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Wednesday, November 29th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 1

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament CommentaryKeil & Delitzsch


In passing to our exposition of the book, the first thing which strikes us is its traditional title - Yeshaiah (Isaiah). In the book itself, and throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, the prophet is called Yeshayahu ; and the shorter form is found in the latest books as the name of other persons. It was a common thing in the very earliest times for the shorter forms of such names to be used interchangeably with the longer; but in later times the shorter was the only form employed, and for this reason it was the one adopted in the traditional title. The name is a compound one, and signifies “Jehovah's salvation.” The prophet was conscious that it was not merely by accident that he bore this name; for ישׁע (he shall save) and ישׁוּעה (salvation) are among his favourite words. It may be said, in fact, that he lived and moved altogether in the coming salvation, which was to proceed from Jehovah, and would be realized hereafter, when Jehovah should come at last to His people as He had never come before. This salvation was the goal of the sacred history ( Heilsgeschichte , literally, history of salvation); and Jehovah was the peculiar name of God in relation to that history. It denotes “the existing one,” not however “the always existing,” i.e., eternal, as Bunsen and the Jewish translators render it, but “existing evermore,” i.e., filling all history, and displaying His glory therein in grace and truth. The ultimate goal of this historical process, in which God was ever ruling as the absolutely free One, according to His own self-assertion in Exodus 3:14, was true and essential salvation, proceeding outwards from Israel, and eventually embracing all mankind. In the name of the prophet the tetragrammaton יהוה is contracted into יהו ( יה ) by the dropping of the second ה . We may easily see from this contraction that the name of God was pronounced with an a sound, so that it was either called Yahveh , or rather Yahaveh , or else Yahvâh , or rather Yahavâh . According to Theodoret, it was pronounced ̓Ιαβε ( Yahaveh ) by the Samaritans; and it is written in the same way in the list of the names of the Deity given in Epiphanius. That the ah sound was also a customary pronunciation, may not only be gathered from such names as Jimnah, Jimrah, Jishvah, Jishpah (compare Jithlah, the name of a place), but is also expressly attested by the ancient variations, Jao , Jeuo , Jo (Jeremiah 23:6, lxx), on the one hand, and on the other hand by the mode of spelling adopted by Origen ( Jaoia ) and Theodoret ( Aia , not only in quaest , in Ex. §15, but also in Fab. haeret. “ Aia signifies the existing one; it was pronounced thus by Hebrews, but the Samaritans call it Jabai, overlooking the force of the word”). The dull-sounding long a could be expressed by omega quite as well as by alpha. Isidor follows these and similar testimonies, and says ( Orig. vii. 7), “The tetragrammaton consisted of ia written twice ( iaia ), and with this reduplication it constituted the unutterable and glorious name of God.” The Arabic form adopted by the Samaritans leaves it uncertain whether it is to be pronounced Yahve or Yahva . They wrote to Job Ludolf (in the Epistola Samaritana Sichemitarum tertia, published by Bruns, 1781), in opposition to the statement of Theodoret, that they pronounced the last syllable with damma ; that is to say, they pronounced the name Yahavoh ( Yahvoh ), which was the form in which it was written in the last century by Velthusen, and also by Muffi in his Disegno di lezioni e di ricerche sulla lingua Ebraica (Pavia, 1792). The pronunciation Jehovah ( Yehovah ) arose out of a combination of the Keri and the chethib, and has only become current since the time of the Reformation. Genebrard denounces it in his Commentary upon the Psalms with the utmost vehemence, in opposition to Beza, as an intolerable innovation. “Ungodly violators of what is most ancient,” he says, “profaning and transforming the unutterable name of God, would read Jova or Jehova - a new, barbarous, fictitious, and irreligious word, that savours strongly of the Jove of the heathen.” Nevertheless his Jehova ( Jova ) forced its way into general adoption, and we shall therefore retain it, notwithstanding the fact that the o sound is decidedly wrong. To return, then: the prophet's name signifies “Jehovah's salvation.” In the Septuagint it is always written ̔Ησαΐ̀ας , with a strong aspirate; in the Vulgate it is written Isaias , and sometimes Esaias .

In turning from the outward to the inward title, which is contained in the book itself, there are two things to be observed at the outset: (1.) The division of the vv. indicated by soph pasuk is an arrangement for which the way was prepared as early as the time of the Talmud, and which was firmly established in the Masoretic schools; and consequently it reaches as far back as the extreme limits of the middle ages - differing in this respect from the division of vv. in the New Testament. The arrangement of the chapters, however, with the indications of the separate sections of the prophetic collection, is of no worth to us, simply because it is not older than the thirteenth century. According to some authorities, it originated with Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury († 1227); whilst others attribute it to Cardinal Hugo of St. Caro († 1262). It is only since the fifteenth century that it has been actually adopted in the text. (2.) The small ring or star at the commencement points to the footnote, which affirms that Isaiah 1:1-28 (where we find the same sign again) was the haphtarah , or concluding pericope , taken from the prophets, which was read on the same Sabbath as the parashah from the Pentateuch, in Deuteronomy 1:1. It was, as we shall afterwards see, a very thoughtful principle of selection which led to the combination of precisely these two lessons.

Verse 1

Title of the collection, as given in Isaiah 1:1: “Seeing of Jesha'-yahu, son of Amoz, which he saw over Judah and Jerusalem in the days of 'Uzziyahu, Jotham, Ahaz, and Yehizkiyahu, the kings of Judah.” Isaiah is called the “son of Amoz.” There is no force in the old Jewish doctrine ( b. Megilla 15 a), which was known to the fathers, that whenever the name of a prophet's father is given, it is a proof that the father was also a prophet. And we are just as incredulous about another old tradition, to the effect that Amoz was the brother of Amaziah, the father and predecessor of Uzziah ( b. Sota 10 b). There is some significance in this tradition, however, even if it is not true. There is something royal in the nature and bearing of Isaiah throughout. He speaks to kings as if he himself were a king. He confronts with majesty the magnates of the nation and of the imperial power. In his peculiar style, he occupies the same place among the prophets as Solomon among the kings. Under all circumstances, and in whatever state of mind, he is completely master of his materials - simple, yet majestic in his style - elevated, yet without affectation - and beautiful, though unadorned. But this regal character had its roots somewhere else than in the blood. All that can be affirmed with certainty is, that Isaiah was a native of Jerusalem; for notwithstanding his manifold prophetic missions, we never find him outside Jerusalem. There he lived with his wife and children, and, as we may infer from Isaiah 22:1, and the mode of his intercourse with king Hezekiah, down in the lower city. And there he laboured under the four kings named in Isaiah 1:1, viz., Uzziah (who reigned 52 years, 811-759), Jotham (16 years, 759-743), Ahaz (16 years, 743-728), and Hezekiah (29 years, 728-699). The four kings are enumerated without a Vav cop .; there is the same asyndeton enumerativum as in the titles to the books of Hosea and Micah. Hezekiah is there called Yehizkiyah , the form being almost the same as ours, with the simple elision of the concluding sound. The chronicler evidently preferred the fullest form, at the commencement as well as the termination. Roorda imagines that the chronicler derived this ill-shaped form from the three titles, were it is a copyist's error for וחזקיּהוּ or וחזקיּה ; but the estimable grammarian has overlooked the fact that the same form is found in Jeremiah 15:4 and 2 Kings 20:10, where no such error of the pen can have occurred. Moreover, it is not an ill-shaped form, if, instead of deriving it from the piel, as Roorda does, we derive it from the kal of the verb “strong is Jehovah,” an imperfect noun with a connecting i, which is frequently met with in proper names from verbal roots, such as Jesimiël from sim , 1 Chronicles 4:36: vid., Olshausen, §277, p. 621). Under these four kings Isaiah laboured, or, as it is expressed in Isaiah 1:1, saw the sight which is committed to writing in the book before us.

Of all the many Hebrew synonyms for seeing, חזה (cf., Cernere , κρίνειν , and the Sanscrit and Persian kar , which is founded upon the radical notion of cutting and separating) is the standing general expression used to denote prophetic perception, whether the form in which the divine revelation was made to the prophet was in vision or by word. In either case he saw it, because he distinguished this divine revelation from his own conceptions and thoughts by means of that inner sense, which is designated by the name of the noblest of all the five external senses. From this verb Chazah there came both the abstract Chazon , seeing, and the more concrete C hizzayon , a sight ( visum ), which is a stronger from of C hizyon (from C hazi = C hazah ). The noun C hazon is indeed used to denote a particular sight (comp. Isaiah 29:7 with Job 20:8; Job 33:15), inasmuch as it consists in seeing ( visio ); but here in the title of the book of Isaiah the abstract meaning passes over into the collective idea of the sight or vision in all its extent, i.e., the sum and substance of all that was seen. It is a great mistake, therefore, for any one to argue from the use of the word Chazon (vision), that Isaiah 1:1 was originally nothing more than the heading to the first prophecy, and that it was only by the addition of Isaiah 1:1 that it received the stamp of a general title to the whole book. There is no force in the argument. Moreover, the chronicler knew the book of Isaiah by this title (2 Chronicles 32:32); and the titles of other books of prophecy, such as Hosea, Amos, Micah, and Zephaniah, are very similar. A more plausible argument in favour of the twofold origin of Isaiah 1:1 has been lately repeated by Schegg and Meier, namely, that whilst “Judah and Jerusalem” are appropriate enough as defining the object of the first prophecy, the range is too limited to apply to all the prophecies that follow; since their object is not merely Judah, including Jerusalem, but they are also directed against foreign nations, and at chapter 7 the king of Israel, including Samaria, also comes within the horizon of the prophet's vision. And in the title to the book of Micah, both kingdoms are distinctly named. But it was necessary there, inasmuch as Micah commences at once with the approaching overthrow of Samaria. Here the designation is a central one. Even, according to the well-known maxims a potiori , and a proximo , fit denominatio , it would not be unsuitable; but Judah and Jerusalem are really and essentially the sole object of the prophet's vision. For within the largest circle of the imperial powers there lies the smaller one of the neighbouring nations; and in this again, the still more limited one of all Israel, including Samaria; and within this the still smaller one of the kingdom of Judah. And all these circles together form the circumference of Jerusalem, since the entire history of the world, so far as its inmost pragmatism and its ultimate goal were concerned, was the history of the church of God, which had for its peculiar site the city of the temple of Jehovah, and of the kingdom of promise. The expression “concerning Judah and Jerusalem” is therefore perfectly applicable to the whole book, in which all that the prophet sees is seen from Judah - Jerusalem as a centre, and seen for the sake and in the interests of both. The title in Isaiah 1:1 may pass without hesitation as the heading written by the prophet's own hand. This is admitted not only by Caspari ( Micah, pp. 90-93), but also by Hitzig and Knobel. But if Isaiah 1:1 contains the title to the whole book, where is the heading to the first prophecy? Are we to take אשׁר as a nominative instead of an accusative ( qui instead of quam , sc. visionem ), as Luzzatto does? This is a very easy way of escaping from the difficulty, and stamping Isaiah 1:1 as the heading to the first prophetic words in Chapter 1; but it is unnatural, as חזון אשׁר חזה , according to Ges. (§138, note 1), is the customary form in Hebrew of connecting the verb with its own substantive. The real answer is simple enough. The first prophetic address is left intentionally without a heading, just because it is the prologue to all the rest; and the second prophetic address has a heading in Isaiah 2:1, although it really does not need one, for the purpose of bringing out more sharply the true character of the first as the prologue to the whole.

