. He mentions the inhabitants of Sidon in an especial manner, not only on account of their vicinity, but because they had a common origin. Sidon was highly celebrated, but greatly inferior to Tyre. Situated on the sea-shore, it was two hundred furlongs F361 distant from Tyre, and appeared both to be so near it, and to be so closely connected with it by trade, that the poets frequently took Tyre for Sidon, and Sidon for Tyre. The Sidonians, therefore, were unquestionably greater gainers than others by imports and exports, and also by sales and merchandise, in consequence of being so near, and trading with it continually; for the wealth of Tyre overflowed on them, and, as the saying is, they flew under its wings. The result was, that they suffered more severely than others by the destruction of Tyre, and therefore the Prophet afterwards says, (verse 4,) Be ashamed, O Sidon.

Who replenished thee. He adds this general expression, either because it was filled with crowds and multitudes of men, when strangers flocked to it from various and distant countries, or because they who performed voyages to it for the sake of gain did, in their turn, enrich the city.

3. And by great waters. He intimates that the riches of Tyre will not prevent it from being destroyed; and therefore he extols its wealth, in order that the judgment of God may be more manifest, and that all may know that it was no ordinary calamity that befel it; and the more unexpected it was, the more evidently would it appear to be the work of God.

The seed of the Nile. F362 By an elegant expression he describes the wealth of Tyre; for since the Nile supplied it with wheat and other necessaries of life, and since a great quantity of corn was brought to it out of Egypt, he says that it had fields and sowing on the course of the Nile, just as the inhabitants of Venice say that their harvest is on the sea, because they have nothing that grows at home, but all that is necessary for food is brought to them by commerce. The Prophet speaks of the inhabitants of Tyre in the same manner; for it might be thought incredible that they whom the Nile so freely and abundantly supplied should be in want of food. He shews that this will be a vain boast, because they will be in want of all things; and these things, as we have already said, are described by Isaiah, that all may more fully acknowledge the avenging hand of God.

4. Be thou ashamed, O Sidon; for the sea hath spoken. This verse is added for the purpose of heightening the picture. We have explained the reason why he speaks particularly of Sidon. He calls Tyre, by way of eminence, (kat j ejxoch<n,) the sea, as if she reigned alone in the midst of the sea.

I have not travailed. These words are immediately added, and belong (mimhtikw~v) to a fictitious address put into the mouth of Tyre, in which the Prophet wittily taunts the inhabitants of Tyre, who boasted of her colonies; for she “brought forth” other illustrious cities. “In ancient times,” says Pliny, “she was famous for the cities which she built, Leptis, Utica, and that rival of the Roman empire, Carthage, which aspired to govern the whole world, besides Cadiz, which was built beyond the limits of the world. Her whole superiority now consists of scarlet and purple.” (Plin. Hist. Nat., lib. 5:c. 19.) Thus, Isaiah represents Tyre as bewailing her ancient glory, because she has ceased to be a mother, and because it is of no avail to her that she has brought forth so many children, and founded so many cities; for at an early period Carthage sent regularly every year a present to Tyre, for the purpose of doing homage to her as the mother. In this manner Tyre appeared to hold a higher rank than all other cities, since even Carthage, though a rival of the Roman empire, was in some respect subject to Tyre: but the Lord stripped her of all her ornaments in a moment, so that she bewailed her bereavement, as if she had never brought up any children.

5. As soon as the report shall reach the Egyptians. F363 In this verse he declares that this destruction will affect equally the inhabitants of Tyre and those of Egypt; and this confirms the exposition which we follow, that the present prophecy relates to a former devastation. The inhabitants of Tyre had been in alliance with the Egyptians, and both countries had been under kingly government; not as in Alexander’s time, when Tyre was a free state, and lived under its own laws. The alliance which existed between the inhabitants of Tyre and those of Egypt could not have been more appropriately described; and therefore he shews that this ruin extends also to the Egyptians, because they prompted the Jews to rebellion, and turned them aside from confidence in God. The former were open enemies; the latter, under the pretense of friendship, cherished dangerous hostility; and therefore both are justly punished.

6. Pass ye over to Tarshish. He addresses not only the inhabitants of Tyre, but foreigners who were connected with them by trading and bids them go elsewhere and seek new harbours: and he mentions Cilicia, which was opposite to Tyre, as if he had said, “That shore, which was wont to be well supplied with harbours, will henceforth be forsaken, so that ships will sail in a very different direction;” for when a harbour or a mercantile city has been ruined, merchants commonly go in search of another.

Howl, ye inhabitants of the island. F364 “Island,” as we have formerly explained, is here put for “islands;” for the change of number is very customary with Hebrew writers. He foretells that they will lament, because their support depended entirely on that traffic, and because their accounts and reckonings F365 were scattered about in all directions.

7. Is this your exulting city? The Prophet mocks at Tyre, and ridicules her pride, because she boasted of the antiquity of her name. He likewise confirms what all would suppose to be incredible; for this prediction was undoubtedly laughed at, seeing, that the power of Tyre was unshaken, and her wealth was like a wall of brass. So much the more confidently does Isaiah speak, and threaten that her ruin is certain, and that, though she be more ancient than other cities, and though she be universally applauded on that ground, still this will not prevent her from being destroyed. The origin of Tyre is traced in profane history from time almost out of mind, and is so obscure and intricate, that hardly anything can be ascertained; though they allege that it was founded by the Phenicians, as those who boast of the fame of antiquity call themselves natives of the soil. With this antiquity the Prophet contrasts banishment, intimating that, when God had determined to inflict punishment on that nation, her stability would be at an end.

Her feet shall carry her, to travel into a distant country. To follow wherever “the feet carry,” is nothing else than to have long wanderings. Yet he also means that they will be deprived of their wealth, and will be in want of all things during their banishment, so that they will not have a conveyance of any kind, or a beast to carry them. Banishment is a very hard condition, when poverty is added to it; for it may be more easily endured where there are the means of supporting life; but when men must dwell in unknown countries in the deepest poverty, the misery is extreme. He adds the finishing stroke to their miseries by saying, that they must “travel into a distant country;” for the greater the distance, the harder is the banishment.

8. Against crowning Tyre. He adorns with this title the city which enriched many, as may be easily learned from the context; for when he calls her merchants “kings,” he plainly states that by the word crown he intended to express metaphorically the magnificence of kings. This refutes the opinion of those who refer it to other cities. The general meaning is, that she enriches her citizens as if she made them kings and princes.

Some think that the Prophet added this verse, as if he were assuming the character of one who is astonished at the destruction of Tyre, in order to strike others with amazement; as if he had said, “Is it possible that Tyre should be so speedily overthrown, where riches, and troops, and defences, and fortifications, are so abundant, and where there is so much pomp and magnificence?” and as if he suddenly stopped, as we are wont to do, when anything unexpected has occurred. But it is better to connect it with the following verse, which removes every difficulty; for in that verse the Prophet himself immediately answers his own question, by which he intended to arouse the minds of his hearers to closer attention. He might have simply said, that these things were done by the purpose of the Lord; but we are sluggish, and stupid men would have treated them with contempt. By this question, therefore, he arouses their minds, that all may know that he is not speaking about an ordinary event, and that they may consider it more carefully; for the farther the judgments of God are removed from the ordinary opinions of men, so much the more ought they to excite our astonishment.

He formerly spoke in the same manner about Egypt, when he intended to shew that the destruction of it could not be reckoned one of the ordinary changes. (<231901>Isaiah 19:1-25.) Since therefore it was incredible that Tyre could be overthrown by man, the Prophet justly infers that God is the author of its ruin. On this account he calls her the mother or nurse of kings, that he may place in a more striking light the glory of the divine judgment; for if it had been any ordinary state, its fall would have been viewed with contempt; but when it was adorned with the highest rank, who would think that this happened in any other way than by the purpose of God?

Whose merchants are princes. F366 In like manner the merchants of Venice in the present day think that they are on a level with princes, and that they are above all other men except kings; and even the factors look on men of rank as beneath them. I have been told, too, that at Antwerp there are factors who do not hesitate to lay out expenses which the wealthiest of the nobility could not support. We are wont to put questions, when no reply can be given but what we wish; and this is an indication of boldness.

9. To profane the pride, or, to profane the loftiness; for it may be read either way, because loftiness leads to pride, and where loftiness or a high spirit is found, there seldom is humility. But it will be better to read it Pride, which alone provokes the vengeance of God, when men, under pretense of their excellence, vaunt themselves above measure. To “profane” and to “despise” mean the same thing; for those who are high in rank imagine that they are separated from others, and consider themselves to have something indescribably lofty belonging to them, as if they ought not to mingle with the crowd of human beings. But God strips them of their rank, degrades them, and treats them as vile and worthless.

From this passage let us learn, that we ought to contemplate the providence of God in such a manner as to ascribe to his almighty power the praise which it deserves for righteous government. Although the rectitude by which God regulates his judgments is not always apparent or made visible to us, still it is never lawful to separate his wisdom and justice from his power. But as the Scriptures very frequently state and clearly explain the reason why God does this or that, we ought carefully to examine the cause of his works.

That invention which the Schoolmen have introduced, about the absolute power of God, is shocking blasphemy. It is all one as if they said that God is a tyrant who resolves to do what he pleases, not by justice, but through caprice. Their schools are full of such blasphemies, and are not unlike the heathens, who said that God sports with human affairs. But in the school of Christ we are taught that the justice of God shines brightly in his works, of whatever kind they are, “that every mouth may be stopped,” (<450319>Romans 3:19,) and that glory may be ascribed to him alone.

The Prophet therefore assigns the causes of so great an overthrow, that we may not think that God acts without a reason; for the inhabitants of Tyre were proud, ambitious, lewd, and licentious. These vices follow in the train of wealth and abundance, and commonly abound in mercantile cities. For this reason he shews that God is provoked on account of these vices, that all who are left may be taught by this example to pay greater attention to their own interests, and not to abuse the gifts of God for parade and luxury. Such is the benefit which we ought to draw from it, for we must not imagine that it is a bare history which is related to us.

But a question arises, Does God hate the exalted rank of princes and lords? For he raises on high princes, senators, nobles, and all classes of magistrates and rulers; and how then can he hate them? I reply, the high station occupied by princes is not in itself hateful to God, but only on account of the vice which is accidental to it, that when they have been highly exalted, they despise others, and do not think that they are men. Thus, pride is almost always an attendant of high station, and therefore God hates it; and, in a word, he must rebuke that haughtiness of which he declares that he is an enemy.

10. For there is not any longer a girdle. F367 jzm (mezach) is translated by some a girdle, and by others strength. Those who translate it girdle, suppose the meaning to be that Tyre will be so completely plundered, that she will not even have a girdle left; and that the allusion is to the vast wealth laid out in merchandise, for the poorest of the merchants sell girdles. But I think that Isaiah alludes to the situation of the city, which was protected on all sides by ditches, mounds, ramparts, and the sea.

11. He stretched out his hand over the sea. It is thought that the prediction which the Prophet uttered, about the destruction of Tyre, is here confirmed by examples; namely, that the Lord has given so many examples of his power in overturning the greatest kingdoms, that we ought not to think it strange if he now overturn Tyre, however flourishing and wealthy it may be. And indeed this manner of speaking is frequently employed in Scripture, if it be not made plain by manifest examples and by actual demonstration. It is therefore believed that the Prophet here calls to remembrance the deliverance from Egypt, when the Lord divided the sea, (<021421>Exodus 14:21,22,) and again, when he drove out seven kings, and brought his people into the land of Canaan. (<060601>Joshua 6:1-27; 8:1-35; 10:1-43). But when I take a closer view of the words of the Prophet, I am more disposed to explain them as referring to the present state of matters; for he speaks here of Tyre, whose riches covered the whole sea.

He shook the kingdoms. What he says about the kingdoms is, because she could not perish alone, but must at the same time involve many kingdoms in her ruin. Thus the whole world must have undergone some change, as appears from history; and finally, the Prophet himself draws the conclusion, that the Lord commanded that this mart of nations should be overthrown.

Jehovah hath given commandment concerning Canaan. F368 The word! ˆ[nk (chenaan) has led commentators to think that the Prophet here speaks of the Canaanites, and refers to the proof which God gave of his vengeance against them. But there is little force in that argument; for! ˆ[nk (chenaan) is often taken for a common noun, just as, a little before, (verse 8,) he used the word hyn[nk (chinyaneiha) to mean her factors. The riches of Tyre having consisted of merchandise and trading, Isaiah described it by naming the principal part. By the expression, hath given commandment, he extols the providence of God, that the Jews may know that all that appears to be permanent in the world stands and falls according to the will of God, and that there is no need of the instruments of war for overturning the best fortified place, but the mere expression of the will of God is enough.

12. And he said, Thou shalt not add any more to rejoice. F369 All this belongs to one and the same object; for, since a plain description would not have had sufficient weight, the Prophet confirms his prediction by many words. It was incredible that a city so celebrated and powerful, so well defended and fortified, and associated with many allies and confederates, should be destroyed and overturned. When he says, Thou shalt not add, he does not intend to shut out the hope of restoration which he will give soon afterwards; for this threatening ought to be limited to the time of the ruin of Tyre, “Thou shalt not live wantonly, as formerly thou wert wont to do.”

O virgin. Metaphorically he calls her a virgin, because, previous to that time, the riches of Tyre were untouched, and had suffered no injury. This is not praise of chastity, but a witty manner of saying that the treasures which had been laid up in faithful custody will be violated. “Formerly thou didst skip lightly, like heifers in the bloom of youth but when thou hast suffered violence, there will be an end of thy mirth; “ just as if one should say, that the city of Venice has not lost her virginity because it has not been taken by force since it was built.

Daughter of Sidon. He continues to speak of Tyre, but gives it this name, because it was built by the Sidonians, though the daughter excelled the mother, as frequently happens in human affairs. The convenience and situation of the place gave a superiority to the inhabitants of Tyre, and Sidon became but an appendage. From the book of Kings it is evident enough (<110501>1 Kings 5:1) that the monarchy of Tyre had a high reputation, but here the Prophet looked at its origin.

Pass over to Chittim. When he bids them pass over to Chittim, he banishes them not only into Cilicia, but into countries still more distant; for under this name he includes Greece, Italy, and other countries; as if he had said, “When thou shalt change thy residence on account of banishment, thou shalt have no settled habitation in neighboring countries; but thou must wander through the whole world, shalt be dragged into unknown countries, and even there thou shalt find no rest.” Lastly, he means that the ruin will be so lamentable, that they will not have among neighbors, and, after crossing the sea, they will not have among foreigners, a place of rest.

13. Behold, the land of the Chaldeans. He now confirms by an example what he predicted about the taking of Tyre; for those things could scarcely obtain credit, especially among the inhabitants of Tyre, who thought that they were very far from such ruin. I am aware that this passage is explained in various ways, but I shall not spend time in refuting the opinions of others. It will be enough if I shall state, as far as I am able to form a judgment of it, the Prophet’s real meaning.

The people of the Chaldeans was not; that is, they had no name; for, if we inquire into their origin, they were descended from the Assyrians, as is evident from <011011>Genesis 10:11. He therefore says truly, that they were not at first a nation, but were concealed under the name of another, so that they did not form a separate body.

Ashur founded it for the inhabitants of the wilderness. The words which we have rendered “inhabitants of the wilderness” others translate ships, but we do not approve of that exposition. What we at first stated is preferable, namely, that the Assyrians gave a settled condition to the Chaldeans, who formerly led a wandering life in the deserts under skins, F370 but were collected into cities, and trained to higher civilization, by the Assyrians. This is also the meaning of the word wrrw[ (gnoreru,) namely, that they erected and built cities; for we cannot agree with those who render it “to destroy.” F371 What happened?

He brought it to ruin. That is, to use a common expression, “The daughter has devoured the mother;” for the Assyrian monarchy was overturned by the Chaldeans, though it was more powerful and flourishing than all the others. It will be said, what has this to do with Tyre? We answer, it is because Tyre will be overthrown by the Assyrians and Chaldeans. Since therefore the Chaldeans, who formerly were no people, could conquer the Assyrians and subject them to their power, why should we wonder if both united should conquer Tyre? since the Lord gave such a display of his power in the case of the Assyrians, why should Tyre rely on her riches? She will undoubtedly be made to feel the hand of God, and her power will be of no avail to her.

14. Howl, ye ships of Tarshish. He repeats what he formerly said; for the Cilicians, on account of their vicinity, constantly traded with the inhabitants of Tyre. He bids their ships howl, because, when that harbour is shut up, the merchants will be struck with amazement at not having their ordinary intercourse. He calls that harbour which they visited, their strength, not only because it was a place of resort that might be relied on, but because there was no other way in which their voyages could yield profit.

15. And it shall come to pass in that day. After having spoken of the taking of Tyre, he next declares how long her calamity shall endure. It happens that cities which have been ruined are suddenly restored, and regain their former position; but the Prophet testifies that this city will be desolate and ruinous for seventy years. By being forgotten he means that there will be no merchandise, because she will not have the ordinary course of trade.

According to the days of one king. F372 Some think that the days of one king relate to David, but that is exceedingly frivolous, for “the days of a king” are put for the age of a man, in the same manner as the age of a man is shewn by the Psalmist to be generally limited to seventy years. (<199010>Psalm 90:10.) But why did he mention “a king” rather than any other man? It was because Tyre had a king, and reckoned time by the life of a king. This contributed greatly to establish the certainty of the prediction, for the Prophet could not have ascertained it by human conjectures.

Tyre shall have a song like that of a harlot. By “the song of a harlot” he employs a beautiful comparison to denote merchandise; not that in itself it ought to be condemned, for it is useful and necessary to a commonwealth, but he alludes to the fraud and dishonesty with which it frequently abounds, so that it may justly be compared to the occupation of a harlot.

16. Take a harp. He compares Tyre to a harlot, who, after having spent the whole period of her youth in debauchery, has at length grown old, and on that account is forsaken and despised by all, and yet cannot forget her former gain and lewdness, but desires to grow young again and renew her loves, and, in order to attract men, goes about the city, delighting their ears by songs and musical instruments. Such prostitutes are seized with some kind of madness, when they perceive that they are disregarded on account of their old age; and we see that Horace mocks at Lydia on this account. F373 Thus Tyre, after having been ruined, and as it were buried in oblivion, will again put forth her efforts, and schemes, and contrivances, for recovering her former condition.

Make sweet melody. By the “harp” and “sweet melody,” he means the tricks, and frauds, and blandishments, and flatteries of merchants, by which they impose on men, and as it were drive them into their nets. In a word, he shews by what methods mercantile cities become rich, that is, by deceitful and unlawful methods; and therefore he says, that Tyre will regale their ears by pleasant melody.

Sing many songs. That is, Tyre will add fraud to fraud, and allurements to allurements, that at length she may attract all to her, may be again remembered by men, and recover her former celebrity. In short, as an old harlot contrives methods for regaining the favor of men, and allures them by painting, and ornaments, and dress, and songs, and musical instruments, so will Tyre recover her wealth and power by the same arts with which she formerly succeeded. And yet he does not on that account exhort Tyre to restore herself in this way, but proceeds with his prophecy.

17. Jehovah will visit Tyre. F374 Although the Lord will afflict Tyre in such a manner that she will appear to be ruined, yet he declares that she will obtain mercy, because, rising at length out, of her ruins, she will be restored to her former vigor. Such a restoration is justly ascribed to the favor of God; for otherwise the same thing must have happened to them as Malachi foretells would happen to the Edomites, that the Lord would overturn and destroy all that men would build. (<390104>Malachi 1:4.) Consequently they would never have returned to their former condition if the Lord had not aided them.

From these words we ought to draw a profitable doctrine, that though the Lord is a severe judge towards the wicked, yet he leaves room for the exercise of his compassion, and is never so harsh as not to mitigate his chastisements, and at length to put an end to them. And if he is such towards the wicked, what will he be towards those whom he has adopted, and on whom he determines to pour out his goodness? When kingdoms therefore are re-established, when cities are rebuilt, and nations regain their freedom, this is brought about solely by the providence of God, who, whenever he pleases, lays low what is high, (<090207>1 Samuel 2:7, <420152>Luke 1:52,) and quickly raises up and restores what was fallen.

And then she will return to her hire. This ought to be viewed as a contrast to the former statement, for the meaning is, that Tyre will be no better, and will not be reformed by so severe a chastisement, because she will quickly return to her natural disposition; for he accuses her of ingratitude. We see instances of the same kind every day. There is scarcely a corner of the world in which the Lord has not exhibited proofs of his judgment. To those whom he has chastised he allows time to breathe, but they become no better. Isaiah says that this will happen to Tyre.

She will commit fornication. “She will not repent, but, on the contrary, will return to her former courses. She will commit fornication, as she was formerly accustomed to do.” He unquestionably speaks of buying and selling, but continues to employ the comparison which he had adopted; not that he wishes to condemn the occupation of a merchant, as we have already said, but that it is so largely mingled with the corruption of men as to resemble closely the life of a harlot; for it is so full of tricks, and hidden stratagems, and deep-laid traps, (as we often see,) that it appears to have been contrived for the purpose of ensnaring and deceiving men. How many new and unheard of contrivances for making gain and exacting usury are every day invented, which no one who has not been long trained in the school of merchandise can understand? We need not wonder, therefore, that the Prophet made use of this comparison, for it means that Tyre will have no more honesty than before in mercantile transactions.

18. But her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord. This was another instance of the divine compassion towards Tyre. Though she had been restored, yet she was not converted to God, but continued to follow dishonest practices, so that she justly deserved to be ruined. And indeed she was again punished severely, when Alexander took the city by storm; but still the kingdom of Christ, as Luke informs us, was erected there. (<442104>Acts 21:4.) This verse ought therefore to be viewed as contrasted with the former, as if he had said, “And yet the merchandise of Tyre shall be consecrated to God.” Here we have an astonishing proof of the goodness of God, which penetrated not only into this abominable brothel, but almost into hell itself. The restoration of Tyre ought thus to be regarded as a proof of the goodness of God; but the former favor was small in comparison with the second, when God consecrated her to himself.

But a question arises, “Could that which the inhabitants of Tyre obtained by cheating and unlawful methods be offered to God in sacrifice?” For God abhors such sacrifices, and demands an honest and pure conscience. (<202127>Proverbs 21:27, <230113>Isaiah 1:13.) Many commentators, in expounding this passage, give themselves much uneasiness about this question, but without any good reason; for the Prophet does not mean that the merchandise of Tyre will be consecrated to God while she continues to commit fornication, but describes a time subsequent to her change and conversion. At that time she will not lay up riches for herself, will not amass them by unlawful methods, but will employ them in the service of God, and will spend the produce of her merchandise in relieving the wants of the godly. When he used a word expressive of what was disgraceful, he had his eye on the past, but intimated that she would unlearn those wicked practices, and change her disposition.

It shall not be treasured nor laid up. He describes, in a few words, the repentance of Tyre, who, having formerly been addicted to avarice, has been converted to Christ, and will no longer labor to amass riches, but will employ them in kind and generous actions; and this is the true fruit of repentance, as Paul admonishes, that “he who stole should steal no more, but, on the contrary, should labor that he might relieve the poor and needy.” (<490428>Ephesians 4:28.) Isaiah foretells that the inhabitants of Tyre, who formerly, through insatiable avarice, devoured the riches of all, will henceforth take pleasure in generous actions, because they will no longer have an insatiable desire of gain. It is an evidence of brotherly love when we relieve our neighbors, as it is an evidence of cruelty if we suffer them to be hungry, especially when we ourselves have abundance.

Her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the Lord. He next mentions a proper method of exercising generosity, which is, to employ their wealth in aiding the servants of God. Though he includes all godly persons, yet he alludes to the Levites and priests, some of whom sacrificed, while others made ready the sacrifices, and others kept watch, and, in short, all were ready to perform their duty; and therefore they were said to “dwell before the Lord.” (<040301>Numbers 3:1-4:49.) The same thing may justly be said of all the ministers of the Church. But as all believers, of whatever rank they are, belong to the sanctuary of God, and have been made by Christ “a royal priesthood,” (<600209>1 Peter 2:9; <660106>Revelation 1:6,) that they may stand in the presence of God so I willingly regard this passage as relating to all “the household of faith,” (<480601>Galatians 6:10,) to whom attention is especially due; for Paul holds them out as having the highest claims, and enjoins that they shall be first relieved. If the tie which binds us universally to mankind ought to prevent us from “despising our own flesh,” (<235807>Isaiah 58:7,) how much more the tie that binds the members of Christ, which is closer and more sacred than any natural bonds?

We ought also to attend to this mode of expression, by which we are said to “dwell before God;” F375 for though there is not now any “Ark of the Covenant,” (<580904>Hebrews 9:4,) yet, through the kindness of Christ, we approach more nearly to God than the Levites formerly did. We are therefore enjoined to “walk before him,” as if we were under his eye, that we may follow holiness and justice with a pure conscience. We are enjoined to walk before him, and always to consider him as present, that we may be just and upright.

That they may eat till they are satisfied. F376 The Prophet means that we ought to supply the wants of brethren with greater abundance and generosity than what is customary among men; for when neighbors ought to be relieved, men are very niggardly. Few men perform cheerfully any gratuitous duty, or labor, or kindness; for they reckon that they give up and take from their own property all that they bestow on others. For the purpose of correcting this error, God highly commends cheerfulness; for the command which Paul gives to deacons, “to distribute joyfully,” (<451208>Romans 12:8,) ought to be applied to all; and all ought to remember that passage which declares that “God loveth a cheerful giver.” (<470907>2 Corinthians 9:7.)

It deserves our attention, also, that the Prophet says that what is bestowed on the poor is consecrated to God; as the Spirit elsewhere teaches, that “with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (<581316>Hebrews 13:16; <470912>2 Corinthians 9:12.) Never was it on his own account that he commanded sacrifices to be made, nor did he ever stand in need of them. But under the law he ordained such exercises of piety; and he now commands us to bestow and spend on our neighbors something that is our own, and declares that all that we lay out on their account F377 is “a sacrifice of sweet savor,” (<500418>Philippians 4:18,) and is approved and accepted by him. This ought powerfully to inflame us to the exercise of kindness and generosity, when we learn that our alms are so highly applauded, and that our hands, as well as our gift, are consecrated to God.


CHAPTER 24

Go To Isaiah 24:1-23

1. Behold, Jehovah maketh the earth empty. This prophecy, so far as I can judge, is the conclusion of all the descriptions that have been given from the thirteenth chapter downwards, in which Isaiah foretold destruction not only to the Jews and to Israel, but to the Moabites, Assyrians, Egyptians, and other nations. In short, having, as it were, surveyed all the countries which were near the Jews and known to them, he gives a brief summary of the whole. Some view this as referring to Israel, and others to the Jews, and think that their destruction is foretold; but as he mentions the world, I can view it in no other light than as a comprehensive statement of all that he formerly said about each of them, and at different times. Nor is this view contradicted by the fact that he immediately mentions the priest, which might lead us to believe that these things relate to none but the people of God; for although he speaks of all the nations, yet because the Jews always hold the highest rank, Isaiah must have had them especially in his eye, for he was appointed to them. It may be said to have been accidental that he mentions other nations; and therefore we ought not to wonder if, after having made reference to them, he speaks particularly about his own people in a single word.

Others suppose that he means “the whole world,” but think that he refers to the last day, which I consider to be an excessively forced interpretation; for, after having threatened the Jews and other nations, the Prophet afterwards adds a consolation, that the Lord will one day raise up his Church and make her more flourishing; which certainly cannot apply to the last judgment. But by the term the earth, I do not think that the Prophet means the whole world, but the countries well known to the Jews; just as in the present day, when we speak of what happens in the world, we almost never go beyond Europe, or think of what is passing in India; for this may be said to be our word. Thus, Isaiah speaks of “the earth” known to himself and to all whom he addressed, and of the people who inhabited the neighboring countries. In short, we may limit the term “World” to the Egyptians, Assyrians, Moabites, Tyrians, and such like; as if he had said, “Hitherto I have spoken of various calamities, which threatened many nations; and still in part threaten some of them; but I may sum up all by saying, ‘The Lord will overturn and strip the face of the earth of all its ornaments.’”

And maketh it bare. F378 Some translate hqlb, (bolekach,) he uncovereth the earth that the enemies may have free entrance into it. But I choose rather to translate it, “he maketh bare the earth,” because the earth is said to be “covered,” when it is inhabited by a great multitude of men, and when it abounds in fruits and flocks; and it is said to be “uncovered” or “laid bare,” when it is deprived of its inhabitants, and when its covering is taken away from it, as if one were stripped of his raiment and ornaments. Now, this must have happened not only to the Jews, but to the Assyrians, Egyptians, and other nations, which he had mentioned; and therefore to all of them together he threatens their ruin.

2. And it shall be. By these words he means the utmost desolation, in which there will be no longer any distinction of ranks or any appearance of a commonwealth; for so long as there is a tolerably regular form of government, some distinction continues to be maintained between “the people” and “the priests.” By a figure of speech, in which a part is taken for the whole, (sunekdocikw~v,) he mentions one department instead of the whole class, as is frequently done in the Scriptures; though we might take ynjk, (kochanim,) to mean those who hold any high rank; for Hebrew writers frequently give this name to princes, and especially to those who are of royal blood; but I have no reluctance to view it as an instance of the figure of speech which I have mentioned.

Since Isaiah reckons this confusion among the curses of God, and declares that, when the distinction of ranks is laid aside, it is a terrible display of the vengeance of God, we ought to conclude, on the other hand, how much God is pleased with regular government and the good order of society, and also how great a privilege it is to have it preserved among us; for when it is taken away, the life of man differs little from the sustenance of cattle and of beasts of prey. We ought therefore not only to acknowledge the dreadful vengeance of God, but also to lay it to the blame of our own sins, whenever he breaks down order and takes away instruction and courts of law; for when these fall, civilisation itself falls along with them. It ought also to be considered that, when the Lord executes his judgments, he spares no rank, not even the most sacred. What was this order of priests, which the Lord had so splendidly adorned, and had determined to consecrate to himself, and of which the people also boasted as if it had been unchangeable and eternal? Yet even the rank of priesthood is involved in the judgment of God, because there is no respect of persons, but, on the contrary, the more highly any have been favored, and the higher the rank to which they have been exalted, the more severely will he punish them, if they shall shew themselves to be ungrateful and abuse his benefits.

As the servant, so his master; as the buyer, so the seller. This statement is to the same effect with what goes before; for these ranks are manifestly lawful, and are not usually set aside, unless when the Lord determines to chastise his people with dreadful vengeance, as we have already said; for in a well-ordered society the distinction between master and servant must be observed. In like manner, no public government can be lasting without the transactions of commerce; and therefore, when the distinction between rich and poor has been taken away, every scheme for gaining a livelihood among men is destroyed. The meaning of the Prophet is, that all civil government will be broken up, because in such calamities, they who were the wealthiest are reduced to the lowest poverty. In short, he describes the most appalling desolation, which will be followed by unwonted change.

3. By emptying shall the earth be emptied. He confirms what he had already said, and declares that those changes will not be accidental, but that they are the work of God. In the first verse, he had expressly stated that God is making preparations for emptying the earth: he now asserts that it will happen, and adds the reason, that God hath purposed and determined to do it.

4. The earth hath lamented. Isaiah proceeds with his subject; for all this tends to explain the desolation of the whole world, that is, of the world which was known to the Jews. According to his custom, he illustrates the judgment of God more clearly by figures, which are fitted to produce an effect on sluggish minds.

The lofty people of the earth. F379 By the “lofty ones” we must understand those eminent persons who held a higher rank than others; for this is more wonderful than if the common people had fallen. Yet if it be thought preferable to explain it as relating peculiarly to the Jews, I have no objection; for although the Assyrians and Egyptians excelled them in wealth and power, still the Jews held the highest rank in this respect, that they had been adopted by God. But I prefer the other exposition, which makes the meaning to be, that the Lord would inflict punishment, not only on common people, but also on those who surpassed others in rank and splendor.

5. And the earth was deceitful. F380 Others render it “defiled” or “polluted,” because nk (chanaph) means “to be wicked.” Both renderings may be appropriate; but the next verse appears to demand that we explain it to mean false; for he appears to illustrate and exhibit it more fully immediately afterwards, when he says that “the earth has been consumed by a curse.”

Under its inhabitants. Whether tht (tahath) be translated “Under its inhabitants,” or, “On account of its inhabitants,” is of little importance. There is a kind of mutual bargain between the land and the husbandmen, that it gives back with usury what it has received: if it does not, it deceives those who cultivate it. But he assigns a reason, imputing blame to them, that they render it barren by their wickedness. It is owing to our fault that it does not nourish us or bring forth fruit, as God appointed to be done by the regular order of nature; for he wished that it should hold the place of a mother to us, to supply us with food; and if it change its nature and order, or lose its fertility, we ought to attribute it to our sins, since we ourselves have reversed the order which God had appointed; otherwise the earth would never deceive us, but would perform her duty.

Because they have transgressed the laws. He immediately assigns the reason why the earth is unfaithful, and deceives her inhabitants. It is because those who refuse to honor God their Father and supporter, will justly be deprived of food and nourishment. Here he peculiarly holds up to shame the revolt of his nation, because it was baser and less excusable than all the transgressions of those who had never been taught in the school of God. The word hrwt (torah) is applied to “the Law,” because it denotes instruction; but here, in the plural number, trwt (toroth,) it denotes all the instruction that is contained in the “Law.” But as the “Law” contains both commandments and promises, he adds two parts for the purpose of explanation.

They have changed the ordinance. The Hebrew word qj (chok) means “an ordinance,” and on that account some think that it denotes ceremonies, and others that it denotes morals. We may render it “commandments;” and I understand it to mean not only ceremonies, but everything that belongs to the rule of a holy life.

They have broken the everlasting covenant. The third term employed by him is, tyrb (berith,) by which he means a covenant and contract. This word is limited to those “contracts” by which the Lord, who adopted his people, promised that he would be their God. (<021906>Exodus 19:6; 29:45; <032612>Leviticus 26:12.) He therefore charges them with ingratitude, because, when the Lord revealed himself by all these methods, and gave proofs of his love, they were disobedient and rebellious, “transgressed the laws,” and “broke the holy covenant.”

But why does he address himself to the Jews? Because he knew that he had been appointed to be their Prophet, that he might especially give instructions to them. Hence we may infer what is the rule of a holy life. It is contained in that law which we ought to follow if we wish that God should approve of our life; if we turn aside from it, we must be wicked and abandoned. We ought also to remark, that it is the will of God that in his word we should consider not only his commandments and laws, but also his covenant; for the chief part of the word consists of promises, by which he adopts and receives us as his own people. Besides, the Prophet unquestionably intended to use a variety of terms in order to express his meaning more strongly; as if he had said, “There is nothing about us that is sound and pure; everything is polluted and corrupted.”

He calls it “the covenant of eternity,” or “the everlasting covenant,” because it ought to be perpetual and inviolable, and to be in force in every age. It was to be transmitted, in uninterrupted succession, from father to son, that it might never be effaced from the memory of man, but might be kept pure and entire. He therefore represents in strong terms their treachery and wickedness, because they dared to violate that covenant which God had made with them, and to overthrow what the Lord intended to be firm and permanent. This was monstrous; and therefore we ought not to wonder that the earth takes vengeance for this wickedness, and refuses to give food to men.

6. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth. Some render it perjury, F381 but as hla (alah) signifies also a “curse,” I have no doubt that here he employs it to denote a “curse,” and alludes to those curses which Moses in the law threatens against wicked men and transgressors of the law, (<032616>Leviticus 26:16; <052815>Deuteronomy 28:15.) We know that the earth was cursed on account of the transgression of our first parent, so that it brought forth thorns and thistles instead of fruits. (<010317>Genesis 3:17, 18.) The Lord mitigated this curse, so that, although men were ungrateful and unworthy, still it yielded them food. But when we do not cease to sin, and when we add sin to sin, is it not in the highest degree just that the earth should become barren and unfruitful, in order that we may more clearly perceive this curse, and that it may make a deeper impression on our senses?

And its inhabitants are made desolate. I think that a (asham) here means “to make desolate,” rather than “to forsake;” and this is apparent from the context, on which account I have translated it “are made desolate.” But perhaps it will be thought preferable to take the copulative w (vau) as signifying because, and then the meaning will be, “The earth accursed by God is burnt up, because its inhabitants have acted wickedly.” F382

Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left. The word wrj (charu) may be taken metaphorically, and I prefer this view of it, which makes the meaning to be, that those whom the wrath of God has consumed are burned up; because the destruction is compared to a conflagration. When he adds, “that few will be left,” we learn from it that this prediction cannot be explained as relating to the last day of judgment, and that, on the contrary, the Prophet foretells and confirms those desolation which threatened various nations, and that he does so in order that the godly may fear, and may be led to repentance, and may be prepared for enduring all things.

7. The wine hath failed. The same subject is continued, and the Prophet threatens chiefly against the Jews the desolation of the land. He gives a long description in order to affect them more deeply, and impress them with a conviction of the judgment of God. Their luxury, intemperance, and feasting, are rapidly surveyed, because amidst so great abundance they proudly disobeyed God. Such ingratitude was not peculiar to the Jews or to that age, but it is universally found that they who enjoy abundance rebel against God, and indulge themselves too freely. On this account the Prophet censures them; as if he had said, “Hitherto you have been plunged in luxuries and pleasures, but the Lord will cause you to lead a very different kind of life.” Isaiah speaks of the future as if it had been present, in order to place it more clearly before their eyes.

9. They shall not drink wine with a song. To drink wine is not in itself evil, because God has appointed it for the use of man; but here the Prophet describes the banquets of drunkards, which were full of licentiousness, songs, and insolence. Again, because they abused their enjoyment of plenty, he threatens them with want, which men almost bring upon themselves, when by their luxury they turn to a bad use the goodness of God.

Strong drink shall be bitter. He adds, that if they drink wine, it will be “bitter” to them, because sorrow commonly deprives men of a relish both for what they eat and for what they drink. The meaning may be thus summed up, “Though they have abundance of wine, yet they will be deprived of the use of it, because they will feel such sorrow as shall take away all relish for it.” “Strong drink shall be bitter;” that is, you shall no longer enjoy those pleasures and delights in which you have hitherto indulged.

10. The city of F383 vanity is broken down. I do not object to viewing this as relating especially to the desolation of Jerusalem. Yet it may be gathered from the context that it applies also to other cities; for shortly afterwards he uses the plural number in summoning the nations to appear before the same tribunal. But as the Prophet had his own countrymen chiefly in view, we may properly consider it to denote Jerusalem, which he calls “the city of vanity,” either because there was no solid virtue in it, or because it was destroyed.

The word wht (tohu) may refer either to the destruction itself, or to their crimes, by which they provoked the wrath of God against them. If it be thought better to refer it to their crimes, it will denote “the city of confusion,” in which nothing is regular or properly arranged; and I approve of this interpretation. Yet it may refer to the punishment; for it declares, in my opinion, the cause of the destruction, and gives up the city to ruin, because justice and good government are banished from it.

Every house is shut up. This is a proof of solitude, and the only reason why it is added is, to express the desolation of that city.

11. There is a cry about wine. He means, that there will be a scarcity of wine; for where want or hunger is found, it is accompanied by unceasing complaints, not only in private, but “in the streets” and public places. He therefore points out those doleful sounds and complaints, but, at the same time, reproves their luxury and intemperance, because they were not satisfied with what was necessary, but greedily swallowed wine, and abandoned themselves to every kind of enjoyment. We must supply the contrast. “Hitherto you have had abundance of wine and of food, and you have taken occasion from it to grow insolent against God; and therefore you will justly be deprived of them, and, instead of your wanton indulgence, wailing and lamentations will be heard in the streets.”

All joy is darkened. The metaphor in this second clause deserves attention; for, as we say that joy brightens when it obtains its object, so the Prophet here says, that “joy is darkened,” because sorrow may be said to be a cloud drawn over it. To rejoice is not in itself evil, any more than to drink; and the Prophet does not censure joy simply considered, but excessive and immoderate mirth. When men are merry, they lay no restraint on themselves on account of that dissoluteness or love of disorder (ajtaxi>an) which is natural to them. The Jews, having behaved insolently and lived luxuriously, are deservedly threatened with the vengeance of God, because most justly is joy taken from us when we know not how to make a right use of the Lord’s benefits, or to rejoice in him. It thus becomes necessary that he should take away our pleasures and delights, and compel us to sigh and groan.

12. In the city is left desolation. By an elegant mode of expression he describes the desolation of Jerusalem or of many other cities. The ornament and perfection of cities consists of men; and therefore, when their inhabitants have been removed, cities are said to be deserted. The Prophet says ironically, that “ruin” will be left; but the word hm (shammah) is rendered by others desolation, which amounts to the same thing.

And the gate is smitten with desolation. He mentions the gates, because in them the crowded population of the city was seen, for there the people assembled, and there the courts of justice were held. At first, therefore, he mentions the whole city, and next he names one part of it, but for the purpose of setting the matter in a stronger light; for although cities be deprived of their inhabitants, yet some are to be seen in the gates; but if the gates be altogether empty, there must be grievous solitude in the whole city.

13. For it shall be in the midst of the land. As this statement is inserted between the threatenings and the consolation, the Prophet appears to address the chosen people, and not all the nations indiscriminately; if we do not rather say that he describes the dispersion, by which the Jews were divided, as it were, into many nations. But this being a harsh and forced interpretation, I interpret it as simply meaning that some hope is left to the ruined nations, and certainly this prediction applies strictly to the kingdom of Christ; and therefore we need not wonder that some part of the salvation is also promised to the Gentiles.

As the shaking of an olive-tree. The Prophet has elsewhere used the same metaphor, but it was when he spoke of the Church alone. (<231705>Isaiah 17:5, 6.) On that occasion he said that some seed of God would be left, that believers might not think that the Church was utterly ruined; for when “the olives are shaken,” still a few olives are left, and some grapes after the vintage; and in like manner, after the terrible destruction which shall fall upon the Church, a small number of the godly will be left. But now he extends the same promise to other parts of the world, as they were to become partakers of the same grace through Christ. Yet there is still a mixture of threatening; as if he had said, that the earth will be deprived of its inhabitants in exactly the same manner as the trees and vines are stripped of their fruits.

14. They shall lift up their voice. He follows out and increases the consolations which he had briefly sketched; for, having formerly (<231019>Isaiah 10:19-22) said that, out of that vast multitude, a few drops would be left, which would nevertheless overflow the whole world, in like manner he now says, that the small number of the godly, which shall be left out of an abundant vintage, will nevertheless rejoice and utter a voice so loud that it will be heard in the most distant countries. This was done by the preaching of the gospel; for, as to the condition of Judea, it appeared to be entirely ruined by it: the national government was taken away, and they were broken down by foreign and civil wars in such a manner that they never could rise above them. The rest of the world was dumb in singing the praises of God, and deaf to hear his voice; but as the Jews were the first fruits, I shall willingly admit that they are here placed in the highest rank.

Hence we obtain a remarkable consolation, that the Lord can in a moment restore his Church, and make it most flourishing; or rather, he can, as it were, create it out of nothing; for even out of death, as we have seen, he brings life. Now, this is contrary to nature and to ordinary custom, that so small a number of persons should lift up their voice, and be heard in distant places; for where there are few persons, there is silence, and where there is a crowd, there is commonly a noise. It is therefore a work of God, which goes beyond the course of nature and the ability of men; for otherwise it would appear as if the Prophet uttered what was contradictory, that when the whole of Judea had been laid waste and the world had been emptied, there would be few or almost none left, and yet that their shouting would be heard everywhere. This is in itself incredible, or rather absurd; but, as we have already said, it is an astonishing work of God.

They shall cry aloud from the sea. By those heralds he means not only those who were the descendants of the Jews according to the flesh, but those who were descended from them by faith. The crying aloud denotes not only cheerful voices, expressive of gladness and joy, but likewise confidence; for they will freely and boldly utter with a loud voice the praises of God. He states, at the same time, that it is right that believers should be employed in extolling God’s perfections and not their own claims to approbation. By the sea, he obviously means distant countries, and those which lay beyond the sea and were unknown to the Jews.

15. Wherefore glorify Jehovah in the valleys. F384 God’s benefits ought to excite us to gratitude, and we testify it by singing his praises. “What return shall we make,” as David says, “for all the benefits which he has bestowed on us, but to take the cup of thanksgiving for salvation, and call on the name of the Lord?” The Prophet therefore observes this order; having spoken of the restoration of the Church, he exhorts us to offer the sacrifice of praise.

By the valleys, he means countries that are hidden and, as it were, separated from others; for those which are surrounded by mountains are separated and disjoined by nature. The consequence is, that the inhabitants of valleys are less civilized, because they have fewer opportunities of conversing with each other. The meaning is the same as if the Prophet had said, that there will not be a corner so obscure or retired that the praises of God shall not be heard in it.

The name of Jehovah the God of Israel. He uses the expression, “the name of the God of Israel,” in order to intimate that all nations will call upon the true God; for, as all nations have a knowledge of God that is natural to them, so all easily turn aside to superstition and false worship. (<450119>Romans 1:19.) But here he speaks of spreading the true religion through the whole world; and this makes it still more evident that the prophecy relates to the kingdom of Christ, under which true religion has at length penetrated into foreign and heathen nations.

16. From the uttermost part F385 of the earth. This verse contains two statements which have some appearance of being at variance with each other. It begins with a joyful description of the praises of God, and next passes on to complaints and lamentations, in which he bewails the treachery of transgressors, who overturn religion and godliness. So far as relates to praises, we have said that we can neither praise God nor call upon him, till he reveal himself to us, and give a taste of his goodness, that we may entertain hope and confident expectation of life. Hence those sayings of David,

“In the grave who shall praise thee, O Lord?
In death who shall confess to thee?” (<190605>Psalm 6:5.)

When we feel nothing but the wrath of God, we are dumb to his praises; and therefore when he says that the praises of God will be heard, he means that the gospel will be spread through the whole world; that men may acknowledge God to be their Father, and may thus break forth into his praise. “From the uttermost part” is a phrase that deserves attention; for at that time the praises of God were confined to Judea, and were not heard at a distance; but afterwards they began to resound everywhere. (<197601>Psalm 76:1, 2.)

Glory to the righteous. Some consider this to be spoken by all believers, as if the song were, “God is glorified on account of his righteousness.” Others read the two clauses as one, “We have heard that glory is given to the righteous God.” Those who think that the heralds of God’s praises are called “righteous,” bring out a very good sense, but do not attend to the word “Glory,” or at least are constrained to render the word ybx (tsebi) joy. F386 He makes use of the preterite, “We have heard,” instead of the future tense; and his reason for doing so is, that he intended to cheer the hearts of the godly by some consolation; “We shall again hear the praises of God; “ for this is more than if he had said, “They will be heard.” He speaks also in the first person, in order to include the whole body of the Church, and thus to awaken the attention of the godly.

God is called righteous; and we know that this expression frequently occurs in Scripture, but it belongs to him in a different manner from that in which it belongs to men; for men are called “righteous,” on account of the “righteousness” which has been communicated to them; but God, who is the fountain of righteousness, is called “righteous,” on account of what he performs. (<053204>Deuteronomy 32:4; <190709>Psalm 7:9; 11:7.) And that is a proof of this congratulation and thanksgiving, because from the communication of this righteousness we obtain salvation and life; and therefore, wherever the righteousness of God is, it must be followed by praises and thanksgivings.

When the Prophet predicted these things, how incredible might they appear to be! for among the Jews alone was the Lord known and praised. (<197602>Psalm 76:2.) To them destruction is foretold, and next the publication of the word, and the celebration of the praises of God; but how could these things be done, when the people of God had been destroyed? Hence we may infer that there were few who believed these predictions. But now that those events have taken place, it is our duty to behold with admiration so great a miracle of God, because, when the Jews had been not only broken down, but almost annihilated, still there flashed from them a spark by which the whole world was enlightened, and all who were kindled by it burst forth into a confession of the truth.

My leanness. F387 This passage is explained in various ways; for some translate yzr (razi) secret, and others leanness. Those who translate it secret understand the Prophet to mean that a double secret has been revealed to him, because the Lord has determined to reward the good and to punish the wicked; for when men look only at the outward appearance of things, and see that the wicked succeed to their wish, and that the godly are overwhelmed by afflictions, they are distressed, and doubt whether the affairs of men are governed by the hand of God, or all things happen by chance; and Solomon shews that thoughts of this kind are the seed of ungodliness. (<210811>Ecclesiastes 8:11.) On this account the Psalmist also says, that he “entered into the sanctuary of God,” that he might examine the subject in another manner than by human reason. (<197317>Psalm 73:17.) If we adopt that interpretation, the meaning will be, “Though it appear as if there were no reward to the righteous, yet I hold this as a secret imparted to me, that it will be well with them; and although the wicked think that they will escape, yet I know that they will not pass unpunished.” But as this ingenuity appears to be too far-fetched, I prefer a more simple interpretation; and, besides, there immediately follows an interjection expressive of lamentation, ywa, (oi,) Woe! so that I do not think that Isaiah speaks here about the righteous or about their reward.

Others more correctly explain it leanness; as if he had said, that through grief he shrinks and grows lean; for as the prosperous and flourishing condition of that people might be called “fatness,” so its wretched and distressed condition might be called “leanness.” Here the Prophet stands forth as the representative of the whole race; and when the Lord cuts it down, he justly complains of his “leanness.” This interpretation, I have said, is probable; for when the Prophet saw the people diminishing in numbers, he had good reason for bewailing that diminution. We know that, when the grace of God was very abundantly poured out, the ancient people was greatly diminished, and the posterity of Abraham was almost annihilated.

But we must see if the Prophet does not look farther than to the rejection of his nation, so as to bewail the condition of his bowels, when he foresees that the Church will be heavily distressed; for zr (raz,) which some translate secret, may properly be understood to denote the internal part of the body in this way the exclamation would be, “My bowels, or my entrails, are pained; “ for in a pathetic discourse there is no absurdity in supposing that a word is supplied. When the Lord has extended his Church, it appears to be in a flourishing state, and free from all danger; but when its very inwards or bowels, that is, its own members, give it uneasiness, it is grievously tormented. Hypocrites arise, by whom it is more annoyed than by enemies who “are without.” (<662215>Revelation 22:15.)

Such is also the import of those groaning, ywa, (oi,) wo to me; and Isaiah, I have no doubt, intended to intimate that the godly should not think that they will be happy in this world, but should believe that they must maintain a continual strife, even when they might imagine that there is nothing to hinder them from enjoying uninterrupted tranquillity and peace. He wishes to express the feeling of poignant grief which torments the Church inwardly, even in her very bowels; and this affliction is the more deeply to be lamented, because it cannot be avoided; for, as some one says, the Church can neither flee from internal and domestic enemies, nor put them to flight. Isaiah can scarcely find terms adequate to express this miserly

The treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously. These words abundantly confirm the expositions which have been already given. How heavy this affliction is, and how deeply it ought to be deplored, we ourselves have abundantly experienced, and still experience every day. Whence arose Popery, and all its corruption, but from this internal evil? for it was an imposthume (ajpo>sthma) bred in the very bowels of the Church, vehicle sent forth offensive and diseased matter. How comes it also that, when the Church begins to revive, we see doctrine corrupted and discipline overturned not only by the common people, but by those who ought to have given a good example to others? Is it not because the Church is always subject to this evil?

17. Fear, and the pit, and the snare. The Prophet here discourses against the sins of the people. Formerly he declared that not only one nation, but very many and very distant nations, would have abundant grounds of thanksgiving. He now passes to another doctrine; for I think that these words ought to be separated from what goes before, because Isaiah again threatens the wicked, that they may know that amidst the highest prosperity of the Church they will be miserable. For the sake of cherishing their indifference, wicked men are accustomed rashly to apply the promises of God to themselves, though they do not at all belong to them; and therefore the prophets usually mingle threatenings with them. It is also possible that Isaiah delivered this discourse separately from the rest, and on a different occasion; for neither the prophets themselves nor other learned men divided the chapters. We have often seen different subjects joined together, and others divided which ought to have been joined, which was undoubtedly done through ignorance. However that may be, the Prophet returns to the wicked, and threatens against them severe and dreadful judgment.

This description of “fear, the pit, and the snare,” is intended to touch the feelings; for if he had said, in a single word, that destruction awaits the wicked, they would not have been greatly moved. But there is room for doubting if he addresses the Jews alone. For my own part, I should not be much inclined to dispute about this matter; but I think it is more probable that these threatenings related also to other nations, and even to the whole world, of which he had formally prophesied.

O inhabitant of the earth. By “the world” we understand those countries which were known to the Jews, as we have already explained. The meaning is, “Thou art pressed by afflictions so diversified, that thou hast no means of escape.” Amos gives a similar description: “He who shall flee through dread of a lion shall meet a bear; and if he go into the house, when he leaneth on a wall, a serpent shall bite him.” (<300519>Amos 5:19.) Isaiah formerly said that lions would be sent against the Moabites who had escaped from the battle. (<231509>Isaiah 15:9.) God has an endless variety of scourges for punishing the wicked. It is as if he had said, “Know that you cannot escape the hand of God; for he has various methods by which he takes vengeance on their crimes, and thus overtakes those who had hoped to escape by a variety of contrivances. He who escapes from the battle shall be tormented with hunger; and when he is freed from hunger, he will meet some other calamity, as if nets had been laid on all sides to ensnare you.”

For the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth are shaken. This argument confirms what had been already said, that it is impossible for them to escape the vengeance of God, who has prepared for it a free course in heaven and in earth, from the utmost height of heaven down to the depths of the earth. Some think that he alludes (<010711>Genesis 7:11) to the deluge; but, in my opinion, the meaning is simpler, that the wrath of God will be revealed above and below; as if he had said, “The Lord will arm heaven and earth to execute his vengeance against men, that wherever they turn their eyes, they may behold nothing but destruction.”

19. By breaking down is the earth broken down. He heightens his description of punishments by using various modes of expression. A little afterwards he will point out the cause of this “shaking,” which is, that men by their sins had drawn down on themselves such destruction. He now declares that this evil is incurable. We have formerly said that the Prophet explains the same thing in various ways, and for the purpose of striking and arousing those minds which are naturally very sluggish; for there is in the flesh a carelessness which produces contempt of God, and we have too much experience of it both in ourselves and in others. In order, therefore, that the prophets might arouse those who were careless and asleep in their vices, they adorn their style; not because they cared about being thought eloquent, but that they might make their hearers more attentive, and sting them to the quick. Hence the allusions of which these verses are full; hence the brilliant metaphors in the style; hence the threatenings and terrors announced in various ways; the object of all is, that careless men may be aroused.

Now, this doctrine ought to be limited to the wicked; not because the godly are exempted from those evils, for they are afflicted as well as other men; but because, when the godly betake themselves to God, and rely wholly upon him, they are not shaken in this manner, and remain firm and steadfast against every assault; while wicked men, who despised the judgments of God, and took unbounded liberties in transgression, are terrified and alarmed, and never find rest.

20. And shall be removed like a tent. This does not mean that any change will take place in the position of the earth; but these words, as we have already said, must be referred to men; as if he had said, that there would be no kingly power and no regular government. In short, he intended to describe those changes which he had spoken of in the tenth chapter.

And the transgressions thereof shall be heavy upon it. When he says that “the earth is laden with its iniquity,” he has very appropriately assigned this reason, that we may understand that God is never angry with men without a cause; for we ourselves are the authors of all the evils which we suffer. God is by nature disposed to kindness, and regards us with a father’s love; and therefore it is our own fault that we are treated with sharpness and severity, and we have no reason to blame him. F388

And it shall fall, and not rise again. He at length repeats what he briefly stated a little before, that there will be no remedy for those evils. Some think that this relates to the Jews, whose form of government was entirely taken away, so that they were broken down and scattered, and were scarcely reckoned in the rank of men. But I give a more extensive interpretation, that the distresses of the world will be so severe, that it cannot be restored to its original condition. Men always contend against adverse events, and their minds are full of confidence. Having endured calamities, they think that there will be some room for breathing, and their minds are swelled with false hopes, which the Prophet therefore takes away, that they may not in future deceive themselves by unfounded expectation. Yet it ought to be observed, that this general statement does not set aside the exception which Isaiah formerly made.

21. And it shall come to pass. This passage has tortured the minds of many commentators, and various interpretations have been offered by various writers. Some think that this relates to the sun and the stars, and others, that it relates to the devils, who will be punished along with the wicked. Others refer it to the Jews, on whom God had bestowed a remarkable privilege. But I cannot adopt any of those interpretations. F389 The simple and genuine meaning, therefore, appears to me to be, that no power will be so high as to be exempted from those scourges of God; and though they raise themselves above the clouds, yet the hand of God will reach them; as it is said in the Psalm,

“Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? and whither shall I flee from thy face? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there; if I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, there also shall thy hand pursue me.” <19D907>Psalm 139:7-10.

Jehovah will visit upon the army on high. F390 This is a metaphor by which he denotes kings and princes, who shine and sparkle in the world like stars; and he afterwards explains this metaphor in direct language, by adding upon the kings of the earth; for I do not think that they ought to be separated, as if he were speaking of different subjects, but that there is a repetition of the same statement, so that the latter clause explains the former. But perhaps it will be thought preferable to explain it thus: “he will visit on the kingdoms of the earth,” even on those things which appear to surpass the rank of men; for some things rise so much above others, that they appear as if they did not belong to the ordinary rank. The word visit must relate to punishment, as even the context shews plainly enough.

22. And they shall be gathered together, and shall be shut up in prison. He continues his subject in the beginning of the verse. The mode of expression is metaphorical; for they were not all captives, but God reduced them to servitude, as if a man held in his hand the enemies whom he subdued. He therefore brings forward God as a conqueror, who shuts up enemies in prison, as captives are commonly shut up. We know that men, as it were, flee from God, and despise him, so long as he spares them, and exercises any forbearance towards them; and on this account also he threatens that they shall be thrown into prison in large masses, that they may not solace themselves with their multitude.

Afterwards they shall be visited. When he adds that after a time “they shall be visited,” it is not simply a promise, but includes also a threatening to this effect, “As formerly by their obstinacy they mocked God, and excessively prolonged the time of sinning, so God will punish without making haste, till at length, though late, they acknowledge the cause of their distresses.” Thus earthly judges frequently do not deign to admit into their presence the malefactors who have offended them, but plunge them into darkness and filth, and gradually wear them out, in order to subdue their obstinacy. Again, as there are two ways in which God visits the world, either when he punishes the wicked, or when he shews to the elect the tokens of a Father’s kindness, the word visit here signifies “to look upon; “ and thus the Prophet softens the harshness of the threatening. It was necessary that the hearts of the godly should be supported amidst these distresses, that they might not faint; and on their account, therefore, after various threatenings, the prophets are wont to add consolations. As these statements tended to support believers, they were undoubtedly addressed to the Jews, among whom chiefly faith was found, or rather, there was none to be seen anywhere else.

After many days. This also deserves attention. It was intended to try the faith of the godly; F391 for we are hasty in our desires, and would wish that God should immediately perform his promises: we complain that he is slow, and we cannot brook any delay. It is therefore our duty to wait patiently for that mercy; and no delay, however long, should make us lose heart. Yet it ought also to be observed, that this does not refer to all; for, as we saw a little before, God had determined to save but a small remnant; and this ought to quicken us the more, that, being humbled by slow and long-continued punishments, we may meet God who visits us.

23. The moon shall be confounded. Many commentators think that the Prophet waxes still more wroth against the Jews, so far as to say, that the sun and moon and stars are ashamed of their unbelief, and that not only men, but creatures devoid of speech, will abhor them; but this appears to be far removed from the meaning and design of the Prophet. I have no doubt that he continues to give the consolation which he had glanced at in the former verse; “When the Lord shall visit his people, and cleanse the Church from its defilement, he will establish a kingdom so illustrious that it will darken the sun and stars by its brightness.” This mode of expression is frequently employed by the prophets, and we have formerly seen it. Since, therefore, God will establish your kingdom on Mount Zion, so great will be its splendor in the restoration of the people, that those things which dazzle the eyes of men, will be dark in comparison of it; and, for the purpose of expressing this, he has mentioned those objects which surpass all others in brightness.

When the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion. some think that the word reign denotes God’s vengeance; but this is inaccurate, for although the Lord is said to reign when he discharges the office of a Judge, yet the complex phrase, “the reign of God in Mount Zion,” always denotes mercy and salvation. He speaks of the restoration of the Church, and hence it follows, that it is only in Christ that those things are fulfilled.

And before his elders glory. By expressly mentioning the “elders,” he employs a figure of speech frequently used in Scripture, by which the chief part of the Church is taken for the whole body of it. And yet it is not without a special design that he denotes, by the term “elders,” not only the priests, but other governors who preside over discipline and morals, and by whose moderation and prudence others ought to be guided. Under their name he includes the whole nation, not only because they represent the whole body, and because the common people are in some measure concealed under their shadow, but likewise that believers may entertain hope of future restoration; for otherwise it would have been of little or no avail that a scattered multitude should be left like a mutilated body or a confused mass. Not without good reason did he use the phrase, “and before his elders,” that the Jews might know that the power of God would be visibly and strikingly displayed; not that it can be perceived by the bodily senses, but by faith. He reigns in such a manner, that we feel that he is present with us; and if we did not comprehend this, it would yield us no consolation.

Glory. F392 Instead of “glory” some read “gloriously,” and others, “glorious,” I prefer to take it simply as a substantive, though there is little difference in the meaning. He shews how great will be the splendor and glory of God, when the kingdom of Christ shall be established, because all that is brilliant must be obscured, and the glory of Christ alone must hold a high and prominent place. Hence it follows, that then only does God receive his just rights, and the honor due to him, when all creatures are placed in subjection, and he alone shines before our eyes.


CHAPTER 25

Go To Isaiah 25:1-12

1. O Lord, thou art my God. Hitherto Isaiah has prophesied about the judgments of God, which threatened not only a single nation, but almost the whole world. Now, it was impossible that the contemplation of calamities so dismal as those which he foresaw should not give him great uneasiness; for godly persons would desire that all mankind should be saved, and, while they honor God, they desire also to love all that belongs to him; and, in short, so far as any man sincerely fears God, he has a powerful and lively feeling of the divine judgments. While wicked men stand amazed at the judgments of God, and are not moved by any terror, godly men tremble at the slightest token of his anger. And if this be the case with us, what do we suppose was experienced by the Prophet, who had almost before his eyes those calamities which he foretold? For, in order that the ministers of the word might be convinced of the certainty of what they taught, it was necessary that they should be more powerfully impressed by it than the generality of men.

Since therefore the Lord held out to Isaiah, as in a picture, those dreadful calamities, he found it necessary, under the overpowering influence of grief and anxiety, to betake himself to the Lord; otherwise the confused emotions of his mind would have agitated him beyond measure. He therefore takes courage from the belief that, in the midst of these tempests, the Lord still determines to promote the advantage of his Church, and to bring into subjection to himself those who were formerly estranged. Isaiah therefore remains firm and steadfast in his calling, and does not allow himself to be drawn aside from his purpose, but continually relies on the expectation of mercy, and therefore perseveres in celebrating the praises of God. Thus we learn that this thanksgiving is connected with the former prophecies, and that Isaiah considers not only what he foretold, but why the Lord did it; that is, why the Lord afflicted so many nations with various calamities. It was, that he might subdue those who were formerly incorrigible, and who rushed forward with brutal eagerness, who had no fear of God, and no feeling of religion or godliness.

Thou art my God. Being as it were perplexed and confused, he suddenly raises his thoughts to God, as we have already said. Hence we ought to draw a very useful doctrine, namely, that when our minds are perplexed by a variety of uneasy thoughts on account of numerous distresses and afflictions which happen daily, we ought immediately to resort to God, and rely on his providence; for even the smallest calamities will overwhelm us, if we do not betake ourselves to him, and support our hearts by this doctrine. In order to bring out more fully the meaning of the Prophet, the word but or nevertheless may be appropriately inserted in this manner: “Whatever temptations from that quarter may disturb me, nevertheless I will acknowledge thee to be my God.” Thus he promises that he will give to God the praise which is due to him; and this cannot be, unless a firm belief of his grace dwell in our hearts, and hold a superiority, from which grace springs a joy, which yields to us the most abundant ground for praises, when we are certain of our salvation, and are fully convinced that the Lord is our God. Accordingly, those who are influenced by no desire to praise God, have not believed and have not tasted the goodness of God; for if we actually trust in God, we must be led to take great delight in praising his name.

For thou hast done a wonderful thing. He uses the word alp, (pele,) wonderful, in the singular number instead of the plural. The Prophet does not confine his view to the present appearance of things, but looks to the end; for even men who in other respects are heathens, behold in the government of the world astonishing events, the sight of which overwhelms them with amazement; which undoubtedly happened to the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon, and to the Babylonians and Moabites. But those only who have tasted his goodness and wisdom can profit by the works of God; for otherwise they undervalue and despise his works, and do not comprehend their excellence, because they do not perceive their end, which is, that God, wonderfully bringing light out of darkness, (<470406>2 Corinthians 4:6,) raises his Church from death to life, and regulates in the best manner, and directs to the most valuable purpose, those things which to the eye of man appear to be confused.

Counsels which have been already decreed of old. F393 Now, in order to bestow still higher commendation on the providence of God, he adds, that the “counsels have been already decreed of old;” as if he had said, that to God nothing is sudden or unforeseen. And indeed, though he sometimes appears to us to act suddenly, yet all things were undoubtedly ordained by him before the creation of the world. (<441518>Acts 15:18.) By this word, therefore, the Apostle means that all the miracles which happen contrary to the expectation of men, are the result of that regular order which God maintains in governing the world, arranging all things from the beginning to the end. Now, since we do not understand those secret decrees, and our powers of understanding cannot rise so high, our attention must therefore be directed to the manifestation of them; for they are concealed from us, and exceed our comprehension, till the Lord reveal them by his word, in which he accommodates himself to our weakness; for his decree is (ajnexeu>rhton) unsearchable.

Firm truth. F394 From the eternal decrees of God the Prophet thus proceeds to doctrines and promises, which he undoubtedly denotes by the word truth; for the repetition would be frivolous, if this word did not signify a relation; because, when God has revealed to us his purpose, if we believe his sayings, he then appears to be actually true. He commends the firmness and certainty of the word, when he says that it is “steadfast truth;” that is, that everything that comes from God, everything that is declared by him, is firm and unchangeable.

2. For thou hast made of a city a heap. Some refer this to Jerusalem; but I think that there is a change of the number, as is very customary with the prophets; for the Prophet does not speak merely of a single city, but of many cities, which he says will be reduced to heaps. As to the view held by some, that the Romans made Jerusalem a palace, it has nothing to do with the Prophet’s meaning, which will be easily enough understood, if we keep in remembrance what has been already stated, that the Prophet does not confine his thoughts to those calamities by which the Lord afflicts many nations, but extends his view to the end of the chastisements. In this manner the Lord determined to tame and subdue the obstinacy of men, whom he would never have brought into subjection to him without having been broken down by various afflictions.

A palace of foreigners, F395 that it may not be a city. The Prophet does not merely mean that, when the natives have been driven out, “foreigners” wil1 inhabit the cities which have been taken; for that would not agree with what he immediately adds, “that it may be no longer a city; “ but that wandering bands of men who shall be in want of a habitation will there find abundance of room, because there will be no inhabitants left. Since! ˆwmra (armon) denotes a magnificent palace, the Prophet thus says ironically, that highwaymen will dwell as in palaces, on account of the vast extent of the place which shall be deserted.

3. Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee. This is the end which I mentioned; F396 for if the Lord should destroy the world, no good result would follow, and indeed destruction could produce no feeling but horror, and we would never be led by it to sing his praise; but, on the contrary, we must be deprived of all feeling, when we perceive nothing but wrath. But praises flow from a sense of grace and goodness. It is therefore as if he had said, “Thou wilt not only strike and afflict, O Lord, but wilt cause the chastisements to be not without effect; for by them thou wilt subdue the fierceness of men, so that those who were formerly estranged from thee shall bend their neck to thee.” This passage should lead us to observe how much we need chastisements, which train us to obedience to God; for we are carried away by prosperity to such an extent, that we think that we have a right to do anything, and we even grow wanton and insolent when God treats us with gentleness.

The city of the terrible nations shall fear thee. When the Prophet next mentions fear, he shews that this praise does not consist in words or outward gestures, but in the sincere feeling of the heart. Hence we infer that he now speaks of the entire worship of God; but, as many persons think that they have fully discharged their duty, as soon as they have made a confession with the mouth, he adds, for the sake of explanation, “The nations shall fear thee.” When he calls them strong and powerful, by these epithets he denotes their pride and arrogance; for they were elated by their prosperity. They rebel against God, and cannot be made humble or submissive, unless they have been deprived of all things. To such views, therefore, ought our thoughts to be directed amidst those calamities which we perceive. The fierceness of men must be restrained and subdued, that they may be prepared for receiving doctrine and for rendering true obedience. So long as they shall be blinded by their wealth and vain confidence, they will fearlessly mock at the judgments of God, and will never yield subjection to him.

4. For thou hast been a strength to the poor. Hence we see the fruit of conversion, namely, that the Lord raises us from the dead, and brings us, as it were, out of the grave, stretching out his hand to us from heaven, to rescue us even from hell. This is our first access to him, for it is only in our poverty that he finds the means of exercising his kindness. To us in our turn, therefore, it is necessary that we be poor and needy, that we may obtain assistance from him; and we must lay aside all reliance and confidence in ourselves, before he display his power in our behalf. This is the reason why he visits us with chastisements and with the cross, by which he trains us, so that we may be able to receive his assistance and grace.

A refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat. It is not without good reason that Isaiah adorns this description by these comparisons; for numerous and diversified temptations arise, and, in order to bear them courageously, it is necessary that the weak minds of men should be strengthened and fortified. On this account he says that God will be “a strength to the poor, a refuge from the storms, and a shadow from the heat;” because, whatever may be the nature of the dangers and assaults which threaten them, the Lord will protect his people against them, and will supply them with every kind of armor.

The breath of the strong or of the violent ones. In this passage, as in many others, (<010801>Genesis 8:1; <021510>Exodus 15:10; <111911>1 Kings 19:11,) jwr (ruach) signifies “the blowing of the wind,” and denotes the tremendous violence with which wicked men are hurried along against the children of God; for not only do they “breathe out threatenings and terrors,” (<440901>Acts 9:1,) but they appear to vomit out fire itself.

A storm or flood against the wall. This is to the same purport as the former; for by this figure he means, that wicked men, when they obtain liberty to do mischief, rush on with such violence that they throw down everything that comes in their way, for to overthrow and destroy walls is more than if the water were merely flowing over the fields.

5. As the heat in a dry place. If the Lord did not aid when violent men rush upon us, our life would be in imminent danger; for we see how great is the rage of wicked men, and if the Lord overturn walls, what can a feeble man do against him? These things therefore are added in order to magnify the grace of God, that we may consider what would become of us if the Lord did not render assistance.

Yet there are two ways in which commentators explain this passage. Some understand it to mean, that wicked men will be consumed by God’s indignation, in the same manner as the violence of the heat burns up the fields which are in themselves barren. Others render it in the ablative case, As if by heat, and make the meaning to be, “Though wicked men, relying on their power, are so violent, yet the Lord will prostrate them in a moment, as if they were overpowered ‘by heat in a dry place.’“ But I consider the meaning to be different, for, after having shewn how great is the rage of wicked men against believers, he adds:

Thou wilt bring them down, O Lord. Alluding to the metaphor of the deluge, which he had formerly used, he says, “Thou wilt quench their heat, which would otherwise consume us, even as rain, or a shower, falling from heaven, quenches the heat that scorched the thirsty fields.” And thus the passage flows naturally; for the other interpretation is forced, and does violence, as the saying is, to the letter.

The noise of the strong ones will he lay low. F397 This clause is tortured in various ways. Some think that rymz (zemir) means seed; others that it means a root, as if he had said, that God will not only destroy wicked men, but will utterly root them out. This meaning would be probable, were it not opposed by the metaphor of the heat. In my opinion, therefore, it is more correctly interpreted by others to mean “singing and shouting,” or “cutting off,” although even those interpreters do not fully succeed in getting at the meaning of the Prophet. He therefore confirms the preceding statement, that the violence of wicked men, or the shouting which they haughtily and daringly set up, will presently be laid low, as the heat of the sun is overpowered by the falling rain, which is meant by the shadow of a cloud.

6. And the Lord of hosts shall make. This passage has received various interpretations. Some think that the Prophet threatens the Jews, and threatens them in such a manner as to invite various nations to a banquet. This mode of expression is also found in other passages, for the Lord is said to fatten the wicked for the day of slaughter. Those commentators think that, as if the Jews were exposed as a prey to the Gentiles on account of their impiety, the Gentiles are invited to a banquet; as if the Lord had said, “I have prepared a splendid entertainment for the Gentiles; the Romans shall plunder and prey on the Jews.” But, in my opinion, that view of the passage cannot be admitted, nor will it be necessary for me to give a long refutation of it, after having brought forward the true interpretation. Others explain it as if Isaiah were speaking of the wrath of God in this manner, “The Lord will prepare a banquet for all nations; he will give to them to drink the cup of his anger, that they may be drunken.”

