Isaiah 6:2 MEANING

Isaiah 6:2
(2) Above it stood the seraphims . . .--It is noticeable that this is the only passage in which the seraphim are mentioned as part of the host of heaven. In Numbers 21:6, the word (the primary meaning of which is the burning ones) occurs as denoting the fiery serpents that attacked the people in the wilderness. Probably the brazen serpent which Hezekiah afterwards destroyed (2 Kings 18:4) had preserved the name and its significance as denoting the instruments of the fiery judgments of Jehovah. Here, however, there is no trace of the serpent form, nor again, as far as the description goes, of the animal forms of the cherubim of Ezekiel 1:5-11, and of the "living creatures" of Revelation 4:7-8. The "burning ones" are in the likeness of men, with the addition of the six wings. The patristic and mediaeval distinction between the seraphim that excel in love, and the cherubim that excel in knowledge, rests apparently on the etymology of the former word. The "living creatures" of Revelation 4:7-8, seem to unite the forms of the cherubim of Ezekiel with the six wings of the seraphim of this passage. Symbolically the seraphim would seem to be as transfigured cherubim, representing the "flaming fire" of the lightning, as the latter did the storm-winds and other elemental forces of nature (Psalm 104:4).

Each one had six wings.--The thought seems to be that the human form was clothed as it were with six wings. One pair of wings covered the face in token of adoring homage (Ezekiel 1:11); a second, the feet, including the whole lower part of the human form, while with the third they hovered as in the firmament of heaven above the skirts of the glory of the Divine Throne. It is noticeable that the monuments of Persepolis represent the Amshashpands (or ministers of God) as having six wings, two of which cover the feet.

Verse 2. - Above it stood the seraphims; rather, above him were standing seraphim. The "seraphim" are introduced, not as well known, with the article, but without it, as unknown. The word means "fiery ones," and is supposed to denote the burning love of the blessed spirits spoken cf. They appeared to the prophet as standing above the King as he sat upon his throne - "standing" to show their readiness to minister; but why "above him" is not so clear. Perhaps, simply, as those that stand are "above" those that sit; perhaps as ready to fly through infinite space at the bidding of him who was seated in his palace, as it were upon the ground. Their form, as seen by the prophet, appears to have been human, and only distinguished from ordinary humanity by the wings. Thus, though in name they resembled those other "fiery ones," which had punished the Jews in the wilderness (Numbers 21:6-9), there is nothing to show that Isaiah in any way connected the two. Each one had six wings. Gesenius is mistaken in saying that there are at Persepolis any six-winged figures ('Thesaurus,' p. 1342). The Persians not infrequently represented their genii with four wings ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 3. pp. 353, 354); but no six-winged figures have been found, so far as I know, among the Persian remains. With twain he covered his face, etc. The general idea of the six wings was probably rapid flight, the carrying out of God's behests "with speed swiftly." But, in the Divine presence, the wings were applied to a different use. One pair veiled the seraph's head from the intolerable effulgence of the Divine glory; another concealed the feet, soiled in their various ministrations, and unmeet for the all-pure presence; the third pair alone sustained the seraph in mid-air, as he hovered in readiness to depart on any errand on which Jehovah aright send him.