Verse 2

The difficult question as to the historical and chronological standpoint of this overture to all the following addresses, can only be brought fully out when the exposition is concluded. But there is one thing which we may learn even from a cursory inspection: namely, that the prophet was standing at the eventful boundary line between two distinct halves in the history of Israel. The people had not been brought to reflection and repentance either by the riches of the divine goodness, which they had enjoyed in the time of Uzziah-Jotham, the copy of the times of David and Solomon, or by the chastisements of divine wrath, by which wound after wound was inflicted. The divine methods of education were exhausted, and all that now remained for Jehovah to do was to let the nation in its existing state be dissolved in fire, and to create a new one from the remnant of gold that stood the fiery test. At this time, so pregnant with storms, the prophets were more active than at any other period. Amos appeared about the tenth year of Uzziah's reign, the twenty-fifth of Jeroboam II; Micah prophesied from the time of Jotham till the fall of Samaria, in the sixth year of Hezekiah's reign; but most prominent of all was Isaiah, the prophet par excellence, standing as he did midway between Moses and Christ.

In the consciousness of his exalted position in relation to the history of salvation, he commences his opening address in Deuteronomic style. Modern critics are of opinion, indeed, that Deuteronomy was not composed till the time of Josiah, or at any rate not earlier than Manasseh; and even Kahnis adduces this as a firmly established fact (see his Dogmatik, i. 277). But if this be the case, how comes it to pass, not only that Micah (Micah 6:8) points back to a saying in Deuteronomy 10:12, but that all the post-Mosaic prophecy, even the very earliest of all, is tinged with a Deuteronomic colouring. This surely confirms the self-attestation of the authorship of Moses, which is declared most distinctly in Isaiah 31:9. Deuteronomy was most peculiarly Moses' own law-book - his last will, as it were: it was also the oldest national book of Israel, and therefore the basis of all intercourse between the prophets and the nation. There is one portion of this peculiarly Mosaic thorah, however, which stands not only in a more truly primary relation to the prophecy of succeeding ages than any of the rest, but in a normative relation also. We refer to Moses' dying song, which has recently been expounded by Volck and Camphausen, and is called shirath hâzinu (song of “Give ear”), from the opening words in chapter 32. This song is a compendious outline or draft, and also the common key to all prophecy, and bears the same fundamental relation to it as the Decalogue to all other laws, and the Lord's Prayer to all other prayers. The lawgiver summed up the whole of the prophetic contents of his last words (Deut. 27-28, 29-30), and threw them into the form of a song, that they might be perpetuated in the memories and mouths of the people. This song sets before the nation its entire history to the end of time. That history divides itself into four great periods: the creation and rise of Israel; the ingratitude and apostasy of Israel; the consequent surrender of Israel to the power of the heathen; and finally, the restoration of Israel, sifted, but not destroyed, and the unanimity of all nations in the praise of Jehovah, who reveals Himself both in judgment and in mercy. This fourfold character is not only verified in every part of the history of Israel, but is also the seal of that history as a whole, even to its remotest end in New Testament times. In every age, therefore, this song has presented to Israel a mirror of its existing condition and future fate. And it was the task of the prophets to hold up this mirror to the people of their own times. This is what Isaiah does. He begins his prophetic address in the same form in which Moses begins his song. The opening words of Moses are: “Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth” (Deuteronomy 32:1). In what sense he invoked the heaven and the earth, he tells us himself in Deuteronomy 31:28-29. He foresaw in spirit the future apostasy of Israel, and called heaven and earth, which would outlive his earthly life, that was now drawing to a close, as witnesses of what he had to say to his people, with such a prospect before them. Isaiah commences in the same way ( Isaiah 1:2), simply transposing the two parallel verbs “hear” and “give ear:” “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for Jehovah speaketh!” The reason for the appeal is couched in very general terms: they were to hear, because Jehovah was speaking. What Jehovah said coincided essentially with the words of Jehovah, which are introduced in Deuteronomy 32:20 with the expression “And He said.” What it was stated there that Jehovah would one day have to say in His wrath, He now said through the prophet, whose existing present corresponded to the coming future of the Mosaic ode. The time had now arrived for heaven and earth, which are always existing, and always the same, and which had accompanied Israel's history thus far in all places and at all times, to fulfil their duty as witnesses, according to the word of the lawgiver. And this was just the special, true, and ultimate sense in which they were called upon by the prophet, as they had previously been by Moses, to “hear.” They had been present, and had taken part, when Jehovah gave the thorah to His people: the heavens, according to Deuteronomy 4:36, as the place from which the voice of God came forth; and the earth, as the scene of His great fire. They were solemnly invoked when Jehovah gave His people the choice between blessing and cursing, life and death (Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 4:26).

And so now they are called upon to hear and join in bearing witness to all that Jehovah, their Creator, and the God of Israel, had to say, and the complaints that He had to make: “I have brought up children, and raised them high, and they have fallen away from me” ( Isaiah 1:2). Israel is referred to; but Israel is not specially named. On the contrary, the historical facts are generalized almost into a parable, in order that the appalling condition of things which is crying to heaven may be made all the more apparent. Israel was Jehovah's son (Exodus 4:22-23). All the members of the nation were His children (Deuteronomy 14:1; Deuteronomy 32:20). Jehovah was Israel's father, by whom it had been begotten (Deuteronomy 32:6, Deuteronomy 32:18). The existence of Israel as a nation was secured indeed, like that of all other nations, by natural reproduction, and not by spiritual regeneration. But the primary ground of Israel's origin was the supernatural and mighty word of promise given to Abraham, in Genesis 17:15-16; and it was by a series of manifestations of miraculous power and displays of divine grace, that the development of Israel, which dated from that starting-point, was brought up to the position it had reached at the time of the exodus from Egypt. It was in this sense that Israel had been begotten by Jehovah. And this relation between Jehovah and Israel, as His children, had now, at the time when Jehovah was speaking through the mouth of Isaiah, a long and gracious past behind it, viz., the period of Israel's childhood in Egypt; the period of its youth in the desert; and a period of growing manhood from Joshua to Samuel: so that Jehovah could say, “I have brought up children, and raised them high.” The piel ( giddel ) used here signifies “to make great;” and when applied to children, as it is here and in other passages, such as 2 Kings 10:6, it means to bring up, to make great, so far as natural growth is concerned. The pilel ( romem ), which corresponds to the piel in the so-called verbis cavis , and which is also used in Isaiah 23:4 and Ezekiel 31:4 as the parallel to giddel , signifies to lift up, and is used in a “dignified (dignitative) sense,” with reference to the position of eminence, to which, step by step, a wise and loving father advances a child. The two vv. depict the state of Israel in the times of David and Solomon, as one of mature manhood and proud exaltation, which had to a certain extent returned under Uzziah and Jotham. But how base had been the return which it had made for all that it had received from God: “And they have fallen away from me.” We should have expected an adversative particle here; but instead of that, we have merely a Vav cop. , which is used energetically, as in Isaiah 6:7 (cf., Hosea 7:13). Two things which ought never to be coupled - Israel's filial relation to Jehovah, and Israel's base rebellion against Jehovah - had been realized in their most contradictory forms. The radical meaning of the verb is to break away, or break loose; and the object against which the act is directed is construed with Beth. The idea is that of dissolving connection with a person with violence and self-will; here it relates to that inward severance from God, and renunciation of Him, which preceded all outward acts of sin, and which not only had idolatry for its full and outward manifestation, but was truly idolatry in all its forms. From the time that Solomon gave himself up to the worship of idols, at the close of his reign, down to the days of Isaiah, idolatry had never entirely or permanently ceased to exist, even in public. In two different reformations the attempt had been made to suppress it, viz., in the one commenced by Asa and concluded by Jehoshaphat; and in the one carried out by Joash, during the lifetime of the high priest Jehoiada, his tutor and deliverer. But the first was not successful in suppressing it altogether; and what Joash removed, returned with double abominations as soon as Jehoiada was dead. Consequently the words, “They have rebelled against me,” which sum up all the ingratitude of Israel in one word, and trace it to its root, apply to the whole history of Israel, from its culminating point under David and Solomon, down to the prophet's own time.

Verse 3

Jehovah then complains that the rebellion with which His children have rewarded Him is not only inhuman, but even worse than that of the brutes: “An ox knoweth its owner, and an ass its master's crib: Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” An ox has a certain knowledge of its buyer and owner, to whom it willingly submits; and an ass has at least a knowledge of the crib of its master (the noun for “master” is in the plural: this is not to be understood in a numerical, but in an amplifying sense, “the authority over it,” as in Exodus 21:29: vid., Ges. §108, 2, b, and Dietrich's Heb. Gram. p. 45), i.e., it knows that it is its master who fills its crib or manger with fodder ( evus , the crib, from avas , to feed, is radically associated with φάτνη , vulgar πάτνη , Dor. and Lac. πάτνη , and is applied in the Talmud to the large common porringer used by labourers).

(Note: Nedarim iv 4 jer. Demai viii. The stable is called repheth Even in jer. Shebuoth viii. 1, where cattle are spoken of as standing b'evus , the word signifies a crib or manger, not a stable. Luzzatto tries to prove that evus signifies a threshing-floor, and indeed an enclosed place, in distinction from geren ; but he is mistaken.)

Israel had no such knowledge, neither instinctive and direct, nor acquired by reflection ( hithbonan , the reflective conjugation, with a pausal change of the e4 into a long a, according to Ges. §54, note). The expressions “doth not know” and “doth not consider” must not be taken here in an objectless sense - as, for example, in Isaiah 56:10 and Psalms 82:5 -viz. as signifying they were destitute of all knowledge and reflection; but the object is to be supplied from what goes before: they knew not, and did not consider what answered in their case to the owner and to the crib which the master fills,” - namely, that they were the children and possession of Jehovah, and that their existence and prosperity were dependent upon the grace of Jehovah alone. The parallel, with its striking contrasts, is self-drawn, like that in Jeremiah 8:7, where animals are referred to again, and is clearly indicated in the words “Israel” and “my people.” Those who were so far surpassed in knowledge and perception even by animals, and so thoroughly put to shame by them, were not merely a nation, like any other nation on the earth, but were “Israel,” descendants of Jacob, the wrestler with God, who wrestled down the wrath of God, and wrestled out a blessing for himself and his descendants; and “my people,” the nation which Jehovah had chosen out of all other nations to be the nation of His possession, and His own peculiar government. This nation, bearing as it did the God-given title of a hero of faith and prayer, this favourite nation of Jehovah, had let itself down far below the level of the brutes. This is the complaint which the exalted speaker pours out in Isaiah 1:2 and Isaiah 1:3 before heaven and earth. The words of God, together with the introduction, consist of two tetrastichs, the measure and rhythm of which are determined by the meaning of the words and the emotion of the speaker. There is nothing strained in it at all. Prophecy lives and moves amidst the thoughts of God, which prevail above the evil reality: and for that very reason, as a reflection of the glory of God, which is the ideal of beauty (Psalms 50:1), it is through and through poetical. That of Isaiah is especially so. There was no art of oratory practised in Israel, which Isaiah did not master, and which did not serve as the vehicle of the word of God, after it had taken shape in the prophet's mind.