But the Prophet had quite a different meaning, for he proceeds in making known the grace of God, which was to be revealed by the coming of Christ. He employs the same metaphor which is also used by David, when he describes the kingdom of Christ, and says, that

“the poor and the rich will sit down at this feast,
and will eat and be satisfied.” (<192226>Psalm 22:26, 29.)

By this metaphorical language he means, that no class of men will be excluded from partaking of this generous provision. Formerly it seemed as if the Lord nourished the Jews only, because they alone were adopted, and, as it were, invited to the feast provided for his family; but now he admits the Gentiles also, and extends his beneficence to all nations.

Will make for all nations a feast of fat things. This is an implied contrast when he says, to all nations, for formerly he was known to one nation only. (<197601>Psalm 76:1.) By “a feast of fat things” is meant a banquet consisting of animals that have been well fattened.

Of liquids purified. F398 Some render the Hebrew word yrm, (shemarim,) dregs, but inaccurately, for it means “old wines,” such as the French call, vins de garde, “wines that have been long kept,” and that are preferable to ordinary wines, especially in an eastern country, where they carry their age better. He calls them liquids which contain no dregs or sediment.

In short, it is sufficiently evident that he does not here threaten destruction against Gentiles or Jews, but that both are invited together to a very splendid banquet. This is still more evident from Christ’s own words, when he compares the kingdom of heaven to a marriage-feast which the King prepared for his Son, to which he invites all without exception, because those who were at first invited refused to come. (<402202>Matthew 22:2, 3.) Nor have I any doubt that he speaks of the preaching of the gospel; and as it proceeded from Mount Zion, (<230203>Isaiah 2:3,) he says that the Gentiles will come to it to feast; for when God presents to the whole world spiritual food for feeding souls, the meaning was the same as if he had prepared a table for all. The Lord invites us at the present day, that he may fill and satisfy us with good things; he raises up faithful ministers to prepare for us that feast, and gives power and efficacy to his word, that we may be satisfied with it. F399

In this mountain. As to the word mountain, though the servants of God do not now come out of the mountain to feed us, yet by this name we must understand the Church; for nowhere else can any one partake of this food. That feast is not set down in streets and highways, the table is not spread everywhere, and this banquet is not prepared in all places, In order that we may feast, we must come to the Church. That place was mentioned, because there alone God was worshipped, and revelations proceeded from it; as also the gospel came forth from it. When he says that this banquet will be rich and sumptuous, the design of this is to commend the doctrine of the gospel; for it is the spiritual food with which our souls are fed, and is so exquisitely delightful that we have no need of any other.

7. And he will destroy the face of the covering. F400 Here also commentators differ, for by the word covering is meant the disgrace with which believers are covered in this world, so that the glory of God is not seen in them; as if he had said, “Though many reproaches oppress the godly, yet God will take away those reproaches, and will make their condition glorious. I pass by other interpretations; but, in my opinion, the true meaning is, that the Lord promises that he will take away the veil by which they were kept in blindness and ignorance; and therefore it was by the light of the gospel that this darkness was dispelled.

In that mountain. He says that this will be in mount Zion, from which also the light of the word shone on the whole world, as we have already seen. (<230203>Isaiah 2:3.) This passage, therefore, must unavoidably be referred to the kingdom of Christ; for the light did not shine on all men till Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, arose, (<390402>Malachi 4:2,) who took away all the veils, wrappings, and coverings. And here we have another commendation of the gospel, that it dispels the darkness, and takes away from our eyes the covering of errors. Hence it follows, that we are wrapped up and blinded by the darkness of ignorance, before we are enlightened by the doctrine of the gospel, by which alone we can obtain light and life, and be fully restored. Here, too, we have a confirmation of the calling of the Gentiles, that is, of our calling; for not only the Jews, but all nations, which formerly were buried in every kind of errors and superstition, are invited to this banquet.

8. He hath destroyed death eternally. F401 The Prophet continues his subject; for in general he promises that there will be perfect happiness under the reign of Christ, and, in order to express this the more fully, he employs various metaphors admirably adapted to the subject. That happiness is real, and not temporary or fading, which not even death can take away; for amidst the highest prosperity our joy is not a little diminished by the consideration that it will not always last. He therefore connects two things, which render happiness full and complete. The first is, that the life is perpetual; for to those who in other respects are happy for a time, it is a wretched thing to die. The second is, that this life is accompanied by joy; for otherwise it may be thought that death would be preferable to a sorrowful and afflicted life. He next adds that, when all disgrace has been removed, this life will be glorious; for otherwise less confidence would have been placed in the prophecy, in consequence of the wretched oppression of the people.

But it is asked, To what period must we refer these promises? for in this world we must contend with various afflictions, and must fight continually; and not only are we “appointed to death,” (<194422>Psalm 44:22,) but we “die daily.” (<461531>1 Corinthians 15:31.) Paul complains of himself and the chief pillars of the Church, that they are “a spectacle to all men,” and endure insults of every kind, and are even looked upon as (kaqa>rmata) “cleansings” and (periyh>mata) sweepings,” or “offscourings.” F399 (<460409>1 Corinthians 4:9, 13.) Where or when, therefore, are these things fulfilled? They must undoubtedly be referred to the universal kingdom of Christ; — universal, I say, because we must look not only at the beginning, but also at the accomplishment and the end: and thus it must be extended even to the second coming of Christ, which on that account is called “the day of redemption” and “the day of restoration;” because all things which now appear to be confused shall be fully restored, and assume a new form. (<422128>Luke 21:28; <440321>Acts 3:21; <450823>Romans 8:23; <490430>Ephesians 4:30.) This prediction relates, no doubt, to the deliverance from Babylon; but as that deliverance might be regarded as the earnest and foretaste of another, this promise must undoubtedly be extended to the last day.

Let us therefore direct all our hope and expectation to this point, and let us not doubt that the Lord will fulfill all these things in us when we have finished our course. If we now “sow in tears,” then undoubtedly we shall “reap with joy” and ecstasy. (<19C605>Psalm 126:5.) Let us not dread the insults or reproaches of men, which will one day procure for us the highest glory. Having obtained here the beginnings of this happiness and glory, by being adopted by God, and beginning to bear the image of Christ, let us firmly and resolutely await the completion of it at the last day.

For Jehovah hath spoken it. After so many dreadful calamities, it might be thought that such an event was incredible; and therefore the Prophet shews that it proceeds not from man, but from God. When Jerusalem had been overthrown, the worship of God taken away, the temple destroyed, and the remnant of the people oppressed by cruel tyranny, no man would have believed it to be possible that everything would be raised to its original condition. It was necessary to combat with this distrust, to which men are strongly inclined; and therefore the Prophet confirms and seals these promises.

“Know that God communicated to me these declarations; fix your minds therefore on him, and not on me; let your faith rely on him ‘who cannot lie’ or deceive.” (<560102>Titus 1:2.)

9. And it shall be said. The verb rma (amar) is indefinite, “He shall say;” but as the discourse does not relate to one or another individual, but to all in general, I chose to render it in a passive form. F403 This is an excellent conclusion; for it shews that God’s benefits are not in any respect doubtful or uncertain, but are actually received and enjoyed by men. The Prophet declares that the banquet, of which he formerly spoke, (verse 6,) will not in vain be prepared by God; for men shall feast on it, and possess everlasting joy.

Lo, this is our God. That joyful shout, which he declares will be public, is the actual test and proof, so to speak, of the experience of the grace of God. This passage ought to be carefully observed; for the Prophet shews that there will be such a revelation as shall fix the minds of men on the word of God, so that they will rely on it without any kind of hesitation; and if these things belong, as they undoubtedly do belong, to the kingdom of Christ, we derive from them this valuable fruit, that Christians, unless they are wanting to themselves, and reject the grace of God, have undoubted truth on which they may safely rely. God has removed all ground of doubt, and has revealed himself to them in such a manner, that they may venture freely to declare that they know with certainty what is his will, and may say with truth what Christ said to the Samaritan woman, “We worship what we know.” (<430422>John 4:22.) Having been informed by the gospel as to the grace offered through Christ, we do not now wander in uncertain opinions, as others do, but embrace God and his pure worship. Let us boldly say, “Away with all the inventions of men!”

It is proper to observe the contrast between that dark and feeble kind of knowledge which the fathers enjoyed under the law, and the fullness which shines forth to us in the gospel. Though God deigned to bestow on his ancient people the light of heavenly doctrine, yet he made himself more familiarly known through Christ, as we are told; “No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, hath declared him.” (<430118>John 1:18.) The Prophet now extols that certainty which the Son of God brought to us by his coming, when he “sheweth to us the Father.” (<431409>John 14:9.) Yet, while we excel the ancient people in this respect, that the reconciliation obtained through Christ makes God, as it were, more gracious to us, there is no other way in which God can be known but through Christ, who is “the pattern and image of his substance.” (<580103>Hebrews 1:3.) “He who knoweth not the Son, knoweth not the Father.” (<431407>John 14:7.) Though Jews, Mahometans, and other infidels, boast that they worship God, the creator of heaven and earth, yet they worship an imaginary God. However obstinate they may be, they follow doubtful and uncertain opinions instead of the truth; they grope in the dark, and worship their own imagination instead of God. In short, apart from Christ, all religion is deceitful and transitory, and every kind of worship ought to be abhorred and boldly condemned.

Nor is it without good reason that the Prophet employs not only the adverb Lo, but the demonstrative pronoun This, F404 in order to attest more fully the presence of God, as, a little afterwards, by repeating the declaration of certainty and confidence, he expresses the steadfastness that will be found in those who shall worship God through Christ. It is certain that we cannot comprehend God in his majesty, for he “dwelleth in unapproachable light,” (<540616>1 Timothy 6:16,) which will immediately overpower us, if we attempt to rise to it; and therefore he accommodates himself to our weakness, gives himself to us through Christ, by whom he makes us partakers of wisdom, righteousness, truth, and other blessings. (<460130>1 Corinthians 1:30.)

This is Jehovah. It is worthy of observation that, when he calls Christ the God of believers, he gives to him the name “Jehovah;” from which we infer that the actual eternity of God belongs to the person of Christ. Besides, since Christ has thus made himself known to us by the gospel, this proves the base ingratitude of those who, not satisfied with so full a manifestation, have dared to add to it their own idle speculation, as has been done by Popery.

We have waited for him. He expresses the firmness and perseverance of those who have once embraced God in Christ; for it ought not to be a temporary knowledge, but we must persevere in it steadfastly to the end. Now, Isaiah speaks in the name of the ancient Church, which at that time had its seat, strictly speaking, among the Jews alone; and therefore, despising as it were all the gods that were worshipped in other countries, he boldly declares that he alone, who revealed himself to Abraham, (<011501>Genesis 15:1,) and proclaimed his law by the hand of Moses, (<022001>Exodus 20:1, 2,) is the true God. Other nations, which were involved in the darkness of ignorance, did not “wait for” the Lord: for this “waiting” springs from faith, which is accompanied by patience, and there is no faith without the word.

Thus he warns believers that their salvation rests on hope and expectation; for the promises of God were as it were suspended till the coming of Christ. Besides, we ought to observe what was the condition of those times; for it appeared as if either the promise of God had come to nought, or he had rejected the posterity of Abraham. Certainly, though they looked very far, God did not at that time appear to them; and therefore they must have been endued with astonishing patience to endure such heavy and sharp temptations. Accordingly, he bids them wait quietly for the coming of Christ; for then they will clearly perceive how near God is to them that worship him.

The same doctrine ought to soothe us in the present day, so that, though our salvation be concealed, still we may “wait for the Lord” with firm and unshaken hope, and, when he is at a distance, may always say, Lo, here he is. In times of the greatest confusion, let us learn to distinguish him by this mark, This is he. F405 As to the words, though he says, in the past tense, F406 “We rejoiced and were glad in his salvation;” yet the words denote a continued act; and, a little before, he had said in the future tense, “He will save us.” The meaning may be thus summed up, “Christ will never disappoint the hopes of his people, if they call on him with patience.”

10. For the hand of Jehovah shall rest. The design of the Prophet in the beginning of this verse, I have no doubt, was to comfort the godly, who but for this would have thought that God had forsaken and abandoned them; for the opinion of those who view it as describing the judgment which the Lord was about to execute on the Jews, has no foundation whatever; but the meaning is the same as if he had said, that the Lord will always assist his Church. I am aware that “the hand of God” rests also on the reprobate, when he does not cease to pursue them with his vengeance, till he completely overwhelm them; but here the word “hand” denotes assistance, and not chastisements, and therefore by the word “rest,” is meant the uninterrupted continuance of defense or protection.

We draw from this a profitable doctrine, that although God scatters innumerable blessings over the whole world, in such a manner that wicked men also obtain a share of them, yet his “hand” does not “rest,” or is not continually present, but in the holy mountain; that is, in the Church, where he is worshipped. It ought also to be observed, that Jerusalem had been chastised, before she received these blessings; for he had formerly threatened chastisements and punishments, to which he added this consolation.

And Moab shall be trodden down under him. In this clause he gives an additional view of the grace of God; for, by inflicting punishment on the enemies of the Church, he will shew how dearly he values its salvation. The Jews had no enemies more deadly than the Moabites, though their ancestors F407 were near relatives. By a figure of speech (sunekdocikw~v) in which a part is taken for the whole, he includes under this name all the enemies of the Church, and especially those who are somewhat related to them, and who are more destructive than all others. He shews that, though for a time they are victorious and oppress the Church, yet eventually they shall be punished. His object is, that under their afflictions believers may not lose heart, as if their condition were unhappy, while wicked men are cheerful and prosperous; for the “treading down,” which is here mentioned, will quickly follow. Consequently, if at the present day we see the Church disturbed and oppressed by those who are somewhat related to us, and who even assume the name and title of the Church, let us comfort our hearts by this promise.

As straw is trodden down in the dunghills. F408 The word hnmdm, (Madmenah,) which we translate “dunghill,” F409 is supposed by some to be the name of a city, which is also mentioned by Jeremiah, (<244802>Jeremiah 48:2.) But what if we should say that the Prophet alludes to the city, which was probably situated in a fertile soil, and thus conveys a stronger censure, and presses harder on the Moabites? As if he had said, “As straw is trodden down in their fields, so will the Lord tread down the Moabites.” I do not dislike other interpretations, but consider it to be not improbable that he alludes to the fertility of the soil in which that city was situated. Yet in my version I have not hesitated to follow the common opinion.

11. And he shall spread out. The Prophet now explains and confirms the former statement; but he employs a different metaphor, by which he means, that the Lord will spread out his hand to the innermost part of the country of Moab, and not merely to its extremities. Some explain the metaphor thus: “As the arms are stretched out in swimming, so the Lord will chastise the Moabites on all sides.” Others think that it expresses the doubling of punishments, as if he had said, “The Lord will not only punish the Moabites, but will again and again take vengeance for the cruelty which they exercised against the children of God.”

But we might take another way of explaining that metaphor. Those who swim do not rush forward with the utmost violence, but gently spread out and quickly draw back their arms, and yet they cut and subdue the waters. In like manner, the Lord does not always put forth great strength to cut down the wicked, but without any effort, without the use of armies, without any noise or uproar, he destroys and puts them to flight, however valiant or well prepared for battle they may appear to be. And I approve of this explanation, because it takes nothing from the meaning formerly given, and explains more clearly, that the wicked are often brought to nothing by the hand of God, though he do not openly thunder from heaven. When he says, “In the midst of it,” he shews that no part will be hidden in such a manner as not to be overtaken by this vengeance.

12. And the fortress. The Prophet now directs his discourse to the country of Moab. It was highly fortified, and was proud of its walls and fortifications; and he affirms that the lofty towers, and other defences, however strong and seemingly impregnable, will be of no avail. The ancients, it is well known, had quite a different method of fortifying from what is practiced among us.

He will bring down, lay low, and cast to the ground. The three words here employed, for conveying the meaning more strongly, are not superfluous; for it was necessary to beat down that pride which swelled the hearts of the Moabites, and which, as we formerly saw, F410 made them intolerable. The Prophet therefore mocks at them, “As if the Lord could not cast down that loftiness of which you boast!”

To the dust. The meaning of this clause is as if he had said, “He will not only level it with the ground, but will reduce it to dust, so that there will not even be a trace of the ancient ruin.” This passage contains an excellent and highly seasonable consolation; for the enemies of the Church in the present day are so haughty, that they mock not only at men, but at God himself, and are so much swelled and puffed up by their power, that they imagine themselves to be invincible; but, in opposition to their bulwarks and defences, we ought to bring forward this declaration of the Prophet, “The Lord will quickly bring down and lay them low.” Yet we must patiently endure to see them strong and powerful, till the full time for their destruction arrive.


CHAPTER 26

Go To Isaiah 26:1-21

1. In that day shall a song be sung. Here the Prophet begins again to shew that, after the return of the people from captivity, they will be defended by God’s power and guardianship, and that under his protection Jerusalem will lie as safe as if she had been surrounded by bulwarks, ramparts, a ditch, and a double wall so that no enemy could find entrance.

It is proper to observe the time when “this song was sung.” The Prophet had foretold the calamity that would befall the Church, which was not yet so near at hand, but happened a short time after his death. When the people were led into captivity, they would undoubtedly have despaired, if they had not been encouraged by such promises. That the Jews might cherish a hope that they would be delivered, and might behold life in the midst of death, the Prophet composed for them this song, even before the calamity occurred, that they might be better prepared for enduring it, and might hope for better things. I do not think that it was composed solely that, when they had been delivered, they might give thanks to God, but that even during their captivity, though they were like dead men, (<263701>Ezekiel 37:1,) they might strengthen their hearts with this confidence, and might also train up their children in this expectation, and hand down these promises, as it were, to posterity.

We have formerly F411 seen the reason why these and other promises were put by Isaiah into the form of verse. It was, that, having been frequently sung, they might make a deeper impression on their memory. Though they mourned in Babylon, and were almost overwhelmed with sorrow, (hence these sounds, (<19D704>Psalm 137:4,) “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”) yet they must have hoped that at a future period, when they should have returned to Judea, they would give thanks to the Lord and sing his praises; and therefore the Prophet shews to them at a distance the day of deliverance, that they may take courage from the expectation of it.

We have a city of strength. By these words a full restoration of Jerusalem and of the people is promised, because God will not only deliver the captives and gather those that are scattered, but will also preserve them safe, after having brought them back to their country. But not long afterwards believers saw that Jerusalem was destroyed, (<122509>2 Kings 25:9,) and the Temple thrown down, (<143619>2 Chronicles 36:19,) and after their return nothing could meet their eye but hideous ruins; and all this Isaiah had previously foretold. It was therefore necessary that they should behold from the lofty watch-tower of faith this restoration of Jerusalem.

He hath made salvation to be walls and a bulwark. He now defines what will be “the strength of the city;” for the “salvation” of God will supply the place of a “wall,” towers, ditches, and mounds. As if he had said, “Let other cities rely on their fortifications, God alone will be to us instead of all bulwarks.” Some allege that the words may be read, “He hath set a wall and bulwark for salvation;” and I do not set aside that rendering. But as a more valuable doctrine is contained in the Prophet’s words, when nothing is supplied, it serves no good purpose to go far for a forced interpretation; especially since the true and natural interpretation readily presents itself to the mind, which is, that God’s protection is more valuable than all ditches and walls. In like manner, it is also said in the psalm, “Thy mercy is better than life,” (<196303>Psalm 63:3;) for as David there boasts of enjoying, under God’s shadow, greater safety and freedom from care than if he had been fortified by every kind of earthly defense, so Isaiah here says, that there will be good reason for laying aside fear, when God shall have undertaken to guard his people. Now, since this promise extends to the whole course of redemption, we ought to believe that at the present day God is still the guardian of his Church, and therefore, that his power is of more avail than if it had been defended by every kind of military force. Accordingly, if we wish to dwell in safety, we must remain in the Church. Though we have no outward defences, yet let us learn to be satisfied with the Lord’s protection, and with his sure salvation, which is better than all bulwarks.

2. Open ye the gates. This “song” was undoubtedly despised by many, when it was published by Isaiah; for during his life, the inhabitants of Jerusalem were wicked and ungodly, and the number of good men was exceedingly small. But after his death, when they had been punished for their wickedness, it was in some measure perceived that this prediction had not been uttered in vain. So long as wicked men enjoy prosperity, they have no fear, and do not imagine that they can be brought low. Thus the Jews thought that they would never be driven out of Judea, and carried into captivity, and hoped that they would continue to dwell there. It was therefore necessary to take away from them every pretense for being haughty and insolent; and such is the import of the Prophet’s words:

And a righteous nation, which keepeth the truth, shall enter in. “The inhabitants of the restored city shall be unlike the former; for they will maintain righteousness and truth. But at that time this promise also might appear to have failed of its accomplishment; for when they had been driven out of the country and led into captivity, no consolation remained. Accordingly, when the Temple had been destroyed, the city sacked, and all order and government overthrown and destroyed, they might have objected, “Where are those ‘gates’ which he bids us ‘open?’ Where are the people who shall ‘enter?’ Yet we see that these things were fulfilled, and that nothing was ever foretold which the Lord did not accomplish. We ought, therefore, to keep before our minds those ancient histories, that we may be fortified by their example, and, amidst the deepest adversity to which the Church is reduced, may hope that the Lord will yet raise her up again.

When the Prophet calls the nation “righteous and truthful,” he not only, as I mentioned a little before, describes the persons to whom this promise relates, but shews the fruit of the chastisement; for when its pollution shall have been washed away, the holiness and righteousness of the Church shall shine more brightly. At that time wicked men were the majority, good men were very few, and were overpowered by the multitude of those who were of an opposite character. It was therefore necessary that that multitude, which had no fear of God, and no religion, should be taken away, that God might gather his remnant. Thus, it was a compensation for the destruction, that Jerusalem, which had been polluted by the wickedness of her citizens, again was actually devoted to God; for it would not have been enough to regain prosperity, if newness of life had not shone forth in holiness and righteousness.

Now, as the Prophet foretells the grace of God, so he also exhorts the redeemed people to maintain uprightness of life. In short, he threatens that these promises will be of no avail to hypocrites, and that the gates of the city will not be opened for them, but only for the righteous and holy. It is certain that the Church was always like a barn, (<400312>Matthew 3:12,) in which the chaff is mingled with the wheat, or rather the wheat is overpowered by the chaff; but when the Jews had been brought back into their country, the Church was unquestionably purer than before. Those who returned must have been animated by a good disposition, to undertake a journey so long, and beset by so many annoyances, embarrassments, and dangers; and many others chose rather to remain in captivity than to return, thinking that to dwell in Babylon was a safer and more peaceful condition than to return to Judea. Such persons must have had a seed of piety, which led them to take possession of those promises which were granted to the fathers. Now, though the Church even at that time was stained by many imperfections, still this description was comparatively true; for a large portion of the filth had been swept away, and those who remained had profited in some degree under God’s chastisements.

A righteous nation, which keepeth the truth. Some distinguish these terms in this manner, “A nation righteous before God, and upright before men.” But I take the meaning to be more simple; that, after having called the nation “righteous,” he shews in what righteousness consists; that is, where there is uprightness of heart, which has nothing feigned or hypocritical, for nothing is more opposite to righteousness than hypocrisy. And though no man ever existed who advanced so far that he could receive the commendation of being perfectly righteous, yet the children of God, who with their whole heart aim at this “truth,” may be said to be keepers of it. But perhaps it will rather be thought that, by a figure of speech, one part is taken for the whole, to describe what is true righteousness; that is, when all deceit and all wicked practices have been laid aside, and men act towards each other with sincerity and truth.

If any man wish to make use of this passage for upholding the merits of men, the answer is easy; for the Prophet does not here describe the cause of salvation, or what men are by nature, but what God makes them by his grace, and what kind of persons he wishes to be members of his Church. Out of wolves he makes sheep, as we have formerly seen. F412 So long as we live here, we are always at a great distance from perfection, and are in continual progress towards it; but the Lord judges of us according to that which he has begun in us, and, having once led us into the way of righteousness, reckons us to be righteous. As soon as he begins to check and reform our hypocrisy, he at once calls us true and upright.

3. The thought is fixed; thou wilt keep peace, peace. F413 As the Hebrew word rxy (Yetzer) signifies both “imagination” or “creature,” and “thought,” some render it, “By a settled foundation thou wilt keep peace; “ as if the Prophet meant, that when men, amidst the convulsions of the world, continue to rest firmly on God, they will always be safe. Others render it, “For the fixed thought thou wilt keep peace; “ which amounts to nearly the same thing, that they who have fixed their minds on God alone will at length be happy; for in no other way does God promise that he will be the guardian of his people than when they rely on his grace with settled thoughts, and without change or wavering. Since, however, the sign of the dative case is not added, but the Prophet in a concise manner of expression says, “Fixed or steadfast thought,” let my readers judge if it be not more appropriate to view it as referring to God, so as to make the meaning to be, that the peace of the Church is founded on his eternal and unchangeable purpose; for, in order to prevent godly minds from continual wavering, it is of the highest importance to look to the heavenly decree.

It is undoubtedly true that we ought constantly to hope in God, that we may perceive his continual faithfulness in defending us; and believers are always enjoined not to be driven about by any doubt, or uncertainty, or wavering, but firmly to rely on God alone. Yet the meaning which is more easily obtained from this passage, and comes more naturally from the words of the Prophet, is, that it is a fixed and unchangeable decree of God, that all who hope in him shall enjoy eternal peace; for if fixed thought means the certainty and steadfastness of the godly, it would be superfluous to assign the reason, which is —

Because he hath trusted in thee. In short, both modes of expression would have been harsh, that “continual peace is prepared for imagination,” or “for thought.” But it is perfectly appropriate to say that, when we trust in God, he never disappoints our hope, because he has determined to guard us for ever. Hence it follows, that, since the safety of the Church does not depend on the state of the world, it is not moved or shaken by the various changes which happen daily; but that, having been founded on the purpose of God, it stands with steady and unshakable firmness, so that it can never fall.

There is also, I think, an implied contrast between God’s fixed thought and our wandering imaginations; for at almost every moment there springs up something new which drives our thoughts hither and thither, and there is no change, however slight, that does not produce some doubt. We ought therefore to hold this principle, that we do wrong if we judge of God’s unshaken purpose by our fickle imaginations; as we shall elsewhere see,

“As far as the heavens are from the earth, so far are my thoughts from your thoughts, O house of Israel.” (<235509>Isaiah 55:9.)

We ought therefore above all to hold it certain, that our salvation is not liable to change; because the purpose of God is unchangeable.

Thou wilt keep peace, peace. What has now been stated explains the reason of the repetition of the word peace; for it denotes uninterrupted continuance for ever. By the word peace I understand not only serenity of mind, but every kind of happiness; as if he had said, that the grace of God alone can enable us to live prosperously and happily.

4. Trust ye in Jehovah for ever. As to the words, some read in the second clause, “Trust in God, the strong Jehovah of ages;” but as rwx (tzur) is not always an adjective, but signifies strength, I reject that meaning as forced, besides that it has little relation to the subject, as will immediately appear. There is also little ground for the ingenuity of those who infer from this passage the divinity of Christ, as if the Prophet said, that “Jehovah is in Jah;” for the twofold name of God is given for the express purpose of magnifying his power.

He now exhorts the people to rest safely on God, and therefore, after the preceding doctrine, there is now room for exhortation. Besides, it would have been vain to say that our peace is in the hand of God, and that he is our faithful guardian, if we had not been taught and instructed on this subject, and at the same time urged by exhortations. Yet he exhorts us not only to earnest hope, but to perseverance; and this discourse implies properly to believers, who have already learned what it is to trust in the Lord, and who need to be strengthened, because they are still weak, and may often fall, in consequence of the various motives to distrust with which they are called to struggle. He therefore does not enjoin them merely to trust in the Lord, but to remain steadfastly in trust and confidence to the end.

For in Jah Jehovah is the strength of ages. F414 We ought to attend to the reason which is here assigned, namely, that as the power of God, which is the object of faith, is perpetual, so faith ought to be extended so as to be equally perpetual. When the Prophet speaks of the strength and power of God, he does not mean power which is unemployed, but power active and energetic, which is actually exerted on us, and which conducts to the end what he had begun. And this doctrine has a wider application, for it bids us truly believe that we ought to contemplate the nature of God; for, as soon as we turn aside from beholding it, nothing is seen but what is fleeting, and then we immediately faint. Thus ought faith to rise above the world by continual advances; for neither the truth, nor the justice, nor the goodness of God, is temporary and fading, but God continues always to be like himself.

5. For he will bring down the inhabitants of loftiness. F415 He now explains more fully what is that power of God of which he spoke. It is that which we ourselves feel, and which is exerted for our benefit. The two clauses are therefore closely connected, that “the proud are laid low by the power of God,” and that “the lowly and despised are placed in their room;” for it would not have yielded full consolation to tell us, in the first place, that “the proud will be laid low,” if he had not likewise added, that “the lowly will be exalted,” so as to hold dominion over the proud. We therefore acknowledge, that in our own experience God works powerfully for our salvation, and this yields to us a ground of hope.

Under the word loftiness he includes not only bulwarks and fortifications of every kind, (for the ancients were wont to build their cities in lofty places,) but also wealth and magnificence. He therefore means, that no defense can prevent God from casting down the wicked, and laying them low. Towers and bulwarks, indeed, are not displeasing to God; but as it rarely happens that they who are strong and powerful are not proud, so loftiness frequently denotes pride. Unquestionably he speaks of the wicked, who have abundance of arms, forces, and money, and imagine that they are protected against God himself. He likewise comforts the Jews, as we have formerly said, F416 because the invincible power of Babylon might have terrified them and thrown them into despair, if the Lord had not supported them by this promise: “You have no reason for being terrified at the greatness or strength of Babylon; for she will quickly fall, and will not stand before the power of the Lord.”

7. Straightnesses are the way of the righteous man. He does not praise the righteousness of the godly, as some have falsely supposed, but shews that, through the blessing of God, they are prosperous and successful during the whole course of their life. Having only stated briefly in the beginning of the verse, that “their ways are plain and smooth,” he explains more fully in the second clause, ascribing it to the grace of God that in an open plain, as it were, the righteous proceed in their course, till they reach the goal.

Thou wilt weigh the straight path of the righteous. The word weigh contains a metaphor, that God, by applying a balance, as it were, brings to an equal measure those things which in themselves were unequal. The Hebrew word ry (yashar) is ambiguous, for it may refer either to God or to the path. Accordingly some render it, Thou, who art upright, will direct the path of the righteous; F417 and in other passages God is called upright. (<053204>Deuteronomy 32:4; <192508>Psalm 25:8.) There would also be propriety in the allusion, that the straightness of which he spoke proceed from God, for he alone is straight or upright. But the other version appears to be more natural. F418

He promises in general, that God will take care of the righteous, so as to lead them, as it were, by his hand. When the wicked prosper and the righteous are oppressed, everything in this world appears to be moved by chance; and although Scripture frequently declares and affirms that God takes care of them, (<193705>Psalm 37:5; <600507>1 Peter 5:7,) yet we can scarcely remain steadfast, but waver, when everything that happens to them is unfavourable. Yet it is true that the ways of the righteous are made plain by God’s balance, however rough and uneven they may appear to be; and not only so, but he has committed them to the guardianship of his angels, “lest they should be injured, or dash their foot against a stone.” (<199111>Psalm 91:11.) But for this, they would easily fall or give way through exhaustion, and would hardly ever make way amidst so many thorns and briers, steep roads, intricate windings, and rough places, did not the Lord lead out and deliver them.

Let us therefore learn to commit ourselves to God, and to follow him as our leader, and we shall be guided in safety. Though snares and artifices, the stratagems of the devil and wicked men, and innumerable dangers, may surround us, we shall always be enabled to escape. We shall feel what the Prophet says here, that our ways, even amidst deep chasms, are made plain, so that there is no obstacle to hinder our progress. And, indeed, experience shews, that if we are not led by God’s guidance, we shall not be able to push our way through rugged roads; for so great is our weakness that we shall scarcely advance a single step without stumbling at the smallest stone that comes in our way. Satan and wicked men not only entangle and delay us by many perplexities, and not only present to us slight difficulties, but cause us to encounter sometimes high mounds and sometimes deep pits, which even the whole world would be unable to avoid.

It is therefore proper for us to acknowledge how much we need heavenly direction, and to confess with Jeremiah, “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself; and it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” (<241023>Jeremiah 10:23.) Let us not be puffed up with vain confidence, as if the result were placed in our own power. Let us not boast, as James warns us, that “we shall do this or that.” (<590415>James 4:15.) Such is the manner of rash men, who act as if they could do everything at their own pleasure; while it is not in our power, as Solomon tells us, to direct our tongue so as to give a proper answer. (<201601>Proverbs 16:1.) In vain, therefore, do men form plans, and deliberate, and decide about their ways, if God do not stretch out his hand. But he holds it out to the righteous, and takes peculiar care of them; for, while the providence of God extends to all, and while he supplies the wants of young ravens (<19E709>Psalm 147:9) and sparrows, (<401029>Matthew 10:29,) and of the smallest animals, yet he has a fatherly kindness towards the godly, and delivers them out of dangers and difficulties.

8. Yea, in the way of thy judgments. This verse contains a very beautiful doctrine, without which it might have been thought that the former statements were without foundation. Since he said that God will be our guide during the whole of life, so that we shall neither wander nor stumble, and while, on the other hand, we are pressed by so many straits, we might conclude that those promises have not been actually fulfilled. Accordingly, when he tries our patience, we ought to strive, and yet to trust in him. Here the Prophet gives us this instruction, that, though our eyes are not gratified by an easy and delightful path, and though the road is not made smooth under our feet, but we must toil through many hard passages, still there is room for hope and patience.

By the way of judgments he means adversity, and the word judgment often has this meaning in Scripture. But here is a mark which distinguishes the godly from hypocrites; for in prosperity hypocrites bless God, and speak highly of him; but in adversity they murmur, and curse God himself, and plainly shew that they had no confidence in him, and thus judge of God according as their prosperity lasts. The godly on the other hand, when they are tried by afflictions and calamities, are more and more excited to place confidence. F419

The particle a, (aph,) Even, is inserted for the sake of emphasis, as if the Prophet had said, that believers are earnest in the worship of God, not only so long as he treats them with gentleness, but that, if he deal harshly with them, still they do not faint, because they are supported by hope. It is therefore the true test of sincere godliness, when not only while God bestows his kindness upon us, but while he withdraws his face, and afflicts us, and gives every sign of severity and displeasure, we place our hope and confidence in him. Let us learn to apply this doctrine to our own use, whenever we are hard pressed by the calamities of the present life; and let us not cease to trust in him, even when our affairs are in the most desperate condition. F420 “Though He slay me,” says Job, “I will trust in Him;” and David says that: “though he walk amidst the shadow of death, he will trust and not be afraid, because he knows that God is with him.” (<181315>Job 13:15; <192304>Psalm 23:4.)

To thy name. The Prophet aims at shewing what is the source of that uwearied earnestness which prevents the godly from sinking under the greatest calamities. It is because they are free from wicked desires and from excessive solicitude, and in their aspirations boldly rise to God. For, in consequence of our disorderly passions and cares holding us bound, as it were, to the earth, our hearts either wander astray, or sink into indolence, so that they do not freely rise to God; and as the essence of God is hidden from us, this makes us more sluggish in seeking him. From his hidden and incomprehensible essence, therefore, the Prophet draws our attention to the name of God, as if he enjoined us to rest satisfied with that manifestation of it which is found in the word; because there God declares to us, as far as is necessary, his justice, wisdom, and goodness, that is, himself.

And to the remembrance of thee. It is not without good reason also that he has added the word remembrance; for it means that the first perception or thought is not enough, but that continual meditation is enjoined; because without its aid all the light of doctrine would immediately vanish away. And indeed the true and sincere knowledge of God inflames us to desire him, and not only so, but also prompts us to desire to make progress, whenever the “remembrance” of it occurs to our minds. The knowledge of God, therefore, comes first; and next, we must be employed in frequent “remembrance;” for it is not enough that we have once obtained knowledge, if love and desire do not grow through constant meditation. Hence, also, we perceive that the knowledge of God is not a dead imagination.

9. My soul hath desired thee. This is a stronger expression of the former statement; for, having previously spoken in the person of believers, he had said that the desire of their soul was towards God. He now adds, with regard to himself, My soul hath desired; as if he had said, “I have all the faculties of my soul directed towards seeking thy name.” The word pn (nephesh) frequently denotes the vital Soul; but as the Prophet here employs two words, I distinguish them so as to make pn (nephesh) mean the desire or will, and jwr (ruach) the intellectual parts; for we know that these are the chief parts of the human soul, namely, the Understanding and the Will, both of which God justly claims for himself. Such is also the import of that passage, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” (<050605>Deuteronomy 6:5; <402237>Matthew 22:37.) The Prophet therefore shews, that all the faculties of his soul are directed to this point, to seek God and embrace him.

Others take jwr, (ruach,) the Spirit, to mean the regenerated part; and so by pn (nephesh) they understand the natural soul, and by jwr, (ruach,) the Spirit, they understand the grace of God, which is supernatural. But this cannot be admitted; for the sensual man (yuciko>v) never seeks God; and we perceive how strongly we are opposed by our feelings when we rise to God, and with what difficulty we conquer that aversion. It is unnecessary, therefore, to refute this interpretation, for it is directly contrary to Scripture; and from many similar passages it is sufficiently plain that the Spirit and Soul mean the understanding and the heart.

In the night. By the night Scripture often means adversity, which is compared to darkness and gloominess. But I interpret it somewhat differently, as if the Prophet had said, “There is no time so improper or unreasonable that I may not call upon thee or pray to thee.” That interpretation differs little from the former, but is rather more general; for night is supposed to be set apart for rest, and at that time all the desires and labors of men F421 cease; and, in short, there is little difference between a sleeping and a dead man. He says, therefore, that at the time which is devoted to rest and repose he rises to seek God, so that no occasion turns him aside; — not that those who are asleep have any active thought, but that sleep itself, if we turn to God, is a part of our course; and although we slumber and are silent, still we praise him by hope and confidence.

In the morning F422 will I seek thee. By the night the Prophet does not literally mean sleep; and this is perfectly evident from the present clause, in which night is contrasted with morning, which denotes continuance.

The inhabitants of the earth will learn righteousness. We must observe the reason assigned, when he says that “the inhabitants of the earth learn righteousness from the judgments of God,” meaning that by chastisements men are taught to fear God. F423 In prosperity they forget him, and their eyes are as it were blinded by fatness; they grow wanton and petulant, and do not submit to be under authority; and therefore the Lord restrains their insolence, and teaches them to obey. In short, the Prophet confesses that he and others were trained, by God’s chastisements, to yield submission to his authority, and to intrust themselves to his guardianship; because if God do not, with uplifted arm, claim his right to rule, no man of his own accord yields obedience.

10. The wicked man will obtain favor. F424 Isaiah contrasts this statement with the former. He had said that the godly, even when they are afflicted, or see others afflicted, still rely on the love of God, and trust in him. But now he declares, on the other hand, that the wicked cannot be brought in any way to love God, though he endeavor, by every sort of kindness, to draw and gain them over; and that, whatever aspect the Lord assume towards them, they do not become better.

This verse appears, at first view, to contradict the former, in which the Prophet said, that the justice of God is acknowledged in the earth, when he executes his judgments, and shews that he is the Judge, and punishes the transgressions of men; while he says here that the wicked cannot in any way be led or persuaded to worship God, and that they are so far from being made better by the chastisements, that even acts of kindness make them worse. The good effect of chastisements certainly does not appear in all; for wicked men do not at all profit by them, as we see in Pharaoh, whom chastisements and scourges rendered more obstinate. (<020713>Exodus 7:13.) But although he spoke indiscriminately about “the inhabitants of the earth,” yet he strictly included none but God’s elect, with whom indeed even some hypocrites share the profit that is gained; for sometimes, though reluctantly, they are moved by reverence for God, and are restrained by the dread of punishments. F425 but as the Prophet here describes sincere repentance, by “the inhabitants of the earth” he means only the children of God.

Some view it as a question, “Shall favor be shewn to the wicked?” or, “Why should the wicked man obtain favor?” as if the Prophet insinuated that they do not deserve that God should deal gently with them. But I choose rather to explain it thus, “Whatever may be the acts of kindness by which God draws the wicked, they will never learn to act uprightly.” The Prophet therefore has limited the statement made in the former verse.

In the land of upright actions he will deal unjustly. This is added in order to shew more strongly the baseness of this ingratitude. It was a sufficiently heinous offense that they abused the acts of God’s kindness, and by means of them became more rebellious; but it is their crowning wickedness, that “they deal wickedly in the land” which the Lord had consecrated to himself. What he now says relates to Judea, but may be extended also to other countries in which God is now worshipped; but at that time there was no other country on which Isaiah could bestow that title, for in no other was there any knowledge of God. (<197602>Psalm 76:2.)

Thus he calls Judea “the land of Upright actions.” I give this interpretation, because, since the Prophet employs (twjkn) in the feminine gender, the word upright cannot apply to men. F426 He therefore bestows this title, because the law was there in full force, (<197601>Psalm 76:1, 2.) and that nation had been peculiarly chosen by God; and it was added, as I have already said, in order to exhibit more strongly the ingratitude of the nation. Some extend it indiscriminately to the whole world, because, wherever we live, God supports us on the condition of our maintaining uprightness. This is too far-fetched; but, since God has now spread abroad his kingdom in every direction, wheresoever men call on his name, that is “the land of upright actions;” F427 so that we are worthy of double condemnation, if, after having been stimulated by benefits so numerous and so great, we do not testify our gratitude by the practice of godliness and by good works.

When he adds, that the reprobate will not behold the majesty of the Lord, this does not in any degree palliate, but rather doubles their criminality; because it is base and shameful indolence not to observe the glory of God which is openly manifested before our eyes. The wicked are thus rendered the more inexcusable, because, how numerous soever may be the methods by which the Lord makes known his name, still they are blind amidst the clearest light. There is never any lack of testimonies by which the Lord openly manifests his majesty and glory, but, as we have formerly seen, F428 few consider them. God manifests his glory not only by the ordinary works of nature, but likewise by some astonishing miracles and demonstrations, by means of which he gives us abundant instruction about his goodness, wisdom, and justice. Wicked men shut their eyes, and do not observe them, though in trifling matters they are very clear-sighted; and the Prophet now censures them severely for this wickedness.

Others think that it is a threatening against the reprobate, they shall not behold the majesty of the Lord, as if they did not deserve to obtain this view of the works of God. Though this is true, yet, as this clause is closely connected with the former, the Prophet continues to censure the indolence of those who do not direct their minds to the works of God, but, on the contrary, become stupid. On this account, we ought to think it the less wonderful that so few repent, though very many demonstrations of the righteousness of God are openly made; for infidelity is always blind to behold the works of God.

11. O Jehovah, though thy hand is lifted up. This is an explanation of the former statement; for he brings forward nothing that is new, but shews more clearly what he had formerly stated in a few words. He had already said that the wicked “will not behold the majesty of the Lord;” and now he explains that “majesty” to be that which is visible in the works of God. He does not send us to that hidden majesty which is concealed from us, but leads us to the works, which he denotes figuratively (metwnumikw~v) F429 by the hand. Here he again censures the wicked, and shews that they cannot be excused on the plea of ignorance; for, though they perceive nothing, still the hand of God is openly visible; and it is nothing but their blind ingratitude, or rather their voluntary indolence, that hinders them from perceiving it. Some might plead ignorance, and allege that they did not see these works; but the Prophet says that God’s hand is “lifted up,” and not merely exerted, so that it is not only visible to a few persons, but shines conspicuously.

They shall see and be ashamed. He shews plainly that this “beholding” is different from that of which he formerly spoke, when he said that the wicked “do not see the glory of the Lord;” for they do see, but do not observe or take any notice of it; but at length “they shall see,” but too late, and to their great hurt. After having long abused the patience of God, and proved that they were obstinate and rebellious, they will at length be constrained to acknowledge the judgments of God. Thus Cain, (<010413>Genesis 4:13,14,) Esau, (<012738>Genesis 27:38,) and others like them, who too late repented of their crimes, (<581217>Hebrews 12:17,) though they fled from the face of God, yet were constrained to see that he was their Judge. Thus, in those who despise him, God frequently, produces a feeling of remorse, that he may display his power; but such knowledge is of no avail to them.

In this manner, therefore, the Prophet threatens wicked men, after having accused them of blindness, in order to shew that they have no plea of ignorance; and he forewarns them that the time will come when they shall know with whom they have to do, and that they will then feel that they ought not to despise that heavenly name which they now treat as fabulous, and scorn. They shut their eyes, and act without restraint, and make us a laughing-stock, and do not think that God will be their Judge, but rather turn into ridicule our distresses and afflictions. Thus they look down on us as from a lofty place, and grow more and more hardened; but at length they will understand that the true worshippers of God have not lost their labor.

And shall be ashamed. In order to shew that this beholding of the glory of God is not only of no advantage, but hurtful to them, he says that they shall behold with shame the blessing of God towards believers, in which they will have no share.

Through their envy of the people. This tends to shew more strongly the severity of the punishment, that not only will they burn with “envy,” when they shall see that the children of God have been delivered from those distresses, and have been exalted to glory, but there will likewise be added another evil, that they will be consumed by the fire of the enemy. By “the envy of the people,” therefore, is here meant the indignation which wicked men feel when they compare the lot of godly men with their own.

Yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them. By the fire of the enemies, he means that “fire” with which God consumes his “enemies.” He employs the word “fire” to denote God’s vengeance; for here it must not be taken for visible “fire” with which we are burned, nor even for the thunderbolt alone, but is a metaphorical expression for dreadful anguish, as we find that in many other passages Scripture denotes by this term, God’s severest vengeance. (<053222>Deuteronomy 32:22; <182026>Job 20:26, 22:20.) No language indeed can sufficiently express this anguish. Yet I do not object to the suggestion, that the Prophet alludes to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. (<011924>Genesis 19:24.)

12. O Jehovah, thou wilt ordain peace for us. This statement tends to the consolation of the godly, as if he had said, “We shall see what will be the end of the wicked; for thou wilt prevent them from sharing with thy children, and wilt take them away as enemies by fire, but we shall be happy.” The Hebrew verb tp, (shaphath,) which signifies “to ordain,” has the same import as the word “establish;” as if he had said, “Thou wilt prepare peace for us in uninterrupted succession:” for the wicked also enjoy peace, but not of long duration; but our peace is fixed on the Lord, and has a firm foundation, and never comes to an end. By the word peace he means perfect happiness. Hence infer, that the children of God alone, who rest on him, are happy; for the life of the wicked, to whatever extent it may abound in pleasures and luxuries, when everything proceeds to their wish, is most miserable. There is therefore no solid foundation for peace but in God’s fatherly love.

All our works. By works he means all the blessings which the Lord bestows on those who believe in him; as if he had said, “Transactions, business, actions,” and everything included in the French phrase nos affaires, or in the corresponding English phrase our affairs. Accordingly, those who have quoted this passage for the purpose of overturning free-will have not understood the Prophet’s meaning. It is undoubtedly true that God alone does what is good in us, and that all the good actions which men perform are from his Spirit. But here the Prophet merely shews that we have obtained from the hand of God all the good things which we enjoy; and hence he infers that his kindness will not cease till we shall have obtained perfect happiness. Now, since God is the author of all good things, we ought chiefly to consider those which hold the first and highest place; for if we ought to acknowledge that we have received from God those things by which we support this life, much more those which belong to the salvation of the soul. If, therefore, we ought to acknowledge his kindness in small matters, how much more ought we to acknowledge it in matters of the greatest importance and value? But there is no reason why we should bring forward this passage against the Papists; for they might easily evade it, and we have a great number of other passages exceedingly conclusive.

In this passage, therefore, the Prophet appears to exhort the godly to testify their gratitude; for he bids them declare the acts of God’s kindness, so as to acknowledge that they are indebted to him for everything which they possess; and this contains a profitable doctrine, namely, that from past events and benefits received, the godly reason even as to God’s future kindness, and infer that he will also take care of them for the future. Having therefore experienced God’s kindness, let us also learn to hope for the future; and since he hath shewn himself to be so kind and bountiful, let us steadfastly fix our hearts in the hope of future assistance.

This example has been followed by all the saints, and in this way they have strengthened their faith. Thus David says, “Thou wilt not despise the work of thy hands.” (<19D808>Psalm 138:8.) Paul says, “He who hath begun in us a good work will perform it.” (<500106>Philippians 1:6.) Jacob also says, “I am less than the compassions and the truth which thou hast shewn to thy servant; but thou saidst, I will surely do thee good.” (<013210>Genesis 32:10,12.) God is not like men, to be capable of being wearied by doing good, or exhausted by giving largely; and therefore the more numerous the benefits with which he has loaded us, so much the more ought our faith to be strengthened and increased.

13. O Lord our God. This verse contains a complaint of the saints, that they were oppressed by the tyranny of the wicked. This song was composed in order to refresh the hearts of believers, who were to be cruelly banished from that land which was a figure of eternal happiness, that, having been deprived of sacrifices and holy assemblies, and almost of every consolation, crushed by the heavy yoke of the Babylonians, banished from their country, loaded with reproach and sore afflictions, they might direct their groanings to God, in order to seek relief. He speaks, therefore, in the name of believers, who to outward appearance had been rejected by God, and yet did not cease to testify that they were the people of God, and to put their trust in him.

Other lords besides thee have had dominion over us. Not without cause do they complain that they are placed under a different dominion from that of God, for he had received them under his sole guardianship. Hence it follows that, if they had not been estranged from him, they would not have endured so hard a lot as to be exposed to the tyranny and caprice of enemies. It may be thought that the government of all princes is “besides God,” or different from that of God, even though they govern in his name. But the Prophet does not speak of those who govern for our benefit, but of those who are opposed to true worship and to holy doctrine. David was indeed a ruler who exercised dominion separate from that of God, but at the same time he was a genuine servant of God for the general advantage of the whole people; and therefore he maintained the true religion, which those rulers wished altogether to overthrow. Most justly did it befall the Jews, that, in consequence of having refused to obey God, who treated them with the greatest kindness, they were subjected to the tyranny of wicked men.

There is an implied contrast between God and the pious kings who governed the people in his name and by his authority, and the tyrants who oppressed them by governing with most unjust laws. This will be made more evident by a similar passage in Ezekiel, “I gave them,” says God, “good laws, by which they might live; but because they did not execute my judgments, and despised my statutes, and profaned my Sabbaths, and cast their eyes upon the idols of their fathers, for this reason I gave them statutes that were not good, and judgments by which they could not live.” (<262011>Ezekiel 20:11, 24, 25.) Since they might formerly, through the blessing of God, have been prosperous and happy, if they had obeyed his word, the prophet Ezekiel threatens that they will be subjected to tyrants who will compel them to obey their cruel enactments, and that without profit or reward. Isaiah now deplores a similar calamity. “When the Lord ruled over us, we could not be satisfied with our lot, and now we are compelled to endure severe tyranny and suffer the just punishment of our wickedness.” The same complaint may be made by believers who live under the Papacy, or who in any way are compelled, by unjust laws, to observe superstition; for they are subject to a government which is “besides God,” or different from that of God, and endure bondage worse than barbarous, which not only fetters their bodies, but conducts their souls to torture and slaughter.

In thee only. This clause appears to be contrasted with the former to this effect, “Although irreligious men wish to withdraw from thy dominion, yet we will continue under it; for we are fully convinced that we are thine.” But we may draw from it more abundant instruction, that, although the feeling of the flesh pronounces that those who are cruelly oppressed by enemies have been forsaken by God, and laid open to be a prey, yet the Jews do not cease to boast in God when they do not perceive that he is near them; for the mere remembrance of his name supports them, and gently cherishes their hope. There is thus a very emphatic contrast between “the remembrance of the name of God” and the immediate experience of his grace; for steadfastly to embrace God, even though he is absent, is a proof of uncommon excellence.

Others render it, In thee and in thy name; but the word and is not in the passage. There is here exhibited to us consolation, which is great and highly necessary in these times, when the base ingratitude of men, by shaking off the yoke of God, has brought down upon itself a most cruel tyranny; and we need not wonder if we already see it abound in many places in which men call on the name of God. Yet the godly ought not to faint on this account, provided that they support themselves by this consolation, that God never entirely forsakes those who find abundant consolation in the remembrance of his name. But at the same time it is necessary to testify this faith, so as to choose to die a thousand times rather than depart from God by profaning his name; for when any one goes astray through the fear of men, it is certain that he never has truly tasted the sweetness of the name of God. So long, therefore, as we freely enjoy the word, let us be diligently employed in it, so that, when necessity shall demand it, we may be armed, and that it may not appear that we have indulged at our ease in idle speculation.

14. The dead shall not live. F430 The Prophet again speaks of the unhappy end of the wicked, whose prosperity often agitates and vexes us, as we read in the Psalms of David. (<193701>Psalm 37:1, 73:3, 17.) That our eyes may not be dazzled by the present appearances of things, he foretells that their end will be very miserable. Others interpret this passage as relating to believers, who appear to die without any hope of a resurrection; but unquestionably he speaks of the reprobate, and this will be still more evident from an opposite statement which he makes at the nineteenth verse. There is a contrast between the resurrection of good men and wicked men, F431 between whom there would be little difference, were it not evident that the latter are sentenced to eternal death, and that the former will receive a blessed and everlasting life: and not only does eternal death await the wicked, but all the sufferings which they endure in this world are the commencement of everlasting destruction; for they cannot be soothed by any consolation, and they feel that God is their enemy.

The slain shall not rise again. F432 The word which we render slain is rendered by others giants; F433 but as in many passages of Scripture yapr F434 (rephaim) denotes slain, so also in this passage it will be more appropriate, for otherwise there would be no contrast. (<198811>Psalm 88:11; <200218>Proverbs 2:18; 9:18; 21:16.)

Therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them. This is added for the sake of explanation; for it assigns the reason why the reprobate perish without hope, namely, because it is the purpose of god to destroy them. In the wrath of God they have nothing to look for but death and ruin.

15. Thou hast added to the nation. This verse is explained in various ways. Some think that the Prophet here declares that the godly are not merely oppressed by one kind of affliction, but are plunged, as it were, into the lowest misery, and that they see no end of their distresses. Others explain it simply to mean, “O Lord, thou hast bestowed on thy nation various blessings,” and think that the Prophet mentions the blessings which god bestowed on his people in various ways, as if he had said, “The people have experienced, not only in one instance, but in innumerable ways, the Lord’s kindness and bounty.”

But when I attend to what follows, Thou hast enlarged, that is, “Thou hast extended thy kingdom, which formerly was confined within narrow limits,” I choose rather to view the two statements as closely connected; for the latter clause is an interpretation of the former. Besides, it agrees well with what follows, that God is glorified; for we know that in nothing does the glory of God shine more conspicuously than in the increase of the Church. It is as if he had said, “Thou hadst formerly a small people, but thou hast multiplied and increased it;” for the Gentiles were admitted and joined to the Jews on condition that they should be united into one people. Thus the Lord added a vast multitude, for the children of Abraham were called out of all nations.

We must therefore supply, not “Thou hast added blessings,” but “Thou hast added a greater number;” and the meaning is, “O Lord, thou wast not satisfied with that small number, and hast gathered for thyself out of all nations an innumerable people.” This relates to the kingdom of Christ, which has been spread through the whole world by the preaching of the gospel; and in this passage the Prophet speaks highly of this wide extension, and expresses it by the phrase, Thou hast enlarged. This mode of expression is not at variance with the ordinary way of speaking, when an enlargement of a kingdom or of territories is expressed. And yet the Prophet does not mean that the land was enlarged, but that, by spreading the worship of God on all sides, mutual intercourse produced larger space and greater freedom of habitation; for contentions had the effect of narrowing it. F435 We have here a promise of the calling of the Gentiles, which must have greatly comforted godly men during that banishment and miserable dispersion of the Church, so that, although they saw it to be amazingly weakened and diminished, still they were convinced that it would be increased in such a manner that not only would they become innumerable, but foreign and distant nations would be added to them.

16. O Jehovah, in tribulation they have visited thee. This might be explained as relating to hypocrites, who never flee to God but when they have been constrained by distresses and afflictions. But since the Lord instructs believers also by chastisements, as the Prophet formerly shewed, (verses 8 and 9,) I choose rather to refer it simply to them, that not only they may know that God has justly punished them, but that the bitterness of the afflictions may likewise be sweetened by the good result of the chastisement, and that they may be better instructed in the fear of the Lord, and may profit more and more every day. Isaiah therefore speaks in the person of the Church, that whenever godly men read this statement, they might acknowledge that amidst their distresses and afflictions they were nearer to God than when they enjoyed prosperity, by means of which almost always (such is the depravity of our nature) we become excessively proud and insolent. On this account we must be curbed and tamed by chastisements; and this thought will soften the harshness of punishments, and make us less ready to shrink from them if we think that they are profitable to us.

They poured out a prayer. The Hebrew word jl (lachash) F436 signifies a muttering. This word therefore must not be taken for a prayer pronounced in words, F437 but for that which indicates that the heart is wrung with sore pains, as those who are tortured by extreme anguish can hardly speak or express the feelings of their hearts. It therefore denotes, that calling upon God which is sincere and free from all hypocrisy; such as men will aim at when in sore affliction they utter groans as expressive of intense pain. In prosperity men speak with open mouths; but when they are cast down by adversity, they hardly venture to mutter, and express their feelings with the heart rather than with the tongue. Hence arise those unutterable groans of which Paul speaks. (<450826>Romans 8:26.) It is in reference to the godly, therefore, that Paul makes this declaration, and to them must this doctrine be limited; for wicked men, although some lamentations are extorted from them by pain, become more hardened and more and more obstinate and rebellious.

17. As a woman with child. Here two things ought chiefly to be remarked. First, he compares believers to women in labor, who, we know, endure exquisite pain; and, accordingly, he says that their anguish breaks out into loud and violent cries. Hence we infer that the Prophet does not only speak of that sorrow which arises from outward distresses and annoyances, but rather describes that dreadful anguish by which the hearts of the godly are sorely and dreadfully tormented, when they perceive that God is angry with them, and when their consciences reprove them. There is no bodily pain so acute that it can be compared to that anguish, and this is plainly expressed by the phrase in thy sight.

18. We have as it were brought forth wind. The second thing to be remarked is, that he goes beyond the limit of the metaphor; for when there is no end to their distresses, the condition of the godly is worse than that of women in labor, who, as soon as they are free from their pains, break out into joy at the sight of what they have brought forth, (<431621>John 16:21,) and forget all their sorrows. The godly, on the other hand, he tells us, are continually bringing forth; for new troubles and anxieties constantly await them, and when they think that the birth is at hand, they bring forth nothing but anguish. That is what he means by wind, F438 namely, that there is no removal or abatement of pain; and immediately afterwards he thus explains it, Salvations have not been wrought for the land, F439 that is, we have not beheld any deliverance.

And the inhabitants of the world have not fallen. Lbw wlpy (ubal yippelu,) that is, have not fallen; for lpn (naphal) signifies “to fall.” Others explain it “to dwell.” If we take it in that sense, the meaning Will be, “The Jews shall not dwell,” that is, they shall not return to their own land the inhabitants who possess it shall not perish. But if we follow the ordinary interpretation, we must view it as referring to the wicked. “The inhabitants of the world annoy us and do not fall; everything goes on prosperously with them.”

So long as the wicked flourish, the children of God must be unhappy, and become like women in labor; and this condition must be quietly endured by us, if we wish to have a place in the Church of God. It is, indeed, the common lot of all to endure numerous and endless afflictions; and hence comes the old proverb, “It is happy not to be born, or, when born, immediately to depart out of life.” But we see that the godly are visited with sore anguish and very heavy afflictions beyond others; for in this manner God wishes to try their faith, that, after having laid aside their desires and forsaken the world, they may serve him. Since, therefore, the Lord has a peculiar care of them, he must chastise them, while he permits wicked men to indulge in unbounded licentiousness.

Here we are also reminded that we must endure not merely one or another calamity, and must not imagine that, when we have endured some afflictions, there are none in reserve for us; for we ought always to be prepared to endure new ones. When God begins to chastise his people, he does not immediately cease. We shall “bring forth wind” when we think that the birth is at hand; other calamities will break out, and we shall be continually attacked by additional sorrows. We must therefore maintain this warfare so long as it shall please God to employ us in it. Accordingly, we shall follow the ordinary interpretation, have not fallen; for, as the Lord cheers his people, when he manifests to them his salvation and punishes the wicked, so he gives them occasion to groan, so long as they behold their enemies placed in a lofty position and exercising high authority. And if the Lord in this manner tried his Church in former times, we need not wonder that we experience the same thing in the present day.

By the inhabitants of the world he means heathens and irreligious men; for he contrasts the rest of the world with Judea, which he formerly called, by way of eminence, (kat j ejxoch<n,) the land, and mentions its inhabitants apart.

19. Thy dead men shall live. Isaiah continues the same consolation, and addresses his discourse to God, thus shewing that there is nothing better for us than to bring our thoughts to meet in God, whenever we must struggle with temptations; for there is nothing more dangerous than to wander in our thoughts, and to give way to them, since they can do nothing else than toss us up and down and drive us into error. Nothing therefore is safer for us than to betake ourselves to God, on whom alone our hearts can rest; for otherwise we shall meet with many things that tend to shake our faith. The general meaning is, that as God guards believers, though they are like “dead men,” yet they “shall live” amidst death itself, or shall rise again after their decease.

But it may be asked, of what time does Isaiah speak? For many interpret this passage as relating to the last resurrection. The Jews refer it to Messiah’s kingdom, but they are mistaken in thinking that it is immediately fulfilled by the Messiah’s first coming. Christians are also mistaken in limiting it to the last judgment; for the Prophet includes the whole reign of Christ from the beginning to the end, since the hope of living, as we shall immediately see, goes beyond this world. Now, in order to understand more fully the whole of the Prophet’s meaning, we ought first to consider that life is promised, not indiscriminately, but only to “God’s dead men; “ and he speaks of believers who die in the Lord, and whom he protects by his power. We know that “God is the God of the living, and not of the dead.” (<402232>Matthew 22:32.) Accordingly, if we are God’s people, we shall undoubtedly live; but in the meantime we must differ in no respect from dead men, for “our life is hidden,” (<510303>Colossians 3:3,) and we do not yet see those things for which we hope. (<450823>Romans 8:23, 24.)

So then he speaks simply of the dead, that is, of the condition of believers, who lie in the shadow of death on account of various afflictions which they must continually endure. Hence it is evident, that this must not be limited to the last resurrection; for, on the contrary, we say that the reprobate, even while they live, are dead, because they do not taste God’s fatherly kindness, in which life consists, and therefore perish in their brutal stupidity. But believers, by fleeing to God, obtain life in the midst of afflictions, and even in death itself; but because they have in prospect that day of the resurrection, they are not said literally to live till that day when they shall be free from all pain and corruption, and shall obtain perfect life; and, indeed, Paul justly argues, that it would be a subversion of order, were they to enjoy life till the appearance of Christ, who is the source of their life. (<510303>Colossians 3:3, 4.)

Thus we have said that Isaiah includes the whole reign of Christ; for, although we begin to receive the fruit of this consolation when we are admitted into the Church, yet we shall not enjoy it fully till that last day of the resurrection is come, when all things shall be most completely restored; and on this account also it is called “the day of restitution.” (<440321>Acts 3:21.) The only remedy for soothing the grief of the godly is, to cast their eyes on the result, by which God distinguishes them from the reprobate. As death naturally destroys all the children of Adam, so all the miseries to which they are liable are forerunners of death, and therefore their life is nothing else than mortality. But because the curse of God, through the kindness of Christ, is abolished, both in the beginning and in the end of death, all who are engrafted into Christ are justly said to live in dying; for to them all that is evil is the instrument of good. (<450828>Romans 8:28.) Hence it follows, that out of the depths of death they always come forth conquerors till they are perfectly united to their Head; and therefore, in order that we may be reckoned among “God’s dead men,” whose life he faithfully guards, we must rise above nature. This is more fully expressed by the word hlbn, (nebelah,) or dead body.

My dead body, they shall arise. As if he had said, “The long-continued putrefaction, by which they appear to be consumed, will not hinder the power of God from causing them to rise again entire.” So far as relates to the phrase, some render it, “With my dead body.” Others explain it, “Who are my dead body.” Others supply the particle of comparison, “Like as my dead body; “ but as the meaning is most fully brought out if, without adding or changing anything, we take up simply what the words mean, I choose to view them as standing in immediate connection. At least, this word is inserted for the express purpose that the Prophet may join himself to the whole Church, and thus may reckon himself in the number of “God’s dead men” in the hope of the resurrection. F440

As to his mentioning himself in particular, he does so for the sake of more fully confirming this doctrine; for thus he testifies his sincerity, and shews that this confession is the result of faith, according to that saying, “I believed, therefore I spake.” (<19B610>Psalm 116:10; <470413>2 Corinthians 4:13.) But for this, irreligious men might discourse concerning the mercy of God and eternal life, though they had no sincere belief of them; for even Balaam knew that he spoke what was true, and yet he derived no benefit from his predictions. (<042319>Numbers 23:19; 24:13.) Very differently does the Prophet speak in this passage; for he professes to belong to the number of those who shall obtain life, and then declares that he willingly endures all the troubles and calamities by which the Lord humbles and slays him, and that he chooses rather to endure them than to flourish along with the wicked. In this manner he testifies, that he does not speak of things unknown, or in which he has no concern, but of those things which he has learned by actual experience; and shews that his confidence is so great that he willingly ranks himself in the number of those “dead bodies” which, he firmly believes, will be restored to life, and therefore chooses to be a dead body, and to be so reckoned, provided that he be accounted a member of the Church, rather than to enjoy life in a state of separation from the Church.

This gives greater force to his doctrine, and he contrasts it with the statement which he formerly made (verse 14) about wicked men, they shall not live; for the hope of rising again is taken from them. If it be objected, that resurrection will be common not only to believers but also to the reprobate, the answer is easy; for Isaiah does not speak merely of the resurrection, but of the happiness which believers will enjoy. Wicked men will indeed rise again, but it will be to eternal destruction; and therefore the resurrection will bring ruin to them, while it will bring salvation and glory to believers.

Awake and sing, ye inhabitants of the dust. He gives the name, inhabitants of the dust, to believers, who are humbled under the cross and afflictions, and who even during their life keep death constantly before their eyes. It is true that they enjoy God’s blessings in this life; F441 but by this metaphor Isaiah declares that their condition is miserable, because they bear the image of death; for “the outward man” must be subdued and weakened, till it utterly decay, “that the inward man may be renewed.” (<470416>2 Corinthians 4:16.) We must therefore be willing to be humbled, and to lie down in the dust, if we wish to share in this consolation.

Accordingly, he bids the dead men “awake and sing,” which appears to be very inconsistent with their condition; for among them there is nothing but mournful silence. (<190605>Psalm 6:5; 88:11.) He thus draws a clear distinction between God’s elect, whom the corruption of the grave and the “habitation in the dust” will not deprive of that heavenly vigor by which they shall rise again, and the reprobate, who, separated from God the source of life, and from Christ, fade away even while they live, till they are wholly swallowed up by death.

For thy dew is the dew of herbs. F442 He now promises “the dew of herbs,” and thus illustrates this doctrine by an elegant and appropriate comparison. We know that herbs, and especially those of the meadows, are dried up in winter, so that they appear to be wholly dead, and, to outward appearance, no other judgment could be formed respecting them; yet the roots are concealed beneath, which, when they have imbibed the dew at the return of spring, put forth their vigor, so that herbs which formerly were dry and withered, grow green again. In this manner will the nation regain its former vigor after having been plentifully watered with the dew of the grace of God, though formerly it appeared to be altogether withered and decayed.

Such comparisons, drawn from well-known objects, have great influence in producing conviction. If “herbs” watered by “dew” revive, why shall not we also revive when watered by the grace of God? Why shall not our bodies, though dead and rotten, revive? Does not God take more care of us than of herbs? And is not the power of the Spirit greater than that of “dew?” Paul employs a similar argument in writing to the Corinthians, when he treats of the resurrection; but as he applies his comparison to a different purpose, I think it better to leave it for the present, lest we should confound the two passages. It is enough if we understand the plain meaning of the Prophet.

And the earth shall cast out the dead. Others render the clause in the second person, “Thou wilt lay low the land of giants,” F443 or “Thou wilt lay low the giants on the earth.” I do not disapprove of this interpretation, for the words admit of that meaning; but the former appears to agree better with the scope of the passage, though it makes little difference as to the substance of the doctrine. These words must relate to that consolation of which we have formerly spoken.

20. Come, my people. In this verse he exhorts the children of God to exercise patience, to shut themselves up, and to bear with moderation their troubles and afflictions, and to stand unmoved in opposition to the fierce tempests which seemed likely to overwhelm them. This exhortation was highly necessary; for the lamentable state to which the nation was afterwards reduced was, to outward appearance, very inconsistent with that promise. The Prophet, therefore, when the people are distressed and know not where to go, takes them, as it were, by the hand, and conducts them to some retired spot, where they may hide themselves in safety till the storms and tempests are abated. When he calls them “his own people,” he speaks in the name of God, and not in his own.

Enter into thy chamber. By chamber he means calmness and composure of mind, by which we encourage and strengthen our hearts with firm belief, and calmly wait for the Lord, as Habakkuk, after having foretold the calamities which were about to fall on the Jews, says that he will go up “to his watch-tower,” that is, to a place of safety, in which he may patiently and silently await the result. (<350201>Habakkuk 2:1.) Isaiah gives a similar injunction in this passage, that the godly, when they see that they are attacked by various storms which they are unable to resist, should shut themselves up in a “chamber,” or some place of retirement.

Shut thy doors behind thee. As it would not be enough that we should once be fortified against the fierce attacks of tempests, he bids us also “shut the doors.” This relates to steadfastness; as if he enjoined us to take good heed not to leave any chink open for the devil; for he will easily break through and penetrate into our hearts, if the smallest entrance be allowed him.

Hide thyself for a little moment. When he bids them “hide” or “conceal” themselves, he means that it will be a very safe refuge for believers, if they are courageous and patiently wait for the Lord; for though we must boldly and valiantly maintain the contest, yet since the power of God is displayed in our weakness, (<471209>2 Corinthians 12:9,) there is nothing better for us than to take refuge, with all humility, under God’s wings, that they who tremble may be placed by him in perfect safety.

Again, because we are naturally rash, and hurried away by impatience, when we do not see that the Lord’s assistance is immediate, on this account he says that these storms are “momentary.” F444 True, we must continually struggle with afflictions, and, so long as we live, must not hope to see an end of them; and, consequently, the afflictions are, in our opinion, of very long duration. But if we compare them with that eternity, in which we shall possess immortal joys, it will be but “a very little moment.” In like manner, Paul also shews that the light and momentary afflictions which we endure in this life, ought not to be compared to that weight of eternal glory which we expect to receive. (<470417>2 Corinthians 4:17; <450818>Romans 8:18.)

Till the indignation pass over. By adding this he intends to remove all doubt from believers, as if he promised that they would quickly be delivered. I interpret “indignation” as meaning simply the affliction which proceeds from the Lord’s anger. Others refer it to enemies; and I do not object to that interpretation, but prefer the former; for we see that the prophets earnestly teach that no evil happens to us that does not come from the hand of God, who does not inflict them on us without good reason, but when he has been provoked by our iniquities and transgressions. (<300306>Amos 3:6.) We are thus reminded that God’s wrath against the Church will not last always, but that, like storms and tempests, it will come to an end, and on this account believers endure it more patiently. Hence it is said elsewhere, (<330709>Micah 7:9,) “I will bear the Lord’s wrath;” for they know that he chastises them for their salvation. He introduces the Lord speaking, as I mentioned a little before, that his exhortation may have greater authority.

21. For, behold, Jehovah cometh out of his place. It is a very grievous temptation to the godly, when they see that the wicked exercise their rage without being punished, and that God does not restrain them; for they look upon themselves as forsaken by him. Isaiah therefore meets this temptation, and shews that the Lord, though he keep himself out of view for a time, will in due season gird himself for yielding assistance, and for revenging the injuries which his people have received.

By the word cometh out, he describes God stretching out his hand to his people in such a manner as if it had formerly been concealed, because the saints did not perceive his aid. For this reason he says, that the Lord “cometh out,” and that he appears in public to yield assistance and exercise judgment, as if he had formerly dwelt like a private person at home. But perhaps there is an allusion to the sanctuary; and this mode of expression occurs frequently in the prophets. (<330101>Micah 1:3; <350313>Habakkuk 3:13; <381403>Zechariah 14:3.) Though heathen nations despised the ark of the covenant which was laid up in a place little renowned, yet believers knew, by communications of power and grace which they quickly obtained, that it was not in vain or to no purpose that they called on God in that holy place. Yet this principle always holds good, that, though unbelievers ridicule the temple as some mean hut, still God will “come forth” from it at his own time, that the whole world may know that he is the protector of his people

This meaning is more appropriate than if we were to interpret God’s place to mean heaven, from which he “cometh forth;” for Isaiah intended to express something more. When the prophets mention heaven, they exhibit to us the majesty and glory of God; but here he refers to our senses, that is, when we see that God, who formerly appeared to remain concealed and to be at rest, gives us assistance. He employs the demonstrative particle hnh, (hinneh,) behold, and the participle of the present tense axy, (yotze,) coming forth, in order to express certainty, and that believers may not be displeased at bridling their feelings till his coming.

