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Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on Isaiah 1

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The Book of the Prophet Isaiah

Commentary by A. R. FAUSSET


Isa 1:1-31.

      1. THE GENERAL TITLE OR PROGRAM applying to the entire book: this discountenances the Talmud tradition, that he was sawn asunder by Manasseh.
      Isaiah--equivalent to "The Lord shall save"; significant of the subject of his prophecies. On "vision," see 1Sa 9:9 Num 12:6; and see my JF & B for Introduction.
      Judah and Jerusalem--Other nations also are the subjects of his prophecies; but only in their relation to the Jews ( Isa 13:1 - 23:18 ); so also the ten tribes of Israel are introduced only in the same relation ( Isa 7:1 - 9:21 ). Jerusalem is particularly specified, being the site of the temple, and the center of the theocracy, and the future throne of Messiah ( Psa 48:2, 3, 9 Jer 3:17 ). Jesus Christ is the "Lion of the tribe of Judah" ( Rev 5:5 ).
      Uzziah--called also Azariah ( 2Ki 14:21 2Ch 26:1, 17, 20 ). The Old Testament prophecies spiritually interpret the histories, as the New Testament Epistles interpret the Gospels and Acts. Study them together, to see their spiritual relations. Isaiah prophesied for only a few years before Uzziah's death; but his prophecies of that period ( Isa 1:1 - 6:13 ) apply to Jotham's reign also, in which he probably wrote none; for Isa 7:1-25 enters immediately on Ahaz' reign, after Uzziah in Isa 6:1-13; the prophecies under Hezekiah follow next.

      2. The very words of Moses ( Deu 32:1 ); this implies that the law was the charter and basis of all prophecy ( Isa 8:20 ).
      Lord--Jehovah; in Hebrew, "the self-existing and promise-fulfilling, unchangeable One." The Jews never pronounced this holy name, but substituted Adonai. The English Version, LORD in capitals, marks the Hebrew "Jehovah," though Lord is rather equivalent to "Adonai" than "Jehovah."
      children-- ( Exd 4:22 ).
      rebelled--as sons ( Deu 21:18 ) and as subjects, God being king in the theocracy ( Isa 63:10 ). "Brought up," literally, "elevated," namely, to peculiar privileges ( Jer 2:6-8 Rom 9:4, 5 ).

      3. ( Jer 8:7 ).
      crib--the stall where it is fed ( Pro 14:4 ). Spiritually the word and ordinances.
      Israel--The whole nation, Judah as well as Israel, in the restricted sense. God regards His covenant-people in their designed unity.
      not know--namely, his Owner, as the parallelism requires; that is, not recognize Him as such ( Exd 19:5, equivalent to "my people," Jhn 1:10, 11 ).
      consider--attend to his Master ( Isa 41:8 ), notwithstanding the spiritual food which He provides (answering to "crib" in the parallel clause).

      4. people--the peculiar designation of God's elect nation ( Hsa 1:10 ), that they should be "laden with iniquity" is therefore the more monstrous. Sin is a load ( Psa 38:4 Mat 11:28 ).
      seed--another appellation of God's elect ( Gen 12:7 Jer 2:21 ), designed to be a "holy seed" ( Isa 6:13 ), but, awful to say, "evildoers!"
      children--by adoption ( Hsa 11:1 ), yet "evildoers"; not only so, but "corrupters" of others ( Gen 6:12 ); the climax. So "nation--people--seed children."
      provoked--literally, "despised," namely, so as to provoke ( Pro 1:30, 31 ).
      Holy One of Israel--the peculiar heinousness of their sin, that it was against their God ( Amo 3:2 ).
      gone. . . backward--literally, "estranged" ( Psa 58:3 ).