With Isaiah 1:4 there commences a totally different rhythm. The words of Jehovah are ended. The piercing lamentation of the deeply grieved Father is also the severest accusation. The cause of God, however, is to the prophet the cause of a friend, who feels an injury done to his friend quite as much as if it were done to himself (Isaiah 5:1). The lamentation of God, therefore, is changed now into violent scolding and threatening on the part of the prophet; and in accordance with the deep wrathful pain with which he is moved, his words pour out with violent rapidity, like flash after flash, in climactic clauses having no outward connection, and each consisting of only two or three words.

Verse 4

“Woe upon the sinful nation, the guilt-laden people, the miscreant race, the children acting corruptly! They have forsaken Jehovah, blasphemed Israel's Holy One, turned away backwards.” The distinction sometimes drawn between hoi (with He ) and oi (with Aleph ) - as equivalent to oh! and woe! - cannot be sustained. Hoi is an exclamation of pain, with certain doubtful exceptions; and in the case before us it is not so much a denunciation of woe ( vae genti , as the Vulgate renders it), as a lamentation ( vae gentem ) filled with wrath. The epithets which follow point indirectly to that which Israel ought to have been, according to the choice and determination of God, and plainly declare what it had become through its own choice and ungodly self-determination. (1.) According to the choice and determination of God, Israel was to be a holy nation ( goi kadosh , Exodus 19:6); but it was a sinful nation - gens peccatrix , as it is correctly rendered by the Vulgate. חטא is not a participle here, but rather a participial adjective in the sense of what was habitual. It is the singular in common use for the plural חטאי , sinners, the singular of which was not used. Holy and Sinful are glaring contrasts: for kadosh , so far as its radical notion is concerned (assuming, that is to say, that this is to be found in kad and not in dosh : see Psalter, i. 588, 9), signifies that which is separated from what is common, unclean, or sinful, and raised above it. The alliteration in hoi goi implies that the nation, as sinful, was a nation of woe. (2.) In the thorah Israel was called not only “a holy nation,” but also “the people of Jehovah” (Numbers 17:6, Eng. ver. Numbers 16:41), the people chosen and blessed of Jehovah; but now it had become “a people heavy with iniquity.” Instead of the most natural expression, a people bearing heavy sins; the sin, or iniquity, i.e., the weight carried, is attributed to the people themselves upon whom the weight rested, according to the common figurative idea, that whoever carries a heavy burden is so much heavier himself (cf., gravis oneribus , Cicero). עון (sin regarded as crookedness and perversity, whereas חטא suggests the idea of going astray and missing the way) is the word commonly used wherever the writer intends to describe sin in the mass (e.g., Isaiah 33:24; Genesis 15:16; Genesis 19:15), including the guilt occasioned by it. The people of Jehovah had grown into a people heavily laden with guilt. So crushed, so altered into the very opposite, had Israel's true nature become. It is with deliberate intention that we have rendered גּוי a nation ( Nation ), and ע ם (am a people ( Volk ): for, according to Malbim's correct definition of the distinction between the two, the former is used to denote the mass, as linked together by common descent, language, and country; the latter the people as bound together by unity of government (see, for example, Psalms 105:13). Consequently we always read of the people of the Lord, not the nation of the Lord; and there are only two instances in which goi is attached to a suffix relating to the ruler, and then it relates to Jehovah alone (Zephaniah 2:9; Psalms 106:5).

(3.) Israel bore elsewhere the honourable title of the seed of the patriarch (Isaiah 41:8; Isaiah 45:19; cf., Genesis 21:12); but in reality it was a seed of evil-doers (miscreants). This does not mean that it was descended from evil-doers; but the genitive is used in the sense of a direct apposition to zera (seed), as in Isaiah 65:23 (cf., Isaiah 61:9; Isaiah 6:13, and Ges. §116, 5), and the meaning is a seed which consists of evil-doers, and therefore is apparently descended from evil-doers instead of from patriarchs. This last thought is not implied in the genitive, but in the idea of “seed;” which is always a compact unit, having one origin, and bearing the character of its origin in itself. The rendering brood of evil-doers, however it may accord with the sense, would be inaccurate; for “seed of evil-doers” is just the same as “house of evil-doers” in Isaiah 31:2. The singular of the noun מרעים is מרע , with the usual sharpening in the case of gutturals in the verbs ( ' '( , מרע with patach, מרע with kametz in pause (Isaiah 9:16, which see) - a noun derived from the hiphil participle. (4.) Those who were of Israel were “children of Jehovah” through the act of God (Deuteronomy 14:1); but in their own acts they were “children acting destructively ( bânim mashchithim ), so that what the thorah feared and predicted had now occurred (Deuteronomy 4:16, Deuteronomy 4:25; Deuteronomy 31:29). In all these passages we find the hiphil, and in the parallel passage of the great song (Deuteronomy 32:5) the piel - both of them conjugations which contain within themselves the object of the action indicated (Ges. §53, 2): to do what is destructive, i.e., so to act as to become destructive to one's self and to others. It is evident from Isaiah 1:2, that the term children is to be understood as indicating their relation to Jehovah (cf., Isaiah 30:1, Isaiah 30:9). The four interjectional clauses are followed by three declaratory clauses, which describe Israel's apostasy as total in every respect, and complete the mournful seven. There was apostasy in heart: “They have forsaken Jehovah.” There was apostasy in words: “They blaspheme the Holy One of Israel.” The verb literally means to sting, then to mock or treat scornfully; the use of it to denote blasphemy is antiquated Mosaic (Deuteronomy 31:20; Numbers 14:11, Numbers 14:23; Numbers 16:30). It is with intention that God is designated here as “the Holy One of Israel,”a name which constitutes the keynote of all Isaiah's prophecy (see at Isaiah 6:3). It was sin to mock at anything holy; it was a double sin to mock at God, the Holy One; but it was a threefold sin for Israel to mock at God the Holy One, who had set Himself to be the sanctifier of Israel, and required that as He was Israel's sanctification, He should also be sanctified by Israel according to His holiness (Leviticus 19:2, etc.). And lastly, there was also apostasy in action: “they have turned away backwards;” or, as the Vulgate renders it, abalienati sunt . נזור is the reflective of זוּר , related to נור and סוּר , for which it is the word commonly used in the Targum. The niphal, which is only met with here, indicates the deliberate character of their estrangement from God; and the expression is rendered still more emphatic by the introduction of the word “backwards” ( achor , which is used emphatically in the place of מאחריו ). In all their actions they ought to have followed Jehovah; but they had turned their backs upon Him, and taken the way selected by themselves.

Verse 5

In this v. a disputed question arises as to the words על־מה ( מה , the shorter, sharper form of מה , which is common even before non-gutturals, Ges. §32, 1): viz., whether they mean “wherefore,” as the lxx, Targums, Vulgate, and most of the early versions render them, or “upon what,” i.e., upon which part of the body, as others, including Schröring, suppose. Luzzatto maintains that the latter rendering is spiritless, more especially because there is nothing in the fact that a limb has been struck already to prevent its being struck again; but such objections as these can only arise in connection with a purely literal interpretation of the passage. If we adopted this rendering, the real meaning would be, that there was no judgment whatever that had not already fallen upon Israel on account of its apostasy, so that it was not far from utter destruction. We agree, however, with Caspari in deciding in favour of the meaning “to what” (to what end). For in all the other passage in which the expression occurs (fourteen times in all), it is used in this sense, and once even with the verb hiccâh , to smite (Numbers 22:32), whilst it is only in Isaiah 1:6 that the idea of the people as one body is introduced; whereas the question “upon what” would require that the reader or hearer should presuppose it here. But in adopting the rendering “whereto,” or to what end, we do not understand it, as Malbim does, in the sense of Cui bono , with the underlying thought, “It would be ineffectual, as all the previous smiting has proved;” for this thought never comes out in a direct expression, as we should expect, but rather - according to the analogy of the questions with lamah in Ezekiel 18:31; Jeremiah 44:7 -in the sense of qua de causa , with the underlying thought, “There would be only an infatuated pleasure in your own destruction.”

Isaiah 1:5 we therefore render thus: “Why would ye be perpetually smitten, multiplying rebellion?” עוד (with tiphchah, a stronger disjunctive than tebir ) belongs to תּכּוּ ; see the same form of accentuation in Ezekiel 19:9. They are not two distinct interrogative clauses (“why would ye be smitten afresh? why do ye add revolt?” (Luzzatto), but the second clause is subordinate to the first (without there being any necessity to supply C hi , “because,” as Gesenius supposes), an adverbial minor clause defining the main clause more precisely; at all events this is the logical connection, as in Isaiah 5:11 (cf., Psalms 62:4, “delighting in lies,” and Psalms 4:3, “loving vanity”): lxx “adding iniquity.” Sârâh (rebellion) is a deviation from truth and rectitude; and here, as in many other instances, it denotes apostasy from Jehovah, who is the absolutely Good, and absolute goodness. There is a still further dispute whether the next words should be rendered “every head” and “every heart,” or “the whole head” and “the whole heart.” In prose the latter would be impossible, as the two nouns are written without the article; but in the poetic style of the prophets the article may be omitted after Col , when used in the sense of “the whole” (e.g., Isaiah 9:12: with whole mouth, i.e., with full mouth). Nevertheless Col , without the article following, never signifies “the whole” when it occurs several times in succession, as in Isaiah 15:2 and Ezekiel 7:17-18. We must therefore render Isaiah 1:5, “Every head is diseased, and every heart is sick.” The Lamed in locholi indicates the state into which a thing has come: every head in a state of disease (Ewald, §217, d: locholi without the article, as in 2 Chronicles 21:18). The prophet asks his fellow-countrymen why they are so foolish as to heap apostasy upon apostasy, and so continue to call down the judgments of God, which have already fallen upon them blow after blow. Has it reached such a height with them, that among all the many heads and hearts there is not one head which is not in a diseased state, not one heart which is not thoroughly ill? ( davvai an emphatic form of daveh ). Head and heart are mentioned as the noblest parts of the outer and inner man. Outwardly and inwardly every individual in the nation had already been smitten by the wrath of God, so that they had had enough, and might have been brought to reflection.