6:1-8 In this figurative vision, the temple is thrown open to view, even to the most holy place. The prophet, standing outside the temple, sees the Divine Presence seated on the mercy-seat, raised over the ark of the covenant, between the cherubim and seraphim, and the Divine glory filled the whole temple. See God upon his throne. This vision is explained, Joh 12:41, that Isaiah now saw Christ's glory, and spake of Him, which is a full proof that our Saviour is God. In Christ Jesus, God is seated on a throne of grace; and through him the way into the holiest is laid open. See God's temple, his church on earth, filled with his glory. His train, the skirts of his robes, filled the temple, the whole world, for it is all God's temple. And yet he dwells in every contrite heart. See the blessed attendants by whom his government is served. Above the throne stood the holy angels, called seraphim, which means burners; they burn in love to God, and zeal for his glory against sin. The seraphim showing their faces veiled, declares that they are ready to yield obedience to all God's commands, though they do not understand the secret reasons of his counsels, government, or promises. All vain-glory, ambition, ignorance, and pride, would be done away by one view of Christ in his glory. This awful vision of the Divine Majesty overwhelmed the prophet with a sense of his own vileness. We are undone if there is not a Mediator between us and this holy God. A glimpse of heavenly glory is enough to convince us that all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. Nor is there a man that would dare to speak to the Lord, if he saw the justice, holiness, and majesty of God, without discerning his glorious mercy and grace in Jesus Christ. The live coal may denote the assurance given to the prophet, of pardon, and acceptance in his work, through the atonement of Christ. Nothing is powerful to cleanse and comfort the soul, but what is taken from Christ's satisfaction and intercession. The taking away sin is necessary to our speaking with confidence and comfort, either to God in prayer, or from God in preaching; and those shall have their sin taken away who complain of it as a burden, and see themselves in danger of being undone by it. It is great comfort to those whom God sends, that they go for God, and may therefore speak in his name, assured that he will bear them out.Above it stood the seraphims,.... Not above the temple, nor above the throne, much less above him that sat upon it, but either "by him", on the right hand and on the left, as Aben Ezra; or "near him", as Kimchi and Ben Melech; or "before him", as the Targum; or "round about him", as the Septuagint; all which denote the ministering form in which they stood; by whom are meant, not the Son and Spirit, as some of the ancients thought, who imagined the Father to be the Person sitting on the throne; nor the two Testaments, as Jerom; nor angels, which is the common interpretation; but ministers of the Gospel, the same with the four beasts in Revelation 4:6 and the four living creatures in Ezekiel 1:5 the Jewish commentators in general agree that these are the same with Ezekiel's living creatures; so Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Kimchi; and the first of these cites the Midrash Agada, as saying this is the Mercavah, which is the name they give to Ezekiel's vision of the living creatures and wheels; and this appears by their name "seraphim", which signifies "burning", and so Ezekiel's living creatures are said to be "like burning coals of fire", Ezekiel 1:13 and the ministers of the Gospel are so called, because of their ministerial gifts, compared to fire, as the gifts of the spirit of God are, especially those which the apostles had bestowed on them, who were baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire, Matthew 3:11 and even the ordinary gifts of the spirit are signified by the same figure, 1 Timothy 1:6 and because of their light, which they have in the truths of the Gospel; and because of their fervent and ardent love to Christ and immortal souls; and because of their flaming zeal for his cause and interest: and this also appears by their situation near the throne, see Ezekiel 1:26 and Christ on it; where they stand as servants waiting upon him, and in order to receive from him, and where they enjoy communion with him; or "above" it may mean the temple, the church, where they stand in the highest place in it, and are over others in the Lord; they stand as servants to Christ, but preside in the church as the rulers and governors of it; to which agrees the Targum,

"holy ministers on high before him:''

and this further appears by their wings,

each one had six wings; as Ezekiel's living creatures, Ezekiel 1:4 and John's four beasts, Revelation 4:8,

with twain he covered his face; that it might not be seen, as the Targum adds; expressive of their modesty and humility, looking, upon themselves as less than the least of all the saints, and the chief of sinners, and as ashamed of themselves before the Lord; or that they might not look upon the divine Majesty, as Jarchi; or rather as being unable to look upon the dazzling glory and infinite perfections of his being; so Elijah wrapped his face in a mantle, when he heard the still small voice of the Lord, 1 Kings 19:12 and as Moses before him did, Exodus 3:6 being afraid to look upon God, conscious of creature distance, and of sinfulness and unworthiness; and therefore not so suitable to angels, who always behold the face of God, Matthew 18:10,

with twain he covered his feet; or body, that it might not be seen, as the Targum; as conscious of the imperfection of their conduct, walk, and conversation, as ministers and Christians, in the sight of God, however beautiful their feet may appear to others, Isaiah 52:7,

and with twain he did fly: or minister, as the Targum; this denotes their readiness and swiftness in preaching the everlasting Gospel, running to and fro with it, having their feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace: see Revelation 14:6.

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