To visit the iniquity. This is to the same purport with what goes before; for it would have been inconsistent with the nature of God, who is the judge of the world, to allow the wicked freely to indulge in sin without being punished. The word visit contains a well-known metaphor; because, so long as God delays or suspends his judgments, we think that he sees nothing, or that he has turned away his eyes. There is emphasis, also, in the phrase wyl[, (gnalaiv,) upon him; as it is frequently said that the wicked are taken in “the snares which they have laid,” (<190916>Psalm 9:16,) or “in the pit which they have digged.” (<195706>Psalm 57:6.) The meaning therefore is, that all the injuries inflicted will fall on the heads of those who were the authors of them.

The earth also shall disclose her blood. F445 This also is highly emphatic. When innocent blood is shed and trodden under foot by wicked men, the earth drinks it up, and as it were receives it into her bosom; and, in the meantime, the death of the godly appears to be forgotten, and to be blotted out for ever from remembrance, so that it shall never come to be beheld even by God himself. Men indeed think so, but God makes a widely different declaration; for he declares, that those murderers will one day be “disclosed” and brought into judgment.

On this account he calls it “the blood, or bloods, of the earth,” which the earth has drunk up; and in like manner it is said, that “the earth opened her mouth” when the blood of Abel was shed. (<010411>Genesis 4:11.) In that passage the Lord represents in strong terms the aggravation of that guilt, by saying, that the earth was polluted with that blood, and therefore he shews how “precious in his sight is the death of the saints,” (<19B615>Psalm 116:15,) how great is the care which he takes of them, and that at length he will not permit their death to pass unpunished. The earth itself will take up arms to avenge the murders and cruelties which the godly have endured from tyrants and enemies of the truth; and not a drop of blood has been shed of which they will not have to render an account. We ought therefore to call to remembrance this consolation, and to keep it constantly before our eyes, when the wicked slay, mock, and ridicule us, and inflict upon us every kind of outrage and cruelty. God will at length make known that the cry of innocent blood has not been uttered in vain; for he never can forget his own people. (<421807>Luke 18:7.)


CHAPTER 27

Go To Isaiah 27:1-13

1. In that day. Here the Prophet speaks in general of the judgment of God, and thus includes the whole of Satan’s kingdom. Having formerly spoken of the vengeance of God to be displayed against tyrants and wicked men who have shed innocent blood, he now proceeds farther, and publishes the proclamation of this vengeance.

On leviathan. The word “leviathan” is variously interpreted; but in general it simply denotes either a large serpent, or whales and sea-fishes, which approach to the character of monsters on account of their huge size. F446 A1though this description applies to the king of Egypt, yet under one class he intended also to include the other enemies of the Church. For my own part, I have no doubt that he speaks allegorically of Satan and of his whole kingdom, describing him under the figure of some monstrous animal, and at the same time glancing at the crafty wiles by which he glosses over his mischievous designs. In this manner he intended to meet many doubts by which we are continually assailed, when God declares that he will assist us, and when we experience, on the other hand, the strength, craft, and deceitfulness of Satan. Wonderful are the stratagems with which he comes prepared for doing mischief, and dreadful the cruelty which he exercises against the children of God. But the Prophet shews that all this will not prevent the Lord from destroying and overthrowing this kingdom. It is indeed certain that this passage does not relate to Satan himself, but to his agents or instruments, F447 by which he governs his kingdom and annoys the Church of God. Now, though this kingdom is defended by innumerable cunning devices, and is astonishingly powerful, yet the Lord will destroy it.

To convince us of this, the Prophet contrasts with it the Lord’s sword, hard, and great, and strong, by which he will easily slay an enemy that is both strong and crafty. It ought therefore to be observed, that we have continually to do with Satan as with some wild beast, and that the world is the sea in which we sail. We are beset by various wild beasts, which endeavor to upset our ship and sink us to the bottom; and we have no means of defending ourselves and resisting them, if the Lord do not aid us. Accordingly, by this description the Prophet intended to describe the greatness of the danger which threatens us from enemies so powerful and so full of rage and of cunning devices. We should quickly be reduced to the lowest extremity, and should be utterly ruined, did not God oppose and meet them with his invincible power; for by his sword alone can this pernicious kingdom of Satan be destroyed.

But we must observe what he says in the beginning of the verse, In that day. It means that Satan is permitted, for some time, to strengthen and defend his kingdom, but that it will at length be destroyed; as Paul also declares, “God will quickly bruise Satan under your feet.” (<451620>Romans 16:20.) By this promise he shews that the time for war is not yet ended, and that we must fight bravely till that enemy be subdued, who, though he has been a hundred times vanquished, ceases not to renew the warfare. We must therefore fight with him continually, and must resist the violent attacks which he makes upon us; but, in order that we may not be discouraged, we must keep our eye on that day when his strong arm shall be broken.

On leviathan the piercing serpent, and on leviathan the crooked serpent. The epithets applied to “leviathan” describe, on the one hand, his tricks and wiles, and, on the other hand, his open violence; but at the same time intimate that he is endued with invincible power. Since jyrb (bariach) signifies a crowbar, that word denotes metaphorically the power of piercing, either on account of venomous bites or on account of open violence. The second name,! ˆwtlq[, (gnakallathon,) is derived from the verb lq[, (gnakal,) to bend; and hence it comes to be applied to crooked and tortuous foldings.

2. Sing to the vineyard of redness. F448 He now shews that all this will promote the salvation of the Church; for the Lord attends to the interests of his people, whom he has taken under his guardianship and protection. In order, therefore, that the Church may be restored, Satan and all his kingdom shall be utterly destroyed. The object of all the vengeance which God takes on his enemies is to shew that he takes care of the Church; and although in this passage the Prophet does not name the Church, he shews plainly enough that he addresses her in this congratulation.

This figure conveys the meaning even more strongly than if he had spoken expressly of the people of Israel; for since the whole excellence of a vineyard depends partly on the soil in which it is planted, and partly on diligent cultivation, if the Church of God is a vineyard, we infer that its excellence is owing to nothing else than the undeserved favor of God and the uninterrupted continuance of his kindness. The same metaphor expresses also God’s astonishing love towards the Church, of which we spoke largely under the fifth chapter. F449

He calls it a vineyard of redness, that is, very excellent; for in Scripture, if we compare various passages, “red wine” denotes excellence. He says that this song may at that time be sung in the Church, and foretells that, though it would in the mean time be reduced to fearful ruin, and would lie desolate and waste, yet that afterwards it will be restored in such a manner as to yield fruit plentifully, and that this will furnish abundant materials for singing.

3. I Jehovah keep it. Here the Lord asserts his care and diligence in dressing and guarding the vine, as if he had said, that he left nothing undone that belonged to the duty of a provident and industrious householder. Not only does he testify what he will do, when the time for gladness and congratulation shall arrive, but he relates the blessings which the Jews had already received, that their hope for the future may be increased. Yet we must supply an implied contrast with the intermediate period, during which God appeared to have laid aside all care of it, so that at that time it differed little from a wilderness. This then is the reason why the Lord’s vineyard was plundered and laid waste; it was because the Lord forsook it, and gave it up as a prey to the enemy. Hence we infer that our condition will be ruined as soon as the Lord has departed from us; and if he assist, everything will go well.

I will water it every moment. He next mentions two instances of his diligence, that he “will water it every moment,” and will defend it against the attacks of robbers and cattle and other annoyances. These are the two things chiefly required in preserving a vineyard, cultivation and protection. Under the word water he includes all that is necessary for cultivation, and promises that he will neglect nothing that can carry it forward. But protection must likewise be added; for it will be to no purpose to have cultivated a vineyard with vast toil, if robbers and cattle break in and destroy it. The Lord, therefore, promises that he will grant protection, and will not permit it to suffer damage, that the fruits may ripen well, and may be gathered in due season. Though the vine may suffer many attacks, and though enemies and wild beasts may assail it with great violence, God declares that he will interpose to preserve it unhurt and free from all danger. Moreover, since he names a fixed day for singing this song, let us remember that, if at any time he cease to assist us, we ought not entirely to cast away hope; and therefore, if he permit us to be harassed and plundered for a time, still he will at length shew that he has not cast away all care of us.

4. Fury is not in me. This verse contains excellent consolation; for it expresses the incredible warmth of love which the Lord bears towards his people, though they are of a wicked and rebellious disposition. God assumes, as we shall see, the character of a father who is grievously offended, and who, while he is offended at his son, still more pities him, and is naturally inclined to exercise compassion, because the warmth of his love rises above his anger. In short, he shews that he cannot hate his elect so as not to bear fatherly kindness towards them, even while he visits them with very severe punishments.

Scripture represents God to us in various ways. Sometimes it exhibits him as burning with indignation, and having a terrific aspect, and sometimes as shewing nothing but gentleness and mercy; and the reason of this diversity is, that we are not all capable of enjoying his goodness. Thus he is constrained to be perverse towards the perverse, and holy towards the holy, as David describes him. (<191825>Psalm 18:25.) He shews himself to us what we suffer him to be, for by our rebelliousness we drive him to severity.

Yet here the Prophet does not speak of all indiscriminately, but only of the Church, whose transgressions he chastises, and whose iniquities he punishes, in such a manner as not to lay aside a father’s affection. This statement must therefore be limited to the Church, so as to denote the relation between God and his chosen people, to whom he cannot manifest himself otherwise than as a Father, while he burns with rage against the reprobate. Thus we see how great is the consolation that is here given; for if we know that God has called us, we may justly conclude that he is not angry with us, and that, having embraced us with a firm and enduring regard, it is impossible that he shall ever deprive us of it. It is indeed certain that at that time God hated many persons who belonged to that nation; but, with respect to their adoption, he declares that he loved them. Now, the more kindly and tenderly that God loved them, so much the more they who provoked his anger by their wickedness were without excuse. This circumstance is undoubtedly intended to aggravate their guilt, that their wickedness constrains him, in some measure, to change his disposition towards them; for, having formerly spoken of his gentleness, he suddenly exclaims, —

“Who shall engage me in battle with the brier and thorn?” or, as some render it, “Who shall set me as a brier and thorn?” Yet it might not be amiss also to read, “Who shall bring against me a brier, that I may meet it as a thorn?” for there is no copulative conjunction between those two words. Yet I willingly adhere to the former opinion, that God wishes to have to deal with thistles or thorns, which be will quickly consume by the fire of his wrath. If any one choose rather to view it as a reproof of those doubts which often arise in us in consequence of unbelief, when we think that God is inflamed with wrath against us, as if he had said, “You are mistaken in comparing me to the brier and thorn,” that is, “You ascribe to me a harsh and cruel disposition,” let him enjoy his opinion, though I think that it is different from what the Prophet means. F450

Others think that God assumes the character of a man who is provoking himself to rage; as if he had said, “I do not choose to be any longer so indulgent, or to exercise such forbearance as I have formerly manifested;” but this is so forced, that it does not need a lengthened refutation. It is true, indeed, that since God is gentle and merciful in his nature, and there is nothing that is more foreign to him than harshness or cruelty, he may be said to borrow a nature that does not belong to him. F451 But the interpretation which I have given will of itself be sufficient to refute others, namely, that God complains bitterly that ye will as soon fight with thorns as with his vineyard, for when he considers that it is his inheritances he is compelled to spare it.

I will pass through them in a hostile manner, and utterly consume them. These words confirm my former exposition; for the burning relates to “briers and thorns,” and he declares that, if he had to deal with them, he would burn them all up, but that he acts more gently, because it is his vineyard. Hence we infer that, if God is not enraged against us, this must be attributed, not to any merits of men, but to his election, which is of free grace. By these words, ynnty ym, (mi yitteneni,) “Who shall give me?” he plainly shews that he has just cause for contending with us, and even for destroying us in a hostile manner, were he not restrained by compassion towards His Church; for we would be as thorns and briers, and would be like wicked men, if the Lord did not separate us from them, that we might not perish along with them. If the phrase hmjlmb, (bammilhamah,) in battle, which we have translated “in a hostile manner,” be connected with the question, “Who shall set me?” it will not ill agree with the meaning. F452

5. Will she take hold of my strength? wa (o,) is frequently a disjunctive conjunction, F453 and therefore this passage is explained as if the particle had been twice used, “Either let her take hold of my strength, or let her make peace with me;” that is, “If she do not enter into favor with me, she will feel my strength to her great loss.” Others explain it somewhat differently, “Who shall take hold of my strength?” that is, “Who shall restrain me?” But I pass by this interpretation, because I consider it to be too far-fetched. I return to that which is more generally received.

It is supposed that God threatens the Jews in order to try all the ways and methods by which they may be brought back to the right path; for God is laid under a necessity to urge us in various ways, because we are accustomed to abuse his forbearance and goodness. On this account he frequently threatens to punish us for our ingratitude, as Isaiah appears to do in this passage, “If they do not choose to avail themselves of my kindness, and repent, that they may return to favor with me, they shall feel my strength, F454 which I have hitherto restrained.” Yet another meaning equally appropriate might perhaps be drawn from it, as if God exhorted his people to acknowledge his power, which leads them to seek reconciliation; for whence comes that brutish indifference which makes us view without alarm the wrath of God, but because we do not think of his power with due reverence?

But I prefer to view it as a question, as in other passages also it frequently has this meaning. F455 “Will he take hold of my strength, so as to enter into peace with me?” As if a father, anxious and perplexed about his son, were to groan and complain, “Will not this scoundrel F456 allow himself to receive benefit? for I know not how I ought to treat him; he cannot endure severity, and he abuses my goodness. What shall I do? I will banish him till he repent, and then he will feel how great is that fatherly power by which I have hitherto preserved him. Since he does not permit me to exercise forbearance, he must be treated with the utmost rigour of the law. Will he not then perceive how great my power is, that he may come into a state of favor with me?” We shall understand this better, if we consider that the source of all our distresses is, that we are not affected with a sense of the divine goodness; for if we should take into consideration the greatness of the blessings which we have received from God, we should quickly be drawn aside from our iniquities and transgressions, and should desire to return into a state of favor with him.

Here we see what care about our salvation is manifested by our Heavenly Father, who wishes us to take hold of his power and goodness, that we may know how great it is, and may partake of it more and more abundantly; for he would wish to deal with us on the same familiar terms as with his children, if we did not prevent him by our wickedness. Since, therefore, we are incapable of enjoying his fatherly tenderness, he must display his strength and majesty, that, being awed by it, and affected by the anticipation of the judgment, we may humbly entreat him, and sincerely implore peace and pardon. Now, this is done when we are truly F457 converted to him; for, so long as we please ourselves, and flatter our vices, we cannot but displease him; and, on the other hand, if we enter into peace with him, we must make war against Satan and sin.

How earnestly God desires to be reconciled to us appears still more clearly from the repetition of the words. He might have said, in a single word, that he is merciful and ready to bestow pardon; and therefore, when he twice repeats the words, that he may make peace with me, he declares that willingly and most earnestly he hastens to blot out all our offenses.

6. Afterwards F458 shall Jacob put forth roots. He now gives actual proof of that love of which he formerly spoke. In order to understand it better, we must consider the condition of that ancient people; for it was the heritage of God, not through its own merits, but by the blessing of adoption. The Lord might justly have been offended at that nation to such an extent as to destroy it utterly, and blot out its name; but he refrained from exercising such severity, because he had to deal with his vineyard and heritage. He aimed at nothing more than that the people should acknowledge their guilt and return to his favor; and therefore he followed up the former statement with this promise, lest the people, struck with excessive terror at that power which exhibits the judgments of God and his chastisements and stripes, should grow disheartened; for the contemplation of the judgment of God might throw us into despair, if we did not entertain some hope of being restored. Accordingly, he says —

Jacob shall again put forth roots. “Though I shall lessen my Church, and reduce it to a very small number, yet it shall be restored to its ancient and flourishing condition, so as to fill the whole world; for, after having once been reconciled, it will be more and more increased.” This metaphor borrowed from roots is highly elegant; for by the wrath of the Lord we are as it were cut off, so that we appear to be completely slain and dead; but to whatever extent the Lord afflicts his Church, he never allows the roots to die, but they are concealed for a time, and at length bring forth their fruit.

And the face of the world shall be filled with fruit. What he now says, that “the world shall be filled with the fruit” of those roots, was accomplished at the coming of Christ, who collected and multiplied the people of God by the gospel; and Israel was united with the Gentiles in one body, so that the distinction which formerly existed between them was removed. (<490214>Ephesians 2:14.) Now, we know that the gospel, and all the fruit that sprung from it, proceeded from the Jews. (<230203>Isaiah 2:3; <430422>John 4:22.)

7. Hath he smitten him? F459 He confirms the former statement, and shews that, even in chastisements, there are certain and manifest proofs of the goodness and mercy of God; for while the Lord chastises his people, he moderates the severity in such a manner as always to leave some room for compassion. There are various ways of explaining this verse. Some interpret it thus: “Did I smite Israel as his enemies smote him? The Assyrians did not at all spare him: they acted towards him with the utmost cruelty. But I laid a restraint on my wrath, and did not smite as if I wished to destroy him; and thus I gave abundant evidence that I am not his enemy.” But I prefer another and commonly received interpretation, which lends us to understand that a difference between believers and the reprobate is here declared; for God punishes both indiscriminately, but not in the same manner. When he takes vengeance on the reprobate, he gives loose reins to his anger; because he has no other object in view than to destroy them; for they are “vessels of wrath, appointed to destruction,” (<450922>Romans 9:22,) and have no experience of the goodness of God. But when he chastises the godly, he restrains his wrath, and has another and totally different object in view; for he wishes to bring them back to the right path, and to draw them to himself, that provision may be made for their future happiness.

But it may be asked, Why does the Prophet employ a circuitous mode of expression, and say, “according to the stroke of him that smote him?” I answer, he did so, because the Lord often employs the agency of wicked men in chastising us, in order to depress and humble us the more. It is often a very sore temptation to us, when the Lord permits us to be oppressed by the tyranny of wicked men; for we have doubts whether it is because he favors them, or because he deprives us of his assistance, as if he hated us. To meet this doubt, he says that he does indeed permit wicked men to afflict his people, and to exercise their cruelty upon them for a time, but that he will at length punish them for their wickedness more sharply than they punished the godly persons. Yet, if any one choose to adopt the former interpretation, namely, that the Lord will not deal with us as with enemies, I have no objection. Hence arises also that saying, that “it is better to fall into the hands of God than into the hands of men; “ for the Lord can never forget his covenant, that he will deal in a gentle and fatherly manner with his Church. (<102414>2 Samuel 24:14; <132113>1 Chronicles 21:13.)

8. In measure. This is the second proof of the divine compassion towards all the elect, whom he chastises for this purpose, that they may not perish; and, by mitigating the punishments which he inflicts upon them, he pays such regard to their weakness that he never permits them to be oppressed beyond measure. As to the word hasasb, (besasseah,) in measure, all interpreters agree that it denotes moderation; for otherwise we could not bear the hand of the Lord, and would be overwhelmed by it; but he keeps it back, and “is faithful,” as Paul says,

“not to suffer us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear.” (<461013>1 Corinthians 10:13.)

Thus also Jeremiah prays to the Lord to “chastise him in judgment,” that is, with moderation, accommodating the stripes to his weakness. (<241024>Jeremiah 10:24.)

In her shooting forth, hjlb, (beshallechach.) Interpreters are not agreed as to the meaning of this word. Some think that it means, “by engaging them in internal wars with each other,” and others, “that God will punish their sins by that sword which they have drawn and put into his hand.” But as I cannot approve of either of those interpretations, I pass them by. I approve more highly of those who interpret it, “in her shootings forth,” that is, in plants; so as to mean, that in inflicting punishment, the Lord attacks not only their outward circumstances, but also their persons. We know that the Lord’s chastisements are various. The more light and moderate are those by which he takes from us only external blessings, which are called “the good things of fortune.” So then God punishes believers in such a manner as not only to afflict their persons, but to take from them what is necessary for the support of life, such as corn, wine, oil, and other things of that kind which the earth produces; for jl (shalach) signifies to “shoot forth,” and to “produce.”

But I have another exposition which comes nearer to the Prophet’s meaning, that in shooting forth God contends with the Church, because, though he cuts down the branches and even the trunk, yet his wrath does not extend to the roots, so as to prevent the tree from again shooting forth; for there is always some remaining vigor in the roots, which he never permits to die. And this agrees with what goes before, when he promised (verse 6) that Israel would bring forth “fruit.” This explains what he formerly said, in measure; namely, that he will not pull up the root; for the Lord cuts down what appears outwardly, such as branches and leaves, but defends the root and preserves it safe. But, on the other hand, he tears up the reprobate by the roots, and cuts them down in such a manner that they can never rise again.

Though he blow with his violent wind. Some translate it, “he blew with his wind,” but I think that the meaning is made more clear by saying, “though he blow.” He continues the metaphor, by which he had alluded to herbs and plants, which a violent wind causes to wither, but only in appearance; for the root is always safe. Thus though the Lord attacks believers with great violence, and takes away all their beauty and comeliness, so that they appear to be entirely slain, yet he usually preserves in them some internal vigor:

In the day of the east wind. When the Prophet spoke of “the day of the east wind,” he had his eye on the situation of Judea, to which, as we learn from other passages, that easterly wind was injurious. We know that each country has its own particular wind that is injurious to it; for in some countries the north wind, in others the south wind, and in others the east or equinoctial wind, occasions great damage, throwing down the corn, scorching or spoiling all the fruits, blasting the trees, and scarcely leaving anything in the fields uninjured. By “the east wind” in this passage, is supposed to be meant “the equinoctial wind,” which in many countries is very destructive.

9. Therefore in this manner shall the iniquity of Jacob be expiated. After having spoken of the chastisement of the people, he begins to state more clearly that the Lord promotes the interests of his people by these chastisements, so that they derive benefit from them. He had mentioned this formerly, but now he explains it more fully, that all the chastisements which God inflicts will tend to wash away the sins of his people, that thus they may be reconciled to God.

A question arises, Are our sins expiated by the stripes with which God chastises us? For if it be so, it follows that we must satisfy God for our sins, as the Papists teach. These two things are closely connected. If God punish us for our sins in order to expiate them, when punishments are not inflicted, satisfactions must come in their room. But this difficulty will be easily removed, if we consider that here the Prophet does not handle the question, whether we deserve the forgiveness of sins on account of our works, or whether the punishments which God inflicts on us may be regarded as making amends for them. He simply shews that chastisements are the remedies by which God cures our diseases, because we are wont to abuse his goodness and patience. God must therefore bring us to acknowledgment of our sins, and to patience; and thus the punishments which he inflicts as chastisements for our sins are remedies, because our desires may be said to be consumed by them as by fire, F460 to which also Scripture frequently compares them. (<196610>Psalm 66:10; 89:46.) In no respect can they yield satisfaction, but men are prepared by them for repentance. Hence he shews, therefore, that the godly have no reason for exclaiming against God’s chastisements, and that they ought to acknowledge, on the contrary, that their salvation is thus promoted, because otherwise they would not acknowledge the grace of God. If any person wish to have a short reply, we may state it in a single word, that chastisements expiate our offenses indirectly, but not directly, because they lead us to repentance, which again, in its turn, brings us to obtain the forgiveness of sins.

And this is all the fruit, the taking away of his sin. Some render it in the genitive case, “the fruit of the taking away of his sin; “ but I prefer to read it in the nominative case. lk, (chol,) all, frequently means, “great and abundant;” and therefore it denotes the plentiful fruit by which the chastisements will be followed. In a word, he intends to commend to us God’s chastisements on the ground of their usefulness, that the godly may bear them with calmness and moderation, when they know that by means of them they are purged and prepared for salvation. F461 And immediately afterwards the Prophet explains his meaning more clearly by speaking of abolishing superstitions. So long as the people of Israel enjoyed prosperity, they did not think of repentance; for it is natural to men that prosperity should make them insolent and harden them more and more. He therefore shews how, in chastising his people, God also takes away their sin, because, having formerly indulged in wickedness and proceeded to greater lengths in sinning in consequence of his goodness and forbearance, they shall now know that they were justly punished, and shall change their life and conduct.

When he shall have made all the stones of the altar. Here Isaiah, by a figure of speech, exhibits a single class, so as to explain the whole by means of a part, and describes in general terms the removal of idolatry and superstitions; for lie does not speak of the altar which was consecrated to God, but of that which they had erected to their idols. Thus, when the stones of it shall have been broken, and the idols thrown down and destroyed, so that no trace of superstition shall be seen, the iniquity of the people shall at the same time be removed.

Hence it ought to be remarked, first, that we ought not to expect pardon from the Lord, unless we likewise repent of our sins; for whosoever flatters himself must be the object of the anger of God, F462 whom he does not cease to provoke, and our iniquity is taken away only when we are moved by a true feeling of repentance. Secondly, it ought to be observed, that though repentance is an inward feeling of the heart, yet it brings forth its fruits before men. In vain do we profess that we fear God, if we do not give evidence of it by outward works; for the root cannot be separated from its fruits. Thirdly, it ought to be inferred, that idolatry is chiefly mentioned here, because it is the source of all evils. So long as the pure worship of God and the true religion are maintained, there is also room for the duties of brotherly kindness, which necessarily flow from it; but when we forsake God, he permits us also to fall into every kind of vices. And this is the reason why, under the name of idolatry, he includes likewise other acts of wickedness. Besides, we see that he condemns not only statues and images, but everything that had been invented by the Jews contrary to the injunction of the law; and hence it follows that he sets aside every kind of false worship.

That groves and images may never rise again. By adding this, he shews how strongly God abhors idolatry, the remembrance of which he wishes to be completely blotted out, so that not even a trace of it shall henceforth be seen. Yet the Prophet intended to express something more, namely, that our repentance ought to be of such a kind that we shall steadfastly persevere in it; for we will not say that it is true repentance, if any one, through a sudden impulse of feeling, shall put down superstitions, and afterwards shall gradually allow them to spring up and bud forth; as we see to be the case with many who at first burn with some appearance of zeal, and afterwards grow cold. But here the Prophet describes such steadfastness that they who have once laid aside their filth and pollution maintain their purity to the end.

10. Yet the defenced city shall be desolate. Here the copulative w (vau) is generally supposed to mean for, and some take it for otherwise. There will thus be a twofold interpretation; for if we translate it because, the Prophet will assign a reason for the former statement, but that exposition is rejected by the context, and is altogether absurd. With greater plausibility it is taken for otherwise; for this threatening might be appropriately introduced, “If you do not repent, you see what awaits you, the defenced city shall be like a wilderness.” But I consider that exposition to be a departure from the natural meaning, and therefore I choose rather to take it as signifying nevertheless or yet.

The Prophet means that Jerusalem and the other cities of Judea must “nevertheless” be destroyed, and that, although the Lord wishes to spare his people, it is impossible for them to be preserved. Godly men would have grown disheartened, when they saw that holy city overthrown and the temple demolished; but from these predictions they learned that God would have abundance of methods for preserving the Church, and were supported by that consolation. So then the Prophet intended to meet this very sore temptation; and hence also we learn that we ought never to lose courage, though we suffer every hardship, and though the Lord treat us with the utmost severity. Although this threatening extends to the whole of Judea, yet I think it probable that it relates chiefly to Jerusalem, which was the metropolis of the nation.

There shall the calf feed. This metaphor is frequently employed by the prophets when they speak of the desolation of any city; for they immediately add, that it will be a place for pasture. Here we ought to take into account the judgment of God, which places calves and brute beasts in the room of the Jews who had profaned the land by their crimes. Having been adopted by God to be his children, with good reason ought they to have obeyed so kind a Father; but since they had shaken off the yoke and given themselves up to wickedness, it was the just reward of their ingratitude, that the land should be possessed by better inhabitants, taken not from the human race but from brute beasts.

And shall browse on its tops. F463 What he says about the “tops” tends to shew more strongly the desolation; as if he had said that there will be such abundance of grass that the calves will crop none but the tender parts. [s (saiph) signifies also branch; but as branches naturally rise high, I take it here for summit or top. It might also be thought that there is an allusion to the beauty of the city, and that as its houses formerly were lofty and magnificent, when these have been thrown down, nothing will be seen in it but herbs and leaves, the “tops” of which the calves which enjoy abundant pasture will eat in disdain.

11. When its harvest shall wither. F464 Some think that the Prophet has in his eye the metaphor of a vineyard, which he employed at the beginning of the chapter, and therefore they translate ryxq (katzir,) branches. The word is certainly ambiguous; but as ryxq (katzir) means also a harvest, and as the metaphor of a harvest is more appropriate, I prefer to take it in that sense. Nor do I translate it, “When the harvest shall be withered,” but “When the harvest shall wither.” In this passage wither means nothing else than to approach to maturity. Before the harvest of the land is ripe, it shall be cut down; as if he had said, “The Lord will take away from thee the produce which thou thoughest to be already prepared for thee and to be in thy hand.”

The women coming shall burn it. When he says that “women shall come,” he means that God will have no need of robust soldiers to execute his judgment, and that he will only make use of the agency of women. This exhibitsin a still stronger light the disgracefulness of the punishment, for he threatens that the calamity shall also be accompanied by disgrace; because it is more shameful and humiliating to be plundered by “women,” who are unused to war, than by men.

For it is a people of no understanding. At length he assigns the reason of so heavy a calamity. At first sight it might appear to be excessively harsh that the Lord should permit the people whom he had chosen to be wretchedly tormented and scattered, and not to render them any assistance; for it is inconsistent with his kindness and fatherly love which he bears towards them. But the Prophet shews that God had good reason for punishing the Jews with such severity; for they were destitute of knowledge and sound “understanding.”

Nor is it without reason that he pronounces ignorance to have been the source of all evils; for since “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom,” (<200107>Proverbs 1:7; <19B110>Psalm 111:10,) they who despise God and obey the wicked passions of their flesh are justly condemned by the Spirit of God as blind and mad. And yet such ignorance does not at all excuse us or lessen the guilt of our wickedness; for they who sin are conscious of their sinfulness, though they are blinded by their lust. Wickedness and ignorance are therefore closely connected, but the connection is of such a nature that ignorance proceeds from the sinful disposition of the mind. Hence it comes that “ignorance,” or “ignorances,” is the general name given by the Hebrew writers to every kind of sin, and hence also that saying of Moses,

“O that they were wise and understood!”
(<053229>Deuteronomy 32:29.)

Any man will easily perceive this, if he consider how great is the power of evil passions to trouble us; for when we have been deprived of the light of doctrine, and are void of understanding, the devil drives us as it were to madness, so that we do not dread the arm of God, and have no respect for his holy word.

Therefore their Maker will not have compassion on them. For the purpose of still heightening their terror, he at length takes away all hope of pardon; for even if a remnant was preserved, the wrath of God did not on that account cease to rage against the multitude at large. The Prophet here calls God the Maker and Creator of Israel, not in the same manner that he is called the Creator of heaven and earth, (<010101>Genesis 1:1,) but inasmuch as he has formed his Church by the Spirit of regeneration. In like manner Paul also declares, that in that sense we are autou poihma, his workmanship, (<490210>Ephesians 2:10,) as we have already stated in the exposition of another passage. F465 (<231925>Isaiah 19:25.) Isaiah made this statement, in order to exhibit more strongly the ingratitude of the people, and to shew how justly they deserve to be punished, since, after having been formed and preserved by God, they treated him with dishonor and contempt.

12. And yet it shall come to pass on that day. He softens the harshness of the former statement; for it was a dreadful judgment of God, that the people were deprived of all hope of mercy and favor. The particle w (vau) must therefore be explained as in the tenth verse, “Nevertheless, or, and yet it shall come to pass on that day.”

That Jehovah shall thrash. The Prophet speaks metaphorically; for he compares the gathering of the Church to the “thrashing” of wheat, by which the grain is separated from the chaff. The meaning of the metaphor is, that the people were so completely overwhelmed by that captivity that they appeared to be nothing else than grain concealed or scattered here and there under the chaff. It was necessary that the Lord should “thrash,” as with a fan, what was concealed amidst the confused mass; so that this gathering was justly compared to “thrashing.”

From the channel of the river to the river of Egypt. By this he means Euphrates and the Nile; for the people were banished, partly into Chaldea or Assyria, and partly into Egypt. Many fled into Egypt, while others were carried captive into Babylon. He therefore foretells that the Lord will gather his people, not only from Chaldea, and from the whole of Mesopotamia, but also from Egypt.

And you shall be gathered one by one. Dja djal, (leahad ehad,) which we have translated “one by one,” is translated by others “each out of each place;” but this is an excessively forced exposition, and the exposition which I have stated appears to me more simple. Yet there are two senses which the words will bear; either, “I will gather you into one body,” or “I will gather you, not in companies nor in great numbers, but one after another,” as usually happens when men who had wandered and been scattered are gathered; for they do not all assemble suddenly, but approach to each other by degrees. The Jews were scattered and dispersed in such a manner that they could not easily be gathered together and formed into one body; and therefore he shews that this dispersion will not prevent them from being restored to a flourishing condition. This was afterwards fulfilled; for the Jews were gathered and brought back, not by a multitude of horsemen or chariots, not by human forces, or swords, or arms, as Hosea states, but solely by the power of God. (<280107>Hosea 1:7.)

13. It shall also come to pass in that day. This is the explanation of the former verse. He speaks metaphorically, and shews that so great will be the power of God, that he will easily bring back his people. As kings assemble large armies by the sound of a trumpet, so he shews that it will be easy for the Lord to gather his people, on whom prophecy had not less efficacy than the trumpet by which soldiers are mustered.

And they shall come who were perishing. He calls them perishing, because they were miserably scattered, and appeared to be very near destruction, without any hope of being restored. The enemies, while their monarchy lasted, would never have permitted their captives to return, nor had they led them into banishment in a distant country with any other design than that of gradually casting into oblivion the name of Israel.

And who had been scattered in the land of Egypt. What he adds about Egypt contains a more remarkable testimony of pardon, namely, that those who fled into Egypt, though they did not deserve this favor, shall be gathered. They had offended God in two respects, as Jeremiah plainly shews; first, because they were obstinate and rebellious; and, secondly, because they had refused to obey the revelation, (<242810>Jeremiah 28:10, 11;) for they ought to have submitted to the yoke of the Babylonians rather than flee into Egypt in opposition to the command of God.

And shall worship Jehovah in the holy mountain. At length, he describes the result of their deliverance, that the Jews, having returned from captivity into their country, may again worship God their deliverer in a pure and lawful manner. By the mountain he means the temple and sacrifices. This was indeed accomplished under Darius, but the Prophet undoubtedly intended to extend this prophecy farther; for that restoration was a kind of dark foreshadowing of the deliverance which they obtained through Christ, at whose coming the sound of the spiritual trumpet, that is, of the gospel, was heard, not only in Assyria or Egypt, but in the most distant parts of the world. Then were the people of God gathered, to flow together to Mount Zion, that is, to the Church. We know that this mode of expression is frequently employed by the prophets when they intend to denote the true worship of God, and harmony in religion and godliness; for they accommodated themselves to the usages of the people that they might be better understood. We know also that the gospel proceeded out of Zion; but on this subject we have spoken fully at the second chapter. F466


CHAPTER 28

Go To Isaiah 28:1-29

1. Woe to the crown of pride. Isaiah now enters on another and different subject from that which goes before it; for this discourse must be separated from the former one. He shews that the anger of the Lord will quickly overtake, first, Israel, and afterwards the Jews; for it is probable that the kingdom of Israel was still entire when the Prophet uttered these predictions, though nothing more can be affirmed with certainty than that there is good reason to believe that the ten tribes had not at that time been led into captivity.

Accordingly, the Prophet follows this order. First, he shews that the vengeance of God is not far from Israel, because various sins and corruption of every kind prevailed in it; for they were swelled with pride and insolence, had plunged into their luxuries and given way to every kind of licentiousness, and, consequently, had broken out into open contempt of God, as is usually the case when men take excessive liberties; for they quickly forget God. Secondly, he shews that God in some measure restrains his anger by sparing the tribe of Judah; for when the ten tribes, with the half tribe of Benjamin, had been carried into captivity, the Jews still remained entire and uninjured. Isaiah extols this compassion which God manifested, in not permitting his Church to perish, but preserving some remnant. At the same time he shews that the Jews are so depraved and corrupted that they do not permit God to exercise this compassion, and that, in consequence of the wickedness which prevailed among them, not less than in Israel, they too must feel the avenging hand of God. This order ought to be carefully observed; for many persons blunder in the exposition of this passage, because the Prophet has not expressly mentioned the name of Israel, though it is sufficiently known that Ephraim includes the ten tribes.

As to the words, since the particle ywh (hoi) very frequently denotes “wishing evil on a person,” I was unwilling to depart from the ordinary opinion of commentators, more especially because the Prophet openly threatens in this passage; yet if the translation, Alas the crown! be preferred, I have no objection.

For the excellence of its glory shall be a fading flower. F467 The copulative w (vau) signifies for or because. He compares the “glory” and “excellence” of Israel to “a fading flower,” as will afterwards be stated. In general, he pronounces a curse on the wealth of the Israelites; for by the word “Crown” he means nothing else than the wicked confidence with which they were puffed up, and which proceeded from the excess of their riches. These vices are almost always joined together, because abundance and fullness produce cruelty and pride; for we are elated by prosperity, and do not know how to use it with moderation. They inhabited a rich and fertile country, and on this account Amos (<300401>Amos 4:1) calls them “fat cows,” which feed on the mountain of Samaria. Thus, being puffed up by their wealth, they despised both God and men. The Prophet calls them “drunkards,” because, being intoxicated by prosperity, they dreaded no adversity, and thought that they were beyond the reach of all danger, and that they were not even subject to God himself.

A fading flower. He alludes, I doubt not, to the crowns or chaplets F468 which were used at banquets, and which are still used in many places in the present day. The Israelites indulged in gluttony and drunkenness, and the fertility of the soil undoubtedly gave occasion to their intemperance. By calling it “a fading flower” he follows out his comparison, elegantly alluding to flowers which suddenly wither.

Which is on the head of the valley of fatness. F469 He says that that glory is “on the head of the valley of fatness,” because they saw under their feet their pastures, the fertility of which still more inflamed their pride. ynm (shemanim) is translated by some “of ointments;” but that is inapplicable, for it denotes abundance and fullness, which led them to neglect godliness and to despise God. By the word “head” or “top,” he alludes to the position of the country, because the Israelites chiefly inhabited rich valleys. He places on it a crown, which surrounds the whole kingdom; because it was flourishing and abounded in every kind of wealth. This denotes riches, from which arose sluggishness, presumption, rashness, intemperance, and cruelty. This doctrine relates to us also; for the example of these men reminds us that we ought to use prosperity with moderation, otherwise we shall be very unhappy, for the Lord will curse all our riches and abundance.

2. Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one. This may refer to the Assyrians, as if he had said, that they will be ready at God’s command to fight under his authority, as soon as they shall be called. Yet I prefer to take it without a substantive, to mean either “a staff,” or some other instrument, by which the Lord will cast them down from this lofty pride.

As a deluge of hail. He compares it to “a deluge” or to “hail,” by which both herbs and flowers are thrown down, and all the beauty of the earth is marred. Thus he continues the metaphor of the “fading flower,” which he had introduced at the beginning of the chapter; for nothing can be more destructive to flowers than a heavy shower or “hail.” He makes use of the demonstrative particle hnh, (hinneh,) behold; because wicked men are not moved by any threatenings, and therefore he shews that he does not speak of what is doubtful, or conjecture at random, but foretells those things which will immediately take place.

Casting them down with the hand to the earth. dyb, (beyad,) which I have translated “with the hand,” is translated by Jerome, “a spacious country,” which does not agree with the words. Others take it for “strength,” so as to mean a violent casting down. But the plain meaning appears to me to be, that the glory and splendor of the Israelites will be laid low, as if one threw down a drunk man “with the hand.” The same statement is confirmed by him in the third verse.

4. And the excellence of its glory. He repeats nearly the same words; for we know how difficult it is to terrify and humble those who have been blinded by prosperity, and whose eyes success covers in the same manner that fatness would. As Dionysius the Second, F470 in consequence of gorging himself at unseasonable banquets, was seized with such blindness that he constantly stumbled, so pleasures and luxuries blind the minds of men in such a manner that they no longer know either God or themselves. The Prophet therefore inculcates the same truth frequently on the minds of men who were stupid and amazed, that they might understand what would otherwise have appeared to them to be incredible. F471

As the hasty fruit before the summer. He now illustrates the subject by another metaphor exceedingly beautiful and appropriate; for the first-ripe fruits are indeed highly commended, because they go before others, and hold out the expectation of the rest of the produce; but they last but a short time, and cannot be preserved, for they are quickly eaten up either by pregnant women, or by children, or by men who do not make a proper selection of their food. He says that the happiness of the Israelites will be of that sort, because their flourishing prosperity will not be of long duration, but will be swallowed up in a moment. What Isaiah declared about the kingdom of Israel, applies also to the whole world. By their ingratitude men prevent all the goodness which the Lord has bestowed on them from reaching maturity; for we abuse his blessings and corrupt them by our wickedness. The consequence is, that hasty and short-lived fruits are produced, which could not yield to us continual nourishment.

5. In that day shall the Lord of hosts. After having spoken of the kingdom of Israel, he passes to the tribe of Judah, and shews that, amidst this severe vengeance of God, there will still be room for compassion, and that, although ten tribes perished, yet the Lord will preserve some remnant, which he will consecrate to himself; so that there will be in it a crown of glory and diadem of excellence, that is, that the Church is never disfigured in such a manner that the Lord does not adorn it with beauty and splendor.

Yet I do not extend this prophecy indiscriminately to all the Jews, but to the elect who were wonderfully rescued from death; for although he calls the tribe and half-tribe a remnant, as compared with the other ten tribes, yet, as we advance, we shall see that he makes a distinction between the tribe of Judah itself and the others. Nor ought we to wonder that the Prophet speaks differently about the same people, directing his discourse, sometimes to a body corrupted by crimes, and sometimes to the elect. Certainly, as compared with the ten tribes, which had revolted from the worship of God and from the unity of faith, he justly calls the Jews a remnant of the people; but when he leaves out of view this comparison, and considers what they are in themselves, he remonstrates with equal justice against their corruptions.

I am aware that some expound it differently, on account of what is said immediately afterwards about wine and strong drink, (verse 7,) and think that this statement ought to be viewed in connection with the beginning of the chapter. Yet perhaps the Lord spares the Jews. But how would he spare them? They are in no respect better than the others; for they are equally in fault, F472 and must also be exposed to the same punishments. But those commentators do not consider that the Prophet holds out an instance of the extraordinary kindness of God, in not exercising his vengeance at the same time against the whole family of Abraham, but, after having overthrown the kingdom of Israel, granting a truce to the Jews, to see if they would in any degree repent. Neither do they consider that, by the same means, he employs the circumstance which he had stated for placing in a stronger light the ingratitude of the people, that is, that they ought to have been instructed by the example of their brethren; F473 for the calamity of Israel ought to have aroused and excited them to repentance, but it produced no impression on them, and did not make them better. Although therefore they were unworthy of so great benefits, yet the Lord was pleased to preserve his Church in the midst of them; for this is the reason why he rescued the tribe of Judah, and the half-tribe of Benjamin, from that calamity.

Now, since the tribe of Judah was a small portion of the nation, and therefore was despised by the haughty Israelites, the Prophet declares that in God alone there is enough of riches and of glory to supply all earthly defects. And hence he shews what is the true method of our salvation, namely, if we place our happiness in God; for as soon as we come down to the world, we gather fading flowers, which immediately wither and decay. This madness reigns everywhere, and more than it ought to be among ourselves, that we wish to be happy without God, that is, without happiness itself. Besides, Isaiah shews that no calamities, however grievous, can prevent God from adorning his Church; for when it shall appear that everything is on the eve of destruction, God will still be a crown of glory to his people. It is also worthy of observation, that Isaiah promises new splendor to the Church only when the multitude shall be diminished, that believers may not lose courage on account of that dreadful calamity which was at hand.

6. And for a spirit of judgment. He explains the manner in which the Lord will adorn that “remnant” with additional splendor; for he holds out instances of the true art of civil government, which mainly contributes to the upholding of nations. It consists chiefly of two things, counsel and strength. The internal administration must be conducted by counsel and wisdom, and “strength” and force are needed against enemies who are without. Since therefore it is by these two defences that kingdoms and commonwealths defend and uphold their rank, he promises to his people the spirit of “wisdom” and “strength.” At the same time he shews that it is God who gives both, and that they ought not to be expected from any other; for magistrates will not be able to rule and to administer justice in a city, and military generals will not be able to repel enemies, unless the Lord shall direct them.

7. But they also have erred through wine. He returns to the irreligious despisers of God, who were Jews in name only, and proves their ingratitude to be highly aggravated, because, though they had before their eyes a striking proof of the anger of God, when they saw their brethren severely chastised, and not withstanding experienced God’s forbearance towards themselves, yet neither that example of severity, nor the conviction of the divine goodness, could bring them back into the right path, or make them in any respect better, although the Lord spared them. Here he speaks of “wine and strong drink” metaphorically; for I do not understand it to relate to ordinary drunkenness, against which he remonstrated at the beginning of the chapter, but, on the contrary, he says that they were like drunk men, because they wanted knowledge and sound understanding. If the word as be supplied before the words “through wine and through strong drink,” the meaning will be more easily understood. I do acknowledge that by continued drunkenness men become, as it were, brutalized, and I have no doubt that drunkenness and excessive eating and drinking contributed also to stupefy the minds of the Jews; but if we examine the whole of the context, it will be easy to see that the madness which he condemns is metaphorical.

The priest and the prophet have erred. He proceeds still farther to exhibit their aggravated guilt, and says that not only the common people were drunk, but the priests themselves, who ought to have held out the light and pointed out the path to others; for, as Christ declares, they may be regarded as “the salt of the earth.” (<400513>Matthew 5:13.) If they are mad, what shall the common people be? “If the eye is blind,” what shall become of the other parts of the body? (<400623>Matthew 6:23.)

They have erred in vision. The most grievous thing of all is, when he says that they err not only in the more flagrant transgressions of life, but in vision and judgment. Hence we ought to infer how desperate was the condition of the Jewish Church, and here, as in a mirror, we may behold our transgressions. It is indeed something monstrous that, after so many chastisements which God has employed for cleansing it, the Church is so deeply corrupted; but such is our wickedness that we fight against his strokes, F474 and though he continually restrains us, and uses unceasing efforts to purify us from our sins, we not only render all his remedies useless, but bring upon ourselves new diseases. We ought not therefore to wonder that in the present day, after the numerous scourges and afflictions with which the Church has been chastised, men appear to be obstinate, and even become worse, when Isaiah testifies that the same thing took place in the ancient Church. True, indeed, the goodness of the Lord rose above the base and shameful wickedness of that nation, and still preserved the Church; but this was accomplished by his secret power, contrary to the expectation of all; for it would be of no advantage to us, if he employed ordinary remedies.

Hence also it is evident how silly and childish is the boasting of the Papists, who always have in their mouth “The Church,” and use as a pretext the names of priests, bishops, and pontiffs, and wish to fortify themselves by their authority against the word of God, as if that order could never err or mistake. They think that they have the Holy Spirit confined within their brains, and that they represent the Church, which God never forsakes. But we see what the Prophet declares concerning the priests, whose order was more splendid and illustrious. If ever there was a Church, there certainly was one at that time among the Jews; and that order derived from the word of God support to which they have no claim. And yet he shews that not only were they corrupt in morals, but erred “in vision and judgment,” and that the prophets, whom we know that God added to the priests, out of the ordinary course, on account of the carelessness of the priests, were nevertheless blind in that sacred office of teaching and in revelations. Nothing therefore is more idle than, under the pretext of an office which bears a splendid title, to hold out as exempt from the danger of erring those who, having forsaken God, and not only cast away all regard to religion, but even trodden shame under their feet, defend their tyranny by every means in their power.

8. For all tables are full of vomiting. He pursues the same metaphor, and draws, as it were, a picture of what usually happens to men who are given up to drunkenness; for they forget shame, and not only debase themselves like beasts, but shrink from nothing that is disgraceful. It is certainly an ugly and revolting sight to see “tables covered with vomiting;” and, accordingly, under this figure Isaiah describes the whole life of the people as shameful beyond endurance. There can be no doubt that the Prophet intended to express by a single word, that no sincerity or uprightness was left among the Jews. If we approach their tables, we can find nothing but foul drunkenness; if we look at their life, no part of it is pure or free from crimes and enormities. Doctrine itself is so corrupt that it stinks as if it were polluted by vomiting and filth. In expounding allegories, I have no intention to enter, as some do, into ingenious disquisitions.

9. Whom shall he teach knowledge? Here the Prophet shews by an expression of amazement, that the disease of the people is incurable, and that God has no other remedies adapted to cure them, for he has tried every method without effect. When he calls wanderers to return to the right path, and unceasingly warns those who are thoughtlessly going astray, this undoubtedly is an extraordinary remedy; and if it do no good, the salvation of those who refuse to accept of any aid from a physician is utterly hopeless.

Those who are weaned from the milk. The Prophet complains that the stupidity of the people may be said to hinder God from attempting to cure them of their vices; and therefore he compares the Jews to very young infants, F475 or who are but beginning to prattle, and whom it would be a waste of time to attempt to teach. Justly indeed does Peter exhort believers to draw near, “like infants newly born, to suck the milk of pure doctrine;” for no man will ever shew himself to be willing to be taught until he has laid aside that obstinacy which is the natural disposition of all. F476 (<600202>1 Peter 2:2.) But now the Prophet condemns another kind of infancy, in which men who are stupefied by their vices pay no more regard to heavenly doctrine than if they had no understanding whatsoever. It is therefore a mistake to connect this statement of the Prophet with that passage in the Apostle Peter, as if Isaiah represented God as desirous to obtain disciples who had divested themselves of all pride, and were like infants lately weaned; for the Prophet, on the contrary, loudly complains, that to “teach doctrine” is useless, and merely provokes ridicule among stupid and senseless persons, who are “children, not in malice, but in understanding,” as Paul speaks. (<461420>1 Corinthians 14:20.) From what follows it will more clearly appear that, since they were unfit for receiving doctrine, God cannot be accused of undue severity if he reject them, and if he resolve not to bestow useless labor by thundering in their ears any longer.

10. For precept must be on precept. This shews plainly that the Lord complains of spending his labor to no purpose in instructing this unteachable people, just as if one were to teach children, who must have elementary instructions repeated to them over and over again, and quickly forget them, and when the master has spent a whole day in teaching them a single letter, yet on the following day and afterwards, the same labor must be renewed, and though he leave nothing untried that care or diligence can do, still they will make no progress under him. Those who change the words of this verse, in order to avoid offending the ears of the readers, F477 obscure the Prophet’s meaning through a foolish affectation of copiousness of language, and even destroy the elegance of the style; for, by using the same words, he intended to express a repetition which is constant and unceasing, and full of annoyance. The metaphor, as I have already said, is taken from children, to whom teachers do not venture to give long lessons, because they are incapable of them, but give them, as it were, in little drops. Thus, they convey the same instructions a second and third time, and oftener; and, in short, they continue to receive elementary instructions till they acquire reason and judgment. By a witty imitation he repeats the words, “here a little, there a little.”

Instruction upon instruction. F478 The word wq (kav) is improperly, in my opinion, translated by some interpreters line, as if the Prophet alluded to the slow progress of a building, which rises gradually by “lines.” That would be a harsh and far-fetched metaphor, for this passage relates to elementary instruction conveyed to children. I acknowledge that the same Hebrew word is used in the eighteenth chapter, where we have translated it “Line by line,” F479 and in many other passages; but here the connection demands a different meaning, as is also the case in <191904>Psalm 19:4, where, however, the word line F480 or dimension could be admitted with greater propriety than in this verse. Yet I admit that it is taken metaphorically for an instruction or rule; for as in buildings wq (kav) denotes the “rule” or “plumb-line,” as we shall see that it means in a later portion of this chapter, we need not wonder that it is applied to other rules.

11. For with stammering lips. F481 Some supply, that “it is as if one should say;” but that is superfluous. I therefore view these words as relating to God, who became, as the Prophet tells us, a barbarian F482 to a people without understanding. This reproof must have wounded them to the quick, because by their own fault they made God, who formed our tongues, to appear to be “a stammerer.” He does not as yet threaten them, but lays the blame on their indolence, that they rendered the proclamation of heavenly doctrine a confused noise, because of their own accord they shut their eyes, and thus derived no advantage from it. Their infatuation, in not hearing God speaking to them, is compared by the Prophet to a prodigy.

12. For he said to them. Some explain it by circumlocution in this manner: “If one should say to them, This is the rest, they refuse to hear.” But this is a feeble exposition, and does not connect the various parts of the passage in a proper manner. On the contrary, the Prophet assigns the reason why God appears to the Jews to be a barbarian: it is, because they had not ears. Words were spoken to the deaf. It was to no purpose that the Lord offered to them rest. This deafness arose from obstinacy, for they wickedly and rebelliously rejected doctrine. Their wickedness was doubly inexcusable in refusing rest which was offered to them, and which all men naturally desire. It was in itself intolerable baseness to be deaf to the voice of God speaking, but it was still more foul ingratitude deliberately to reject a blessing which was in the highest degree desirable. Accordingly, he points out the benefit which they might have derived from the obedience of faith, and of which they deprived themselves by their own wickedness. He therefore reproaches them with this ignorance and blindness; for it springs from their own stubbornness in maliciously turning away their eyes from the light which was offered to them, and choosing rather to remain in darkness than to be enlightened.

Hence it follows that unbelievers, as soon as God has exhibited to them his word, voluntarily draw down on themselves wretched uneasiness; for he invites all men to a blessed rest, and clearly points out the object by which, if we shape the course of our life, true happiness awaits us; for no man who has heard heavenly doctrine can go astray except knowingly and willingly. We learn from it how lovely in our eyes heavenly doctrine ought to be, for it brings to us the invaluable blessing of enjoying peace of conscience and true happiness. All confess loudly that there is nothing better than to find a place of security; and yet, when rest is offered, many despise it, and the greater part of men even refuse it, as if all men expressly desired to have wretched perplexity and continual trembling: and yet no man has a right to complain that he errs through ignorance; for nothing is clearer or plainer than the doctrine of God, so that it is vain for men to plead any excuse. In short, nothing can be more unreasonable than to throw the blame on God, as if he spoke obscurely, or taught in a confused manner. Now, as God testifies in this passage that he points out to us in his word assured rest, so, on the other hand, he warns all unbelievers that they suffer the just reward of their wickedness when they are harassed by continual uneasiness.

Cause the weary to rest. Some explain it thus, that God demands the duties of brotherly kindness, in order that he may be reconciled to us, and that those duties are here included, a part being taken for the whole. But I think that the Prophet’s meaning is different, namely, that God points out to us that rest by which our weariness may be relieved, and that consequently we are convicted of deeper ingratitude, if even necessity, which is a very sharp spur, does not quicken us to seek a remedy. This saying of the Prophet corresponds nearly to the words of Christ,

“Come to me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (<401128>Matthew 11:28.)

In a word, Isaiah informs the Jews that they have this choice, “Do they prefer to be refreshed and relieved, or to sink under the burden and be overwhelmed?” This confirms a passing remark which I made a little before, that God does not in vain exhort those who seek repose to come to him, as we shall elsewhere see,

“I have not in vain said to the house of Jacob, Seek me.” (<234519>Isaiah 45:19.)

Since, therefore, if we do not stand in the way, we shall be taught by his word, we may safely rely on the doctrine which is contained in it; for he does not intend to weary us out by vain curiosity, as men often draw down upon themselves much distress and anguish by idle pursuits.

Besides, when he shews that this rest is prepared for the weary who groan under the burden, let us at least be taught by the distresses which harass us to betake ourselves to the word of God, that we may obtain peace. We shall thus find that the word of God is undoubtedly fitted to soothe our uneasy feelings, and to give peace to our perplexed and trembling consciences. All who seek “rest” in any other way, and run beyond the limits of the word, must always be subjected to torture or wretched uncertainty, because they attempt to be wise and happy without God. We see that this is the condition of the Papists, who, having despised this peace of God, are wretchedly tormented during their whole life; for Satan tosses and drives them about in such a manner that they are tormented with dreadful uneasiness, and never find a place of rest.

13. The word of the Lord shall therefore be to them. Although the Prophet repeats the same words, yet the meaning is somewhat different; for, having formerly spoken of voluntary stupidity, he now threatens the punishment of it, namely, that God will strike them with such bewilderment, that they shall be totally deprived of the benefit of saving doctrine, and shall perceive in it nothing but an empty sound. In short, he concludes, from what goes before, that since they had not profited by the word of God, the Jews shall be justly punished for their ingratitude; not that the word shall be taken from them, but that they shall be deprived of sound judgment and understanding, and shall be blind amidst the clearest light. Thus God blinds and hardens the reprobate more and more on account of their disobedience.

Paul quotes this passage (<461421>1 Corinthians 14:21) when he reproves the Corinthians for foolish affectation, in consequence of their being so much under the influence of ambition, that they regarded with the highest admiration those who spoke in a foreign tongue, as the common people are accustomed to stare at everything that is unknown and uncommon. This passage in the writings of Paul has been misunderstood, because these words of the Prophet have not been duly weighed. Now, Paul applies these words most appropriately to his object; for he shews that the Corinthians are under the influence of a foolish and absurd admiration, and that they improperly aspire to those things from which they can derive no advantage; in short, that they are “like children, not in malice, but in knowledge and understanding;” that thus they voluntarily draw down on themselves the curse which the Prophet here threatens; and that the word of God becomes to them precept on precept, and they receive no more instruction from it than if a person were to bawl out to them in an unknown tongue. It is the height of madness to bring upon themselves, by idle affectation, that blindness and stupidity which the Lord threatens against obstinate and rebellious men. Paul therefore explains and renders more intelligible this statement made by the Prophet, for he shews that they who abuse the doctrine of salvation do not deserve to make progress in it in any way whatever.

We have seen a passage closely resembling it in which the Prophet compared his doctrine to “sealed letters.” (<230816>Isaiah 8:16) Afterwards we shall find that the Prophet compares it to a book that is “shut.” (<232911>Isaiah 29:11.) This takes place when, on account of the ingratitude of men, God takes from them judgment and sound understanding; so that, “seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear,” and thus are most justly punished. (<230609>Isaiah 6:9; <410412>Mark 4:12.) This ought to be carefully observed; for frequently we think that all is well with us, and are highly delighted with ourselves, because we continue to enjoy the word. F483 But of what avail will it be to us, if it do not enlighten our understanding and regulate our hearts? We thus draw down upon ourselves a heavier judgment, and therefore we need a twofold grace; first, that God would shine on us by his word; and secondly, that he would open our understandings and dispose our hearts to obedience, otherwise we shall derive no more aid from the brilliancy of the gospel than blind men derive from the brightness of the sun. By this punishment, therefore, we are reminded that we must not abuse the word of God, but must look directly to the object which the Lord holds out to us in the word.

They shall fall backward, and be broken and snared. At length he describes the destruction of those who are blind to this brightness of the word; for nothing remains for them but to be thrown down headlong, because they have departed from the right path, and therefore they must stumble and fall. He means that the fall will not be slight, for they shall be bruised by it. By the word sealed he employs another metaphor, namely, that for all unbelievers “snares” are prepared, by which they shall be entangled and drawn to destruction. We had a similar sentiment on a former occasion, (<230815>Isaiah 8:15,) and expressed in nearly the same words; F484 for there the Prophet speaks on the same subject, the blinding of the people, who by their obstinacy had provoked the wrath of God. He shews that they who go astray, in opposition to the word of God, are always very near destruction. Either they shall meet with stumbling blocks on which they shall “stumble,” or with snares by which they shall be “ensnared.” In short, it will be impossible that evil shall not befall those who do not keep the path which God has pointed out; for either they shall openly “fall and be bruised,” or through concealed traps they shall fall into a “snare.”

14. Wherefore hear ye the word of the Lord. He goes on to address to them still stronger reproof, and at the same time mingles with it a consolation in order to encourage the hearts of the godly. While he threatens utter destruction against the wicked, he leaves for believers ground of consolation, by declaring that their salvation is dear and precious in the sight of God.

Ye scornful men. By this term he means men who are addicted to sophistry and deceit, who think that by jeers and cunning they can escape the judgment of God; for xwl (lutz) F485 signifies to jeer or scorn. Now, he addresses not ordinary men, but rulers and governors, who, in governing the people, thought that they surpassed other men in sharpness and dexterity, but turned their acuteness to cunning, by which they acted hypocritically towards God himself, and therefore, in keen irony, he calls them “scorners;” as if he had said,

“You think that you have enough of craftiness to mock God, but you will not succeed in mocking him.” (<480607>Galatians 6:7.)

The Prophet’s chief and severest contest was with the nobles; for although all ranks were exceedingly corrupted, yet the nobles, being puffed up with a false belief of their own wisdom, were more obstinate than the rest. It has commonly been found, in almost every age, that the common people, though they are distinguished by unrestrained fierceness and violence, do not proceed to such a pitch of wickedness as nobles or courtiers, or other crafty men, who think that they excel others in ability and wisdom. The ministers of the word ought chiefly, therefore, to arm themselves against ingenious adversaries. None can be more destructive; for they not only of themselves do injury, but excite others to the same kind of scorn and wickedness, and frequently, through the estimation in which they are held, and the splendor of their reputation, they dazzle the common people who are less clear-sighted. It is a dreadful and monstrous thing when the governors of the Church not only are themselves blinded, but even blind others, and excite them to despise God, and ridicule godly doctrine, and taunt it by their jeers, and, in short, employ their utmost ingenuity for overturning religion; but in opposition to such persons we ought to encourage our hearts by the example of the Prophet, that we may not sink or lose heart in this contest. He shews us also the way in which we ought to treat such persons. F486 We ought not to spend much time in teaching them, (for instruction would be of little use,) but must threaten them severely, and terrify them by the judgment of God.

This people which is in Jerusalem. Their guilt is highly aggravated by the consideration that they inhabit the very sanctuary of God, and infect with their pollution God’s chosen people.

15. Because ye have said. The Prophet next assigns the reason why he called them “scorners;” it was because they had thrown off all fear of God. He likewise describes the manner in which they acted, by saying that they promised to themselves that they would escape punishment amidst all their crimes and enormities, and became the more daring, and, as if they had obtained greater liberty to pursue wicked courses, rushed forward without dread wherever their unruly passions carried them.

We have struck a league with death, and with hell have we made a compact. This is what he means by the league into which they had entered with death and the grave; for by despising and boldly ridiculing all God’s threatenings and chastisements, they thought that they were out of all danger. hzj (chozeh) means what he had formerly expressed by tyrb, (berith,) for it is a repetition of the same statement. Literally it signifies seeing, F487 and denotes what is conveyed by the French phrase, avoir intelligence, or by the English phrase, “to have a mutual understanding.” There appears to be also an implied contrast between prophetic visions and that deceitful craftiness on which veterans in wicked arts value themselves.

We have made lies our refuge. It is certain that those cunning men never broke out into such boasting as to utter those offensive words, for that would have been childish and absurd. F488 Besides, though they despised God and set at nought all his admonitions, they undoubtedly wished to be held in some estimation by the people, and would never have confessed that they “made lies their refuge; “ but the Prophet looked at their feelings and aims, and not at their pretexts, and took into account their actions and dispositions, and not their words. Whoever, then, flatters himself and his vices, and fearlessly despises God’s threatenings, declares that he has “entered into a league with death,” which he does not at all dread, notwithstanding the Lord’s threatenings.

The Prophet, therefore, reproves in general that carnal presumption by which men are led to forgetfulness of the judgment of God, and willingly deceive themselves, as if they could escape the arm of God: but chiefly he attacks Lucianists F489 and censorious men, who place their wisdom in nothing else than in irreligious contempt of God; and the more eager they are to conceal their dishonor, the more earnestly does the Prophet expose them, as if he had dragged forth to the light, from a deep concealment, their cunning wiles, and as if he had said, “This is the dexterity, skill, and cunning of the wise men of this world, who are exposed on every hand to troubles and afflictions, and yet imagine that they are concealed and safe. They unquestionably deserve to seek salvation from falsehood, for they disregard God’s salvation, and despise and ridicule him.” Their tricks, and cunning, and imposture, are indeed concealed by them under plausible names, and they do not think that they are falsehoods; but the Prophet calls them by their proper names.

When the overflowing scourge shall pass through. As to “the overflowing scourge,” the Prophet here includes two metaphors; for he compares the calamities and afflictions by which God chastises the transgressions of the world to a “scourge,” and then says, that they are so rapid and violent that they resemble a “flood.” Against those calamities, however severe and distressing, wicked men of this description think that they are fortified by lying and deceit, and hope that they shall be able to escape them, though they overflow far and wide over the whole world. They perceive the judgments of God, and the calamities to which men are exposed; but, because they do not observe the hand and providence of God, and ascribe everything that happens to fortune, they therefore seek to obtain such defences and safeguards as may drive such “scourges” away from them.

16. Therefore thus saith the Lord God. Isaiah now comforts the godly, and threatens against the wicked such punishment as they deserved. In the first instance, he brings forward consolation, because the godly were a laughingstock to those crafty men, as we see at the present day that irreligious men laugh at our simplicity, and reckon us to be fools, because amidst such deep adversity and sore afflictions we still hope that it will turn out to our advantage. In opposition to this insolence of the reprobate, the Prophet encourages and supports the hearts of the godly to pass by with indifference, and reckon of no account their jeers and reproaches, and to believe firmly that their hope will not be confounded or vain.

Behold, I lay in Zion a stone, a stone of trial. The demonstrative particle behold expresses certainty; as if he had said, “Though wicked men despise my words, and refuse to believe them, yet I will perform what I have promised.” The pronoun I is emphatic, that the prophecy may be more firmly believed. As to the words, the genitive! ˆjb, (bochan,) of trial, which is used instead of an adjective along with stone, may be taken both in an active and in a passive sense, either for a stone by which the whole building is “tried,” or examined as by a standard, or for a “tried stone.” The former meaning appears to me to be more appropriate, and undoubtedly the usage of the Hebrew language requires us to interpret it rather in an active sense. He calls it therefore a trying stone, or a trier, on account of the effect produced; because by this stone the whole building must be squared and adjusted, otherwise it must unavoidably totter and fall.

A precious corner-stone, a sure foundation. He calls it a corner-stone, because it supports the whole weight of the building, and by this name, which is also given to it in <19B822>Psalm 118:22, he commends its force and strength. Lastly, he calls it a “foundation,” and, so to speak, a “fundamental foundation,” proceeding gradually in the commendation of it; for he shews that it is not an ordinary stone, or one of many which contribute to the building, but that it is a highly valuable stone, on which the whole weight of the building exclusively rests. It is a stone, but a stone which fills the whole corner; it is a corner-stone, but the whole house is founded on it. As “another foundation cannot be laid,” so on it alone must the whole Church, and every part of it, rest and be built. (<460311>1 Corinthians 3:11.)

He that believeth shall not make haste. This clause is interpreted by some as an exhortation, “He that believeth, let him not make haste.” But I prefer to take it in the future tense, both because that meaning agrees best with the context, and because it is supported by the authority of the Apostle Paul. I do acknowledge that the Apostles followed the Greek translation, F490 and used such liberty, that while they were satisfied with giving the meaning, they did not quote the exact words. Yet they never changed the meaning, but, taking care to have it properly applied, they gave the true and genuine interpretation. Whenever, therefore, they quote any passage from the Old Testament, they adhere closely to its object and design.

Now, Paul, when he quotes this prophecy, adopts the Greek version, “He that believeth shall not be ashamed.” (<450933>Romans 9:33; 10:11.) And certainly the design of the Prophet is to shew, that they who believe will have peace and serenity of mind, so that they shall not desire anything more, and shall not wander in uncertainty, or hasten to seek other remedies, but shall be fully satisfied with this alone. That is not a departure from the meaning, for the word signifying to make haste conveys the idea of eagerness or trembling. In short, the design of the Prophet is, to extol faith on account of this invaluable result, that by means of it we enjoy settled peace and composure. Hence it follows that, till we possess faith, we must have continual perplexity and distress; for there is but one harbour on which we can safely rely, namely, the truth of the Lord, which alone will give us peace and serenity of mind.

This fruit of faith is elsewhere described by the same Apostle Paul, when he says that, “being justified by faith, we obtain peace with God.” (<450501>Romans 5:1.) The Apostles and evangelists shew that this “stone” is Christ, because the Church was actually settled and founded at the time when he was presented to the view of the world. (<402142>Matthew 21:42; <440411>Acts 4:11; <450933>Romans 9:33; <600206>1 Peter 2:6.) First, in him the promises have their firmness; secondly, the salvation of men rests on him alone, and therefore if Christ be taken away, the Church will fall down and be ruined. The state of the fact therefore shews, that these statements must undoubtedly be referred to Christ, without whom there is no certainty of salvation; and therefore at every moment ruin is at hand. Next, we have the authority of evangelists and Apostles; and indeed the Holy Spirit conveys that instruction by their mouth.

But it will be proper to examine it more closely, that we may see in what manner these things are applied to Christ. First, it is not without good reason that Isaiah represents God as speaking, whose peculiar work it is to found the Church, as we have already seen elsewhere, and as the Prophet will afterwards declare; and this statement occurs very frequently in the Psalms. For if all men devote their labor to it, they will not be able to lay the least stone. It is God alone, therefore, who founds and builds his Church, though he employs for this purpose the labors and services of men. Now, by whom was Christ given, but by the Father? So then it was the heavenly Father who did and accomplished these things, and who appointed Christ to be the only foundation on which our salvation rests.

But was not this stone laid before? Did not the Church always rest on this foundation? I acknowledge that it did, but only in hope; for Christ had not yet been revealed, and had not fulfilled the office of a Redeemer. On this account the Prophet speaks of it as a future event, that believers may be fully persuaded that the Church, which they saw not only tottering and falling, but grievously shaken and almost laid in ruins, will yet be made firm by a new support, when it shall rest on a stone laid by the hand of God.

I lay in Zion. He says that it is “in Zion;” because Christ must come out of it, which contributes greatly to confirm our faith, when we see that he came out of that place which was appointed for this purpose so long before. Now, at the present day, “Mount Zion” is everywhere; for the Church has spread to the ends of the world.

Christ is truly “the stone of trial,” for by him must the whole building be regulated, and we cannot be the building of God, if we are not adapted to him. Hence also Paul exhorts us to

“grow in him who is the head, from whom the whole body must be joined and united.” (<490415>Ephesians 4:15.)

Our faith must be wholly applied to Christ, that he may be our rule. He is also the “corner-stone,” on which rests not only one part of the building, but its whole weight, and the foundation itself.

“No man,” as Paul says, “can lay any other foundation than Jesus Christ.” (<460311>1 Corinthians 3:11.)

This is the reason why, when the Lord promises by the mouth of Isaiah the restoration of his Church, he reminds us of the foundation; for it was wasted in such a manner that it resembled a ruin, and there was no way in which it could be restored but by Christ. As to Christ being called also the “stone of stumbling,” this is accidental; for the fault lies on ungrateful men, who, having rejected him, find him to be altogether different from what he would have been to them. But on this subject we have spoken at 8:14. F491

17. And I will lay judgment to the line. The ruinous condition of the Church being such that believers hardly ventured to hope that it would be improved, he shews that God has in his hand the ready means of forming the Church entirely anew. As he lately mentioned a building, so now, by a different metaphor, he shews that there is no reason to fear that God will not at length finish the work of building which has been begun. Yet indirectly he reproves the pride and insolence of those who wished to be accounted pillars of the Church, while they were endeavoring, as far as lay in their power, to raze it to the foundation. Although, in consequence of an almost total extinction of the light of faith, and a frightful corruption of the worship of God, the state of the people was hideous, yet they boasted of their royal priesthood, in the same manner as we see the Papists at the present day shamelessly utter similar boasting, though lamentable confusion cries aloud that the form of the Church has utterly perished among them. For this reason the Prophet describes what will be the reformation of the Church.

Judgment to the line, and righteousness to the measure or plummet. It is probable that wq, (kav,) a line, and tlqm, (mishkoleth,) a plummet, mean the same thing, as may be inferred with greater certainty from another passage:

“I will stretch over Jerusalem the rope or line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab.” (<122113>2 Kings 21:13.)

Yet I do not deny that he alludes to the examination of weights; but both metaphors are taken from buildings, in which the master-builders and masons try everything by a rule, in order to preserve a due proportion in every part. Thus it is said that the Lord administers equal judgment, when he restores the Church, in which otherwise everything is disordered and confused, as in a hideous ruin, when the ungodly are exalted and enjoy prosperity, while the godly are despised and sorrowful.

He makes the same statement concerning “righteousness,” that he will measure or try it by his weights, and will regulate everything by a rule; for by righteousness and judgment he means a proper and lawful administration of the Church, as contrasting with the masks and disguises boasted of by those who fear the title of Bishops. The meaning is, that this foundation is laid, not only that the Church may be commenced, but that it may be perfectly restored, to use a common phrase, “from top to bottom” (De fonds en comble.)

