Isaiah 1:9
Except the LORD of hosts had left to us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like to Gomorrah.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) Except the Lord of hosts . . .—This name also had been stamped on the prophet’s mind at the time of his call (Isaiah 6:3). The God of the hosts (or armies) of heaven (sun, moon and stars, angels and archangels) and of earth had not been unmindful of the people. The idea of the “remnant” left when the rest of the people perished is closely connected with the leading thought of Isaiah 6:12-13. It had, perhaps, been impressed on the prophet’s mind by the “remnant” of Israel that had escaped from Tiglath-pileser or Sargon (2Chronicles 30:6; comp. Micah 5:7).

We should have been as Sodom . . .—Here the prophet, continuing perhaps the thought of Isaiah 1:7, speaks of the destruction, in the next verse of the guilt, of the cities of the plain. Both had passed into a proverb. So Ezekiel (Ezekiel 16:46-56) works out the parallelism; so our Lord speaks of the guilt of Sodom as being lighter than that of Capernaum (Matthew 11:23); so the tradition has condensed itself in the Arabic proverb, quoted by Cheyne, “More unjust than a kadi of Sodom.” (Comp. Isaiah 3:9; Deuteronomy 32:32.)

Isaiah 1:9. Except the Lord had left us a remnant — If God, by his infinite power and goodness, had not restrained our enemies, and reserved some of us, we should have been as Sodom — The whole nation of us had been utterly cut off, as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were. So great was the rage and power of our enemies, and so utterly unable were we to deliver ourselves. This remnant was “a type of those few converts among the Jews, who, embracing the gospel, escaped both the temporal and eternal judgments which came upon the rest of the nation for rejecting Christ and his messengers,” Romans 9:2; Romans 11:5. — Lowth.1:1-9 Isaiah signifies, The salvation of the Lord; a very suitable name for this prophet, who prophesies so much of Jesus the Saviour, and his salvation. God's professing people did not know or consider that they owed their lives and comforts to God's fatherly care and kindness. How many are very careless in the affairs of their souls! Not considering what we do know in religion, does us as much harm, as ignorance of what we should know. The wickedness was universal. Here is a comparison taken from a sick and diseased body. The distemper threatens to be mortal. From the sole of the foot even to the head; from the meanest peasant to the greatest peer, there is no soundness, no good principle, no religion, for that is the health of the soul. Nothing but guilt and corruption; the sad effects of Adam's fall. This passage declares the total depravity of human nature. While sin remains unrepented, nothing is done toward healing these wounds, and preventing fatal effects. Jerusalem was exposed and unprotected, like the huts or sheds built up to guard ripening fruits. These are still to be seen in the East, where fruits form a large part of the summer food of the people. But the Lord had a small remnant of pious servants at Jerusalem. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed. The evil nature is in every one of us; only Jesus and his sanctifying Spirit can restore us to spiritual health.Except ... - It is owing entirely to the mercy of God, that we are not like Sodom. The prophet traces this not to the goodness of the nation, not to any power or merit of theirs, but solely to the mercy of God. This passage the apostle Paul has used in an argument to establish the doctrine of divine sovereignty in the salvation of people; see the note at Romans 9:29.

The Lord - Hebrew Yahweh. Note Isaiah 1:2.

Of hosts - צבאות tsebâ'ôth - the word sometimes translated "Sabaoth"; Romans 9:29; James 5:4. The word means literally armies or military hosts. It is applied, however, to the angels which surround the throne of God; 1 Kings 22:19; 2 Chronicles 18:18; Psalm 103:21; and to the stars or constellations that appear to be marshalled in the sky; Jeremiah 33:22; Isaiah 40:26. This host, or the "host of heaven," was frequently an object of idolatrous worship; Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 17:3; 2 Kings 17:16. God is called Yahweh of hosts because he is at the head of all these armies, as their leader and commander; he marshals and directs them - as a general does the army under his command. 'This,' says Gesenius, 'is the most common name of God in Isaiah, and in Jeremiah, Zechariah, and Malachi. It represents him as the ruler of the hosts of heaven, that is, the angels and the stars. Sometimes, but less frequently, we meet with the appellation Yahweh, God of hosts. Hence, some suppose the expression Yahweh of hosts to be elliptical. But it is not a correct assertion that Yahweh, as a proper name, admits of no genitive. But such relations and adjuncts as depend upon the genitive, often depend upon proper names. So in Arabic, one is called Rebiah of the poor in reference to his liability.' The name is given here, because to save any portion of a nation so wicked implied the exercise of the same power as that by which he controlled the hosts of heaven.