Verse 6

This description of the total misery of every individual in the nation is followed by a representation of the whole nation as one miserably diseased body. “From the some of the foot even to the head there is nothing sound in it: cuts, and stripes, and festering wounds; they have not been pressed out, nor bound up, nor has there been any soothing with oil.” The body of the nation, to which the expression “in it” applies (i.e., the nation as a whole), was covered with wounds of different kinds; and no means whatever had been applied to heal these many, various wounds, which lay all together, close to one another, and one upon the other, covering the whole body. Cuts (from פּצע to cut) are wounds that have cut into the flesh - sword-cuts, for example. These need binding up, in order that the gaping wound may close again. Stripes ( C habburâh , from C hâbar , to stripe), swollen stripes, or weals, as if from a cut with a whip, or a blow with a fist: these require softening with oil, that the coagulated blood of swelling may disperse. Festering wounds, m accâh teriyâh , from târâh , to be fresh (a different word from the talmudic word t're , Chullin 45 b, to thrust violently, so as to shake): these need pressing, for the purpose of cleansing them, so as to facilitate their healing. Thus the three predicates manifest an approximation to a chiasm (the crossing of the members); but this retrospective relation is not thoroughly carried out. The predicates are written in the plural, on account of the collective subject. The clause ולא רּכּכה בּשּׁמן , which refers to חבורה (stripes), so far as the sense is concerned (olive-oil, like all oleosa, being a dispersing medium), is to be taken as neuter, since this is the only way of explaining the change in the number: “And no softening has been effected with oil.” Zoru we might suppose to be a pual, especially on account of the other puals near: it is not so, however, for the simple reason that, according to the accentuation (viz., with two pashtahs , the first of which gives the tone, as in tohu , Genesis 1:2, so that it must be pronounced zóru ), it has the tone upon the penultimate, for which it would be impossible to discover any reason, if it were derived from zârâh . For the assumption that the tone is drawn back to prepare the way for the strong tone of the next verb ( C hubbâshu ) is arbitrary, as the influence of the pause, though it sometimes reaches the last word but one, never extends to the last but two. Moreover, according to the usage of speech, zorâh signifies to be dispersed, not to be pressed out; whereas zur and zârar are commonly used in the sense of pressing together and squeezing out. Consequently zoru is either the kal of an intransitive zor in the middle voice (like boshu ), or, what is more probable - as zoru , the middle voice in Psalms 58:4, has a different meaning ( abalienati sunt : cf., Isaiah 1:4) - the kal of zârar (= Arab. Constringere ), which is here conjugated as an intransitive (cf., Job 24:24, rommu , and Genesis 49:23, where robbu is used in an active sense). The surgical treatment so needed by the nation was a figurative representation of the pastoral addresses of the prophets, which had been delivered indeed, but, inasmuch as their salutary effects were dependent upon the penitential sorrow of the people, might as well have never been delivered at all. The people had despised the merciful, compassionate kindness of their God. They had no liking for the radical cure which the prophets had offered to effect. All the more pitiable, therefore, was the condition of the body, which was sick within, and diseased from head to foot. The prophet is speaking here of the existing state of things. He affirms that it is all over with the nation; and this is the ground and object of his reproachful lamentations. Consequently, when he passes in the next v. from figurative language to literal, we may presume that he is still speaking of his own times. It is Isaiah's custom to act in this manner as his own expositor (compare Isaiah 1:22 with Isaiah 1:23). The body thus inwardly and outwardly diseased, was, strictly speaking, the people and the land in their fearful condition at that time.

Verse 7

This is described more particularly in Isaiah 1:7, which commences with the most general view, and returns to it again at the close. ”Your land ... a desert; your cities ... burned with fire; your field ... foreigners consuming it before your eyes, and a desert like overthrowing by strangers.” Caspari has pointed out, in his Introduction to the Book of Isaiah, how nearly every word corresponds to the curses threatened in Lev 26 and Deut 28 (29); Micah 6:13-16 and Jeremiah 5:15. stand in the very same relation to these sections of the Pentateuch. From the time of Isaiah downwards, the state of Israel was a perfect realization of the curses of the law. The prophet intentionally employs the words of the law to describe his own times; he designates the enemy, who devastated the land, reduced its towers to ashes, and took possession of its crops, by the simple term zarim , foreigners or barbarians (a word which would have the very same meaning if it were really the reduplication of the Aramaean bar ; compare the Syriac barōye , a foreigner), without mentioning their particular nationality. He abstracts himself from the definite historical present, in order that he may point out all the more emphatically how thoroughly it bears the character of the fore-ordained curse. The most emphatic indication of this was to be found in the fact, which the clause at the close of Isaiah 1:7 palindromically affirms, that a desolation had been brought about “like the overthrow of foreigners.” The repetition of a catchword like zarim (foreigners) at the close of the v. in this emphatic manner, is a figure of speech, called epanaphora , peculiar to the two halves of our collection. The question arises, however, whether zarim is to be regarded as the genitive of the subject, as Caspari, Knobel, and others suppose, “such an overthrow as is commonly produced by barbarians” (cf., 2 Samuel 10:3, where the verb occurs), or as the genitive of the object, “such an overthrow as comes upon barbarians.” As mahpechâh (overthrow) is used in other places in which it occurs to denote the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, etc., according to the primary passage, Deuteronomy 29:22, and Isaiah had evidently also this catastrophe in his mind, as Isaiah 1:8 clearly shows; we decide in favour of the conclusion that zârim is the genitive of the object (cf., Amos 4:11). The force of the comparison is also more obvious, if we understand the words in this sense. The desolation which had fallen upon the land of the people of God resembled that thorough desolation ( subversio ) with which God visited the nations outside the covenant, who, like the people of the Pentapolis, were swept from off the earth without leaving a trace behind. But although there was similarity, there was not sameness, as Isaiah 1:8, Isaiah 1:9 distinctly affirm. Jerusalem itself was still preserved; but in how pitiable a condition! There can be no doubt that bath - Zion (“daughter of Zion,” Eng. ver.) in Isaiah 1:8 signifies Jerusalem. The genitive in this case is a genitive of apposition: “daughter Zion,” not “daughter of Zion” (cf., Isaiah 37:22: see Ges. §116, 5). Zion itself is represented as a daughter, i.e., as a woman. The expression applied primarily to the community dwelling around the fortress of Zion, to which the individual inhabitants stood in the same relation as children to a mother, inasmuch as the community sees its members for the time being come into existence and grow: they are born within her, and, as it were, born and brought up by her. It was then applied secondarily to the city itself, with or without the inhabitants (cf., Jeremiah 46:19; Jeremiah 48:18; Zechariah 2:11). In this instance the latter are included, as Isaiah 1:9 clearly shows. This is precisely the point in the first two comparisons.

Verse 8

“And the daughter of Zion remains lie a hut in a vineyard; like a hammock in a cucumber field.” The vineyard and cucumber field ( mikshah , from kisshu , a cucumber, Cucumis , not a gourd, Cucurbita ; at least not the true round gourd, whose Hebrew name, dalâth , does not occur in the Old Testament) are pictured by the prophet in their condition before the harvest (not after, as the Targums render it), when it is necessary that they should be watched. The point of comparison therefore is, that in the vineyard and cucumber field not a human being is to be seen in any direction; and there is nothing but the cottage and the night barrack or hammock (cf., Job 27:18) to show that there are any human beings there at all. So did Jerusalem stand in the midst of desolation, reaching far and wide - a sign, however, that the land was not entirely depopulated. But what is the meaning of the third point of comparison? Hitzig renders it, “like a watch-tower;” Knobel, “like a guard-city.” But the noun neither means a tower nor a castle (although the latter would be quite possible, according to the primary meaning, Cingere ); and nezurâh does not mean “watch” or “guard.” On the other hand, the comparison indicated (like, or as) does not suit what would seem the most natural rendering, viz., “like a guarded city,” i.e., a city shielded from danger. Moreover, it is inadmissible to take the first two Caphs in the sense of sicut (as) and the third in the sense of sic (so); since, although this correlative is common in clauses indicating identity, it is not so in sentences which institute a simple comparison. We therefore adopt the rendering, Isaiah 1:8, “As a besieged city,” deriving nezurâh not from zur , niphal nâzor (never used), as Luzzatto does, but from nâzar , which signifies to observe with keen eye, either with a good intention, or, as in Job 7:20, for a hostile purpose. It may therefore be employed, like the synonyms in 2 Samuel 11:16 and Jeremiah 5:6, to denote the reconnoitring of a city. Jerusalem was not actually blockaded at the time when the prophet uttered his predictions; but it was like a blockaded city. In the case of such a city there is a desolate space, completely cleared of human beings, left between it and the blockading army, in the centre of which the city itself stands solitary and still, shut up to itself. The citizens do not venture out; the enemy does not come within the circle that immediately surrounds the city, for fear of the shots of the citizens; and everything within this circle is destroyed, either by the citizens themselves, to prevent the enemy from finding anything useful, or else by the enemy, who cut down the trees. Thus, with all the joy that might be felt at the preservation of Jerusalem, it presented but a gloomy appearance. It was, as it were, in a state of siege. A proof that this is the way in which the passage is to be explained, may be found in Jeremiah 4:16-17, where the actual storming of Jerusalem is foretold, and the enemy is called nozerim , probably with reference to the simile before us.

Verse 9

For the present, however, Jerusalem was saved from this extremity. The omnipotence of God had mercifully preserved it: “Unless Jehovah of hosts had left us a little of what had escaped, we had become like Sodom, we were like Gomorrah.” Sarid (which is rendered inaccurately σπέρμα in the Sept.; cf., Romans 9:29) was used, even in the early Mosaic usage of the language, to signify that which escaped the general destruction (Deuteronomy 2:34, etc.); and כּמעט (which might very well be connected with the verbs which follow: “we were very nearly within a little like Sodom,” etc.) is to be taken in connection with sarid , as the pausal form clearly shows: “a remnant which was but a mere trifle” (on this use of the word, see Isaiah 16:14; 2 Chronicles 12:7; Proverbs 10:20; Psalms 105:12). Jehovah Zebaoth stands first, for the sake of emphasis. It would have been all over with Israel long ago, if it had not been for the compassion of God (vid., Hosea 11:8). And because it was the omnipotence of God, which set the will of His compassion in motion, He is called Jehovah Zebaoth , Jehovah (the God) of the heavenly hosts - an expression in which Zebaoth is a dependent genitive, and not, as Luzzatto supposes, an independent name of God as the Absolute, embracing within itself all the powers of nature. The prophet says “us” and “we.” He himself was an inhabitant of Jerusalem; and even if he had not been so, he was nevertheless an Israelite. He therefore associates himself with his people, like Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:22. He had had to experience the anger of God along with the rest; and so, on the other hand, he also celebrates the mighty compassion of God, which he had experienced in common with them. But for this compassion, the people of God would have become like Sodom, from which only four human beings escaped: it would have resembled Gomorrah, which was absolutely annihilated. (On the prefects in the protasis and apodosis, see Ges. §126, 5.)

