Isaiah 6


This chapter, by a particular designation of Isaiah to the

prophetic office, 1-8,

introduces, with great solemnity, a declaration of the whole

tenor of the Diving conduct in reference to his people, who, on

account of their unbelief and impenitence, should for a very

long period be given up to a judicial blindness and hardness of

heart, 9, 10;

and visited with such calamities as would issue on the total

desolation of their country, and their general dispersion,

11, 12.

The prophet adds, however, that under their repeated

dispersions, (by the Chaldeans, Romans, &c.,) a small remnant

would be preserved as a seed from which will be raised a

people, in whom will be fulfilled all the Divine promises, 13.

As this vision seems to contain a solemn designation of Isaiah

to the prophetic office, it is by most interpreters thought to be

the first in order of his prophecies. But this perhaps may not be

so; for Isaiah is said, in the general title of his prophecies, to

have prophesied in the time of Uzziah, whose acts, first and last,

he wrote, 2Ch 26:22; which is usually done by a contemporary

prophet; and the phrase, in the year that Uzziah died, probably

means after the death of Uzziah; as the same phrase (Isa 14:28)

means after the death of Ahaz. Not that Isaiah's prophecies are

placed in exact order of time. Chapters ii., iii., iv., v., seem

by internal marks to be antecedent to chap. i.; they suit the time

of Uzziah, or the former part of Jotham's reign; whereas chap. i.

can hardly be earlier than the last years of Jotham. See note on

Isa 1:7, and Isa 2:1. This might be a new designation, to

introduce more solemnly a general dedication of the whole course

of God's dispensations in regard to his people and the fates of

the nation; which are even now still depending, and will not be

fully accomplished till the final restoration of Israel.

In this vision the ideas are taken in general from royal

majesty, as displayed by the monarchs of the East; for the prophet

could not represent the ineffable presence of God by any other

than sensible and earthly images. The particular scenery of it is

taken from the temple. God is represented as seated on his throne

above the ark, in the most holy place, where the glory appeared

above the cherubim, surrounded by his attendant ministers. This is

called by God himself "the place of his throne, and the place of

the soles of his feet," Eze 43:7. "A glorious throne exalted of

old, is the place of our sanctuary," saith the prophet Jeremiah,

Jer 17:12. The very posture of sitting is a mark of state and

solemnity: Sed et ipsum verbum sedere regni significat potestatem,

saith Jerome, Comment. in Eph. i. 20. See note on chap. iii. 2.

St. John, who has taken many sublime images from the prophets of

the Old Testament, and in particular from Isaiah, hath exhibited

the same scenery, drawn out into a greater number of particulars;

Re 4:1-11.

The veil, separating the most holy place from the holy or

outermost part of the temple, is here supposed to be taken away;

for the prophet, to whom the whole is exhibited, is manifestly

placed by the altar of burnt-offering, at the entrance of the

temple, (compare Eze 43:5, 6,) which was filled with the train of

the robe, the spreading and overflowing of the Divine glory. The

Lord upon the throne, according to St. John (Joh 12:41,) was

Christ; and the vision related to his future kingdom when the veil

of separation was to be removed, and the whole earth was to be

filled with the glory of God, revealed to all mankind: which is

likewise implied in the hymn of the seraphim, the design of which

is, saith Jerome on the place, Ut mysterium Trinitatis in una

Divinitate demonstrent; et nequaquam templum Judaicum, sicut

prius, sed omnem terram illius gloria plenam esse testentur; "That

they may point out the mystery of the Trinity in one Godhead; and

that the Jewish temple alone should not be, as formerly, the place

of the Divine glory, for the whole earth should be filled with

it." It relates, indeed, primarily to the prophet's own time, and

the obduration of the Jews of that age, and their punishment by

the Babylonish captivity; but extends in its full attitude to the

age of Messiah, and the blindness of the Jews to the Gospel, (see

Mt 13:14; Joh 12:40; Ac 28:26; Ro 11:8,) the desolation

of their country by the Romans, and their being rejected by God.