      5. Why--rather, as Vulgate, "On what part." Image from a body covered all over with marks of blows ( Psa 38:3 ). There is no part in which you have not been smitten.
      head. . . sick, &c.--not referring, as it is commonly quoted, to their sins, but to the universality of their punishment. However, sin, the moral disease of the head or intellect, and the heart, is doubtless made its own punishment ( Pro 1:31 Jer 2:19 Hsa 8:11 ). "Sick," literally, "is in a state of sickness" [GESENIUS]; "has passed into sickness" [MAURER].

      6. From the lowest to the highest of the people; "the ancient and honorable, the head, the prophet that teacheth lies, the tail." See Isa 9:13-16. He first states their wretched condition, obvious to all ( Isa 1:6-9 ); and then, not previously, their irreligious state, the cause of it.
      wounds--judicially inflicted ( Hsa 5:13 ).
      mollified with ointment--The art of medicine in the East consists chiefly in external applications ( Luk 10:34 Jam 5:14 ).

      7. Judah had not in Uzziah's reign recovered from the ravages of the Syrians in Joash's reign ( 2Ch 24:24 ), and of Israel in Amaziah's reign ( 2Ch 25:13, 23, &c.). Compare Isaiah's contemporary ( Amo 4:6-11 ), where, as here ( Isa 1:9, 10 ), Israel is compared to "Sodom and Gomorrah," because of the judgments on it by "fire."
      in your presence--before your eyes: without your being able to prevent them.
      desolate, &c.--literally, "there is desolation, such as one might look for from foreign" invaders.

      8. daughter of Zion--the city ( Psa 9:14 ), Jerusalem and its inhabitants ( 2Ki 19:21 ): "daughter" (feminine, singular being used as a neuter collective noun), equivalent to sons ( Isa 12:6, Margin) [MAURER]. Metropolis or "mother city" is the corresponding term. The idea of youthful beauty is included in "daughter."
      left--as a remnant escaping the general destruction.
      cottage--a hut, made to give temporary shelter to the caretaker of the vineyard.
      lodge--not permanent.
      besieged--rather, as "left," and Isa 1:9 require, preserved, namely, from the desolation all round [MAURER].

      9. Jehovah of Sabaoth, that is, God of the angelic and starry hosts ( Psa 59:5 147:4 148:2 ). The latter were objects of idolatry, called hence Sabaism ( 2Ki 17:16 ). God is above even them ( 1Ch 16:26 ). "The groves" were symbols of these starry hosts; it was their worship of Sabaoth instead of the Lord of Sabaoth, which had caused the present desolation ( 2Ch 24:18 ). It needed no less a power than His, to preserve even a "remnant." Condescending grace for the elect's sake, since He has no need of us, seeing that He has countless hosts to serve Him.

      10. Sodom--spiritually ( Gen 19:24 Jer 23:14 Eze 16:46 Rev 11:8 ).

      11. God does not here absolutely disparage sacrifice, which is as old and universal as sin ( Gen 3:21 4:4 ), and sin is almost as old as the world; but sacrifice, unaccompanied with obedience of heart and life ( 1Sa 15:22 Psa 50:9-13 51:16-19 Hsa 6:6 ). Positive precepts are only means; moral obedience is the end. A foreshadowing of the gospel, when the One real sacrifice was to supersede all the shadowy ones, and "bring in everlasting righteousness" ( Psa 40:6, 7 Dan 9:24-27 Hbr 10:1-14 ).
      full--to satiety; weary of
      burnt offerings--burnt whole, except the blood, which was sprinkled about the altar.
      fat--not to be eaten by man, but burnt on the altar ( Lev 3:4, 5, 11, 17 ).

      12. appear before me--in the temple where the Shekinah, resting on the ark, was the symbol of God's presence ( Exd 23:15 Psa 42:2 ).
      who hath required this--as if you were doing God a service by such hypocritical offerings ( Job 35:7 ). God did require it ( Exd 23:17 ), but not in this spirit ( Mic 6:6, 7 ).
      courts--areas, which the worshippers were. None but priests entered the temple itself.