Verses 10-11

The prophet's address has here reached a resting-place. The fact that it is divided at this point into two separate sections, is indicated in the text by the space left between Isaiah 1:9 and Isaiah 1:10. This mode of marking larger or smaller sections, either by leaving spaces of by breaking off the line, is older than the vowel points and accents, and rests upon a tradition of the highest antiquity (Hupfeld, Gram. p. 86ff.). The space is called pizka ; the section indicated by such a space, a closed parashah ( sethumah ); and the section indicated by breaking off the line, an open parashah ( petuchah ). The prophet stops as soon as he has affirmed, that nothing but the mercy of God has warded off from Israel the utter destruction which it so well deserved. He catches in spirit the remonstrances of his hearers. They would probably declare that the accusations which the prophet had brought against them were utterly groundless, and appeal to their scrupulous observance of the law of God. In reply to this self-vindication which he reads in the hearts of the accused, the prophet launches forth the accusations of God. In Isaiah 1:10, Isaiah 1:11, he commences thus: “Hear the word of Jehovah, ye Sodom judges; give ear to the law of our God, O Gomorrah nation! What is the multitude of your slain-offerings to me? saith Jehovah. I am satiated with whole offerings of rams, and the fat of stalled calves; and blood of bullocks and sheep and he-goats I do not like.” The second start in the prophet's address commences, like the first, with “hear” and “give ear.” The summons to hear is addressed in this instances (as in the case of Isaiah's contemporary Micah, Micah 3:1-12) to the kezinim (from kâzâh , decidere , from which comes the Arabic el - Kadi , the judge, with the substantive termination in: see Jeshurun, p. 212 ss.), i.e., to the men of decisive authority, the rulers in the broadest sense, and to the people subject to them. It was through the mercy of God that Jerusalem was in existence still, for Jerusalem was “spiritually Sodom,” as the Revelation (Revelation 11:8) distinctly affirms of Jerusalem, with evident allusion to this passage of Isaiah. Pride, lust of the flesh, and unmerciful conduct, were the leading sins of Sodom, according to Ezekiel 16:49; and of these, the rulers of Jerusalem, and the crowd that was subject to them and worthy of them, were equally guilty now. But they fancied that they could not possibly stand in such evil repute with God, inasmuch as they rendered outward satisfaction to the law. The prophet therefore called upon them to hear the law of the God of Israel, which he would announce to them: for the prophet was the appointed interpreter of the law, and prophecy the spirit of the law, and the prophetic institution the constant living presence of the true essence of the law bearing its own witness in Israel. “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith Jehovah.” The prophet intentionally uses the word יאמר , not אמר : this was the incessant appeal of God in relation to the spiritless, formal worship offered by the hypocritical, ceremonial righteousness of Israel (the future denoting continuous actions, which is ever at the same time both present and future). The multitude of zebâchim , i.e., animal sacrifices, had no worth at all to Him. As the whole worship is summed up here in one single act, zebâchim appears to denote the shelamim , peace-offerings (or better still, communion offerings), with which a meal was associated, after the style of a sacrificial festival, and Jehovah gave the worshipper a share in the sacrifice offered. It is better, however, to take zebâchim as the general name for all the bleeding sacrifices, which are then subdivided into 'oloth and C heleb , as consisting partly of whole offerings, or offerings the whole of which was placed upon the altar, though in separate pieces, and entirely consumed, and partly of those sacrifices in which only the fat was consumed upon the altar, namely the sin-offerings, trespass-offerings, and pre-eminently the shelâmim offerings. Of the sacrificial animals mentioned, the bullocks ( pârim ) and fed beasts ( m eri'im , fattened calves) are species of oxen ( bakar ); and the lambs ( C ebashim ) and he-goats ( atturim , young he-goats, as distinguished from se'ir , the old long-haired he-goat, the animal used as a sin-offering), together with the ram ( ayil , the customary whole offering of the high priest, of the tribe prince, and of the nation generally on all the high feast days), were species of the flock. The blood of these sacrificial animals - such, for example, as the young oxen, sheep, and he-goats - was thrown all round the altar in the case of the whole offering, the peace-offering, and the trespass-offering; in that of the sin-offering it was smeared upon the horns of the altar, poured out at the foot of the altar, and in some instances sprinkled upon the walls of the altar, or against the vessels of the inner sanctuary. Of such offerings as these Jehovah was weary, and He wanted no more (the two perfects denote that which long has been and still is: Ges. §126, 3); in fact, He never had desired anything of the kind.

Verse 12

Jeremiah says this with regard to the sacrifices (Isaiah 7:22); Isaiah also applies it to visits to the temple: “When ye come to appear before my face, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?” לראות is a contracted infinitive niphal for להראות (compare the hiphil forms contracted in the same manner in Isaiah 3:8; Isaiah 23:11). This is the standing expression for the appearance of all male Israelites in the temple at the three high festivals, as prescribed by the law, and then for visits to the temple generally (cf., Psalms 42:3; Psalms 84:8). “My face” ( panai ): according to Ewald, §279, c, this is used with the passive to designate the subject (“to be seen by the face of God”); but why not rather take it as an adverbial accusative, “in the face of,” or “in front of,” as it is used interchangeably with the prepositions ל , את , and אל ? It is possible that לראות is pointed as it is here, and in Exodus 34:24 and in Deuteronomy 31:11, instead of לראות - like יראוּ for יראוּ , in Exodus 23:15; Exodus 34:20, - for the purpose of avoiding an expression which might be so easily misunderstood as denoting a sight of God with the bodily eye. But the niphal is firmly established in Exodus 23:17; Exodus 34:23, and 1 Samuel 1:22; and in the Mishnah and Talmud the terms ראיה and ראיון are applied without hesitation to appearance before God at the principal feasts. They visited the temple diligently enough indeed, but who had required this at their hand, i.e., required them to do this? Jehovah certainly had not. “ To tread my courts ” is in apposition to this, which it more clearly defines. Jehovah did not want them to appear before His face, i.e., He did not wish for this spiritless and undevotional tramping thither, this mere opus operatum , which might as well have been omitted, since it only wore out the floor.

Verse 13

Because they had not performed what Jehovah commanded as He commanded it, He expressly forbids them to continue it. “Continue not to bring lying meat-offering; abomination incense is it to me.” Minchah (the meat-offering) was the vegetable offering, as distinguished from zebach , the animal sacrifice. It is called a “lying meat-offering,” as being a hypocritical dead work, behind which there was none of the feeling which it appeared to express. In the second clause the Sept., Vulg., Gesenius, and others adopt the rendering “incense - an abomination is it to me,” ketoreth being taken as the name of the daily burning of incense upon the golden altar in the holy place (Exodus 30:8). But neither in Psalms 141:2, where prayer is offered by one who is not a priest, nor in the passage before us, where the reference is not to the priesthood, but to the people and to their deeds, is this continual incense to be thought of. Moreover, it is much more natural to regard the word ketoreth not as a bold absolute case, but, according to the conjunctive darga with which it is marked, as constructive rather; and this is perfectly allowable. The meat-offering is called “incense” ( ketoreth ) with reference to the so-called azcarah , i.e., that portion which the priest burned upon the altar, to bring the grateful offerer into remembrance before God (called “burning the memorial,” hiktir azcârâh , in Leviticus 2:2). As a general rule, this was accompanied with incense (Isaiah 66:3), the whole of which was placed upon the altar, and not merely a small portion of it. The meat-offering, with its sweet-smelling savour, was merely the form, which served as an outward expression of the thanksgiving for God's blessing, or the longing for His blessing, which really ascended in prayer. But in their case the form had no such meaning. It was nothing but the form, with which they thought they had satisfied God; and therefore it was an abomination to Him. Isaiah 1:13. God was just as little pleased with their punctilious observance of the feasts: “New-moon and Sabbath, calling of festal meetings ... I cannot bear ungodliness and a festal crowd.” The first objective notions, which are logically governed by “I cannot bear” ( לא־אוּכל : literally, a future hophal - I am unable, incapable, viz., to bear, which may be supplied, according to Psalms 101:5; Jeremiah 44:22; Proverbs 30:21), become absolute cases here, on account of another grammatical object presenting itself in the last two nouns: “ungodliness and a festal crowd.” As for new-moon and Sabbath (the latter always signifies the weekly Sabbath when construed with C hodesh ) - and, in fact, the calling of meetings of the whole congregation on the weekly Sabbath and high festivals, which was a simple duty according to Lev 23 - Jehovah could not endure festivals associated with wickedness. עצרה (from עצר , to press, or crowd thickly together) is synonymous with מקרא ), so far as its immediate signification is concerned, as Jeremiah 9:1 clearly shows, just as πανήγυρις is synonymous with εκκλησία . און (from אוּן , to breathe) is moral worthlessness, regarded as an utter absence of all that has true essence and worth in the sight of God. The prophet intentionally joins these two nouns together. A densely crowded festal meeting, combined with inward emptiness and barrenness on the part of those who were assembled together, was a contradiction which God could not endure.

Verse 14

He gives a still stronger expression to His repugnance: “Your new-moons and your festive seasons my soul hateth; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.” As the soul ( nephesh ) of a man, regarded as the band which unites together bodily and spiritual life, though it is not the actual principle of self-consciousness, is yet the place in which he draws, as it were, the circle of self-consciousness, so as to comprehend the whole essence of His being in the single thought of “I;” so, according to a description taken from godlike man, the “soul” ( nephesh ) of God, as the expression “my soul” indicates, is the centre of His being, regarded as encircled and pervaded (personated) by self-consciousness; and therefore, whatever the soul of God hates (vid., Jeremiah 15:1) or loves (Isaiah 42:1), is hated or loved in the inmost depths and to the utmost bounds of His being ( Psychol. p. 218). Thus He hated each and all of the festivals that were kept in Jerusalem, whether the beginnings of the month, or the high feast-days ( m oadim , in which, according to Lev 23, the Sabbath was also included) observed in the course of the month. For a long time past they had become a burden and annoyance to Him: His long-suffering was weary of such worship. “To bear” ( נשׂא ), in Isaiah, even in Isaiah 18:3, for שׂאת or שׂאת ro , and here for לשׂאת : Ewald, §285, c) has for its object the seasons of worship already mentioned.

Verse 15

Their self-righteousness, so far as it rested upon sacrifices and festal observances, was now put to shame, and the last inward bulwark of the sham holy nation was destroyed: “And if ye stretch out your hands, I hide my eyes from you; if ye make ever so much praying, I do not hear: your hands are full of blood.” Their praying was also an abomination to God. Prayer is something common to man: it is the interpreter of religious feeling, which intervenes and mediates between God and man;

(Note: The primary idea of hithpallel and tephillah is not to be obtained from Deuteronomy 9:18 and Ezra 10:1, as Dietrich and Fürst suppose, who make hithpallel equivalent to hithnappel , to throw one's self down; but from 1 Samuel 2:25, “If a man sin against a man, the authorities right him” ( וּפללו אלהי ם : it is quite a mistake to maintain that Elohim cannot have this meaning), i.e., they can set right the relation which he has disturbed. “But if one sin against Jehovah, who shall mediate for him ( מי יתפּלּל־לו , quis intercedat pro eo )?” We may see from this that prayer is regarded as mediation, which sets right and establishes fellowship; and hithpallel signifies to make one's self a healer of divisions, or to settle for one's self, to strive after a settlement ( sibi , pro se , intercedere : cf., Job 19:16, hithchannen , sibi propitium facere ; Job 13:27, hithchakkah , sibi insculpere , like the Arabic ichtatta , to bound off for one's self).)

it is the true spiritual sacrifice. The law contains no command to pray, and, with the exception of Deut 26, no form of prayer. Praying is so natural to man as man, that there was no necessity for any precept to enforce this, the fundamental expression of the true relation to God. The prophet therefore comes to prayer last of all, so as to trace back their sham-holiness, which was corrupt even to this the last foundation, to its real nothingness. “Spread out,” parash , or pi pērēsh , to stretch out; used with Cappaim to denote swimming in Isaiah 25:11. It is written here before a strong suffix, as in many other passages, e.g., Isaiah 52:12, with the inflection i instead of e. This was the gesture of a man in prayer, who spread out his hands, and when spread out, stretched them towards heaven, or to the most holy place in the temple, and indeed (as if with the feeling of emptiness and need, and with a desire to receive divine gifts) held up the hollow or palm of his hand ( Cappaim : cf., tendere palmas , e.g., Virg. Aen. xii. 196, tenditque ad sidera palmas ). However much they might stand or lie before Him in the attitude of prayer, Jehovah hid His eyes, i.e., His omniscience knew nothing of it; and even though they might pray loud and long ( gam chi , etiamsi : compare the simple Chi , Jeremiah 14:12), He was, as it were, deaf to it all. We should expect Chi here to introduce the explanation; but the more excited the speaker, the shorter and more unconnected his words. The plural damim always denotes human blood as the result of some unnatural act, and then the bloody deed and the bloodguiltiness itself. The plural number neither refers to the quantity nor to the separate drops, but is the plural of production, which Dietrich has so elaborately discussed in his Abhandlung, p. 40.