That nevertheless a holy seed-a remnant, should be preserved; and

that the nation should spread out and flourish again from the old



Verse 1. The Lord] Fifty-one MSS. of Kennicott's, and

fifty-four of De Rossi's, and one edition; in the 8th verse,

forty-four MSS. of Kennicott's, and forty-six of De Rossi's,

and one edition; and in the 11th verse thirty-three MSS. of

Kennicott's, and many of De Rossi's, and one edition, for

Adonai, "the Lord" read "JEHOVAH," which is probably the true

reading; (compare Isa 6:8;) as in many other places, in which the

superstition of the Jews has substituted Adonai for

Yehovah. One of my own MSS., a very ancient and large folio, to

which the points and the masora have been added by a later hand,

has Yehovah in the 1st and 8th verses, in the teeth of the

masora, which orders it in both places to be read Adonai.

Verse 2. Above it stood the seraphim] seraphim, from

seraph, to burn. He saw says Kimchi, the angels as flames of

fire, that the depravity of that generation might be exhibited,

which was worthy of being totally burnt up.

He covered his feet-"He covereth his feet"] By the feet the

Hebrews mean all the lower parts of the body. But the people of

the East generally wearing long robes, reaching to the ground, and

covering the lower parts of the body down to the feet, it may

hence have been thought want of respect and decency to appear in

public and on solemn occasions with even the feet themselves

uncovered. Kempfer, speaking of the king of Persia giving

audience, says, Rex in medio supremi atrii cruribus more patrio

inflexis sedebat: corpus tunica investiebat flava, ad suras cum

staret protensa; discumbentis vero pedes discalceatos pro

urbanitate patria operiens.-Amoen. Exot. p. 227. "The king sat on

the floor cross-legged, as is the custom of the country. He was

covered with a yellow garment, which reached down to the feet when

standing, but covered the feet for decency when sitting with his

slippers off." Sir John Chardin's MS. note on this place of Isaiah

is as follows: Grande marque de respect en orient de se cacher les

pieds, quand on est assis, et de baisser le visage. Quand le

souvrain se monstre en Chine et a Japon, chacun se jette le visage

contre terre, et il n'est pas permis de regarder le roi; "It is a

great mark of respect in the East to cover the feet, and to bow

down the head in the presence of the king."

Verse 3. Holy, holy, holy] This hymn performed by the seraphim,

divided into two choirs, the one singing responsively to the

other, which Gregory Nazian., Carm. 18, very elegantly calls

συμφωνοναντιφωνοναγγελωνστασιν, is formed upon the practice

of alternate singing, which prevailed in the Jewish Church from

the time of Moses, whose ode at the Red Sea was thus performed,

(see Ex 15:20, 21,) to that of Ezra, under whom the priests and

Levites sung alternately,

"O praise JEHOVAH, for he is gracious;

For his mercy endureth for ever;"

Ezr 3:11. See De Sac. Poes. Hebr. Prael. xix., at the beginning.

Verse 5. Wo is me! for I am undone] nidmeythi, I am

become dumb. There is something exceedingly affecting in this

complaint. I am a man of unclean lips; I cannot say, Holy, holy,

holy! which the seraphs exclaim. They are holy; I am not so: they

see God, and live; I have seen him, and must die, because I am

unholy. Only the pure in heart shall see God; and they only can

live in his presence for ever, Reader, lay this to heart; and

instead of boasting of thy excellence, and trusting in thy might,

or comforting thyself in thy comparative innocence, thou wilt also

be dumb before him, because thou hast been a man of unclean lips,

and because thou hast still an unclean heart.

I am undone-"I am struck dumb"] nidmeythi, twenty-eight

MSS. (five ancient) and three editions.-I understand it as from

dum or damam, silere, "to be silent;" and so it is

rendered by the Syriac, Vulgate, Symmachus, and by some of the

Jewish interpreters, apud Sal. b. Melec. The rendering of the

Syriac is tavir ani, stupens, attonitus sum, "I am

amazed." He immediately gives the reason why he was struck dumb:

because he was a man of polluted lips, and dwelt among a people of

polluted lips, and was unworthy, either to join the seraphim in

singing praises to God, or to be the messenger of God to his

people. Compare Ex 4:10; 6:12; Jer 1:6.

Verse 6. A live coal] The word of prophecy, which was put into

the mouth of the prophet.

From off the altar] That is, from the altar of burnt-offerings,

before the door of the temple, on which the fire that came down at

first from heaven (Le 9:24; 2Ch 7:1) was perpetually burning. It

was never to be extinguished, Le 6:12, 13.

Verse 9. And he said] li, to me, two MSS. and the Syriac.

Thirteen MSS. have raah, in the regular form.