The hail shall sweep away the reliance of falsehood. This second part of the metaphor denotes also a very exact equality. Nothing then will be wanting to the building, if Christ be laid for the foundation; and, on the other hand, if he be not there, all will be vanity and confusion. Now since there was no room for “judgment and righteousness,” but by sweeping away the false confidences, he declares that they shall be all swept away, because the violence of God’s anger shall cast down all loftiness, and the flood shall penetrate all the hiding-places of thoughtless indifference. He therefore threatens that hypocrites, with all their boasting, shall nevertheless perish, even though the Lord preserve the Church; for he does not speak of chastisements, as if the wicked would be corrected by them, because, on the contrary, they become hardened and more obstinate. The cleansing, therefore, he shews, will be such as to drag them forth from their hiding-places and strip them of false and empty confidence; for wicked men think that they are so thoroughly concealed by their falsehood and deceit, that they shall never feel strokes, and therefore they please and flatter themselves amidst their iniquities and crimes; but the waters will easily reach them; that is, the wrath of God, which shall rush down upon them like a deluge, will easily break through their lurking-places.

18. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled. Formerly he directed his reproof against hypocrites, who obstinately mocked at God and all his threatenings; and he checked their thoughts in imagining that “they had made a covenant with death,” (verse 15,) that is, in promising to themselves that all their transgressions would pass unpunished; as if by jeers and laughter they could escape the arm of God. He now threatens that, when they shall be fully aware that they must render an account to God, they shall be struck with fear and dread, whether they will or not; F492 for that state of ease and indifference into which they are sunk, arises from a kind of lethargy or drunkenness, which hinders them from perceiving the alarming nature of their disease; but the Lord will arouse them from their sleep, however profound, and will annul their imaginary compacts.

In short, he means that that peace which the wicked enjoy, while they slumber in their sins, will not be perpetual; for they shall be compelled, even against their will, to acknowledge that God is their judge, and, when they shall wish to enjoy repose, and while they are careless and unprepared, they shall be suddenly seized and agitated by strange terrors and anguish of mind. Their case is similar to that of malefactors, who, if they have broken out of prison and escaped, mock their judges, and utter reproachful and forward and insolent language against them, but, when they see the officers of justice close at their heels, suddenly tremble, and find that all their joy is turned into mourning, and that their condition is far worse than if they had not broken out of prison. Thus the wicked enjoy some momentary gladness, which they obtain by forgetfulness of their guilt; but the Lord immediately lays his hand on them, and terrifies their consciences in such a manner that they can find no rest.

19. From the time that it shall pass. He expresses more in this verse than in the preceding one; for he declares that the destruction of the reprobate is close at hand, though they promise to themselves everlasting happiness. Wicked men indeed perceive that they are liable to many calamities, but yet they flatter and stupefy themselves, and imagine that in this way they can ward off their calamities. They have in their mouth proverbs of this sort, “Let us not distress ourselves before the time: Let us enjoy the season while it lasts: Let us be cheerful, and not give ourselves uneasiness when we can avoid it.” But he threatens that there hangs over their heads a hidden destruction, F493 and adds:

It shall seize you every morning, and shall pass every day by day and night. By “every morning” is meant “quickly and continually; “ for it is only when they feel distress that wicked men are touched with the fear of God. Frequently indeed they are afraid when there is no danger; but it is a blind terror, for they do not understand whence their alarm proceeds. While God threatens, they are unconcerned, because they do not acknowledge him to be their judge, and thus they have no serious thoughts about God till they feel his hand. When he again repeats “in the morning,” and afterwards adds, “by day and by night,” he means, as I have said, that the scourge will be constant and daily; that they may not persuade themselves that it will be a light calamity, or deceive themselves by the hope of any mitigation; for, while the wrath of God against believers is momentary, against unbelievers it is eternal, for it never ceases to pursue them to the end.

Terror alone shall cause them to understand the report. F494 Here commentators differ. Jerome’s translation is “Terror shall give understanding to the report.” But they come nearer to the meaning of the Prophet who give this interpretation, “The report alone shall make you understand,” that is, “The men to whom the messenger shall come will be rendered obedient to God by the report alone.” For my own part, I adopt a simpler view, though I do not choose to refute the expositions given by others. “It will come to pass that terror alone shall enable you to understand doctrine.” As if he had said, “Hitherto I have not succeeded in my exhortations to you, but the Lord will find out a new method of instructing you, that is, chastisements and calamities, by which he will terrify you in such a manner that you shall know with whom you have to do.” It is as if a grieved and sorrowful father were thus to remonstrate with a disobedient and incorrigible son, “Since you despise my advices, you must one day be taught by the executioner.” F495

Thus Isaiah threatens wicked men, who mocked at all his threatenings, and tells them that they do not care for the assistance of prophets, but that one day they will actually know with what sincerity and truth they addressed them, and yet that it will be of no advantage to them, because knowledge so late will leave no room for repentance. We must “seek the Lord while there is time.” (<235506>Isaiah 55:6.) Pharaoh was made no better by the chastisements which he received, (<020815>Exodus 8:15,) and Esau gained nothing by his tears, when he saw that he had been stripped of his birthright, (<012738>Genesis 27:38; <581217>Hebrews 12:17;) for they were not followed by any repentance or any amendment of life. By the word “terror” he shews how “dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God,” (<581031>Hebrews 10:31,) and that they who despise his word are never allowed to pass unpunished. He employs the word h[wm (shemugnah) to denote what is heard, that is, doctrine.

20. For the bed shall be short. By this metaphor he adorns the former statement; for he compares the reprobate, who are pressed down by the hand of God, to those who have concealed themselves in a “short and narrow bed,” in which they can scarcely stretch their limbs or lift their head, and where, in short, instead of rest, they feel sharp pains. He means that the Jews will be shut up in such a manner that they shall be overwhelmed with the severity of their distresses, and that the “bed,” which is given to man for rest, will be an instrument of torture.

If they seek a “covering,” he says that “it will be too short to wrap themselves in it,” and that it is an addition to their former distress, that amidst those heavy calamities they will want all necessary comforts. He chose to express this by the metaphor of a “narrow covering,” that they may know that their condition will be in the highest degree wretched; because the vengeance of God will pursue them on all sides, both above and below, so that they shall have no abatement or mitigation, and shall find no relief. The Lord employs these metaphors, in order to accommodate himself to our weakness; because otherwise we cannot understand how dreadful is the judgment of God. Hence therefore we learn how dreadful are the terrors which shake and confine wicked men, when the Lord pursues them; they search eagerly for places of concealment, and would willingly hide themselves in the center of the earth; but the Lord drags them forth to light, and confines and hems them in, so that they cannot move.

21. For as in Mount Perazim. Since he speaks here of the reprobate, the Prophet holds out nothing but terrors and cruel punishment; for while the Lord deals kindly and gently with his children, he shews that he will be an object of terror to the reprobate. For this purpose he produces examples, in which the Lord displayed his arm in defense of his people, as when he routed the Philistines in the valley of Perazim, when David pursued them, (<100520>2 Samuel 5:20; <131411>1 Chronicles 14:11,) and at another time, when the Amorites and other enemies were slain by the Israelites in the valley of Gibeon, with Joshua as their leader, to wholly the Lord granted that the “sun and moon should stand still,” that they might more easily pursue their enemies. (<061010>Joshua 10:10-14.)

Shall Jehovah rise up. By the word “rise up” he points out the power of God, because we think that he is lazy and indolent, when he does not punish the reprobate. It is therefore said that he “rises up” or stands erect, when he openly exhibits to us proofs of his power, and such as especially manifest the great care which he takes of his Church. Although the manner was different, (for in ancient times he “rose up” in defense of his chosen people against foreigners, but now he threatens war against the Jews,) yet Isaiah skillfully applies these examples; for by driving out internal enemies God will promote the advantage of his Church not less than if he directed his strength and arms against foreigners. He would thus reckon them in the number of enemies, though they falsely boasted that they were his people.

His strange work. F496 Some think that this “work” is called “strange,” because nothing corresponds better to the nature of God than to be merciful and to pardon our sins; and that when he is angry, he acts against his will, and assumes a character that is foreign to him and that is contrary to his nature. By nature he is gentle, compassionate, patient, kind, slow to anger, as Scripture declares by many words and by a variety of expressions his infinite compassion. (<023406>Exodus 34:6; <19A308>Psalm 103:8.) Others explain it to mean that the “work” is “strange,” because formerly he was wont to defend his people, and that it is monstrous that he now proceeds to attack and exterminate them, as if they were enemies.

For my own part, I consider “strange” to mean simply what is uncommon or wonderful; for this appellation is given to what is rare and unusual among men, and we know that they almost always view with astonishment whatever is new. It is as if he had said, “The Lord will punish you, and that not in a common or ordinary way, but in a way so amazing that at the sight or hearing of it, all shall be struck with horror.” It is certain that all the works of God are so many proofs of his power, so that they ought justly to excite our admiration; but because, through constant habit and looking at them, they are despised by us, we think that he does nothing unless he adopt some extraordinary methods. On this account Isaiah quotes ancient examples, in order that we may know that, though to men this vengeance be new and amazing, yet to God it is far from being new, since for a long period he has given proofs of his power and ability not less remarkable than these. Yet I willingly admit that the Prophet contrasts the wicked Israelites with the Philistines and Canaanites, as if he had said, “The Lord formerly performed miracles when he wished to save his people; he will now perform them in order to destroy that people; for since the Israelites have degenerated, they shall feel the hand of God for their destruction which their fathers felt for their salvation.”

22. Now therefore. He again reminds those wicked men, whom he had formerly called “scorners,” (verse 14,) that their cunning, and contempt, and jeers, and mockery, will avail them nothing, because all their ingenuity will be thwarted; and he exhorts them to repentance, if there still be any of them that are capable of being cured. For this reason he repeats the same threatenings, in order to arouse them.

Lest your chains be more firmly fastened. He says that all that they will gain by resistance will be to draw themselves more firmly into their nets. Instead of “chains,” there are some who render yrswm (moserim) “chastisements;” but this does not agree with the context. The metaphor of “chains” is highly appropriate in this passage; for, as the fox which has fallen into a snare, fastens the knot more firmly by his attempts to extricate himself and escape, so wicked men by their disobedience entangle and fasten themselves more and more. They desire to escape the hand of God, and kick against the spur, like an unruly horse which bends all its strength to shake of its rider; but all that they accomplish by their obstinacy and stubbornness is to receive heavier and severer blows.

Be ye not mockers. This shews us how we ought to deal with wicked men, when we see that they are altogether destitute of the fear of God. All that remains for us to do is, to warn them that their jeers and scorn will be attended by no success in resisting the vengeance of God which hangs over them. We are also reminded that we ought not to sport with God, since we see, as in a mirror, what has been the end of those who despised the warnings and threatenings of the prophets since the beginning of the world.

For I have heard a consumption. That his prediction may be firmly believed, he declares that he brings nothing forward which God did not reveal. hlk (chalah) sometimes signifies “perfection,” and sometimes “consumption,” as we formerly stated F497 (<231023>Isaiah 10:23.) Here it must denote “consumption,” for the Prophet means nothing else than that God has determined speedily to destroy the whole earth by a general slaughter. This includes two things; first, that dreadful and grievous destruction is about to overtake the world, (unless it be thought better to limit the word “earth” to Judea, to which I do not object,) and, secondly, that the day is fixed and is not distant. The word hearing is here used to denote Revelation. He says that it has been made known to him; for, as the Lord determined to make use of the ministry of the prophets, so he revealed to them his secrets, that they might be, as it were, interpreters of them.

Upon the whole earth. As if he had said, “The whole world abounds with shocking impiety, reprobate men have grown wanton in their wickedness, as if there would be no judgment of God; but throughout the whole world, or in every part of Judea, God will shew that he is judge and avenger, and not a corner of the earth will be exempted from troubles and calamities, because they have despised the word.” Now, although these things were revealed in the age of Isaiah, yet they belong not less to other times, in which God shews that he is always like himself, and is wont to execute his Judgments by the same method and rule. F498

23. Give ear and hear my voice. Isaiah makes use of a preface, as if he were about to speak of something important and very weighty; for we are not wont to demand attention from our hearers, unless when we are about to say what is very important. And yet he seems here to speak of common and ordinary subjects, as for example, about agriculture, sowing, thrashing, and such like operations. But the Prophet intended to direct the minds of his hearers to higher matters; for when he discourses about the judgments of God, and shews with what wisdom God governs the world, though wicked men think that everything moves by chance and at random, he intended to lay down and explain a difficult subject, in a plain style, by metaphors drawn from objects which are well known and understood. We often complain that God winks too much at the crimes of wicked men, because he does not immediately punish them agreeably to our wish; but the Prophet shews that God appoints nothing but what is just and proper.

The design of this preface therefore is, that men may perceive their stupidity in carping at the judgments of God, and putting an unfavourable construction on them, while even in the ordinary course of nature they have a very bright mirror, in which they may see them plainly. There is an implied expostulation with men who shut their eyes amidst so clear light. He shews that they are dull and stupid in not understanding the works of God which are so manifest, and yet are so rash and daring that they presume to judge and censure what is hidden. In like manner Paul also, when speaking of the resurrection, pronounces that those who do not perceive the power of God in the seeds which are thrown into the earth are madmen.

“Thou fool, that which thou sowest does not grow or vegetate till it has rotted.” (<461536>1 Corinthians 15:36.)

Thus Isaiah here declares that those who do not see the wisdom of God in things so obvious are stupid, and, in short, that men are blind and dull in beholding the works of God.

24. Doth the ploughman plough every day F499 to sow? This passage is commonly explained as if the Lord reproached his people for ingratitude, because he had cultivated the field as a husbandman, and had spent on it all his care and industry, and yet did not reap such fruit as it ought to have yielded. Such is the interpretation given by the Jews, who have been followed also by the Greek and Latin commentators; but Isaiah’s meaning was quite different. He connects this doctrine with his former statement, that the destruction of Judea, or of the whole world, had been revealed to him; and therefore he adds, that still God does not always display his hand, or constantly punish the wickedness of men; for he often appears as if he did not see it, and delays the punishment of it for a time. The Lord’s forbearance and slowness to punish, which is thus manifested, is abused by wicked men for leading them to greater lengths in wickedness, as Solomon remarks that men are encouraged to commit wickedness by observing that

“all things happen alike to the good and to the bad,” (<210814>Ecclesiastes 8:14,)

that all the worst and basest men enjoy prosperity, while the godly are liable to distresses not less and even greater than those of other men. F500

In short, when the wicked perceive no difference in outward matters, they think either that there is no God, or that everything is governed by the blind violence of fortune. To such thoughts therefore Isaiah replies, “Do you not know that God has his seasons, and that he knows what he ought to do at the proper time?” If ploughmen do not “every day” cleave the earth or break the clods, this ought not to be attributed to their want of skill; for, on the contrary, their skill requires them to desist. F501 What would they gain by continually turning over the soil, but to weary themselves to no purpose, and prevent it from yielding any fruit? Thus God does not act with bustle or confusion, but knows the times and seasons for doing his work. F502

25. When he hath levelled its surface. He now speaks about sowing. The sower will not put into the earth as much as he can, nor will he throw it in at random, but will measure the ground, and give to it as much as is necessary; for otherwise the superfluous mass would rot, and not a single grain would take root.

Wheat in measure, and barley measured. F503 He will not mix various seeds, but will allot one part of the field for “wheat,” another for “vetches,” and another for “cummin.” He will do this in measure, for that I consider to be the proper interpretation of hrw (sorah.) F504 It does not mean excellent or good; for he is speaking about measurement. Similar statements are made about reaping and thrashing; for all kinds of grain are not thrashed in the same manner. Wheat is thrashed with the wheel of a cart or wagon, vetches with a staff, and cummin with a thicker rod. He speaks according to the custom of the country. This mode of thrashing is unknown in any part of France, except Provence. F505 In short, he means that the manner of thrashing which is suitable to the grain does not apply equally to all. Besides, the husbandman is not constantly or incessantly employed in thrashing, but exercises moderation, that he may not bruise the grain.

26. His God instructeth and teacheth him what is right. From whom did the husbandman learn these things but from God? If they are so well educated and taught in the smallest matters, what ought we to think of so great a teacher and instructor? Does he not know how to apply a fixed measure and equity to his works? Does he not see the time for executing his judgment; when he ought to cut down the people, and, as we may say, to harrow F506 them; when he ought to thrash; what strokes, what kind of chastisements he ought to inflict; in short, what is most suitable to each time and to each person? Will not he who appointed the universal order of nature regulate these things also by a just proportion? Are men so headstrong that they will venture to remonstrate with him, or to impugn his wisdom? The general meaning is, that we ought not to judge rashly, if God does not immediately punish the wickedness of men.

This shews that we ought to restrain the presumption of men, who, even in the smallest matters, often fall into mistakes. If a person ignorant of agriculture should see a husbandman cutting fields with a plough, making furrows, breaking clods, driving oxen up and down and following their footsteps, he would perhaps laugh at it, imagining that it was childish sport; but that man would be justly blamed by the husbandman, and convicted of ignorance and rashness; for every person of great modesty will think that those things are not done idly or at random, though he does not know the reason. When the seed is committed to the ground, does it not appear to be lost? If ignorant men find fault with these things, as ignorance is often rash and presumptuous in judging, will not intelligent men justly blame and pronounce them to have been in the wrong? If this be the case, how shall the Lord deal with us, if we dare to find fault with his works which we do not understand?

Let us therefore learn from this how carefully we ought to avoid this rashness, and with what modesty we ought to restrain ourselves from such thoughts. If we ought to act modestly towards men, and not to condemn rashly what exceeds our understanding or capacity, we ought to exercise much greater modesty towards God. When we consider therefore the various calamities with which the Church is afflicted, let us not complain that loose reins are given to the wicked, F507 and that consequently she is abandoned to her fate, or that all is over with her; but let us believe firmly, that the Lord will apply remedies at the proper time, and let us embrace with our whole heart his righteous judgments.

If any person carefully examining those words shall infer from them that some are punished more speedily and others more slowly, and shall pronounce the meaning to be, that punishment is delayed, such a view is not merely probable, but is fully expressed by the Prophet. We draw from it a delightful consolation, that the Lord regulates his thrashing in such a manner that he does not crush or bruise his people. The wicked are indeed reduced by him to nothing and destroyed; but he chastises his own people, in order that, having been subdued and cleansed, they may be gathered into the barn.

29. This also hath proceeded from Jehovah of hosts. This passage is explained by some, as if The Prophet had said that the science of agriculture proceeded from the Lord; but I consider it to be the application of what goes before. Having pointed out the wisdom of God, even in the smallest matters, he bids us, in like manner, raise our eyes to higher subjects, that we may learn to behold with greater reverence his wonderful and hidden judgments. A passing observation on the 26th verse may be made, and indeed ought to be made, that not only agriculture, but likewise all the arts which contribute to the advantage of mankind, are the gifts of God, and that all that belongs to skillful invention has been imparted by him to the minds of men. Men have no right to be proud on this account, or to arrogate to themselves the praise of invention, as we see that the ancients did, who, out of their ingratitude to God, ranked in the number of the gods those whom they considered to be the authors of any ingenious contrivance. Hence arose deification and that prodigious multitude of gods which the heathens framed in their own fancy. Hence arose the great Ceres, and Triptolemus, and Mercury, and innumerable others, celebrated by human tongues and by human writings. The Prophet shews that such arts ought to be ascribed to God, from whom they have been received, who alone is the inventor and teacher of them. If we ought to form such an opinion about agriculture and mechanical arts, what shall we think of the learned and exalted sciences, such as Medicine, Jurisprudence, Astronomy, Geometry, Logic, and such like? Shall we not much more consider them to have proceeded from God? Shall we not in them also behold and acknowledge his goodness, that his praise and glory may be celebrated both in the smallest and in the greatest affairs?


CHAPTER 29

Go To Isaiah 29:1-24

1. This appears to be another discourse, in which Isaiah threatens the city of Jerusalem. He calls it “Altar,” F508 because the chief defense of the city was in the “Altar;” F509 for although the citizens relied on other bulwarks, of which they had great abundance, still they placed more reliance on the Temple (<240704>Jeremiah 7:4) and the altar than on the other defences. While they thought that they were invincible in power and resources, they considered their strongest and most invincible fortress to consist in their being defended by the protection of God. They concluded that God was with them, so long as they enjoyed the altar and the sacrifices. Some think that the temple is here called “Ariel,” from the resemblance which it bore to the shape of a lion, being broader in front and narrower behind; but I think it better to take it simply as denoting “the Altar,” since Ezekiel also (<264315>Ezekiel 43:15) gives it this name. This prediction is indeed directed against the whole city, but we must look at the design of the Prophet; for he intended to strip the Jews of their foolish confidence in imagining that God would assist them, so long as the altar and the sacrifices could remain, in which they falsely gloried, and thought that they had fully discharged their duty, though their conduct was base and detestable.

The city where David dwelt. He now proceeds to the city, which he dignifies with the commendation of its high rank, on the ground of having been formerly inhabited by David, but intending, by this admission, to scatter the smoke of their vanity. Some understand by it the lesser Jerusalem, that is, the inner city, which also was surrounded by a wall; for there was a sort of two-fold Jerusalem, because it had increased, and had extended its walls beyond where they originally stood; but I think that this passage must be understood to relate to the whole city. He mentions David, because they gloried in his name, and boasted that the blessing of God continually dwelt in his palace; for the Lord had promised that “the kingdom of David would be for ever.” (<100713>2 Samuel 7:13; <198937>Psalm 89:37.)

Hence we may infer how absurdly the Papists, in the present day, consider the Church to be bound to Peter’s chair, as if God could nowhere find a habitation in the whole world but in the See of Rome. We do not now dispute whether Peter was Bishop of the Church of Rome or not; but though we should admit that this is fully proved, was any promise made to Rome such as was made to Jerusalem? “This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell, for I have chosen it.” (<19D214>Psalm 132:14.) And if even this were granted, do not we see what Isaiah declares about Jerusalem? That God is driven from it, when there is no room for doctrine, when the worship of God is corrupted. What then shall be said of Rome, which has no testimony? Can she boast of anything in preference to Jerusalem? If God pronounces a curse on the most holy city, which he had chosen in an especial manner, what must we say of the rest, who have overturned his holy laws and all godly institutions.

Add year to year. This was added by the Prophet, because the Jews thought that they had escaped punishment, when any delay was granted to them. Wicked men think that God has made a truce with them, when they see no destruction close at hand; and therefore they promise to themselves unceasing prosperity, so long as the Lord permits them to enjoy peace and quietness. In opposition to this assurance of their safety the Prophet threatens that, though they continue to “offer sacrifices,” F510 and though they renew them year by year, still the Lord will execute his vengeance. We ought to learn from this, that, when the Lord delays to punish and to take vengeance, we ought not, on that account, to seize the occasion for delaying our repentance; for although he spares and bears with us for a time, our sin is not therefore blotted out, nor have we any reason to promise that we shall make a truce with him. Let us not then abuse his patience, but let us be more eager to obtain pardon.

2. But I will bring Ariel into distress. I think that w (vau) should here be taken for a disjunctive conjunction: “And yet I will execute my judgments and take vengeance, though, by delaying them for a time, it may seem as if I had forgiven.” He next threatens that he will give them grief and mourning, instead of the joy of the festivals. hyna (aniah) is viewed by some as an adjective, F511 but improperly; for it is used in the same manner by Jeremiah. F512 (<250205>Lamentations 2:5.) He declares that the Lord will reduce that city to straits, that the Jews might know that they had to contend with God, and not with men, and that, though the war was carried on by the Assyrians, still they might perceive that God was their leader.

And it shall be to me as Ariel. This clause would not apply to the Temple alone; for he means that everything shall be made bloody by the slaughter which shall take place at Jerusalem; F513 and therefore he compares it to an “Altar,” on which victims of all kinds are slain, in the same manner as wicked men destined for slaughter are frequently compared to a sacrifice. In short, by alluding here to the word “Altar,” he says, that the whole city shall be “as Ariel,” because it shall overflow with the blood of the slain. Hence it is evident that the outward profession of worship, ceremonies, and the outward demonstrations of the favor of God, are of no avail, unless we sincerely obey him. By an ironical expression he tells hypocrites, (who with an impure heart present sacrifices of beasts to God, as if they were the offerings fitted to appease his anger,) that their labor is fruitless, and that, since they had profaned the Temple and the Altar, it was impossible to offer a proper sacrifice to God without slaying victims throughout the whole city, as if he had said, “There will be carnage in every part.” He makes use of the word “Sacrifice” figuratively, to denote the violent slaughter of those who refused to offer themselves willingly to God.

3. And I will camp against thee round about. By the word rwdk (kaddur) F514 he alludes to the roundness of a ball; and the expression corresponds to one commonly used, (“Je l’environneray,”) “I shall surround it.” Thus he shews that all means of escape will be cut off.

And will lay siege against thee. This alludes to another method of invading the city; for either attacks are made at various points, or there is a regular siege. He confirms the doctrine of the former verse, and shews that this war will be carried on under God’s direction, and that the Assyrians, though they are hurried on by their passions and by the lust of power, will undertake nothing but by the command of God. He reckoned it to be of great importance to carry full conviction to the minds of the Jews, that all the evils which befell them were sent by God, that they might thus be led to enter into an examination of their crimes. As this doctrine is often found in the Scriptures, it ought to be the more carefully impressed on our minds; for it is not without good reason that it is so frequently repeated and inculcated by the Holy Spirit.

4. Then shalt thou be laid low. He describes scornfully that arrogance which led the Jews to despise all threatenings and admonitions, so long as they enjoyed prosperity, as is customary with all hypocrites. He says therefore, that, when their pride has been laid aside, they will afterwards be more submissive; not that they will change their dispositions, but because shame will restrain that wantonness in which they formerly indulged. We ought therefore to supply here an implied contrast. He addresses those who were puffed up by ambition, carried their heads high, and despised every one, as if they had not even been subject to God; for they ventured to curse and insult God himself, and to mock at his holy word. “This pride,” says Isaiah, “shall be laid low, and this arrogance shall cease.”

And thy voice shalt be out of the ground. F515 What he had formerly said he expresses more fully by a metaphor, that they will utter a low and confused noise as out of caverns. F516 The voice of those who formerly were so haughty and fierce is compared by him to the speech of soothsayers, who, in giving forth their oracles out of some deep and dark cave under ground, uttered some sort of confused muttering; for they did not speak articulately, but whispered. He declares that these boasters (ajla>zonev) shall resemble them. Some interpret this expression as if the Prophet meant that they will derive no benefit from the chastisement; but the words do not convey this meaning, and he afterwards says that the Jews will be brought to repentance. Yet he first strikes terror, in order to repress their insolence; for they arrogantly and rebelliously scorned all the threatenings of the Prophet. By their being “brought down,” therefore, he means nothing else than that they shall be covered with disgrace, so that they will not dare to utter, as from a lofty place, their proud and idle boastings.

5. And as the small dust. F517 I shall first state the opinions of others, and afterwards I shall bring forward what I consider to be more probable. Almost all the commentators think that this expression denotes the enemies of the Jews; for they consider “foreigners” to mean “enemies,” and allege that the multitude of those who shall oppress the Jews shall be “like dust;” that is, it shall be innumerable. But when I examine closely the whole passage, I am more disposed to adopt a contrary opinion. I think that the Prophet speaks contemptuously of the garrisons on which the Jews foolishly relied, for they had in their pay foreign soldiers who were strong men.

The multitude of the mighty ones. Such is the interpretation which I give to yxyr[ (gnaritzim), which is also its literal meaning; and I see no reason why some of the Jews should suppose it to mean ungodly or wicked persons. Since, therefore, the Jews brought various garrisons from a distance, they thought that they were well defended, and dreaded no danger. The Prophet threatens that their subsidiary troops, though they were a vast multitude, shall in vain create a disturbance, for they shall be like “dust” or “chaff,” that is, useless refuse, for they shall produce no effect. F518 Hence we ought to infer, that our wealth and resources, however great they are, shall be reduced to nothing, as soon as the Lord shall determine to deal with us as he has a right to do. The assistance of men lasts indeed for a time; but when the Lord shall lift up his hand in earnest, their strength must crumble down, and they must become like chaff.

And it shall be in a moment suddenly. Some explain the concluding clause of this verse to mean, that the noise of the enemies’ attack shall spring up suddenly, and, as it were, in a moment. But I consider jyhw, (vehayah,) and it shall be, to relate to the time of duration, which he declares will be momentary; that is, those military aids shall not last long, but shall quickly vanish away. F519 In vain do men boast of them, for God is their enemy.

6. From Jehovah of hosts shalt thou be visited. He next assigns the reason why all this multitude of garrisons shall be “like chaff;” and he expresses this by an opposite metaphor, for with those soldiers he contrasts the anger and “visitation of the Lord.” What is “chaff” to the flame of “a devouring fire?” What is “dust” to the force and violence of a “whirlwind?” He shews that the vengeance of God will be such as all their preparations shall be unable to resist. This meaning, in my opinion, makes the passage to flow easily, and the clauses will not be so well adjusted, if we follow a different interpretation.

Hence we learn that those who assail us can do no more than what the Lord permits them to do. If therefore the Lord determine to save us, the enemies will accomplish nothing, though they raise up the whole world against us. On the other hand, if he determine to chastise us, we shall not be able to ward off his wrath by any force or bulwarks, which shall quickly be thrown down as by a “whirlwind,” and shall even be consumed as by “a flame.”

7. As a dream of a night-vision. This verse also I interpret differently from others; for they think that the Prophet intended to bring consolation to the godly. There is undoubtedly great plausibility in this view, and it contains an excellent doctrine, namely, that the enemies of the Church resemble “dreamers” in this respect, that the Lord disappoints their hopes, even when they think that they have almost gained their object. F520 But this interpretation does not appear to me to agree well with the text. Sometimes it happens that, when a sentence is beautiful, it attracts us to it, and causes us to steal away from the true meaning, so that we do not adhere closely to the context, or spend much time in investigating the author’s meaning. Let us therefore inquire if this be the true meaning of the Prophet.

Since he afterwards proceeds again to utter threatenings, I have no doubt that here he follows out the same subject, which otherwise would be improperly broken off by the present statement. He censures the Jews, and rebukes them for their obstinacy, in boldly despising God and all his threatenings. In short, by a most appropriate metaphor, he reproves them for their false confidence and presumption, when he threatens that the enemies shall arrive suddenly and unexpectedly, while the Jews shall imagine that they are enjoying profound peace, and are very far from all danger; and that the event shall be so sudden and unexpected, that it will appear to be “a dream.” “Although then,” says he, “thou indulgest the hope of uninterrupted repose, the Lord will quickly awake thee, and will drive away thy presumption.”

The Prophet says wittily, that the Jews are “dreaming,” because, in consequence of being drowned in their pleasures, they neither see nor feel anything, but, amidst the dizzy whirl, stupidly fancy that they are happy. Hence he infers that the enemies will come, as in “a dream,” to strike terror into those who are asleep, as it frequently happens that a pleasant and delightful sleep is disturbed by frightful dreams. It follows from this, that the pleasures which have lulled them to sleep will be of no advantage to them; for, though they do not at all think of it, yet a tumult will arise suddenly. This might still have been somewhat obscure, if he had not explained the subject more fully in the following verse.

8. It shall be therefore as when a hungry man dreameth. He compares the Jews to “hungry men,” who are indeed asleep, but whose empty stomach craves for food; for it is natural for men to dream about food and entertainment when they are in want of them. Thus, while the Jews watched, they were like “hungry men.” The Lord continually warned them by his prophets, and invited them to the divine feasts of the word; but they despised those feasts, and chose rather to take refuge wholly in their vices, and to fall asleep in them, than to partake fully of those sacred feasts. According]y, while they quieted their consciences, they imagined that they had abundance of all things, and that they were free from every inconvenience. Isaiah declares that they greatly resemble this “dream” and airy “vision;” for, when they have been aroused by a sudden calamity, they shall feel how empty and insubstantial those “dreams and visions” were, and how false and delusive was the opinion which they had formed that they enjoyed abundance. As “hungry men,” who have had such dreams, are rendered more feeble by them, so the people, who had been falsely persuaded that everything was going on well with them, will endure much greater uneasiness than if they had never cherished in their minds such a thought, but, on the contrary, had been aware of their poverty and nakedness.

So shall be the multitude. At first sight, the expression appears to be harsh, when he says, “The multitude of those who fight against Ariel shall be as a dream;” but it ought to be explained in this manner: — “When the Jews, through false hope, shall promise to themselves deliverance, as if the enemies would be driven far away, they shall quickly feel that they had been deceived; in the same manner as a person whom hunger leads to dream that he is feasting luxuriously, as soon as he awakes, feels that his hunger is keener than before.” I see nothing here, therefore, that is fitted to yield consolation, for the Prophet pursues the same subject, and exclaims against the scorn and rebellion of the Jews, on whom the Prophet could make no impression by exhortation or threatenings. F521

9. Tarry and wonder. Isaiah follows out the same subject, and attacks more keenly the gross stupidity of the people. Instead of “tarry,” some render the term, “Be amazed;” but the view which I prefer may be thus expressed: “Though they dwell much and long on this thought, yet it will end in nothing else than that, by long continued thought, their minds shall be amazed.” In short, he means that the judgment of God will so completely overwhelm their minds, that though they torture themselves by thinking and reflecting, still they will be unable to find any outlet or conclusion.

They are drunken, and not with wine. He now assigns the reason why fixed thought does not aid them in conquering their slowness of apprehension. It is, because they resemble drunkards. When, therefore, they neither see nor understand anything in the works of God, he shews that this is owing to their indolence and stupidity. A proof of this is given daily in many persons; for spiritual “drunkenness” engrosses and stupefies all their senses to such a degree, that they are blind to the plainest subjects; and, when God shews the brightest light of justice and equity, they are so completely dazzled, that their dim vision bewilders them more and more. This stupidity is a just punishment which the Lord inflicts on them on account of their unbelief.

In order that we may apply this statement of the Prophet for our own use, it is proper to observe, that these words of the Prophet must not be understood to be commands, as if he enjoined them to stop and think longer; but, on the contrary, he mocks and reproves their stupidity, as we have already said. (Pensez y tant que vous voudrez, vous n’y entendres rien) “Think as much as you please about it, you will not at all understand it.”

They are blinded, and they blind. F522 He means, that they are destitute of judgment and understanding, and that consequently it is useless for them to contemplate these works of God; for as the brightness of the sun is of no avail to the toad, so a blinded understanding in vain does its utmost to comprehend the majestic works of God. When he says that “they are blinded,” he means that by nature we are created so as to be endued with reason and understanding for contemplating the works of God; that our being “blinded” is, so to speak, an accidental fault, and that the drunkenness does not naturally belong to us, for it is owing to the ingratitude of men, which the Lord justly censures.

They stagger. This “staggering” of the mind is contrasted by him with a calm and quiet exercise of reason; for he means that violence of the passions which agitates the mind, and causes it to waver and reel.

10. Because Jehovah hath overpowered you with the spirit of slumber. For the purpose of shewing more clearly the source of this blindness, he attributes it to the judgment of God, who determined to punish in this manner the wickedness of the people. As it belongs to him to give eyes to see, and to enlighten minds by the spirit of judgment and understanding, so he alone deprives us of all light, when he sees that by a wicked and depraved hatred of the truth we of our own accord wish for darkness. Accordingly, when men are blind, and especially in things so plain and obvious, we perceive his righteous judgment.

Your prophets and principal seers. F523 He adds, that the people are deprived of those aids and helps which ought to have imparted light to the understanding and given direction to others. F524 Such was the office of the prophets, whom he describes by both of these names, yaybn, (nebiim,) and yzj, (chozim,) “prophets” and “seers.” In short, he means not only that men who are endued with reason and understanding will be deprived of common sense, but that their teachers also, whose duty it was to enlighten others, will be altogether senseless so as not to know the road, and, being covered with the darkness of ignorance, will shamefully go astray, and will be so far from directing others that they will not even be able to guide themselves.

11. Therefore every vision hath become to you. The Prophet expresses still more clearly what he had formerly said, that the blindness of the Jews will be so great that, though the Lord enlightens them by the clearest light of his word, they will understand nothing. Nor does he mean that this will happen to the common people alone, but even to the rulers and teachers, who ought to have been wiser than others, and to have held out an example to them. F524 In short, he means that this stupidity will pervade all ranks; for both “learned and unlearned,” he declares, will be so dull and stupid as to be altogether dazzled by the word of God, and to see no more in it than in a “sealed letter.” He makes the same statement, but in different words, which he had made in the former chapter, that the Lord will be to them as “precept upon precept, line upon line;” for they will always remain in the first rudiments, and will never arrive at solid doctrine. (<232813>Isaiah 28:13.)

In the same sense he now shews that, from the highest to the lowest, they will derive no benefit from the word of God. He does not say that doctrine will be taken away, but that, though it be in their possession, they will not have reason and understanding. In two ways the Lord punishes the wickedness of men; for sometimes he takes away entirely the use of the word, and sometimes, when he leaves it, he takes away understanding, and blinds the minds of men, so that “seeing they do not see.” (<230609>Isaiah 6:9.) First, therefore, he deprives them of reading, either by taking away the books through the tyranny of wicked men, as frequently happens, or by a false conviction of men, which leads them to think that the books were not delivered to be read universally by all. Secondly, although he allows them to handle and read the books, yet, because men abuse them, and are ungrateful, and do not look straight to the glory of God, they are blinded, and see no more than if not a single ray of the word had shone upon them. We must not boast, therefore, of the outward preaching of the word; for it will be of no avail unless it produce its fruit by enlightening our minds. It is as if he had said,

“On account of that covenant which he made with your fathers, the Lord will leave to you the tables of that covenant; but they shall be to you ‘a sealed letter,’ for you shall learn nothing from them.” (<050420>Deuteronomy 4:20, 37; 7:6.)

When we see that these things happened to the Jews, as Isaiah threatened, and when we take into view the condition of that people, which God had adopted and separated, it is impossible that we should not altogether tremble at such dreadful vengeance. Though they had been instructed both by the law and by the prophets, and had been enlightened by a light of surpassing brightness, yet they fell into frightful superstitions and shocking impiety; the worship of God was corrupted, all religion was scattered and overthrown, and they were rent and divided into various and monstrous sects. At length, when the Sadducees, the most wicked of them all, held the chief power, when all faith and all hope of a resurrection, and even of immortality, had been taken away, what, I ask, could they resemble but cattle or swine? for what is left to man if the hope of a blessed and eternal life be taken from him?

And yet the Evangelists (<402223>Matthew 22:23; <411218>Mark 12:18; <422027>Luke 20:27; <442308>Acts 23:8) plainly tell us that there were such persons when Christ came; for at that time these things were actually fulfilled, as they had been foretold by the Prophet, that we may know that these threatening were not thrown out at random or by chance, and that they did not fail of accomplishment, because at that time they were obstinately and rebelliously despised and scorned by wicked men. At that time, therefore, both their unbelief and their folly were clearly seen, when the true light was revealed to the whole world, that is, Christ, the only light of truth, the soul of the law, the end of all the prophets. At that time, I say, there was, in an especial manner, placed before the eyes of the Jews “that vail which was shadowed out in Moses,” (<023430>Exodus 34:30,) whom they could not look at on account of his excessive brightness; and it was actually fulfilled in Christ, to whom it belonged, as Paul tells us, to take away and destroy that vail. (<470316>2 Corinthians 3:16.) Till now, therefore, the vail lies on their hearts when they read Moses; for they reject Christ, to whom Moses ought to be viewed as related. In that passage “Moses” must be viewed as denoting the law; and if it be referred to its end, that is, to Christ, that vail will be taken away.

While we contemplate these judgments of God, let us also acknowledge, that he who was formerly the Judge is still the Judge, and that the same vengeance is prepared for those who shall refuse to lend their ear to his most holy warnings. When he expressly names the “learned and unlearned,” F525 it ought to be observed, that we do not understand spiritual doctrine, in consequence of possessing an acute understanding, or having received a superior education in the schools. Learning did not prevent them from being blinded. We ought, therefore, to embrace the word sincerely and earnestly, if we wish to escape this vengeance, which is threatened not only against the ignorant but also against the “learned.”

13. Therefore the Lord saith. The Prophet shews that the Lord, in acting with such severity towards his people, will proceed on the most righteous grounds; though it was a severe and dreadful chastisement that their minds should be stupefied by the hand of God. F526 Now, since men are so fool-hardy and obstinate, that they do not hesitate to contend with him, as if he were unjustly severe, the Prophet shews that God has acted the part of a righteous judge, and that the blame lies wholly on men, who have provoked him by their baseness and wickedness.

Because this people draweth near with their mouth. He shews that the people have deserved this punishment chiefly on account of their hypocrisy and superstitions. When he says that “they draw near with the mouth and the lips,” he describes their hypocrisy. This is the interpretation which I give to gn, (nagash,) and it appears to me to be the more probable reading, though some are of a different opinion. Some translate it, “to be compelled,” and others, “to magnify themselves;” but the word contrasted with it, to remove, F527 which he afterwards employs, shews plainly that the true reading is that which is most generally received.

And their fear toward me hath been taught by the precept of men. By these words he reproves their superstitious and idolatrous practices. These two things are almost always joined together; and not only so, but hypocrisy is never free from ungodliness or superstition; and, on the other hand, ungodliness or superstition is never free from hypocrisy. By the mouth and lips he means an outward profession, which belongs equally to the good and the bad; but they differ in this respect, that bad men have nothing but idle ostentation, and think that they have done all that is required, if they open their lips in honor of God; but good men, out of the deepest feeling of the heart, present themselves before God, and, while they yield their obedience, confess and acknowledge how far they are from a perfect discharge of their duty.

Thus he makes use of a figure of speech, very frequent in Scripture, by which one part or class denotes the whole. He has selected a class exceedingly appropriate and suitable to the present subject, for it is chiefly by the tongue and the mouth that the appearance of piety is assumed. Isaiah therefore includes, also, the other parts by which hypocrites counterfeit and deceive, for in every way they are inclined to lies and falsehood. We ought not to seek a better expositor than Christ himself, who, in speaking of the washing of the hands, which the Pharisees regarded as a manifestation of holiness, and which they blamed the disciples for neglecting, in order to convict them of hypocrisy, says,

“Well hath Isaiah prophesied of you, This people honoureth me with the lips, but their heart is far from me.”
(<401507>Matthew 15:7, 8.)

With the “lips” and “mouth,” therefore, the Prophet contrasts the “heart,” the sincerity of which God enjoins and demands from us. If this be wanting, all our works, whatever brilliancy they possess, are rejected by him; for “he is a Spirit,” and therefore chooses to be “worshipped” and adored by us “with the spirit” and the heart. (<430424>John 4:24.) If we do not begin with this, all that men profess by outward gestures and attitudes will be empty display. We may easily conclude from this what value ought to be set on that worship which Papists think that they render to God, when they worship God by useless ringing of bells, mumbling, wax candles, incense, splendid dresses, and a thousand trifles of the same sort; for we see that God not only rejects them, but even holds them in abhorrence.

On the second point, when God is worshipped by inventions of men, he condemns this “fear” as superstitious, though men endeavor to cloak it under a plausible pretense of religion, or devotion, or reverence. He assigns the reason, that it “hath been taught by men.” I consider hdmlm (melummadah) F528 to have a passive signification; for he means, that to make “the commandments of men,” and not the word of God, the rule of worshipping him, is a subversion of all order. F529 But it is the will of the Lord, that our “fear,” and the reverence with which we worship him, shall be regulated by the rule of his word; and he demands nothing so much as simple obedience, by which we shall conform ourselves and all our actions to the rule of the word, and not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.

Hence it is sufficiently evident, that those who learn from “the inventions of men” how they should worship God, not only are manifestly foolish, but wear themselves out by destructive toil, because they do nothing else than provoke God’s anger; for he could not testify more plainly than by the tremendous severity of this chastisement, how great is the abhorrence with which he regards false worship. The flesh reckons it to be improper that God should not only reckon as worthless, but even punish severely, the efforts of those who, through ignorance and error, weary themselves in attempts to appease God; but we ought not to wonder if he thus maintains his authority. Christ himself explains this passage, saying, “In vain do they worship one, teaching doctrines, the commandments of men.” (<401509>Matthew 15:9.) Some have chosen to add a conjunction, “teaching doctrines and commandments of men,” as if the meaning had not been sufficiently clear. But he evidently means something different, namely, that we act absurdly when we follow “the commandments of men” for our doctrine and rule of life.

14. Therefore, behold, I add to do. F530 He threatens that he will punish by blinding not only the ignorant or the ordinary ranks, but those wise men who were held in admiration by the people. From this vengeance we may easily learn how hateful a vice hypocrisy is, and how greatly it is abhorred by God, as the Prophet spoke a little before about human inventions; for what kind of punishment is more dreadful than blindness of mind and stupidity? This indeed is not commonly perceived by men, nor are they aware of the greatness of this evil; but it is the greatest and most wretched of all.

For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish. He does not speak of the common herd of men, but of their very leaders, who ought to have been like eyes. The common people in themselves are blind, like the other members of the body; and when the eyes are blinded, what shall become of the rest of the body? “If the light be darkness,” as Christ asks, “how great shall be the darkness!” This is added in order to place that vengeance in a more striking light.

Hence also, we may infer how vain and foolish is the boasting of the Papists, who think that they have shut the mouths of all men, when they have brought forward the name of Bishops, or other titles of the same kind, such as Doctors, or Pastors, or the Apostolic See. They have perhaps a different kind of wisdom from that which was possessed by the Jews; but whence did they derive it? They pretend that it came from God; but we see that the Prophet does not speak of the wise men of the Chaldeans or Egyptians, but of the order of priesthood which God had appointed, of the teachers, and chief rulers, and ensign bearers, of the chosen people and of the only Church; for under this term “wise men,” he includes all superior excellence and authority among the people.

15. Woe to them that conceal themselves from Jehovah. The Prophet again exclaims against those wicked and profane despisers of God, whom he formerly called yxl, (letzim,) “scorners,” who think that they have no other way of being wise than to be skillful in mocking God. They regard religion as foolish simplicity, and hide themselves in their cunning, as in a labyrinth; and on this account they mock at warnings and threatenings, and, in short, at the whole doctrine of godliness. From this verse it is sufficiently evident that the pestilence, which afterwards spread more widely, prevailed even at that time in the world, namely, that hypocrites delighted in mocking inwardly at God, and in despising prophecies. The Prophet therefore exclaims against them, and calls them yqym[m, (magnamikim,) that is, “diggers,” F531 as if they “dug” for themselves concealment and lurking-places, that by means of them they might deceive God.

That they may hide counsel. This clause is added for the sake of exposition. Some interpret the beginning of this verse, as if the Prophet condemned that excessive curiosity by which some men, with excess of hardihood, search into the secret judgments of God. But that interpretation cannot be admitted; and the Prophet plainly shews to whom he refers, when he immediately adds the mockeries of those who thought that their wickedness was committed in a manner so secret and concealed, that they could not be detected. The “hiding of counsel” means nothing else than hardihood in wickedness, by which wicked men surround themselves with clouds, and obscure the light, that their inward baseness may not be seen. Hence arises that daring question —

Who seeth us? For, although they professed to be worshippers of God, yet they thought that, by their sophistry, they had succeeded not only in refuting the prophets, but in overturning the judgment of God; not openly, indeed, for even wicked men wish to retain some semblance of religion, that they may more effectually deceive, but in their heart they acknowledge no God but the god which they have contrived. This craftiness, therefore, in which wicked men delight and flatter themselves, is compared by Isaiah to a hiding-place, or to coverings. They think that they are covered with a veil, so that not even God himself can see and punish their wickedness. As rulers are principally chargeable with this vice, it is chiefly to them, in my opinion, that the Prophet’s reproof is directed; for they do not think that they have sufficient acuteness or dexterity, if they do not scoff at God, and despise his doctrine, and, in short, believe no more than what they choose. They do not venture to reject it altogether, or rather, they are constrained, against their will, to hold by some religion; but they do so only as far as they think that they can promote their own convenience, and are not moved by any fear of the true God.

At the present day this wickedness has been abundantly manifested, and especially since the gospel was revealed. Under Popery men found it easy to transact with God, because the Pope had contrived a god who changed himself so as to suit the disposition of every individual. Every person had a different method of washing away his sins, and many kinds of worship for appeasing his deity. Consequently, none ought to wonder that wickedness was not seen at that time, for it was concealed by coverings of that sort; and when these had been taken away, men declared openly what they had formerly been. Yet not less common in our age is the disease which Isaiah bewailed in his nation; for men think that they can conceal themselves from God, when they have interposed their ingenious contrivances, as if “all things were not naked and open to his eyes,” (<580413>Hebrews 4:13,) or as if any man could deceive or be concealed from him. For this reason he says, by way of explanation —

For their works are in darkness. He assigns this as the cause of that foolish confidence by which ungodly men are intoxicated. Though they are surrounded by light, they are so slow of perception, that when they do not see it, they endeavor to flee from the presence of God. They even promise to themselves full escape from punishment, and commit sin with as much freedom as if they had been protected and fortified on all sides against God. Such is the import of their question, Who seeth us? Not that wicked men ventured openly to utter these words, as we have said, but because they thus spoke or thus thought in their hearts, which was manifested by their presumption and vain confidence. They abandoned themselves to all wickedness, and despised all warnings, in such a manner as if there would never be a judgment of God. The Prophet, therefore, had to do with ungodly men, who in appearance and name professed to have some knowledge of God, but in reality denied him, and were very bitter enemies of pure doctrine. Now, this is nothing else than to affirm that God is not a Judge, and to cast him down from his seat and tribunal; for God cannot be acknowledged without doctrine; and where that is set aside and rejected, God himself must be set aside and rejected.

16. Is your turning reckoned like potter’s clay! There are various ways of explaining this verse, and, indeed, there is some difficulty on account of the two particles, a (im) and yk (ki). a (im) is often used in putting a question, and sometimes in making an affirmation; and therefore some translate it truly. The word ˚ph (haphach) is considered by some to mean “turning upside down,” F532 as if he had said, “Shall your turning upside down be reckoned live clay?” Others render it “turning,” that is, the purposes which are formed in the heart. But the most generally received rendering is, “turning upside down” or “destruction.” As if he had said, “I would care no more about destroying you, than the potter would care about turning the clay; for you are like clay, because I have created you with my hand.”

But as the Prophet appears to contrast those two particles a (im) and yk (ki), I am more inclined to a different opinion, though I do not object to the former exposition, which contains a doctrine in other respects useful. My view of it therefore is this, “Shall your turning, that is, the purposes which you ponder in your heart, be like potter’s clay? Is it not as if the vessel said to the potter, Thou hast not formed me? Your pride is astonishing; for you act as if you had created yourselves, and as if you had everything in your own power. I had a right to appoint whatever I thought fit. When you dare to assume such power and authority, you are too little acquainted with your condition, and you do not know that you are men.” F533

This diversity of expositions makes no difference as to the Prophet’s meaning, who had no other object in view than to confirm the doctrine taught in the preceding verse; for he still exclaims against proud men, who claim so much power to themselves that they cannot endure the authority of God, and entertain a false opinion about themselves, which leads them to despise all exhortations, as if they had been gods. Thus do they deny that God has created them; for whatever men claim for themselves, they take from God, and deprive him of the honor which is due to him.

Only in the first clause would the meaning at all differ; for those who interpret a (im) affirmatively, consider this verse to mean, “Truly, I will destroy you as a potter would break the pot which he had made.” But as the Prophet had to do with proud men, who sought out lurking-places in order to deceive God, I rather view it as a question, “Are you so able workmen that the revolutions of your brain can make this or that, as a potter, by turning the wheel, frames vessels at his pleasure?” Let every person adopt his own opinion: I follow that which I consider to be probable.

17. Is it not yet a little while? The Lord now declares that he will make those wicked men to know who they are; as if he had said, “You are now asleep in your pride, but I shall speedily awake you.” Men indulge themselves, till they feel the powerful hand of God; and therefore the Prophet threatens that the judgment of God will overtake such profound indifference.

And Lebanon shall be turned into Carmel. F534 Under the names “Lebanon” and “Carmel” he intended to express a renovation of the world and a change of affairs. But as to the object of the allusion, commentators differ widely from each other. As Mount “Lebanon” was clothed with trees and forests, and “Carmel” had fruitful and fertile fields. Many think that the Jews are compared to “Carmel,” because they will be barren, and Christians to “Lebanon,” because they will yield a great abundance of fruits. That opinion is certainly plausible, as men are usually gratified by everything that is ingenious; but a parallel passage, which we shall afterwards see, (<233215>Isaiah 32:15), will shew that the Prophet here employs the comparison for the purpose of magnifying the grace of God; for, when he shall again begin to bless his people, the vast abundance of all blessings will take away from “Carmel” the celebrity which it possessed. He therefore threatens that he will turn “Lebanon” into “Carmel,” that is, a forest will become a cultivated field, and will produce corn, and the cultivated fields shall yield so great an abundance of fruits that, if their present and future conditions be compared, they may now be pronounced to be unfruitful and barren. This mode of expression will be more fully explained when we come to consider <233215>Isaiah 32:15.

Others view “Carmel” as an appellative, but I prefer to regard it as a proper name; for it means that those fruitful fields may now be reckoned uncultivated and barren, in comparison of the new and unwonted fertility. Others explain it allegorically, and take “Lebanon” as denoting proud men, and “Carmel” as denoting mean and ordinary persons. This may be thought to be acute and ingenious, but I choose rather to follow that more simple interpretation which I have already stated. That the godly may not be discouraged, he passes from threatenings to proclaim grace, and declares that when, by enduring for a little the cross laid on them, they shall have given evidence of the obedience of their faith, a sudden renovation is at hand to fill them with joy. And yet, by shutting out the ungodly from this hope, he intimates that, when they are at ease, and promise to themselves peace or a truce, destruction is very near at hand; for, “when they shall say, Peace and Safety,” as Paul tells us, “then sudden destruction will overtake them.” (<520503>1 Thessalonians 5:3.)

18. And in that day shall the deaf hear. He promises that the Church of God, as we have said, shall still be preserved amidst those calamities. Though the world be shaken by innumerable tempests, and tossed up and down, and though heaven and earth shall mingle, yet the Lord will preserve the multitude of the godly, and will raise up his Church, as it were, out of the midst of death. This ought to strengthen in no ordinary manner the faith of the godly; for it is an extraordinary miracle of God that, amidst the numerous and extensive ruins of empires and monarchies, which happen here and there, the seed of the godly is preserved, among whom the same religion, the same worship of God, the same faith, and the same method of salvation, are continued.

And the eyes of the blind shall see. But Isaiah appears here to contradict himself; for formerly he foretold that among the people of God there would be so great stupidity that nobody would understand, and now he says that even “the deaf” shall understand, and “the blind shall see.” He therefore means that the Church must first be chastised and purified, and that not in a common and ordinary way, but in a way so unusual that it will appear to have altogether perished. He therefore says, in that day, that is, after having punished the wicked and purified his Church, not only will he enrich the earth with an abundance of fruits, but, by renewing the face of it, he will at the same time restore “hearing to the deaf” and “sight to the blind,” that they may receive his doctrine. Men have no ears and no eyes, so long as this dreadful punishment lasts; the minds of all are stupefied and confounded, and do not understand anything. When the plagues and distresses shall have come to an end, the Lord will open his eyes, that they may behold and embrace his goodness and compassion.

This is the true method of restoring the Church, when it gives sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, which we see that Christ also did, not only to the bodies but also to the souls. (<430907>John 9:7,39.) We too have experienced this in our own time, when we have been brought out of the darkness of ignorance, in which we were enveloped, and have been restored to the true light; and eyes have been restored to see, and ears to hear it, which formerly were shut and closed; for the Lord “pierced them,” (<194006>Psalm 40:6,) that he might bring us to obey him. The blessing which he promised in the renovation of the earth was indeed a kind of proof of reconciliation; but far more excellent is that illumination of which he now speaks, without which all God’s benefits not only are lost, but are turned to our destruction. Justly does God claim for himself a work so glorious and excellent; because there is nothing for which there is less ground of hope than that the blind should recover sight, and that the deaf should recover hearing, by their own strength. This is evidently promised, in a peculiar manner, to the elect alone; for the greater part of men always continue in their darkness.

19. Then shall the humble again take joy in Jehovah. Such is my translation of this passage, while others render it, “They shall add,” or “continue to rejoice;” for the Prophet describes not a “joy” which is continued but rather a “joy” which is new. As if he had said, “Though they are now distressed and sorrowful, yet I will give them occasion of gladness, so that they shall again be filled with “joy.” He speaks of the “humble;” and hence it ought to be observed that our afflictions prepare us for receiving the grace of God; for the Lord casts us down and afflicts us, that he may afterwards raise us up. Thus, when the Lord corrects his people, we ought not to lose heart, but should recall to remembrance those statements, that we may always hope for better things, and may believe that, after such calamities and distresses, he will at length bring joy to his Church. Yet we again learn from it what I briefly mentioned a little before, that the grace of illumination does not belong indiscriminately to all; for, although all have been chastened together, yet not all have had their hearts subdued by affliction, so as truly to become “poor in spirit,” or “meek.” (<400503>Matthew 5:3, 5.)

20. For the violent man is brought to nought. He states more clearly what we have already mentioned in the former verse, namely, that the restoration of the Church consists in this, that the Lord raises up those who are cast down, and has compassion on the poor. But that purification of the Church, of which we have already spoken, is first necessary; for so long as the Lord does not execute his judgment against the wicked, and the bad are mixed with the good, so as even to hold the highest place in the Church, everything is soiled and corrupted, God is not worshipped or feared, and even godliness is trampled under feet. When therefore the ungodly are removed or subdued, the Church is restored to its splendor, and the godly, freed from distresses and calamities, leap for joy.

First, he calls them yxyr[, (gnaritzim,) “violent.” There are various interpretations of this word; but I think that the Prophet distinguishes between those who are openly wicked, and have no shame, F535 and those who have some appearance of goodness, and yet are not better than others, for they mock at God in their hearts. But perhaps by the two adjectives, “violent” and “scorners,” he describes the same persons; because, like robbers among men, they seize, oppress, treat with cruelty, and commit every kind of outrage, and yet are not withheld by any fear of God, because they regard religion as a fable.

And they who hastened early to iniquity. F536 Under this class he includes other crimes. He speaks not of the Chaldeans or Assyrians, but of those who wished to be reckoned in the number of the godly, and boasted of being the seed of Abraham.

21. That make a man an offender for a word. We have formerly stated who were the persons with whom the Prophet had to do, namely, with hypocrites and profane scorners, who set at nought all the reproofs and threatenings of the Prophets, and who wished to frame a God according to their own fancy. Such persons, desiring to have unbounded license, that they might indulge freely in their pleasures and their crimes, bore very impatiently the keen reproofs of the prophets, and did not calmly submit to be restrained. On this account they carefully observed and watched for their words, that they might take them by surprise, or give a false construction. I have no doubt that he reproves wicked men, who complained of the liberty used by the prophets, and of the keenness of their reproofs, as if they had intended to attack the people, and the nobles, and the priests; for hence arise the calumnies and false accusations which are brought even against the faithful servants of God. Hence arise those doubtful and ensnaring questions which are spread out as snares and nets, that they may either bring a righteous man into danger of his life, or may practice some kind of deceit upon him. We see that the Pharisees and Sadducees did so to Christ himself. (<402123>Matthew 21:23; 22:17; <430806>John 8:6.)

Who have laid a snare for him that reproveth in the gate. This latter clause, which is added for the sake of exposition, does not allow us to interpret the verse as referring generally to calumnies, and other arts by which cunning men entrap the unwary; for now the Prophet condemns more openly those wicked contrivances by which ungodly men endeavor to escape all censure and reproof. As it was “in the gates” that public assemblies and courts of justice were held, and great crowds assembled there, the prophets publicly reproved all, and did not spare even the judges; for at that time the government was in the hands of men whom it was necessary to admonish and reprove sharply. Instead of repenting, as they ought to have done when they were warned, they became worse, and were enraged against the prophets, and laid snares for them; for “they hated,” as Amos says, “him that reproveth in the gate, and abhorred him that speaketh uprightly.” (<300510>Amos 5:10.) This relates to all, but principally to judges, and those who hold the reins of government, who take it worse, and are more highly displeased that they should receive such reproofs; for they wish to be distinguished from the rank of other men, and to be reckoned the most excellent of all, even though they be the most wicked.

Who have laid snares. Commentators differ as to the meaning of the word! ˆwqy, (yekoshun;) for some render it “have reproved,” and others “have reproached,” as if the Prophet censured the obstinacy of those who resort to slanders, in order to drive reprovers far away from then. But I trust that my readers will approve of the meaning which I have followed.

And have turned aside the righteous man for nothing, that is, when there is no cause. F537 By wicked and deceitful contrivances, they endeavor to cause the righteous to be hated and abhorred by all men, and to be reckoned the most wicked of all; but, after having thus sported with the world, they will at length perish. Such is the consolation which the Lord gives, that he will not suffer the wickedness of the ungodly to pass unpunished, though they give way to mirth and wantonness for a time, but will at length restrain them. Yet “we have need of patience, that we may wait for the fulfillment of these promises.” (<581036>Hebrews 10:36.)

22. Therefore thus saith Jehovah. This is the conclusion of the former statement; for he comforts the people, that they may not despair in that wretched and miserable condition to which they shall be reduced. We ought to observe the time to which those things must relate, that is, when the people have been brought into a state of slavery, the temple overturned, the sacrifices taken away, and when it might be thought that all religion had fallen down, and that there was no hope of deliverance. The minds of believers must therefore have been supported by this prediction, that, when they were shipwrecked, they might still have this plank left, which they might seize firmly, and by which they might be brought into the harbour. We too ought to take hold of these promises, even in the most desperate circumstances, and to rely on them with our whole heart.

To the house of Jacob. The address made to them should lead us to remark, that the power of the word of God is perpetual, and is so efficacious that it exerts its power, so long as there is a people that fears and worships him. There are always some whom the Lord reserves for himself, and he does not allow the seed of the godly to perish. Since the Lord hath spoken, if we believe his word, we shall undoubtedly derive benefit from it. His truth is firm, and therefore, if we rely on him, we shall never want consolation.

Who redeemed Abraham. Not without good reason does he add, that he who now declares that he will be kind to the children of Jacob is the same God “who redeemed Abraham.” He recalls the attention of the people to the very beginning of the Church, that they may behold the power of God, which had formerly been made known by proofs so numerous and so striking that it ought no longer to be doubted. If they gloried in the name of Abraham, they ought to consider whence it was that the Lord first delivered him, that is, from the service of idols, which both he and his fathers had worshipped. (<011131>Genesis 11:31; 12:1; <062402>Joshua 24:2.) But on many other occasions he “redeemed” him; when he was in danger in Egypt on account of his wife, (<011217>Genesis 12:17,) and again in Gerar, (<012014>Genesis 20:14,) and again when he subdued kings, (<011416>Genesis 14:16,) and likewise when he received offspring after being past having children. (<012102>Genesis 21:2, 5.) Although the Prophet has chiefly in view the adoption of God, when the Lord commanded him to leave “his father’s house,” (<011201>Genesis 12:1,) yet under the word “redeemed” he includes likewise all blessings; for we see that Abraham was “redeemed” on more than one occasion, that is, he was rescued from very great dangers and from the risk of his life.

Now, if the Lord raised up from Abraham alone, and at a time when he had no children, a Church which he should afterwards preserve, will he not protect it for ever, even when men shall think that it has perished? What happened? When Christ came, how wretched was the dispersion, and how numerous and powerful were the enemies that opposed him! Yet, in spite of them all, his kingdom was raised up and established, the Church flourished, and drew universal admiration. No one therefore ought to doubt that the Lord exerts his power whenever it is necessary, and defends his Church against enemies, and restores her.

Jacob shall not now be ashamed. He means that it often happens that good men are constrained by shame to hang down their heads, as Jeremiah declares in these words, “I will lay my mouth in the dust.” (<250329>Lamentations 3:29.) Micah also says, “It is time that wise men should hide their mouth in the dust.” (<330716>Micah 7:16.) F538 For when the Lord chastises his people so severely, good men must be “ashamed.” Now, the Prophet declares that this state of things will not always last. We ought not to despair therefore in adversity. Though wicked men jeer and cast upon us every kind of reproaches, yet the Lord will at length free us from shame and disgrace. At the same time, however, the Prophet gives warning that this favor does not belong to proud or obstinate persons who refuse to bend their neck to God’s chastisements, but only to the humble, whom shame constrains to hang down their heads, and to walk sorrowful and downcast.

It may be asked, Why does he say, “Jacob shall not be ashamed?” For “Jacob” had been long dead, and it might be thought that he ascribed feeling to the dead, and supposed them to be capable of knowing our affairs. F539 Hence also the Papists think that the dead are spectators of our actions. But the present instance is a personification, such as we frequently find in Scripture. In the same manner also Jeremiah says, “In Ramah was heard the voice of Rachel bewailing her children, and refusing to be comforted, because they are not;” for he describes the defeat of the tribe of Benjamin by the wailing of “Rachel,” who was their remote ancestor. (<243115>Jeremiah 31:15.)

Isaiah introduces Jacob as moved with shame on account of the enormous crimes of his posterity; for Solomon tells us that “a wise son is the glory of his father and a foolish son brings grief and sorrow to his mother.” (<201001>Proverbs 10:1.) Though mothers bear much, still they blush on account of the wicked actions of their children. What then shall be the case with fathers, whose affection for their children is less accompanied by foolish indulgence, and aims chiefly at training them to good and upright conduct? Do they not on that account feel keener anguish, when their children act wickedly and disgracefully? But here the Prophet intended to pierce the hearts of the people and wound them to the quick, by holding out to them their own patriarch, on whom God bestowed blessings so numerous and so great, but who is now dishonored by his posterity; so that if he had been present, he would have been compelled to blush deeply on their account. He therefore accuses the people of ingratitude, in bringing disgrace on their fathers whom they ought to have honored.

23. Because, when he shall see his children. The particle yk (ki) is here used in its natural and original meaning of for or because. The Prophet assigns the reason why the disgrace of Israel shall be taken away. It is, because he will have children, and those who were thought to have perished will be still alive.

The work of my hands in the midst of him. By giving them this name, he intended, I have no doubt, to describe the astonishing work of redemption; for those whom God adopts to be his children, and receives into fellowship with himself, are made by him, as it were, new men, agreeably to that saying,

“And the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord.” (<19A218>Psalm 102:18.)

In that passage the Psalmist describes in a similar manner the renewal of the Church; for this description, as we have repeatedly stated on former occasions, does not relate to the general creation which extends to all, but leads us to acknowledge his power, that we may not judge of the salvation of the Church by the present appearances of things. And here we ought to observe various contrasts; first, between the ruinous condition of the Church and her surpassing beauty, between her shame and her glory; secondly, between the people of God and other nations; thirdly, between “the works of God’s hands” and the works of men, (for by God’s hand alone can the Church be restored;) and fourthly, between her flourishing condition and the ruinous and desolate state to which she had formerly been reduced. By the phrase, “in the midst of him,” is meant a perfect restoration, by which the people shall be united and joined together in such a manner as to occupy not only the extremities, but the very heart and the chief places of the country.

They shall hallow my name. Last of all, he points out the end of redemption. We were all created, that the goodness of God might be celebrated among us. But as the greater part of mankind have revolted from their original condition, God hath chosen a Church in which his praises should resound and dwell, as the Psalmist says, “Praise waiteth for thee in Zion.” (<196501>Psalm 65:1.) Now, since many even of the flock have degenerated, the Prophet assigns this office to believers, whom God had miraculously preserved.

They shall fear the God of Israel. Because hypocrites, as we have formerly seen, honor God with their lips, but are far removed from him in their heart, after speaking of the ascription of praise, he next mentions fear; thus meaning that our praises are reckoned of no value, unless we honestly and sincerely obey God, and unless our whole life testify that we do not hypocritically utter the name of God.

24. Then shall the erring in spirit learn wisdom. He again repeats that promise which he formerly noticed briefly; for so long as the understandings of men shall be struck with ignorance and blindness, even though they enjoy abundance of every kind of blessings, yet they are always surrounded and besieged by ruin. In making preparation for the restoration of the Church, the Lord therefore enlightens by his word, and illuminates by the light of understanding, his own people, who formerly wandered astray in darkness. He does this by the secret influence of the Spirit; for it would be of little value to be taught by the external word, if he did not also instruct our hearts inwardly.

And the murmurers shall learn doctrine. Some commentators translate yggwr (rogenim) “whisperers,” and others, “wanderers.” But it means that those who formerly murmured against the prophets, and could not endure their warnings, would be obedient and submissive; and therefore I have chosen to render it murmurers. Hence we see how wonderful is the mercy of God, who brings back into the path those who were highly unworthy, and makes them partakers of so great blessings. Let us carefully ponder this subject in private. Is there any one of us that has not sometimes “murmured” against God, and despised pure doctrine? Nay, more, if God had not softened the obstinate, and brought them mildly to obey, nearly the whole human race would have perished in their madness.


CHAPTER 30

Go To Isaiah 30:1-33

1. Woe to the rebellious children. The Prophet exclaims against the Jews, because, when they were unable to bear the burden, when they were hard pressed by the Assyrians and other enemies, they fled to Egypt for help. This reproof might appear to be excessively severe, were we merely to consider that weak and miserable men, especially when they are unjustly oppressed, have a right to ask assistance even from wicked persons; for it is a principle implanted in us by nature, that all human beings should willingly, and of their own accord, endeavor to assist each other. But when we come to the very sources, we shall find that no ordinary or inconsiderable guilt had been contracted by the people.

First, it is no light offense, but wicked obstinacy, to disregard and even despise God’s government, and follow their own inclinations. But Goal had strictly forbidden them to enter into any alliance or league with the Egyptians. (<021317>Exodus 13:17; <051716>Deuteronomy 17:16.) There were chiefly two causes of this prohibition. One was general, and related to alliances and leagues with other nations; for God did not wish that his people should be corrupted by the superstitions of the Gentiles. (<022332>Exodus 23:32; 34:15; <050702>Deuteronomy 7:2.) We are gradually infected, I know not how, by the vices of those with whom we have intercourse and familiarity; and as we are more prone by nature to copy vices than virtues, we easily become accustomed to corruptions, and, in short, the infection rapidly spreads from one person to another. This has happened to our own country, France, in consequence of having intercourse with many nations, which leads her too eagerly to imitate their vices, and has covered her with frightful pollution. This immoderate desire of forming alliances unlocked Asia to the Mahometans, and next laid Europe open to them; and though they still retain their moderation in eating and drinking, all that has been subdued by their arms has contracted nothing but filth and debasement. This is what we Frenchmen have also derived from our intercourse with other nations.

The second reason was special and peculiar to this nation; for, since the Lord had delivered the Jews out of Egypt, and commanded them to remember so remarkable a benefit, he forbade them to have any intercourse with the Egyptians. And if they had entered into an alliance with the Egyptians, the remembrance of that benefit might easily have been obliterated; for they would not have been at liberty to celebrate it in such a manner as had been commanded. (<021303>Exodus 13:3, 8,14.) It was excessively base to disregard the glory of God for the purpose of cultivating friendship with an irreligious and wicked nation. Since God intended also to testify to his people that he alone was more than sufficient to secure their safety, they ought to have valued that promise so highly as to exclude themselves willingly from other assistance. It was a very heinous crime to endeavor to gain the favor of heathen nations on all sides, and to deprive God of the honor due to him; for if they had been satisfied with having God’s protection alone, they would not have been in such haste to run down to Egypt. Their noisy eagerness convicted them of infidelity.

Yet I have no doubt that the Prophet directed his indignation against that sacrilege, because, by laboring earnestly to obtain the assistance of the nations around them, they withheld from God the praise of almighty power. Hence also the Spirit elsewhere compares that ardor to the extravagances of love, and even to licentious courses. (<240508>Jeremiah 5:8.) Ezekiel shews that, by joining the Egyptians, they acted as if a woman, shamefully transgressing the bounds of decency, not only ran furiously after adulterers, but even desired to associate with horses and asses. (<261626>Ezekiel 16:26.) And yet here he does not absolutely condemn all leagues that are made with idolaters, but has especially in view that prohibition by which the law forbade them to enter into alliance with the Egyptians. It is chiefly on account of the prohibition that he kindles into such rage; for it was not without pouring grievous contempt on God that they ran trembling into Egypt. For this reason he calls them yrrws, (sorerim,) obstinate and rebellious. We have explained this word at the first chapter. F540 It denotes men of hardened wickedness, who knowingly and willingly revolt from God, or whose obstinacy renders them objects of disgust, so that no integrity or sincerity is left in them. At first he reproves that vice on this ground, that they neglected the word of God, and were devoted to their own counsels.

