Isaiah 57

CHAPTER LVII

After mentioning the removal of righteous persons as an awful

symptom of the approach of Divine judgments, 1, 2,

the prophet goes on to charge the nation in general with

idolatry, and with courting the unprofitable alliance of

idolatrous kings, 3-12.

In opposition to such vain confidence, the prophet enjoins

trust in God, with whom the penitent and humble are sure to

find acceptance, and from whom they should obtain temporal and

spiritual deliverances, 13-19.

Awful condition of the wicked and finally impenitent, 20, 21.

NOTES ON CHAP. LVII

I shall give Bishop Lowth's translation of the two first verses,

and give the substance of his criticisms with additional evidence.

Ver. 1. The righteous man perisheth, and no one considereth;

And pious men are taken away, and no one understandeth,

That the righteous man is taken away because of the

evil.

2. He shall go in peace: he shall rest in his bed;

Even the perfect man: he that walketh in the straight

path.

Verse 1. The righteous perisheth] hatstsadik abad.

There is an emphasis here which seems intended to point out a

particular person. See below. Perisheth-As the root abad

signifies the straying of cattle, their passing away from one

pasture to another, I feel inclined to follow the grammatical

meaning of the word "perish," pereo. So the Vulgate, justus

periit, from per, BY or THROUGH, and eo, to GO. In his death the

righteous man may be said to have passed through life, and to have

passed by men, i.e., gone or passed before them into the eternal

world. A similar mode of speech is used by our Saxon ancestors to

express death: [Anglo-Saxon], he went out of sight; and [A.S.], he

went away; and [A.S.], to fare forth, to die.

There are very few places in Isaiah where Jesus Christ is not

intended; and I am inclined to think that He is intended here,

THAT Just One; and perhaps Stephen had this place in view, when he

thus charged the Jews, "Ye denied τοναγιονκαιδικαιον, that HOLY

and JUST One," Ac 3:14. That his death was not laid to heart by

the wicked Jewish people, needs no proof.

Merciful men] If the first refers to Christ, this may well

refer to the apostles, and to others of the primitive Christians,

who were taken away, some by death and martyrdom, and others by a

providential escape from the city that they knew was devoted to

destruction.

The evil to come.] That destruction which was to come upon this

disobedient people by the Romans.

Verse 2. He shalt enter into peace-"He shall go in peace"]

yabo shalom; the expression is elliptical, such as the

prophet frequently uses. The same sense is expressed at large and

in full terms, Ge 15:15:

veattah libbo al abotheycha beshalom, "and thou shalt go to thy

fathers in peace."

They shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his

uprightness-"He shall rest in his bed; even the perfect man."]

This obscure sentence is reduced to a perfectly good sense, and

easy construction by an ingenious remark of Dr. Durell. He reads

yanuach al mishcabo tam, "the perfect man shall

rest in his bed." Two MSS. (one of them ancient) have

yanuach, singular; and so the Vulgate renders it, requiescat,

"he shall rest." The verb was probably altered to make it plural,

and so consistent with what follows, after the mistake had been

made in the following words, by uniting mishcabo and

tam into one word. See Merrick's Annotations on the Psalms,

Addenda; where the reader will find that J. S. Moerlius, by the

same sort of correction, and by rescuing the adjective tam,

which had been swallowed up in another word in the same manner,

has restored to a clear sense a passage before absolutely

unintelligible:-

lemo chartsubboth ein ki

ulam ubari tham

"For no distresses happen to them;

Perfect and firm is their strength."

Ps 73:4.

To follow on my application of this to our Lord:-HE, the JUST

ONE, shall enter into peace-the peaceable, prosperous possession

of the glorious mediatorial kingdom. They shall rest upon their

beds-the hand of wrong and oppression can reach these persecuted

followers of Christ no more. (But see below.) The perfect man

walking in his uprightness. This may be considered as a general

declaration. The separated spirit, though disunited from its body,

walking in conscious existence in the paradise of God, reaping the

fruit of righteousness. The word which we render their beds,

mishkebotham, the learned bishop supposes to be two

words; and to be compounded of mishkabo, his bed, and

tam, the upright or perfect man. This is the reading both of the

Syriac and Vulgate, and it is favoured by the Chaldee: and one

of De Rossi's MS. has mishkabo, his bed, without the word

tam, which has been added by a later hand. Bishop Lowth, as

we have seen, adopts this separation of the word and for

yanuchu, they shall rest, reads yanuach, he shall rest,

which is supported by two of Dr. Kennicott's MSS., and by the

Vulgate, Septuagint, and Arabic. The word tam, taken from

mishkebotham, should begin the latter clause of the verse;

and then the interpolated words, each one, which our translators

supplied, may be very well spared. The verse may be then read and

paraphrased thus;-

He shall enter into peace: he shall rest upon his bed;

The perfect man walking in his uprightness.