Remnant - A small part - that which is left. It means here, that God had spared a portion of the nation, so that they were not entirely overthrown.

We should have been as Sodom ... - This does not refer to the character of the people, but to their destiny. If God had not interposed to save them they would have been overwhelmed entirely as Sodom was; compare Genesis 19:24-25.

9. Jehovah of Sabaoth, that is, God of the angelic and starry hosts (Ps 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. If God, by his infinite power and goodness, had not restrained our enemies, and reserved some of us, the whole nation and race of us had been utterly cut off, as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were; so great was the rage and power of our enemies, and so utterly unable we were to deliver ourselves. Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant,.... This is an instance of the super abounding goodness of the Lord of hosts, as the Targum expresses it; that he should, in those very wicked and calamitous times, leave and reserve a few from being defiled with the sins of the age, and from being involved in the general calamity of it; which was true of the Christian Jews at the time of Jerusalem's destruction; for that this prophecy belongs to these times is clear from the application of it by the Apostle Paul, Romans 9:29 and which confirms the sense given of the above passages: "the very small remnant" are the remnant according to the election of grace, the little flock, the few that entered in at the strait gate and are saved, or the few that believed in Christ, and so were saved from that untoward generation; these were "left", reserved, distinguished, and secured in the grace of election, being a remnant according to it, in the hands of Christ to whom they were given, and in whom they were preserved; in redemption by him, that they might be a peculiar people; in providence till called, in which the Lord watched over them to do them good, and waited to be gracious to them, and saved them to be called; and in effectual calling, in which he separated them from the rest of the world, and kept them by his power through faith unto salvation. And this was done "unto us"; for the sake of his church, that that might continue, and he might have a seed to serve him: and by "the Lord of hosts", of the hosts of heaven, the sun, and moon, and stars, and of the angels there, and of the inhabitants of the earth; which shows great condescension in him to regard this remnant, and great grace to them; since he could not stand in need of them, having the host of heaven on his right hand and on his left; nor was there any thing in them that could deserve this of him; but it was, as Jarchi observes, in his mercy, and not for their righteousness: to which may be added, that since he is the Lord of hosts, he was able to protect and preserve this remnant, notwithstanding all the opposition of men and devils, as he did; and had he not taken such a method as this,

we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah: cities that were infamous for their sins, and notorious for the punishment of them, being consumed by fire from heaven, Genesis 13:13 and not only the Jews, but any and every nation, even the whole world, would have been like these cities, both for sin and punishment, had it not been for the distinguishing grace of God, in leaving and reserving a few for his glory, and the support of his interest. All the holiness that ever was, is, or will be in the world, is owing to electing, redeeming, and efficacious grace: there had not been a holy man nor a holy woman in the world, in any age, if God had not taken such methods of grace; and it is owing to, and for the sake of, this small remnant, that temporal judgments are often averted from a nation and people, and that the conflagration of the world is not yet; this is kept back till they are gathered in; and were it not for this distinguishing grace, every individual of mankind would have been cast into hell, and must have suffered the vengeance of eternal fire, which the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah, was an example of.

Except the LORD of hosts {p} had left to us a very small remnant, we should have been {q} as Sodom, we should have been like Gomorrah.

(p) Because he will always have a Church to call on his Name.

(q) That is, all destroyed.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. the Lord of hosts] In Hebr. Yahveh Tsĕbâôth, a peculiarly solemn title of the God of Israel, specially common in the prophetic writings. On the different theories as to the origin of the expression, see the Note in Cheyne, Comm. i. pp. 11 ff. The simplest explanation of its origin is that which regards it as equivalent to “Jehovah (the God) of the armies of Israel” (1 Samuel 17:45; cf. Exodus 7:4). It is true that this cannot be the precise sense in which the phrase is used by the prophets, since it is a fundamental conception with them that Jehovah is no longer on the side of the hosts of Israel. But just as Amos took the phrase “day of Jehovah” from the lips of the people (see below on Isaiah 2:12), and gave it an interpretation diametrically opposed to the popular one, so he may have done also with this expression. If this be the correct view, “God of battles” may approximately reproduce the sense in which it is used by the prophets: Jehovah is still the Lord of Hosts, although He has disowned those of Israel. Or, if a vaguer idea be preferred, we may adopt the Κύριος παντοκράτωρ (All-sovereign Lord) of the LXX. as sufficiently expressive.