      13. oblations--unbloody; "meat (old English sense, not flesh) offerings," that is, of flour, fruits, oil, &c. ( Lev 2:1-13 ). Hebrew, mincha.
      incense--put upon the sacrifices, and burnt on the altar of incense. Type of prayer ( Psa 141:2 Rev 8:3 ).
      new moons--observed as festivals ( Num 10:10 28:11, 14 ) with sacrifices and blowing of silver trumpets.
      sabbaths--both the seventh day and the beginning and closing days of the great feasts ( Lev 23:24-39 ).
      away with--bear, MAURER translates, "I cannot bear iniquity and the solemn meeting," that is, the meeting associated with iniquity--literally, the closing days of the feasts; so the great days ( Lev 23:36 Jhn 7:37 ).

      14. appointed--the sabbath, passover, pentecost, day of atonement, and feast of tabernacles [HENGSTENBERG]; they alone were fixed to certain times of the year.
      weary-- ( Isa 43:24 ).

      15. ( Psa 66:18 Pro 28:9 Lam 3:43, 44 ).
      spread. . . hands--in prayer ( 1Ki 8:22 ). Hebrew, "bloods," for all heinous sins, persecution of God's servants especially ( Mat 23:35 ). It was the vocation of the prophets to dispel the delusion, so contrary to the law itself ( Deu 10:16 ), that outward ritualism would satisfy God.

      16. God saith to the sinner, "Wash you," &c., that he, finding his inability to "make" himself "clean," may cry to God, Wash me, cleanse me ( Psa 51:2, 7, 10 ).
      before mine eyes--not mere outward reformation before man's eyes, who cannot, as God, see into the heart ( Jer 32:19 ).

      17. seek judgment--justice, as magistrates, instead of seeking bribes ( Jer 22:3, 16 ).
      judge--vindicate ( Psa 68:5 Jam 1:27 ).

      18. God deigns to argue the case with us, that all may see the just, nay, loving principle of His dealings with men ( Isa 43:26 ).
      scarlet--the color of Jesus Christ's robe when bearing our "sins" ( Mat 27:28 ). So Rahab's thread ( Jos 2:18; compare Lev 14:4 ). The rabbins say that when the lot used to be taken, a scarlet fillet was bound on the scapegoat's head, and after the high priest had confessed his and the people's sins over it, the fillet became white: the miracle ceased, according to them, forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem, that is, exactly when Jesus Christ was crucified; a remarkable admission of adversaries. Hebrew for "scarlet" radically means double-dyed; so the deep-fixed permanency of sin in the heart, which no mere tears can wash away.
      snow-- ( Psa 51:7 ). Repentance is presupposed, before sin can be made white as snow ( Isa 1:19, 20 ); it too is God's gift ( Jer 31:18-38 Lam 5:21 Act 5:31 ).
      red--refers to "blood" ( Isa 1:15 ).
      as wool--restored to its original undyed whiteness. This verse shows that the old fathers did not look only for transitory promises (Article VII, Book of Common Prayer). For sins of ignorance, and such like, alone had trespass offerings appointed for them; greater guilt therefore needed a greater sacrifice, for, "without shedding of blood there was no remission"; but none such was appointed, and yet forgiveness was promised and expected; therefore spiritual Jews must have looked for the One Mediator of both Old Testament and New Testament, though dimly understood.

      19, 20. Temporal blessings in "the land of their possession" were prominent in the Old Testament promises, as suited to the childhood of the Church ( Exd 3:17 ). New Testament spiritual promises derive their imagery from the former ( Mat 5:5 ).

      20. Lord hath spoken it--Isaiah's prophecies rest on the law ( Lev 26:33 ).

      21. faithful--as a wife ( Isa 54:5 62:5 Hsa 2:19, 20 ).
      harlot-- ( Eze 16:28-35 ).
      righteousness lodged-- ( 2Pe 3:13 ).
      murderers--murderous oppressors, as the antithesis requires (see on JF & B for Isa 1:15; JF & B for 1Jo 3:15).