The bed must signify the grave; the walking in uprightness after

death, the conscious existence of the happy spirit, and its

eternal progression in happiness and perfection: nechochol

straight before him; proceeding into the unlimited extent of

eternal glory, increasing in happiness, and increasing in

perfection.

My old MS. Bible translates very nervously:-

The rigtwise man perishith,

And there is not that bethinke in his herte.

And men of mercy ben gedrid,

For there is not that understonde:

From the face forsoth of malice,

Gedreid is the rigtwise.

Cumm pese: reste it in his bed

That geede in his rigt rewlinge.

It has been often remarked that, previously to the execution of

God's judgments upon a wicked place, he has removed good men from

it, that they might not suffer with the wicked. When great and

good men are removed by death, or otherwise, from any place, the

remaining inhabitants have much cause to tremble.

Verse 6. Among the smooth stones of the stream-"Among the smooth

stones of the valley"] The Jews were extremely addicted to the

practice of many superstitious and idolatrous rites, which the

prophet here inveighs against with great vehemence. Of the worship

of rude stones consecrated, there are many testimonials of the

ancients. They were called βαιτυλοι and βαιτυλια probably from

the stone which Jacob erected at Beth-el, pouring oil upon the top

of it. This practice was very common in different ages and places.

Arnobius, lib. i., gives an account of his own practice in this

respect before he became a Christian: Si quando conspexeram

lubricatum lapidem, et ex olivi unguine sordidatum; tanquam

inesset vis praesens, adulabar, affabar, et beneficia poscebam

nihil sentiente de trunco.-"When I have met with a smooth stone,

smeared with oil, supposing a spiritual power to be connected with

it, I worshipped it, paid my addresses to it, and requested

blessings," &c. Clemens Alex., Strom. lib. vii., speaks of a

worshipper of every smooth stone in a proverbial way, to denote

one given up to superstition. And accordingly Theophrastus has

marked this as one strong feature in the character of the

superstitious man: καιτωνλιπαρωνλιθωντωνενταιςτριοδοις

παριωνεκτηςληκυθουελαιουκαταχεινκαιεπιγοναταπεσωνκαι

προσκυνησαςαπαλλαττεσθαι. "Passing by the anointed stones in the

streets, he takes out his phial of oil, and pours it on them; and

having fallen on his knees, and made his adorations, he departs."

Kimchi says: "When they found a beautiful polished stone in a

brook or river, they paid Divine adoration to it." This idolatry

is still prevalent among the Hindoos. The stone which is the

object of their adoration is called salgram. They are found about

eighty miles from the source of the river Sown, in the viceroyalty

of Bahar, on the coast of Bengal. Ayeen Akbery vol. ii. p. 29.

Verse 8. Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up

thy remembrance-"Behind the door, and the door-posts, hast thou

set up thy memorial"] That is, the image of their tutelary gods,

or something dedicated to them; in direct opposition to the law of

God, which commanded them to write upon the door-posts of their

house, and upon their gates, the words of God's law;

De 6:9; 11:20. If they chose for them such a situation as more

private, it was in defiance of a particular curse denounced in the

law against the man who should make a graven or a molten image,

and put it in a secret place; De 27:15. An ancient MS., with

another, has achar, without the conjunction vau, and.

Verse 9. And thou wentest to the king with ointment-"And thou

hast visited the king with a present of oil"] That is, the king of

Assyria, or Egypt. Hosea, Ho 12:1, reproaches the Israelites for

the same practice:-

"They make a covenant with Assyria,

And oil is carried to Egypt."

It is well known, that in all parts of the east, whoever visits a

great person must carry him a present. "It is counted uncivil,"

says Maundrell, p. 26, "to visit in this country without an

offering in hand. All great men expect it as a tribute due to

their character and authority; and look upon themselves as

affronted, and indeed defrauded, when the compliment is omitted."

Hence shur, to visit a person, is equivalent to making him a

present; and teshurah signifies a present made on such

occasions; as our translators have rightly rendered it, 1Sa 9:7;

on which Jarchi says Menachem exponit teshurah, quod

significat oblationem sive manus, ut aliquis aspiciat faciem

regis, aut alicuius magnatis. "Menachem expounds teshurah of

an offering or gift which is presented in order to be admitted

into the presence of the king or some great man."

Verse 10. Yet saidst thou not, There is no hope-"Thou hast said,

There is hope"] In one of the MSS. at Koningsberg, collated by

Lilienthal, the words lo amarta, are left in the text

unpointed, as suspected; and in the margin the corrector has

written vattomari. Now if we compare Jer 2:25 and

Jer 18:12, we shall find that the subject is in both places

quite the same with this of Isaiah; and the sentiment expressed,

that of a desperate resolution to continue at all hazards in their

idolatrous practices; the very thing that in all reason we might

expect here. Probably, therefore, the latter is the true reading

in this place.-L.

