and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth; to live above the world, and to have their conversation in heaven; to be in the utmost safety, and enjoy the greatest plenty, especially of spiritual things: or to be superior to the men of the world, even the highest of them; to have power and authority in the earth, as the saints will have in the latter day; particularly this will be true when the mountain of the Lord's house is established upon the top of the mountains, Isaiah 2:2,
and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: the Jewish writers inquire why Jacob is mentioned, and not Abraham nor Isaac; and answer, as in the Talmud (p), not Abraham, of whom it is written, "arise, walk through the land in the length of it", &c. Genesis 13:17, nor Isaac, of whom it is written, "for unto thee, and to thy seed, will I give all these countries", &c. Genesis 26:3, but Jacob, of whom it is written, "and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south", &c. Genesis 28:14 expressing the larger extent of the inheritance; so Jarchi and Samson account for it; but Kimchi gives a better reason, because the sons of Jacob, and not Ishmael the son of Abraham, nor Esau the son of Isaac, inherited the land of Canaan: but rather the reason is, because he is the father of all true Israelites, who are, as he was, wrestling and prevailing; these the Lord feeds with spiritual provisions here, and glory hereafter; which the good things of the land of Canaan, the inheritance of Jacob and his sons, were a type of: and perhaps this may have respect to the conversion of the Jews, when they shall return to their own land, and enjoy the good things of it, as well as all spiritual blessings:
for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it; who is faithful to his covenant, true to his word; cannot lie, will never deceive; performs whatsoever he has promised, being able to do it; and therefore it may be depended upon that all this shall be as he has said.
(p) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol 118. 2.
INTRODUCTION TO Isaiah 59
As the former chapter declares the hypocrisy and formality of professors of religion; this expresses the errors and heresies, immorality and profaneness, which shall prevail before the spiritual reign of Christ, or the latter day glory begins; which is so fully described in the next chapter. Reasons are given of God's withdrawing his presence from a professing people, which were not want of power and readiness in him, but their own sins and transgressions, Isaiah 59:1 which are enumerated, such as murder, rapine, lies, &c. Isaiah 59:3 for which the judgments of God were upon them, darkness, distress, and misery, of which they were sensible, Isaiah 59:9 and confess their sins and transgressions, Isaiah 59:12 and lament their wretched state and condition, which was displeasing to God, Isaiah 59:14 who is represented as appearing for their salvation; moved to it by their want of help, and the oppression of their enemies, in which he shows his power, justice, zeal, grace, and goodness, Isaiah 59:16 the consequence of which shall be the conversion and salvation of many, owing to the efficacy of the divine Spirit, and to the spiritual coming of the Redeemer, Isaiah 59:19, and the chapter is closed with a promise of the continuance of the Spirit of God, and the Gospel of Christ in his church, unto the end of the world, Isaiah 59:21.
Neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: the prayers of his people, their cries unto him on their fast days, of which he seemed to take no notice, complained of Isaiah 58:3, this is not owing to any want of attention in him, or of readiness to hear prayer made unto him; for he is a God hearing and answering prayer, and is ready to help his people in every time of need, who apply to him in a proper and suitable manner; his eyes are upon them, and his ears are open to their cries. And this is introduced with a "behold", as requiring attention, and deserving the notice and consideration of his people. The Targum is,
"behold, not through defect of hand (or power) from the Lord ye are not saved; nor because it is heavy to him to hear, that your prayer is not received.''
and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear; or have caused him to hide himself; withdraw his gracious presence; neglect the prayers put up to him; deny an answer to them; or, however, not appear as yet for the deliverance and salvation of them, and bringing them into a more comfortable, prosperous, and happy condition.