      22. Thy princes and people are degenerate in "solid worth," equivalent to "silver" ( Jer 6:28, 30 Eze 22:18, 19 ), and in their use of the living Word, equivalent to "wine" ( Sgs 7:9 ).
      mixed--literally, "circumcised." So the Arabic, "to murder" wine, equivalent to dilute it.

      23. companions of thieves--by connivance ( Pro 29:24 ).
      gifts-- ( Eze 22:12 ). A nation's corruption begins with its rulers.

      24. Lord. . . Lord--Adonai, JEHOVAH.
      mighty One of Israel--mighty to take vengeance, as before, to save.
      ease me--My long tried patience will find relief in at last punishing the guilty ( Eze 5:13 ). God's language condescends to human conceptions.

      25. turn. . . hand--not in wrath, but in grace ( Zec 13:7 ), "upon thee," as Isa 1:26, 27 show; contrasted with the enemies, of whom He will avenge Himself ( Isa 1:24 ).
      purely--literally, "as alkali purifies."
      thy dross--not thy sins, but the sinful persons ( Jer 6:29 ); "enemies" ( Isa 1:24 ); degenerate princes (see on JF & B for Isa 1:22), intermingled with the elect "remnant" of grace.
      tin--Hebrew, bedil, here the alloy of lead, tin, &c., separated by smelting from the silver. The pious Bishop Bedell took his motto from this.

      26. As the degeneracy had shown itself most in the magistrates ( Isa 1:17-23 ), so, at the "restoration," these shall be such as the theocracy "at the first" had contemplated, namely, after the Babylonish restoration in part and typically, but fully and antitypically under Messiah ( Isa 32:1 52:8 Jer 33:7 Mat 19:28 ).
      faithful--no longer "an harlot."

      27. redeemed--temporarily, civilly, and morally; type of the spiritual redemption by the price of Jesus Christ's blood ( 1Pe 1:18, 19 ), the foundation of "judgment" and righteousness, and so of pardon. The judgment and "righteousness" are God's first ( Isa 42:21 Rom 3:26 ); so they become man's when "converted" ( Rom 8:3, 4 ); typified in the display of God's "justice," then exhibited in delivering His covenant-people, whereby justice or "righteousness" was produced in them.
      converts--so MAURER. But Margin, "they that return of her," namely the remnant that return from captivity. However, as Isaiah had not yet expressly foretold the Babylonian captivity, the English Version is better.

      28. destruction--literally, "breaking into shivers" ( Rev 2:27 ). The prophets hasten forward to the final extinction of the ungodly ( Psa 37:20 Rev 19:20 20:15 ); of which antecedent judgments are types.

      29. ashamed-- ( Rom 6:21 ).
      oaks--Others translate the "terebinth" or "turpentine tree." Groves were dedicated to idols. Our Druids took their name from the Greek for "oaks." A sacred tree is often found in Assyrian sculpture; symbol of the starry hosts, Saba.
      gardens--planted enclosures for idolatry; the counterpart of the garden of Eden.

      30. oak--Ye shall be like the "oaks," the object of your "desire" ( Isa 1:29 ). People become like the gods they worship; they never rise above their level ( Psa 135:18 ). So men's sins become their own scourges ( Jer 2:9 ). The leaf of the idol oak fades by a law of necessary consequence, having no living sap or "water" from God. So "garden" answers to "gardens" ( Isa 1:29 ).

      31. strong--powerful rulers ( Amo 2:9 ).
      maker of it--rather, his work. He shall be at once the fuel, "tow," and the cause of the fire, by kindling the first "spark."
      both--the wicked ruler, and "his work," which "is as a spark."

Introduction to Song of Solomon ← Prior Book
Introduction to Jeremiah Next Book →
Introduction to Isaiah ← Prior Chapter
Commentary on Isaiah 2 Next Chapter →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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