Isaiah 64


The whole of this chapter, which is very pathetic and tender,

may be considered as a formulary of prayer and humiliation

intended for the Jews in order to their conversion, 1-12.


Verse 1. O that thou wouldest rend the heavens-This seems to

allude to the wonderful manifestation of God upon Mount Sinai.

Verse 2. As when the melting fire burneth-"As the fire kindleth

the dry fuel"] hamasim. "It means dry stubble, and the

root is hamas," says Rabbi Jonah, apud Sal. ben Melec in

loc. Which is approved by Schultens, Orig. Heb. p. 30.

"The fire kindling the stubble does not seem like enough to the

melting of the mountains to be brought as a simile to it. What if


'That the mountains might flow down at thy presence!

As the fire of things smelted burneth,

As the fire causeth the waters to boil-'

There is no doubt of the Hebrew words of the second line bearing

that version."-Dr. JUBB.

I submit these different interpretations to the reader's

judgment. For my own part I am inclined to think that the text is

much corrupted in this place. The ancient Versions have not the

least traces of either of the above interpretations. The

Septuagint and Syriac agree exactly together in rendering this

line by, "As the wax melted before the fire," which can by no

means be reconciled with the present text. The Vulgate, for

hamasim, read yemasu.

That the nations] For goyim, the nations, four MSS. (one

of them ancient) have harim, the mountains.-L.

Verse 4. For since the beginning of the world men have not

heard-"For never have men heard"] St. Paul is generally supposed

to have quoted this passage of Isaiah, 1Co 2:9; and Clemens

Romanus in his first epistle has made the same quotation, very

nearly in the same words with the apostle. But the citation is so

very different both from the Hebrew text and the version of the

Septuagint, that it seems very difficult, if not impossible, to

reconcile them by any literal emendation, without going beyond the

bounds of temperate criticism. One clause, "neither hath it

entered into the heart of man," (which, by the way, is a phrase

purely Hebrew, alah al leb, and should seem to belong to

the prophet,) is wholly left out; and another is repeated without

force or propriety; viz., "nor perceived by the ear," after,

"never have heard:" and the sense and expression of the apostle is

far preferable to that of the Hebrew text. Under these

difficulties I am at a loss what to do better, than to offer to

the reader this, perhaps disagreeable, alternative: either to

consider the Hebrew text and Septuagint in this place as wilfully

disguised and corrupted by the Jews; of which practice in regard

to other quotations in the New Testament from the Old, they lie

under strong suspicions, (see Dr. Owen on the version of the

Septuagint, sect. vi.-ix.;) or to look upon St. Paul's quotation

as not made from Isaiah, but from one or other of the two

apocryphal books, entitled, The Ascension of Esaiah, and the

Apocalypse of Elias, in both of which this passage was found; and

the apostle is by some supposed in other places to have quoted

such apocryphal writings. As the first of these conclusions will

perhaps not easily be admitted by many, so I must fairly warn my

readers that the second is treated by Jerome as little better than

heresy. See his comment on this place of Isaiah.-L. I would read

the whole verse thus; "Yea, from the time of old they have not

heard, they have not hearkened to, an eye hath not seen a God

besides thee. He shall work for that one that waiteth for him."

This I really think on the whole to be the best translation of the


The variations on this place are as follows: for shameu,

they have heard, a MS. and the Septuagint read shamanu,

we have heard: for the second lo, not, sixty-nine MSS. and

four editions have velo, and not, and the Syriac, Chaldee,

and Vulgate. And so veayin, and eye, Septuagint and

Syriac. eth, the, (emphatic,) is added before

Elohim, God, in MS. Bodleian. limechakkey, to them

that wait, plural, two MSS. and all the ancient Versions.-L.

Verse 5. Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh

righteousness-"Thou meetest with joy those who work

righteousness"] The Syriac reads poga attah

shesh baashi, as above.

In those is continuance, and we shall be saved-"Because of our

deeds, for we have been rebellious"] bahem olam

venivvashea. I am fully persuaded that these words as they stand

in the present Hebrew text are utterly unintelligible; there is no

doubt of the meaning of each word separately; but put together

they make no sense at all. I conclude, therefore, that the copy

has suffered by mistakes of transcribers in this place. The

corruption is of long standing, for the ancient interpreters were

as much at a loss for the meaning as the moderns, and give nothing

satisfactory. The Septuagint render these words by διατουτα

επλανηθημεν, therefore we have erred: they seem to have read

aleyhem niphsha, without helping the sense. In this

difficulty what remains but to have recourse to conjecture?