Your lips have spoken lies: or "falsehood" (q); that is, false doctrines, so called because contrary to the word of truth, and which deceive men:
your tongue hath muttered perverseness: that which is a perversion of the Gospel of Christ, and of the souls of men; what is contrary to the sacred Scriptures, the standard of faith and practice, and that premeditated, as the word (r) signifies; done with design, and on purpose: the abounding of errors and heresies in the present day, openly taught and divulged, to the ruin of souls, seems here to be pointed at. In the Talmud (s) these are explained of the several sorts of men in a court of judicature; the "hands" of the judges; the "fingers" of, the Scribes; the "lips" of advocates and solicitors; and the "tongue" of adversaries, or the contending parties.
(q) "falsitatem", Montanus, Cocceius; "falsum", Junius & Tremeliius, Piscator. (r) Sept.; "meditabitur", Montanus; "meditatur", Piscator; "meditatam effert", Junius & Tremellius. (s) T. Bab. Sabbat. fol. 139. 1.
"there is none that prays in truth;''
in sincerity and uprightness, in faith and with fervour; but in a cold, formal, and hypocritical way:
nor any pleadeth for truth: for the truth of the Gospel, particularly for the principal one, the justification of a sinner by the righteousness of Christ alone; few or none contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; they are not valiant for the truth, nor stand fast in it, but drop or conceal it, or deny it: or, "none is judged by", or "according to truth" (u); by the Scriptures of truth, but by carnal reason; or by forms and rules of man's devising, and so are condemned; as Gospel ministers and professors of it are:
they trust in vanity; in nothing, as the Vulgate Latin; that is worth nothing; in their own strength, wisdom, riches, righteousness, especially the latter:
and speak lies; or "vanity"; vain things, false doctrines, as before:
they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity; they "conceive" and contrive "mischief" in their minds against those that differ in doctrine and practice from them: "and bring forth iniquity": do that which is criminal and sinful, by words and actions, by calumnies and reproaches, by violence and persecution. The Targum is,
"they hasten and bring out of their hearts words of violence.''
(t) "in justitia", Montanus, Tigurine version; "sive de justitia". (u) "nemo judicatur scundum veritatem", Munster; "non judicatur in veritate", Montanus.
he that eateth of their eggs dieth: as a man that eats of cockatrice eggs dies immediately, being rank poison; so he that approves of false doctrines, receives them, and feeds upon them, dies spiritually and eternally; these are damnable doctrines, which bring upon men swift destruction; they are poisonous, and eat as do a canker, and destroy the souls of men:
and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper; or "cockatrice"; so Kimchi and Ben Melech take it to be the same creature as before, which goes by different names; and the words seem to require this sense; however, it cannot be the creature we call the viper, since that is not oviparous, but viviparous, lays not eggs, but brings forth its young; though both Aristotle (w) and Pliny (x), at the same time they say it is viviparous, yet observe that it breeds eggs within itself, which are of one colour, and soft like fishes. The Targum renders it "flying serpents": the sense is, that if a man is cautious, and does not eat of the cockatrice eggs, but sets his foot on them, and crushes them, out comes the venomous creature, and he is in danger of being hurt by it; so a man that does not embrace false doctrines, and escapes eternal death by them, but tramples upon them, opposes them, and endeavours to crush and destroy them, yet he is exposed to and brings upon himself calumnies, reproach, and persecution.
(w) Hist. Animal. l. 5. c. 34. (x) Nat. Hist. I. 10. c. 62.
their works are works of iniquity: both of preacher and hearer; even their best works are sinful; not only as being imperfect, and having a mixture of sin in them, and so filthy rags, and insufficient to justify them before God; but because done from wrong principles, and with wrong views, and tending to set aside the justifying righteousness of Christ, and God's way of justifying sinners by it, which is abominable to him:
and the act of violence is in their hands; they persecuting such that preach and profess the contrary doctrine.
