Isaiah 44:18
They have not known nor understood: for he has shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) He hath shut their eyes.—Better, their eyes are smeared over. The state described is the judicial blindness of Romans 1:20-25. It will be remembered that blindness thus inflicted was one of the tortures of Eastern cruelty.

Isaiah 44:18-20. They have not known, &c. — They want common discretion, and have not the understanding of a rational being in them. For what an absurdity is it for a man to dress his meat and make his god with the same piece of wood! Or to think that a log of timber hath any more divinity in it than it had before, because of the form man can give it, or any thing he can do to it! “When,” says Minutius Felix, “does it become a god! Behold, it is cast, fashioned, and carved! It is not yet a god. It is soldered, put together, and set up. Neither is it yet a god. Behold, it is adorned, consecrated, and prayed to! Then at length it is a god when men have chosen and dedicated it.” He hath shut their eyes — God hath. Not as if God made men wicked; he only permits them so to be, and orders and overrules their wickedness to his own glorious ends. And none considereth in his heart — By which the prophet implies, that the true cause of this, as well as of other absurd and brutish practices of sinners, is the neglect of serious and impartial consideration. He feedeth on ashes — An unprofitable and pernicious food, and no less unsatisfying and mischievous is the worship of idols. A deceived heart — A mind corrupted and deceived by deep prejudice, gross error, and especially by his own lusts; hath turned him aside — From the way of truth, from the knowledge and worship of the true God, unto this irrational and foolish idolatry; that he cannot deliver his soul — From this error, and the vengeance that will follow upon it; nor say, Is there not a lie, &c. — Is not this idol which I honour and trust to a mere fiction and delusion which will deceive me?44:9-20 Image-making is described, to expose the folly of idolaters. Though a man had used part of a log for fuel, he fell down before an image made of the remainder, praying it to deliver him. Man greatly dishonours God, when he represents him after the image of man. Satan blinds the eyes of unbelievers, causing absurd reasonings in matters of religion. Whether men seek happiness in worldly things, or run into unbelief, superstition, or any false system, they feed on ashes. A heart deceived by pride, love of sin, and departure from God, turns men aside from his holy truth and worship. While the affections are depraved, a man holds fast the lie as his best treasure. Are our hearts set upon the wealth of the world and its pleasures? They will certainly prove a lie. If we trust to outward professions and doings, as if those would save us, we deceive ourselves. Self-suspicion is the first step towards self-deliverance. He that would deliver his soul, must question his conscience, Is there not a lie in my right hand?They have not known nor understood - They are stupid, ignorant, and blind. Nothing could more strikingly show their ignorance and stupidity than this idol worship.

He hath shut their eyes - God hath closed their eyes. Margin, 'Daubed.' The word used here, טה ṭah from טוה ṭûah denotes properly "to spread over"; to besmear; to plaster; as, e. g., a wall with mortar Leviticus 14:42; 1 Chronicles 29:4; Ezekiel 13:10; Ezekiel 22:28. Here it means to cover over the eyes so as to prevent vision; and hence, metaphorically, to make them stupid, ignorant, dull. It is attributed to God in accordance with the common statement of the Scriptures, that he does what he permits to be done (see the notes at Isaiah 6:9-10). It does not mean that God had done it by any physical, or direct agency, but that it had occurred under the administration of his Providence. It is also true that the Hebrew writers sometimes employ an active verb when the signification is passive, and when the main idea is, that anything was in fact done. Here the main point is not the agent by which this was done, but the fact that their eyes were blinded - and perhaps all the force of the verb טה ṭah used here would be expressed if it was rendered in an impersonal, or in a passive form, 'it is covered as to their eyes,' that is, their eyes are shut, without suggesting that it was done by God. So the Septuagint renders it, Ἀπημαυρώθησαν Apēmaurōthēsan - 'They are blind,' or involved in darkness.

So the Chaldee, מטמטמן meṭmeṭemân (also in the plural) - 'Their eyes are obscured' or blind. It cannot be proved from this text that God is, by direct agency, the author by whom it was done. It was not uncommon to shut up, or seal up the eyes for various purposes in the East, and unquestionably the prophet alludes to some such custom. 'It is one of the solemnities at a Jewish wedding at Aleppo, according to Dr. Russell, who mentions it as the most remarkable thing in their ceremonies at that time. It is done by fastening the eyelids together with a gum, and the bridegroom is the person, he says, if he remembered right, that opens the bride's eyes at the appointed time. It is also used as a punishment in those countries. So Sir Thomas Roe's chaplain, in his account of his voyages to East India, tells us of a son of the Great Mogul, whom he had seen, and with whom Sir Thomas had conversed, that had before that time been cast into prison by his father, where his eyes were sealed up, by something put before them, which might not be taken off for three years; after which time the seal was taken away, that he might with freedom enjoy the light, though not his liberty.' (Harmer's Obs. vol. iii., pp. 507, 508. Ed. Lond. 8vo, 1808.)

