Isaiah 58


This elegant chapter contains a severe reproof of the Jews on

account of their vices, particularly their hypocrisy in

practising and relying on outward ceremonies, such as fasting

and bodily humiliation, without true repentance, 1-5.

It then lays down a clear and comprehensive summary of the

duties they owed to their fellow creatures, 6, 7.

Large promises of happiness and prosperity are likewise annexed

to the performance of these duties in a variety of the most

beautiful and striking images, 8-12.

Great temporal and spiritual blessedness of those who keep holy

the Sabbath day, 13, 14.


Verse 1. Cry aloud, spare not] Never was a louder cry against

the hypocrisy, nor a more cutting reproof of the wickedness, of a

people professing a national established religion, having all the

forms of godliness without a particle of its power. This chapter

has been often appointed to be read on political fast days for the

success of wars carried on for-God knows what purposes, and

originating in-God knows what motives. Politically speaking, was

ever any thing more injudicious?

Verse 3. Have we adopted our soul-"Have we afflicted our souls"]

Twenty-seven MSS. (six ancient) of Dr. Kennicott's, thirty-six

of De Rossi's, and two of my own, and the old edition of 1488 have

the noun in the plural number, naphsheynu, our souls; and

so the Septuagint, Chaldee, and Vulgate. This reading is

undoubtedly genuine.

In the day of your fast ye find pleasure] Fast days are

generally called holidays, and holidays are days of idleness and

pleasure. In numberless cases the fast is turned into a feast.

And exact all your labours.] Some disregard the most sacred

fast, and will oblige their servant to work all day long; others

use fast days for the purpose of settling their accounts, posting

up their books, and drawing out their bills to be ready to collect

their debts. These are sneaking hypocrites; the others are

daringly irreligious.

Verse 4. Ye fast for strife and debate] How often is this the

case! A whole nation are called to fast to implore God's blessing

on wars carried on for the purposes of wrath and ambition.

To smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do

this day-"To smite with the fist the poor. Wherefore fast ye unto

me in this manner"] I follow the version of the Septuagint, which

gives a much better sense than the present reading of the Hebrew.

Instead of resha lo, they seem to have read in their copy

rash al mah lli. The four first letters are the

same, but otherwise divided in regard to the words; the four last

are lost, and aleph added in their place, in order to make some

sort of sense with . The version of the Septuagint is, και

τυπτετετυγμαιςταπεινονινατιμοινηστευετε- as above.

Verse 6. Let the oppressed go free] How can any nation pretend

to fast or worship God at all, or dare to profess that they

believe in the existence of such a Being, while they carry on the

slave trade, and traffic in the souls, blood, and bodies, of

men! O ye most flagitious of knaves, and worst of hypocrites, cast

off at once the mask of religion; and deepen not your endless

perdition by professing the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, while

ye continue in this traffic!

Verse 7. Deal thy bread to the hungry] But this thou canst not

do, if thou eat it thyself. When a man fasts, suppose he do it

through a religious motive, he should give the food of that day,

from which he abstains, to the poor and hungry, who, in the course

of providence, are called to sustain many involuntary fasts,

besides suffering general privations. Wo to him who saves a day's

victuals by his religious fast! He should either give them or

their value in money to the poor. See Isa 58:6.

That thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house-"To

bring the wandering poor into thy house"] πτωχουςαστεγους,

Septuagint; egenos vagosque, Vulgate; and

metaltelin, Chaldee. They read, instead of merudim,

hanudim. mer is upon a rasure in the Bodleian MS.

The same MS. reads bayethah, in domum, "into the house."-L.

Verse 8. And thine health shall spring forth speedily-"And thy

wounds shall speedily be healed over"] Et cicatrix vulneris tui

cito obducetur; "And the scar of thy wounds shall be speedily

removed." Aquila's Version, as reported by Jerome, with which

agrees that of the Chaldee.

The glory-"And the glory"] Sixteen MSS. (five ancient) of Dr.