That they may cover the secret. The words hksm ˚snl, (linsoch massechah,) are explained by some commentators to mean, “to pour out the pouring out.” Though this is not at variance with the Prophet’s meaning, yet it is more correctly, in my opinion, translated by others, “that they may cover a covering.” I have followed that version, because the words relate to counsels held secretly and by stealth, by which they cunningly endeavored to deceive the prophets, and, as it were, to escape from the eyes of God. Another rendering, “that they may hide themselves by a covering,” is absurd; for although it was for the sake of protection that they sought the Egyptians, yet he rather alludes to that craftiness of which I have spoken. Both expositions amount to the same thing. F541

By three modes of expression he makes nearly the same statement; that they “cover their counsels,” that is, keep them apart from God; that they do not ask at “the mouth of the Lord;” and that they do not suffer themselves to be governed by “his Spirit.” They who are guided by their own views turn aside to cunning contrivances, that they may conceal their unbelief and rebellion; and because they have resolved not to obey the word of God, neither do they ask his Spirit. Hence arises that miserable and shameful result. Wretchedly and ruinously must those deliberations and purposes end, over which the Lord does not preside. There is no wisdom that is not obtained from “his mouth;” and if we “ask at his mouth,” that is, if we consult his word, we shall also be guided by his Spirit, from whom all prudence and wisdom proceeds.

Let it be observed that two things are here connected, the word and the Spirit of God, in opposition to fanatics, who aim at oracles and hidden revelations without the word; for they wish to come to God, while they neglect and forsake the word, and thus they do nothing else than attempt, as the saying is, to fly without wings. First of all, let it be held as a settled principle, that whatever we undertake or attempt, without the word of God, must be improper and wicked, because we ought to depend wholly on his mouth. And indeed, if we remember what feebleness of understanding, or rather, what lack of understanding, is found in all mankind, we shall acknowledge that they are excessively foolish who claim for themselves so much wisdom, that they do not even deign to ask at the mouth of God.

If it be objected, that the Scriptures do not contain everything, and that they do not give special answers on those points of which we are in doubt, I reply, that everything that relates to the guidance of our life is contained in them abundantly. If, therefore, we have resolved to allow ourselves to be directed by the word of God, and always seek in it the rule of life, God will never suffer us to remain in doubt, but in all transactions and difficulties will point out to us the conclusion. Sometimes, perhaps, we shall have to wait long, but at length the Lord will rescue and deliver us, if we are ready to obey him. Although, therefore, we are careful and diligent in the use of means, as they are called, yet we ought always to attend to this consideration, not to undertake anything but what we know to be pleasing and acceptable to God.

The Prophet condemns the presumption of those who attempt unlawful methods, and think that they will succeed in them, when they labor, right or wrong, to secure their safety, as if it could be done contrary to the will of God. It is certain that this proceeds from unbelief and distrust, because they do not think that God alone is able to protect them, unless they call in foreign though forbidden assistance. Hence come unlawful leagues, hence come tricks and cheating, by which men fully believe that their affairs will be letter conducted than if they acted towards each other with candour and fairness. There are innumerable instances of this unbelief in every department of human life; for men think that they will be undone, if they are satisfied with the blessing of God, and transact all their affairs with truth and uprightness. But we ought to consider that we are forsaken, rejected, and cursed by God, whenever we have recourse to forbidden methods and unlawful ways. In all our undertakings, deliberations, and attempts, therefore, we ought to be regulated by the will of God. We ought always to consider what he forbids or commands, so as to be fully disposed to obey his laws, and to submit ourselves to be guided by his Spirit, otherwise our rashness will succeed very ill.

That they may add sin to sin. The Prophet says this, because the Jews, by those useless defences which they supposed to fortify them strongly, did nothing else than stumble again on the same stone, and double their criminality, which already was very great. Our guilt is increased, and becomes far heavier, when we endeavor, by unlawful methods, to escape the wrath of God. But we ought especially to consider this expression as applicable to the Jews, because, after having brought the Assyrians into Judea, (for they had called them to their assistance against Israel and Syria,) they wished to drive them out by the help of the Egyptians. (<121607>2 Kings 16:7, 17:4, 18:21.) The Jews were hard pressed by the Assyrians, and were justly punished for their unbelief, because they resorted to men, and not to God, for aid; and we see that this happened to many nations who called the Turk to their assistance. So far were the Jews from repenting of their conduct, and acknowledging that they had been justly punished, that they even added evil to evil, as if crime could be washed out by crime. On this account they are more severely threatened; for they who persevere in their wickedness, and rush with furious eagerness against God, and do not allow themselves to be brought back to the right path by any warnings or chastisements, deserve to be more sharply and heavily punished.

2. They walk that they may go down into Egypt. The reason why the Prophet condemns this “going down” has been already explained; F542 but as their guilt was aggravated by open and heinous obstinacy, he again repeats that they did this without asking at the mouth of God, and even in the face of his prohibition.

Strengthening themselves with the strength of Pharaoh. He again draws their attention to the source of the evil, when he says that it was done for the purpose of acquiring strength, because they placed confidence in the forces of the Egyptians. Hence arose that lawless desire of entering into a league. In this way they shewed that they cared little about the power of God, and did not greatly trust in him; and they openly displayed their unbelief.

It might be objected, that men are the servants of God, and that it is lawful for any one to make use of their services, whenever they are needed. I reply, that while we make use of the labors and services of men, it ought to be in such a manner as to depend on God alone. But there was another reason peculiar to the Jews, for they knew that God had forbidden them to call the Egyptians to their assistance, and, by doing so, they withheld from God all that they ascribed to Pharaoh and to his forces. Thus it is not without good reason that Isaiah contrasts Pharaoh with God; for the creatures are opposed to God, and enter, as it were, into contest with him when they rise up against God, or whenever men abuse them, or place their hearts and confidence in them, or desire them more than is lawful.

3. But to you shall the strength of Pharaoh be shame. He now shews what shall be the end of the wicked, who despise God and his word, and follow those schemes which are most agreeable to their own views. All that they undertake shall tend to their ruin. He threatens not only that they shall be disappointed of their hope, but also that they are seeking with great toil, destruction and ruin, from which they will gain nothing but sorrow and disgrace. To all wicked men it must unavoidably happen that, although for a time they appear to gain their object, and though everything succeeds to their wish, yet in the end all shall be ruinous to them. It is the just reward of their rashness, when they go beyond the limits of the word; for nothing that has been acquired by wicked and unlawful methods can be of advantage to any person.

By way of admission he calls it “the strength of Pharaoh,” as if he had said, “You think that you gain much protection from Pharaoh, but it will yield you reproach and disgrace. The shadow of Egypt, by which you hoped to be covered, will make you blush for shame.” Accordingly, both expressions, “shame” and “disgrace,” have the same meaning; and as hprj, (cherpah,) F543 reproach, is a stronger expression than “shame,” it is afterwards added for the purpose of bringing out the meaning more fully.

4. For his princes were in Zoan. The Prophet not only says that the aid of the Egyptians was sought, and that they were invited to assist, but expresses something more, namely, that the Jews obtained it with great labor and expense. They had to perform long and painful journeys, to endure much toil, and to expend vast sums of money, in order to arrive, loaded with presents, at the most distant cities of Egypt, which are here named by the Prophet. On this embassy were sent, not persons of mean or ordinary rank, but “princes” and nobles; and therefore the censure was more severe, because they slavishly solicited an alliance with Egypt, and wandered like suppliants through various countries. It is proper also to bear in mind the contrast which we have already pointed out. They did not need to go far to seek God; they did not need to endure much toil, or spend large sums of money, in calling on him. He invited them by his promise, “This is my rest,” and assured them that in that place they would not call upon him in vain. (<19D214>Psalm 132:14; <232812>Isaiah 28:12.) But those wretched persons despised God, and chose rather to torment themselves, and to run to the very ends of the world, than to receive the assistance which was offered to them.

5. They shall all be ashamed. He confirms the former statement; for it was very difficult to convince ungodly men that all that they undertook without the word of God would be ruinous to them. In order to punish them more severely, God sometimes bestows on them prosperity, that they may be more and more deceived, and may throw themselves down headlong; for by the righteous judgment of God it is brought about, that Satan draws them by these allurements, and drives them into his nets. Yet the final result is, that not only are they deprived of the assistance which they expected, but they are likewise severely punished both for their presumption and for their unbelief.

Of a people that will not profit them. He threatens not only that the Egyptians will prove false, as wicked men often forsake at the utmost need, or even treacherously ruin, those whom they have fed with empty promises, but that even though they endeavor to the utmost to fulfill the promises which they have made, still they will be of no use. Whatever may be the earnestness with which men endeavor to help us, yet, as events are in the hand of God, they will “profit nothing” without his blessing. It was difficult to believe when the Prophet spoke, that a nation so powerful could yield no assistance; but we ought always to hold it as a principle fully settled, that all the advantage that dazzles us in the world will vanish away, except in so far as God is gracious and kind, and makes it sure for our advantage.

6. The burden of the beasts of the south. After having spoken loudly against the consultations of the Jews about asking assistance from the Egyptians, he ridicules the enormous cost and the prodigious inconveniences which they endured on that account; for at so high a price did they purchase their destruction; and he threatens the same curse as formerly, because unhappily they acted in opposition to the word of God. He mentions “the south,” because they journeyed through a southern region, Egypt being situated to “the south” of Judea. He therefore calls them “beasts of burden” on account of the journey, and addresses them in order to pour contempt on men, because it was in vain to speak to them, and they were deaf to all exhortations. Accordingly, he threatens that the effect of this prediction shall reach the very “beasts of burden,” though men do not understand it.

In the land of trouble and distress. The people having proudly disregarded the threatenings, the Prophet seasonably turns to the horses and camels; and declares that, although they are void of reason, yet they shall perceive that God hath not spoken in vain, and that, though the people imagined that there was uninterrupted prosperity in Egypt, it would be a land of anguish and affliction even to the brute animals. The journey was labourious and difficult, and yet they shrunk from no exertion in order to satisfy their mad desire; and to such a pitch of madness was their ardor carried, that they were not discouraged by the tediousness of the journey.

The young lion and the strong lion. In addition to the inconveniences already mentioned, Isaiah threatens the special vengeance of God, that they shall encounter “lions” and beasts of prey. There was nothing new or uncommon in this to persons who traveled from Judea into Egypt; but here he threatens something extraordinary and more dangerous. In addition to the inconveniences and toils, and to the sums of money which they shall expend, God will also send disastrous occurrences, and at length they shall be miserably ruined.

This doctrine ought to be applied to us, who are chargeable with a fault exceedingly similar; for in dangers we fly to unlawful remedies, and think that they will profit us, though God disapproves of them. We must therefore experience the same result and fall into the same dangers, if we do not restrain our unbelief and wickedness by the word of God. We ought also to observe and guard against that madness which hurries us along to spare no expense and to shrink from no toil, while we obey with excessive ardor our foolish desire and wish. We had abundant experience of this in Popery, when we were held captives by it, running about in all directions, and wearying ourselves with long and toilsome pilgrimages to various saints; yet the greatest possible annoyances were reckoned by us to be light and trivial. But now, when we are commanded to obey God and to endure “the light yoke” of Christ, (<401130>Matthew 11:30,) we find that we cannot endure it.

7. Surely the Egyptians are vanity. F544 This verse contains the explanation of the former statement; for he repeats and threatens the same thing, that the Egyptians, after having worn out the Jews by various annoyances and by prodigious expense, will be of no service to them. “The strength of Egypt” will do them no good, even though he be earnest in assisting them, and employ all his forces. Thus shall the Jews be disappointed of their hope, and deceive themselves to their great vexation. The particle w (u) signifies here either for or surely, as I have translated it.

Therefore have I cried to her. He now shews that the Jews have no excuse for fleeing with such haste into Egypt, and that they are willingly foolish and unworthy of any pardon, because they do not repent when they are warned. When he says that he “cried” to Jerusalem, I consider this to refer to God himself, who complains that his distinct warnings and instructions produced no effect, and that his exhortation to them to sit still was not without foundation, but was intended to meet the troubles and calamities which he foresaw. Whence came that restlessness, but because they refused to believe the words of the Lord? In a word, he shews that it is mere obstinacy that drives them to flee into Egypt; for by “sitting still” they might provide for their safety.

By the word “cry” he means that he not only warned them by words, but likewise chastised them; and this makes it evident that their obstinacy and rebellion were greater. “To sit still” means here “to remain and to stay at home,” though he will afterwards shew (verse 15) that they ought to have peaceable dispositions. The cause of their alarm and impassioned exertions was, that they were terrified and struck with dismay, and did not think that God’s protection was sufficient, if they had not also the Egyptians on their side. Thus, they who do not give sufficient honor to God have their hearts agitated by unbelief, so that they tremble and never find peace.

8. Now go, and write this vision on a tablet. After having convicted the Jews of manifest unbelief, he means that it should be attested and sealed by permanent records, that posterity may know how obstinate and rebellious that nation was, and how justly the Lord punished them. We have said that it was customary with the prophets to draw up an abridgment of their discourses and attach it to the gates of the temple, and that, after having allowed full time to all to see and read it, the ministers took it down, and preserved it among the records of the temple; and thus the book of the prophets was collected and compiled. F545 But when any prediction was remarkable and peculiarly worthy of being remembered, then the Lord commanded that it should be written in larger characters, that the people might be induced to read it, and to examine it more attentively. (<230801>Isaiah 8:1; <350202>Habakkuk 2:2.) The Lord now commands that this should be done, in order to intimate that this was no ordinary affair, that the whole ought to be carefully written, and deserved the closest attention, and that it ought not only to be read, but to be engraven on the remembrance of men in such a manner that no lapse of time can efface it.

Yet there can be no doubt that Isaiah, by this prediction, drew upon himself the intense hatred of all ranks, because he intended to expose and hold them up for abhorrence, not only among the men of his own age, but also among posterity. There is nothing which men resent more strongly than to have their crimes made publicly known and fastened on the remembrance of men; they reckon it ignominious and disgraceful, and abhor it above all things. But the Prophet must obey God, though he should become the object of men’s hatred, and though his life should be in imminent danger. Here we ought to observe his steadfastness in dreading nothing, that he might obey God and fulfill his calling. He despised hatred, dislike, commotions, threatenings, false alarms, and immediate dangers, that he might boldly and fearlessly discharge the duties of his office. Copying his example, we ought to do this, if we wish to hear and follow God who calls us.

Before them. ta (ittam) is translated by some, “with them,” but it is better to translate it “before them,” or, “in their sight;” for it was proper that he should openly irritate the Jews, to whom he presented this prediction written “on a tablet.” Hence we ought to infer, that wicked men, though they cannot bear reproof and are filled with rage, ought nevertheless to be reproved sharply and openly; and that threatenings and reproofs, though they be of no advantage to them, will yet serve for an example to others, when those men shall be stamped with perpetual infamy. In them will be fulfilled what is written elsewhere,

“The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond engraven on their hearts.” (<241701>Jeremiah 17:1.)

They must not think that they have escaped, when they have despised the prophets and shut their ears against them; for their wickedness shall be manifest to men and to angels. But as they never repent willingly or are ashamed of their crimes, God commands that a record of their shame shall be prepared, that it may be placed continually before the eyes of men. As victories and illustrious actions were commonly engraved on tables of brass, so God commands that the disgrace which the Jews brought upon themselves by their transgressions, shall be inscribed on public tablets.

That it may be till the last day. It was very extraordinary, as I remarked a little before, that the Prophet was charged by a solemn injunction to pronounce infamy on his countrymen. For this reason he adds “till the last day,” either that they may be held up to abhorrence through an uninterrupted succession of ages, or because, at the appearance of the Judge, the crimes of the wicked shall be fully laid open when he shall “ascend his judgment seat, and the books shall be opened;” for those things which formerly were hidden and wrapped in darkness will then be revealed. (<270710>Daniel 7:10; Revelations 20:12.)

Here it ought to be carefully observed, that prophecies were not written merely for the men of a single age, but that their children and all posterity ought to be instructed by them, that they may know that they ought not to imitate their fathers.

“Harden not your hearts as your fathers did.” (<199508>Psalm 95:8.)

What Paul affirms as to the whole of Scripture is applicable to prophecy, that it

“is profitable for warning, for consolation, and for instruction,” (<550316>2 Timothy 3:16;)

and this is proper and necessary in every age. We must therefore reject the fancies of fanatics and wicked men, who say that this doctrine was adapted to those times, but affirm that it is not adapted to our times. Away with such blasphemies from the ears of the godly; for, when Isaiah died, his doctrine must flourish and yield fruit.

9. For this is a rebellious people. The word for or because points to the explanation of what has been already said; for the Prophet explains what the Lord intends to declare to posterity, namely, that the perverseness of this nation is desperate, because they cannot submit to be restrained by any doctrine. That the honorable appellation of the “people” wounded to the quick the hearts both of the ordinary ranks and of the nobles, may be inferred from their loud vaunting; for they boasted that they were the holy and elect seed of Abraham; as if God’s adoption had been a veil to cover the grossest crimes. But God commands that their crimes shall nevertheless be brought to light and openly proclaimed.

Who refuse to hear the law of Jehovah. By accusing them of this, he points out the source of all evils, namely, contempt of the word, which discovers their wickedness and their contempt of God himself; for it is idle to pretend that they worship God, when they are disobedient to his word. Isaiah likewise aggravates their guilt, by saying that they reject the remedy which doctrine offers for curing their diseases. On this account he calls them not only “rebellious,” and untameable or abandoned, but liars or treacherous persons; for they who refuse to obey the word of God, openly revolt from him, as if they could not endure his authority; and at the same time, they shew that they are given up to vanity and the delusions of Satan, so that they take no pleasure in sincerity.

10. Who say to the seers, See not. He now describes more clearly, and shews, as it were, to the life, the contempt of God and obstinacy which he formerly mentioned; for wicked men not only pour ridicule on doctrine, but furiously drive it away, and would even wish to have it utterly crushed and buried. This is what Isaiah intended to express. Not only do they turn away their ears, and eyes, and all their senses, from doctrine, but they would even wish that it were destroyed and taken out of the way; for wickedness is invariably attended by such rage as would lead them to wish the destruction of that which they cannot endure. The power and efficacy of the word wounds and enrages them to such a degree, that they give vent to their fierceness and cruelty like wild and savage beasts. They would gladly escape, but whether they will or not, they are constrained to hear God speaking, and to tremble at his majesty. This bitterness is followed by hatred of the prophets, snares, alarms, persecutions, banishment, tortures, and deaths, by which they think that they can overturn and root out both the doctrine and the teachers; for men are more desirous to have dreams and fabulous tales told them than to be faithfully instructed

See not, prophesy not to us right things. The Prophet does not relate the words of wicked men, as if they openly made use of these words, but he describes the state of the fact and their actual dispositions; for he had not to do with men who were such fools as to make an intentional discovery of their wickedness. They were singularly cunning hypocrites, who boasted of worshipping God, and complained that they were unjustly reproached by the prophets. Isaiah tears off the mask by which they concealed themselves, and discovers what they are, because they refused to give place to the truth; for whence came the murmurs against the prophets, but because they could not bear to hear God speaking?

The prophets were called seers, because the Lord revealed to them what would afterwards be made known to others. They were stationed, as it were, in a lofty place, that they might behold from on high, and as if from “a watch-tower,” (<350201>Habakkuk 2:1,) the prosperous or adverse events which were approaching. The people wished that nothing of an adverse nature should be told them; and therefore they hated the prophets, because, while they censured and sharply reproved the vices of the people, they at the same time were witnesses of the approaching judgment of God. Such is the import of those words, “Do not see, do not prophesy right things.” Not that they spoke in this manner, as we have already said, but because such was the state of their feelings, and because they desired that the prophets should speak with mildness, and could not patiently bear the sharpness of their reproofs. Not one of them was so impudent as to say that he wished to be deceived, and that he abhorred the truth; for they declared that they sought it with the greatest eagerness, as all our adversaries boast of doing at the present day; but they denied that what Isaiah and the other prophets told them was the word of God. In like manner they plainly told Jeremiah that he was “a liar,” (<244302>Jeremiah 43:2,) and threatened him more insolently,

“Thou shalt not prophesy in the name of the Lord,
lest thou die by our hand.” (<241121>Jeremiah 11:21.)

To them the truth was intolerable; and when they departed from it, they could find nothing but falsehood, and thus they willingly chose to be deceived and to have falsehood told them.

Speak to us smooth things. When he says that they desire “smooth things,” F546 he points out the very source; for they were ready to receive flatterers with unbounded applause, and would willingly have allowed their ears to be tickled in the name of God. And this is the reason why the world is not only liable to be carried away by delusions, but earnestly desires them; for almost all wish to have their vices treated with forbearance and encouragement. But it is impossible that the servants of God, when they endeavor faithfully to discharge their duty, should be chargeable with being severe reprovers; and hence it follows that it is an idle and childish evasion, when wicked men pretend that they would willingly be God’s disciples, provided that he were not rigorous. It is as if they bargained that, for their sake, he should change his nature and deny himself; as Micah also says, that no prophets were acceptable to the Jews, but such as “prophesied of wine and strong drink.” (<330211>Micah 2:11.)

11. Depart from the way. The amount of what is stated is, that when the prophets are set aside, the Lord is also rejected and set aside, and no regard is paid to him. Wicked men pretend the contrary, for they are ashamed to acknowledge so great wickedness. But they gain nothing by it; for God wishes that we should listen to him by means of those to whom he gave injunctions to declare his will to us, and to administer the doctrine of the word. If therefore it is our duty to listen to God, if we are bound to pay him any homage, we ought to shew it by embracing his word, as it is contained in the writings of the prophets and evangelists. This ought to be carefully observed in commendation of the word; for they who set it aside act as if they denied that he is God.

Cause the Holy One of Israel to depart. Here he again points out the cause of so great wickedness, which doubles their guilt; namely, that God does not spare or flatter their vices, but acts the part of a good and skillful; physician. Men desire to be flattered, and cannot patiently endure that God should threaten them. Hence it comes that men hate and reject the word. Hence proceeds the furious attack on the prophets, whose reproofs and threatenings they cannot endure; for there is no reason why men should revolt from the government of God, but because they take delight in what is wrong and crooked, and abhor the right way. Appropriately, therefore, does the Prophet join these two things, dislike of heavenly doctrine and hatred of uprightness.

12. Because you have disdained this word. He next declares the punishment of ungodliness, threatening that they shall not pass unpunished for refusing to hear God speaking; and he expresses their contempt more strongly by the word “disdain.” He calls it “this word,” making use of the demonstrative; for men would willingly contrive some word adapted to their manner of life, but refuse to listen to God when he speaks.

And trusted in violence and wickedness. God’s gentle invitation, and his exhortation to quiet rest, are here contrasted with their disorderly pursuits. The Hebrew word q[ (gnoshek) denotes “robbery,” and “seizing property which belongs to another.” Others render it “ill-gotten wealth.” Those who render it “calumny,” do not sufficiently express the Prophet’s meaning. For my own part, I do not view it as referring to riches gained by unlawful methods, but rather to that rebelliousness in which that nation insolently indulged.

The word “wickedness,” F547 which is added, ought not to be limited to decisions of courts of law; for, in my opinion, it has a more extensive signification; and by these two words he intended to express the presumption of wicked men, by which they fiercely and wantonly rose up against God, because they always dared to follow their own lawless desires, and to do what was forbidden. And as the poets feign that the giants made war with God, F548 so those men resisted God’s threatenings, and thought that they would speedily overcome his power by their fierceness and presumption.

13. Therefore shall your iniquity be like a breach falling. This is a threatening of punishment, and Isaiah expresses it by a very appropriate metaphor. He compares wicked men to a wall that is rent, or that bulges out. As the “swelling out” of a wall threatens the ruin of it, because it cannot stand unless all the parts of it adhere closely to each other, so the haughtiness and insolence of wicked men are a sign and very sure proof of their approaching ruin; because the more they are puffed up and swelled without any solid value, F549 the more readily do they throw themselves down headlong, and it is impossible for them not to fall speedily by their own weight. “Rise up,” says he, “and act insolently against God; he will quickly put down your presumption and insolence, for it is but an empty swelling.” Hence we learn that nothing is better for us than to submit wholly to God, and to keep charge of all our senses, so as to remain chained and bound by his authority; for they who raise themselves by shaking off all humility, destroy themselves by collecting much wind. For a time, indeed, the Lord permits wicked men to swell and utter their big words, that at length, by their “swelling” and idle boasting, they may bring upon themselves ruin and destruction.

14. And the breaking of it shall be. When a wall has fallen, some traces of the ruin are still to be seen, and the stones of it may be applied to use, and to some extent the wall may even be rebuilt. But here the Prophet threatens that they who are puffed up with obstinacy against God shall perish in such a manner that they cannot be restored, and all that is left of them shall be utterly useless. Accordingly, he employs the metaphor of a potter’s vessel, the broken fragments of which cannot be repaired or put together. These threatenings ought to make a deep impression upon us, that we may embrace with reverence the word of God, when we learn that punishments so severe are prepared for those who despise it; for the Prophet threatens that they shall be utterly destroyed and ruined, and takes away all hope of their being restored. Nor is the threatening groundless; for we see how they that despise God, when they have been twice and three times cast down, still do not cease to raise their crests; for nothing is more difficult than to root out the false confidence from their hearts. F550

15. For thus saith the Lord. Here he describes one kind of contempt of God; for when warnings are addressed to hypocrites in general terms, they commonly produce little effect. In addition to the general doctrine, therefore, the prophets specify particular instances, which they specially accommodate to the conduct of those with whom they have to do, so as always to aim at a definite object. They might have wrangled and urged, “Why do you accuse us of so great impiety, as if we rejected the word of the Lord?” He therefore brings forward this class, in order to strike their consciences and cut short their idle sophistry. Was it not the word of the Lord, In hope and silence shall be your strength? why did you not rely on God? why did you raise a commotion?” Thus the Prophet holds them to be convicted, so that they cannot cavil without the grossest impudence, or, if they do so, will derive no advantage.

The Holy One of Israel. He makes use of this appellation, in order to reproach them the more for their ingratitude, that they may know how great protection they would have found in God: for God wished to be their protector and guardian. When they had forsaken him, their distrust carried them away to solicit the aid of the Egyptians, which was very great and intolerable wickedness. This title contains a bitter complaint, that they shut out God from entering, when he drew near to them.

In rest and quietness shall you be safe. Some render hbw (shubah) “repentance.” Others render it “rest,” F551 and I am more disposed to adopt that rendering; for I think that the Prophet intended frequently to impress upon the people, that the Lord demands more from them than to rely fully upon him. Nor is the repetition of the statement by two words superfluous; for he expressly intended to bring together the words “rest and quietness,” in order to reprove the people the more sharply for their distrust and unbelief.

This verse consists of two clauses, a command and a promise. He enjoins the people to be of a quiet disposition, and next promises that their salvation shall be certain. The people do not believe this promise, and consequently they do not obey the command; for how would they render obedience to God, whom they do not believe, and on whose promises they do not rely? We need not wonder, therefore, that they do not enjoy peace and repose; for these cannot exist without faith, and faith cannot exist without the promises, and as soon as the promises have been embraced, souls that were restless and uneasy are made calm. Thus, unbelief alone produces that uneasiness; and therefore the Prophet justly reproves it, and shews that it is the source of the whole evil.

Though our condition be not entirely the same with that of the Jews, yet God commands us to wait for his assistance with quiet dispositions, not to murmur, or be troubled or perplexed, or to distrust his promises. This doctrine must belong equally to all believers; for the whole object of Satan’s contrivances is to distress them, and to cast them down from their condition. In like manner had Moses long before addressed them,

“You shall be silent, and the Lord will fight for you.”
(<021414>Exodus 14:14.)

Not that he wished them to sleep or to be idle, but he enjoined them to have this peace in their hearts. If we have it, we shall feel that it yields us sufficient protection; and if not, we shall be punished for our levity and rashness.

16. We will flee on horses; therefore shall you flee. He shews how they refused to wait calmly for the salvation of the Lord; for they chose rather to “flee” to the Egyptians. This is a very beautiful instance of (ajntana>klasiv) throwing back an expression, by which he causes their words, so full of confidence, to recoil on themselves. In the first of these clauses, “to flee” means “to escape,” and in the second it means “to take flight.” The Jews said that it would be better for them, if they adopted timely measures for guarding against the danger which was close at hand, and consequently, that they would best provide for their safety by calling in the aid of the Egyptians. “You shall certainly flee,” says Isaiah, “not to find a place of refuge, but to turn your back and to be pursued by horses swifter than yours.”

We now perceive more clearly what is the fault which Isaiah describes. By the distinct reply, No, he shews how obstinately they refused to comply with the advice which was given to them by the prophets, and chose rather to provide for their safety in another manner. Thus, by despising God, they gave a preference to a groundless appearance of safety, which they had allowed themselves to imagine. We ought, therefore, to turn away our minds from looking at present appearances and outward assistance, that they may be wholly fixed on God; for it is only when we are destitute of outward aid that we rely fully on him. It is lawful for us to use the things of this world for our assistance, but we altogether abuse them by our wickedness in forsaking God.

It is proper also to observe how unhappy is the end of those who rely more on outward aids than on God; for everything must be unsuccessful and contrary to their expectation; as we see that these men, in their attempts to find safety, are constrained to undertake a flight which is highly disgraceful, and from which they obtain no advantage. At first there is some appearance of prosperity; but the only effect is, that the change of condition makes the final result more bitter and distressing. And yet Isaiah does not affirm that they will receive no assistance from Egypt, but forewarns them that the Lord will find new methods of thwarting that assistance, so that they will not be able to escape his hand; for, although all men agree together, yet they will not succeed in opposition to God and to his purposes.

17. A thousand, as one, shall flee at the rebuke of one. Because the Jews, on account of their vast numbers, relied on their forces. as men are wont to do when they possess any power, therefore the Prophet threatens that all the protection which they have at home will be of no more avail to them than foreign aid, because the Lord will break and take away their courage, so that they shall not be able to make use of their forces. For what avail arms and a vast multitude of men? What avail fortresses and bulwarks, when men’s hearts fail and are dismayed? It is therefore impossible for us to be strong and powerful, unless the Lord strengthen and uphold us by his Spirit. This statement occurs frequently in the law, that when they should revolt from God, a vast number of them would be put to flight by a very small number of enemies. But there is this difference between the law and the prophets, that the prophets apply to a particular subject what Moses announced in general terms, as we have formerly explained. F552

Here two observations must be made. First, we shall have just as much courage as the Lord shall give us; for we immediately lose heart, if he do not support us by his power. Secondly, it is the result of the righteous vengeance of God, that we are terrified by men, when he could not prevail upon us to fear him; that, when we have despised God’s word and warnings, we fall down in terror at the words and threatenings of men. But we must also add, thirdly, God needs not extensive preparations to chastise us; for, if he lift up but a finger against us, we are undone. A small and feeble army will be sufficient to destroy us, even though we be well prepared, and have great numbers on our side. Next, he threatens that there will be no end to these calamities till they have been reduced to the last extremity, and until, amidst the frightful desolation of the earth, but few tokens of God’s compassion are left.

As the mast of a ship on the top of a mountain. This may be explained in two ways. Some consider the metaphor to be taken from trees which have been cut down; for, when a forest is cut down, lofty trees are left which may be of use for building ships. But rh, (har,) “a mountain,” probably denotes also a rock or promontory, against which ships are dashed, and to which they adhere, and on which a “mast,” the emblem of shipwreck, is afterwards seen. F553

As a banner on a hill. Another metaphor is now added, borrowed from trophies erected to commemorate the defeat of enemies. In short, the Prophet declares that they will be so few that all that remains shall be an indication of very great ruin. As if he had said, “This great multitude which you now have dazzles your eyes; but there will be such ruin and decrease that you shall no longer have the face of a people.” We are thus reminded how humbly and modestly we ought to conduct ourselves, even though we have great wealth and numerous forces; for if our mind be puffed up, God will speedily beat down our pride, and render us more feeble and cowardly than women and children, so that we shall not be able to bear the sight even of a single enemy, and all our strength shall melt away like snow.

18. Therefore will Jehovah wait. The Prophet now adds consolation; for hitherto he threatened to such an extent that almost all the godly might be thrown into despair. He intended therefore to soothe their minds, and encourage them to hope for better things, that they might embrace the mercy of God in the midst of those miseries, and might thus nourish their souls by his word. He contrasts this “waiting” with the excessive haste against which he spoke loudly at the beginning of the chapter, where he reproved the people for noisy haste, and condemned them for unbelief; but now, on the contrary, he reproaches them by saying that the Lord will not render like for like in consequence of the contempt with which they have treated him, and will not in that manner hasten to punish them. Others explain it, “He commands you to wait,” or “he will cause you to wait.” But the meaning which I have brought forward appears to me to be more appropriate.

For Jehovah is a God of judgment. To make the former statement more plain, we must lay down this principle, that God exercises moderation in inflicting punishment, because he is inclined to mercy. This is what he means by the word “judgment;” for it denotes not only punishment, but also the moderation which is exercised in chastening. In like manner, Jeremiah says,

“Chasten me, O Lord, but in judgment, not in thy wrath,
lest thou crush me.” (<241024>Jeremiah 10:24.)

And again, I will not consume thee, but will chastise thee in judgment. F554 (<243011>Jeremiah 30:11.) “Judgment” is thus contrasted with severity, when the Lord observes a limit in punishing believers, that he may not ruin those whose salvation he always promotes; and, accordingly, as Habakkuk says, “in the midst of wrath he remembers his mercy.” (<350302>Habakkuk 3:2.) He is not like us, therefore; he does not act with bustling or hurry, otherwise at every moment we must perish, but he calmly waits. Nor is it a slight confirmation of this when he adds, that God gives a proof of his glory by pardoning his people.

And therefore will he be exalted, that he may be gracious to you. Others translate the words, “till he be gracious to you;” but I think that the former translation is more appropriate, and it agrees better with the meaning of the particle l (lamed.) The Lord appears to lie still or to sleep, so long as he permits his Church to be assailed by the outrages of wicked men; and the customary language of Scripture is to say that he sits, or lies unemployed, when he does not defend his Church. It might be thought that he lay still when he gave loose reins to the Chaldeans to oppress the Jews; and therefore the Prophet says, that the Lord will arise and ascend his judgment-seat. Why? “That he may be gracious to you.”

Blessed are all that wait for him. This is an inference from the former statement, in which he called Jehovah “a God of judgment.” While he thus restrains himself, he draws from it an exhortation to patience and “waiting,” and makes use of a part of the same verb, “wait,” which he had formerly used. They were chargeable with distrust, and were distressed by strange uneasiness and restlessness of mind; for they were fearfully harassed by their unbelief, so that they could not “wait” for God calmly. To cure this vice, he enjoins them to “wait,” that is, to hope. Now, hope is nothing else than steadfastness of faith, that is, when we wait calmly till the Lord fulfill what he has promised. When he says that they who shall patiently “wait” for him will be “blessed,” he declares, on the other hand, that they who allow themselves to be hurried away by impatience, and do not repent of their crimes and their wickedness, are wretched and miserable, and will at length perish; for without hope in God there can be no salvation or happiness.

19. Surely the people in Zion shall dwell in Jerusalem. He confirms the former statement, that the people will indeed be afflicted, but will at length return to “Zion.” Now, this might be thought incredible after the desolation of the city and of the whole country, for it seemed as if the whole nation had perished; yet Isaiah promises that the Church shall be preserved. He begins with Mount “Zion,” on which the temple was built, and says that there men will henceforth call on the Lord. He likewise adds, “in Jerusalem,” by which he means that the Church shall be enlarged and increased, and that all that had formerly been laid waste shall be restored. Yet he intimates that “Jerusalem” shall again be populous, because God had chosen it to be his sanctuary.

Weeping thou shalt not weep. F555 The meaning is, that this mourning shall not be perpetual. The Church, that is, all believers, while they were in this wretched and distressed condition, must have been exceedingly sorrowful; but he says that those tears shall come to an end. To the same purport is it said by the Psalmist, “They who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” (<19C605>Psalm 126:5.) The Lord permits us indeed to be afflicted with great anguish; but at length he cheers us, and gives us reason for gladness, when he restores his Church; for that is the true joy of believers. Besides, as it is difficult to taste any consolation when the mind is overwhelmed by a conviction of God’s vengeance, he holds out a ground of consolation in the mercy of God, because, when he is appeased, there is no reason to dread that joy and peace shall not immediately return. But, as the Prophet Habakkuk says in the passage already quoted, “in his wrath the Lord remembers mercy;” and he never punishes believers with such severity as not to restrain and moderate his strokes, and put a limit to his chastisements. (<350302>Habakkuk 3:2.)

At the voice of thy cry. The Prophet points out the manner of obtaining pardon, in order to arouse believers to pray earnestly, and to supplicate with earnest groanings; for if there be no repentance, if we do not ask pardon from God, we are altogether unworthy of his mercy. If, therefore, we wish that the Church should be gathered together, and rescued from destruction by a kind of resurrection, let us cry to God to listen to our sighs and groanings; and if there be no sorrow of heart that excites us to prayer, we have no right to expect any alleviation.

He will answer thee. This means nothing else than that he will give evidence of his kindness and aid; for the Lord “answers,” not by word, but by deed. Yet let us not think that he will instantly comply with our wishes, which are often hasty and unseasonable. He will undoubtedly assist us when the proper time arrives, so that we shall know that he had in view our salvation.

20. When the Lord shall have given you. He continues the same subject, and strengthens believers, that they may not faint; for patience springs from the hope of a more prosperous issue. Accordingly, he prepares them for enduring future chastisement, for the wrath of God will press hard on them for a time; but he immediately promises that a joyful issue awaits them, when they shall have endured those calamities and distresses; for God will restrain his severity. Thus, I consider w (vau) to mean “When” or “After;” as if he had said, “When you shall have endured those troubles, then will the Lord bless you; for he will change your condition for the better.”

Thy rain shall no longer be restrained. F556 The word hrwm (moreh) is viewed by some commentators as meaning “a teacher.” But this does not agree with the context; for, although the chief fruit of our reconciliation to God is to have faithful “teachers,” yet, as the ignorant multitude was more deeply affected by the want of food, Isaiah accommodates his language to their ignorance, and gives them a taste of God’s fatherly kindness under the emblem of abundance of food.

By the words “bread” and “water,” he means extreme want and scarcity of all things, and therefore he calls it “bread of anguish and water of affliction.” F557 Instead of this famine, he says that he will send them plenty and abundance. This is what he means by the word rain; for he describes the cause instead of the effect, as if he had said, “The earth shall yield fruit in abundance.” This had a literal and special reference to a country, the fertility of which depended entirely on heaven; for it was not watered by rivers or fountains, but by rains.

“The land whither ye go to possess it,” says Moses, “is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven.” (<051111>Deuteronomy 11:11.)

He declares that the fruits of the earth, which the Lord took away or diminished by barrenness, will return; because, in consequence of the copious “rains,” F558 there will be large and abundant produce. Thus, when the Lord shall punish us, let us comfort our hearts with these statements and promises.

21. Then shall thine ears hear. It was indeed no despicable promise which he made of an abundant produce of the fruits of the earth, but the chief ground of gladness and joy is, when God restores to us pure and sound doctrine; for no scarcity of wheat ought to terrify and alarm us so much as a scarcity of the word; and indeed, in proportion as the soul is more excellent than the body, so much the more ought we to dread this kind of famine, as another prophet also reminds us. (<300811>Amos 8:11.) Isaiah promises this to the Jews as the most valuable of all blessings, that they shall be fed with the word, by the want of which they had formerly been heavily afflicted. The false prophets also boast of the word, and in a more haughty and disdainful manner than godly teachers: they wish to be reckoned and declared to be the best guides; but they lead men into error, and at length plunge them into destruction. But the word which points out the right path comes from God alone, though it would be of little service to us, if he did not also promise that he would give us ears; for otherwise he would speak to the deaf, and we should hear nothing but a confused sound

A word behind thee. These words must be extended so far as to mean that he will not permit what he speaks to us to be useless, but will inwardly move our understandings and hearts, so as to train them to true obedience; for by nature we are not willing to learn, and must be altogether formed anew by his Spirit. The word hear is very emphatic. He compares God to a schoolmaster, who places the children before his eyes, that he may more effectually train and direct them; by which he expresses the wonderful affection and care manifested towards us by God, who does not reckon it enough to go before us, but also “with his eye upon us gives us direction.” (<193208>Psalm 32:8.) But the Prophet declares that they who follow God as their guide will be in no danger of going astray.

Walk ye in it. This is an exhortation to cheerful progress, so that their journey may not be retarded, as frequently happens, by any uncertainty. What he adds, about the right hand and the left, might be thought absurd; for when Moses pointed out to the people the way in which they should walk, he at the same time charged them “not to turn aside to the right hand or to the left.” (<050532>Deuteronomy 5:32; 17:20.) The road is straight and we ought not to seek any departures from it.

What then does the Prophet mean? I reply, he uses the words “Right” and “Left” in a different sense; for he means by them every kind of transactions which we must undertake to perform. These are various, as there are also various modes of living; and every person meets with difficulties of many kinds, and is under the necessity of deliberating about them. By the “right and left hand,” therefore, he means all the actions of human life, whatever they are, so that, in all that we undertake, we may have God for our guide, and may always regulate our transactions by his authority, whether we must go “to the right hand or to the left.” And hence we derive very great consolation, that the Lord will favor our undertakings, and will direct our steps, to whatever hand we turn, provided only that we do not turn aside from the path which he points out to us.

22. Then shall you profane the covering. This shews that the heavenly direction will not be without effect; for they will bid adieu to their errors, and devote their minds to the pure worship of God; and the Prophet expressly mentions the outward profession of true godliness, by which they will openly proclaim that they have renounced idolatry. For, since statues and images are instruments of idolatry and superstition, they who are truly converted to God detest and abhor them, and, as far as lies in their power, profane them as we read that Jehu did, who profaned the altars of Baal, and turned his temple into a common sewer. (<121027>2 Kings 10:27.) The example given by him and by others of the same class ought to be followed by godly princes and magistrates, if they wish to give a genuine proof of their repentance; for, although repentance is seated in the heart, and has God for a witness, it is shewn by its fruits. Isaiah has mentioned one class of them instead of the whole; for in general he shews that the proof of true repentance is, when men make it appear that they hold in abhorrence everything that is opposed to the worship of God. When he says that the idols are profaned, he does not mean that they were formerly sacred; for how could anything be sacred that dishonors God, and defiles men by its pollution? But, as men falsely imagine that they possess some sacredness, that is the reason why he says that they are “profaned,” and that they ought to be despised and rejected as things of no value and altogether unclean.

The covering F559 of the graven images of thy silver. When he speaks of the “silver” and “gold” of the graven images, he means that no loss or damage prevents believers from abhorring the worship of idols. Such considerations restrain many from casting away idols altogether, because they see that “gold” or “silver” or something else is lost, and they choose rather to keep their idols than to sustain the smallest loss. Covetousness holds them in its net, so that they are more willing to sin of their own accord, and to pollute themselves with these abominations, than to lose this or that. But we ought to prefer the worship of God to everything else, to set little value on gold, to cast away pearls, and to loathe everything that is accounted precious, rather than defile ourselves with such crimes. In short, nothing can be so valuable that it ought not to be despised and reckoned worthless by us, when it comes into competition with overturning the kingdom of Satan and restoring the worship of God. In this manner we actually shew whether the love of God and of religion dwells in our hearts, when a sincere abhorrence of our wicked ignorance drives us to throw away all that is polluted.

23. Then will he give rain to thy seed. From the fruit he again shews how desirable it is to be converted to God; for the fruit of repentance is, that he receives converted persons into favor, and bestows his blessing on them, so that they are in want of nothing, but, on the contrary, are loaded with every kind of blessings. As troubles and distresses proceed from the wrath of God, whom we provoke by our crimes, so, when he is pacified, everything goes on prosperously with us, and we obtain every sort of kindness, as the Law more fully testifies. (<032603>Leviticus 26:3-13; <052803>Deuteronomy 28:3-14.) A little before, he had spoken of “rain,” from which they were led to expect an abundant supply of food; but because he had not observed order in beginning with earthly and fading blessings, he therefore now adds to doctrine, which is spiritual nourishment, those things which belong to the use of this corruptible life; for, although godliness has the promise of the present life as well as “of that which is to come,” (<540408>1 Timothy 4:8,) yet first of all it aims at heaven. (<400633>Matthew 6:33.)

Hence also let us learn that it is in vain for men to toil in cultivating their fields, if the Lord do not send rain from heaven. Our labors must be watered by him, and he must “give the increase;” otherwise they will be of no service. Yet we must not expect rain but from the blessing of God; and if we receive abundant produce, we ought to give to him the glory. Hence learn also that we shall be in want of nothing, and shall obtain very abundant fruits of our labors, if we are converted to God, and that it is our own fault that we often suffer poverty and want, because by our wickedness we drive away from us the blessing of God. Let us not therefore ascribe barrenness and famine to any other causes than to our own fault; for it is impossible that there should be so great a multitude of men as to be incapable of deriving support and nourishment from the earth; but by our iniquities and transgressions we shut the bosom of the earth, which would otherwise be laid open to us, and would abundantly yield fruits of every description, that we might lead a prosperous and happy life.

And thy cattle shall feed. What he now adds about the “cattle” tends greatly to magnify the grace of God; for if his kindness overflows even on the dumb cattle, (<193606>Psalm 36:6,) how much more on men whom “he created after his image.” (<010127>Genesis 1:27.) But we need not wonder if brute beasts, which were created for the use of men, suffer hunger along with their masters, and that they have a share in the bestowal of favor when God is reconciled to men.

24. Thine oxen also. When he promises that the oxen and the asses shall eat abundant and clean provender, this is a repetition and confirmation of what was stated in the preceding verse. This passage is taken from the Law, (<052811>Deuteronomy 28:11,) and is gladly and frequently quoted by the prophets, in order that we may learn to discern in the sickness and death of cattle the indignation of God, and to desire more earnestly to be reconciled to him, that our houses may be filled with his goodness.

25. And it shall come to pass. When the prophets describe the kingdom of Christ, they commonly draw metaphors from the ordinary life of men; for the true happiness of the children of God cannot be described in any other way than by holding out an image of those things which fall under our bodily senses, and from which men form their ideas of a happy and prosperous condition. It amounts therefore to this, that they who obey God, and submit to Christ as their king, shall be blessed. Now, we must not judge of this happiness from abundance and plenty of outward blessings, of which believers often endure scarcity, and yet do not on that account cease to be blessed. But those expressions are allegorical, and are accommodated by the Prophet to our ignorance, that we may know, by means of those things which are perceived by our senses, those blessings which have so great and surpassing excellence that our minds cannot comprehend them.

And on every high hill there shall be streams. When he says that “on the mountains” there shall be “streams and rivulets,” he gives a still more striking view of that plenty and abundance with which the Lord will enrich his people. Water is not plentiful on the peaks of the mountains, which are exceedingly dry; the valleys are indeed well moistened, and abound in water; but it is very uncommon for water to flow abundantly on the tops of the mountains. Yet the Lord promises that it shall be so, though it appear to be impossible; but by this mode of expression he foretells that, under the reign of Christ, we shall be happy in every respect, and that there will be no place in which there shall not be an abundant supply of blessings of every description; that nothing will be so barren as not to be rendered fruitful by his kindness, so that everywhere we may be happy. This is what we should actually experience, if we were fully under the authority of Christ. We should plainly see his blessing on all sides, if we sincerely and honestly obeyed him; everything would go on to our wish; and the whole world and everything in it would contribute to our comfort; but, because we are very far from yielding that obedience, we have only a slight taste of those blessings, and enjoy them so far as we have advanced in newness of life.

By the day of slaughter, is denoted another mark of the divine favor, that God will keep his people safe and sound against the violence of enemies; and in this way the Prophet gives credibility to the former prediction; for otherwise it would have been difficult to believe that captives and exiles would enjoy such prosperity. Here he speaks therefore of the slaughter of the wicked; as if he had said, “The Lord will not only do you good, but will also drive out your enemies.” It is generally thought that the Prophet now speaks of the defeat which befell the wicked king Sennacherib when he besieged Jerusalem. (<121935>2 Kings 19:35; <233736>Isaiah 37:36.) But when I examine it more closely, I am more disposed to view this passage as referring to the destruction of Babylon; for although a vast multitude of persons was slain, when Sennacherib was shamefully put to flight, yet still the people were not delivered. This reminds us that we ought not to despair, even though our enemies be very numerous, and leave abundance of garrisons, troops, and fortifications; for the Lord can easily put them to flight and defend his Church. Let us not be terrified at their power or rage, or be discouraged because we are few in number; for neither their troops, nor their bulwarks, nor their rage and insolence, will hinder them from falling into the hands of God.

26. And the light of the moon shall be. The Prophet was not satisfied with describing an ordinary state of prosperity, without adding something extraordinary; for he says that the Lord will go beyond the course of nature in this kindness and liberality. It never happened that the brightness of “the sun” was increased, unless when “the sun” stood still in the days of Joshua, in order to give time for pursuing the enemies, (<061012>Joshua 10:12,13,) and when, for the sake of Hezekiah, the dial went backward. (<122011>2 Kings 20:11; <233808>Isaiah 38:8.) But on this occasion nothing is said about those miracles. F560 Besides, the Prophet does not speak about prolonging the course of “the sun” above our horizon, but about increasing its brightness sevenfold. He shews what will be the condition of the godly under the reign of Christ; for in other respects the Lord

“maketh his sun to shine on the bad as well as on the good.” (<400545>Matthew 5:45.)

But here he speaks of happiness in which ungodly men can have no share. There is one kind of liberality which is bestowed indiscriminately on all, and another kind which is peculiar to believers alone; as it is said, “Great is the abundance of thy goodness which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee.” (<193119>Psalm 31:19.) Isaiah speaks of this special favor, F561 and, in order to describe it, borrows metaphors from well-known objects. Accordingly, he declares that God will enlighten believers with so great brightness that, if “seven” suns were brought together, their brightness would be far inferior to this.

When the Lord shall have bound up the breach of his people. That the weight of afflictions, by which the people were soon afterwards overwhelmed, might not hinder them from believing this statement, he likewise adds another promise, that the Lord will be like a physician to heal their wounds. Hence it follows, that the people must be chastened, and, in some measure, prepared for repentant by wounds, and must even be crushed and bruised in such a manner as to be reduced almost to nothing.

And healed the stroke of their wound. What he now adds about a “stroke,” is intended to shew that this bruising will not be slight; for it resembles a body beaten and wounded by many strokes. If therefore we shall be ready at any time to think that the Lord deals harshly with us, let us call to remembrance those predictions, that the Lord will “bind up our wounds,” which otherwise might appear to be mortal. And if any one ask why the Lord chastises his people so severely, I reply, that it produces no good effect on us when he treats us mildly; our vices are deeply rooted, and adhere to our very marrow, and cannot be separated but by a razor which has a sharp and keen edge.

27. Behold the name of the Lord cometh. He threatens the destruction of the Assyrians, who were at that time the chief enemies of the Church. From almost all their neighbors, indeed, the Jews received annoyance; but as the Assyrians were greatly superior to others in wealth and power, so the prophets, when they speak of enemies, mention them almost exclusively, and afterwards the Babylonians, who obtained the monarchy; though, as we have already seen, they frequently, by a figure of speech in which a part is taken for the whole, include the Chaldeans under the name of Assyrians. By “the name of God” he unquestionably means God himself; but he makes use of this circumlocution, because the Assyrians and other nations worshipped gods made of gold and silver, and held up the Jews to ridicule, because they did not worship him under any image, or statue, or resemblance; as one who wrote against them says that “they worship the bright clouds and the deity of the sky.” F562 Thus wicked and ungodly men always judge of God according to outward appearances; while the prophets, on the other hand, remind believers of “the name of God.” “That God who revealed himself to you by his name, whom you do not feel, whom you do not see, will take vengeance on your insults.”

From afar. He adds this as if he granted what was said by them; for ungodly men, when they do not perceive the hand of God, think that he is at a great distance, and mock at the confidence of believers as groundless. Accordingly, the Prophet, adapting his language to the views of unbelievers, shews that God, whom they thought to be at a great distance, will come, or rather, has already come, and is at hand. This is what he means by the particle hnh, (hinneh,) behold, which he contrasts with the word qhrmm, (mimmerhok,) “from afar,” directing believers, in this manner, to rise above all obstructions, that by their hope they may arrive at that assistance which he promised.

His face burneth. In order to shew that the celebration of the name of God in Judea is not vain or groundless, the Prophet describes the power of God, that is, the power which he will employ in driving out the enemies of the Church, as dreadful. When he addresses those who believe in him, in order to encourage them to the exercise of faith, he shews himself to be kind, gentle, patient, slow to anger, and merciful; but to the ungodly he holds out nothing but fear and terror. (<023406>Exodus 34:6.) And as the ungodly are terrified when God is mentioned, so believers, drawn by a conviction of his goodness, rely on him, and are not distressed by such fears. This shews us that we ought continually to persevere in the fear of God, that we may not find God to be what he is here described by the Prophet.

His burden is heavy. F563 That is, the Lord will bring with him dreadful calamities, which the ungodly will not be able to endure; for by “burdens” he means the punishments which are inflicted on the ungodly. He expresses the same thing by the words lips and tongue. But why did he speak of them rather than of the hands? It is, because ungodly men mock at all the threatenings which are uttered by the word of God, and treat as fabulous all that is declared by the prophets. To their own cost, therefore, they shall learn that the sound which proceedeth from the sacred name of God is not without meaning, and is not idle thunder intended merely to strike the ears, but shall at length know by experience what is the power of that word which they despised.

28. And his Spirit. F564 He proceeds with that threatening which he had begun to utter, namely, that the Church will indeed be chastised, but yet that the Assyrians shall utterly perish; for he says that they will be plunged into the deep by the “Spirit” of God, or rather, that the “Spirit” himself is like a deep torrent which shall swallow them up. Others translate hwr, F565 (ruach,) by “blowing,” and think that the allusion is to a storm or violent wind.

And with a useless sieve. The next metaphor employed is that of a “sieve,” which is very frequent in Scripture (<400312>Matthew 3:12.) He says that he will shake the Assyrians with a sieve, in order to thrash and scatter them; and therefore he calls it “the sieve of vanity,” that is, a useless sieve, F566 intended not to preserve, but to destroy; for, in another sense, the Lord is wont to “sift” his own people also, so as to gather them like good grain into the barn.

And a bridle causing to err. F567 The third metaphor is that of a “bridle,” by which the Lord continually restrains the pride and rebelliousness of wicked men, and, in a word, shews that he is their Judge. True, indeed, the Lord commonly restrains and subdues his own people by a “bridle,” but it is in order to bring them to obedience; while, on the other hand, he restrains wicked men in such a manner as to cast them down headlong to destruction. This is what he means by the phrase “causing to err.” As furious horses are driven about in all directions by their riders, and, the more they kick are more violently struck and beaten; so the ungodly, when they are kept back, rush eagerly in the opposite direction, as it is beautifully described by David. (<193209>Psalm 32:9.)

The object of these metaphors is to shew that we must not sport with the Lord; for, although he appear for a time to act differently, we shall at length know by experience the truth of what the Prophet says, that his “breath” alone will be like a torrent to cast down the wicked, that they may be suddenly overwhelmed. Next, when he gives warning that the nations shall be winnowed with “a useless sieve,” we ought to fear lest the Lord, if he find in us nothing but chaff, throw us on the dunghill. Lastly, we must observe the difference that exists between the children of God and the reprobate; for the Lord chastises both, but in different ways — the children of God, that they may be purified and preserved — and the reprobate, that they may be cast down headlong and destroyed.

29. And you shall have a song as in the night. Here he declares that all the punishments which he threatened against the Assyrians shall tend to the advantage of the Church, because the Lord punishes the outrages committed against his people not less severely than if they had been committed against himself. In this way he testifies his infinite love and kindness towards his own people, when he deigns to take up arms on their behalf. Hence we ought to conclude, that all the threatenings which are found in any part of Scripture tend to the consolation of believers.

When a festival is kept. He says that this “song” will be sacred, and compares it to a “holy solemnity,” in order to excite believers to thankfulness, and to shew that their joy should be directed to God; for it is not enough to rejoice, unless our joy look straight towards God, and unless we keep him alone always in our view; otherwise our joy will be fruitless and irreligious, and will not promote our salvation, or be acceptable to God. He calls it “a song of the night,” because the Jews began the day at sunset, and, as soon as the evening came, celebrated the festival.

To the mountain. He explains more fully of what nature this joy shall be. They shall not dance, as irreligious men do, but shall raise and fix their eyes on God, whom they acknowledge to be the author of every blessing. By “the mountain” he means the temple which was built “on the mountain.” He calls God The Mighty One of Israel, because it was by his assistance that they had been redeemed and preserved; and hence he reminds them that in future they will not be safe in any other way than by placing their hope in God alone. And indeed, when we cherish any conviction of our own strength, we rob God of this title, which is truly and sincerely bestowed on him by none but the lowly and humble, who have laid aside all confidence in their own strength.

30. And Jehovah shall cause to be heard. He confirms what he formerly said about the judgment of God on the Assyrians, and he describes it figuratively, as is very customary both with himself and with the other prophets. When God delays, and does not immediately punish the wicked, we think that he is either asleep or not powerful, and are distracted by doubt and uncertainty. And if we behold some of his judgments, yet such is our natural stupidity, or rather our ingratitude, that we keep before us those masks which hinder us from perceiving the glory of God; for we ascribe it to fortune, or to the plans and contrivances and strength of men, and never, unless when we are compelled, acknowledge that we owe anything to God.

The power of his voice. F568 For the reasons now stated, the Prophet was not satisfied with having once foretold the vengeance of God against the Assyrians; but he likewise describes it in a lively manner, and repeats it with great earnestness. He declares that the destruction shall be such that men will be constrained to hear “the voice of God;” that is, to acknowledge his judgment, and to confess that this calamity hath proceeded from him, as if he had spoken openly. The matter, therefore, may be thus summed up. The event will be so manifest, that there shall be no one who does not understand that this calamity proceeded from “the mouth,” that is, from the decree of God.

And the descent of his arm shall he cause to be seen. He begins with “the voice of God,” that we may know that he directs by his authority everything that is done on the earth. Yet at the same time he applauds the power of his doctrine, on which it was necessary that his people should rely, in order that the effect might be openly displayed at the proper time. But as the work quickly follows the decree and “voice of God,” he adds “the descent of his arm.” These two things ought always to be joined together; for we ought not to imagine that God is like men, or that he suddenly undertakes anything, and then leaves it defective or incomplete. Whatever he has decreed he likewise executes, and his hand can never be separated from his mouth. On the other hand, he executes nothing at random, but all must have been previously decreed, so that all the punishments which he inflicts are so many displays of righteous judgment.

With deluge and hailstone. That vengeance is illustrated, in the conclusion of the verse, by figures, in order that its terrific character may lead the Jews more cheerfully to raise their faith on high; for it was highly consolatory to them to know that, though they were heavily afflicted, a far more dreadful judgment would soon fall on their enemies. And yet we must not dream, as the Rabbins do, that the Assyrians were struck by a thunderbolt, for their conjecture is excessively frivolous. On the contrary, the Prophet follows the ordinary custom, and, by means of these comparisons, describes the judgment of God, which our prodigious dulness makes us excessively slow to comprehend. Conflagrations, thunderbolts, inundations, and deluges, are somewhat unusual and monstrous events, and thus produce a stronger impression on our own minds. For this reason, the prophets draw a comparison from them, that men may perceive the dreadful and avenging hand of God against the wicked.

31. Surely by the voice of Jehovah. He added this for two reasons; first, to shew why the Assyrian must be bruised; for, since he was cruel and savage to others, it is proper that

“the same measure which he meted should be measured
to him again.” (<400702>Matthew 7:2.)

This is the ordinary judgment of God against tyrants, as the Prophet says in a subsequent passage of this book,

“Woe to thee that spoilest, for thou shalt be spoiled.”
(<233301>Isaiah 33:1.)

The second reason is, because the power of the Assyrian king appeared to be so great that he could not fall. Although, therefore, he was fortified on every hand, not only to defend himself, but also to attack others, yet the Prophet says, that “by the voice of God” alone he shall be bruised. Hence we learn how groundless is the confidence of wicked men, who rely on their garrisons and arms, and presumptuously despise God, as if they had not been liable to his judgment. But in order to destroy them, the Lord will have no need of any other arms than his own “voice;” for by the slightest expression of his will he will lay them low. Nor can it be doubted that the Prophet intends to withdraw the minds of believers from earthly means, that they may not inquire how it shall be done, but may be satisfied with the bare promise of God, who is fully able to execute his word as soon as it has gone forth from him.

32. And there shall be in every passage. He means that the Assyrians will in vain try every method of escaping from the hand of God; for wherever they go, whether they attempt to go forward or to turn back, the hand of God shall pursue them. As to the phrase, fastened staff, F569 I readily adopt the opinion of those who think that the metaphor is taken from those on whom have been inflicted strokes so heavy, that the marks of the instrument of punishment remain, as if a rod or staff were “fastened” in the wound. It will perhaps be thought preferable to interpret it to mean, that the wound is “fastened” F570 on the Assyrian, as a foundation is fixed in the earth; for what is not “fastened” may be moved out of its place and carried away. But he shews that that wound is so deeply fixed that it cannot be shaken off or removed. In like manner, the weight of God’s wrath lies on the reprobate, and holds them weighed down to the end. To shew that there is no hope of being able to derive advantage from a change of place, he says everywhere, thus declaring that there shall be no retreat. The clause ought to be thus arranged, “wherever the staff shall pass, there it will stick firmly.”

With tabrets and harps. He means that the issue of the battle will not be doubtful, as when the combatants meet on equal terms; for he says that the victory will be certain; because, as soon as God determines to go forth to fight, he already holds the victory in his hand. “Tabrets and harps,” hands spread out and lifted up, are expressive of the joy of conquerors, when they shout aloud and chant the song of victory.

Shall fight against her. The feminine pronoun hb (bahh) is viewed by some commentators as referring to the army; but the Prophet undoubtedly intended to express something higher, namely, the head of the army, that is, Babylon, as contrasted with Jerusalem, which also he formerly denoted by a similar pronoun.

From these statements we ought to infer, that the wicked shall at length be destroyed, though they appear to have many means of escape; for wherever they turn, whatever road they take, the “staff” of the Lord shall pursue them, and shall ever remain “fastened” to their back; they shall never escape his hand or get quit of their wounds. We, too, are chastened by the hand of God, but the wounds do not always last; our pains are soothed and abated, and “our grief is turned into joy.” (<431620>John 16:20.) Besides, God carries on war against the reprobate in such a manner that they cannot resist him, or gain anything by their attempts. He joins battle with them, indeed, but it is as a conqueror; he even allows them to obtain some advantages, but represses their insolence whenever he thinks proper. If, therefore, we fight under his banner, let us entertain no doubt of obtaining the victory; for, when we have him as our leader, we shall be safe from all danger, and shall undoubtedly come off conquerors.

33. For Tophet is ordained. The Prophet goes on to threaten the vengeance of God, and says that not only a temporary calamity, but also everlasting destruction awaits the wicked; for hell is prepared for them, and not merely for persons of ordinary rank, but likewise for the king himself and the nobles. By “Tophet” he unquestionably means Hell; not that we must fancy to ourselves some place in which the wicked are shut up, as in a prison, after their death, in order to endure the torments which they deserve; but it denotes their miserable condition and excruciating torments. In the book of Kings, it denotes that place where the Jews sacrificed their children to the idol Moloch. (<122310>2 Kings 23:10.) It is also mentioned by Jeremiah, (<241906>Jeremiah 19:6;) and that place was destroyed and profaned by Josiah on account of the detestable superstition committed in it. (<122310>2 Kings 23:10.) The prophets, I have no doubt, intended to give the name of this place to the punishments and torments of the wicked, in order that the bare mention of it might excite horror in godly persons, and that idolatry might be universally regarded with greater abhorrence. The word “Gehenna” F571 has the same etymology; for “the Valley of Hinnom” was a name given to Hell (Gehenna) on account of the abominable sacrilege practiced in it.

Since yesterday. F572 When we see that all goes well with the wicked, and that they have everything to their wish, we think that they will pass unpunished. For this reason the Prophet, on the contrary, exclaims: “Since yesterday, that is, of old since the beginning of the world, the Lord hath determined what punishments he shall inflict on them.” Though this decree is still hidden from us, yet it must be certain, and cannot fail. Let us not, therefore, judge of the lot of the wicked according to outward appearances; let us wait for the Lord, who in due time will execute his righteous judgment. Yet let us not be rash, or think that God hath forgotten to take vengeance; for he had determined what he should do before it could enter into our mind; nor can we so speedily desire the destruction of the wicked as not to have our thoughts and desires anticipated long before by the Lord, for from the beginning he determined to inflict on them punishments and torments. Some think that it is a parallel passage to that of the Apostle, “Christ yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” (<581308>Hebrews 13:8.) But I consider “yesterday” to be here used simply as contrasted with our thoughts, that we may not think that we possess so much wisdom as to be capable of anticipating God: for there is nothing sudden in his purposes, but all were long ago settled and determined by him. He speaks of the punishments of the life to come, as I have already said, that is, of the punishments which the wicked shall endure, in addition to the distresses which they suffer in this life. On this subject it is strange that the Sadducees (<402223>Matthew 22:23; <442308>Acts 23:8) were so dull and stupid as to confine rewards and punishments within the limits of this life, as if the judgment of God did not extend beyond this world; for the modes of expression which immediately follow would not apply to temporal punishments, and the very name “Tophet,” taken metaphorically, could denote nothing else than God’s highest curse.

Yea, for the king it is prepared. He shews that not even “kings,” who are supposed to be entitled, on account of their majesty and power, to enjoy some peculiar privilege, are exempted from this punishment. Their greatness dazzles the eyes of men, but will yield them no defense, so as to prevent the Lord from punishing them as they deserve.

He says that the slaughter of them will be in a deep place, that we may know that they cannot escape or be rescued from it; and he calls hell broad, that we may know that however numerous they may be, though they all conspire together, they shall likewise perish; for the Lord will not be exhausted by punishing, and he will have a place so large as to contain all his enemies.

The pile of it is fire. He speaks metaphorically concerning the destruction of the reprobate, which otherwise we cannot sufficiently comprehend, in the same manner as we do not understand the blessed and immortal life, unless it be shadowed out by some figures adapted to our capacity. Hence it is evident how foolish and absurd the sophists are, who enter into subtle arguments about the nature and quality of that fire, and torture themselves by giving various explanations of it. Such gross imaginations must be banished, since we know that the Prophet speaks figuratively; and in another passage (<236624>Isaiah 66:24) we shall see that “fire” and the “worm” are joined together.


CHAPTER 31

Go To Isaiah 31:1-9

1. Woe to them that go down to Egypt. He again returns to the subject which he had handled at the beginning of the former chapter; for he still cries loudly against the Jews, whose ordinary custom it was, in seasons of danger, to resort, not to the Lord, but to the Egyptians. We have formerly explained why this was so highly displeasing to God. To state the matter briefly, there are two reasons why the Prophet reproves this crime so severely. The first is, because it is impossible for us to place confidence for our salvation in creatures, and at the same time in God; for our eyes must be withdrawn from him as soon as they are directed to them. The second reason is, God had expressly forbidden them to enter into alliance with the Egyptians. (<051716>Deuteronomy 17:16.) To sinful confidence was added rebelliousness, as if they had resolved to provide for their safety by despising God, and by disobeying his will.

We must therefore look at the source of this evil, if we wish to understand fully the Prophet’s meaning. There was also a peculiar reason, as we have formerly remarked, why the Lord wished the Jews to have no intercourse with the Egyptians. It was, lest that wicked alliance should obliterate the remembrance of the redemption from Egypt, and lest they should be corrupted by the superstitions and sinful idolatry of the Egyptians. Yet these arguments were regarded by them as of no weight; and, though God had forbidden it, this did not hinder them from continually applying to them for assistance, and imagining that their assistance was a shield which defended them against the arm of God. Consequently, there are good reasons why the Prophet exclaims so earnestly against such madness. Even on the ground that God had forbidden it, their “going down into Egypt” deserved to be severely blamed; but it was still more intolerably criminal, that by false confidence they bestowed on mortal men the glory which was due to God. In order to make it still more clear that in this manner they defraud God of his right, he not only accuses them of having relied on the Egyptians, but likewise brings a charge against them, on the other hand, that

They have not looked to the Holy One of Israel. Here appears more clearly the reason why that treachery of the Jews is so sharply reproved by Isaiah; for in other respects God does not disapprove of our using lawful remedies, just as we eat bread and other kinds of food which were intended for our use. Thus if any person, placed in danger, employ means which were not forbidden, but which are customary and lawful, provided that he do not at all deny the power of God, he certainly ought not to be blamed; but if we are so strongly attached to outward means, that we do not at the same time seek God, and if, through distrust of his promises, we resort to unlawful methods, this is worthy of condemnation and abhorrence.

The word look is frequently employed in Scripture to denote this confidence; for we commonly turn our eyes towards that quarter from which we expect assistance. In a word, we are here taught that we ought to place our trust for salvation in none other than in God alone, that, relying on his promises, we may boldly ask from him whatever is desirable. He undoubtedly permits us to use all things which he intended for our use, but in such a manner that our minds must be entirely fixed on him.

When he calls God “the Holy One of Israel,” he presents in a striking light the wickedness and ingratitude of the people, who, after having been taken under God’s protection and guardianship, despised such a protector and guardian of their salvation, and ran eagerly after their own lusts. By immediately adding, neither have they sought Jehovah, he shews that neither the power, nor the goodness, nor the fatherly kindness of God, could keep them in the discharge of their duty. In the present day, since he invites us not less kindly to come to him, we offer a grievous insult to him if we look to any other, and do not resolve to trust in him alone; and everything that shall turn away and withdraw our minds from God will be to us like “Egypt.”

2. Yet he also is wise. By calling God “wise,” he does not merely bestow on him the honor of an attribute which always belongs to him, but censures the craftiness of those whom he saw to be too much delighted with their own wisdom. He said a little before, (<232915>Isaiah 29:15,) that they “dug caves for themselves,” when they thought that, by hidden plans and secret contrivances, they avoided and deceived the eyes of God. He now pours witty ridicule on this madness, by affirming that, on the other hand, wisdom belongs also to God; indirectly bringing against them the charge of believing that they could shut God’s mouth as not knowing their affairs. As if he had said, “What shall become of your wisdom?” Will the effect of it be that God shall cease to be “wise?” On the contrary, by reproving your vanity, he will give practical demonstration that “he taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” (<180513>Job 5:13;<460319>1 Corinthians 3:19.)

We may draw from this a general doctrine, that they who shelter themselves under craftiness and secret contrivances, gain nothing but to provoke still more the wrath of God. A bad conscience always flees from the judgment of God, and seeks lurking-places to conceal itself. Wicked men contrive various methods of guarding and fortifying themselves against God, and think that they are wise and circumspect, even though they be covered only with empty masks; while others, blinded by their elevated rank, despise God and his threatenings. Thus, by declaring that “God is also wise,” the Prophet wounds them painfully and sharply, that they may not lay claim to so great craftiness as to be capable of imposing on God by their delusions.

He will arise against the house of the evil-doers. As they did not deserve that he should reason with them, he threatens that they shall feel that God has his arguments at his command, for ensnaring transgressors. First, they did not think that God has sufficient foresight, because he did not, according to the ordinary practice of the world, provide for their safety amidst so great dangers, and because they considered all threatenings to be empty bugbears, as if they had it in their power by some means to guard against them. Hence arises their eagerness to make every exertion, and their hardihood to plot contrivances. He therefore threatens that God will take revenge on so gross an insult, and that he has at his command the means of executing what he has promised; and that no schemes, inventions, or craftiness can overthrow the word of God.

Of the workers of vanity. F573 He gives them this appellation, because they wished to fortify themselves against the hand of God by a useless defense; that is, by the unlawful aid of the Egyptians. Formerly, it might be thought that he silently admitted their claim to the appellation of “wise men,” by contrasting them with the wisdom of God; but now he scatters the smoke, and openly displays their shame and disgrace. This teaches us that there is nothing better than to renounce our own judgment, and to submit entirely to God; because all that earnest caution by which wicked men torture themselves has no solidity, but, on the contrary, as if on purpose, provokes the wrath of God by the deceitful contrivances of the flesh.

3. And surely the Egyptian is a man, and not God. It may be thought that Isaiah here brings forward nothing but what is common and beyond all doubt; for who ever imagined that the Egyptians were not “men,” and must be put in the place of “God?” There is indeed no debate on this point, and it is openly acknowledged; but when it is found necessary to reduce it to practice,men are altogether dull of apprehension, or remain uncertain about that which they formerly appeared to know and firmly to believe. They exalt themselves as highly, and claim as much for themselves, as if they did not believe that they are men, and did not think that they ought to obey God. This is the reason why Scripture so frequently warns

“not to trust in men, than whom nothing can be more vain.”
(<19E603>Psalm 146:3.)

“Cursed is he who trusteth in man, and relieth on an arm of flesh.” (<241705>Jeremiah 17:5.)