18. he, &c.—God hath given them over to judicial blindness; not His direct physical, but His providential agency in administering His moral government, is meant (Isa 6:9, 10). "Shut," literally, "daubed," plastered up; it is an Eastern custom in some cases to seal up the eyes of offenders. They have not known or understood: this showeth that they want common discretion, and have not the understanding of a man in them. He, to wit, God; who is easily understood, and is oft expressed by this pronoun he; and to whom this very act is frequently ascribed in other places of Scripture. And therefore men need not to be shy in ascribing it to God here. Which yet is to be soberly understood; not as if God did make men wicked, but only permits them so to be, and orders and overrules their wickedness to his own glorious ends. And such passages as these are added in such cases to give an account of the prodigious madness of sinners herein; because, as they wilfully shut their own eyes, and harden their own hearts, so God judicially blinds and hardens them, and sends strong delusions upon them, and gives them up to believe lies, and then it is no wonder if they fall into such dotages. They have not known nor understood,.... Who the true God is, nor the worship that is due to him alone; they do not know nor understand divine and spiritual things; nay, they have not the knowledge and understanding of men; they want common sense that can do and say such things as before mentioned, both idol makers and idol worshippers:

for he hath shut their eyes that they cannot see, and their heart that they cannot understand; either the devil, as some think, the god of this world, that blinds their eyes from seeing the folly of such gross idolatry, which he, deceiving them, leads them into; or rather God himself, who, because they like not to retain him in their knowledge, gives them up to a reprobate and injudicious mind, to believe a lie, and worship a false god; this he permits, orders, and overrules to some good ends and purposes: this is to be understood of the eyes of the understanding, which, as the word (i) signifies, are "daubed" and plastered over, that there is no opening of them, and seeing with them; which is the judicial blindness and hardness of heart, which God sometimes in righteous judgment gives up men unto; see Romans 1:28.

(i) "oblevit oculos eorum", Montanus; "obleverit", Cocceius; "quod sculptile oblinat", Piscator.

They have not known nor understood: {y} for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.

(y) The prophet gives here an answer to all them who wonder how it is possible that any would be so blind as to commit such abomination, saying that God has blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18–20. But such is the infatuation of idolatry, that its blinded votaries never pause to reflect on their actions; the idolater has not sense enough to say to himself in plain words what he has done.

They have not … understood] Better, as R.V. they know not, neither do they consider. he hath shut their eyes] Rather: their eyes are besmeared, as it were plastered over, so that they cannot see (a different verb, however, from that used by Isaiah in Isaiah 6:10, &c.).Verse 18. - They have not known nor understood. The cause of all this folly is a Minding of the understanding, divinely caused in the way of punishment, on account of their having wilfully closed their eyes to the truth. Because they "did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate (or, undistinguishing) mind" (Romans 1:28; comp. Isaiah 29:10). He hath shut; or, One hath shut. But the reference is in either case to God. The word translated "shut" means literally "plastered" or "smeared." The prophet now conducts us into the workshops. "The iron-smith has a chisel, and works with red-hot coals, and shapes it with hammers, and works it with his powerful arm. He gets hungry thereby, and his strength fails; if he drink no water, he becomes exhausted. The carpenter draws the line, marks it with the pencil, carries it out with planes, and makes a drawing of it with the compass, and carries it out like the figure of a man, like the beauty of a man, which may dwell in the house." The two words chârash barzel are connected together in the sense of faber ferrarius, as we may see from the expression chârash ‛ētsı̄m (the carpenter, faber lignarius), which follows in Isaiah 44:13. Chârash is the construct of chârâsh ( equals charrâsh), as in Exodus 28:11. The second kametz of this form of noun does indeed admit of contraction, but only to the extent of a full short vowel; consequently the construct of the plural is not חרשׁי, but חרשׁי (Isaiah 45:16, etc.). Hence Isaiah 44:12 describes how the smith constructs an idol of iron, Isaiah 44:13 how the carpenter makes one of wood. But the first clause, מעצד בּרזל חרשׁ, is enigmatical. In any case, מעצד is a smith's tool of some kind (from עצד, related to חצד). And consequently Gesenius, Umbreit, and others, adopt the rendering, "the smith an axe, that does he work ... ;" but the further account of the origin of an idol says nothing at all about this axe, which the smith supplies to the carpenter, that he may hew out an idol with it. Hitzig renders it, "The smith, a hatchet does he work, and forms it (viz., into an idol);" but what a roundabout way! first to make a hatchet and then make it into an idol, which would look very slim when made. Knobel translates it, "As for the cutting-smith, he works it;" but this guild of cutting-smiths certainly belongs to Utopia. The best way to render the sentence intelligible, would be to supply לו: "The smith has (uses) the ma‛ătsâd." But in all probability a word has dropped out; and the Septuagint rendering, ὅτι ὤξυνεν τέκτων σίδηρον σκεπάρνω εἰργάσατο κ.τ.λ, shows that the original reading of the text was מעצד ברזל חרס חדד, and that חדד got lost on account of its proximity to יחץ. The meaning therefore is, "The smith has sharpened, or sharpens (chiddēd, syn. shinnēn) the ma‛ătsâd," possibly the chisel, to cut the iron upon the anvil; and works with red-hot coals, making the iron red-hot by blowing the fire. The piece of iron which he cuts off is the future idol, and this he shapes with hammers (יצרהוּ the future of יצר). And what of the carpenter? He stretches the line upon the block of wood, to measure the length and breadth of the idol; he marks it upon the wood with red-stone (sered, rubrica, used by carpenters), and works it with planes (maqtsu‛ōth, a feminine form of מקצוע, from קצע, to cut off, pare off, plane; compare the Arabic mikta‛), and with the compasses (mechūgâh, the tool used, lâchūg, i.e. for making a circle) he draws the outline of it, that is to say, in order that the different parts of the body may be in right proportion; and he constructs it in such a manner that it acquires the shape of a man, the beautiful appearance of a man, to be set up like a human inmate in either a temple or private house. The piel תּאר (תּאר), from which comes yetāărēhū, is varied here (according to Isaiah's custom; cf., Isaiah 29:7; Isaiah 26:5) with the poelתּאר, which is to be understood as denoting the more exact configuration. The preterites indicate the work for which both smith and carpenter have made their preparations; the futures, the work in which they are engaged.
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