Verse 10. Make the heart of this people fat-"Gross"] The prophet

speaks of the event, the fact as it would actually happen, not of

God's purpose and act by his ministry. The prophets are in other

places said to perform the thing which they only foretell:-

"Lo! I have given thee a charge this day

Over the nations, and over the kingdoms;

To pluck up, and to pull down;

To destroy, and to demolish;

To build, and to plant."

Jer 1:10.

And Ezekiel says, "When I came to destroy the city," that is, as

it is rendered in the margin of our version, "when I came to

prophesy that the city should be destroyed; " Eze 43:3. To hear,

and not understand; to see, and not perceive; is a common saying

in many languages. Demosthenes uses it, and expressly calls it a

proverb: ωστετοτηςπαροιμιαςορωνταςμηορανκαιακουονταςμη

ακουειν; Contra Aristogit. I., sub fin. The prophet, by the bold

figure in the sentiment above mentioned, and the elegant form and

construction of the sentence, has raised it from a common proverb

into a beautiful mashal, and given it the sublime air of poetry.

Or the words may be understood thus, according to the Hebrew

idiom: "Ye certainly hear, but do not understand; ye certainly

see, but do not acknowledge." Seeing this is the case, make the

heart of this people fat-declare it to be stupid and senseless;

and remove from them the means of salvation, which they have so

long abused.

There is a saying precisely like this in AEschylus:-


κλυοντεςουκηκουον. AESCH. Prom. Vinct. 456.

"Seeing, they saw in vain; and hearing, they

did not understand."

And shut-"Close up"] hasha. This word Sal. ben Melec

explains to this sense, in which it is hardly used elsewhere, on

the authority of Onkelos. He says it means closing up the eyes, so

that one cannot see; that the root is shava, by which word the

Targum has rendered the word tach, Le 14:42,

vetach eth beith, "and shall plaster the house." And

the word tach is used in the same sense, Isa 44:18. So that

it signifies to close up the eyes by some matter spread upon the

lids. Mr. Harmer very ingeniously applies to this passage a

practice of sealing up the eyes as a ceremony, or as a kind of

punishment used in the East, from which the image may possibly be

taken. Observ. ii. 278.

With their heart-"With their hearts"] ubilebabo, fifteen

MSS. of Kennicott's and fourteen of De Rossi's, and two

editions, with the Septuagint, Syriac, Chaldee, and Vulgate.

And be healed-"And I should heal"] veer pa, Septuagint,

Vulgate. So likewise Mt 13:14; Joh 12:40; Ac 28:27.

Verse 11. Be utterly desolate-"Be left"] For tishaeh, the

Septuagint and Vulgate read tishshaer.

Verse 13. A tenth] This passage, though somewhat obscure, and

variously explained by various interpreters, has, I think, been

made so clear by the accomplishment of the prophecy, that there

remains little room to doubt of the sense of it. When

Nebuchadnezzar had carried away the greater and better part of the

people into captivity, there was yet a tenth remaining in the

land, the poorer sort left to be vine-dressers and husbandmen,

under Gedaliah, 2Ki 25:12, 22, and the dispersed Jews gathered

themselves together, and returned to him, Jer 40:12; yet even

these, fleeing into Egypt after the death of Gedaliah, contrary to

the warning of God given by the prophet Jeremiah, miserably

perished there. Again, in the subsequent and more remarkable

completion of the prophecy in the destruction of Jerusalem, and

the dissolution of the commonwealth by the Romans, when the Jews,

after the loss of above a million of men, had increased from the

scanty residue that was left of them, and had become very numerous

again in their country; Hadrian, provoked by their rebellious

behaviour, slew above half a million more of them, and a second

time almost extirpated the nation. Yet after these signal and

almost universal destructions of that nation, and after so many

other repeated exterminations and massacres of them in different

times and on various occasions since, we yet see, with

astonishment, that the stock still remains, from which God,

according to his promise frequently given by his prophets, will

cause his people to shoot forth again, and to flourish.-L.

A tenth, asiriyah. The meaning, says Kimchi, of

this word is, there shall yet be in the land ten kings from the

time of declaring this prophecy. The names of the ten kings are

Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jehoahaz,

Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah; then there shall be a general

consumption, the people shall be carried into captivity, and

Jerusalem shall be destroyed.

For bam, in them, above seventy MSS., eleven of

Kennicott's, and thirty-four of De Rossi's, read bah,

in it; and so the Septuagint.

Copyright information for Clarke