and they make haste to shed innocent blood: in wars abroad or at home, in quarrels and riots, or through the heat of persecution; which if it does not directly touch men's lives, yet issues in the death of many that fall under the power of it; and which persecutors are very eager and hasty in the prosecution of. The phrase fitly describes their temper and conduct:
their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity: their thoughts are continually devising things vain and sinful in themselves, unprofitable to them, and pernicious to others: their thoughts, words, and actions being evil; their tongue, lips, hands, and feet being employed in sin, show their general depravity:
wasting and destruction are in their paths: they waste and destroy all they meet with in their ways, their fellow creatures and their substance; and the ways they walk in lead to ruin and destruction, which will be their portion for evermore.
and there is no judgment in their goings; no justice in their actions, in their dealings with men; no judgment in their religious duties, which are done without any regard to the divine rule, or without being able to give a reason for them; they have no judgment in matters of doctrine or worship; they have no discerning of true and false doctrines, and between that which is spiritual and superstitious in worship; they have no knowledge of the word of God, which should be their guide both in faith and practice; but this they do not attend unto:
they have made them crooked paths: they have devised paths and modes of worship of their own, in which they walk, and which they observe, that are not according to the rule of the word; but deviate from it; and so may be said to be crooked, as not agreeable to that:
whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace; the way of peace with God, as before; or he shall not have any experience of true, solid, and substantial peace in his own conscience now, and shall not attain to eternal peace hereafter.
neither doth justice overtake us; the righteousness of God inflicting vengeance on our enemies, and saving and protecting us; this does not come up with us, nor do we enjoy the benefit of it, but walk on without it unprotected, and exposed to the insults of men:
we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness; or "for brightnesses" (y); for much clear light; but
we walk in mists (z); in thick fogs, and have scarce any light at all. The meaning is, they waited for deliverance and salvation; but instead of that had the darkness of affliction and distress; or they were expecting latter day light and glory, the clear and bright shining of Gospel truths; but, instead of that, were surrounded with the darkness of ignorance and infidelity, superstition and will worship, and walked in the mists and fogs of error and heresy of all sorts: this seems to respect the same time as in Zechariah 14:6.
(y) "in splendores", Pagninus, Montanus; "magnum splendorem", Vitringa. (z) "in ealiginibus", Montanus, Cocceius; "in summa caligine", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "in densa caligine", Vitringa.
and we grope as if we had no eyes: which yet they had, the eyes of their reason and understanding; but which either were not opened, or they made no use of them in searching the Scriptures, to come at the light and knowledge of divine things; and therefore only at most groped after them by the dim light of nature, if thereby they might find them. This is to be understood not of them all, but of many, and of the greatest part:
we stumble at noonday as in the night; as many persons do now: for though it is noonday in some respects, and in some places, where the Gospel and the truths of it are clearly preached; yet men stumble and fall into the greatest errors, as in the night of the greatest darkness; as if it was either the night of Paganism or Popery with them:
we are in desolate places as dead men; or "in fatnesses" (a); in fat places where the word and ordinances are administered, where is plenty of the means of grace, yet not quickened thereby; are as dead men, dead in trespasses and sin, and at most have only a name to live, but are dead. Some render it, "in the graves" (b); and the Targum thus,
"it is shut before us, as the graves are shut before the dead;''
we have no more light, joy, and comfort, than those in the graves have.
(a) "in rebus pinguissimis", Junius & Tremellius; "in pinguetudinibus", Piscator; "in opimis rebus", Vitringa. (b) "In sepulchris", Pagninus; and so Ben Melech interprets it.
"we roar because of our enemies, who are gathered against us as bears; all of us indeed mourn sore as doves:''
we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us; we expect that God will take vengeance on our enemies, and save us; look for judgment on antichrist, and the antichristian states, and for the salvation of the church of God; for the vials of divine wrath on the one, and for happy times to the other; but neither of them as yet come; the reason of which is as follows.