Yet we see both princes and men of ordinary rank contrive and resolve in such a manner as if they could establish for a hundred years all that they contrived, and could subject heaven, sea, and earth, and could regulate and dispose everything according to their will. When we perceive in men such pride and arrogance, we need not wonder that the Prophet exclaims that “the Egyptians are men, and not God;” for the Jews ascribed to them what ought to be ascribed to God, the defense and preservation of the Church, which God claims for himself alone, and does not allow to be given to another. Isaiah therefore indirectly censures that contempt of God and wicked confidence by which they are swelled with pride.

Here we see how great a difference there is between God and men; for men have no power in themselves but what God has granted to them. If we were reasoning about the nature and excellence of man, we might bring forward the singular gifts which he has received from God; but when he is contrasted with God, he must be reduced to nothing; for nothing can be ascribed to man without taking it from God. And this is the reason why we cannot agree with the Papists, when we argue about the cause of salvation, freewill, the value of works, and merits; for since on this subject God is contrasted with man, we must take from God whatever is attributed to man. But they make a division between man and God, so as to assign one part to God, and another part to man; while we say, that the whole and undivided cause of salvation must be ascribed to God, and that no part of it can be attributed to another without detestable sacrilege. In a word, let us learn that in such a contrast nothing worthy of praise can be left for man.

And their horses are flesh and not spirit. By the word flesh he means weakness and frailty; for what is there in “flesh” but corruption? He speaks of “horses,” but to the Egyptians also belongs a weakness of the same or of a kindred nature; as if he had said that they, and all their forces, have nothing that is solid or permanent. Although the Egyptians had a soul as well as a body, yet, so far as they were creatures, and dwelt in a frail tabernacle, they must hold an inferior rank; as if he had said, that they do not possess heavenly or spiritual power; as it is said also in the Psalm,

“Do not trust in princes; for their breath shall go out, and they shall return to their earth.” (<19E603>Psalm 146:3.)

So far as relates to “horses,” the word “flesh” applies to them with greater propriety; but it is not wonderful that men are sent to learn from rottenness how frail they are.

As soon as Jehovah shall stretch out his arm. From this threatening we may draw a universal doctrine, that this wickedness shall not pass unpunished; for the Lord will not suffer men with impunity to give to creatures the honor due to him, or to rely on the assistance of men with that confidence which ought to be placed on him alone. He therefore threatens those who shall yield assistance and give occasion to false confidence, as well as those who shall make use of their assistance and rely on it for their safety. And if the Lord cannot endure this wicked confidence, where nothing more than temporal safety is concerned, how much less will he endure those who, in order to obtain eternal salvation, contrive various aids according to their own fancy, and thus elevate the power of men, so as to ascribe to it the place and authority of God.

4. For thus hath Jehovah said to me. The Prophet adds this verse, that it may not be thought that the Lord leaves us destitute of necessary means; for if, while he forbids us to place our confidence in creatures, he did not promise us any assistance, we might complain that he gave ground for despair, and not for consolation; as we saw, a little before, that men are more careful and attentive than they ought to be, because they think that they will be deficient in thoughtfulness, if they rest satisfied with God alone, and abstain from forbidden means. He therefore takes away every excuse, when he promises that he will be a faithful guardian to us; for what pretense can be left, if we despise the salvation which he offers to us of his own accord? It is therefore as if he had said, “The Lord assists, and will assist; he forbids you to ask assistance from the Egyptians.” By comparing himself to a lion, a very powerful animal and keenly bent on prey, he employs a very appropriate comparison, to shew that he is in the highest degree both able and willing to defend us.

In the second part of the comparison, the Prophet dwells largely on the great eagerness with which the Lord takes hold of his people, keeps them near himself, preserves them from being carried off, and defends them against all dangers; while he also points out that strength and power which no arms and no forces can resist. Now, it is impossible that comparisons should hold on every point, nor is it necessary, but they ought to be suitable to the subject which is handled. Since therefore we know that the Lord loves us so much and takes such care of us, must we not be worse than mad if we despise him, and seek other aids, which will not only be useless but destructive to us?

5. As birds that fly. This is the second comparison, by which the Prophet shews how great care the Lord takes of us, and how earnestly he is bent on making us happy. It is taken from birds, which are prompted by astonishing eagerness to preserve their young; for they almost kill themselves with hunger, and shrink from no danger, that they may defend and preserve their young. Moses makes use of the same comparison when, reproaching the people for their ingratitude, he compares the Lord to an eagle

“laying her nest, spreading her wings, and fluttering over her young.” (<053211>Deuteronomy 32:11.)

Christ also remonstrates with Jerusalem,

“How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not!”
(<402337>Matthew 23:37.)

The sum of this passage is, that the Lord will be sufficiently powerful to defend his people, for whom he has a special love and a peculiar care. What Moses relates that God did, Isaiah promises that he will always do; for he will never forsake those whom he has once received into his favor. Lest any one therefore should imagine that this statement related only to the men of a single age, he expressly declares that God will spread his wings to defend Jerusalem. Nor is it unnecessarily that he mentions not only Mount Zion but its hill; for on that “hill” was built the temple in which God desired that men should call upon him. Wherever therefore the worship of God is pure, let us know that salvation will be certain; for men cannot call upon him in vain.

“Let us be his people, and, on the other hand, he will be our God.” (<032612>Leviticus 26:12.)

6. Return. This verse is explained in various ways; for the Hebrew commentators explain it thus, “Return to the Lord, for you have multiplied revolts.” But, in my opinion, the meaning is more simple: “Return according as you have made a deep revolt; F574 for ral (laasher) is, I think, employed in the same sense as rak (kaasher), “according as.” F575 He means that the aggravated nature of their wickedness does not shut the door against them from returning to God, if they repent; that, although they have been sunk into the deepest wickedness, still God will pardon them. Yet, at the same time, he makes use of this spur to stimulate them to earnest grief and hatred of their sins, that they may not carelessly and lightly, as frequently happens, aim at a half repentance. He therefore bids them consider attentively with what fearful destruction they have cast themselves down to hell, that they may abhor themselves on account of their aggravated transgressions.

It ought first to be observed, that the Prophet does not lessen the guilt of the people. They who need to be brought back to the Lord must first be made to have a deep and painful conviction of their guilt; for they who flatter themselves in their iniquities are very far from obtaining pardon, and therefore there is nothing better than to lay open the alarming nature of the disease, when a remedy must be applied. Yet, that their hearts may not be led to despair, they must be encouraged and comforted by holding out to them the mercy of God; for Satan aims at nothing else than to cut us off from all hope of pardon. Accordingly, Isaiah declares that, although by their wickedness they have sunk down to hell, God is ready to forgive; for not in vain does the Lord invite us to repentance, but he likewise offers pardon. Hence also, to such exhortations the Scripture always adds promises of grace, that, whenever we are called to repentance, we may know that the hope of pardon is also held out to us.

As you have made a deep revolt. Instead of this rendering, the word qm[, (gnamak,) which signifies to be deep, is explained by some as meaning to multiply and the metaphor is supposed to be borrowed from heaps, “As you have heaped up your sins, so return now.” But I prefer the former exposition. hrs (sarah) signifies “revolt.” Others explain it to mean here “depravity,” but the word “revolt” is more appropriate. The Prophet therefore invites them to return to the Lord. F576

O children of Israel. In calling them by this name, he does not intend to shew them respect, but reproaches them for their ingratitude; for they were degenerate sons F577 who had revolted from the faith and obedience of their fathers, and therefore this title contains an indirect reproach. Yet he means that the Lord had not forgotten the covenant which he made with their fathers, though they had departed widely from him by their treachery; for he declares, that he will acknowledge them to be “the children of Israel,” and will fulfill all that he promised to Abraham and the other patriarchs, if they return to him with all their heart.

7. For in that day. He continues the subject which he began in the former verse. Yet there is this difference, that in the former verse he exhorted to repentance, but now he points out the fruits of repentance, which, we know, is the customary way of teaching in Scripture; for, since repentance is concealed within us, and has its root in the heart, it must be made known by the practical result, and by works, as “a tree shews by its fruits” (<400717>Matthew 7:17) its inherent goodness; and therefore he points out repentance by works which are the fruit of it. F578

Shall cast away the idols. When he speaks of “idols” only, it is by a figure of speech frequently employed in Scripture, in which a part is taken for the whole; for the Prophet undoubtedly intended to speak of the whole of man’s conversion, but, as it would have been tedious to enumerate all the kinds, under one of them he includes all the rest. Now, the beginning of repentance is the change of the heart; and next we must come to outward fruits, that is, to works. Above all, we must observe the object which the Prophet had in view in discoursing about repentance. It was because the Lord had promised salvation near at hand; and, that they might be capable of it, he exhorts them to repentance. Hence it ought to be observed that, when we persevere in being wicked, we resist God by our wickedness, and thus restrain his grace from assisting us; and, therefore, that the way may be open for God’s assistance, he demands that we shall repent.

He calls them The idols of his silver and the idols of his gold, because, as we have formerly seen, F579 they who sincerely repent are affected by deep grief for their sin, so that the traces of their superstitions, which are stamped with the highest dishonor of God, cannot be beheld by them without the greatest horror. On this account they abhor them, and do not dread the loss of “gold or silver,” to testify their conversion and their faith; for he who has sincerely renounced superstitions does not spare any expense in order to possess the pure worship of God. This is what the Prophet intended to express by calling them “gold and silver” rather than wood and stone. However excellent anything may be, the loss of it is a happy event when we are cleansed from such base and abominable pollutions. Those who retain them, though they profess to be Christians, shew that they are still involved in the remains of superstition; and hence it is evident that their hearts are not truly or completely reformed. In this matter we must listen to none of the excuses which we frequently hear from the lips of hypocrites, who cannot absolutely renounce idolatry, “What could I do? How could I live? I am aware that this revenue, this ‘gold,’ is detestable in the sight of God, because it arises from idolatry; but in some way or other my life must be supported.” Away with such fooleries! say I; for where the conversion of the heart is real, that which cannot be retained without insulting or dishonoring God is instantly thrown away.

Which your own hands have made. The Prophet urges them to make a more full acknowledgment of their sin; for, when men are accused, they generally throw the blame on some other person, and do not willingly allow it to fall on themselves, or acknowledge that it is chargeable upon them; in like manner as the common people willingly accuse the priests, but no man is willing to acknowledge his own guilt. The Prophet therefore bids them look to “their own hands,” that they may know that they have committed so great a crime. He reminds them, at the same time, how grossly they have been deceived by their unbelief in making gods to themselves; and hence we ought to conclude that God rejects everything that is of our contrivance, and that he cannot accept as good that worship which has originated with ourselves.

I consider faj, (chet,) sin, to be a noun; F580 as if he had said, “Whenever you behold idols, behold your guilt; acknowledge the proofs of your treachery and revolt; and if you are truly converted to God, shew it practically, that is, by throwing away idols and bidding adieu to superstitions; for this is the true fruit of conversion.”

8. Then the Assyrian. The copulative w (vau) is better translated as an adverb of time: “Then the Assyrian shall fall down;” that is, “When you shall have turned to the Lord, and when your life shall testify a sincere repentance, then the enemy shall fall down;” for, as the Lord raised up the Assyrian to punish the Jews for their crimes, and especially for idolatry, so he promises that the Assyrians shall be brought down, when they shall have ceased to sin and worship idols. Hence he informs us, that our obstinacy is the reason why the Lord adds evil to evil, and doubles his strokes, and pursues us more and more; for we continually supply fresh materials to inflame his vengeance against us more and more. If therefore we wish that God’s chastisements should be less severe, if we wish that the enemies should fall to the ground and perish, let us endeavor to be reconciled to him by repentance; for he will speedily put an end to the chastisement, and will take away from enemies strength and power to injure us.

By the sword not of a man. F581 The Prophet means that the deliverance of the Church is God’s own work, that the Jews may know that, although no earthly power is visible, God’s secret power is sufficient to deliver them. If therefore enemies are subdued, if their rage is restrained, let us know that it proceedeth from the Lord. By various methods, indeed, he represses the force and violence of wicked men, but by his own hand alone he delivers his Church; for, while the Lord makes use of human means, he preserves his own people miraculously and by extraordinary methods, which may be seen to have happened since the beginning of the world, and which we may even now behold, if we are not blind. And yet this does not hinder the Lord from employing his servants to deliver the Church; but he employs them in such a manner that his own hand is peculiarly and illustriously displayed in it.

We know that this prediction of Isaiah was fulfilled when the Assyrian army was destroyed, and Sennacherib was put to flight; for “not by the arm of man” was he destroyed, but the Lord displayed his power, that it might be known that he alone is the deliverer of his Church. (<121935>2 Kings 19:35; <233736>Isaiah 37:36.) By delivering Jerusalem at that time from the siege, God thus exhibited, as in a picture, spiritual redemption. He alone, therefore, will destroy our spiritual enemies. In vain shall we resort to other aids or remedies, or rely on our own strength, which is nothing; but let us have the direction and assistance of God, and we shall come off victorious.

And his young men shall melt away. F582 He means that the power of the Lord displayed against the Assyrians will be so great that the hearts of young men, who in other circumstances are wont to be fierce, shall be altogether softened and melt like wax; for young men, having less experience than old men, are on that account more fierce and impetuous. God will easily restrain such fierceness, when he shall determine to deliver his people from the hands of their enemies. For this reason Isaiah has especially mentioned “young men;” as if he had said, “the very flower or strength.”

9. He shall pass to his stronghold for fear. F583 He now speaks of Sennacherib himself, who, trembling, shall betake himself in base and shameful flight to his “stronghold” or fortress, Nineveh, as to his nest. (<121936>2 Kings 19:36.) The Prophet adds that “his princes,” or military officers, whose duty it is to encourage the rest of the soldiers, will be so timid that they shall not venture to join the ranks or await the battle, but shall “flee away from the standard.”

Saith Jehovah, who hath a fire in Zion. At length he declares that he is God’s herald in making this proclamation, that the Jews may not, as they are accustomed to do, dispute or hesitate as to the accomplishment of it, or afterwards forget so great a blessing, and ascribe it to fortune. If we read, as some do, Whose fire is in Zion, the meaning will be, that God has abundance of fiery power to consume his enemies. But I think that the relative ra (asher) is redundant, or that it should be rendered in the nominative case, “Who shall be to him a fire;” for God is justly called “a fire,” in reference to the Assyrians, whom he will consume.

When the Prophet calls him “a fire,” some consider it to refer to sacrifices; but such an interpretation appears to me to be feeble and unnatural. I have no doubt that he says either that “the Lord has a fire” to consume the Assyrian, or that “God himself is a fire,” and that he thus makes an implied comparison of the Assyrian to straw or chaff. He says that this “fire” is kindled and kept alive “in Zion and Jerusalem,” that is, in the midst of his people, in order to intimate that the persecution of the Church of God by wicked men shall not pass unpunished; for they shall one day feel that he is their Judge, and shall know by experience that he assists his people, who thought that they had been left without all assistance.

In a word, against wicked men, who have maintained unceasing hostility against the Church, vengeance is prepared; and the Lord will not only avenge himself, but will also avenge his people. Let us therefore enjoy this consolation; and though it may appear as if we were defenceless and exposed to every danger, yet let us be fully convinced that the Lord will be “a fire” to our adversaries.


CHAPTER 32

Go To Isaiah 32:1-20

1. Behold, a King shall reign. He means that God will still be gracious to his Church, so as to restore her entirely; and the best method of restoring her is, when good government is maintained, and when the whole administration of it is conducted with propriety, and with good order. This prediction undoubtedly relates to Hezekiah and his reign, under which the Church was reformed and restored to its former splendor; for formerly it was in a wretched and ruinous condition. Ahaz, who was a wicked and disgraceful hypocrite, had corrupted everything according to his own wicked dispositions, and had overturned the whole condition of civil government and of religion. (<121602>2 Kings 16:2, 3.) He therefore promises another king, namely, Hezekiah, whose power and righteousness shall restore the state of affairs which is thus wretched and desperate. In a word, he presents to us in this passage a lively picture of the prosperous condition of the Church; and as this cannot be attained without Christ, this description undoubtedly refers to Christ, of whom Hezekiah was a type, and whose kingdom he foreshadowed.

In righteousness and judgment. Here he follows the ordinary usage of Scripture, which employs those expressions to denote good government; for by righteousness is meant equity and good government, and by judgment is meant that part of equity which upholds good men, and defends them from the assaults of the wicked. It is undoubtedly true that the duty of a good prince embraces a wider extent than “righteousness and judgment;” for his great aim ought to be to defend the honor of God and religion. But the ordinary usage of Scripture is, to describe the whole observation of the law by the works of the second table; for, if we refrain from acts of injustice, if we aid, as far as lies in our power, those who are oppressed by others, and, in a word, if we maintain brotherly kindness, we give evidence of the fear of God, from which such fruits spring and grow. From a part, therefore, the Prophet has described the whole.

And princes shall rule. It is not without good reason that he likewise mentions nobles; F584 for it would not be enough to be a good prince, if he were not supported by upright ministers and counselors. Frequently has the condition of the people, under good princes, been very bad; as we read of Nerva, F585 under whose reign every kind of conduct was tolerated, so that many persons were far less favourably situated under his reign than under Nero; for the carelessness and indolence of a single individual gave freedom of action to many wicked men. It is therefore necessary that a king shall have good governors, who shall supply the place of eyes and hands, and aid him in the righteous exercise of his authority. If this be not the case, a good king cannot advance a step without being more or less retarded by other men; and unless rulers move with a harmony resembling that which we find in musical instruments, the government of a state cannot be carried on with advantage.

On this subject, men ought to listen to the advice of Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, to unite with him

“able men fearing God, men of truth, and hating covetousness, and to appoint such men to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” (<021821>Exodus 18:21.)

But at the present day, those who aid, or pander to their lusts, and who favor and flatter them, are promoted by kings to honors and high rank, which are bestowed on them as the just reward of their flattery or base servility. Nor ought we to wonder if we see, almost throughout the whole world, states thrown into confusion, ranks overturned, and all good government despised and set aside; for this is the just punishment of our iniquities, and we deserve to have such governors, since we do not allow God to rule over us. How shall this extraordinary kindness of God be enjoyed by men who are openly rebellious and profane, or by wicked hypocrites who cast God behind them, and cannot bear the yoke of Christ, through whom this prosperity and restoration of a declining Church is promised?

2. And that man shall be. How great is the importance of well-legulated government the Prophet shews plainly by these words, when he calls that king a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the rain; for mankind can never be so happy as when every one voluntarily abstains from every kind of violence and injustice, and when they conduct themselves peaceably and without restraint. Since, therefore, most men are urged and driven by their furious passions to acts of injustice, men would be embroiled in incessant quarreling if a remedy were not provided in the laws and courts of justice; but as many rulers, by a tyrannical exercise of power, raise more troubles than they allay, it is not without good reason that the good king is honored by this peculiar commendation. If this was said with truth concerning Hezekiah, much more may it be said concerning Christ, in whom we have our best, or rather, our only refuge in those storms by which we must be tossed about as long as we dwell in this world. Whenever, therefore, we are scorched by oppressive heat, let us learn to retire under his shadow; whenever we are tossed about by tempests, and think that we are overwhelmed by the violence of the waves, let us learn to betake ourselves to him as our safest harbour; he will speedily bring every storm to a calm, and will completely restore what was ruined and decayed.

3. and 4. Then the eyes of them that see. Hence we see more clearly that, while the Prophet describes the reign of Hezekiah, he intends to lead us farther; for here he discourses concerning the restoration of the Church, which indeed was shadowed out by Hezekiah, but has been actually fulfilled in Christ. We know that the Church is never in a healthy condition, unless she be internally ruled by righteous and wise governors. Now, this cannot be, unless Christ reign; and here, therefore, Christ and his reign are specially recommended to us. This promise is contrasted with the dreadful threatening which he had uttered in a former chapter, (<232910>Isaiah 29:10,) that he would blind the Jews; for here, on the other hand, he promises the true light, that they who were formerly blind may be enlightened, that “the deaf may begin to hear, that fools may understand, and that stammerers may speak.”

He calls them seeing and hearing who ought to have seen and heard when the word of God was exhibited to them; but they chose to be blind and deaf, and turned away their thoughts and hearts from doctrine. The Lord promises that he will restore to these persons eyes, ears, a tongue, and understanding. Now, it is certain that nothing is here promised which does not proceed from the grace of God; for he does not merely declare what men will do, but what God himself will do in men. These are extraordinary gifts of God; as, on the contrary, when he blinds, when he takes away understanding and the right use of speech, when he suffers ignorance and barbarism to prevail, these are dreadful punishments by which he takes vengeance on men for their ingratitude and for their contempt of the word. He promises that, at length, in compassion towards his people, the Lord will restore what he had justly taken away from them; and it must have been through the kindness of Christ that a tongue to speak, a mind to understand, and ears to hear, are restored to us; for formerly we were dull of apprehension, and were struck with frightful stupidity.

Let us therefore know that out of Christ there is no spiritual life in the world, because here they are declared to be destitute of sight, hearing, sound understanding, and the proper use of speech,

“till they be united in one body, of which he is the head.” F586 (<490415>Ephesians 4:15, 16.)

Hence it follows that, when the kingdom of Christ is overthrown, these blessings are also taken away. It ought also to be observed, that the blessings which are here recommended are above all others excellent and desirable; for riches, and possessions, and everything else in which men commonly judge the happiness of life to consist, ought to be reckoned of no value in comparison of these blessings. Amidst the abundance of all things we shall be miserable, unless the Lord restore those spiritual blessings of which the Prophet speaks in this passage; and therefore, when they are taken away, let us know that Christ also is at a distance from us, and that we are strangers to him, seeing that it is from him alone, as Paul informs us, that all spiritual blessings flow. (<490103>Ephesians 1:3.) When we see that those blessings which had been taken away for a long period are now restored to us, let us be ashamed of our ingratitude in not rendering to Christ that glory which was due to him, and in not employing the understanding which he gave to us in spreading his kingdom and promoting his worship; for we plainly shew that he has no dominion over us.

And the heart of fools. F587 As fools are commonly hasty and rash, so the Hebrew writers take the word haste F588 as denoting folly; for wise men are usually cautious.

5. No longer shall the base person be called. The Prophet means that everything will be restored to good order, so that vices will not, as formerly, be reckoned virtues; for, when the public government is wicked, covetous persons are in power, and are honored and esteemed, because men judge of virtue by wealth and power; a poor man is everywhere despised, though he be truly upright and bountiful to the full extent of his ability; and, in a word, in such a state of things there is nothing but disorder and confusion. But good government quickly detects such pretences and masks; for, where virtue is esteemed, vices are immediately exposed. Good men also have greater freedom allowed them in restraining the wantonness of those who formerly trod under their feet all that is just and lawful.

When the Prophet speaks here about the condition and reformation of the Church, which is a spiritual government, we ought to raise our minds somewhat higher, so as to view all this as relating to Christ, to whom it specially and peculiarly belongs to expose hidden vices, and to remove those vails and coverings by which the appearance of vices is changed, so that they are praised as if they were virtues. He does this by means of the gospel, by which he drags into light the disgraceful actions which were formerly concealed, and openly shews what they really are, so that no man, unless he choose it, can be deceived by their outward appearance. And this is the reason why the gospel is so much hated by the world; for no man can patiently endure to have his “hidden thoughts” and concealed baseness “revealed.” (<420235>Luke 2:35.) Philosophers indeed reason admirably about covetousness and liberality, and in some degree explain what is the difference between them; but they never penetrate into the hearts, so as to search them and actually distinguish between the covetous man and the bountiful. This can only be done by Christ’s light, when he shines by means of the gospel, and, by exploring the deepest corners of the human heart, brings us to spiritual and inward obedience. In this passage, therefore, we are brought to the judgment-seat of Christ, who alone, by exposing hypocrisy, reveals whether we are covetous or bountiful.

6. For the vile person will speak vileness. We might also render it, “The wicked man will speak wickedly;” for hlbn (nebalah) denotes “baseness” or any wickedness, such as is meant by the French word laschete, or by the English words, “lewdness” or “baseness.” It might also be rendered, “The fool will speak wickedly;” and thus there would be an allusion to the words lbn (nabal) and hlbn, (nebalah,) F589 though the meaning would be considerably different; but, since he employed this word in the former verse, when speaking of “vile” persons, I willingly adopt that interpretation.

And his heart will contrive iniquity. I consider! ˆwa (aven) to denote “wickedness;” for he speaks of giving themselves up continually to sin and do wickedly, as is plainly shewn by what follows; for his earnest remonstrance are directed against wicked men, who abandon themselves to all that is vile, and are not moved by any feeling of conscience, who laugh at all warnings, and ridicule God and his servants. Christ also drags them into the light, and exposes what lay concealed under coverings; for to him, as we have said, it peculiarly belongs to

“pierce, by the sword of the gospel, the hidden feelings of the heart, that they may answer to the judgment of God.”
(<580412>Hebrews 4:12.)

Isaiah therefore continues the same subject which he had formerly begun to explain.

Others explain it differently, but, as I think, in an unsuitable manner; for they think that it is a kind of proverbial saying, and render it in the present tense, “The vile person speaketh vileness.” But I think that the Prophet means something higher, namely, that Christ is the Judge of the world, and therefore, when he shall ascend the judgment-seat, he will shew what is the disposition of every person; for, so long as he does not exercise the office of a judge, everything remains in confusion, the wicked are applauded, because they have the appearance of piety, and the most excellent men are despised. but Christ will openly display the life of every person, so that what formerly, under some pretense, bore a fair reputation, will be manifested to be wickedness; and on this account he is said to

“have in his hand a sieve for separating the wheat from the chaff.” (<400312>Matthew 3:12.)

Now, this sieve is the gospel, by which, as a Judge, he brings malefactors to trial, and draws forth, in spite of their efforts, the exposure of their transgressions and crimes.

We have the experience of this more and more every day, when an exposure is made of that wickedness which had been concealed under the mask of Popery and the strange folds of superstitions. Who would ever have thought, amidst that darkness, that there were concealed in the hearts of men such dreadful monsters as are brought forward at the present day? To such a height has the contempt of God arisen, that many discover themselves to be more like beasts than men. Yet the Papists slander us, as if by our doctrine we gave loose reins to men, and exhorted them to despise God and follow wickedness without fear or shame. But let them listen to Isaiah, who replies that, when the truth of God shall be made known, vile persons will speak vileness, and wicked persons will speak baseness and wickedness; and, indeed, Christ would not be a spiritual judge if he did not

“reveal the secret thoughts of the heart, and bring every hidden thing to light.” (<420235>Luke 2:35.)

To make empty the hungry soul. In addition to those mockeries which the reprobate cast against God, cruelty is next mentioned. The Prophet thus gives an exact enumeration of those actions which are contrary to the second table. Wicked men begin with despising God, then rush to outward crimes, and practice cruelty of every sort against their neighbors. Now, the worst and most flagrant of all cruelty is, to “snatch food from the hungry soul and drink from the thirsty;” for mere natural feeling prompts us to mercy and (sumpa>qeian) F590 compassion. When men are so brutalized that they are not affected by the misery of others, and lay aside every feeling of humanity, they must be worse than the beasts themselves, who have some sort of pity for the wants of their own kind.

7. The instruments of the covetous man are evil. We must always keep by the future tense; for he does not inquire what wicked men are, but declares that they shall be revealed under the reign of Christ, that they may no longer deceive or impose upon any one. He speaks of the heavenly light which would arise, as we have already said, to expose hidden wickedness. Christ therefore shews what covetous men are, and how destructive are the means which they employ. If it be thought better that ylk (kele) should be translated “measures,” I have no objection; but the word “instrument” is more appropriate and extensive, for it includes “instruments” of every description. It means therefore every kind of means, tricks, and cunning devices, by which “covetous men” put simple persons off their guard, and draw them into their nets.

To deceive the simple by lying words. He now assigns the reason. It is, because they do not cease to contrive some injury. F591 It is certain that this is a description of the practices of bad men, who think of nothing but their own convenience and gain, and are always bent on cheating and “deceiving.” Christ brings to light those persons, and their tricks and contrivances.

To speak against the poor in judgment. F592 Various circumstances are brought forward, to present in a more striking light the shamefulness of this wickedness. First, “to deceive the simple,” who cannot take care of themselves, is more shameful and flagrant than to deceive sharpers and veterans in crime. It is shameful, secondly, to make use of deceitful blandishments under the pretense of friendship; thirdly, to deceive “the poor,” whose poverty we ought rather to have relieved; fourthly, to lay snares in the very court of justice. This is more highly criminal than if a man were attacked by open violence; for the court of justice ought to be a refuge for the poor, and what shall become of them, if it be a den of robbers or thieves? If the roads are beset by robbers, and if snares are laid, there may be some way of avoiding them; but there is no possibility of guarding against the frauds committed in courts of justice. These circumstances, therefore, ought to be carefully remarked.

8. But the liberal shall devise liberal things. We have already said that these statements of the Prophet have a deeper meaning than is commonly supposed; for he does not speak in the ordinary sense of the words, but treats of the reformation of the Church. This relates therefore to the regenerate, over whom Christ reigns; for, although all are called by the voice of the gospel, yet there are few who suffer themselves to be placed under his yoke. The Lord makes them truly kind and bountiful, so that they no longer seek their own convenience, but are ready to give assistance to the poor, and not only do this once or oftener, but every day advance more and more in kindness and generosity.

In acting liberally he shall make progress. This passage is commonly explained in a different manner, namely, that the liberal advance themselves, and become great by doing good; because God rewards them, and bestows on them greater blessings. This view pleases at first sight; but the Prophet, on the contrary, shews that the liberal will never cease to perform acts of generosity, for they will daily make greater progress, and will pursue the same designs and adhere firmly to their intention, as it is said by the Psalmist, “He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for eve:” (<19B209>Psalm 112:9; <470909>2 Corinthians 9:9.) This is added, because it is easy to counterfeit liberality for a time; many even think that they are sincerely bountiful because they have performed an act of beneficence, but quickly cease and change their purpose. But true liberality is not momentary or of short duration. They who possess that virtue persevere steadily, and do not exhaust themselves in a sudden and feeble flame, of which they quickly afterwards repent.

This is what the Prophet intended to express by the word wq, (kum,) which signifies to “arise” and “grow.” There are indeed many occurrences which retard the progress of our liberality. We find in men strange ingratitude so that what we give appears to be ill bestowed. Many are too greedy, and, like horse-leeches, suck the blood of others. But let us remember this saying, and listen to Paul’s exhortation “not to be weary in well-doing;” for the Lord exhorts us not to momentary liberality, but to that which shall endure during the whole course of our life. (<480609>Galatians 6:9.)

9. Ye women at ease, arise. These words appear not to be connected with what goes before; for formerly he spoke about restoring the Church, but now he threatens that the judgment of God is ready to strike a people carelessly reposing amidst riches and pleasures; and therefore it is probable that here Isaiah begins a new and distinct subject. Yet there will be no absurdity in connecting this with the former prediction, for the Prophets commonly observe this order. After having promised the grace of God to believers, they next direct their discourse to hypocrites, to declare that the mercy which the Lord promises to believers will be of no avail to hypocrites, and that notwithstanding they shall be punished for their sins.

As to women being chiefly addressed, the Hebrew commentators, agreeably to the frequent usage of their language, suppose “cities” F593 to be meant; but I think that the language here is not figurative, and I rather adhere to the simple meaning of the words. He addresses “women” rather than men, in order to shew the extent of that calamity; for in ordinary circumstances women and children are spared, because they are unfit for war, and have no power to defend themselves. He says that the destruction will be so cruel that none shall be spared.

He expressly addresses them also as “women at ease,” who are usually more delicate than others, and, enjoying the advantages of wealth, have some means of providing for their safety and of rescuing themselves from calamities, even when persons of ordinary rank are suffering grievous hardships. But to them especially Isaiah makes the intimation, that they must “arise” and “tremble;” and he contrasts this trembling with the ease and luxury which they peacefully enjoyed. He bids them arise, that they may know that this is not the time for repose, and that the Lord will arouse them from their ease and indifference.

Hear my voice, ye careless daughters. F594 In the same manner as before, the word daughters is interpreted by the rabbins to mean “villages” or “smaller cities;” but I think, as I have already said, that it ought to be taken in its literal meaning. He shews them whence shall arise this terror, whence shall arise that violence which shall compel them to “arise” and “tremble.” It is from the judgment of God. But he mentions “a voice,” that they may know that this prophecy shall not fail of its accomplishment; because he proclaims war against them by the command of God. “How efficacious this speech shall be, and what power it shall have to arouse you, one day you shall actually feel.” So frequently does he reproach them for indolence, carelessness, and luxury, not only because it is harder for those who live at ease to be harshly aroused, but because the corruption and depravity of human nature make it scarcely possible for the world to enjoy ease and prosperity without becoming indolent. Next, falling gradually into slothfulness, it will deceive itself by a false imagination, and drive far away from it all fear, and, relying on this confidence, will insolently rise up against God.

10. Days above a year. F595 By these words he declares that the calamity will be of long duration; for it is no slight consolation in adversity, when the distresses which must otherwise have been endured by us with grief and sorrow pass quickly away. But when no end and no mitigation of sorrows, no comfort or hope of deliverance is held out to us, what can be left but despair? He therefore threatens not only that they shall endure them for one year, but that afterwards they must look for new afflictions.

You shall tremble. By this word he indirectly stings their slothfulness, by declaring that they who grudged to listen to calm instruction shall be dragged forth with trembling and alarm. As the Jews were excessively anxious about earthly blessings and perishing food, he addresses their senses by threatening a scarcity of wine and wheat. If they had been more thoroughly purified from grovelling desires, he would rather have threatened what Jeremiah deplores in his Lamentations, that

“the sacrifices and festivals had ceased, and that the holy assemblies were discontinued.” (<250107>Lamentations 1:7.)

But, because they were sunk in their pleasures, and had not made such proficiency as to know the value of spiritual blessings, the Prophet accommodates himself to their ignorance, and addresses their bellies rather than their understandings. He speaks of the desolation of the fields, which would be the necessary consequence of that calamity; for abundance and plenty commonly give rise to ease and indifference. “The Lord will therefore,” says he, “deprive you of all food, and shake off your slothfulness, and take away all ground of confidence.” . Accordingly, we are here reminded that we ought not to sleep in the midst of prosperity, nor imagine that we are safe, as if we could expect uninterrupted prosperity in the world. But we ought to use with moderation the gifts of God, if we do not wish to be suddenly aroused, and to be overwhelmed when we are off our guard, and to feel the heavier distress because we did not look for a change of our affairs.

11. Tremble. This repetition is not unnecessary, but states more fully what he formerly said; for when men are asleep, they are not easily aroused by the voice of the prophets, and therefore it is needful to cry aloud and reprove them continually. And thus, by adding one threatening to another, or by repeating the same threatenings, he shews how great is the stupidity of men, when they have once been blinded by prosperity; for they can scarcely endure any longer to hear the warnings which God addresses to them. Men are undoubtedly more in danger from prosperity than from adversity; for when matters go smoothly with them, they flatter themselves, and are intoxicated by their success; and therefore it was necessary to deal more sharply with the Jews, in order to shake off that slothfulness. This exhortation of the Prophet ought to be explained in the future tense; as if he had said, “You shall at length tremble, for the rest which you now enjoy will not be perpetual.”

By bidding them make themselves bare, and, gird sackcloth on their loins, he describes the manner and dress of mourners. Whenever they were visited by deep adversity, they put on sackcloth, made bare the other parts of their body, and by dress, and attitude, and every method, manifested their grief. He desires women to put on sackcloth and other expressions of mourning, instead of the luxuries and pleasures in which they eagerly indulged.

12. Mourning over the breasts. This verse is explained in various ways. Some understand it to mean simply, that there will be so great a scarcity of provisions, that women will lose their milk, and thus the children will “mourn over dry breasts;” which we see sometimes happen, when a very great scarcity of provisions occasions leanness. But the more generally received and more appropriate interpretation is, to view the word “breasts” as figuratively denoting fields and vineyards, as the Prophet himself declares; for they are justly compared to the breasts of mothers, because, by deriving nourishment from them, we suck the milk or blood of the earth. He therefore means that there will be a want of food and nourishment, because the Lord will curse the earth, so that it shall yield no fruits. Thus shall men sigh over that scarcity, as if over their mother’s “breasts,” from which they formerly received delicious nourishment. This appears to me to be a more natural meaning, and to agree best with the context; for it serves to explain what afterwards follows, about “rich fields and the fruitful vine.” F596

13. There shall grow up the brier and the thorn. He confirms the former verse, and explains the cause of barrenness and famine, which is, that the fields, which formerly used to be fat and fertile, will be uncultivated, desolate, and barren. This was a frightful change of affairs; for we know that that country yielded corn and fruits more plentifully than other countries, not so much by nature as by the blessing of God; for he had said, “I will give you a land flowing with milk and honey.” (<020308>Exodus 3:8, 17; 13:5; 33:3.) This was the cause of the abundance and fertility.

On the land of my people. By giving it this name, he meets an objection which they might otherwise have brought, that there was no reason to fear that the land which God had chosen would not produce fruits every year; because, although the kindness of God extends to all mankind, yet he was in a peculiar manner the Father and supporter of that nation. It was therefore incredible that this land, which had been set apart for the children of God, would be covered with “briers and thorns;” and thus the Prophet reproves the Jews more sharply, because they not only made void the blessing of God by their wickedness, but drew down his wrath, so as to spoil and deface the beauty of the land.

Even on all the houses of joy. The particle yk (ki) signifies even, though some think that it means “for” or “because,” “Because there is joy in their houses.” F597 But that interpretation cannot be admitted, because ytb (batte,) “houses of,” is in the construct state. This appears to me therefore to be an enlargement of what he had now said, and to mean that this desolation will be, not only in the utmost corners of the land, but “even in the houses of joy,” that is, in the splendid and magnificent houses, which formerly were the abodes of the most refined luxury. When the Prophet said this, he was undoubtedly ridiculed by the men of that age; men certainly did not listen to him amidst those luxuries by which they were blinded. Besides, they grew insolent on account of the promises of God, and thought that they would never be in want of anything. Yet all that Isaiah foretold came to pass. From this example let us learn to be moderate in our use of prosperity, and to depend on the blessing of God, so as to obey his word with a good conscience.

14. For the palace shall be forsaken. Here also he describes more fully the desolation of the country; for, having mentioned in the former verse magnificent houses, he now likewise adds palaces and cities, so as to shew that there is nothing, however splendid and illustrious, that is exempted from that calamity. We see that men are dazzled by their own splendor, till they lift up their eyes to heaven; and the consequence is, that they are soothed to sleep in the midst of their wealth, and dread nothing. He therefore declares that all that was splendid, magnificent, and lofty, in Judea, cities, palaces, bulwarks, fortresses, all will be brought to nothing. When he says for ever, he again gives warning, as he formerly did, that this calamity will not last only for a single day, but that, as they had been long hardened in their vices, so it will be of long duration; for, if they had been punished only for a short time, being obstinate and intractable, they would quickly have relapsed into their natural disposition.

15. Till the Spirit be poured out upon you. Because the Prophet speaks of the Jews among whom God had determined to plant his Church, it was therefore necessary to leave to them some hope of salvation, that they might not faint amidst so great afflictions; for, while the Lord is severe towards wicked men who falsely shelter themselves under his name, yet in some manner he preserves his Church. The Prophet therefore adds this promise, that they might know that, whatever be the severity with which he punishes his people, still he is always mindful of his covenant; for he never threatens in such a manner as not to leave some ground for consolation, so as to cheer and comfort the hearts of believers, even when their affairs are utterly desperate. Besides, in order that they may fully enjoy the comfort which is offered to them, he raises their eyes to the very Author of life; and indeed we see that, when a favorable change takes place, the greater part of men fill themselves to excess with bread and wine, and, when they are pressed by famine, they neglect God and solicit the earth.

With good reason, therefore, does Isaiah say that “the Spirit” will come from on high to refresh and fertilize the earth; and he alludes, I have no doubt, to that saying of David,

“Send forth thy Spirit, and they shall be created, and thou wilt renew the face of the earth.” (<19A430>Psalm 104:30.)

Holding out this as an evidence that God is reconciled, he at the same time declares that the restoration of the Church proceeds solely from the grace of God, who can remove its barrenness as soon as he has imparted strength from heaven; for he who created all things out of nothing, as if they had formerly existed, is able to renew it in a moment.

And the wilderness become a Carmel. F598 In explaining this comparison of “the wilderness” to “Carmel,” commentators are sadly at a loss; but, as I remarked on a former passage, (<232917>Isaiah 29:17,) where a similar phrase occurred, F599 the Prophet merely, in my opinion, points out the happy effect of that restoration, namely, that the abundance and plenty of all things will prove that God is actually reconciled to his people. He says that places which formerly were “wildernesses” shall be like “Carmel,” which was a rich and fertile spot, and on that account receives its name; and that “Carmel” shall be like “a wilderness,” that is, it shall be so fertile, that if we compare what it now is with what it shall afterwards be, it may seem like “a wilderness.” It is an enlarged representation of that unwonted fertility. “Fields now barren and uncultivated shall be fertile, and cultivated and fertile fields shall yield such abundant fruit that their present fertility is poverty and barrenness, in comparison of the large produce which they shall afterwards yield; just as if we should compare the fields of Savoy with those of Sicily and Calabria, and pronounce them to be a “wilderness.” In a word, he describes unparalleled fertility, which believers shall enjoy, when they have been reconciled to God, in order that they may know his favor by his acts of kindness.

While Isaiah thus prophesies concerning the reign of Hezekiah, all this is declared by him to relate to the kingdom of Christ as its end and accomplishment; and therefore, when we come to Christ, we must explain all this spiritually, so as to understand that we are renewed as soon as the Lord has sent down the Spirit from heaven, that we who were “wildernesses” may become cultivated and fertile fields. Ere the Spirit of God has breathed into us, we are justly compared to wildernesses or a dry soil; for we produce nothing but “thorns and briers,” and are by nature unfit for yielding fruits. Accordingly, they who were barren and unfruitful, when they have been renewed by the Spirit of God, begin to yield plentiful fruits; and they whose natural dispositions had some appearance of goodness, being renewed by the same Spirit, will afterwards be so fruitful, that they will appear as if they had formerly been a “wilderness;” for all that men possess is but a wild forest, till they have been renewed by Christ. Whenever, therefore, the Church is afflicted, and when her condition appears to be desperate, let us raise our eyes to heaven, and depend fully on these promises.

16. And judgment shall dwell in the wilderness. The Prophet shews what is the actual condition of the Church, that is, when justice and judgment prevail; for men ought not to be like cattle, which seek nothing but plenty of food and abundance of outward things. And hence it is plain enough that the Jews were not confined to transitory enjoyments, so as to have their hope fixed exclusively on earthly blessings, as some fanatics imagine. They were enjoined to attend to that which was of the greatest importance, that justice and judgment should prevail; and undoubtedly they knew that true happiness consists in it. It is therefore our duty to look chiefly to this, that we should not, like hogs in a sty, judge of the happiness of life by abundance of bread and wine; for this is the end of all the blessings which the Lord bestows upon us, this is the object of our deliverance, “that we should serve him,” as Zacharias says, “in holiness and righteousness.” (<420174>Luke 1:74, 75.)

Under the terms “justice” and “judgment,” as we have already seen, he includes all that belongs to uprightness; for although these two words relate strictly to that equity which ought to be mutually cultivated among us, yet, since it is customary to describe the observation of the whole law by the duties of the second table, here the Prophet, by a figure of speech in which a part is taken for the whole, embraces also piety and the worship of God. The Prophets are accustomed to notice the chief duties of brotherly kindness, and those which belong to the second table, because by these, more than by any others, we manifest the real state of our feelings towards God.

When he declares that justice and judgment have their abode in the wilderness, as well as in the cultivated fields, this shews more clearly that the abundance of blessings promised a little before was so great that, when men saw it, they would consider that those fields which they formerly looked upon as very excellent had been comparatively barren.

17. And the work of righteousness shall be peace. A little before, he censured severely that peace which made the Jews drowsy and slothful; he now promises a different kind of repose, which will be a striking proof of the love of God, who has received them into favor, and will faithfully guard them. We ought therefore to observe the implied contrast between that brutal repose which the reprobate think that they obtain by their presumption in committing every kind of wickedness, and in which they also fall asleep, and that different kind of repose, on the other hand, which the children of God obtain by a religious and holy life, and which Isaiah exhorts us to desire, shewing that we ought fearlessly to believe that a blessed and joyful peace awaits us when we have been reconciled to God.

In this way he recommends to them to follow uprightness, that they may obtain assured peace; for, as Peter declares, there is no better way of procuring favor, that no man may do us injury, than to abstain from all evil-doing. (<600313>1 Peter 3:13.) But the Prophet leads them higher, to aim at a religious and holy life by the grace of God; for nothing is more unreasonable than that wicked men should desire to have peace, while they are continually fighting against God. That wish is indeed common; for hardly one person in a hundred shall be found who does not loudly extol peace, while at the same time every man raises up enemies to himself in the earth, and all in vast crowds disturb heaven and earth by their crimes. Now, the latter repose, being perpetual, is compared by him to the former, which is slight and momentary.

The effect of righteousness. When peace receives this designation, let us learn that, as wars proceed from the wrath of God, which we provoke by our wickedness, so peace springs from his blessing. When, therefore, we see enemies enraged to battle, and rising furiously against us, let us seek no other remedy than repentance; for the Lord will easily allay commotions when we have returned to him. He it is, as the Psalmist says, who

“maketh wars to cease to the ends of the earth, who breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in pieces, and burneth the chariots in the fire.” (<194609>Psalm 46:9.)

We have already said that these things do not relate exclusively to Hezekiah, but must be referred to Christ.

18. And my people shall dwell. As we have said that spiritual righteousness is that which has its seat in the hearts of men, we must say the same thing about peace, which is the fruit of it. Accordingly, when quiet habitations and resting-places are here mentioned, let us remember the saying of Paul, “justified by faith, we have peace with God.” (<450501>Romans 5:1.) When Christ says that he “leaves” this peace to the disciples, (<431427>John 14:27,) he affirms that “it cannot be given by the world;” and we ought not to wonder at this, for, as the same Apostle Paul informs us in another passage, “this peace surpasses all understanding.” (<500407>Philippians 4:7.) Having obtained this righteousness, we are no longer restless or alarmed within, as when we feel in the gnawings of conscience the wrath of God. A bad conscience is always alarmed, and harassed by wretched uneasiness.

Wicked men must therefore be uneasy, and distressed by a variety of terrors; for where righteousness is banished that peace cannot be found; and where Christ reigns, there alone do we find true peace. Assured peace, therefore, is enjoyed by none but believers, who appeal to the heavenly tribunal, not only by their piety, but by their reliance on the mercy of God. Hence we infer that Christ does not yet reign where consciences are uneasy, and tossed by the various waves of doubts, as must be the case with Papists and all others who are not built on the sacrifice of Christ and the atonement obtained through him.

19. And the hail. We have already said that the prophets are accustomed frequently to describe under figures the reign of Christ; for they borrow their metaphors from an earthly kingdom, because our ignorance would make it almost impossible for us to comprehend, in any other way, the unspeakable treasure of blessings. The meaning is, “The Lord will remove from his people distresses and annoyances, and will make them fall on others;” because here we are liable to various storms and tempests, and must endure rain, hail, showers, winds, and tempests. He says that God, by his wonderful providence, will prevent all distresses from doing any injury to believers, because he will drive their violence in another direction.

By forests he means unfrequented and desert places, where there are no crowds of men. Hence we learn that, when we are under the guardianship of Christ, we are protected from inconveniences and dangers, but that, at the same time, various storms and tempests are ready to burst on our heads. But the Lord is our deliverer, who turns away in another direction the evils that are approaching, or rescues us when we are in danger.

And the city shall be situated to a low place. F600 In order to confirm what he had said about peace, he says, that “cities,” which shall be situated on level ground, will be out of danger; for at that time it was customary to build on high and elevated places, that the access to them might be more difficult. “Such,” says he, “will be God’s protection of his people, that they will not need the ordinary fortifications, because the city may be safely set down in valleys; and even although it be liable to the attacks of enemies, it will sustain no inconvenience, for the hand of the Lord will protect it.” We must not therefore seek safety by relying on our defences, lest we be immediately driven from our nest; but since our heavenly Father deigns to provide for our safety, let us be satisfied with having him for our protector and guardian. F601

20. Blessed are ye. He shews how great will be the change, when Christ shall begin to reign; for he had formerly said that so great would be the desolation, that “thorns and briers” would overspread the holy land, costly houses would be thrown down, and cities and palaces would be levelled with the earth. This would happen, when the incessant attacks of enemies should lay that country desolate. But now he says that they shall be blessed, because God will give them abundant produce of all fruits. That fertility which might have been described in simple language, he illustrates by figures, that they shall “sow in marshes,” and shall “send forth their cattle” into the fields without dread of losing them.

By waters some understand a rich and fertile soil; but the universal particle lk, (chol,) all, leads me to take a different view; as if he had said, “Places which were overrun with waters shall be fit for sowing, and there will be no reason to fear that the water shall spoil our fields.” We are accustomed also to drive away oxen, and asses, and other animals, from fields, and especially from sown fields, that they may not eat the corn. But here he says that the corn will grow so thick and plentifully, that it shall be necessary to send oxen and asses to crop the early blade, as is commonly done when the corn is luxuriant. F602

He calls them blessed, in accordance with the usage of the Hebrew language, because their labor will never be unprofitable. If it be objected that, under the reign of Christ, such fertility has never been seen, I acknowledge that, even when God has shewn the highest kindness to his people, still there have always been visible marks of the curse, which was entailed on mankind by the fall and revolt of Adam. (<010317>Genesis 3:17.) But since Christ has restored to believers the inheritance of the world, with good reason do the prophets assert that he would renew the earth, so as to remove its filthiness and restore that beauty which it had lost. They who complain that it is not yet fulfilled, ought to consider whether or not they themselves are purified from every stain of sin. And if they are still at a great distance from spiritual righteousness, let them be satisfied with enjoying the blessing of God according to the measure of regeneration, the full enjoyment of which we must not expect to obtain, till, freed from the pollution of the flesh, we shall bear the perfect image of God.


CHAPTER 33

Go To Isaiah 33:1-24

1. Wo to thee that spoilest. If these words shall be expounded as relating to the Babylonians, the strain will flow easily enough; for, after having promised freedom to the prisoners, (<233215>Isaiah 32:15,) he now appropriately taunts the conquerors. Besides, they needed to be peculiarly confirmed, that they might give credit to a prediction which appeared to be incredible; for they could not think it probable that such vast power would be destroyed and overthrown, and that, the wretched prisoners who were now in a state of despair would speedily be permitted to return to their native country. Amidst such distresses, therefore, they might have fainted and given up all hope of safety, if the Prophet had not met them with these exhortations. Accordingly, he anticipates those doubts which might have tormented their minds and tempted them to despair, after having been carried away by the Babylonians, and reduced to slavery; for they saw none of those things which are here promised, but everything entirely opposite.

Yet, as it is almost universally agreed that this is the beginning of a new discourse, and that it is addressed to Sennacherib and his army, I am not unwilling to believe that the Prophet pronounces against the Assyrians, who unjustly oppressed all their neighbors, a threatening which was intended to alleviate the distresses and anxieties of the people. He therefore means that there will be a wonderful revolution of affairs, which will overthrow the flourishing condition of Nineveh, though it appears to be invincible; for the Babylonians will come in a hostile manner to punish them for that cruelty which they exercised on other nations.

In order to impart greater energy to this discourse, he addresses the Assyrians themselves, Wo to thee that plunderest; you may now ravage with impunity; no one has power to resist you; but there will one day be those who in their turn shall plunder you, as you have plundered others.” He speaks to them in the singular number, but in a collective sense, which is very customary. Others read it as a question, “Shalt thou not be spoiled? Dost thou think that thou wilt never be punished for that violence? There will one day be those who will render to thee the like.” But we may follow the ordinary exposition, according to which the Prophet exhibits in a striking light the injustice of enemies, who were so eager for plunder that they spared nobody, not even the innocent who had never injured them; for that is a demonstration of the utmost cruelty. I am therefore the more disposed to adopt this exposition, according to which he describes in this first clause what the Assyrians are, shews them to be base and cruel robbers, and gives a strong exhibition of their cruelty in harassing and pillaging harmless and inoffensive persons; so that, when the Jews beheld such unrestrained injustice, they might consider that God is just, and that such proceedings will not always pass unpunished.

When thou shalt have ceased to plunder. This is the second clause of the sentence, by which the Prophet declares that the Assyrians now plunder, because God has given loose reins to them, but that he will one day check them, so that they will have no power to do injury. If we were to understand him to mean, “when they would no longer wish to plunder,” that would be a feeble interpretation; but the Prophet advances higher, and declares that the time will come “when they shall make an end of plundering,” because the Lord will restrain and subdue them. The meaning is therefore the same as if he had said, “When thou shalt have reached the height;” for we see that tyrants have boundaries assigned to them which they cannot pass. Their career is rapid, so long as they keep their course; but as soon as the goal, their utmost limit, has been reached, they must stop.

Let us cheer our hearts with this consolation, when we see tyrants insolently and fiercely attack the Church of God; for the Lord will at length compel them to stop, and the more cruel they have been, the more severely will they be punished. The Lord will destroy them in a moment; for he will raise up against them enemies who will instantly ruin and punish them for their iniquities.

Here we ought also to acknowledge the providence of God in the overthrow of kingdoms; for wicked men imagine that everything moves at random and by the blind violence of fortune; but we ought to take quite another view, for the Lord will repay their deserts, so that they shall be made to know that the cruelty which they exercised against inoffensive persons does not remain unrevenged. And the event shewed the truth of this prediction; for not long afterwards Nineveh was conquered by the Babylonians, and lost the monarchy, and was even so completely destroyed that it lost its name. But as Babylon, who succeeded in her room, was not. less a “spoiler,” the Prophet justly foretells that there will be other robbers to rob her, and that the Babylonians, when their monarchy shall be overthrown, will themselves be plundered of those things which they seized and pillaged from others.

2. O Jehovah, have pity upon us. This sentiment was added by the Prophet, in order to remind the godly where they ought to go amidst such distresses, even when they shall appear to be deprived of all hope of safety; that they ought to betake themselves to prayer, to supplicate from God the fulfillment of these promises, even when they shall be most wretched, and when the power of the enemy to oppress them cruelly shall be very formidable. And here we ought carefully to observe the order which the Prophet has followed, in first exhibiting the promise of God and immediately exhorting to prayer. Not only so, but he breaks off the stream of his discourse, and suddenly bursts out into prayer; for although the Lord hastens to perform what he has promised, yet he delays for a time, in order to exercise our patience. But when we ought to wait, there is found in us no steadfastness or perseverance; our hearts immediately faint and. languish. We ought, therefore, to have recourse to prayer, which alone can support and gladden our hearts, while we look earnestly towards God, by whose guidance alone we shall be delivered from our distresses. Yet let us patiently, with unshaken hope and confidence, expect what he has promised to us; for at length he will shew that he is faithful, and will not disappoint us.

At the same time the Prophet bids us not only consider in general the judgment of God against the Assyrians, but God’s fatherly kindness towards his chosen people; as if he had said that the Assyrians will be destroyed, not only that they may receive the just reward of their avarice and cruelty, but because in this manner God will be pleased to provide for the safety of his Church. But while he exhorts us to pray for mercy, he likewise declares that we shall be miserable.

In thee have we hoped. In order to cherish the hope of obtaining favor, believers next declare that they “have hoped in God,” on whom they now call; and indeed our prayers must be idle and useless, if they are not founded on this principle.

“Let thy mercy be upon us,” saith David,
“according as we have hoped in thee.” (<193322>Psalm 33:22.)

For to go into the presence of God, if he did not open up the way by his word, would be excessively rash; and, therefore, as he kindly and gently invites us, so we ought to embrace his word, whenever we approach to him. Besides, patience must be added to faith; and, therefore, when faith is taken away, we do not deserve that the Lord should hear us, for it is by faith that we call upon him. Now faith alone is the mother of calling on God, as is frequently declared in many passages of Scripture; and if faith be wanting, there can be nothing left in us but hypocrisy, than which nothing is more abhorred by God. (<451014>Romans 10:14.)

And hence it is evident that there is no Christianity in the whole of Popery; for if the chief part of the worship of God consists of prayer, and if they know not what it is to pray, (for they bid us continually doubt, and even accuse of rashness the faith of the godly,) what kind of worshippers of God are they? Can that prayer be lawful which is perplexed by uncertainty, and which does not rely with firm confidence on the promises of God? Do not those Rabbins, who wish to be reckoned theologians, shew that they are mere babes? Certainly our children excel them in knowledge and in the true light of godliness. F603

Let us also learn from these words that our faith is proved by adversity; for the actual trial of faith is when, with unshaken patience in opposition to all dangers and assaults, we continue to rely on the word and the promises. Thus we shall give practical evidence that we have sincerely believed.

Be what thou hast been, their arm in the morning. Others render it as if it were a continued prayer, “Be our arm in the morning, and our salvation in tribulation.” As to believers speaking in the third person, they consider it to be a change which is frequently employed by the Hebrews. But I think that the Prophet’s meaning is different; for he intended to express that desire which is rendered more intense by benefits formerly received; and, therefore, in my opinion, that clause is appropriately inserted, “their arm in the morning,” in which I supply the words “who hast been,” in order to bring forward the ancient benefits bestowed by God on the fathers. “Thou, Lord, didst hearken to the prayers of our fathers; when they fled to thee, thou gavest them assistance i now also be thou our salvation, and relieve us from our afflictions.”

“Arm” and “salvation” differ in this respect, that “arm” denotes the power which the Lord exerted in defense of his Church, and that before she was afflicted; while “salvation” denotes the deliverance by which the Lord rescues the Church, even when she appears to be ruined. He therefore places on record ancient benefits which the Lord formerly bestowed on the fathers, that he may be moved to exercise the same compassion towards the children. As if he had said, “O Lord, thou didst formerly turn away the dangers which threatened thy Church; relying on thy favor she flourished and prospered. Thou didst also deliver her when oppressed. In like manner wilt thou act on our own account, especially since it belongs to thy character to render assistance when matters are desperate and at the worst.” F604

The particle a, (aph,) even, is very emphatic for confirming our faith, that we may not doubt that God, who always continues to be like himself, and never degenerates from his nature or swerves from his purpose, will also be our deliverer; for, such have believers found him to be. We ought, therefore, to place continually before our eyes the manner in which the Lord formerly assisted and delivered the fathers, that we may be fully convinced that we also shall not fail to obtain from him assistance and deliverance.

3. At the voice of the tumult the peoples fled. He now returns to the former doctrine, or rather he continues it, after having inserted a short exclamation. He had already shewn that the Assyrians would be defeated, though they appeared to be out of the reach of all danger; and now he bids the Jews look upon it as having actually taken place; for their power was vast, and all men dreaded them and reckoned them invincible. Isaiah therefore places before the eyes of the Jews the dreadful ruin of the Assyrians, as if it had been already accomplished. He makes use of the plural number, saying that they were peoples; for the kingdom of the Assyrians consisted of various “peoples,” and their army had been collected out of various nations; and therefore he affirms that, although their number was prodigious and boundless, yet they would miserably perish.

At thy exaltation. The word “exaltation” is explained by some to mean the “manifestation” by which the Lord illustriously displayed what he was able to do. But I explain it in a more simple manner, that the Lord, who formerly seemed as it were to remain at rest, when he permitted the Babylonians to ravage with impunity, now suddenly came forth to public view; for his delay was undoubtedly treated with proud scorn by the enemies, as if the God of Israel had been humbled and vanquished; but at length he arose and sat down on his judgmentseat, and took vengeance on the crimes of the ungodly. There is therefore an implied contrast between the “exaltation” and that kind of weakness which the Lord appeared to exhibit, when he permitted his people to be afflicted and scattered. F605

By “the voice of the tumult” some suppose to be meant that the Lord will put the enemies to flight by merely making a noise; but that interpretation, I fear, is more ingenious than solid. I therefore willingly interpret the word “voice” to mean the loud noise which would be raised by the Medes and Persians.

4. And your prey shall be gathered. Here he addresses the Assyrians, if it be not thought preferable to refer it to the Jews, and to take the word “prey” in an active sense. But the former opinion is more appropriate; and this sudden turn of direct address imparts great vehemence to the prediction, when he openly and expressly taunts the proud adversaries. Yet it is doubtful whether it denotes the final ruin of the nation, or the defeat of King Sennacherib, when his army was destroyed by the hand of an angel before the walls of Jerusalem. (<121935>2 Kings 19:35.) The latter opinion has been adopted by almost all commentators, but it appears to me to be too limited; for I think that the Prophet, from the beginning of the chapter, intended to express something more, when he spoke of the destruction of that nation, The prophecy might even be still farther extended, as I suggested a little ago, so as to include likewise the Babylonians, who were the latest enemies of the Church; but, passing this, it is sufficiently evident that his pen is directed against the monarchy of Nineveh.

By your gathering of caterpillars. He compares that warlike nation to “caterpillars,” because they will have no power to resist, but will all tremble and faint, so that they shall be gathered into large heaps to be destroyed. The comparison is highly appropriate, and is employed also by the Prophet Nahum, (<340315>Nahum 3:15,) though in a somewhat different sense; for that insect, we know, is exceedingly destructive to trees, and exceedingly hurtful, so that it may justly be called The calamity of the earth. But as their vast number gives no power to defend themselves, even children can easily shake off, and gather, and slay them in heaps wherever they meet with them. This also, the Prophet declares, will befall those insatiable robbers; for, although they did much injury by plundering for a long period, they will at length be slain and destroyed without the smallest effort; because, deprived of manly vigor, and almost of life, they will fall into the power of their enemies; and the wealth of Nineveh, amassed by robbery, shall be carried to Babylon.

According to the running of locusts. He now adds another comparison, that the Babylonians will “run like locusts,” to devour the whole country; for those creatures, being exceedingly voracious, and moving forward without interruption, and leaping with astonishing rapidity, consume all the fruits of the earth. Some refer it to the same Assyrians, as if the Prophet compared them to “locusts,” because they will be easily dispersed; but that interpretation does not apply, for the Prophet draws up an army of “locusts,” so as completely to cover in its march the whole land; and he beautifully draws a comparison between the “caterpillars” and the “locusts,” on account of their insatiable avarice and vast numbers.

5. Jehovah is exalted. He explains more fully what we briefly noticed a little before, about the exaltation of God, and follows out the subject which we formerly mentioned, that the destruction of a monarchy so powerful will make it evident how highly God values the salvation of his Church, for whose sake he will utterly ruin Nineveh, the queen of cities, and her inhabitants. This lesson is highly useful, that God does not spare reprobate and irreligious men; for, by opposing their unlawful desires, his object is to testify how much he loves his elect; and it is no ordinary consolation that the glory of God shines most brightly in the salvation of the Church.

Who dwelleth on high. First, he declares that God is raised “on high,” whereas wicked men imagine that he was east down and humbled by the destruction of the people. Again, lest any one should think that God has only recovered what he lost, as it frequently happens in the world that they who have been vanquished, as soon as a favorable change takes place, again put forth fresh vigor, he expressly declares that God is “exalted” before the eyes of men, because this is due to him on account of his greatness, for he inhabiteth the heavens. Hence it follows, that although he frequently conceals his power, yet he never loses his right, but, whenever he thinks proper, openly displays his exalted rank; for to dwell “in the heavens” denotes, as we know, supreme authority, to which the whole world is subject. (<19B503>Psalm 115:3.) In this manner he not only shews that God can easily and readily cast down all that is lofty in the world, but argues from God’s eternal nature, that when God is despised by wicked men, he cannot, at length, do otherwise than manifest his glory; for otherwise he would “deny himself.” (<550213>2 Timothy 2:13.)

He hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness. Thus he again confirms the statement, that it will be a proof of God’s wonderful kindness, when the Jews shall be delivered from the tyranny ,of the Babylonians. It was proper to place before their eyes the Author of so great a blessing; for we see how basely his glory is obscured by our ingratitude. Now, “the fullness of righteousness and judgment” means, that God will largely and copiously pour forth his kindness in restoring the Church. Yet it will not be unsuitable to view these words as referring to lawful order, when everything is justly and properly administered; for without this the Church will never enjoy prosperity, though everything else may succeed according to the wish. Holy and welladjusted order, therefore, and not corruptible riches, is the standard by which our prosperity should be judged.

6. And the stability of thy times shall be. He promises that the state of the kingdom under the reign of Hezekiah will yet be happy and prosperous, especially when he contrasts it with the wretched, destructive, and ruinous aspect which it exhibited under the reign of Ahaz; for, although the enemy had been driven out, hardly any one would have expected that the Jews, who had been so heavily oppressed, would be restored to their former order. As to the words, some translate them, “Truth, and strength, and salvation shall be in thy times;” as if the Prophet described the prosperity which the nation should enjoy under a pious king; and they think that each of those terms denotes so many of God’s benefits. Others think that tnwma (emunath) denotes “fidelity,” as if the Prophet said that it would be “salvation and strength.” Others draw from it a somewhat different sense, that “strength, salvation, and knowledge” will be “stable” under the reign of Hezekiah. But when I examine closely the words of the Prophet, I choose rather to make a different distinction, that “stability, strength, and salvation will be established by wisdom, and knowledge,” during the reign of Hezekiah.

The fear of Jehovah is his treasure. When he says that “the fear of God is the treasure” of a pious king, this accords with the explanation which we have now given; for during peace all men wish to lead a safe and easy life; but few care how they shall enjoy such distinguished benefits. Indeed the greater part of men would desire to fatten like a herd of swine; and thus while all are eagerly directed by blind lust to seek outward benefits, the light of heavenly doctrine, which is an invaluable blessing, is almost set at nought. He therefore means that the prosperity of the Church will be “stable,” F606 when “wisdom and knowledge” shall reign in it; that its “strength” will be lasting, when the “knowledge” of God shall prevail; and that its salvation will be eternal, when men shall be well instructed in the knowledge of God.

This is a very remarkable passage; and it teaches us that our ingratitude shuts the door against God’s blessings, when we disregard the Author of them, and sink into gross and earfifty desires; and that all the benefits which we can desire or imagine, even though we actually obtained them, would be of no avail for our salvation, if they were not seasoned with the salt of faith and knowledge. Hence it follows that the Church is not in a healthy condition unless when all its privileges have been preceded by the light of the knowledge of God, and that it flourishes only when all the gifts which God has bestowed upon it are ascribed to Him as their author. But when the knowledge of God has been taken away, and when just views of God have been extinguished or buried, any kind of prosperity is worse than all calamities.

For these reasons I consider stability, strength, and salvations, to denote the same thing, that the condition of the Church will be secure, when men shall have been cured of blindness and ignorance, and shall begin to know God. And hence we see what kind of Church the Papists have, distinguished, indeed, by pomp and splendor, but they want this “knowledge,” and, therefore, it cannot be stable or secure, and is not a Church of God. If, therefore, the Lord shall grant to us this blessing, that the brightness of faith shall actually shine in the midst of us, other blessings will follow of their own accord, and if we are shaken and tossed about by various tempests, we shall always be supported by the arm of God.

Of thy times. He addresses Hezekiah, not as a private individual, but as the head of the whole people; and he includes the whole people in this description. But since the kingdom of Hezekiah was but a slender shadow of the kingdom of Christ, as we formerly remarked, these words must be referred to Christ, in whom is found true wisdom and knowledge. (<510203>Colossians 2:3.)

It is proper to observe the designations which are here employed in order to commend the word of God and the gospel. They are likewise employed by Paul, when he speaks of “teaching in all wisdom and knowledge;” for by this commendation he extols the dignity of the gospel. (<510109>Colossians 1:9, 28.) Hence also it ought to be inferred that, where Christ is not known, men are destitute of true wisdom, even though they have received the highest education in every branch of learning; for all their knowledge is useless till they truly “know God.” (<431703>John 17:3.)

The fear of Jehovah is his treasure. F607 I think that the expression, “the fear of Jehovah,” was added by the Prophet for the sake of explanation, in order to state more fully that the knowledge of which he spoke is the teacher of piety, and is not cold or lifeless, but penetrates powerfully into our heart, to form us to “the fear of God.” Hence also, in other passages of Scripture, this “fear” is called “wisdom,” or rather “the beginning of wisdom,” that is, the substance and chief part of it. (<200107>Proverbs 1:7, and 9:10.) It is a mistake to suppose that the word “beginning” denotes rudiments or elements, for Solomoil means by it the chief part and design; and the reason is, that, as men are fools till they submit to the word of God, so the perfection of wisdom springs from the docility or obedience of faith. “The fear of God” is therefore called a “treasure,” without which all prosperity is miserable; and this shews more fully the scope of the passage, that the full perfection of a happy life consists in the knowledge of God, which we obtain by faith.

Thus, in the person of the king he shews that it is an invaluable blessing to worship God with due piety and reverence. They who are destitute of “the fear ,of God” are pronounced by him to be miserable and ruined; and, on the other hand, they who “fear the Lord” are declared to be very happy, even though in other respects they be reckoned in the judgment of men to be very miserable. He speaks of that “fear” which contains within itself true obedience, and renews our hearts; for it is a different kind of fear which influences even wicked men, and leads them to dread God as criminals dread a judge. That “fear” does not deserve to be so highly applauded; for it springs neither from a true knowledge of God, nor from a cheerful desire to worship him, and therefore differs widely from that wisdom which Isaiah describes. These statements were made by him in reference to Hezekiah, but, as we have already said, they related to the whole body of the people; and hence we infer that they apply both to men of ordinary rank and to the king, but more especially to Christ, who was filled with “the Spirit of the fear of the Lord,” as we formerly saw, F608 (<231102>Isaiah 11:2,) that he might make us partakers of it.

7. Behold, their messengers F609 shall cry without. It is difficult to determine whether Isaiah relates historically the fearful perplexity and imminent danger to which the Jews were reduced, in order to exhibit more strikingly the favor ,of deliverance, or predicted a future calamity, that the hearts of the godly might not soon afterwards faint under it. For my own part, I think it probable that this is not the history of, a past transaction, but that, as a heavy and sore temptation was at hand, it was intended to fortify the hearts of believers to wait patiently for the assistance of God when their affairs were at the worst. However that may be, the sad and lamentable desolation of the Church is here described, that believers may not cease to entertain good hope even in the midst of their perplexity, and that, when they have been rescued from danger; they may know that it was accomplished by the wonderful power of God.

The ambassadors of peace wept bitterly. It is given as a token of despair, that the ambassadors who had been sent to appease the tyrant were unsuccessful; for every way and method of obtaining peace was attempted by Hezekiah, but without any success. Accordingly, “the ambassadors” returned sad and disconsolate, and even on the road could not dissemble their grief, which it was difficult to conceal in their hearts, when matters were in so wretched a condition. He undoubtedly means that Sennacherib has haughtily and disdainfully refused to make peace, so that “the ambassadors,” as; if they had forgotten their rank, are constrained to pour out in public their grief and lamentations, and, ere they have returned to their king and given account of their embassy, openly to proclaim what kind of answer they have obtained from the cruel tyrant, F610 Others think, that by “the ambassadors of peace” are meant those who were wont to announce peace; but that interpretation appears to me to be feeble and farfetched. By “the ambassadors of peace,” therefore, I understand to be meant those who had been sent to pacify the king, that they might purchase peace on some condition.

8. The roads are deserted. He now adds, that “the roads” will be shut up, so that no one shall go in or out; which commonly happens when war has been declared. The Prophet appears to represent the ambassadors as declaring that henceforth there will be no opportunity of carrying on merchandise, and even that the highways will not be safe. F611 It is immediately added, —

They have violated the treaty. These words are viewed by some commentators as a complaint made by hypocrites that God does not fulfill his promises. If it were thought proper to view them as referring to God, still it would not be necessary to say that such a complaint proceeds from none but wicked men; for sometimes believers also quarrel with God in this manner. But I cannot approve of that interpretation; and, therefore, consider this to be a part of the description which the Prophet gives of the cruelty and insatiable rage of Sennacherib, in treacherously breaking the treaty which he had formerly made with Hezekiah; for, although he had promised that he would maintain peace, yet as soon as an opportunity presented itself for invading Judea, he violated his promise and made preparations for war. Such is also the import of the conclusion of the verse, that he hath despised the cities, he hath regarded no man, which means that his cruelty will be so great that he will not be restrained by shame or fear.

9. The earth hath mourned and languished. Here he describes more fully how wretched and desperate the Jews would perceive their condition to be, that their confidence might nevertheless come forth out of a deep gulf. The places are also specified by him, Lebanon, Bashan, and Carmel, which are widely distant from each other, and which form almost the farthest boundaries of the holy land, in order to shew that no part of it; will remain safe or uninjured. He describes this calamity in such a manner as to assign to each place what peculiarly belongs to it. To “Lebanon” he assigns confusion, because it is elsewhere mentioned as beautiful and glorious, in consequence of having been covered with lofty and valuable trees. He declares that “Sharon,” which was a level and fertile district, will be “like a wilderness,” and that “Bashan and Carmel,” which abounded in “fruits,” will be “shaken.” Thus he alludes to the natural character of each place, and describes the misery and distress in such a manner as to magnify and illustrate the kindness of God, by whom they would be delivered, even though they appeared to be utterly ruined; for here we may see the hand of God openly displayed, if it be not thought preferable to view the Prophet as relating a past transaction in order to excite them to thankfulness.