(Note: As Chittah signified corn standing in the field, and Chittim corn threshed and brought to the market, so damim was not blood when flowing through the veins, but when it had flowed out-in other words, when it had been violently shed. (For the Talmudic misinterpretation of the true state of the case, see my Genesis, p. 626.))

The terrible damim stands very emphatically before the governing verb, pointing to many murderous acts that had been committed, and deeds of violence akin to murder. Not, indeed, that we are to understand the words as meaning that there was really blood upon their hands when they stretched them out in prayer; but before God, from whom no outward show can hide the true nature of things, however clean they might have washed themselves, they still dripped with blood. The expostulations of the people against the divine accusations have thus been negatively set forth and met in Isaiah 1:11-15: Jehovah could not endure their work-righteous worship, which was thus defiled with unrighteous works, even to murder itself. The divine accusation is now positively established in Isaiah 1:16, Isaiah 1:17, by the contrast drawn between the true righteousness of which the accused were destitute, and the false righteousness of which they boasted. The crushing charge is here changed into an admonitory appeal; and the love which is hidden behind the wrath, and would gladly break through, already begins to disclose itself. There are eight admonitions. The first three point to the removal of evil; the other five to the performance of what is good.

Verse 16

The first three run thus: “Wash, clean yourselves; put away the badness of your doings from the range of my eyes; cease to do evil.” This is not only an advance from figurative language to the most literal, but there is also an advance in what is said. The first admonition requires, primarily and above all, purification from the sins committed, by means of forgiveness sought for and obtained. Wash: rachatzu , from râchatz , in the frequent middle sense of washing one's self. Clean yourselves: hizdaccu , with the tone upon the last syllable, is not the niphal of zâkak , as the first plur. imper. niph. of such verbs has generally and naturally the tone upon the penultimate (see Isaiah 52:11; Numbers 17:10), but the hithpael of zacah for hizdaccu , with the preformative Tav resolved into the first radical letter, as is very common in the hithpael (Ges. §54, 2, b). According to the difference between the two synonyms (to wash one's self, to clean one's self), the former must be understood as referring to the one great act of repentance on the part of a man who is turning to God, the latter to the daily repentance of one who has so turned. The second admonition requires them to place themselves in the light of the divine countenance, and put away the evil of their doings, which was intolerable to pure eyes (Habakkuk 1:13). They were to wrestle against the wickedness to which their actual sin had grown, until at length it entirely disappeared. Neged , according to its radical meaning, signifies prominence (compare the Arabic ne‛gd , high land which is visible at a great distance), conspicuousness, so that minneged is really equivalent to ex apparentia .

Verse 17

Five admonitions relating to the practice of what is good: “Learn to do good, attend to judgment, set the oppressor right, do justice to the orphan, conduct the cause of the widow.” The first admonition lays the foundation for the rest. They were to learn to do good - a difficult art, in which a man does not become proficient merely by good intentions. “Learn to do good:” hetib is the object to limdu (learn), regarded as an accusative; the inf. abs. הרע in Isaiah 1:16 takes the place of the object in just the same manner. The division of this primary admonition into four minor ones relating to the administration of justice, may be explained from the circumstance that no other prophet directs so keen an eye upon the state and its judicial proceedings as Isaiah has done. He differs in this respect from his younger contemporary Micah, whose prophecies are generally more ethical in their nature, whilst those of Isaiah have a political character throughout. Hence the admonitions: “Give diligent attention to judgment” ( dârash , to devote one's self to a thing with zeal and assiduity); and “bring the oppressor to the right way.” This is the true rendering, as C hâmotz (from C hâmatz , to be sharp in flavour, glaring in appearance, violent and impetuous in character) cannot well mean “the oppressed,” or the man who is deprived of his rights, as most of the early translators have rendered it, since this form of the noun, especially with an immutable kametz like בּגוד בּגודה (cf., נקד נקּדּה ), is not used in a passive, but in an active or attributive sense (Ewald, §152, b: vid., at Psalms 137:8): it has therefore the same meaning as C homeotz in Psalms 71:4, and âshok in Jeremiah 22:3, which is similar in its form. But if C hâmotz signifies the oppressive, reckless, churlish man, אשּׁר cannot mean to make happy, or to congratulate, or to set up, or, as in the talmudic rendering, to strengthen (Luzzatto: rianimate chi è oppresso ); but, as it is also to be rendered in Isaiah 3:12; Isaiah 9:15, to lead to the straight road, or to cause a person to keep the straight course. In the case before us, where the oppressor is spoken of, it means to direct him to the way of justice, to keep him in bounds by severe punishment and discipline.

(Note: The Talmud varies in its explanation of C hamoz : in one instance it is applied to a judge who lets his sentence be thoroughly leavened before pronouncing it; in another the C hamuz is said to signify a person robbed and injured, in opposition to C homez ( b. Sanhedrin 35 a). It is an instructive fact in relation to the idea suggested by the word, that, according to Joma 39 b, a man who had not only taken possession of his own inheritance, but had seized upon another person's also, bore the nickname of ben chimzon as long as he lived.)

In the same way we find in other passages, such as Isaiah 11:4 and Psalms 72:4, severe conduct towards oppressors mentioned in connection with just treatment of the poor. There follow two admonitions relating to widows and orphans. Widows and orphans, as well as foreigners, were the protégés of God and His law, standing under His especial guardianship and care (see, for example, Exodus 22:22 (21), cf., Exodus 21:21 (20). “Do justice to the orphan” ( Shâphat , as in Deuteronomy 25:1, is a contracted expression for shâphat mishpat ): for if there is not even a settlement or verdict in their cause, this is the most crying injustice of all, as neither the form nor the appearance of justice is preserved. “Conduct the cause of the widows:” ריב with an accusative, as in Isaiah 51:22, the only other passage in which it occurs, is a contracted form for ריב ריב . Thus all the grounds of self-defence, which existed in the hearts of the accused, are both negatively and positively overthrown. They are thundered down and put to shame. The law ( thorah), announced in Isaiah 1:10, has been preached to them. The prophet has cast away the husks of their dead works, and brought out the moral kernel of the law in its universal application.

Verse 18

The first leading division of the address is brought to a close, and Isaiah 1:18 contains the turning-point between the two parts into which it is divided. Hitherto Jehovah has spoken to His people in wrath. But His love began to move even in the admonitions in Isaiah 1:16, Isaiah 1:17. And now this love, which desired not Israel's destruction, but Israel's inward and outward salvation, breaks fully through. “O come, and let us reason together, saith Jehovah. If your sins come forth like scarlet cloth, they shall become white as snow; if they are red as crimson, they shall come forth like wool!” Jehovah here challenges Israel to a formal trial: nocach is thus used in a reciprocal sense, and with the same meaning as nishpat in Isaiah 43:26 (Ges. §51, 2). In such a trial Israel must lose, for Israel's self-righteousness rests upon sham righteousness; and this sham righteousness, when rightly examined, is but unrighteousness dripping with blood. It is taken for granted that this must be the result of the investigation. Israel is therefore worthy of death. Yet Jehovah will not treat Israel according to His retributive justice, but according to His free compassion. He will remit the punishment, and not only regard the sin as not existing, but change it into its very opposite. The reddest possible sin shall become, through His mercy, the purest white. On the two hiphils here applied to colour, see Ges. §53, 2; though he gives the meaning incorrectly, viz., “to take a colour,” whereas the words signify rather to emit a colour: not Colorem accipere , but Colorem dare . Shâni , bright red (the plural shânim , as in Proverbs 31:21, signifies materials dyed with shâni ), and tolâ , warm colour, are simply different names for the same colour, viz., the crimson obtained from the cochineal insect, Color cocccineus . The representation of the work of grace promised by God as a change from red to white, is founded upon the symbolism of colours, quite as much as when the saints in the Revelation (Revelation 19:8) are described as clothed in white raiment, whilst the clothing of Babylon is purple and scarlet (Isaiah 17:4). Red is the colour of fire, and therefore of life: the blood is red because life is a fiery process. For this reason the heifer, from which the ashes of purification were obtained for those who had been defiled through contact with the dead, was to be red; and the sprinkling-brush, with which the unclean were sprinkled, was to be tied round with a band of scarlet wool. But red as contrasted with white, the colour of light (Matthew 17:2), is the colour of selfish, covetous, passionate life, which is self-seeking in its nature, which goes out of itself only to destroy, and drives about with wild tempestuous violence: it is therefore the colour of wrath and sin. It is generally supposed that Isaiah speaks of red as the colour of sin, because sin ends in murder; and this is not really wrong, though it is too restricted. Sin is called red, inasmuch as it is a burning heat which consumes a man, and when it breaks forth consumes his fellow-man as well. According to the biblical view, throughout, sin stands in the same relation to what is well-pleasing to God, and wrath in the same relation to love or grace, as fire to light; and therefore as red to white, or black to white, for red and black are colours which border upon one another. In the Song of Solomon (Isaiah 7:5), the black locks of Shulamith are described as being “like purple,” and Homer applies the same epithet to the dark waves of the sea. But the ground of this relation lies deeper still. Red is the colour of fire, which flashes out of darkness and returns to it again; whereas white without any admixture of darkness represents the pure, absolute triumph of light. It is a deeply significant symbol of the act of justification. Jehovah offers to Israel an actio forensis , out of which it shall come forth justified by grace, although it has merited death on account of its sins. The righteousness, white as snow and wool, with which Israel comes forth, is a gift conferred upon it out of pure compassion, without being conditional upon any legal performance whatever.