and our sins testify against us; God is a witness against us, in whose sight our sins are done; and our consciences are witnesses against us, which are as a thousand witnesses; and there is no denying facts; our sins stare us in the face, and we must confess our guilt: or, "our sins answer against us" (c); as witnesses called and examined answer to the questions put, so our sins, being brought as it were into open court, answer and bear testimony against us; or it must be owned, our punishment for our sins answers to them; it is the echo of our sins, what they call for, and righteously comes upon us:
for our transgressions are with us; or, "on us" (d); in our minds, on our consciences, loading us with guilt; continually accusing and condemning us; are manifest to us, as the Targum; too manifest to be denied:
and as for our iniquities, we know them; the nature and number of them, and the aggravating circumstances that attend them; and cannot but own and acknowledge them, confess, lament, and bewail them; an enumeration of which follows.
(c) "peccata nostra respondit contra nos", Montanus; "id ipsum respondit contra nos", Cocceius; "even everyone of them", so Junius & Tremellius; "peccatorum nostrorum quodque", sic (d) "super nos", Munster.
we have denied the Lord; the Lord that bought them: this is the case of many under a profession of Christ:
and departing away from our God: from following him, from walking in his ways, from attending his worship, word, and ordinances; so the Targum,
"from the worship of our God;''
from Immanuel, God with us, God in our nature; from him the living God, as every degree of unbelief is a departing from him; and especially he is departed from when his divine Person is denied; when neglected as the Saviour; his Gospel corrupted; his ordinances perverted, and his worship, or the assembly of the saints, forsaken:
speaking oppression and revolt: such who are in public office, speakers in the church of God; these speak what is oppressive and burdensome to the minds and consciences of those who are truly gracious; make their hearts sad, whom God would not have made sad, by their false doctrines; and which have a tendency to cause men to revolt from the Lord, and turn their backs on him: or "speak calumny and defection" (e), as some render it; calumniate, reproach, and revile the few faithful ones, and draw off many from the truths of the Gospel, and a profession of them. The Targum renders it, "falsehood and apostasy"; false doctrine, which leads to apostasy from Christ; with which the next clause agrees:
conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood; false doctrines; such as agree not with, but are contrary to, the word of God; these are of their own conceiving and contriving; the produce of their own brains; the fruit of their own fancy and imaginations; and which, out of the abundance of their hearts, they utter, even premeditated falsehoods, studied lies, as in Isaiah 59:3; see Gill on Isaiah 59:3.
(e) "calumniam et perversitatem", Pagninus; "calumniam et defectionem", Montanus; "calumniam et transgressionem", V. L.
"they that do judgment are turned back, and they that do justice stand afar off;''
having none to take their parts, but everyone opposing them: this may respect both the want of judgment and justice in courts of judicature; no regard being had to right and wrong; no true judgment being given, or justice done, in any cause; but both banished from the bench: and also in the churches of Christ, or, however, under a profession of his name, where there is no judgment in doctrines, or discerning between truth and error; and no justice inflicted on delinquents according to the rules of Christ; no order nor discipline observed in his house; these are dismissed and discarded:
for truth is fallen in the street; where it used to be preached, exalted, established, and confirmed; but now thrown down and trampled upon, and few or none to help it up, and stand by it; and though it may have some secret well wishers, yet very few, if any, public advocates for it:
and equity cannot enter; either into civil courts, or Christian congregations; the doing of that which is just and right between man and man in things civil; and between Christian and Christian in things religious; or that which is right according to the word of God; can find no place, or cannot be admitted into assemblies that are called by his name. The Targum is,
"they that do truth stumble in the street; and they that exercise faith cannot be made manifest;''
such as are on the side of truth, in the service of it, cannot stand their ground through the violence of their opposers; and those that are faithful, and abide by the doctrine of faith, are forced to hide themselves, and cannot appear in the vindication of it.
and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey; he that does not give in to the prevailing vices of the age in which he lives, now become fashionable, but abstains from them, and departs from doctrinal as well as practical evils; from all false doctrines, and from all superstitious modes of worship; becomes a prey to others; a reproach and a laughing stock to them; they scoff at him, and deride him for his preciseness in religion; for his enthusiastic and irrational notions in doctrine; and for his stiffness in matters of worship: or, "he makes himself reckoned a madman" (g); as some render it; and this is a common notion with profane men, and loose professors, to reckon such as madmen that are upright in doctrine, worship, and conversation; see Acts 26:24,
and the Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment; he took notice of all this, and resented it, though in a professing people, that there was no judgment or discretion in matters of doctrine and worship; no order or discipline observed; no justice done in civil courts, or in the church of God; no reformation in church or state.