10. Now will I rise. There is great force in the particle now, and likewise in the repetition which is added, “I shall be exalted, I shall be lifted up on high.” We ought to observe the time to which these statements relate, that is, when the Church appeared to be utterly ruined; for God declares that he will judge that to be the most suitable time for rendering assistance. This is, therefore, a comparison of things which are contrary to each other; for he exhibits to believers the heavy and grievous calamities by which they should be oppressed, and under which they would easily sink, if they were not upheld by some consolation. As if he had said, “The Lord will suffer you to be brought very low, but when your affairs shall be at the worst, and when you shall have in vain tried every remedy, the Lord will arise and succor you.” Thus even when we are afflicted and brought very low, we ought to acknowledge that our safety cometh from God alone.

Accordingly, the word now denotes a period of the deepest distress. Men might think it exceedingly strange, but we plainly see the best reason why God thus delays to render assistance. It is, because it is useful to exercise the patience of the godly, to try their faith, to subdue the desires of the flesh, to excite to earnestness in prayer, and to strengthen the hope of a future life; and, therefore, he lays a restraint, that they may not with headlong eagerness anticipate that period which God has already marked out for them. The repetition is very emphatic, and is added for the purpose of confirming the statement; for when our affairs are desperate, we think that we are ruined, but at that very time we ought especially to hope, because the Lord generally selects it for giving a display of his power. For this reason, by extolling his loftiness, he arouses believers to the exercise of courage, that they may boldly defy the insolence of their enemies. F612

11. Ye shall conceive chaff. He now addresses his discourse to the enemies of the Church, whose insolence, he says, is foolish and to no purpose; for when God shall have brilliantly displayed his power, they shall know that their efforts will be fruitless, and that they will accomplish nothing, even though they be leagued together in vast crowds. The Lord laughs at their madness, in thinking that everything is in their power, when he can instantly, by the slightest expression of his will, restrain and destroy them, though they may be defended by a very powerful army.

It is customary in the Scriptures to employ the word conceptions for denoting the designs and efforts of men. (<181535>Job 15:35; <190714>Psalm 7:14; <232617>Isaiah 26:17, and 59:4.) The metaphor is taken from pregnant women. Men are said to “conceive” and to “bring forth,” when they attempt anything; but he declares that their “conception” shall be fruitless, and that they shall also “bring forth” to no purpose, for whatever they undertake shall be unsuccessful. There is nothing, therefore, in the brilliant military forces of our adversaries that ought to alarm us; for, although God may permit them for a time to bustle, and toil, and rage, yet God will at length turn into “chaff” all their rash and daring attempts. Let us learn that what Isaiah foretold about Sennacherib relates to all the adversaries of believers and of the Church.

The fire of your breath shall devour you. That they “shall be devoured by the fire of their breath” is usually explained to mean, “Your breath, like fire, shall devour you.” But that is an unsuitable and even absurd comparison, and the true meaning readily suggests itself, “The fire kindled by your breath shall devour you.” We commonly kindle a fire by blowing, and therefore he declares, that the fire which wicked men have blown by their wicked contrivances shall be destructive to them, because it shall consume them. It is the same statement which is often conveyed by a variety of metaphors in Scripture.

“They shall fall into the pit which they have digged. They are entangled in a net which they had prepared for others. The sword which they had drawn hath entered into their own bowels. Their arrow hath been turned back to pierce their own hearts.” (<190715>Psalm 7:15; 37:15; 57:6.)

Thus the Prophet shews that the wicked tyrant who laid waste Judea and besieged Jerusalem with a numerous army, and all others who in like manner are adversaries of the Church, bring down destruction on themselves, and will at length be destroyed; and, in short, that they will be consumed by that “fire” which they have kindled.

12. And the peoples shall be the burnings of lime. He compares them to “the burning of lime,” because their hardness shall be bruised, as fire softens the stones, so that they shall easily be reduced to powder; and, undoubtedly, the more powerfully wicked men are inflamed with a desire to commit injury, the more do they bruise themselves by their own insolence.

As thorns cut up. F613This metaphor is not less appropriate; for although they hinder men from touching them by the painful wounds which they inflict on the hands, yet there is no kind of wood that burns more violently or is more quickly consumed. Something of the same kind, we have said, may be observed in “lime,” which at first is hard, but is softened by the fire. The Prophet declares that the same thing will happen to the Babylonians, whom the Lord will easily destroy, though at first they appear to be formidable, and though it may be supposed to be unlikely that they shall be consumed by any conflagration. Whenever, therefore, we behold the enemies of the Church collecting all sorts of wealth and forces, and military preparations, in order to destroy us and set on fire the whole world, let us know that they are kindling a fire which shall miserably destroy them.

We know that this was fulfilled in Sennacherib, for the event proved the truth of these predictions, though they appeared to be altogether incredible. Let us hope that the same thing shall happen to all others who shall imitate the actions of this tyrant, and let us comfort ourselves by that example, and innumerable others, amidst our distresses and afflictions, which shall be followed by certain deliverance and dreadful vengeance on our enemies.

13. Near, ye that are far off. Isaiah here makes a preface, as if he were about to speak on a very weighty subject; for he bids his hearers be attentive, which is commonly done when any important and remarkable subject is handled. He addresses both those who are near, who would be eyewitnesses of this event, and the most distant nations to whom the report would be communicated; as if he had said that the power of God will be such as to be perceived not only by a few persons, or by those who are at hand, but also by those who shall be at a very great distance. Thus he means that it will be a striking and extraordinary demonstration of the power of God, because wicked men, who formerly were careless and unconcerned, as if they had been free from all danger of distress or annoyance, shall be shaken with terror.

14. The sinners in Zion are afraid. But some one might object that the subject here treated is not so important as to need that lofty preface intended to arouse the whole world. Was it a matter of so great importance that wicked men were struck with fear? But by an attentive examination it will be found that it is no ordinary exhibition of divine power, when wicked men are aroused from their indolence, so that, whether they will or not, they perceive that God is their judge, especially when contempt of God is accompanied by hypocrisy, For although it is difficult to arouse irreligious men, when a veil is spread over their hearts, F614 yet still greater is the obstinacy of hypocrites, who imagine that God is under obligations to them. Thus we see that men are so bewitched by madness, that they despise all threatenings and terrors, and mock at the judgments of God, and, in short, by witty jesting, set aside all prophecies, so that it ought to be regarded as a miracle that men who make such resistance are overthrown. Hence Isaiah, with good reason, kindles into rage against them;for, when he employs the word Zion, he undoubtedly reproves the degenerate Jews, because, when they were covered with the shadow of the sanctuary, they thought that they were in possession of a fortress which could not be stormed; and undoubtedly, as I remarked a little before, the haughtiest and proudest of all men are they who shelter themselves under the name of God, and glory in the title of the Church.

Terror hath seized the wicked, ypnh (chanephim) is translated hypocrites, but still more frequently it may be viewed as denoting “treacherous revolters and men utterly worthless.” Since, therefore, they were so wicked, and mocked at God and the prophets, he three, tens that God will be a judge so sharp and severe, that they shall no longer find pleasure in their impostures. Next is added a conression which wears the aspect of humility, in order to shew more clearly that hypocrites, who do not willingly obey God, at length find that experience is their instructor how dreadful is the judgment of God. As soon, therefore, as their “laughing” is turned into “gnashing of teeth,” they begin to acknowledge that their whole strength is chaff or stubble. (<420625>Luke 6:25; <400812>Matthew 8:12.)

Which of us shall dwell with the devouring fire? As to the meaning of the words, some translate them, “Who shall dwell instead of us?” Others, “Which of us shall dwell?” If we view them simply as meaning “to us,” or “for us,” the meaning may be thus explained, “Who shall encounter the fire, or place himself between, so that the flame may not reach us?” There are also other interpretations which amount to the same thing; but commentators differ in this respect, that some view the words as relating to the king of Assyria, and others as relating to God. I prefer the latter opinion, as has been already shewn; for although the king of Assyria might be regarded as a “fire” that would burn up the earth with his heat, yet the Prophet intended to express something far more dreadful, namely, the inward anguish by which ungodly men are tormented, the stings of conscience which cannot be allayed, the unquenchable burning of crimes which exceeds every kind of torments; for whatever is the course pursued by ungodly men, such will they find the dispensations of God to be towards them.

On their account, therefore, God is called a devouring fire, as we may learn from Moses, (<050424>Deuteronomy 4:24, and 9:3,) from whom the prophets, as we have frequently remarked, borrow their doctrines, and who is also followed by the Apostle. (<581202>Hebrews 12:2.9.) This exposition is confirmed by the Prophet himself, who shews what was the cause of that terror. It might be objected that God was excessively severe, and that he terrified them beyond measure; but he is usually kind and gentle to the godly, while wicked men feel that he is severe and terrible. Some think that the Prophet intended to convince all men of their guilt, in order that they might abandon all confidence, in their works, and in a lowly and humble manner betake themselves to the grace of God, as if he had said, “None but he who is perfectly righteous can stand before the judgmentseat of God, and therefore all are accursed.”

But he rather speaks in the name, and agreeably to the feelings, of those who formerly scorned all threatenings; and he now represents those very persons as inquiring with trembling dismay, “Who shall dare to go into the presence of God?This mournful complaint is a manifestation of that terror which hath lately seized them, when, being convinced of their frailty, they cry out in sorrow, “Who shall endure the presence of God?” But since they still murmur against God, though he compels them reluctantly to utter these words, the Prophet, on the other hand, in order to restrain their wicked barkings, replies that God is not naturally the object of terror or alarm to men, but that it arises through their own fault, because conscience, which God does not suffer to lie idle, terrifies them with their crimes.

15. He that walketh in righeousness. Now, therefore, he explains more fully what we briefly remarked a little before, that they who provoke his anger, and thus drive away from them his forbearance, have no right to complain that God is excessively severe. Thus he convinces them of their guilt and exhorts them to repentance, for he shews that there is a state of friendship between God and men, if they wish to follow and practice “righteousness,” if they maintain truth and integrity, if they are free from all corruptions and act inoffensively towards their neighbors; but because they abound in every kind of wickedness, and have abandoned themselves to malice, calumny, covetousness, robbery, and other crimes, it is impossible that the Lord should not strike them down with fear, by shewing that he is terrible to them. In short, the design of the Prophet is to shut the mouths of wicked babblers, that they may not accuse God of cruelty in their destruction; for the whole blame rests on themselves. By evasions they endeavor to escape condemnation. But the Prophet declares that God is always gracious to his worshippers, and that in this sense Moses calls him “a fire,” (<050424>Deuteronomy 4:24, and 9:3,) that men may not despise his majesty and power; but that every one who shall approach to him with sincere piety will know by actual experience that nothing is more pleasant or delightful than his presence. Since, therefore, God shines on believers with a bright countenance, they enjoy settled peace with him through a good conscience; and hence it follows that God is not naturally terrible, but that he is forced to it by our wickedness.

This discourse is directed chiefly against hypocrites, who throw a false veil of piety over their hidden pollutions and crimes, and make an improper use of the name of God, that they may indulge more freely in wickedness. By the examples which he adduces in illustration of “righteousness,” the Prophet more openly reproves their crimes. He enumerates the principal actions of life by means of which we shew what sort of persons we are. Here, as in many other passages, he treats of the second table of the Law, by which the sincerity of godliness is put to the test; for, as gold is tried in the fire, so the dispositions which we cherish towards God are ascertained from the habitual course of our life, when our sincerity comes to be seen by the duties which we owe to each other.

The word walketh is the wellknown metaphor of a road, which is frequently employed in Scripture for describing the manner of life or habitual conduct. By righteousness he means not the entire keeping of the Law, but that equity which is included in the second table; for we must not; imagine that subtle disquisitions about “righteousness” are here intended.

Who speaketh what is right. He now enumerates the chief parts of that uprightness which ought to be maintained; and as the tongue is the chief instrument by which a man regulates his actions, he places it in the second rank after “righteousness.” He who restrains it from slander and evilspeaking, from deceit, perjury, and falsehood, so as not to injure his brother in any matter, is said to “speak what is right.” Next is added another department,

Who despiseth the gain arising from violence and calumny. He might have said in a single word, “who despiseth money;but he employed more homely language, and accommodated himself to the ignorance of men. He who is desirous of riches, and does not refrain from robbery or from base and unlawful means of making gain, harasses and oppresses the poor and feeble, and cares for nothing else than to lay hold on money in every direction, and by every method either right or wrong. He next proceeds farther, and describes corruptions of every sort.

Who shaketh his hands from accepting a bribe. Under the name of bribes, by which judges are corrupted, he likewise includes everything else. There is nothing by which the dispositions of men and righteous judgment are so much perverted; and therefore he bids them “shake their hands,” so as to intimate in what abhorrence they should be held, and with what care they should be avoided by all, lest, if they only handled or were tainted by barely touching them, they should be drawn aside kern what is just and right; for “bribes” have wonderful powers of fascination, so that it is very difficult for judges to keep their hands altogether clean and uncorrupted by them. What, then, can we think of those who always have their hands stretched out and ready to receive, and crooked nails ready to catch; and not only so, but, like harlots, openly hire themselves out for gain? Need we wonder if God thunders against them with unrelenting vengeance?

Who stoppeth his ear that it way not hear blood. At length he demands that the manifestation of uprightness shall be made in the ears. By blood he means murder and manslaughter, but he likewise includes wicked conspiracies of every kind, that the “ears” may not be open to hear them, so.as to give our consent.. He does not mean that our “ears” should be shut against the cries of the poor, when they suffer injuries and oppression; but he means that we should detest wicked devices by which unprincipled men contrive the ruin of the innocent, that we may not even lend our “ears” to their discourses, or allow ourselves to be solicited in any way to do what is evil.

Who shutteth his eyes. At length he demands the same holiness in the “eyes.” In short, he teaches that we ought to restrain all our senses, that we may not give to wicked men any token of our approbation, if we wish to escape the wrath of God and that terrible burning of which he formerly spake.

16. He shall dwell in high places. That the Jews may know that the chastisements which God had inflicted on them were righteous, and may endeavor to be restored to his favor, he says that his blessing is ready to be bestowed on good and upright men, such as he described in the former verse, and that they are not subject to any danger, and have no reason to dread that burning which he mentioned, because they shall be made to dwell in a place of the greatest safety. As to wicked men, slanderers, robbers, and deceitful persons, on the other hand, who cannot restrain their tongue, and hands, and ears, and eyes from base and wicked actions, the Prophet shews that we need not wonder if God treat them with severity, and that, while God is their judge, their own conscience is at the same time their executioner; and consequently, that the only means of hindering them from dreading the presence of God, is to keep themselves voluntarily in the fear of God. By “high places,” he means a very safe place, and free from all danger, which ns attack of the enemy can reach, as he declares plainly enough immediately afterwards by assigning to them a habitation among “fortified rocks.”

Bread shall be given to him. To a safe dwelling he adds an abundance of good things; as if he had said that the holy and upright worshippers of God shall lack nothing, because God will not only protect them so as to keep them safe from all danger, but will also supply them abundantly with all that is necessary for the support of life. By the words “bread” and “water” he means all the daily necessaries of life.

And his waters shall be sure. Though wicked men have abundance for a time, they shall afterwards be hungry; as God threatens in the Law, that they shall have famine and hunger. (<032619>Leviticus 26:19; <052823>Deuteronomy 28:23, 48.) The same remark may be made with regard to “bread,” for the word “sure” relates to both; as if he had said, that all believers shall have their food made “sure.” “Lions are hungry, and wander about; but they that fear God shall not want any good thing,” (<193410>Psalm 34:10;) because God, who is by nature bountiful, is not wearied by bestowing liberally, and does not exhaust his wealth by acts of kindness.

Besides, as the life of men is exposed to various dangers, and as abundance of meat and drink is not all that is necessary for our support, unless the Lord defend us by his power, we ought, therefore, to observe carefully what he formerly mentioned, that believers are placed in a safe abode. The Lord performs the office of a shepherd, and not only supplies them with food, but also defends them from the attacks of robbers, enemies, and wolves; and, in short, keeps them under his protection and guardianship, so as not to allow any evil to befall them. Whenever, therefore, it happens, that enemies annoy us, let us consider that we are justly punished for our sins, and that we are deprived of God’s assistance because we do not deserve it; for we must reckon our sins to be the cause of all the evils which we endure.

Yet let not those who are conscious of their integrity imagine that God has forsaken them, but let them to the latest day of their life rely on. those promises in which the Lord assures his people that he will be a very safe refuge to them. No man, indeed, can be so holy or upright as to be capable of enduring the eye of God; for “if the Lord mark our iniquities,” as David says, “who shall endure?” (<19D003>Psalm 130:3.) We therefore need a mediator, through whose intercession our sins may be forgiven; and the Prophet did not intend to set aside the ordinary doctrine of Scripture on this subject, but to strike with terror wicked men, who are continually stung and pursued by an evil conscience, F615 This ought to be carefully observed in opposition to the Popish doctors, by whom passages of this kind, which recommend works, are abused in order to destroy the righteousness of faith; as if the atonement for our sins, which we obtain through the sacrifice of Christ, ought to be set aside.

17. The king in his beauty. Although the Prophet changes the person, yet this verse must be connected with the preceding verse; for he addresses the sincere worshippers of God, to whom he promises this additional blessing, Thou shalt see the king in his beauty This promise was highly necessary for supporting the hearts of believers, when the state of affairs in Judea was so lamentable and so desperate. When Jerusalem was besieged, the king shut up within the city and surrounded by treacherous counsellors, the people unsteady and seditious, and everything hastening to ruin, there appeared to be no hope left. Still the royal authority in the family of David was a remarkable pledge of the love of God. Isaiah, therefore, meets this danger by saying, that though they behold their king covered with filthy garments, yet he shall be restored to his former rank and splendor.

First, it ought to be observed how invaluable is the kindness of God, when the commonwealth is at peace, and enjoys good princes, by whom everthing is administered justly and faithfully; for by their agency God rules over us. Since, therefore, this happiness is not inconsiderable, the Prophet was unwilling to leave out this part, in promising prosperity to the worshippers of God. Yet it, ought also to be observed, that that kingdom was a type of the kingdom of Christ, whose image Hezekiah bore; for there would be a slight fulfillment of this promise, if we did not trace it to Christ, to whom all these things must be understood to refer. Let no man imagine that I am here pursuing allegories, to which I am averse, and that this is the reason why I do not interpret the passage as relating directly to Christ; but, because in Christ alone is found the stability of that frail kingdom, the likeness which Hezekiah bore leads us to Christ, as it were, by the hand. I am, therefore, disposed to view Hezekiah as a figure of Christ, that we may learn how great will be his beauty. In a word, Isaiah here promises the restoration of the Church.

The land very far off. The restoration of the Church consists of two parts; first, that “the king shall be seen in his beauty;” and secondly, that the boundaries of the kingdom shall be extended. We know that the appearance of Christ is so disfigured as to be contemptible in the eyes of the world, because “no beauty or loveliness” (<235302>Isaiah 53:2) is seen in him; but at length, his majesty and splendor and beauty shall be openly displayed, his kingdom shall flourish and be extended far and. wide. Although at present wicked men have everything in their power, and oppress the true servants of God, so that they scarcely have a spot on which they can plant their foot in safety, yet. with firm hope we ought to look for our King, who will at length sit down on his bright and magnificent throne, and will gloriously enrich his people.

18. Thy heart shall meditate terror. Believers are again informed what calamities are at hand, lest, by being suddenly overtaken with such heavy afflictions, they should sink under them. hghy (yehgeh) is translated by some in the preterite, “meditated,” and by others in the future, “shall meditate;” because such an exchange of tenses is customary in the Hebrew language. For my own part, believing that he warns the people of approaching distresses, instead of relating those which had been formerly endured, I willingly retain the future tense, which is also the tense employed by the Prophet, “shall meditate.”

Where is the scribe? He relates in a dramatic and lively manner (mimhtikw~v) the speeches of those who, overcome by terror, break out into these exclamations: Where is the scribe? Where is the weigher? thus expressing the powerful impression made on their minds. If any one suppose that the line of thought is suddenly broken off, because the Prophet, having in the former verse spoken of “the kings beauty,” now brings forward terrors, I have no doubt that he magnifies the kindness of God by means of comparison, in order that believers, when they have been delivered, may set a higher value on the condition to which they have attained. Men are forgetful and niggardly in judging of God’s favors, and, after having been once set free, do not consider what was the depth of their misery. Such persons need to be reminded of those wretched and disastrous times, during which they endured great sufferings, in order that they may more fully appreciate the greatness of the favor which God has bestowed on them. We ought also to observe another reason why it was advantageous that the people should be forewarned of that terror. It was that, after having heard of the kings magnificence, they might not promise themselves exemption from all uneasiness, but might be prepared to undergo any kind of troubles and distresses, and that, even while they were subject to tribute and placed under siege, they might, know that the kingdom of Judah was the object of God’s care, and would be rescued from the hands of tyrants.

It is a very wretched condition which the Prophet describes, that a free people should be oppressed by such cruel tyranny as to have all their property valued, and an inventory taken of their houses, possessions, families, and servants. How grievous this slavery is, many persons formerly unaccustomed to it actually know by experience in our times, when their property is valued to the very last farthing, and a valuation is made not only of their undoubted incomes but also of their expected gains, and not only their money and possessions, but even their names are placed on record, while new methods of taxation are contrived, not only on food but on the smallest articles, so that tyrants seize on a large portion of those things which are indispensably necessary to the wretched populace; and yet those calamities do not restrain men from insolence, licentiousness, and rebellion. What then will happen when they shall be free and at full liberty? Will they not, forgetful of all their distresses, and unmindful of God’s kindness, abandon themselves more freely than before to every kind of indulgence and licentiousness? It is not without good reason, therefore, that the Prophet places before the eyes of the people that wretched condition, that they may not, when delivered from it, giveway to their unlawful passions, but may acknowledge their deliverer and may love him with all their heart.

Some have falsely imagined that Paul (<460120>1 Corinthians 1:20) quotes this passage; for that would spoil the Prophet’s meaning and torture his words to a different purpose. They have been led into a mistake by the mere use of the word “scribe,” which there denotes a Teacher. Isaiah gives the name of “the scribe” to the person who took account of persons, families, lands, and houses, and, in short, who kept the registers of the taxes. By “the weigher,” he means the person who received the taxes, for he “weighed” the money which was paid. That office is discharged in the present day by those who are called treasurers.

Where is he who singles out the principal houses? He now.adds a very troublesome and exceedingly disliked class of men, “the describers of the towers,” that is, of the more remarkable buildings; for they visit and examine each person’s house, in order to know who are more wealthy than others, that they may demand a larger sum of money. Such men,like huntinghounds, are commonly employed by tyrants to scent the track of money, for the sake of laying on some unusual impost in addition to the ordinary taxes. The arrival of such persons must have been exceedingly annoying to the people, for they never cease till they have sucked all the blood and marrow. If any one prefer to view this term as denoting the servants of the king himself, whose business it was to destroy the houses adjoining to the walls of the city, let him enjoy his opinion. For my own part, I think it probable that the Prophet speaks of the receivers of taxes, whom conquerors appoint over vanquished nations for the sake of maintaining their authority.

19. Thou shaft not see a fierce people. The word z[wn (nognaz) is translated by some “strong,” and by others “impudent;” but, undoubtedly, he intends to express the fierceness of the Assyrians, which he afterwards affirms by saying that they would have no intercourse with them, because they spoke a different language. Nothing is more fitted to excite men to compassion than the intercourse of speech, by which men explain their distresses to each other. When this is wanting, there can be no means of gaining their hearts; each party is a barbarian to the other; and nothing more can be obtained from them than if one were dealing with wild and savage beasts. The Prophet, therefore, dwells largely on the wretched condition of the people, in order to shew, on the other hand, how great was the kindness of God in delivering them from so great terror. In like manner, the Holy Spirit magnifies the grace of God, in preserving his people in Egypt, though

“they did not understand the language of that nation.”
(Psalm 131:5.)

20. Behold Zion. Some read it in the vocative case, “Behold, O Zion;” but it is preferable to read it in the accusative case. He brings forward a promise of the restoration of the Church, which ought to have great weight with all godly persons; for when the Church shakes or falls, there can be no hope of prosperity. That the Church will be restored he shews in such a manner that he places it before our eyes as having actually taken place, though he speaks of what is future; and his object is to give greater energy to his style, as if he had said, “Again you will see Zion restored and Jerusalem flourishing.” Although believers see everything destroyed and scattered, and although they despair of her safety, yet in Jerusalem there shall be a quiet and safe habitation.

The city of our solemnities, or of our assemblies. By this designation he shews that we ought to judge of the restoration of Zion chiefly on this ground, that the people “assembled” there to hear the Law, to confirm the covenant of the Lord, to call upon his name, and to offer sacrifices. When the people were deprived of these things, they were scattered and nearly lost, and appeared to be separated from their head and utterly abandoned. Accordingly, nothing was so deeply lamented by godly persons, when they were held in captivity at Babylon, as to be banished from their native country and at the same time deprived of those advantages; and that this was the chief complaint of all believers is very manifest from many passages. (<19D704>Psalm 137:4.)

“Zion” is called by him “a city,” because it formed the middle of the city, and was also called “the city of David.” (<232209>Isaiah 22:9.) The extent of Jerusalem was different and larger; for, as we mentioned in the explanation of another passage, F616 there was a double wall, which is customary in many cities. Here it ought to be observed that the restoration of the Church is the most valuable of all blessings, and ought above all things to be desired; that everything else, even though it should be most abundant, is of no avail, if this single blessing be, wanting; and, on the other hand, that we cannot be unhappy, so long as Jerusalem, that is, the Church, shall flourish. Now, it is restored and flourishes, when God presides in our assemblies, and when we are assembled in his name and thus cleave to him. Wicked men indeed shelter themselves under the name of God, as if they were assembled at his command; but it is an empty mask, for in their heart they are very far from him, and attempt nothing in obedience to his authority.

Jerusalem a peaceful habitation. He says that believers, who had long been agitated amidst numerous alarms, will have a safe and “peaceful habitation” in the Church of God. Although God gave to his people some taste of that peace under the reign of Hezekiah, yet it was only in Christ that the fulfillment of it was manifested. Not that since that time the children of God have had a quiet habitation in the world; even in the present day this peacefulness is concealed; for we lead an exceedingly wandering and uncertain life, are tossed about by various storms and tempests, are attacked by innumerable enemies, and must engage in various battles, so that there is scarcely a single moment that we are at rest. The peace which is promised, therefore, is not that which can be perceived by our bodily senses, but we must come to the inward feelings of the heart, which have been renewed by the Spirit of God, so that we enjoy that peace which no human understanding is able to comprehend; for, as Paul says, “it goes beyond all our senses.” (<500407>Philippians 4:7.) The Lord will undoubtedly bestow it upon us, if we dwell in the Church.

A tent which shall not be carried away, the stakes of which shall never be removed. By these metaphors of “a tabernacle” and of “stakes,” he describes accurately the condition of the Church. He might have called it a well-founded city, but he says that it is “a tabernacle,” which, by its very nature, is such that it can be speedily removed to a different place, in order that, though we may consider the condition of the Church to be uncertain and liable to many changes, yet we may know that it cannot be moved or shaken; for it will remain in spite of storms and tempests, in spite of all the attacks of enemies, and in opposition to what appears to be its nature, and to the views of our understanding. These two statements appear to be inconsistent with each other, and faith alone reconciles them, by maintaining that it is safer to dwell in this “tabernacle” than in the best defended fortresses.

We ought to employ this as a shield against temptations,which otherwise would speedily destroy our faith, whenever we perceive the Church to be not only shaken, but violently driven about in all possible directions. Who would say that amidst that violent storm the “tabernacle” was safe? But since God does not wish his people to be wholly fixed on the earth, that they may depend more on himself alone, the protection which he promises to us ought to be reckoned better than a hundred, better than a thousand supports.

21. Because there the mighty Jehovah will be to us. The two particles y yk (ki im) often serve the place of a double affirmative, but here a reason is assigned, and they might even be appropriately rendered, For if; but I willingly retain what is more clear. The Prophet assigns the reason why the Church, which appears to resemble a movable “tent,” exceeds in stability the best founded cities. It is because “the Lord is in the midst of her,” as it is also said, (<194605>Psalm 46:5,) and “therefore she shall not be moved.” If we separate the Church from God;. it will immediately fall without any attack; for it will consist of men only, than whom nothing can be more weak or frail.

Will be to us a place of rivers. When God dwells with us, he confirms and supports what was naturally feeble, and supplies to us the place of a very strong fortress, a very broad ditch, and walls and “rivers” surrounding the city on every side. He alludes to the situation of the city Jerusalem, which had only a small rivulet, and not large and rapid rivers, like those of Babylon and other cities; for in another passage (<230806>Isaiah 8:6) he enjoined them to rest satisfied with the power of God alone, and not to covet those broad rivers. As if he had said, “Our strength shall be invincible, if God rule over us; for under his guidance and direction we shall be abundantly fortified.”

There shall not pass a ship with oars. Large rivers are attended by this inconvenience, that they may give access to enemies, so as to enable them to approach with their ships nearer than is desirable; and thus, very frequently, what appeared to be of service is found to be injurious. But while the Lord says that he will be “a river,” he says also that there will be no reason to dread such an inconvenience, and that enemies will not be allowed to approach, he mentions two kinds of ships, long ships, and ships of burden, in order to shew that enemies will be shut out in every possible way. Hence we ought to draw a very useful doctrine, that the hope of safety should not be sought from any other than from God alone, and that it is in vain to collect various means of defense, which will be useless, and even hurtful, if He be not on our side.

22. For Jehovah is our judge. The Prophet now explains the manner in which God dwells in the Church. It is, that he is there worshipped and acknowledged as Judge, Lawgiver, and King; for they who obey God and yield subjection to him as their King, shall know by experience that he is the guardian of their salvation; but they who falsely glory in his name, vainly hope that he will assist them. Let us only yield to his authority, hear his voice, and obey him; and, on the other hand, he will shew that he is our protector and most faithful guardian. But when we despise his voice and disobey his word, we undoubtedly have no reason to wonder that he abandons and forsakes us in dangers.

Hence, also, we ought to observe what is the true Church of God. It is that which acknowledges God to be a “Lawgiver” and “King.” With what effrontery, therefore, do the Papists dare to boast that they are the Church of God, seeing that they reject that lawful government of it which was enjoined by Moses, and the Prophets, and Christ, and substitute in the room of it inventions and base traffic? They exert a cruel tyranny over consciences, and, by taking away all the liberty which Christ has bestowed on us, they wretchedly harass souls and lead them to perdition; but God alone has the right to rule the conscience, because he alone is “Lawgiver” and “Judge,” and he alone ought to rule and guide us by his word. He combines here the three words, “Judge,” “Lawgiver” and King,” because the subject is of very great importance, and ought not to be lightly set aside. If, therefore, we permit ourselves to be guided by his word, he will never fail us; and this is the only way of obtaining salvation.

23. Thy cords were loosed. He directs his discourse to the Assyrians, in whose person he likewise addresses all the enemies of the Church. After having promised to the Church such stability as shall never be disturbed, he rebukes the foolish confidence with which ungodly men are puffed up; as if they had been so deeply rooted as to reach the center of the earth. Although, during the intoxicating influence of prosperity, they imagine that their wealth is exceedingly secure, he foretells that ruin will quickly overtake them, because they are not supported by the hand of God.

He follows out the comparison which he had employed at the commencement. Having said that the Church resembles a place that is fortified and surrounded by very broad rivers which do not admit the approach of enemies, he now compares the condition of wicked men to ships; by which he means that they have no solid foundation, though they appear to be formidable, and though they are madly eager and fiercely cruel, and imagine that none can resist their rage. Although, therefore, they have long ships and ships of burden, by which they may be said to form a union between countries placed at great distances from each other, and to make themselves masters of sea and land, still they shall have no permanency or stability. The Lord will sink their ships, will take away their ropes and masts, and will involve them in a universal shipwreck. Let us not therefore be terrified by their fury and insolence, but let us look for the day of the Lord, when he shall make their rage and violence to fall on their own heads.

24. And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick. The Prophet again returns to the Church; for the destruction which he threatened against the Assyrians tended also to the consolation of the godly, since the safety of the Church could not be maintained unless the Lord granted his protection against so many adversaries who attack and molest her on every hand. Accordingly, having briefly remarked that all the reprobate who annoy the children of God shall be defeated, he appropriately follows out his subject by affirming that God will leave nothing undone that could promote the salvation of the godly. He says, therefore, that the citizens of the Church shall be freed from every inconvenience, because through the favor of God they shall enjoy prosperity.

The people that dwell in it have been freed from iniquity. This latter clause of the verse explains the former; for it shews that there is nothing to prevent the blessings of God from being largely enjoyed by us, when our sins have been pardoned. Hence, also, we conclude, that all the miseries which press upon us spring from no other source than from our sins. On any other ground the reason which he assigns might appear to be, farfetched and inappropriate; but we must hold this principle, that all the evils which God inflicts upon us are so many tokens of his anger. Hence it follows that, when guilt has been removed, nothing remains but that God will regard us with the affection of a father, and will graciously bestow upon us all that we need. If, therefore, we desire to be delivered from afflictions, we ought to observe this order, to seek first to be reconciled to God; for the removal of the cause would be speedily followed by the removal of the effect.

But seeing that our desires, are illregulated, and that, in consequence of being anxious merely to avoid punishments, we shut our eyes against the root of our distresses, we need not wonder that we obtain no alleviation of them. Those persons, therefore, are mistaken who indulge in their vices, and yet wish to be exempted from every kind of afflictions. If they do not suffer and adversity, still they will not cease to be miserable, and cannot enjoy peace of mind so long as they are pursued by the consciousness of their crimes. Consequently, true happiness consists in this, that we have obtained pardon from God, and sincerely believe that all the blessings which we receive from his hand are the results of his fatherly kindness.

Let us also learn that there is no other way in which we can please God, or obtain the honor of being accounted his children, than when he ceases to impute to us our sins; and therefore it is only the reconciliation which we obtain by free grace that pacifies God toward us, and opens up the way to the enjoyment of his goodness. That there is no visible evidence of that exemption from afflictions does not lessen the truth of the promise, because believers are abundantly satisfied with this comfort in their afflictions, that even when they are chastened by the hand of God, still they are his beloved children. So far as they have been renewed by his Spirit, they begin to taste the blessing which was in full perfection before the fall of Adam; but because they are burdened with many sins, they constantly need to be cleansed. Still, however, through compassion on their weakness, God mitigates their punishment, and, if not by removing altogether, yet by abating and soothing their grief, shews that he promotes their happiness; and therefore it is not without good reason that the Prophet declares the Church to be exempted from ordinary calamities, so far as they proceed from the curse of God.

Hence, also, we see clearly how childish is the distinction of the Papists, that the removal of guilt is of no avail; as if we had to satisfy the judgment of God. But far otherwise do the prophets teach, as may be easily learned from various passages; and if there had been nothing more than this single passage, can anything be plainer than that sicknesses come to an end, because iniquity has been pardoned? The meaning is undoubtedly the same as if he had said, that punishment ceases because sin has been pardoned. True, indeed, though God has been pacified towards them, F617 he sometimes inflicts punishment on believers; and the object is, that by fatherly chastisement he may instruct them more fully for the future, and not that he may take vengeance on them, as if he had been. but half reconciled. But Papists think that their punishments are of the nature of satisfactions, and that by paying them the sinner in some measure redeems himself, and puts away his guilt; which is absolutely inconsistent with a free pardon. Thus their abominable inventions, both about satisfactions, and about the fire of purgatory, fall to the ground.

It is also worthy of observation, that none but the citizens of the Church enjoy this privilege; for, apart from the body of Christ and the fellowship of the godly, there can be no hope of reconciliation with God. Hence, in the Creed we profess to believe in “The Catholic Church and the forgiveness of sins;” for God does not include among the objects of his love any but those whom he reckons among [he members of his onlybegotten Son, and, in like manuel’, does not extend to any who do not belong to his body the free imputation of righteousness. Hence it follows, that strangers who separate themselves from the Church have nothing left for them but to rot amidst their curse. Hence, also, a departure from the Church is an open renouncement of eternal salvation.


CHAPTER 34

Go To Isaiah 34:1-17

1. Draw near, ye nations. Hitherto the Prophet, intentding to comfort the children of God, preached, as it were, in the midst of them; but now, directing his discourse to the Gentiles, he pursues the same subject, but in a different manner. Having formerly shewn (<233306>Isaiah 33:6, 20) that the Lord takes such care of his people as to find out the means of preserving them, he now likewise adds, what we have often seen in earlier parts of this book, that, after having permitted wicked men to harass them for a time, he will at length be their avenger, He therefore pursues the same subject, but with a different kind of consolation; for he describes what terrible vengeance the Lord will take on wicked men who had injured his people.

Hearken, ye peoples. In order to arouse them the more, he opens the address by this exclamation, as if he were about to discharge the office of a herald, and summon the nations to appear before the judgmentseat of God. It was necessary thus to shake off the listlessness of wicked men, who amidst ease and prosperity despise all threatenings, and do not think that God will take vengeance on their crimes. Yet amidst this vehemence he has his eye principally on the Church; for otherwise he would have spoken to the deaf, and without any advantage.

Let the earth hear. He addresses the Edomites who would haughtily despise these judgments, and therefore he calls heaven and earth to bear witness against them; for he dedares that the judgment will be so visible and striking, that not only all the nations but even the dumb creatures shall behold it. It is customary with the prophets thus to address the dumb creatures, when men, though endued with reason and understanding, are stupid, as we have formerly seen. (<230102>Isaiah 1:2; <053201>Deuteronomy 32:1.)

2. For the indignation of Jehovah is on all the nations. He undoubtedly means “the nations” which were hostile to the Jews, and at the same time were contiguous to them; for, being surrounded on all sides by various nations, they had almost as many enemies as neighbors. Though this hatred arose from other causes, such as envy, yet the diversity of religion very greatly inflamed their rage, for they were exceedingly offended at having their superstitions condemned. So much stronger was the reason why God proraised that he would be a judge and avenger.

On all their army. This is added because the Jews were few in number when compared with the rest of the nations. Although, therefore, “the nations” were proud of their vast numbers, and despised the Jews because they were few, yet he declares that God will easily diminish and crush them, in order to preserve, his little flock, of which he is the guardian.

He hath destroyed them. Though he speaks of future events, yet he chose to employ the past tense, in order to place the event immediately before the eyes of those who were lying low and overwhelmed with adversity. These predictions were made, as I briefly noticed a little before, not on account of the Edomites, who paid no regard to this doctrine, but for the sake of the godly, whom he wished to comfort, because they were wretchedly harassed by their enemies.

3. Their slain shall be cast out. By this circumstance he shews that it will be a great calamity, for if a few persons are “slain,” they are committed to the earth; but when so great a multitude is slain at one time, that there are not left as many as are necessary for burying them, there is no thought of interment, and therefore the air is polluted by the stench of their carcases. Hence it is evident, that God is sufficiently powerful to lay low innumerable armies. Perhaps, also, the Prophet intended to heighten the picture of the judgment of God, because to the slaughter of the nations there will be added shame and disgrace, so that they shall be deprived of the honor and duty of burial

And the mountains shall melt on account of their blood. Another figure of speech is employed to shew more fully the extent of the slaughter, for the “blood” will flow from “the mountains,” as if the very mountains were melted, just as when the waters run down violently after heavy showers, and sweep away the soil along with them. Thus, also, he shows that there will be no means of escape, because the sword will rage as cruelly on the very mountains as on the field of battle.

4. And all the armies of heaven shall fade away. Isaiah employs an exaggerated style, as other prophets are accustomed to do, in order to represent vividly the dreadful nature of the judgment of God, and to make an impression on men’s hearts that were dull and sluggish; for otherwise his discourse would have been deficient in energy, and would have had little influence on careless men. He therefore adds that “the stars” themselves, amidst such slaughter, shall gather blackness as if they were ready to faint, and he does so in order to show more fully that it will be a mournful calamity. In like manner, as in a dark and troubled sky, the clouds appear to be folded together, the sun and stars to grow pale and, as it were, to faint, and all those heavenly bodies to totter and give tokens of ruin; he declares that thus will it happen at that time, and that everything shall be full of the saddest lamentation.

These statements must be understood to relate to men’s apprehension, for heaven is not moved out of its place; but when the Lord gives manifestations of his anger, we are terrified as if the Lord folded up or threw down the heavens; not that anything of this kind takes place in heaven, but he speaks to careless men, who needed to be addressed in this manner, that they might not imagine the subject to be trivial or a fit subject of scorn. “You will be seized with such terror that you shall think that the sky is falling down on your heads.” It is the just punishment of indifference, that wicked men, who are not moved by any fear of God, dread their own shadow, and tremble “at the rustling of a falling leaf,” (<032636>Leviticus 26:36,) as much as if the sun were falling from heaven. Yet it also denotes a dreadful revolution of affairs, by which everything shall be subverted and disturbed.

5. For my sword is made drunken in the heavens. He says that the “sword” of the Lord is bloody, as extensive slaughter makes the “swords” wet with gore; and, in order to give greater weight to his style, he represents the Lord as speaking. But why does he say that it is in heaven? for God does not call men to heaven to inflict punishment on them, but executes his judgments openly in the world, and by the hand of men. F618 Here the Prophet looks at the secret decree of God, by which he appoints and determines everything before it is executed; and he does not mean the act itself, but extols the efficacy of the prediction, because the certainty of the effect is manifest from the unchangeable purpose of God; that unbelievers may know that the Lord in heaven takes account of the crimes of wicked men, although for a time they may pursue their career of iniquity without being punished, and that, although they enjoy profound peace, still the sword by which they shall be slain is even now bloody in the sight of God, when he determines to inflict punishment on them. In like manner Sodom (<011928>Genesis 19:28) was already burning in the sight of God, while it freely indulged in wine and feasting, and in satisfying its lust; and the same thing must be said of other wicked men, who, while they are wallowing in pleasures, are held as appointed by God to be slain. We ought not, therefore, to fix our attention on the present state when we see wicked men enjoy prosperity and do everything according to their wish. Though no one annoys them, still they are not far from destruction when God is angry with them and is their enemy.

So it shall come down on Edom. He expressly mentions the Edomites, who were hostile to the people of God, though related to them by blood, and distinguished by the same mark of religion; for they were, as we have formerly mentioned, F619 descended from Esau, (<013608>Genesis 36:8,) and were the posterity of Abraham. At the present day, in like manner, we have no enemies more deadly than the Papists, who have publicly received the same baptism with ourselves, and even profess Christ, and yet cruelly persecute and would wish utterly to destroy us, because we condemn their superstitions and idolatry. Such were the Edomites, and therefore the Prophet has chiefly selected them out of the whole number of the enemies.

On the people of my curse. By giving them this appellation he confirms the sentence which he had pronounced, for in vain would they endeavor to escape that destruction to which they were already destined and devoted. By this term he declares that they are already destroyed by a decree of heaven, as if they had been already separated and cut off from the number of living men. That it may not be thought that God has done it unjustly, he adds, to judgment; for there is nothing to which men are more prone than to accuse God of cruelty, and the greater part of men are unwilling to acknowledge that he is a righteous judge, especially when he chastises with severity. Isaiah, therefore, shews that it is a just judgment, for God does nothing through cruelty or through excessive severity.

6. The sword of Jehovah is filled with blood. He follows out the same statement, but by a different description, which places the matter in a much stronger light, in order to shake off the drowsiness of wicked men, who are wont to laugh and scoff at all doctrine, as we have formerly remarked. It is therefore necessary that the judgments of God should be set forth as in a lively picture:, that it may not only make a deep impression on their dull minds, but may encourage believers by holy confidence, when they learn that the pride and rebellion of their enemies cannot at all hinder them from being dragged like cattle to the slaughter, whenever it shall be the will of God.

He compares it to sacrifices, for animals are slain in sacririce for the worship and honor of God, and in like manner the destruction of this people will also tend to the glory of God. And here he confirms what was formerly said about judgment, for when God executes his judgments, he shews forth his glow; so that the destruction of wicked men is justly compared to “sacrifices,” which belonged to his worship. “Sacrifices,” indeed, were undoubtedly not very pleasant and agreeable to behold, for the revolting act of taking away life, the reeking blood, and the stencil of the smoke, might have a repulsive effect; and yet in these things the honor of God shone brightly. Thus, also, this slaughter was hideous to behold, and little fitted to obtain regard; but believers, in order that they may hallow the name of God in this respect, are commanded to lift up their eyes to heaven; because, in executing such punishment, God erects altars to himself for slaying sacrifices. Because they unjustly oppressed the Church ,of God, and, forgetful of all humane feelings, treated the children of God with cruelty, Isaiah declares that in their blood is offered a sacrifice of sweet savor, and highly acceptable to God, because he executes his judgment.

With the blood of lambs and of goats. Under this appellation he describes metaphorically the people that were to be slain, and, alluding to the various kinds of victims, includes not only all men of ordinary rank, but all the nobles, in order to intimate that the Lord will punish his enemies in such a manner that no man of any class whatever shall be exempted he mentions Bozrah, the chief city and metropolls, as it were, of the nation, where the greatest slaughter shall take place; and next, he adds, the country of Edom, through the whole of which this calamity shall take its course. F620

7. And the unicorns shall come down with them. This verse is closely connected with the former, for he adds nothing new, but proceeds with the same figure, amplifying what he had said about “rams” and “goats,” to which he adds not only bullocks but wild and savage beasts. It amounts to this, that the vengeance of heaven will be so unrelenting as to spare neither age nor rank, and to mark; for slaughter even cruel giants, notwithstanding their silly fierceness, just as if one were preparing a sacrifice which consisted indiscriminately of every kind of animals. It ought not to be thought strange that lambs are mingled with cruel beasts, for the term “lambs” is not employed in commendation of their mildness or harmlessness, but is applied comparatively to those who are feeble and who belong to the ordinary rank, which lays them under the necessity of having some appearance of modesty.

Although God may appear to be harsh in thus directing his hostility against all classes, yet, by the use of the word “sacrifice,” he claims for himself the praise of justice; and indeed no man, when he comes to the trial, will be found to be without blame, so that on good grounds all, without exception, are irrecoverably ruined. Such is the destruction which awaits all the reprobate, who of their own accord refuse to devote themselves to the service of God; irreligious hands shall offer them in sacrifice. F621

yrba (abbirim) is translated strong by some commentators; I have preferred to follow those who explain it to mean bulls, which it means also in <190101>Psalm 1:13, though in this passage the Prophet employs the word bulls to denote metaphorically those who are very strong and powerful.

8. For it is the day of vengeance of Jehovah. This verse must be viewed as closely connected with the preceding verses, for it points out the object which the Lord has in view in punishing the Edomites with such severity; and that object is, that he wishes to avenge his people and defend their cause. If, therefore, he had not also assigned this reason, the former statements might have appeared to be obscure or inappropriate; for it would, have been an uncertain kind of knowledge if we did not consider that God, in punishing wicked men, testifies his unceasing affection and care to preserve his own people.

What was formerly said about the Edomites must undoubtedly be extended to the enemies of the Church, for all of them were included by the Prophet under a particular class; and, therefore, in adversity our hearts ought to be supported by this consolation:, that the attacks which we now suffer shall come into judgment before God, who justly claims for himself this office. The Prophet does not only mean that it is in his power to punish wicked men whenever he thinks proper, but, that he reigns in heaven, in order to punish every kind of injustice at the proper time.

But we must attend to the words day and year, by which he reminds us that God does not sleep in heaven, though for a little time he does not come forth, but delays his vengeance till a fit season, that believers may in the meantime “possess their souls in patience,” (<422119>Luke 21:19,) and may leave him to govern according to his inscrutable wisdom.

9. And its streams shall be turned into pitch. What the Prophet now adds contains nothing new, but describes more fully this desolation. We have formerly explained the reason wily the prophets employ these lively pictures in representing the judgments of God. It is for the purpose of leading men to view them as actually present, and of compelling them to acknowledge those things which their eyes and minds do not discern, or which, as soon as they are beheld and known, are immediately forgotten. But it ought also to be observed that the Prophets spoke of things which were dark and secret, and which were generally thought to be incredible; for many persons imagined that the Prophets uttered them at random. It was, therefore, necessary to add many confirmations, such as those which he employs in this and in other passages; and thus he denotes a horrible change, which shall destroy the whole face of Judea.

Moreover, he alludes to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, (<011924>Genesis 19:24,) as the prophets very frequently do. In that destruction, as Jude informs us, we have a perpetual representation of the wrath of God against the reprobate, (<650107>Jude 7;) and it is not without good reason that the prophets call it to our remembrance, that all may learn to dread the judgments of God. To the same purpose is what he adds, —

10. By night and by day it shall not be quenched. The Prophet’s language is undoubtedly hyperbolical; but the Lord is compelled to act towards us in this manner, for otherwise plain words would produce no impression on us. When he declares that the wrath of God against the Edomites will resemble a fire that burns continually, he cuts off from them all hope of pardon, because, having never ceased to provoke God, they find that he is implacable; and Malachi also pronounces this expression of reprobation, that the ,curse of God will for ever rest on that nation. (<390104>Malachi 1:4.) The contrast must be supplied, because some mitigation is always held out to the people of God for their comfort. But this does not need a lengthened interpretation. It is enough that we understand the meaning and design of the Prophet.

11. Therefore the pelican and the owl shall possess it. As to these animals there are various opinions, and Hebrew commentators are not agreed about them; but the design of the Prophet is evident, which is, to describe a desert place and an extensive wilderness. He undoubtedly mentions dreadful beasts and hideous monsters, which do not dwell with men, and are not generally known by them, in order to shew more fully how shocking will be this desolation. The former clause therefore is plain enough, but the latter is attended by some difficulty.

He shall stretch over it the cord of emptiness. Some view the phrase “an empty cord” as bearing an opposite sense, and apply it to the Jews; but I take a more simple view, and think that, like all the preceding statements, it must relate to the Edomites. Anti to make it more clear that this is Isaiah’s natural meaning, we read the same word in the Prophet Malachi, who lived a long time afterwards. That passage may be regarded as an approbation of this prophecy.

“If Edom shall say, We have been diminished, we shall therefore return and rebuild the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of Hosts, They shall indeed build, but I shall pull down, and they shall call them the borders of wickedness, and the people against whom the Lord is angry for ever. And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, Let the Lord be magnified on the borders of Israel.” —
(<390104>Malachi 1:4, 5.)

What Isaiah had foretold more obscurely, Malachi explains with greater clearness. The latter declares that “the Edomires shall build in vain,” and the former that “they shall stretch an empty cord.” As if he had said, “In vain shall the masterbuilders bestow their exertions on rebuilding the cities;” for builders make use of cords and plummets in all their measurements. He therefore shews that the efforts of those who shall intend to restore the land of Edom will be fruitless; for his meaning is, that they shall be destroyed in such a manner that they cannot at all recover from that destruction, though God usually alleviates other calamities by some consolation.

And hence we ought to draw a very profitable doctrine, that when cities are in some measure restored after having been thrown down, this arises from the distinguished kindness of God; for the efforts of builders or workmen will be unavailing, if he do not put his hand both to laying the foundation and to carrying forward the work. Fruitless and unprofitable also will their work be, if he do not conduct it to the conclusion, and afterwards take it under his guardianship. In vain shall men bestow great expense, and make every possible exertion, if he do not watch over and bless the work. It is only by the blessing of God, therefore, that we obtain any success; and hence also it is said that “his hands have built Jerusalem.” (<19E702>Psalm 147:2; <231432>Isaiah 14:32.) What Isaiah threatens in this passage against the Edomites, the Holy Spirit elsewhere declares as to the house of Ahab, meaning that it shall be razed to the very foundation. (<122113>2 Kings 21:13.)

12. They shall call her nobles without a kingdom. This passage has received various interpretations, which I do not quote, because it would be tedious to refute them. One of the most probable is, “They shall call his nobles to reign, but in vain.” As if he had said, “In their wretched condition none will be found willing to rule over them, and to undertake the charge of the commonwealth.” A statement of the same kind is found elsewhere, and we have formerly (<230306>Isaiah 3:6,7) seen one that is almost alike; but the words do not correspond. When the Prophet speaks thus, “They shall call her nobles, and they shall not be there,” he employs, I doubt not, witty raillery to censure the pride of that nation which had been cherished by longcontinued peace and abundance. When the Edomites, therefore, out of their mountains breathed lofty pride, the Prophet declares that they shall be disgracefully cast down, so that they shall have no nobility and no government; just as, when a kingdom has been overturned, government is taken away, so that the general mass of the people resembles a maimed or disfigured body, and there is no distinction of ranks. To those stately nobles who vaunted themselves so much, he says in mockery, that they shall be princes without subjects.

And all her princes shall be nothing. The meaning of the former clause is still more evident from this second clause, in which he adds for the sake of explanation, that her princes “shall be reduced to nothing.’ It amounts to this, that the land of Edom shall resemble a mutilated body, so that nothing shall be seen in it but shocking confusion. This is the utmost curse of God; because, if men have no political government, they will hardly differ at all from beasts. Indeed, their condition will be far worse, for beasts can dispense with a governor, because they do not make war against their own kind; but nothing call be more cruel than man, if he be not held by some restraint, for every one will be driven by the furious eagerness of his own passions to every kind of vicious indulgence.

13. In her palaces she shall bring forth thorns. He pursues the same subject; for he describes a frightful desolation, by which splendid houses and palaces are levelled to the ground, or reduced to a state so wild that they are of no use to men, but produce only briers, thorns, and nettles; which is more disgraceful than if they had been turned into fields and meadows. In this manner does the Lord punish the insolence of those who built lofty and magnificent houses and costly palaces, that the remembrance of them might be handed down to the latest posterity. Having banished men, he turns those dwellings into nests of birds and dens of wild beasts, that, instead of being, as they expected, the trophies of their name and renown, they may stand as monuments of foolish ambition. Thus the place of men is nearly supplied by beasts, which represent the dispositions of those who reared those goodly edifices. This overthrow of order is likewise a sad token of the wrath of God, when the earth, which was created for the use of man, beholds its natural lords banished, and is compelled to admit other inhabitants; for then, undoubtedly, it is cleansed from the defilements with which it was polluted.

14. And the wild beasts shall meet with the satyrs. F622 These animals are thought by some commentators to mean fauns, by others screechowls or goblins, and by others satyrs; and it is not fully agreed what is the exact meaning of the Hebrew words; but it would serve no good purpose to give ourselves much uneasiness about them, for it is quite enough if we understand the meaning and design of the Prophet. He draws a picture of frightful desolation, as if he had said that Idumea shall be destroyed so as to be without inhabitants, and instead of men it shall be inhabited by frightful beasts. This reward is most justly reaped by the ambition of those who built costly palaces to be, as we have already said, monuments of their name and reputation. Yet this is also a punishment threatened against the cruelty of a wicked nation, which was eagerly bent on the oppression of neighbours and brethren.

Though we cannot absolutely determine whether the Prophet means witches, or goblins, or satyrs and fauns, yet it is universally agreed that these words denote animals which have the shape of men. We see also what various delusions are practiced by Satan, what phantoms and hideous monsters are seen, and what sounds and noises are heard. But of these we have already spoken under the thirteenth chapter. F623

The sin which God punished so severely in a single nation, is common to almost every nation; for hardly ever are those splendid buildings reared without committing much violence and injustice against the poor, and giving great and numerous annoyances to others; so that the lime, and stones, and timber, are filled with blood in the sight of God. Therefore, as Habakkuk says,

“the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall bear witness to it.” (<350211>Habakkuk 2:11.)

Let us not wonder, therefore, at those dreadful changes, when ambition lays hold on plunder and wicked extortions, but let us contemplate the righteous judgments of God.

16. Inquire at the book of Jehovah. By “the book of the Lord” some understand this prophecy, as if he had enjoined them to read attentively this prediction; for not even in the minutest point will it fail at the appointed time, as he will afterwards add. Others explain it more ingeniously as denoting the eternal decree of God; “inquire if such be not the purpose of God;” but this exposition is not sufficiently natural. I willingly interpret it as denoting the Law itself, which by way of eminence is called “the book of the Lord;” for from the Law, as from its source, the Prophets drew their doctrine, as we have frequently remarked.

Lest the strangeness of the event should prevent the prediction from being believed, Isaiah says that the Jews had been warned of it long before; and thus he indirectly censures the unbelief of those who stared at the announcement, as. if it had been something uncommon. He appropriately brings them back to the Law, in which God frequently declares that he will take care of his people, and that he will punish the wicked and reprobate. Moses having long ago spoken in this manner, the Prophet says that there is no reason why it should be difficult to believe what he foretells, since he brings forward nothing new, but only confirms now what Moses declared and testified. Such appears to me to be the natural meaning of the Prophet, and by these words he intended to fortify the Jews, patiently to look for what the Lord promised, and fully to believe that all that had. been foretold about the Edomites and the other adversaries of the Church would at length be actually fulfilled, since Moses was a credible witness, that God would always be the avenger of his people. Besides, it was proper that they should be reminded of this, in order that, when these things should befall the Edomites, they might not think that they had happened by chance, but might know that they were brought about by the judgment of God. Such is the rebellion of men, that they do not believe God when he forewarns them, and what afterwards takes place by the judgment of God is ascribed by them to fortune. Isaiah therefore meets this, and bids them inquire at Moses, whose authority they all revered.

Not one of those; that is, of the animals; for the Hebrew writers employ these terms, ya (ish) and ha, (ishshah,) not only for men and women, but for males and females of any species.

For his mouth hath commanded. He confirms what he formerly said; for although the works of God are sufficiently plain, yet by his mouth, that is, by the word, he makes them plainer to us, that we may see them more clearly. And this is the true contemplation of the works of God, when we keep our eye fixed on the mirror of the word; for otherwise our boldness is carried to excess, and we tke greater liberty than is proper, if heavenly doctrine do not guide us like a lamp. This ought therefore to restrain the boldness and rashness of men, who, despising the doctrine of the word, wish to dispute and form opinions about the judgments of God and all his worlds. If they “inquired at the book,” and asked at the mouth of the Lord, we should see greater piety and religion among them.

Yet by “the mouth of the Lord” the Prophet intended to confirm the vengeance which he had foretold, because nothing that has come out of God’s holy mouth can fail of its effect. Isaiah affirms that what God has once decreed, and published in his own name, cannot be reversed. By this shield he thus wards off all the doubts which quickly arise, whenever the promises of God go beyond our senses. Sometimes, indeed, he threatens conditionally, as he threatened the Ninevites, (<320102>Jonah 1:2,) Pharaoh, (<011217>Genesis 12:17,) and Abimelech, (<012003>Genesis 20:3,) whom he spared, because they repented; but when he has once determined to revenge and punish, he gives actual proof that he is not less true and powerful than when he promised salvation to his people. The agreement of the words Mouth and Spirit makes it still more evident.

And his Spirit hath gathered them. Although “the breath of the mouth” often means the same thing as “speech,” and although it is customary with the Hebrew writers to repeat the same thing twice, yet here he alludes elegantly to the breath, from which the words proceed, and by which they are formed; as if he had said that this prediction is abundantly powerful, because the same God who by his voice commanded the brute animals to possess the land of Edom, will bring them by merely breathing. He speaks of a secret influence; and we ought not to wonder that the slightest expression of the will of God causes all the animals to assemble, as happened at the flood, (<010715>Genesis 7:15,) and likewise at the very creation of the world, when, as Moses relates, all the animals were gathered together, by the command of God, to the first man, that they might be subject to his authority. (<010219>Genesis 2:19.) And undoubtedly they would have continued to be subject and obedient to him, had not his own rebellion deprived him of that power and authority; but when he revolted from God, the animals at the same time began to refuse subjection and to attack him.

17. And he hath cast the lot for them. He says that to those wild beasts and monsters there hath been granted a secure and permanent habitation, from which they cannot be easily banished or driven out; because God hath allotted it to them as.their portion by inheritance. This means that the whole of Idumea is at the disposal of the Lord, to drive out the inhabitants, and to grant possession of it to whomsoever he pleases, either wild beasts, or birds, or monsters.

Hence infer that it is vain for men ever to promise themselves a permanent abode, unless so far as every person has obtained his place “by lot,” and on the express condition that he shall instantly leave it, whenever God calls. We lead a dependent life wherever he supports us; and either on our native soil, or at a distance from our fatherland, we are strangers. If he shall be pleased to give us a peaceable habitation for a long time in one place, it will only be by his special favor that we shall dwell there; and as soon as he thinks proper, he will constrain us to change our abode. Besides, if we acknowledge that a residence in this or that country has been appointed to us by God, we may dwell in it with safety and composure; for if he keeps wild beasts in possession of the place which he has allotted to them, how much more will he preserve men, for whose sake he created heaven, earth, the seas, and all that they contain?


CHAPTER 35

Go To Isaiah 35:1-10

1. The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad. Here the Prophet describes a wonderful change; for having in the former chapter described the destruction of Idumaea, and having said that it would be changed into a wilderness, he now promises, on the other hand, fertility to the wilderness, so that barren and waste lands shall become highly productive. This is God’s own work; for, as he blesses the whole earth, so he waters some parts of it more lightly, and other parts more bountifully, by his blessing, and afterwards withdraws and removes it altogether on account of the ingratitude of men.

This passage is explained in various ways. I pass by the dreams of the Jews, who apply all passages of this kind to the temporal reign of the Messiah, which they have contrived by their own imagination. Some explain it as referring to Judea, and others to the calling of the Gentiles. But let us see if it be not more proper to include the whole world along with Judea; for he predicted the destruction of the whole world in such terms as not to spare Judea, and not only so, but because “the judgment of God begins at his house or sanctuary,” (<600417>1 Peter 4:17,) the singularly melancholy desolation of the Holy Land was foretold, that it might be a remarkable example. Thus beginning appropriately and justly with Judea, he calls the whole world a wilderness, because everywhere the wrath of God abounded; and, therefore, I willingly view this passage as referring to Judea, and afterwards to the other parts of the world. As if he had said, “After the Lord shall have punished the wickedness and crimes of men, and taken vengeance on Jews and Gentiles, the wilderness shall then be changed into a habitable country, and the face of the whole earth shall be renewed.” Now this restoration is a remarkable instance of the goodness of God; for, when men have provoked him by their revolt, they deserve to perish altogether, and to be utterly destroyed, especially they whom he has adopted to be his peculiar people. Isaiah has his eye chiefly on the Jews, that in their distressful condition they may not faint.

Let us now see when this prophecy was fulfilled, or when it shall be fulfilled. The Lord began some kind of restoration when he brought his people out of Babylon; but that was only a slight foretaste, and, therefore, I have no hesitation in saying that this passage, as well as others of a similar kind, must refer to the kingdom of Christ; and in no other light could it be viewed, if we compare it to other prophecies. By “the kingdom of Christ,” I mean not only that which is begun here, but that which shall be completed at the last day, which on that account is called “the day of renovation and restoration,” (<440321>Acts 3:21;) because believers will never find perfect rest till that day arrive. And the reason why the prophets speak of the kingdom of Christ in such lofty terms is, that they look at that end when the true happiness of believers, shall be most fully restored.

After having spoken of dreadful calamities and predicted the lamentable ruin of the whole world, the Prophet comforts believers by this promise, in which he foretells that all things shall be restored. This is done by Christ, by whom alone they can be renewed and made glad; for he alone renews everything, and restores it to proper order; apart from him there can be nothing but filth and desolation, nothing but most miserable ruin both in heaven and in earth. But it ought to be carefully observed, that the world needed to be prepared by chastisements of this nature, in order that it might be fit and qualified for receiving such distinguished favor, and that the grace of Christ might be more fully manifested, which would have been concealed if everything had remained in its original state. It was therefore necessary that the proud and fierce minds of men should be east down and subdued, that they might taste the kindness of Christ, and partake of his power and strength.

2. Flourishing it shall flourish. He describes more fully how great, will be the effect of the grace of Christ, by whose power and might those places which had been overgrown with filthy and noxious weeds “flourish” exceedingly and regain their vigor. This repetition is used for the sake of amplification. The doubling of the word “flourish” may be taken in two senses; either to denote the prolongation of time in incessant vegetation; as if he had said, “It shall not flourish with a passing or fading blossom, so as to return immediately to the foul condition in which it once was, but with a continual, uninterrupted, and long-continued bloom, which can never fade or pass away;” or to denote the increase and daily or yearly progress of improvement; for Christ enriches us in such a manner as to increase his grace in us from day to day.

The glory of Lebanon, the beauty of Carmel and Sharon. These metaphors display more fully the fertility already described; for the Prophet is not satisfied with saying that where formerly there was a gloomy wilderness smiling fields will be seen, and that dry places will be clothed with the beauty of flowers, but adds that there will be such luxuriant beauty as “Lebanon, Carmel, and Sharon” were celebrated for possessing. Though Carmel denotes a cultivated and fertile field, yet here it is a proper name, like the other two. We have seen in other passages F624 that these mountains were highly celebrated, and throughout the whole of Judea held the undisputed preeminence both for delightfulness and for abundance of fruits.

They shall see the glory of Jehovah. What he had formerly spoken metaphorically he now explains clearly and without a figure. Till men learn to know God, they are barren and destitute of everything good; and consequently the beginning of our fertility is to be quickened by the presence of God, which cannot be without the inward perception of faith. The Prophet undoubtedly intended to raise our minds higher, that we may contemplate the abundance and copiousness of heavenly benefits; for men might be satisfied with bread and wine and other things of the same kind, and yet not acknowledge God to be the author of them, or cease to be wretched; and indeed men are often blinded and rendered more fierce by enjoying abundance. But when God makes himself visible to us, by causing us to behold his glory and beauty, we not only possess his blessings, but have the true enjoyment of them for salvation.

3. Strengthen ye the weak hands. We might explain this passage generally, as if he had said, “Let those who have feeble hands strengthen them, let; them whose knees tremble and totter compose and invigorate their hearts.” But the following verse shews that the whole of this passage relates to the ministers of the word; for he addresses the teachers of the Church, and enjoins them to exhort, arouse, and encourage weak men whose hearts are broken or east down, that they may be rendered more firm and cheerful. This exhortation is seasonably introduced, because he saw that so many tokens of God’s anger, of which he had spoken, could not do otherwise than fill even the strongest minds with alarm and dread; for, seeing that we are always enfeebled by adversity, when God himself proclaims what may be called open war against us on account of our sins, who would not tremble? But the Prophet commands that they who are cast down and almost lifeless shall be enlivened, and the manner of doing it is explained by him in the following verse.

4. Say to them that are faint hearted. That strength of which he spoke is breathed into our hearts by God through his word, as “by faith alone we stand” (<470124>2 Corinthians 1:24) and live; and therefore he adds the promise of grace yet to come.

Behold, your God will come. First, it ought to be observed that God does not wish that his grace should remain concealed and unknown, but rather that it should be proclaimed and imparted, that they who totter and tremble may compose and invigorate their hearts. And this is one method by which our hearts may be cheered amidst heavy distresses; for if we are not supported by the word of the Lord, we must faint and despair. This, then, is the office assigned to the teachers of the word, to raise up them that are fallen down, f625 to strengthen the feeble, to upheld the tottering.

We ought also to observe how great is the efficacy of the word in “invigorating the feeble hands and strengthening the tottering knees;” for if it had not been a powerful instrument in communicating this strength, the Prophet would never have spoken in this manner; and, indeed, if God struck only our ears by his word, and did not pierce our hearts, these words would have been spoken in vain. Since, therefore, the Lord assigns this office to the word, let us know that he also imparts this power to it, that it may not be spoken in vain, but may inwardly move our hearts, not always indeed or indiscriminately, but where it pleases God by the secret power of his Spirit to work in this manner. And hence we infer that the same word makes us disposed to obey him; for otherwise we shall be indolent and stupid; all our senses shall fail, and we shall not only waver, but shall be altogether stupified by unbelief. We, therefore, need to receive aid from the Lord, that the removal of our fear and the cure of our weakness may enable us to walk with agility.

Fear not; behold, your God will come. This warning deeply fixed in our minds will banish slothfulness. As soon as men perceive that God is near them, they either cease to fear, or at least rise superior to excessive terror.

“Be not anxious,” says Paul, “for the Lord is at hand.” (<500405>Philippians 4:5, 6.)

On this subject we have spoken largely on other occasions; and the Apostle to the Hebrews appears to allude to this passage, when, after having charged them not to be wearied and faint-hearted, he quotes the words of the Prophet. (<581203>Hebrews 12:3, 12.) Yet he directs this discourse to every believer, that they may be excited to perseverance, and because they have many struggles to maintain, may advance steadfastly in their journey. Nor is it superfluous that he adds your God; for if we do not know that he is our God, his approach will produce terror, instead of giving cause of joy. Not the majesty of God, which is fitted to humble the pride of the flesh, but his grace, which is fitted to comfort the fearful and distressed, is here exhibited; and, therefore, it is not without reason float he is represented as a guardian, to shield them by his protection.

If it be objected that he brings terror when he comes to take vengeance, I reply that this vengeance, is threatened against wicked men and enemies of the Church. To the latter, therefore, he will be a terror, but to believers he will be a consolation; and accordingly he adds that he will come to save them, because otherwise it might be objected, “What is it to us if our enemies be punished? What good does it do to us? Must we take delight in the distresses of enemies?” Thus he expressly declares that it will promote our “salvation;” for the vengeance which God takes on wicked men is connected with the salvation of the godly. In what manner the godly are delivered from anxiety and dread by the favor of God and by the expectation of his aid, has been explained at a former passage). F626 (<230704>Isaiah 7:4.) At present it ought to be observed, that God is prepared and armed with vengeance, that believers may learn to lean on his aid, and not to fancy some deity unemployed in heaven. Such is also the object of the repetition of the words, “he will come;” because distrust is not all at once banished from the hearts of men.

The end of the verse may either be rendered, God himself will come with a recompense, or He will come with the recompense of God; but as the meaning is the same, the reader may make his choice. Yet if it be thought preferable to view yhla (elohim) as in the genitive case, “of God,” then by “the recompense of God” is emphatically meant that which belongs peculiarly to God, that believers may be fully convinced that he is a “rewarder” as truly as he is God. F627

5. Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened. F628 He continues the promise about the restoration of the Church, in order to encourage the hearts of the godly, who must have been grievously dismayed by the frightful calamities which he foretold. Since a true restoration is accomplished by Christ, we must therefore come to him, if we wish to know the meaning of the words which Isaiah employs in this passage; and indeed it is only by his kindness that we rise again to the hope of a heavenly life. Isaiah probably alludes to a former prediction, (<232910>Isaiah 29:10,) in which he threatened against the Jews dreadful blindness, madness, and total stupefaction of the soul. He now promises that, when Christ shalt shine forth, those senses of which they were deprived for a time shall be renovated and brightened to a new life. There is weight in the adverb Then; for we ought to infer from it that, so long as we are alienated from Christ, we are dumb, blind, and lame, and, in short, that we are destitute of all ability to do what is good, but that we are renewed by the Spirit of Christ, so as to enjoy real health.

By the tongue and ears and feet he means all the faculties of our soul, which in themselves are so corrupt that nothing that is good can be obtained from them till they are restored by the kindness of Christ. The eyes cannot see what is right, and the ears cannot hear, and the feet cannot guide us in the right way, till we are united to Christ. Though the senses of men are abundantly acute wherever they are impelled by sinful passions; though the tongue is eloquent for slander, perjury, lying, and every kind of foolish speaking; though the hands are too ready for thefts, extortions, and cruelty; though the feet are swift to do injury; and, in short, though the whole of our nature is not only willing but strongly bent on doing what is evil; yet we are altogether slothful and dull to do what is good, and therefore every part of us must be created anew by the power of Christ, that it may begin to understand aright, to feel, to speak, and to perform its offices; for

“no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Spirit.” (<461203>1 Corinthians 12:3.)

This renewal proceeds from the grace of Christ alone, and, therefore, sound strength is regained by those who are converted to Christ, and who formerly were in all respects useless, and resembled dead men; for, while we are separated from Christ, we either are destitute of everything that is good, or it is so greatly corrupted in us, that it cannot be applied to its proper use, but on the contrary is polluted by being abused. Christ gave abundant proofs and examples of this, when he restored speech to the dumb, eyes to the blind, and perfect strength to the feeble and lame; but what he bestowed on their bodies was only a token of the far more abundant and excellent blessings which he imparts to our souls.

6. For waters shall be dug. He next adds other blessings with which believers shall be copiously supplied, as soon as the kingdom of Christ is set up; as if he had said, that there will be no reason to dread scarcity or want, when we have been reconciled to God through Christ, because perfect happiness flows to us from him. But he represents this happiness to us under metaphorical expressions; and, first, he says that “waters shall be dug;” because, where formerly all was barren, there the highest fertility shall be found. Now, we are poor and barren, unless God bless us through Christ; for he alone, brings with him the blessing of the Father, which he bestows upon us. Wicked men, indeed, have often a great abundance of good things, but their wealth is wretched; for they have not Christ, from whom alone proceeds a true and salutary abundance of all blessings. Death unquestionably would be more desirable than that abundance of wine and of food with which we, at the same time, swallow the curse of God. When, therefore, Christ shall gloriously arise, rivers and waters shall flow out and yield true and valuable advantage.