Verses 19-20

But after the restoration of Israel in integrum by this act of grace, the rest would unquestionably depend upon the conduct of Israel itself. According to Israel's own decision would Jehovah determine Israel's future. “If ye then shall willingly hear, ye shall eat the good of the land; if ye shall obstinately rebel, ye shall be eaten by the sword: for the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it.” After their justification, both blessing and cursing lay once more before the justified, as they had both been long before proclaimed by the law (compare Isaiah 1:19 with Deuteronomy 28:3., Leviticus 26:3., and Isaiah 1:20 with the threat of vengeance with the sword in Leviticus 26:25). The promise of eating, i.e., of the full enjoyment of domestic blessings, and therefore of settled, peaceful rest at home, is placed in contrast with the curse of being eaten with the sword. Chereb (the sword) is the accusative of the instrument, as in Psalms 17:13-14; but this adverbial construction without either genitive, adjective, or suffix, as in Exodus 30:20, is very rarely met with (Ges. §138, Anm. 3); and in the passage before us it is a bold construction which the prophet allows himself, instead of saying, חרב תּאכלכ ם , for the sake of the paronomasia (Böttcher, Collectanea, p. 161). In the conditional clauses the two futures are followed by two preterites (compare Leviticus 26:21, which is more in conformity with our western mode of expression), inasmuch as obeying and rebelling are both of them consequences of an act of will: if ye shall be willing, and in consequence of this obey; if ye shall refuse, and rebel against Jehovah. They are therefore, strictly speaking, perfecta consecutiva . According to the ancient mode of writing, the passage Isaiah 1:18-20 formed a separate parashah by themselves, viz., a sethumah , or parashah indicated by spaces left within the line. The piskah after Isaiah 1:20 corresponds to a long pause in the mind of the speaker. - Will Israel tread the saving path of forgiveness thus opened before it, and go on to renewed obedience, and will it be possible for it to be brought back by this path? Individuals possibly may, but not the whole. The divine appeal therefore changes now into a mournful complaint. So peaceful a solution as this of the discord between Jehovah and His children was not to be hoped for. Jerusalem was far too depraved.

Verse 21

“How is she become a harlot, the faithful citadel! she, full of right, lodged in righteousness, and now-murderers.” It is the keynote of an elegy ( kinah ) which is sounded here. איכה , and but rarely איך , which is an abbreviated form, is expressive of complaint and amazement. This longer form, like a long-drawn sigh, is a characteristic of the kinah . The kinoth (Lamentations) of Jeremiah commence with it, and receive their title from it; whereas the shorter form is indicative of scornful complaining, and is characteristic of the m âshōl (e.g., Isaiah 14:4, Isaiah 14:12; Micah 2:4). From this word, which gives the keynote, the rest all follows, soft, full, monotonous, long drawn out and slow, just in the style of an elegy. We may see clearly enough that forms like מלאתי for מלאת , softened by lengthening, were adapted to elegiac compositions, from the first v. of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, where three of these forms occur. Jerusalem had previously been a faithful city, i.e., one stedfastly adhering to the covenant of Jehovah with her (vid., Psalms 78:37).

(Note: We have translated the word kiryah “citadel” ( Burg), instead of “city;” but Burg also became the name of the town which sprang up around the citadel, and the persons living in and around the Burg or citadel were called burgenses , “burghers.” Jerusalem, which was also called Zion, might be called, with quite as much right, a citadel ( Burg), as a city.)

This covenant was a marriage covenant. And she had broken it, and had thereby become a zonâh (harlot) - a prophetic view, the germs of which had already been given in the Pentateuch, where the worship of idols on the part of Israel is called whoring after them (Deuteronomy 31:16; Exodus 34:15-16; in all, seven times). It was not, however, merely gross outward idolatry which made the church of God a “harlot,” but infidelity of heart, in whatever form it might express itself; so that Jesus described the people of His own time as an “adulterous generation,” notwithstanding the pharisaical strictness with which the worship of Jehovah was then observed. For, as the v. before us indicates, this marriage relation was founded upon right and righteousness in the broadest sense: mishpat , “right,” i.e., a realization of right answering to the will of God as positively declared; and tzedek , “righteousness,” i.e., a righteous state moulded by that will, or a righteous course of conduct regulated according to it (somewhat different, therefore, from the more qualitative tzedâkâh ). Jerusalem was once full of such right; and righteousness was not merely there in the form of a hastily passing guest, but had come down from above to take up her permanent abode in Jerusalem: she tarried there day and night as if it were her home. The prophet had in his mind the times of David and Solomon, and also more especially the time of Jehoshaphat (about one hundred and fifty years before Isaiah's appearance), who restored the administration of justice, which had fallen into neglect since the closing years of Solomon's reign and the time of Rehoboam and Abijah, to which Asa's reformation had not extended, and re-organized it entirely in the spirit of the law. It is possible also that Jehoiada, the high priest in the time of Joash, may have revived the institutions of Jehoshaphat, so far as they had fallen into disuse under his three godless successors; but even in the second half of the reign of Joash, the administration of justice fell into the same disgraceful state, at least as compared with the times of David, Solomon, and Jehoshaphat, as that in which Isaiah found it. The glaring contrast between the present and the past is indicated by the expression “and now.” In all the correct MSS and editions, mishpat is not accented with zakeph , but with rebia ; and bâh , which ought to have zakeph , is accented with tiphchah, on account of the brevity of the following clause. In this way the statement as to the past condition is sufficiently distinguished from that relating to the present.

(Note: It is well known that rebia has less force as a disjunctive than tiphchah, and that zakeph is stronger then either. With regard to the law, according to which bâh has rebia instead of zakeph , see Bär, Thorath Emeth, p. 70. To the copies enumerated by Luzzatto, as having the correct accentuation (including Brescia 1494, and Venice, by J. B. Chayim, 1526), we may add Plantin (1582), Buxtorf (1618), Nissel (1662), and many others (cf., Dachselt's Biblia accentuata, which is not yet out of date).)

Formerly righteousness, now “murderers” ( merazzechim ), and indeed, as distinguished from rozechim , murderers by profession, who formed a band, like king Ahab and his son (2 Kings 6:32). The contrast was as glaring as possible, since murder is the direct opposite, the most crying violation, of righteousness.

Verse 22

The complaint now turns from the city generally to the authorities, and first of all figuratively. “Thy silver has become dross, thy drink mutilated with water.” It is upon this passage that the figurative language of Jeremiah 6:27. and Ezekiel 22:18-22 is founded. Silver is here a figurative representation of the princes and lords, with special reference to the nobility of character naturally associated with nobility of birth and rank; for silver - refined silver - is an image of all that is noble and pure, light in all its purity being reflected by it (Bהhr, Symbolik, i. 284). The princes and lords had once possessed all the virtues which the Latins called unitedly Candor animi , viz., the virtues of magnanimity, affability, impartiality, and superiority to bribes. This silver had now become l'sigim , dross, or base metal separated (thrown off) from silver in the process of refining ( sig , pl. sigim , siggim from sug , recedere , refuse left in smelting, or dross: cf., Proverbs 25:4; Proverbs 26:23). A second figure compares the leading men of the older Jerusalem to good wine, such as drinkers like. The word employed here ( sobe ) must have been used in this sense by the more cultivated classes in Isaiah's time (cf., Nahum 1:10). This pure, strong, and costly wine was now adulterated with water ( lit. castratum , according to Pliny's expression in the Natural History: compare the Horatian phrase, jugulare Falernum ), and therefore its strength and odour were weakened, and its worth was diminished. The present was nothing but the dross and shadow of the past.

Verse 23

In Isaiah 1:23 the prophet says this without a figure: “Thy rulers are rebellious, and companions of thieves; every one loveth presents, and hunteth after payment; the orphan they right not, and the cause of the widow has no access to them.” In two words the prophet depicts the contemptible baseness of the national rulers ( sârim ). He describes first of all their baseness in relation to God, with the alliterative sorerim : rebellious, refractory; and then, in relation to men, companions of thieves, inasmuch as they allowed themselves to be bribed by presents of stolen goods to acts of injustice towards those who had been robbed. They not only willingly accepted such bribes, and that not merely a few of them, but every individual belonging to the rank of princes ( Cullo , equivalent to haccol , the whole: every one loveth gifts); but they went eagerly in pursuit of them ( rodeph ). It was not peace ( shâlom ) that they hunted after (Psalms 34:16), but shalmonim shalmonim, things that would pacify their avarice; not what was good, but compensation for their partiality. - This was the existing state of Jerusalem, and therefore it would hardly be likely to take the way of mercy opened before it in Isaiah 1:18; consequently Jehovah would avail himself of other means of setting it right.

Verse 24

“Therefore, saying of the Lord, of Jehovah of hosts, of the Strong One of Israel: Ah! I will relieve myself on mine adversaries, and will avenge myself upon mine enemies.” Salvation through judgment was the only means of improvement and preservation left to the congregation, which called itself by the name of Jerusalem. Jehovah would therefore afford satisfaction to His holiness, and administer a judicial sifting to Jerusalem. There is no other passage in Isaiah in which we meet with such a crowding together of different names of God as we do here (compare Isaiah 19:4; Isaiah 3:1; Isaiah 10:16, Isaiah 10:33; Isaiah 3:15). With three names, descriptive of the irresistible omnipotence of God, the irrevocable decree of a sifting judgment is sealed. The word נאּ ם , which is used here instead of אמר and points back to a verb נא ם , related to נה ם and המה , corresponds to the deep, earnest pathos of the words. These verbs, which are imitations of sounds, all denote a dull hollow groaning. The word used here, therefore, signifies that which is spoken with significant secrecy and solemn softness. It is never written absolutely, but is always followed by the subject who speaks (saying of Jehovah it is, i.e., Jehovah says). We meet with it first of all in Genesis 22:16. In the prophetic writings it occurs in Obadiah and Joel, but most frequently in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. It is generally written at the close of the sentence, or parenthetically in the middle; very rarely at the commencement, as it is here and in 1 Samuel 2:30 and Psalms 110:1. The “saying” commences with hoi ( ah!), the painfulness of pity being mingled with the determined outbreak of wrath. By the side of the niphal nikkam min (to be revenged upon a person) we find the niphal nicham (lit. to console one's self). The two words are derived from kindred roots. The latter is conjugated with in the preformative syllable, the former with i, according to the older system of vowel-pointing adopted in the East.

(Note: The so-called Assyrian mode of pointing, which was entirely supplanted, with the exception of a few relics, by the Tiberian mode which now lies before us, has no seghol (see DMZ. xviii. 322). According to Luzzatto ( Proleg. p. 200), they wrote ektol instead of iktol , to avoid confounding it with יקטל , which was pronounced iktol , and not yiktol .)

Jehovah would procure Himself relief from His enemies by letting out upon them the wrath with which He had hitherto been burdened (Ezekiel 5:13). He now calls the masses of Jerusalem by their right name.