(f) "privata"; so "privatio", often with the Rubbins. (g) "facit ut insanus habeatur", Junius & Tremellius; "habitus est pro insano", Vitringa; so Abendana, "he that fears God, and departs from evil", , "they reckon him a fool or a madman."
and wondered that there was no intercessor; to stand up, and pray for them, as the Targum; so it seems a spirit of prayer and supplication will be greatly wanting in the times of latter day darkness, and before latter day glory breaks out: or, "that there was no interposer" (h); none to appear on the side of truth and justice, and on the behalf of those that become a prey to others. "Wonder" is here ascribed to God by an anthropopathy, after the manner of men, as being a marvellous and surprising thing, and almost incredible, that none could be found in so good a cause, and taking the part of injured truth and righteousness; and it expresses the general corruption and defect of religion in those times; and shows that it is not for the goodness of men, or their merits, that the Lord will do what is next said he did:
therefore his arm brought salvation to him; either to himself, and which redounded to his own honour and glory; or to his people, those that became a prey to their enemies; these he rescued out of their hands, and by his own arm of power saved them; or he himself alone wrought out salvation for them, and delivered them from the insults, reproach, and persecution of men, under whatsoever name; so when antichrist, and antichristianism in every form, shall be destroyed, salvation will be ascribed to God alone, Revelation 19:1,
and his righteousness, it sustained him; his righteousness, in taking vengeance on his and his people's enemies; and his faithfulness, in the performance of his promises, will support him in, and carry him through, his work, though attended with difficulties that may seem insuperable to men: this may be understood of Christ, as well as what follows. The Jews (i) interpret this of the Messiah, who should come in an age in which are none but wicked men, as is here said.
(h) "nullum interventorem", Junius & Tremellius. (i) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 1.
and an helmet of salvation upon his head; the salvation he will work out for his people will be very conspicuous; it will be seen by all, as the helmet on the head; and he will have the glory of it, on whose head are many crowns, Revelation 19:12. The apostle has borrowed these phrases from hence, and applied them to the Christian armour, Ephesians 6:14,
and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing; or, "he clothed himself with vengeance as a garment" (k); he wrapped himself in it, and resolved to execute it on his and his people's enemies; the time being come to avenge the blood of his servants, by shedding the blood of their adversaries, with which his garments will be stained; and therefore is represented as having on a vesture dipped in blood, Revelation 19:13,
and was clad with zeal as a cloak; with zeal for his own glory, and the interest of his people, and against antichrist, and all antichristian worship and doctrine; and therefore his eyes are said to be as a flame of fire, Revelation 19:12.
(k) "et ultionem induit tanquam vestem", Tigurine version.
fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies: the church's adversaries and enemies are Christ's, and so he esteems them; and therefore his wrath and fury is poured out by way of recompence to them, for all the ill they have done them, even the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath, Revelation 16:19,
to the islands he will repay recompence; even to those who dwell in the more distant and remote parts of the antichristian jurisdiction; for when the cup of wrath shall be given to Babylon every island will flee away, Revelation 16:20.