Verse 11. Nor laid it to thy heart-"Nor revolved it in thy

hand"] Eight MSS., (four ancient,) and the two oldest editions,

with another, add the conjunction vau, velo: which is

confirmed by all the ancient Versions.

Even of old-"And winked"] For umeolam, which makes no

good sense or construction in this place, twenty-three MSS. (seven

ancient) and three editions have , (to be thus pointed

malim;) παροπω, Septuagint; quasi non videns, "as if not

seeing," Vulgate. See Ps 10:1. The truth of this reading, so

confirmed, admits of no doubt. In one of my own MSS. the vau has

been written, but afterwards struck out. Is it not because I was

silent, and winked?

Verse 12. Thy righteousness-"My righteousness"] For

tsidkathech, THY righteousness, the Syriac, Septuagint, MSS.

Alex. and Pachom., and I. D. II., and Marchal. and οιγ, and

the Arabic, read tsidki, MY righteousness.

Verse 13. Let thy companies deliver thee-"Let thine associates

deliver thee"] Thirty-nine MSS. (ten ancient) of Dr. Kennicott's,

and two of my own, and the two oldest editions have

yatstsiluchu, plural.

Verse 14. And shall say-"Then will I say"] vaomer, to be

pointed as the first person future. They are the words of God, as

it is plain from the conclusion of the verse; my people, ammi.

Verse 15. For thus saith the high and lofty One-"For thus saith

JEHOVAH, the high and the lofty"] A MS. adds Yehovah, after

amar, and edition Prag. 1518. So the Septuagint, Alex., and

Arabic. An ancient MS. adds Yah.

With him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit] Twelve

MSS. have eth, without the conjunction vau. Pro

veeth, forte legendum veerah: confer Ps 113:5,

et Ps 138:6.-SECKER. "We should perhaps read

veerah, instead of veeth. See Ps 113:5; 138:6."

Verse 16. For I will not contend for ever] The learned have

taken a great deal of pains to little purpose on the latter part

of this verses which they suppose to be very obscure. After all

their labours upon it, I think the best and easiest explication of

it is given in the two following elegant passages of the Psalms,

which I presume are exactly parallel to it, and very clearly

express the same sentiment.

"But he in his tender mercy will forgive their sin

And will not destroy them;

Yea, oftentimes will he turn away his wrath,

And will not rouse up his indignation:

For he remembereth that they are but flesh,

A breath that passeth, and returneth not."

Ps 78:38, 39.

"He will not always contend

Neither will he for ever hold his wrath:

As a father yearneth towards his children,

So is JEHOVAH tenderly compassionate towards them

that fear him:

For he knoweth our frame;

He remembereth that we are but dust."

Ps 103:9, 13, 14.

In the former of these two passages the second line seems to be

defective both in measure and sense. I suppose the word

otham, them, is lost at the end; which seems to be acknowledged

by the Chaldee and Vulgate, who render as if they had read

velo yaschith otham.-L.

For the spirit] ruach, the animal life.

And the souls] neshamoth, the immortal spirits. The

Targum understands this of the resurrection. I will restore the

souls of the dead, i.e., to their bodies.

Verse 17. For the iniquity of his covetousness was I

wroth-"Because of his iniquity for a short time was I wroth"]

For bitso, I read betsa, a little while, from

batsa, he cut off, as the Septuagint read and render it, βραχυτι

"a certain short space." Propter iniquitatem avaritiae ejus,

"because of the iniquity of his avarice," the rendering of the

Vulgate, which our translators and I believe all others follow,

is surely quite beside the purpose.

Verse 18. I have seen his ways] Probably these verses refer to

the restoration of the Jews from captivity.

Verse 19. I create the fruit of the lips] "The sacrifice of

praise," saith St. Paul, Heb 13:15, "is the fruit of the lips."

God creates this fruit of the lips, by giving new subject and

cause of thanksgiving by his mercies conferred on those among his

people, who acknowledge and bewail their transgressions, and

return to him. The great subject of thanksgiving is

peace-reconciliation and pardon, offered to them that are nigh,

and to them that are afar off, not only to the Jew, but also to

the Gentile, as St. Paul more than once applies those terms,

Eph 2:13, 17. See also Ac 2:39.

Peace to him that is far off-"That is, to the penitent; and to

him that is near, i.e., the righteous."-Kimchi.

Verse 21. There is no peace, saith my God] For Elohai,

twenty-two MSS. (five ancient) of Kennicott's, thirty of De

Rossi's, and one ancient of my own, read Yehovah; the

Vulgate, Septuagint, Alex., and Arabic, and three MSS. have

both. This verse has reference to the nineteenth. The

perseveringly wicked and impenitent are excluded from all share in

that peace above mentioned, that reconcilement and pardon which is

promised to the penitent only. The forty-eighth chapter ends with

the same declaration, to express the exclusion of the unbelievers

and impenitent from the benefit of the foregoing promises.-L.

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