Verse 25

Isaiah 1:25 states clearly in what the revenge consisted with which Jehovah was inwardly burdened ( innakmah , a cohortative with the ah , indicating internal oppression): “And I will bring my hand over thee, and will smelt out thy dross as with alkali, and will clear away all thy lead.” As long as God leaves a person's actions or sufferings alone, His hand, i.e., His acting, is at rest. Bringing the hand over a person signifies a movement of the hand, which has been hitherto at rest, either for the purpose of inflicting judicial punishment upon the person named (Amos 1:8; Jeremiah 6:9; Ezekiel 38:12; Psalms 81:15), or else, though this is seldom the case, for the purpose of saving him (Zechariah 13:7). The reference here is to the divine treatment of Jerusalem, in which punishment and salvation were combined - punishment as the means, salvation as the end. The interposition of Jehovah was, as it were, a smelting, which would sweep away, not indeed Jerusalem itself, but the ungodly in Jerusalem. They are compared to dross, or (as the verb seems to imply) to ore mixed with dross, and, inasmuch as lead is thrown off in the smelting of silver, to such ingredients of lead as Jehovah would speedily and thoroughly remove, “like alkali,” i.e., “as if with alkali” ( Cabbo r , Comparatio decurtata , for C'babbor : for this mode of dropping Beth after Caph , compare Isaiah 9:3; Leviticus 22:13, and many other passages). By bedilim (from bâdal , to separate) we are to understand the several pieces of stannum or lead

(Note: Plumbum nigrum , says Pliny, n. n. xxiv. 16, is sometimes found alone, and sometimes mixed with silver: ejus qui primus fluic in fornacibus liquor, stannum appellatur . The reference here is to the lead separated from the ore in the process of obtaining pure silver. In the form of powder this dross is called bedil , and the pieces bedilim ; whereas ophereth is the name of solid lead, obtained by simply melting down from ore which does not contain silver. The fact that bedil is also apparently used as a name for tin, may be explained in the same way as the homonymy of iron and basalt ( Com. on Job 28:2), and of the oak and terebinth. The two metals are called by the same name on account of their having a certain outward resemblance, viz., in softness, pliability, colour, and specific gravity.)

in which the silver is contained, and which are separated by smelting, all the baser metals being distinguished from the purer kinds by the fact that they are combustible (i.e., can be oxidized). Both bor , or potash (an alkali obtained from land-plants), and nether , natron (i.e., soda, or natron obtained from the ashes of marine plants, which is also met with in many mineral waters), have been employed from the very earliest times to accelerate the process of smelting, for the purpose of separating a metal from its ore.

Verse 26

As the threat couched in the previous figure does not point to the destruction, but simply to the smelting of Jerusalem, there is nothing strange in the fact that in Isaiah 1:26 it should pass over into a pure promise; the meltingly soft and yearningly mournful termination of the clauses with ayich , the keynote of the later songs of Zion, being still continued. “And I will bring back thy judges as in the olden time, and thy counsellors as in the beginning; afterwards thou wilt be called city of righteousness, faithful citadel.” The threat itself was, indeed, relatively a promise, inasmuch as whatever could stand the fire would survive the judgment; and the distinct object of this was to bring back Jerusalem to the purer metal of its own true nature. But when that had been accomplished, still more would follow. The indestructible kernel that remained would be crystallized, since Jerusalem would receive back from Jehovah the judges and counsellors which it had had in the olden flourishing times of the monarchy, ever since it had become the city of David and of the temple; not, indeed, the very same persons, but persons quite equal to them in excellence. Under such God-given leaders Jerusalem would become what it had once been, and what it ought to be. The names applied to the city indicate the impression produced by the manifestation of its true nature. The second name is written without the article, as in fact the word kiryah (city), with its massive, definite sound, always is in Isaiah. Thus did Jehovah announce the way which it had been irrevocably determined that He would take with Israel, as the only way to salvation. Moreover, this was the fundamental principle of the government of God, the law of Israel's history.

Verse 27

Isaiah 1:27 presents it in a brief and concise form: “Sion will be redeemed through judgment, and her returning ones through righteousness.” Mishpat and tzedâkâh are used elsewhere for divine gifts (Isaiah 33:5; Isaiah 28:6), for such conduct as is pleasing to God (Isaiah 1:21; Isaiah 32:16), and for royal Messianic virtues (Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 11:3-5; Isaiah 16:5; Isaiah 32:1). Here, however, where we are helped by the context, they are to be interpreted according to such parallel passages as Isaiah 4:4; Isaiah 5:16; Isaiah 28:17, as signifying God's right and righteousness in their primarily judicious self-fulfilment. A judgment, on the part of God the righteous One, would be the means by which Zion itself, so far as it had remained faithful to Jehovah, and those who were converted in the midst of the judgment, would be redeemed - a judgment upon sinners and sin, by which the power that had held in bondage the divine nature of Zion, so far as it still continued to exist, would be broken, and in consequence of which those who turned to Jehovah would be incorporated into His true church. Whilst, therefore, God was revealing Himself in His punitive righteousness; He was working out a righteousness which would be bestowed as a gift of grace upon those who escaped the former. The notion of “righteousness” is now following a New Testament track. In front it has the fire of the law; behind, the love of the gospel. Love is concealed behind the wrath, like the sun behind the thunder-clouds. Zion, so far as it truly is or is becoming Zion, is redeemed, and none but the ungodly are destroyed. But, as is added in the next verse, the latter takes place without mercy.

Verse 28

“And breaking up of the rebellious and sinners together; and those who forsake Jehovah will perish.” The judicial side of the approaching act of redemption is here expressed in a way that all can understand. The exclamatory substantive clause in the first half of the v. is explained by a declaratory verbal clause in the second. The “rebellious” were those who had both inwardly and outwardly broken away from Jehovah; “sinners,” those who were living in open sins; and “those who forsake Jehovah,” such as had become estranged from God in either of these ways.

Verse 29

Isaiah 1:29 declares how God's judgment of destruction would fall upon all of these. The v. is introduced with an explanatory “for” ( Chi ): “For they become ashamed of the terebinths, in which ye had your delight; and ye must blush for the gardens, in which ye took pleasure.” The terebinths and gardens (the second word with the article, as in Habakkuk 3:8, first binharim , then banneharim ) are not referred to as objects of luxury, as Hitzig and Drechsler assume, but as unlawful places of worship and objects of worship (see Deuteronomy 16:21). They are both of them frequently mentioned by the prophets in this sense (Isaiah 57:5; Isaiah 65:3; Isaiah 66:17): C hâmor and bâchar are also the words commonly applied to an arbitrary choice of false gods (Isaiah 44:9; Isaiah 41:24; Isaiah 66:3), and bosh min is the general phrase used to denote the shame which falls upon idolaters, when the worthlessness of their idols becomes conspicuous through their impotence. On the difference between bosh and C hâpher , see the comm. on Psalms 35:4.

(Note: It is perfectly certain that C hâpher (Arab. Chaphira , as distinguished from C hâphar , hafara , to dig) signifies to blush, erubescere ; but the combination of bosh and yâbash ( bâda ), which would give albescere or expallescere (to turn white or pale) as the primary idea of bosh , has not only the Arabic use of bayyada and ibyadda (to rejoice, be made glad) against it, but above all the dialectic bechath , bahita ( bahuta ), which, when taken in connection with bethath ( batta ), points rather to the primary idea of being cut off ( abscindi : cf., spes abscissa ). See Lane's Arabic-English Lexicon, i. 263.)

The word elim is erroneously translated “idols” in the Septuagint and other ancient versions. The feeling which led to this, however, was a correct one, since the places of worship really stand for the idols worshipped in those places.

(Note: With regard to the derivation, êlim , whether used in the sense of strong men, or gods, or rams, or terebinths, is still but one word, derived from ı̄l or ūl , so that in all three senses it may be written either with or without Yod . Nevertheless elim in the sense of “rams” only occurs without Yod in Job 42:8. In the sense of “gods” it is always written without Yod ; in that of “strong men” with Yod . In the singular the name of the terebinth is always written elah without Yod ; in the plural, however, it is written either with or without. But this no more presupposes a singular êl ( ayil ) in common use, than bêtzim presupposes a singular bêts ( bayits ); still the word êl with Yod does occur once, viz., in Genesis 14:6. Allâh and allōn , an oak, also spring from the same root, namely âlal = il ; just as in Arabic both ı̄l and ill are used for ēl (God); and âl and ill , in the sense of relationship, point to a similar change in the form of the root.)

The excited state of the prophet at the close of his prophecy is evinced by his abrupt leap from an exclamation to a direct address (Ges. §137, Anm. 3).

Verse 30

He still continues in the same excitement, piling a second explanatory sentence upon the first, and commencing this also with “for” ( Chi ); and then, carried away by the association of ideas, he takes terebinths and gardens as the future figures of the idolatrous people themselves. “For ye shall become like a terebinth with withered leaves, and like a garden that hath no water.” Their prosperity is distroyed, so that they resemble a terebinth withered as to its leaves, which in other cases are always green ( nobleth ‛aleah , genitives connection according to (Ges. §112, 2). Their sources of help are dried up, so that they are like a garden without water, and therefore waste. In this withered state terebinths and gardens, to which the idolatrous are compared, are easily set on fire. All that is wanted is a spark to kindle them, when they are immediately in flames.

Verse 31

Isaiah 1:31 shows in a third figure where this spark was to come from: “And the rich man becomes tow, and his work the spark; and they will both burn together, and no one extinguishes them.” The form poalo suggests at first a participial meaning (its maker), but החסון would be a very unusual epithet to apply to an idol. Moreover, the figure itself would be a distorted one, since the natural order would be, that the idol would be the thing that kindled the fire, and the man the object to be set on fire, and not the reverse. We therefore follow the lxx, Targ., and Vulg., with Gesenius and other more recent grammarians, and adopt the rendering “his work” ( opus ejus ). The forms פּעלו and פּעלו (cf., Isaiah 52:14 and Jeremiah 22:13) are two equally admissible changes of the ground-form פעלו ( פּעלו ). As Isaiah 1:29 refers to idolatrous worship, poalo (his work) is an idol, a god made by human hands (cf., Isaiah 2:8; Isaiah 37:19, etc.). The prosperous idolater, who could give gold and silver for idolatrous images out of the abundance of his possessions ( C hâson is to be interpreted in accordance with Isaiah 33:6), becomes tow (talm. “the refuse of flax:” the radical meaning is to shake out, viz., in combing), and the idol the spark which sets this mass of fibre in flames, so that they are both irretrievably consumed. For the fire of judgment, by which sinners are devoured, need not come from without. Sin carries the fire of indignation within itself. And an idol is, as it were, an idolater's sin embodied and exposed to the light of day.

The date of the composition of this first prophecy is a puzzle. Caspari thoroughly investigated every imaginary possibility, and at last adopted the conclusion that it dates from the time of Uzziah, inasmuch as Isaiah 1:7-9 do not relate to an actual, but merely to an ideal, present. But notwithstanding all the acuteness with which Caspari has worked out his view, it still remains a very forced one. The oftener we return to the reading of this prophetic address, the stronger is our impression that Isaiah 1:7-9 contain a description of the state of things which really existed at the time when the words were spoken. There were actually two devastations of the land of Judah which occurred during the ministry of Isaiah, and in which Jerusalem was only spared by the miraculous interposition of Jehovah: one under Ahaz in the year of the Syro-Ephraimitish war; the other under Hezekiah, when the Assyrian forces laid the land waste but were scattered at last in their attack upon Jerusalem. The year of the Syro-Ephraimitish war is supported by Gesenius, Rosenmüller (who expresses a different opinion in every one of the three editions of his Scholia), Maurer, Movers, Knobel, Hävernick, and others; the time of the Assyrian oppression by Hitzig, Umbreit, Drechsler, and Luzzatto. Now, whichever of these views we may adopt, there will still remain, as a test of its admissiblity, the difficult question, How did this prophecy come to stand at the head of the book, if it belonged to the time of Uzziah-Jotham? This question, upon which the solution of the difficulty depends, can only be settled when we come to Isaiah 6:1-13. Till then, the date of the composition of chapter 1 must be left undecided. It is enough for the present to know, that, according to the accounts given in the books of Kings and Chronicles, there were two occasions when the situation of Jerusalem resembled the one described in the present chapter.

Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Isaiah 1". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/isaiah-1.html. 1854-1889.
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