when the enemy shall come in like a flood; when Satan, the common "enemy" of mankind, the avowed and implacable enemy of Christ and his people, "shall come" into the world, and into the church, as he will in the latter day; and has already entered "like" an impetuous flood, threatening to carry all before him, introducing a flood of immorality and profaneness, as in the days of Noah and Lot, to which the times of the Son of Man's coming are likened, Luke 17:26 or else a flood of error and heresy of all sorts; see Revelation 12:15 and likewise a flood of persecution, as will be at the slaying of the witnesses, that hour of temptation that will come upon all the earth, to try the inhabitants of it, Revelation 3:10. Aben Ezra compares this passage with, and illustrates it by, that time of trouble which will be, such as never was since there was a nation, Daniel 12:1 when this will be the case, which seems to be near at hand:
the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him; Christ and his Gospel, or Christ the standard lifted up in the ministry of the Gospel, Isaiah 11:10 a set of ministers shall be raised up, having the everlasting Gospel, which they shall publish to all nations, and which shall have an universal spread; and by means of which the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea; and which will be a sufficient check to the enemy's flood of immorality, error, and persecution; and which, after this, shall be no more; see Revelation 14:6. Some render the words, "when he", the glorious name of the Lord, or he who is the glory of the Lord, the brightness of his glory;
shall come like a narrow flood, that flows with great swiftness and force, and carries all before it;
the Spirit of the Lord lifting him up for a standard (l), that is, in the ministry of the word; "so shall they fear", &c.; then multitudes shall serve the Lord, and worship him. The Targum is,
"they that afflict shall be as the overflowing of the river Euphrates; by the word of the Lord shall they be broken;''
and Vitringa thinks there is an allusion to the river Euphrates; interpreting the enemy of the Ottoman Turks, Tartars, and Scythians, stirred up by Satan to distress the church: all this may be applied to the case of particular believers under the assaults of Satan their grand enemy; who seeks all occasions to disturb their peace and destroy their comfort, though he cannot ruin their souls; he comes in, not only into their houses where they dwell, and gives them disturbance there; and into the house of God where they worship, and does all he can to hinder them in attending on the word and ordinances, and to prevent all usefulness, edification, and comfort thereby; but he enters into their hearts, and stirs up the corruptions of their nature, and causes these to rise like a flood, which threaten with bringing them into captivity to the law of sin and death; and attacks them with violent temptations, suggesting that they are not the people of God, the redeemed of the Lamb, or regenerated by the Spirit, but are hypocrites, and never had the work of grace on their hearts; aggravating their sins, and telling them they have sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost, and there is no pardon for them; and at other times filling their minds with blasphemous and atheistical thoughts; all which come upon them sometimes with so much force, that it is like an overflowing flood that threatens with utter destruction; when the Spirit of the Lord within them, who is greater than he that is in the world, lifts up Christ as an ensign or standard to them; and directs them to his blood for peace and pardon, for the cleansing of their souls and the atonement of their sins; where they may see and read, in legible characters, the free and full remission of their sins, and an entire satisfaction to the justice of God for them; and he holds up and holds out the righteousness of Christ unto them, with which God is well pleased, his justice satisfied, and his law made honourable; and by which they are justified from all things, and secured from all charges and condemnation; and who also leads them to the person, power, and grace of Christ, to preserve them in grace to glory, to keep them from falling, and present them faultless before the throne of God; the consequence of which is a check to Satan's temptations; an antidote to the doubts and fears he injects; and an abundance of spiritual peace and comfort; as well as it engages to fear the Lord and his goodness.
(l) "etenim veniet (sub. Dominus vel nomen Domini) instar fluminis angusti, spiritu Domini levante ipsum pro vexillo", Bootius, Animadv. I. 1. c. 1. p. 68.
and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord; that is, to such among the Jews, the posterity of Jacob, who repent of their sins, and turn from them; and particularly their sin of the rejection of the Messiah, and the disbelief of him, and turn to him, and believe in him as their Saviour and King. The Targum is,
"and the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and to turn the transgressors of the house of Jacob to the law;''
but rather the turn will be to the Gospel of Christ.
(m) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. l. & Yoma, fol. 86. 2.((n) Echa Rabbati, fol. 47. 2.