a very small remnant] The adverbial phrase “very small” might (disregarding the accents) be taken with the following clause, which, would then read “we might readily have been as Sodom, &c.” (as in Genesis 26:10; Psalm 94:17; Psalm 119:87). The word for remnant (sarîd) is only here used by Isaiah. He perhaps purposely avoids shě’âr, which he would have used in speaking of the ideal remnant that inherits the hope of the future.Verse 9. - Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom. Lowth and Cheyne prefer to divide the two clauses differently, and to translate, "Except the Lord of hosts had left us a remnant, within a little we should have been like Sodom." The "remnant" is that of the few godly men who still inhabit Jerusalem. The comparison of Jerusalem with Sodom is made again in Isaiah 3:9, and is carried out at some length by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 16:44-57). It implies a condition of extreme depravity. Jehovah then complains that the rebellion with which His children have rewarded Him is not only inhuman, but even worse than that of the brutes: "An ox knoweth its owner, and an ass its master's crib: Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider." An ox has a certain knowledge of its buyer and owner, to whom it willingly submits; and an ass has at least a knowledge of the crib of its master (the noun for "master" is in the plural: this is not to be understood in a numerical, but in an amplifying sense, "the authority over it," as in Exodus 21:29 : vid., Ges. 108, 2, b, and Dietrich's Heb. Gram. p. 45), i.e., it knows that it is its master who fills its crib or manger with fodder (evus, the crib, from avas, to feed, is radically associated with φάτνη, vulgar πάτνη, Dor. and Lac. πάτνη, and is applied in the Talmud to the large common porringer used by labourers).

(Note: Nedarim iv 4 jer. Demai viii. The stable is called repheth Even in jer. Shebuoth viii. 1, where cattle are spoken of as standing b'evus, the word signifies a crib or manger, not a stable. Luzzatto tries to prove that evus signifies a threshing-floor, and indeed an enclosed place, in distinction from geren; but he is mistaken.)

Israel had no such knowledge, neither instinctive and direct, nor acquired by reflection (hithbonan, the reflective conjugation, with a pausal change of the e4 into a long a, according to Ges. 54, note). The expressions "doth not know" and "doth not consider" must not be taken here in an objectless sense - as, for example, in Isaiah 56:10 and Psalm 82:5 -viz. as signifying they were destitute of all knowledge and reflection; but the object is to be supplied from what goes before: they knew not, and did not consider what answered in their case to the owner and to the crib which the master fills," - namely, that they were the children and possession of Jehovah, and that their existence and prosperity were dependent upon the grace of Jehovah alone. The parallel, with its striking contrasts, is self-drawn, like that in Jeremiah 8:7, where animals are referred to again, and is clearly indicated in the words "Israel" and "my people." Those who were so far surpassed in knowledge and perception even by animals, and so thoroughly put to shame by them, were not merely a nation, like any other nation on the earth, but were "Israel," descendants of Jacob, the wrestler with God, who wrestled down the wrath of God, and wrestled out a blessing for himself and his descendants; and "my people," the nation which Jehovah had chosen out of all other nations to be the nation of His possession, and His own peculiar government. This nation, bearing as it did the God-given title of a hero of faith and prayer, this favourite nation of Jehovah, had let itself down far below the level of the brutes. This is the complaint which the exalted speaker pours out in Isaiah 1:2 and Isaiah 1:3 before heaven and earth. The words of God, together with the introduction, consist of two tetrastichs, the measure and rhythm of which are determined by the meaning of the words and the emotion of the speaker. There is nothing strained in it at all. Prophecy lives and moves amidst the thoughts of God, which prevail above the evil reality: and for that very reason, as a reflection of the glory of God, which is the ideal of beauty (Psalm 50:1), it is through and through poetical. That of Isaiah is especially so. There was no art of oratory practised in Israel, which Isaiah did not master, and which did not serve as the vehicle of the word of God, after it had taken shape in the prophet's mind.

With Isaiah 1:4 there commences a totally different rhythm. The words of Jehovah are ended. The piercing lamentation of the deeply grieved Father is also the severest accusation. The cause of God, however, is to the prophet the cause of a friend, who feels an injury done to his friend quite as much as if it were done to himself (Isaiah 5:1). The lamentation of God, therefore, is changed now into violent scolding and threatening on the part of the prophet; and in accordance with the deep wrathful pain with which he is moved, his words pour out with violent rapidity, like flash after flash, in climactic clauses having no outward connection, and each consisting of only two or three words.

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