7. The dry place shall be changed into a pool. He confirms the former statement, that Christ will come in order to enrich his people with all abundance of blessings; for waters shall flow out of “dry places.” F629 We must keep in remembrance what we mentioned a little before, that the Prophet delineates to us what may be called a picture of a happy life; for although this change was not openly visible at the coming of Christ, yet with good reason does the Prophet affirm that, during his reign, the whole earth shall be fruitful; for he had formerly said that without Christ all things are cursed to us.

In the habitation of dragons. The whole world, therefore, shall resemble a parched wilderness, in which lions, “dragons,” and other wild beasts prowl, till the kingdom of Christ shall be set up; and, on the other hand, when he is established on his throne, the godly shall lack nothing. An instance of this was given, when the Lord delivered his people and brought them out of Babylon; but the accomplishment of this prophecy must be looked for in Christ, through whom their ruinous condition is amended and restored; for that deliverance was but a feeble representation of it. And yet the full accomplishment of this promise ought not to be expected in the present life; for as it is through hope that we are blessed, (<450824>Romans 8:24,) so our happiness, which is now in some respects concealed, must be an object of hope till the last day; and it is enough that some taste of it be enjoyed in this world, that we may more ardently long for that perfect happiness.

8. And a path shall be there. Here it is promised to the Jews that they shall be allowed to return to their native country, lest, when they were carried into Babylon, they should think that they were led into perpetual banishmerit. Yet this statement is, in my opinion, extended much farther by the Prophet; for, as he promised a little before, that there would be plenty and abundance of provisions where there had been barrenness, so now he says that those places where formerly no man dwelt shall be occupied with the.journeys and habitations of a vast multitude of men; and, in short, that the whole of Judea shall enjoy such harmony and peace with other countries, that men shall pass from the one country to the other without fear; for where there are no inhabitants, there can be no intercourse and no roads. He therefore means that the Jews will carry on intercourse and merchandise with other nations, after having been brought back and restored to their own land.

And it shall be called, The holy way. Not without reason does the Prophet add that “the way shall be holy;” for wherever there is a great multitude of men, innumerable vices and corruptions abound. What else is done by a crowd of men than to pollute the land by infecting each other with mutual contagion? The Prophet therefore means that not only the earth, but also the minds of men are renewed by the kindness of Christ, so that they sanctify the earth which they formerly were wont to corrupt by their pollution. Yet what I stated briefly ought to be remembered, that the Jews, to whom the way shall be consecrated, will return to their native country, that they may worship their Redeemer in it in a holy manner; as if he had said that the land will be cleansed from the disgraceful rabble of a wicked people, that it may be inhabited by the true worshippers of God.

The unclean person shall not pass through it. He now adds a more full explanation; for polluted persons shall not tread the land which God hath set apart for his children; as if he had said, that the Lord will separate believers in such a manner that they shall not be mingled with the reprobate. This ought, unquestionably, to be reckoned among the most valuable blessings of the Church; but it is not fulfilled in this life; for both despisers of God and hypocrites rush indiscriminately into the Church and hold a place there. Yet some evidence of this grace becomes visible, whenever God, by various methods, cleanses his Church; but the full cleansing of it must be expected at the last day. Even the worshippers of God, whom he has regenerated by his Spirit, are attended by much uncleanness. Though they have been sanctified by God, yet their holiness cannot be perfect; their flesh is not wholly dead, but subdued and restrained so as to obey the Spirit. Now, it is because the Lord reigns in them, and subdues their natural dispositions, that, on account of that part of them which is the most important, they are called Saints.

And he shall be to them one that walketh in the way. This clause has been tortured in various ways by commentators. Some render it “This shall be their road; they who have been used to the road, and they who are unacquainted with it, shall not go astray.” Others render it, “This shall be the road for the children of Israel, and they who walk shall not go astray, though they be unacquainted with it.” But the demonstrative pronoun awh, (hu,) he, is more correctly, in my opinion, viewed as referring to God; as if he had said, that God will go before them to lead and direct the way. And the context absolutely demands it; for it would not be enough to have the way opened up, if God did not go before to guide his people. The Prophet therefore extols this inestimable kindness, when he represents God as journeying along with his people; for, if he do not point out the road, our feet will always lead us astray, for we are wholly inclined to vanity. Besides, though the road be at hand, and though it be plain before our eyes, yet we shall not be able to distinguish it from the wrong road, and if we begin to walk in it, our folly will quickly lead us off on the right hand or on the left. But the Prophet shews that we shall be in no danger of going astray, when we shall follow God as the leader of the way; for he condescends to perform this office; and he probably alludes to the history of the first redemption, for at that time God directed his people

“by means of a cloudby day, and of a pillar of fire by night.” (<021321>Exodus 13:21.)

At the same time he points out how necessary it is that God should govern us, in directly laying folly to our charge, when he adds —

Fools shall not go astray; for they who are wise in their own eyes, and who rely on their own guidance, will be permitted by God to wander in uncertain courses; and therefore, if we wish that he should walk along with us, let us know that we need his guidance. Yet he offers us this most excellent reward, that they who follow him, even though they did not formerly possess any wisdom, shall be in no danger of going astray. Yet the Prophet does not mean that believers, after the Lord has taken them by the hand, will be ignorant; but he shews what they are before the Lord becomes their leader.

9. There shall not be there a lion. He adds another favor of God, that the people, though they travel through a wilderness, will be protected against every hostile attack. Formerly he mentioned it (<233414>Isaiah 34:14) as one of the curses of God, that wild beasts would meet the Jews wherever they went; but now he declares that, when they have been received into favor, no lions and no beasts of prey shall attack them; because the Lord will ward them off, so as to open up a way for his people free from all danger and from all fear. For although they had received liberty to return, yet they might have met with many obstacles; and therefore he says that the Lord will remove every annoyance and obstruction.

We may draw from this a profitable doctrine, namely, that God not only beg[ns, but conducts to the end, the work of our salvation, that his grace in us may not be useless and unprofitable. As he opens up the way, so he paves it, and removes obstacles of every description, and is himself the leader during the whole journey. In short, he continues his grace towards us in such a manner that he at length brings it to perfection. And this ought to be applied to the whole course of our life. Here we walk as on a road, moving forward to that blessed inheritance. Satan presents numerous obstructions, and dangers surround us on every side; but the Lord, who goes before and leads us by the hand, will not leave us in the midst of the journey, but at length will perfectly finish what he has begun in us by his Spirit. (<500106>Philippians 1:6.) Yet it ought to be observed that the very beasts, through God’s kindness, shall be tamed, so as not to direct their rage and cruelty against us, as it is said,

“I will make a covenant for you with the fowls of heaven, and with the beasts of prey.” (<280218>Hosea 2:18.)

10. Therefore the redeemed of Jehovah shall return. The Prophet confirms the former doctrine, that God hath determined to redeem his people, and therefore that nothing can resist his decree. He calls them “the redeemed of God,” that they may consider his power, and may not estimate by human means the promise which he has made about their return. He says also, that they will come to Zion, because God does not in vain wish to bring them out of Babylon, and to leave them when they have commenced their journey. At the same time, it ought to be observed, that we have no means of entering the Church but by the redemption of God; for under the example of the ancient people, a general representation is placed before our eyes, that we may know that no man is rescued from the tyranny of the devil, to which we are all subject, till the grace of God go before; for no man will redeem himself. Now, since this redemption is a gift peculiar to the kingdom of Christ, it follows that he is our only deliverer, as is also attested by the declaration,

“If the Son shall make you free,
you shall be free indeed.” (<430836>John 8:36.)

Yet it is not enough that we have once been redeemed; for the design is, that we should dwell in the Church of God, and make progress from day to day. Since therefore we have been delivered by Christ, we ought to labor with all our might, and continually to strive to gain that end. If it be said that we do not need to perform a long journey, in order to be admitted into the Church of God, (for we are received into it by baptism,) I reply, that here the Prophet discourses metaphorically about the whole course of life; because the time when” the redeemed of God” shall actually “come to Zion,” is when the course of life is closed, and they pass into a blessed life. And it ought also to be observed, that the greater the progress which we make in the grace of God, and the more close our alliance to the Church, the nearer do we approach to Zion.

And they shall obtain joy and gladness. By the words “joy and gladness,” he means that there will be so great happiness under the reign of Christ, that we shall have abundant reason to rejoice. And indeed the true and only ground of rejoicing is, to know that we are reconciled to God, whose favor is sufficient for our perfect happiness, “so that we may glory even in tribulation,” (<450503>Romans 5:3;) and, on the other hand, when Christ does not enlighten us, we must, be darkened by sorrow. Besides, it is certain that the godly do not rejoice in a proper manner without also expressing grafftude to God; and therefore this spiritual joy must be distinguished from that ordinary joy in which irreligious men indulge; for the reprobate also rejoice, but their end at length shews how pernicious is the wantonness of the flesh, which leads them to take delight in despising God. This kind of “joy” Paul justly (<451417>Romans 14:17; <480522>Galatians 5:22) calls spiritual; for it does not depend on fading things, such as honor, property, riches, and other things of that nature which quickly perish; but this joy is secret and has its seat in the hearts, from which it cannot be shaken or torn away in any manner, though Satan endeavors by every method to disturb and afflict us; and therefore the Prophet justly adds —

Sorrow and sighing shall flee away. The joy is everlasting, and all “sadness flees away;” for although many bitter griefs are daily endured by the children of God, yet so great is the power and strength of their consolation, that it swallows up all sorrow. “We glory,” says Paul, “in our tribulations,” (<450503>Romans 5:3;) and this glorying cannot be without joy. The Apostles

“departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy of suffering dishonor for the name of Jesus.” (<440541>Acts 5:41.)

Yet the godly often suffer heavy distresses, and are not exempt from grief. This is undoubtedly true, but they are not overwhelmed; for they look straight towards God, by whose power they become victorious, just as if a person, elevated on a lofty mountain, looking at the sun, and enjoying his brightness, beheld others in a low valley, surrounded by clouds and darkness, whom that brightness could not reach.


CHAPTER 36

Go To Isaiah 36:1-22

1. It happened in the fourteenth year. In this and the following chapter the Prophet relates a remarkable history, which may be regarded as the seal of his doctrine, in which he predicted the calamities that would befall his nation, and at the same time promised that God would be merciful to them, and would drive back the Assyrians and defend Jerusalem and the Holy Land. What had already been accomplished made it evident that he had not spoken in vain; but God intended that it should also be testified to posterity. Yet to the men of that age it was not less advantageous that such a record should be preserved. He had often threatened that the vengeance of God was near at hand, and that the Assyrians were ready at his bidding to be employed by him as scourges; and st the same time he promised that he would assist Jerusalem even when matters were come to the worst. Both were accomplished, and the greater part of the nation passed by, as with closed eyes, those evident judgments of God, and not less basely despised the assistance which was offered to them. So much the more inexcusable was their gross stupidity.

But to the small number of believers it was advantageous to perceive such illustrious proofs of the hand of God, that greater credit might afterwards be given to Isaiah. The Prophet also might pursue his course more ardently and with unshaken firmness, since God had given so splendid an attestation of his doctrine from heaven. And because the truth of God scarcely obtains from us the honor due to it, unless it be supported by strong proofs, God has provided not less largely for our weakness, that we may perceive as in a mirror that the power of God accompanied the words of Isaiah, and that what he taught on earth was confirmed from heaven. More especially has calling was manifestly sealed, when God delivered Jerusalem from the grievous siege of Sennacherib, and when no hope of safety remained; so that believers saw that they had been rescued from the jaws of death by the hand of God alone. For this reason I have said that it was a seal to authenticate the prophecies which might otherwise have been called in question.

In the fourteenth year. Not without reason does he specify the time when these things happened; for at that time Hezekiah had restored the worship of God throughout the whole of his dominions, (<121804>2 Kings 18:4;) and, not satisfied with this, sent messengers in various directions to invite the Israelites to come with speed from every place to Jerusalem, to offer sacrifices, and, after long disunion, again to unite in holy harmony of faith, and to worship God according to the injunctions of the Law. While such was the condition of the kingdom that superstitions were removed and the Temple cleansed, and thus the true worship of God was restored, Judea is invaded by the king of Assyria, fields are pillaged, cities are taken, and the whole country is subject to his authority. Jerusalem alone, with a few inhabitants, is left; and in that city Hezekiah was shut up as in a prison.

We must now consider what thoughts might occur to the pious king and to other persons; for if we judge of this calamity according to the perception of the flesh, we shall think that God was unjust in permitting his servant to be reduced to such extremities, whose piety seemed to deserve that the Lord would preserve him in safety and free from all molestation, since his whole desire was to maintain the true worship of God. This was no small trial of the faith of Hezekiah, and ought to be continually placed before our eyes, when we are subjected to the same temptations. The Lord did not punish Hezekiah for carelessness, pleasures, or luxury, and much less for superstitions, or unholy contempt of the Law; for as soon as he began to reign, he labored with the utmost zeal and carefulness and industry to restore the purity of religion. God therefore intended to try his faith and patience.

2. Then the king of Assyria Rent Rabshakeh. The order of the narrative may here have been altered; for he had formerly said that Sennacherib had taken all the cities of Judea, and now he says that he sent Rabshakeh F630 from Lachish, implying that he was besieging it, and consequently he had not yet stormed them all. But it ought to be observed that historical connection is frequently disturbed, and that what was first in the order of time, comes last in the narrative. Besides, the Scriptures frequently make use of a figure of speech in which a part is taken for the whole, and by which it might be said that all the cities were taken, because those which had been left were few, and Hezekiah had no means of intercourse with them. It appeared, therefore, that the king of Assyria had brought the whole of Judea under his dominion, because nearly all that remained was Jerusalem alone, in which Hezekiah was shut up.

This history is more fully related in the Books of Kings, where it is shewn how eager for peace Hezekiah was; for he labored to obtain it on any terms. He had delivered up “three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold,” which that tyrant had demanded; and he found it necessary to seize the vessels of the Temple, and the golden plates which had been attached to its doors, to make up that sum, because his treasury was exhausted. (<121814>2 Kings 18:14.) But as such gulfs are insatiable, when he had received that money, he next demanded more, and sought to enforce harder conditions. This was done partly, in order to provoke and torment Hezekiah, (for, having once abused the ready compliance of the pious king, he thought that he would obtain anything,) and partly because he sought an occasion of renewing the war. Yet it ought to be observed that the people were justly punished for their iniquities, as had been foretold; for although true religion flourished as to external worship, yet their life was not changed for the better, and their wickedness was not removed, nor was the inward pollution cleansed from their hearts. Accordingly, because the people did not repent, it was necessary that their obstinate depravity should be severely chastised. But because the measure of their iniquities was not yet full, God abated the fierceness of his anger, and suddenly, when matters were desperate, brought such assistance as could not have been believed.

3. And Eliakim went to him. Eliakim was formerly mentioned. It was he to whom the Lord promised that he would give him the chief power in the kingdom after the banishment of Shebna. (<232220>Isaiah 22:20.) It now appears as if that promise had failed, when he is sent to an enemy as a suppliant, and as one who is about to surrender himself and his companions, and to undergo cruel tyranny. This might also fill the hearts of believers with anxiety, and lead them to doubt the promises of God. Besides, the godly king had such a scarcity of good men, that, along with Eliakim, he was compelled to send Shebna, whom he knew well to be deceitful and treacherous.

rps (sopher) means scribe; and accordingly it often denotes learned men or doctors, and sometimes those who took charge of writings and those who had the custody of the royal records. I have translated it chancellor, for unquestionably it does not relate to legal skill; and we may infer that this Shebna held a high rank, though he had been deprived of his office as governor. rykzm (mazkir) denotes a secretary or recorder.

4. Say now to Hezekiah. He relates that the three ambassadors, though they were attended by all the magnificence that yet remained in the kingdom, were not only repulsed, but disdainfully treated by the tyrant’s delegate, and loaded with disgraceful reproaches; for, as if Hezekiah had been convicted of wicked revolt, Rabshakeh asks how he had dared to rebel. The particle an (na) is supposed by some to denote entreaty, and is rendered by them I pray; but it would be unsuitable to a proud and insolent man to entreat in this manner. He speaks in the ordinary language of those who lay conditions on the vanquished, or on those who are overwhelmed with fear, whom they wish to compel to make an unconditional surrender, or, as we commonly say, (sommer) to summon.

Thus saith the great king. In order to give greater validity to the summons, that general speaks in the name of his king, whose greatness he extols to the skies, in order to terrify Hezekiah, when he learns that he has to do with a king of such vast resources. He does not only mean that the first monarch in the world was far superior to Hezekiah, who in comparison of him was but a petty prince; but he calls the king of Assyria great, because by his power he eclipsed all others, so that he stood alone in his lofty rank. By these thunderbolts of words Hezekiah might have been overthrown and subdued, especially since he was so far from being able to resist the power of that tyrant that he was shut up in the city and unable to move out of it.

5. I have said (only a word of the lips.) In the sacred history (<121820>2 Kings 18:20) the word employed is, Thou hast said. This may be explained as a declaration what kind of courage Rabshakeh thinks that Hezekiah possesses; as if he had said, “Such are thy deliberations.” In this passage the use of the first person, “I have said,” does not alter the sense; because Rabshakeh, as if he had examined the counsels of Hezekiah and fully understood them all, ironically reproaches him; “I see what thou art thinking, but they are words of the lips.” This passage is explained in various ways. Some interpret it, “Thou sayest, that thou hast not merely words of the lips,” that is, “Thou boastest that thou excellest not only in the use of words, but likewise in courage and wisdom.” Others interpret it, “Thou hast words indeed, but wisdom and courage are necessary in war.”

Some think that by “words” are meant “prayers.” I do not approve of that exposition; for it is excessively farfetched and unnatural, and therefore I view it thus: “Hezekiah has words of lips, that is, he employs a beautiful and elegant style, to keep the people in the discharge of their duty, or, as we commonly say, He has fine speeches; F631 but it is not by these that war can be begun or carried on.” He therefore means, that he perfectly understands what Hezekiah is doing, and what it is on which he places his chief reliance, namely, on words and eloquence; F632 but these are of no use for war, in which wisdom and courage are needed. It might also be appropriately viewed as relating to the Egyptians, as if he had said that Hezekiah acts foolishly in allowing himself to be cheated by empty promises; and undoubtedly the Egyptians were liberal in promising mountains of gold, though they gave nothing in reality. But as we shall find that he speaks of the Egyptians, soon afterwards, in a particular manner, I have no doubt that here he ridicules Hezekiah, as if he fed the expectation of the people by empty boasting, while he was not provided with military preparations.

6. Behold, thou hast trusted in, that broken staff of reed. This is probably separate from the former verse; for, having formerly said that the eloquence by which he flatters the people is all that Hezekiah possesses, and having inferred from this that his confidence is exceedingly foolish, he now comes to other particulars. He employs every method for shaking the hearts of the people, that all, being stunned, may absolutely surrender. Accordingly, after having represented Hezekiah to be contemptible as to his internal resources, he next adds, that the external resources are idle and useless, and says that they are greatly mistaken in expecting any assistance whatever from the Egyptians.

And, first, he compares the Egyptians to “a staff of reed” on account of their weakness; secondly, for the sake of amplification he calls them “a broken staff;” thirdly, he says that it is so far from supporting that it pierces the hands that lean upon it. The meaning may be thus summed up, “the hope which the Jews entertain of receiving aid from the Egyptians is not only false and unfounded, but pernicious.” And indeed with truth might Rabshakeh have said this, if it had been true that Hezekiah relied on the Egyptians; but he slanderously and falsely accuses the pious king of this vain confidence. Yet God justly rewarded a rebellious and disobedient people by allowing this filthy dog to reproach them with their wicked revolt. Isaiah had formerly (<233001>Isaiah 30:1, and 31:1, 6) condemned this crime in severe terms, but their deaf ears refused to admit the reproof; and therefore the Jews, who had wickedly despised a Prophet that spoke to them in the name of God, deserved to have Rabshakeh for their instructor.

We are therefore warned by this example, that there is no reason to wonder if unbelievers, who do not obey the counsel of God for their salvation, and reject all prophecies, are subjeered to the jeers of their enemies, as Rabshakeh, the captain of the Assyrian king, now haughtily taunts the rebellious Jews. Yet it is of importance to consider how great a difference there is between the warnings of God and the mockeries of Satan. When God wishes to dissuade us from sinful confidence in the flesh, he declares in general terms, “Cursed be he that trusteth in man,” (<241705>Jeremiah 17:5.) that the whole world may be reduced to nothing, and that thus we may be satisfied with himself alone; and therefore, when he has brought us low, he instantly imparts courage to us by holding out a remedy. But when Satan deceitfully blames any vain hope, he drives us to despair, and urges us to many other hopes equally bad or still worse, and tempts us to adopt unlawful methods; as Rabshakeh does not smite the hope which the Jews entertained from the Egyptians, in order that they may rely on God alone, but substitutes the king of Assyria, as if safety ought not to be expected from any other quarter, tie names Pharaoh, but likewise includes the whole nation.

7. And if thou shalt say to me. Rabshakeh employs an argument which consists of three parts. Either Hezekiah thinks that he has sufficient strength to resist, or he expects assistance from Egypt, or he trusts in God. If he trusts in himself, he is mistaken; for what is he when compared to my king? As to Egypt, it will render him no assistance, but on the contrary will inflict serious damage. It remains therefore that he expects some assistance from God. But he has thrown down his altars and curtailed his worship; will he not rather be punished on that account? In short, this Rabshakeh takes away from the pious king all assistance, both divine and human.

By this slander Satan attempted not only to wound the heart of the king, that it might sink under the weight, of affliction, but to make an impression on the light and fickle multitude; because hitherto in the hearts of many there remained an attachment to superstition, and there was a strong tendency to fall back into this imposture, because the religion which was ancient, and to which they were long accustomed, had been changed, and, in their opinion, F633 Hezekiah was about to be chastised for his own rashness. In like manner, the Papists in the present day, whenever any adverse event befalls us, maintain that we are punished by God, because we have ventured to set aside ancient ceremonies. F634

8. Now come, give a hostage. F635 He concludes that there will be nothing better for Hezekiah than to lay aside the intention of carrying on war, to surrender himself, and to promise constant obedience to the king of Assyria. To persuade him the more, Rabshakeh again reproaches him with his poverty. “If I shall give thee two thousand horses, thou wilt not find among all thy people men to ride on them. What then is thy strength; or with what confidence dost thou dare to oppose my king?” He does not offer him horses for the sake of respect or of kindness, but in order to terrify and shake still more the heart of Hezekiah. The future tense ought therefore to be explained by the subjunctive mood, “Although I give thee two thousand horses, yet thou wilt not find an equal number of riders.” I am aware of what is alleged by other commentators; but whoever examines the matter fully will quickly perceive that this is ironical language. F636

9. And how dost thou despise? F637 He confirms the preceding statement, and shews that ttezekiah is so far from being able to endure the presence of his king, that he ought not to be compared to the very smallest of his captains. In this insolent manner does he taunt him, that the Jews may not derive courage from the absence of Sennacherib, who was still detained by the siege of Lachish. Although, therefore, Sennacherib does not yet appear before them with his whole army, Rabshakeh boasts that his lieutenants are sufficiently powerful, so that Hezekiah ought not to hesitate to make submission.

10. And now have I come up without Jehovah? He now attacks Hezekiah in another manner, by telling him that it will serve no purpose to assemble his forces and to make other warlike preparations. For he alleges that Hezekiah has not to do or to contend with a mortal man, but with God himself, at whose suggestion, and not at his own, he camo hither to destroy the country; and therefore that they who oppose him will fight against God, and consequently all their efforts will be fruitless.

Hence we ought to learn that however earnestly we may be devoted to godliness, and however faithfully we may labor to advance the kingdom of Christ, still we must not expect to be free from every annoyance, but ought rather to be prepared for enduring very heavy afflictions. The Lord does not always recompense our piety by earthly rewards; and indeed it would be an exceedingly unsuitable recompense that we should possess abundant wealth and enjoy outward peace, and that everything should proceed to our wish; for the world reckons even wicked men to be happy on this ground, that they do not endure bad health or adversity, and are free from the pressure of poverty, and have nothing to disturb them. In this respect our condition would not differ at all from that of the reprobate.

This example of Hezekiah, who labored with all his might to restore religion and the true worship of God, and yet endured calamities so heavy and violent that he was not far from despair, ought to be constantly placed before our eyes, in order that, when we shall think float we have discharged our duty, we may nevertheless be prepared to endure conflicts and troubles of every kind, and may not be disturbed if enemies gain an advantage at the first onset, as if all at once they would swallow us up. Those proud and haughty minds will quickly fall, when the first ardor has boiled over and spent its foam, and their eagerness and pride will speedily disappear Rabshakeh boasted of the greatness and power of his king, in order to terrify Hezekiah. Such is the manner in which wicked men act towards us. By threatening words they attack us, and by various terrors they try our patience, or rather through their agency Satan labors, whom we plainly see speaking by the mouth of Rabshakeh. Nay, Satan assumes the character of God himself, and “is transformed into an angel of light.” (<471114>2 Corinthians 11:14.) Thus also the Spirit of God himself declares, that the strength of man is frail and fading, and that every one who leans on it seeks his own destruction. (<241705>Jeremiah 17:5.) Rabshakeh says the same thing, and discourses as if he were discharging the prophetical office by the command of God.

We ought therefore to distinguish wisely when God speaks, and when, on the other hand, his name is falsely assumed by men; for Satan resorts to various artifices to make himself appear to be like God. All these reproaches were unjustly, as we have said, brought by Rabshakeh against Hezekiah, who did not place his hope in his own strength, and did not vaunt himself through reliance on the Egyptians; but godly men, even when they do well, must be exposed to evil reports. By these stratagems Satan attacks our faith, and unjustly slanders us among men. This temptation is highly dangerous, for we are desirous that our integrity should be well known; and when we are well disposed, we take it ill if other men put a different interpretation on our conduct. Thus Satan endearours by slander to overturn all that has been done out of a good conscience, or accuses us of something with which we are not at all chargeable, or loads us with unfounded slanders, or contrives what never came into our mind; but an upright conscience ought to be like a brazen wall to us, that, imitating the example of Hezekiah, we may stand unshaken against such accusations and slanders.

So far as relates to the last clause, in which Rabshakeh reproaches him with having overturned the worship of God, F638 every person must plainly see how slanderous is that charge; for Hezekiah had taken away false gods and superstitious F639 worship, which God abhors. (<121804>2 Kings 18:4.) But we need not wonder that wicked men cannot distinguish between the true God and the false, between superstition, and religion. And the same thing is practiced amongst us every day; for the Papists, who are delighted with nothing but their own superstitions, accuse us of having taken away innumerable inventions of men, and complain that we have impaired and almost abolished the worship of God. They taunt us also in the same manner as that Rabshakeh, “Would God assist those who have taken away his worship, profaned the holy temples, and everything that was established in that beautiful order?” The reason is, that in Popery everything had a dazzling appearance, and drew the admiration of men; while we retain no ceremonies but those which are plain and simple, and free from all pageantry, and therefore they think that we have taken away the worship of God, which they estimate by outward appearances. If any adverse event befalls us, they exclaim that it; is richly deserved, that all the blame attaches to us, that the whole world is punished for our ungodliness, and if we ourselves suffer any calamity they taunt us still more.

Yet with resolute faith we must stand out against such ungodly speeches, by shewing that what they call the worship of God is not his worship, but that we have taken away, and have justly taken away, mere trifles, and that all the contrivances of men do not belong to the worship of God, but. are delusions of Satan, and that nothing is more destructive. We must therefore stand out with unshaken faith against reproaches of every kind, by which Satan endeavors to throw a shade over the practice of godliness. At first sight it appears to be shameful that he overthrew many altars and left but one, that he profaned many temples that one might remain. (<121804>2 Kings 18:4.) But Hezekiah was fully acquitted by this single defense, that he undertook nothing but by the word of God; and therefore that he was satisfied with a single altar, because God had forbidden him to erect more, and that he had thrown down all images, because they had been unlawfully set up in opposition to the instructions of the Law. (<022004>Exodus 20:4.) We have the same dispute with the Papists in the present day, because they blame us on no other ground than that we have set aside a huge mass of ceremonies, and retain only what God has enjoined. In such cases, however, we must not argue about what pleases men, but what is approved by God.

11. Then said Eliakim. This circumstance again shews how deeply Hezekiah was depressed, when by his ambassador he entreats so humbly the servant of his enemy. It shews also with what pride Rabshakeh was puffed up, when he rejected so insolently all entreaties; and the refusal was the more shameful, because what was requested was not of great value. From these matters we learn that it was not owing to Hezekiah that he did not pacify the rage of the enemy; for forgetful almost of his royal rank, Hezekiah endearours with all possible modesty to soothe him. If at any time we happen to be oppressed by unjust violence, let us not be ashamed to yield up our rights and to supplicate with humility. Now, when Hezekiah was so submissive, because he saw that he was unable to resist the king of Assyria, this tends powerfully to magnify the glory of God in preserving a nation which was nearly ruined. For that deliverance would have been less remarkable, if they had been rescued only from an ordinary danger; but when they were not far from destruction, so much the more manifest is the hand of God, who by an extraordinary miracle subdued and ruined an enemy that had already set his feet on their neck. (<121931>2 Kings 19:31.)

Speak, I pray thee, to thy servants in the Syrian language. F640 They request that he will not speak in this manner in the presence of the people; because it is difficult to restrain a people naturally giddy and fickle, for they are easily moved, and tremble at the smallest alarm. F641 They would have wished that Rabshakeh should not speak to them in the Jewish language, because they were desirous to enter into any moderate terms of peace. For that good king tried every method of allaying the rage of that tyrant, but without any success. F642 These ambassadors therefore gain nothing from Rabshakeh; when he is entreated, he grows worse, and (as is usually the case with haughty men) becomes moro insolent.

12. And Rabshakeh said. Hence we see the fierceness and insolence of the enemy, and hence also it is evident that Hezekiah’s kingdom was on the brink of ruin; for here Rabshakeh speaks like a conqueror, and does not address Hezekiah as a king, but as if he had been his slave. When therefore we see Rabshakeh swelled with so much pride, we ought at the same time to recollect that Hezekiah was entirely overwhelmed and destitute of all confidence, so that he was looked upon as ruined. Hence we also infer that Rabshakeh was not sent for the purpose of offering any conditions of peace, but rather to obtain an unconditional surrender, and to strike the people with alarm; for Sennacherib had sent him for this purpose with a powerful army. Hence also he boasts that he has nothing to do with the king, that he addresses the people for their advantage, and, in order to terrify them still more, mentions the distress and calamities into which they will throw themselves if they choose to obey Hezekiah; that they will perish through hunger, and will be compelled to eat and drink what is revolting; and therefore, that their wisest course will be to surrender in good time, and to provide for their safety.

13. Therefore Rabshakeh stood, and cried with a loud voice in the Jewish language. The Prophet shews by what expedients Rabshakeh endeavored to shake the heart of the people, and first relates that he spoke in the Jewish language, though the ambassadors entreared him not to do so. It was, indeed, exceedingly shocking that the holy language, which had been consecrated to the mysteries of heavenly wisdom, was profaned and prostituted to wicked blasphemies; and this must undoubtedly have been a sore temptation to weak minds. But this should lead us to remark, that no enemies are more destructive than those who speak the same language as ourselves. At the present day we find this to be true in many who learn our language, that is, our way of speaking, that they may be able to insinuate themselves into the ears of weak and ignorant persons, so as to draw them aside from the true faith. Thirty years ago, the Papists had a language which was barbarous and totally at variance with the style of the Holy Spirit; scarcely were they heard to utter a word which breathed of Christian piety; but now they have succeeded in acquiring such skill as to know how to cloak their impieties under the ordinary language of Scripture, as if they were speaking in a Christian manner. Thus we see that it was Satan who framed that style; for he is their teacher and instructor as truly as he formerly was the teacher and instructor of Rabshakeh.

When the Prophet says that he stood, he expresses the fierceness and insolence of the wicked man; for the very attitude shews how haughtily he conducted himself. Formerly he stood, but now he placed himself in such an attitude as to be better seen, and strike greater terror into the Jews.

Hear the words of the great king. Having already spoken of the greatness of his king, he repeats his commands. It is customary with Satan to exaggerate in words the power of the enemies, and to represent the dangers as greater than they really are, in order to compel us to lose courage; for when our eyes are dazzled by the vain splendor of earthly objects, we faint. We ought therefore to contrast the power of God with all dangers; and if we have that power constantly placed before our eyes, there is nothing that can do us injury. With high disdain and great insolence the enemies will boast of their greatness and strength, and, on the other hand, will meek at our feebleness and our small numbers; but if the Lord is with us, we have nothing to fear.

14. Thus saith the king. While he claims for his master the name of king, he speaks of Hezekiah as a private individual, without adding any title.

Let not Hezekiah impose upon you. He goes on to utter impudent calumnies against him, and at the same time vomits out his venom against God himself; for he calls it “imposture” and “deception” for Hezekiah to rely on his favor, and to exhort his subjects to cherish the same confidence. But with similar calumnies are we now assailed by the Papists, who say that we bewitch the minds of men and lead them to destruction, and who have no pretext for saying so, except that we teach them that they ought to hope in the true God. But we have no reason to wonder that the same things which were spoken against the good king are likewise brought forward against us, since they proceed from the same inventor and teacher of slander, Satan.

For he will not be able to deliver you. Rabshakeh’s assertion, that they cannot be delivered by the hand of Hezekiah, is indeed true, unless God assist; and Hezekiah did not lay claim to this or rob God of the honor due to him, but, on the contrary, testified that his own safety and that of the people were in the hand of God. But the enemy found it necessary to employ some pretext, as wicked men commonly do at the present day, when they slander our doctrine; for they employ pretexts which give high plausibility to what they say, and which actually deceive men, when they are not closely examined.

15. And let not Hezekiah make you trust in Jehovah. He quotes the exhortation by which Hezekiah encouraged the people, and speaks lightly of it as an idle and unfounded speech. Hence we see plainly that wicked men, though they assert the power of God, treat it with contempt; for although he does not openly deny that God can assist, if he choose, yet, by sapping the foundations of their faith, he does all that he can to reduce the power of God to nothing. His intention is, to discourage the hearts of the people in such a manner that they may be constrained, as if in despair, to submit and receive laws from a victorious tyrant.

But in order to destroy their confidence in the assistance of God, he employs also another expedient, by flattering their hearts with the allurements of a more comfortable life; for there is nothing to which we are more prone than to revolt from God, when we are drawn away by the appearance of advantage. If the world flatter and caress, the hope of eternal salvation quickly passes away; for our senses are always fixed on the present state of things. Fortified by this resource, Rabshakeh advises, “Do not depend on an uncertain hope, but rather receive what is certain.” And this discourse is powerfully fitted to persuade; for nothing is more agreeable to men than to have in hand what they consider to be desirable; and they are so impatient of delay that they prefer an immediate advantage to what is very distant. Rabshakeh, therefore, reasons thus: “Hezekiah promises to you the assistance of God, but we do not see it; he holds you in suspense about what is uncertain; but my king proraises to you those things which are at hand, and will assuredly bestow them.” This might appear to be a strong argument; but we must observe the sophistry; for by the same stratagem does Satan frequently attack us, and lead us aside from confidence in God.

The Lord calls us to the hope of eternal life; that hope is concealed, “for we hope (<450825>Romans 8:25) for what we do not see;” he promises that he will be our deliverer, and yet allows us to languish and hint.; so that it appears that our hope is vain, if we look at the present condition of things. On this ground Satan attacks us. “Why dost thou hope in vain? What is the fruit of thy faith? What dost thou expect beyond the world?” In short, this is our daily lamentation. When Christ calls us to heaven, Satan endeavors to keep us still on the earth; and therefore we must adhere firmly to the promises, that, “hoping against hope,” (<450418>Romans 4:18,) we may trust in God, and not suffer ourselves to be drawn away from him by any allurements.

16. Do not listen to Hezekiah. While he labors to turn away the hearts of the people from Hezekiah, he at the same time invites them to pleasures, that they may forget God and not expect anything from him. It is as if he had said, “Do not believe God, but rather believe my king.” Thus Satan deals with us; for, darkening the goodness of God by his clouds, and holding out to us the masks of false hope, he secretly and indirectly creeps into the place of God, or employs creatures to entangle us in his nets. He holds out pleasures, and some kind of more agreeable life, with this boast, “God shews it to you at a distance, I present it to you.”

Though Hezekiah is mentioned, yet the comparison is actually made between God and the king of Assyria; for Hezekiah, as he was the servant of God, made no false pretensions, and did not boast of any vain confidence, but, relying on true and most certain promises, faithfully exhorted the people to seek God; but Rabshakeh adorned his king by robbing God, and yet was the servant of Satan, to withdraw the people from confidence in God to all impiety.

Make with me a blessing. F643 “To make a blessing” is to conduct themselves in a friendly manner; as if he had said, “Do not give any hostile indication, or risk a battle. Surrender, make your submission to my king.” Sennacherib does not merely demand that he shall be heard, but likewise that the people shall swear allegiance to hint; and, in order to allure them to him the more powerfully, he makes use of the word blessing as a cloak to that bondage which was in itself hateful. He bids them purchase a quiet life, and other conveniencies which they formerly enjoyed, by that miserable revolt; that is, by forsaking Hezekiah and going out to him; for to revolt from a pious king, whom God had appointed, and who was a type of Christ, was more wretched and miserable than anything else that could befall them, and could not take place without denying God himself, who had set up in Judea that token of heavenly favor.

17. Till I come and take you away. He now adds another condition far harder than the former; for he declares that peace cannot be made with Sennacherib in any other way than by the people going into banishment. This was nothing else than to abandon the worship of God and degenerate into superstition, and voluntarily to quit the inheritance which God had given them. But because he addresses a people whose distressed condition and extreme danger had struck them with terror, he insolently commands them to save their lives.

Into a land of corn and wine. Here we see more clearly that Rabshakeh’s speech is nothing else than an image of the temptations by which Satan daily attacks our faith; for there is nothing which Satan more constantly attempts F644 than to withdraw us from confidence in God by the allurements and pleasures of this world; that we ought to enjoy peace and quietness, and to purchase them at any price; and that happiness consists in plentiful abundance of good things. But most of all, he makes a wicked use of adversity to press upon us, and more eagerly urge us to shake off the yoke of God. Gently indeed, and by secret and unseen methods, he insinuates himself; but, after having once inveigled and caught us in his net, so as to lead us to value present advantages more highly than those which are future, he adds this condition, that he shall hold us entirely bound and devoted to him; which we certainly cannot avoid, when he holds us entangled by his plausible hopes, and by the relish of present objects.

Into a land like your own land. Because the word banishment was harsh and disagreeable, and it was not easy to part with the delightfulness of their native country, in order to shew that they sustain no loss by leaving it, he says, that the country into which they are about to be conveyed is equally fertile and productive. F645 Thus he draws a veil over their eyes, that they might not think that they were losing anything. Yet he cunningly passes by what ought above all other things to be valued by them, the worship of God, the temple, the kingdom, the order of holy government, and everything else that belonged to the heavenly inheritance. Without these what happiness can there be? Let every one therefore learn diligently to apply his mind to spiritual blessings; “for to dwell in the house of God,” is justly pronounced to be a far more valuable blessing than all the luxuries and prosperity of the world. (<198404>Psalm 84:4, 10.) Thus shall we guard against being led away by the hope of present objects and deprived of true happiness; for this is a dreadful punishment by which the Lord takes vengeance on the unbelief of men, and which all godly persons ought to dread, that they may not faint or give way under any distresses and calamities.

18. Lest perhaps Hezekiah deceive you. This is another argument different from the former, by which he endeavors to withdraw the people from Hezekiah and from confidence in God. Formerly he boasted that he was God’s servant, and that God had sent him to destroy Judea, and on that ground he assured himself of certain victory; but now he openly insults God himself. At the first onset wicked men do not usually betray their scorn and impiety, but at length the Lord makes known their dispositions, and constrains them to discover the venom of their own heart. Now therefore the wicked Rabshakeh bursts forth with greater violence, and boasts that he will gain the victory over God himself.

Have any of the gods of the nations rescued their land? He speaks in the person of his master, that he had obtained great victories over many and powerful nations. They had their “gods,” by whose protection they thought that they were defended; and therefore Sennacherib thought that he had vanquished the “gods” themselves, because he had vanquished the nations which relied on their aid. The consequence is, that he breaks out into such insolence as not to hesitate to compare himself to the living God, and is impelled by such rage that he brings his own strength into conflict with the power of God.

Thus, although at first wicked men conceal their contempt of God, yet they afterwards shew that they claim everything for themselves, and that they are “without God.” F646 (<490212>Ephesians 2:12.) In words, indeed, they pretend to ascribe victories to their idols; but afterwards, as Habakkuk says, they

“sacrifice to their net, and offer incense to their drag.”
(<350116>Habakkuk 1:16.)

We see hypocrites do this also at the present day; for they run to do honor to their idols after having obtained a victory, but immediately afterwards boast of their plans, and wisdom, and courage, and military forces; which plainly shews that they ascribe to themselves and not to their idols all that has happened.

By such insolent boasting, therefore, he shewed that it was a lie, when he said that he acknowledged God to be the author of his victories. Besides, it was impossible that these words should not give dreadful agony to the heart of the good king, when he was informed that the promises of God were condemned as false, when that wicked man openly insuited God and linked their cause with idols. And these things are related, in order that we may behold the patience of the good king, and may resolve to imitate him when anything of the same kind shall take place.

Have they delivered? When he sets himself in opposition to all the gods, and declares that he is more powerful than they are, this is so much at variance with common sense, that it is abhorred even by wicked men themselves; yet if the Lord press hard upon them, if he put them to the torture, he speedily extorts from them such language. When they make a premeditated speech, they pretend that they are worshippers of God, but afterwards God constrains them to bring out and acknowledge what was lurking within. Let us therefore learn, that superstition is always accompanied by pride; so that they who do not know God, do not scruple to rise up against everything that is called God; and let us not be astonished at the rebellion and insolence of wicked men, for nothing but the pure knowledge of God can teach us humility. And yet that wicked man cannot be excused as if he justly reproached idols with their weakness and uselessness; for we ought to observe his sentiments and the purpose of his heart, since he does not ridicule the superstition and vain confidence of the nations, but in the idols themselves he pours contempt on the power of God. In like manner, when Dionysius the tyrant ridiculed his gods, he fought with God and defied him to a contest; for he attacked, in opposition to his conscience, such a deity as his mind could comprehend. The same observation might be made on all other infidels who treated with scorn false religions which they supposed to be from God.

Here we ought also to observe another kind of blasphemy, by which the majesty of God is wickedly dishonored; which is, that Rabshakeh confounds God with idols, and represents him to be one of the multitude. For what blasphemy is it to confound the immortal God and creator of all things with what is most detestable, to confound truth with falsehood, glory with shame, heaven with earth?

“The Lord is great,” says David, “and worthy of the highest praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are nothing; but the Lord made the heavens. Majesty and honor are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.” —
(<199604>Psalm 96:46.)

19. Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? It is supposed that Hamath was Antioch in Syria, that Arpad was that city from which colonies were brought to Damascus, and that Sepharvaim was a city situated in the country of Damascus. If this be true, Rabshakeh mentions the ancient names of cities, from which many nations had formerly come, and which afterwards lost not only their celebrity, but likewise their distinctive names, and aims at producing in them greater alarm, by reminding them of so great revolutions. However that may be, he mentions chiefly the neighboring cities, the destruction of which might affect them more deeply on account of their being better known to the Jews. And I have no doubt that these places belonged to Syria and Israel; as if he had said, “Look at these two kingdoms subdued, which were presided over by their gods as their guardians. Will your God resist me?”

20. That Jehovah should rescue Jerusalem out of my hand? F647 The particle yk (ki) is taken by commentators in both places interrogatively, “Did the gods of the nations deliver? And will your God deliver?” But in order to make the meaning flow more smoothly, I have preferred to render the second clause, “that your God should deliver;” for the repetition of the same word marks a resemblance. Yet the words appear also to contain irony; as if he had said in mockery, “Yes; as the gods of the nations delivered their worshippers, so will your God assist you.”

This insolence of ungodly men arises from their not understanding that God punishes the sins of men when they suffer any adversity. And first they go wrong in this respect that they institute a wicked and absurd comparison, “I have conquered that nation, and therefore I am better or stronger.” They do not perceive that they were appointed to be the executioners of God’s anger for the punishment of iniquities; for, although they say that they have received something from God, they do it hypocritically, and do not consider his will or his justice. They afterwards rise higher, for they venture to make a comparison between them and God himself, “I have conquered those over whom God presided, and therefore I have conquered God himself.”

And here we see painted in a lively manner what was formerly expressed, —

“Ah! Assyria, the rod of my indignation; but he thought not so.” (<231005>Isaiah 10:5.)

In that passage God forewarned believers, that although Sennacherib, in blind madness, lifted himself up and attempted to overthrow all divine power, still they should continue to believe this doctrine, that he could do nothing more than what he was permitted by heaven to do. It is our duty to acknowledge that God inflicts punishment by the hand of wicked men, who may be regarded as the instruments of God’s anger; and therefore we ought to turn away our eyes from them, that we may look directly at God, by whom we are justly punished. If wicked men are more powerful, let us not think that the arm of God is broken, but let us consider that we do not deserve his assistance; for he arms enemies for our destruction, supplies them with vigor and with armies, drives them backwards and forwards whenever he thinks proper, and gives us up into their hands when we have turned away from him.

Accordingly, when the Turk now rises up haughtily against us, because he has already vanquished so great a multitude of Christians, we need not be alarmed on that account, as if the power of God were diminished, and as if he had not strength to deliver us. But we ought to consider in how many ways the inhabitants of Greece and of Asia provoked his anger, by the prevalence of every kind of base and shocking licentiousness in those countries, and by the dreadful superstitions and wickedness which abounded. On this account very severe chastisement was needed for restraining the crimes of those who made a false profession of the name of God. Hence came the prosperity of the Turk, and hence was it followed by a shockingly ruinous condition throughout the whole of the east. Yet we see him insolently raising his crest, laughing at our religion, and applauding his own in a strange manner; but still more does he applaud himself, and “sacrifice to his net,” (<350116>Habakkuk 1:16,) as we have already said of other infidels.

We ought, therefore, to direct our minds towards the judgments of God, that we may not think that the Turk acquired such extensive dominion by his own strength. But the Lord allowed him greater freedom, for the purpose of punishing the ungodliness and wickedness of men, and will at length restrain his insolence at the proper time. Now, although prosperity is a token of the blessing of God, yet we must not begin with it if we wish to form right views of God himself, as Mahometans and Papists infer from the victories which they have gained, that God is in some respects subject to their control. But when we have known the true God, blessings are added in the proper order to testify his grace and power.

Yet we ought always to beware of making the smallest claim for ourselves, for as soon as foolish confidence has gained admission, we shall immediately be seized with such fury as to believe that even God is not equal to us. At first, even wicked men will be shocked at anything so grossly irreligious; but when we are maddened by such diabolical pride as to rob God and adorn ourselves with the spoils, we easily fall into the practice of open insult. Sennacherib still retained some form of piety, for we shall afterwards read (<233738>Isaiah 37:38) that “he was slain in the temple of his god, while he was worshipping there;” and he undoubtedly wished that God would be gracious to him; but, as in this passage he treads under his feet the Creator of heaven and earth along with the gods of the nations, so he would not have hesitated, when an opportunity occurred, to act in the same manner towards his own idol.

21. And they were silent. This is added in order that we may more fully understand how deep was the affliction which prevailed throughout the whole of Judea; for the good king, having hardly any strength or means of defense, is therefore struck dumb even when an enemy insults him. Ambassadors were sent to soothe the enemy; when they are unsuccessful they are enjoined to be silent, that they might not provoke that savage beast, which already was too much excited, to cruelty. Yet it is uncertain whether these words relate to the ambassador or to the people, against whom Rabshakeh threw out these reproaches; and indeed it is probable, that it rather refers to those who guarded the walls, who, though they were sharply piqued by the taunts of the enemy, yet were not provoked to quarrels or disturbance, because they obeyed the kings command. Hence, also, we infer that it arose from the peculiar kindness of God, that they were so much disposed to yield obedience when matters were desperate.

It will perhaps be objected that they ought not to have been silent when such blasphemies were uttered against God; for we ought not to conceal our sentiments when wicked men mock, and jeer, and reproach God, even though our life should be put in danger. We ought, at least, to testify that we cannot patiently endure that his honor and glory should be attacked. But it is not said that they were silent because they expressed their assent, or cared nothing about the reproaches which were cast on God, and which, though not a word was uttered by them, gave deep pain to the ambassadors, and prompted them to the attitudes and tokens of grief; for afterwards, such is the bitterness of their sorrow that they tear their garments, and by this token they shew that they hold such blasphemies in abhorrence and detestation. But as it would have been of no avail for the ambassadors to debate with Rabshakeh, they returned peaceably and without any tumult; and the people, because it was useless to make any disturbance, reckoned it enough to meet the wicked man’s impertinence by silent groans. And it is no despicable courage, even when we have it not in our power to utter a syllable, still not to shrink or flinch, but to remain quietly in our place.

Hence we are also reminded, that we ought not always to contend with wicked men when they reproach and tear in pieces the name of God; for amidst bitter strife and confused noise the truth will not be heard. And yet we must not on that account give way to cowardice, by thinking that we ought to be excused for being silent, whenever wicked men rise up against God; for our silence will have no excuse if we do not in some way testify that it is highly displeasing to us, and if we do not, as far as lies in our power, declare that nothing is more distressing to us than that. the name of God should be dishonored. We must, therefore, give expression to our zeal, that wicked men may not think that we have no regard for the honor of God, and that we are not moved when they blaspheme it.

22. Then came Eliakim. We now see that Eliakim and the other ambassadors were not silent as if they either approved of the impiety of Rabshakeh, or through dread of danger connived at such blasphemies; for they tear their garments, and in that manner give visible display how highly they are offended at those wicked slanders. I except Shebna, who was destitute of piety, and was only driven by shame to assume the dress of mourning along with others as a matter of form. It was customary among the Jews and other eastern nations, when they viewed anything with strong abhorrence, to tear their garments; for those nations, having much greater warmth of temperament than we have who inhabit cold countries, display greater vehemence in gesture, deportment, dress, and other outward signs. Here it ought also to be observed, that they who took no notice of the insults offered to them as private individuals, whenever they hear reproaches uttered against God, “tear their garments;” for they who are ready to take offense at an insult offered to them in their private, capacity, where patience was needed, and who are unmoved when they learn that the name of God is dishonored, give evidence that they have no zeal or piety.


CHAPTER 37

Go To Isaiah 37:1-38

1. And it came to pass. The Prophet declares that the only hope of safety that was left to the pious king was to bring his complaints before God as a righteous judge; as it is said in the Psalm, that

“in the same manner as servants or handmaids, when they are injured, look to the protection of their master or mistress, so the eyes of believers are fixed on the assistance of God.” —
(<19C302>Psalm 123:2.)

Thus, when Jerusalem appears to be completely ruined, Hezekiah, being bereft of earthly assistance, betakes himself to the protection of God, and thus acknowledges that there is no other remedy for heavy distresses. Hence also the grace of God shone more brightly, so that it was evidently miraculous, when the pious king was rescued from the jaws of that lion. We ought, therefore, to observe this circumstance, that we may better understand the great excellence of the work of God. Here we are also taught what we ought to do in the most desperate circumstances, not to be indolent or sluggish in supplicating the assistance of God, who himself invites us to come to him. We must not tremble or despair, but, on the contrary, ought to be stimulated by the necessity which presses upon us to seek his aid; as we see what Hezekiah did, who immediately betook himself to the temple in the same manner as to a place of safety, that he and all his people might take refuge under the shadow of God.

That King Hezekiah rent his clothes. He likewise adds the outward expressions of repentance, the “rending of the clothes and wearing sackcloth,” sprinkling of ashes, and other things of the same kind; for these were the ordinary signs of repentance, when, under the weight of any calamity by which they were afflicted, they confessed their guilt before God and implored pardon from him. Wonderful is the modesty of the holy king, who, after having performed so many illustrious works, and after having been adorned by the excellence of so many virtues, does not hesitate to prostrate himself humbly before God; and, on the other hand, wonderful is his courage and the steadfastness of his faith, in not being hindered by the weight of so heavy a temptation from freely seeking God by whom he was so severely smitten. Scarcely do we find one man in a hundred who does not murmur if God treats him with any degree of severity, who does not bring forward his good deeds as a ground of complaint, and remonstrate that he has been unjustly rewarded. Other men, when God does not comply with their wishes, complain that their worship of God has served no good purpose.

We perceive nothing of this kind in Hezekiah, who, though he is conscious of possessing uncommon piety, does not shrink from a confession of guilt, and therefore if we desire to turn away God’s anger, and to experience his favor in adversity, we must testify our repentance and sincerely acknowledge our guilt; for adversity does not fall out to us by chance, but is the method by which God arouses us to repentance. True, indeed, sackcloth and ashes will be of little avail, if they be not preceded by the inward feelings of the heart; for we know that hypocrites are abundantly liberal in the use of ceremonies; but as we have formerly said, the Holy Spirit justly commends those exercises, when they are directed to their proper object. And indeed it was a proof of uncommon piety and modesty, that the pious king and the whole nation excited themselves in this manner to fear God, and that he made a voluntary acknowledgment of guilt in a form attended by wretched filthiness; for we know how unwilling kings are to let themselves down from their rank.

2. And he sent Eliakim. This message was not intended merely to invite Isaiah to join with him in lamentation, but to request some consolation from his doctrine. And indeed to no purpose shall prayers be poured into the air, if they do not rest on the word of God. Thus we see that unbelievers are exceedingly noisy in their prayers, and yet they flee from God by despising or disregarding his promises. It was therefore a proof of sincere piety in Hezekiah, that, while he was earnestly employed in prayer, he at the same time added a confirmation of his hope, that he might not yield to temptation.

To Isaiah, the son of Amos the Prophet. He follows the method appointed by God, when he wishes to hear God speaking by the mouth of “the Prophet.” (<051815>Deuteronomy 18:15; <390207>Malachi 2:7.) Though he relies on God alone, he does not reject the testimony of a mortal man; and therefore not without reason does he expressly add the designation Prophet; for he sends to Isaiah, that he may be confirmed by some new prediction, and names him, not as a private individual, but as the servant of God, whose duty it was to soothe the pious king by some consolation.

There are therefore two remedies that deserve our attention, by which we are soothed in affliction. First, we ought to call on God to deliver us; and, secondly, we ought to consult the prophets, at least, if we can obtain them, that they may bring us some comfort out of the word of God; for it is their duty to encourage and comfort the afflicted by promises, and if they fail to do so, still abundant consolation is communicated to us from the word. And we ought to consult the prophets, who were appointed, not only for their own age, but also for posterity and for every age; for although the men are dead, yet their books survive; their doctrine lives and shall never die. We shall never, therefore, be destitute of true remedies, if we do not reject them; but, in a word, we ought always to consult God.

It may be asked, “Was not Hezekiah abundantly supplied and fortified by the promises of God? Was it not a sign of distrust to seek new promises from the Prophet?” I reply, it ought not to be ascribed to unbelief or distrust, that he seeks a new promise; for, being conscious of his weakness, he does not scruple to ask new confirmations. The flesh always excites us to distrust, and therefore we ought not to despise additional aid; on the contrary, we ought always to seek every kind of assistance, by which we may resist various temptations; for on all sides Satan attacks and besieges us in such a manner that, if we are not strongly fortified, we shall scarcely be able to escape his snares and devices till the end. Although, therefore, we have been taught by the word of God that he will assist us in adversity, yet when we are engaged in any arduous contest, it is proper that we should again and again ask at the mouth of the Lord, and seek new confirmations for the purpose of strengthening our faith. There are indeed no prophecies of the same kind that are given to us in the present day; but we ought to apply to our use the general prophecies, which were also written for our benefit. (<451504>Romans 15:4.)

As to the reason why Hezekiah sent ambassadors, and did not himself go to Isaiah, it was obviously because he was praying in the Temple; for the circumstance, that all the elders and counsellors were clothed with sackcloth, shews clearly that the mourning was general; and it is probable that prayers were publicly offered by the command of the king. Yet it ought to be observed, that the Prophet did not remain at home for his own ease or pleasure, but by his absence God intended to try the faith of the pious king.

4. If perhaps Jehovah thy God will hear. Hezekiah appears to doubt whether, or not the Lord is willing to hear him; for the particle ylwa (ulai) is translated perhaps, and this is the meaning which it frequently bears in Scripture. But it ought to be observed that believers, even though they know with certainty that the Lord will assist them, yet, in consequence of being perplexed by the difficulty of the case, often speak in this manner. Hezekiah had reasons for hesitating, if we look at the matter itself; but when he turns his eyes to the word, he is made certain as to the will of God, so that he ceases to tremble. But as it is impossible that the flesh should not retard believers by making them walk in a halting and staggering manner, F648 they sometimes accommodate their language to the present appearances of things.

It may also be observed, in other passages of Scripture, that the saints, even while speaking of what was certain, spoke in this manner; for Peter, in exhorting Simon, says,

If perhaps this thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee.”
(<440822>Acts 8:22.)

He does not advise Simon to tremble and hesitate in prayer; for stroh a supplication would have been vain; but he points out the heinousness of the offense; that he may strike his mind more forcibly, and may at length constrain him to rouse himself that he may approach God with true repentance. This word perhaps, therefore, does not imply doubt, but is equivalent to an expression which we commonly use, if it be possible, when we venture to hope and promise to ourselves something. And Hezekiah did not speak as if God were deaf to the words of the ungodly, or as if anything escaped his notice; but because it was a fixed principle in his heart that “God is near to all that truly call upon him,” (<19E518>Psalm 145:18,) he determines to strive against despondency, and arms himself by prayer; and because he does not expect to gain the conquest without difficulty, he says, If perhaps. F649 Besides, he mentions two kinds of hearing, which in some measure removes the difficulty.

If perhaps Jehovah, thy God shall hear the words which Jehovah thy God hath heard. At first sight there is some apparent contradiction in these words; but the manner of speaking is highly appropriate, because Hezekiah was assuredly and beyond all controversy convinced that nothing is hidden from God; only he argues with himself on this point, whether or not, God determines to call in question the blasphemy of this filthy dog; because frequently he delays and conceals vengeance for a time, and thus seems to shut his eyes and overlook it. In short, taking for granted that

“all things are open and manifest to God,” (<580413>Hebrews 4:13,)

he only asks with earnestness whether or not God actually shews that he is so highly offended by the blasphemies of Rabshakeh that he determines not to allow them to remain unpunished. In a word, he wishes God to hear effectually, that is, by restoring those things which were scattered and confused, and shewing himself to be a judge; for then do we know that he actually sees and observes all things. In this manner Hezekiah asks, “Hath not the Lord heard the blasphemies of Rabshakeh, to take vengeance on them, and to shew that he hath a regard to the glory of his name?”

Jehovah thy God. By calling him “the God of Isaiah,” Hezekiah does not mean that there is only one man who worships God, nor does he exclude himself from the number of the godly; but because prayers flowed from doctrine, the pious king wished to speak in commendation of the ministry of the Prophet, and to testify that he was a true servant of God. That relation is somewhat more extensive; for all believers call on God, and, on the other hand, God reckons them among his people; but God is reckoned in a peculiar manner to be the God of Isaiah and Paul, because they have a special calling. In a word, these words expressly contain praise and commendation of Isaiah’s calling.

Thou wilt therefore lift up a prayer. This is the second reason why Hezekiah sent messengers to Isaiah; namely, that he also would pray along with others. Hence we learn that it is the duty of a prophet, not only to comfort the afflicted by the word of the Lord, but also to offer his prayers for their salvation. Let not pastors and ministers of the word, therefore, think that they have fully discharged their duty, when they have exhorted and taught, if they do not also add prayer. This indeed is what all ought to do; but Hezekiah sent to Isaiah in a particular manner, because he ought to lead the way to others by his example. Besides, “to lift up a prayer” is nothing else than “to pray,” but the mode of expression deserves attention; for it shews how our feelings ought to be regulated when we pray. Scripture everywhere enjoins us to “lift up our hearts to heaven,” (<250341>Lamentations 3:41;) for otherwise we would have no fear of God. Moreover, our stupidity is so great that we are immediately seized by gross imaginations of God; so that if he did not bid us look to heaven, we would choose rather to seek him at our feet. “To lift up a prayer,” therefore, is to pray in such a manner that our hearts may not grovel on the earth, or think anything earthly or gross about God, but may ascribe to him what is suitable to his majesty, and that our warm and earnest affections may take a lofty flight. In this sense it is said in the Psalm,

“Let my prayer come up before thee as incense,
and as the evening sacrifice.” (Psalm141:2.)

For the remnant that is still left. When he desires that prayer should be offered “for the remnant of the people that was left,” this circumstance was fitted powerfully to move the Lord; not that he is moved after the manner of men, but he acts towards us in this manner, and accommodates himself to our weakness. Thus when our affairs are brought to such an extremity that we are not far from destruction, we ought to spread our misery before God, that our minds may receive some consolation; for God declares that he hath regard to “the poor and afflicted.” (<192224>Psalm 22:24.) And the nearer we appear to be to destruction, so much the more warmly and earnestly ought we to implore that he would render assistance to us, as we see here that Hezekiah did when matters were desperate.

5. And the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah. As the Prophet formerly related that the pious king had no other refuge than to consult the mouth of the Lord, so he now shews that he did not consult in vain; for he received the consolation which he desired. Instructed by this example, if we seek relief from him by pouring our cares and anxieties into the bosom of God, our hope shall never be disappointed; and although there will not always be prophets in the world, such as Isaiah was, yet he will come forth seasonably to render assistance in an appropriate manner.

6. Thus saith Jehovah. Isaiah begins by saying that he gives the reply in the name of God, and expressly declares that the oracle comes from God, both because prophets ought always to beware of bringing forward anything of their own, and because in so difficult a matter the authority of God was needful. In this manner also, the Prophet shewed that he met the prayers of the pious king. Even false prophets, indeed, boast of the name of God, but falsely. Isaiah was truly the organ of the Holy Spirit, and therefore he has a right to mention the holy name of Him that sent him.

Fear not. When he bids him “not fear,” he exhorts Hezekiah to be of a courageous or, at least, a calm disposition. Whenever we hear this word, let us be reminded that we are enjoined to cultivate that peace which faith produces in our hearts; for all who trust in God, and expect from him deliverance from their distresses, rise superior to all fears by the exercise of patience, so that even in the midst of affliction they have peace. Besides, in order that the pious king may continue cheerfully to expect a joyful issue, he plainly declares that God conducts his own cause which he has undertaken to defend, because he cannot permit wicked men unpunished to dishonor his name without making it appear at length that he is a righteous judge. F650

The servants of the king of Assyria. By calling them servants, he presents in a stronger light the baseness of the action; for although the king himself had spoken in this manner, still it would have been intolerable that the Lord should be despised and so shamefully attacked by a mortal man. Hence it might easily be concluded that much less would he endure to be so highly insulted by “servants,” F651 and therefore the rank of the person increases the heinoushess of the attack.

7. Behold, I will bring a wind upon him. Others translate it, “I will put my Spirit in him,” as if the Prophet were speaking of a secret influence of the heart; but that is a forced interpretation. It is a highly appropriate metaphor that there is in the hand of God a wind or whirlwind to drive Sennacherib in another direction. To compare wicked men to “straw or chaff,’ (<190104>Psalm 1:4) is a mode of expression frequently employed in Scripture, because God easily drives them wherever he thinks proper, when they think that they are standing very firm. The commotion that arose in the kingdom of Sennacherib is compared by the Prophet to a “wind” or “storm” which drove him out of Judea, and then he shews that the Lord will find no more difficulty in repelling that enemy than if he wished to move straw or chaff; and the very same thing might be said of all tyrants, however powerful.

For he shall hear a report. The words “and he shall hear” are evidently added for the sake of explanation, and therefore I have chosen to interpret them as assigning a reason, “For he shall hear.” F652 This is the wind by the raising of which Sennacherib was suddenly driven away; for a report which he heard about the kings of Egypt and Ethiopia constrained him to return to his own country.

And I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land. This means as if he had said, “He now annoys and harasses others, and endeavors to extend widely the limits of his empire; but I will raise up enemies to him, in the very bosom of his own land, who shall discomfit him.” Some expound it to mean the land of Israel, but that is an excessively forced interpretation; for he speaks of the land of the king of Assyria himself, and there is an implied contrast, “He who subdued other men’s cities and kingdoms shall not be able to defend his own country, but shall be destroyed and perish in it.”

8. And Rabshakeh having returned. He now declares how Rabshakeh, without doing anything, returned to his king, not to the same place where he had left him; for he understood that he had raised the siege of Lachish, and had departed into Egypt for the purpose of attacking Libnah. Some think that this city is Pelusium, others choose rather to assign it to Judea. It is, indeed, probable that, in consequence of a report that reached him about the approach of enemies, he moved his camp towards Egypt, that by meeting them he might prevent them from advancing. Though God restrained the violence of the tyrant by a new war, in order to give some relief to the Jews, yet he did not wish to conquer the tyrant by the hand of man, but only to shew openly and, as it were, to display on a theater his unconquerable pride; because, even when he was in great danger, he did not cease to vomit out the same blasphemies, as we shall soon see.

9. And hearing concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia. From what follows we may conjecture the reason why the king of Assyria suddenly departed from Judea; for the kings of Egypt and Ethiopia had formed a league with each other against Sennacherib, because they saw that his power was becoming excessive, and that his invasion of other countries had no limit, and therefore they readily concluded that, unless they opposed his violence at an early period, they also would be in imminent danger from him. These kings did not intend to provide for the safety of Judea at their own loss, but looked to themselves; for so great power possessed by one individual is commonly and deservedly viewed with suspicion by other princes and nations. They therefore act wisely in joining their forces and meeting him early; for separately they would easily have been subdued and destroyed. For this reason these two kings took arms together, in order to repel the power and violence of that tyrant.

He sent messengers to Hezekiah. The king of Assyria, being involved in so hazardous a war, “sends messengers to Hezekiah,” to induce him by terrors and threatenings to surrender; for tyrants are maddened by ambition and by a false opinion of their own greatness, and therefore imagine that their words, the report of their name, and even their shadow, will strike terror into all men. Entangled in a hazardous war, he thinks of subduing Judea, from which he had been compelled to withdraw, ashamed of not having continued the siege, but perhaps thinking that he will gain in his absence what he could not accomplish by his presence. But the Lord miraculously assisted his people who appeared to be very near destruction. And, first, in order to restrain the violence of this tyrant, he presented hinderances and obstructions, from which he could not so speedily extricate himself; just as if one should “lay a bridle on the mouth or a hook on the nose” of a wild and savage beast, as the Prophet will afterwards say. (<233729>Isaiah 37:29.) His rage and cruelty, indeed, are not abated, but are restrained so that they can do no harm.

We see the same thing in the present day. How many cruel tyrants would wish that the Church of God were destroyed! What schemes are employed for the accomplishment of it! How diversified are the plans which they form! What forces do they assemble from every quarter! But when they think that they will accomplish anything, the Lord suddenly raises up enemies against them, sometimes even brings them to fight with each other, and turns against themselves that cruelty which they wished to exercise against the children of God. Yet they go on in their cruelty, and cease not to attempt this or that; as this Sennacherib, though he is surrounded by difficulties, ceases not to annoy Hezekiah, and addresses him from his royal throne, as if he were a despicable slave, and commands him as if he were his vassal, and even to God himself addresses insolent and opprobrious language, and goes beyond his agent Rabshakeh in arrogance; for, although Rabshakeh’s words had the same meaning, still this man, in a more impudent manner, and, as we may say, with more open mouth reviles God.

10. Let not thy God deceive thee. How shocking is this blasphemy, to speak of God the Author of truth, and to accuse him of falsehood and deceit, as if he actually imposed on his people! What is left to God when his truth is taken away, for nothing is more absolutely his own? God extorted this word from the wicked man, although he formerly pretended to revere some deity; for such impiety, as we have formerly said, God does not permit to remain any longer concealed.

Saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered. This quotation of the words uttered by God himself, that “Jerusalem would be preserved,” has led some to conjecture that Isaiah’s prediction had been disclosed to the king of Assyria by the traitor Shebna. But there is no need of such conjectures; for the Assyrian knew well that Hezekiah placed his hope in God, and was not ignorant of the promises which were made both to him and to David,

“This is my rest; here will I dwell for ever and ever.”
(<19D214>Psalm 132:14.)

Not that he gave himself any trouble about heavenly oracles, but because every person knew and talked of them, and the Jews gloried in them wonderfully, and often boasted of the assistance and protection of God in opposition to their enemies.

These promises, therefore, the tyrant meets by this blasphemy, — “Let not thy God deceive thee.” And thus he exalts himself against God, as if God were not sufficiently powerful to defend Jerusalem, and as if his own power were greater, not only than all the power of men, but even than the power of God himself. He endeavors to prove this by examples, because he has vanquished nations which were under the protection of other gods, and draws an argument from the power of his ancestors, — “They conquered the gods of other nations, and I am far superior to my ancestors; therefore the God of Israel will not conquer me.”

Thus do wicked men commonly exalt themselves more and more in prosperity, so that at length they forget that they are men, and not only claim for themselves, but even think that they surpass, Divine Majesty. Setting aside all distinction between right and wrong, satisfied with the mere power of doing injury, they glory in their own crimes and those of their ancestors, and egregiously flatter themselves on the ground of their being descended from robbers and infamous men; for frequently the most powerful of monarchs is the best entitled to be called the rich son of a great robber. This tyrant does not consider whether it was in a right or a wrong manner that so many countries came into the power of his ancestors; for they have no regard to justice or injustice, when they aim at greatness; it is enough for them if in any way, either lawful or unlawful, they can bring others under their yoke. Thus they think that they are at liberty to do whatever they can. They hold by that proverb, (eij ajdikhte>on turanni>dov peri< ajdikhte>on) “if justice ought to be violated, it ought to be violated for the sake of reigning;” and this vice was not peculiar to a single age, but even now we feel it to be excessive.

11. Behold, thou hast heard. Here we ought to observe a twofold comparison; for he compares Hezekiah to other kings of Judah who preceded him, because he was inferior to them, and yet they were vanquished by the kings of Assyria; and Sennacherib, on the other hand, having obtained greater power than all the rest, is more daring and insolent. It followed, that Hezekiah could not resist him. The other comparison is that of the kings of Assyria, and Sennacherib himself, with the idols of the nations; for if the idols could not protect the nations that adored them, consequently neither will the God of Israel defend the nation by which he is adored.

When we thus read that singular assaults of temptations were directed against the faith of Hezekiah, let us prepare ourselves for the contest by being equipped with the same armor. Even while leisure is granted to us, let us endeavour to fortify ourselves early, in order that, when we come into such a field of battle, we may fight courageously. And if Satan taunt us with the destruction of many nations, we must attend to the difference of our condition; because, although we are liable to similar calamities, still we have assured hope of our salvation, of which they are destitute.

12. Gozan. This place is mentioned in <121706>2 Kings 17:6, and 18:11. We may infer that it was a town in Media, though some think that it was situated elsewhere; but it is enough that, with regard to Jerusalem, it lay in an easterly direction. Haran is often mentioned in Scripture. Pliny places this town in Arabia; but it is more generally believed to have been in Mesopotamia, and this is confirmed by the journeyings of Abraham, who came to it along with his father, after having left his native country Chaldaea. (<440724>Acts 7:24; <011131>Genesis 11:31.) It is called Charrae, in the plural number, by heathen historians, who also mention that Crassus and his son were killed there.

14. Hezekiah took the letters. The Prophet now shews what kind of refuge Hezekiah had amidst so great calamities. He immediately went into the Temple, to lament before the Lord the calamity which: he could not remove, and to “cast upon him” (<195522>Psalm 55:22) his grief and his anxieties. F653 Nor was this a blind or confused lamentation, but the pious king wished to move God by his tears and complaints to render assistance. We are taught by his example that, when we are sore pressed, there is nothing better than to east our burden into the bosom of God. All other methods of relief will be of no avail, if this single method be wanting.

And spread them before Jehovah. In “spreading the letters before the Lord,” he does not do this as if the Lord did not know what was contained in the letters, but God allows us to act in this manner towards him in accommodation to our weakness. Neither prayers, nor tears, nor complaints make known to God what we need; for he

“knows our wants and necessities before we ask anything
from him.” (<400608>Matthew 6:8.)

But here we ought rather to consider what is necessary for us, that is, that God should manifest that he knows the blasphemies of adversaries, and that they who have uttered them will not remain unpunished. The reason and design, therefore, why Hezekiah “spread before the Lord the letters” of the wicked tyrant was this, that he might excite his own earnestness, and inflame his own ardor, in prayer.

15. Then Hezekiah prayed t