Kennicott's, and the Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate add the

conjunction vau, vechabod.

Verse 10. And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry-"If thou

bring forth thy bread to the hungry"] "To draw out thy soul to the

hungry," as our translators rightly enough express the present

Hebrew text, is an obscure phrase, and without example in any

other place. But instead of naphshecha, thy soul, eight MSS.

(three ancient) of Kennicott's and three of De Rossi's read

lachmecha, thy bread; and so the Syriac renders it. The Septuagint

express both words, τοναρτονεκτηςψυχηςσου, "thy bread from

thy soul." I cannot help thinking, however, that this reading is a

gloss, and should not be adopted. To draw out the soul in

relieving the poor, is to do it, not of constraint or necessity,

but cheerfully, and is both nervous and elegant. His soul pities

and his hand gives.

Verse 11. And make fat thy bones-"And he shall renew thy

strength"] Chaldaeus forte legit yachaliph

otsmathecha; confer cap. xl. 29, 31, et xli. 1.-SECKER. "The

Chaldee perhaps read yachaliph otsmathecha." The

Chaldee has veguphach vechaiyey bechaiyey

alma, "and he will vivify thy body in life eternal." The rest of

the ancients seem not to know what to make of yachalits; and

the rendering of the Vulgate, which seems to be the only proper

one, ossa tua liberabit, "he will deliver thy bones," makes no

sense. I follow this excellent emendation; to favour which it is

still farther to be observed that three MSS., instead of

atsmotheycha, have otsmathecha, singular.-L.

Verse 12. The restorer of paths to dwell in-"The restorer of

paths to be frequented by inhabitants."] To this purpose it is

rendered by the Syriac, Symmachus, and Theodotion.

Verse 13. If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath] The

meaning of this seems to be, that they should be careful not to

take their pleasure on the Sabbath day, by paying visits, and

taking country jaunts; not going, as Kimchi interprets it, more

than a Sabbath day's journey, which was only two thousand cubits

beyond the city's suburbs. How vilely is this rule transgressed by

the inhabitants of this land! They seem to think that the Sabbath

was made only for their recreation!

From doing thy pleasure] The Septuagint, Syriac, and Chaldee,

for asoth, manifestly express measoth. So

likewise a MS. has it, but with the omission of the words

shabbath raglecha.-L.

The holy of the Lord-"And the holy feast of JEHOVAH"]

Twenty-eight MSS. (seven ancient) add the conjunction vau,

velikedosh; and so the Syriac, Chaldee, and Vulgate.

One of my own has the same reading.

Nor speaking thine own words-"From speaking vain words."] It is

necessary to add some epithet to make out the sense; the

Septuagint say, angry words; the Chaldee, words of violence. If

any such epithet is lost here, the safest way is to supply it by

the prophet's own expression, Isa 58:9,

vedabar aven, vain words; that is, profane, impious, injurious,


"The additional epithet seems unnecessary; the Vulgate and

Syriac have it not; and the sense is good without it; two ways,

first by taking vedabar for a noun, and dabur for

the participle pahul, and rendering,-

'From pursuing thy pleasure, and the thing resolved on.'

Or, secondly, by supposing the force of the preposition mem to

have been continued from the verb mimmetso to the verb

vedabber immediately following; and rendering,-

'From executing thy pleasure, and from speaking words

concerning it.'

But the first seems the easier rendering."-Dr. JUBB.

Verse 14. Then shalt thou delight thyself] If all fasts and

religious observances be carried on in the spirit and manner

recommended above, God's blessing will attend every ordinance. But

in public fasts, prescribed not in the Book of God, but by the

rulers of nations in general (very unfit persons) care should be

taken that the cause is good, and that God's blessing may be

safely implored in it.

France has lately fasted and prayed that they might be able to

subjugate Spain, restore and establish the horrible inquisition,

and utterly destroy all the liberties of the people! Is this such

a fast as God hath chosen?-A.D. 1823.

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