Archbishop Secker was dissatisfied with the present reading: he

proposed hebet aleynu venivvashea; "look upon us,

and we shall, or that we may, be saved:" which gives a very good

sense, but seems to have no sufficient foundation. Besides, the

word venivvashea, which is attended with great difficulties,

seems to be corrupted as well as the two preceding; and the true

reading of it is, I think, given by the Septuagint,

veniphsha, επλανηθημεν, we have erred, (so they render the verb

pasha, Isa 46:8, and Eze 23:12,) parallel to

vannecheta, ημαρτομεν, we have sinned. For bahem

olam, which means nothing, I would propose hammaaleleynu,

"because of our deeds; which I presume was first altered to

bemaaleleyhem, an easy and common mistake of the third

person plural of the pronoun for the first,

(See Clarke on Isa 33:2,)

and then with some farther alteration to behem olam.

The aleyhem, which the Septuagint probably found in

their copy, seems to be a remnant of bemaaleleyhem.

This, it may be said, is imposing your sense upon the prophet.

It may be so; for perhaps these may not be the very words of the

prophet: but however it is better than to impose upon him what

makes no sense at all; as they generally do, who pretend to render

such corrupted passages. For instance, our own translators: "in

those is continuance, and we shall be saved:" in those in whom,

or what? There is no antecedent to the relative. "In the ways of

God," say some: "with our fathers," says Vitringa, joining it in

construction with the verb, katsaphta, "thou hast been angry

with them, our fathers;" and putting vannecheta, "for we

have sinned," in a parenthesis. But there has not been any mention

of our fathers: and the whole sentence, thus disposed, is utterly

discordant from the Hebrew idiom and construction. In those is

continuance; olam means a destined but hidden and

unknown portion of time; but cannot mean continuation of time,

or continuance, as it is here rendered. Such forced

interpretations are equally conjectural with the boldest critical

emendation; and generally have this farther disadvantage, that

they are altogether unworthy of the sacred writers.-L.

Coverdale renders the passage thus:-But lo, thou art angrie, for

we offende, and have been ever in synne; and there is not one

whole. This is, I am afraid, making a sense.

After all that this very learned prelate has done to reduce

these words to sense and meaning, I am afraid we are still far

from the prophet's mind. Probably bahem, in them, refers to

deracheycha, thy ways, above. olam may be

rendered of old, or during the whole of the Jewish economy; and

venivvashea, "and shall we be saved?" Thus:-Thou art

wroth, for we have sinned in them (thy ways) of old; and can we be

saved? For we are all as an unclean thing, &c.

Verse 6. As filthy rags] iddim. Rab. Mosheh ben Maimon

interpretatur iddim, vestes quibus mulier se abstergit post

congressum cum marito suo. Alii pannus menstruatus. Alii panni

mulieris parientis.-And we ben made as unclene alle we: and as the

cloth of the woman rooten blode flowing, all our rigtwisnesses.

-Old MS. Bible. If preachers knew properly the meaning of this

word, would they make such a liberal use of it in their public

ministry? And why should any use a word, the meaning of which he

does not understand? How many in the congregation blush for the

incautious man and his "filthy rags!"

Verse 7. There is none] Twelve MSS. have ein, without the

conjunction vau prefixed; and so read the Chaldee and


And hast consumed us because of our iniquities-"And hast

delivered us up into the hands of our iniquities."] For

vattemugenu, "hast dissolved us," the Septuagint, Syriac, and

Chaldee had in their copies temaggenenu, "hast delivered

us up." Houbigant. Secker.

Verse 8. But, now, O Lord, thou art our Father-"But thou, O

JEHOVAH, thou art our Father"] For veattah, and now, five

MSS., one of them ancient, and the two oldest editions, 1486 and

1488, have veattah, and thou; and so the Chaldee seems to

have read. The repetition has great force. The other word may be

well spared. "But now, O Lord, thou art our Father." How very

affectionate is the complaint in this and the following verses!

But how does the distress increase, when they recollect the

desolations of the temple, and ruin of public worship, Isa 64:11:

"Our holy and beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is

burnt up with fire," &c.

We all are the work of thy hand] Three MSS. (two of them

ancient) and the Septuagint read maaseh, the work, without

the conjunction vau prefixed. And for yadecha, thy hand,

the Bodleian, and two others MSS., the Septuagint, Syriac, and

Vulgate read yadeycha, thy hands, in the plural number.-L.

Verse 9. Neither remember iniquity] For laad tizcor,

one of my MSS. has laad tiktsoph, "be not angry," as in

the preceding clause. This has been partially obliterated, and

tizcor, written in the margin by a later hand: but this MS.

abounds with words of this kind, all altered by later hands.

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