Isaiah 50:1
Thus said the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother's divorce, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have you sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
L.

(1) Where is the bill . . .?—The thought seems suggested by Isaiah 49:14, but expands in a different direction. Both questions imply a negative answer. Jehovah had not formally repudiated the wife (Judah) whom he had chosen (Deuteronomy 24:1) as he had done her sister Israel (Jeremiah 3:8Hosea 2:2). He had no creditors among the nations who could claim her children. On the law of debt which supplies the image, comp. Exodus 21:7; 2Kings 4:1; Nehemiah 5:5. The divorce, the sale, were her acts and not His.

Isaiah 50:1. Thus saith the Lord — God having, by his prophet, in the last three verses of the preceding chapter, comforted his people with an assurance of their deliverance from the tyrannical power of their enemies, here vindicates his justice in suffering them to be exposed thereto, showing that they were the causes of their own calamities. Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement? — God had espoused the Jewish Church, the mother of the individuals of that people, to himself, in a kind of matrimonial covenant, frequently mentioned or alluded to by the prophets; but he seemed to divorce or cast them off when he sent them to Babylon, and afterward did wholly reject the generality of that nation from being his people, and took the Gentiles in their stead; which great and wonderful change was foretold in the Old Testament, (as has been already often observed, and will be again,) and was accomplished in the New. And because God foresaw that this strange dispensation would provoke the Jews to murmur and quarrel with him for casting them off without sufficient cause, as indeed they were always prone to accuse him, and vindicate themselves, he bids them produce their bill of divorce. For those husbands who put away their wives out of levity or passion were obliged to give them a bill of divorce, which vindicated the wives’ innocence, and declared that the husband’s will and pleasure was the cause of their dismission. Now, says God, produce your bill of divorce, to show that I have put you away of my own mere will, and on a slight occasion, and that you did not first forsake me and go after other gods, and by that spiritual adultery violate the marriage covenant into which I had taken you. Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you — Have I any creditors to whom I was obliged or willing to sell you for the payment of a debt? Parents, oppressed with debt, often sold their children, which, according to the law of Moses, they might do, till the year of release, Exodus 21:7. See also 2 Kings 4:1; Matthew 18:25. But neither of these cases, says God, can be mine; I am not governed by any such motives, nor am I urged by any such necessity. Behold, for your iniquities have you sold yourselves — Your captivity and your afflictions are to be imputed to yourselves, and to your own folly and wickedness.50:1-3 Those who have professed to be people of God, and seem to be dealt severely with, are apt to complain, as if God had been hard with them. Here is an answer for such murmurings; God never deprived any of their advantages, except for their sins. The Jews were sent into Babylon for their idolatry, a sin which broke the covenant; and they were at last rejected for crucifying the Lord of glory. God called on them to leave their sins, and prevent their own ruin. Last of all, the Son came to his own, but his own received him not. When God calls men to happiness, and they will not answer, they are justly left to be miserable. To silence doubts concerning his power, proofs of it are given. The wonders which attended his sufferings and death, proclaimed that he was the Son of God, Mt 27:54.Thus saith the Lord - To the Jews in Babylon, who were suffering under his hand, and who might be disposed to complain that God had dealt with them with as much caprice and cruelty as a man did with his wife, when he gave her a writing of divorce, and put her away without any just cause.

Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement? - God here speaks of himself as the husband of his people, as having married the church to himself, denoting the tender affection which he had for his people. This figure is frequently used in the Bible. Thus in Isaiah 62:5 : 'As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee;' 'For thy Maker is thy husband' Isaiah 54:5; 'Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord, for I am married unto you' Jeremiah 3:14. Thus in Revelation 21:9, the church is called 'the bride, the Lamb's wife.' Compare Ezekiel 16:See Lowth on Hebrew poetry, Lec. xxxi. The phrase, 'bill of divorcement.' refers to the writing or instrument which a husband was by law obliged to give a wife when he chose to put her away. This custom of divorce Moses found probably in existence among the Jews, and also in surrounding nations, and as it was difficult if not impossible at once to remove it, he permitted it on account of the hardness of the hearts of the Jews (Deuteronomy 24:1; compare Matthew 19:8).

It originated probably from the erroneous views which then prevailed of the nature of the marriage compact. It was extensively regarded as substantially like any other compact, in which the wife became a purchase from her father, and of course as she had been purchased, the husband claimed the right of dismissing her when he pleased. Moses nowhere defines the causes for which a man might put away his wife, but left these to be judged of by the people themselves. But he regulated the way in which it might be done. He ordained a law which was designed to operate as a material check on the hasty feelings, the caprice, and the passions of the husband. He designed that it should be with him, if exercised, not a matter of mere excited feeling, but that he should take time to deliberate upon it; and hence, he ordained that in all cases a formal instrument of writing should be executed releasing the wife from the marriage tie, and leaving her at liberty to pursue her own inclinations in regard to future marriages Deuteronomy 24:2.

It is evident that this would operate very materially in favor of the wife, and in checking and restraining the excited passions of the husband (see Jahn's Bib. Antiq. Section 160; Michaelis' Commentary on the Laws of Moses, vol. i. pp. 450-478; ii.-127-40. Ed. Lond. 1814, 8vo.) In the passage before us, God says that he had not rejected his people. He had not been governed by the caprice, sudden passion, or cruelty which husbands often evinced. There was a just cause why he had treated them as he had, and he did not regard them as the children of a divorced wife. The phrase, 'your mother,' Here is used to denote the ancestry from whom they were descended. They were not regarded as the children of a disgraced mother.

Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you - Among the Hebrews, a father had the right, by the law of Moses, if he was oppressed with debt, to sell his children Exodus 21:7; Nehemiah 5:5. In like manner, if a man had stolen anything, and had nothing to make restitution, he might be sold for the theft Exodus 22:3. If a man also was poor and unable to pay his debts, he might be sold Leviticus 25:39; 2 Kings 4:1; Matthew 18:25. On the subject of slavery among the Hebrews, and the Mosaic laws in regard to it, see Michaelis' Commentary on the Laws of Moses, vol. ii. pp. 155, following In this passage, God says that he had not been governed by any such motives in his dealings with his people. He had not dealt with them as a poor parent sometimes felt himself under a necessity of doing, when he sold his children, or as a creditor did when a man was not able to pay him. He had been governed by different motives, and he had punished them only on account of their transgressions.

Ye have sold yourselves - That is, you have gone into captivity only on account of your sins. It has been your own act, and you have thus become bondmen to a foreign power only by your own choice.

Is your mother put away - Retaining the figure respecting divorce. The nation has been rejected, and suffered to go into exile, only on account of its transgressions.

CHAPTER 50

Isa 50:1-11. The Judgments on Israel Were Provoked by Their Crimes, yet They Are Not Finally Cast Off by God.

1. Where … mothers divorcement—Zion is "the mother"; the Jews are the children; and God the Husband and Father (Isa 54:5; 62:5; Jer 3:14). Gesenius thinks that God means by the question to deny that He had given "a bill of divorcement" to her, as was often done on slight pretexts by a husband (De 24:1), or that He had "sold" His and her "children," as a poor parent sometimes did (Ex 21:7; 2Ki 4:1; Ne 5:5) under pressure of his "creditors"; that it was they who sold themselves through their own sins. Maurer explains, "Show the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom … ; produce the creditors to whom ye have been sold; so it will be seen that it was not from any caprice of Mine, but through your own fault, your mother has been put away, and you sold" (Isa 52:3). Horsley best explains (as the antithesis between "I" and "yourselves" shows, though Lowth translates, "Ye are sold") I have never given your mother a regular bill of divorcement; I have merely "put her away" for a time, and can, therefore, by right as her husband still take her back on her submission; I have not made you, the children, over to any "creditor" to satisfy a debt; I therefore still have the right of a father over you, and can take you back on repentance, though as rebellious children you have sold yourselves to sin and its penalty (1Ki 21:25).

bill … whom—rather, "the bill with which I have put her away" [Maurer].The dereliction of the Jews is not of Christ; for he hath power to save, Isaiah 50:1-4; and was obedient in that work; and God is present with him, Isaiah 50:5-9. An exhortation not to trust in ourselves, but in God, Isaiah 50:10,11.

Thus saith the Lord: this is another sermon begun here, and continued in the next chapter. The main scope of it is to vindicate God’s justice, and to convince the Jews that they were the causes of all their calamities which they imputed to God.

Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement? God had formerly espoused’ the Israelites to himself in a kind of matrimonial covenant, but seemed to cast them off when he sent them to Babylon, and did wholly reject them afterward from being his people, and took the Gentiles into their stead; which great and wonderful change was foretold in the Old Testament, as hath been already observed, and we shall see again, and accomplished in the New. And because God foresaw that those strange dispensations would provoke the Jews to murmur and quarrel with God for, casting them off without sufficient cause, as indeed they were always prone to accuse God, and to vindicate themselves, he bids them produce their bill of divorce; for those husbands which put away their wives merely out of levity or passion were obliged to give their wives a bill of divorce, which vindicated the wife’s innocency, and declared that the husband’s will and pleasure was the cause of the divorce; of which see the notes on Deu 24:1 Matthew 19:3.

Which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? have I any creditors to whom I was obliged or willing to sell you for the payment of my debt? Produce then the bill of sale to witness against me. Parents might, and in some cases were forced to sell their children to their creditors; of which see on Exodus 21:7, and 2 Kings 4:1.

For your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, & c.; you can blame none but yourselves and your own sins for all your captivities and miseries.

Thus saith the Lord,.... Here begins a new discourse or prophecy, and therefore thus prefaced, and is continued in the following chapter:

where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away? these words are directed to the Jews, who stood in the same relation to the Jewish church, or synagogue, as children to a mother; and so the Targum interprets "your mother" by "your congregation", or synagogue; who were rejected from being a church and people; had a "loammi" written upon them, which became very manifest when their city and temple were destroyed by the Romans; and this is signified by a divorce, alluding to the law of divorce among the Jews, Deuteronomy 24:1, when a man put away his wife, he gave her a bill of divorce, assigning the causes of his putting her away. Now, the Lord, either as denying that he had put away their mother, the Jewish church, she having departed from him herself, and therefore challenges them to produce any such bill; a bill of divorce being always put into the woman's hands, and so capable of being produced by her; or if there was such an one, see Jeremiah 3:8, he requires it might be looked into, and seen whether the fault was his, or the cause in themselves, which latter would appear:

or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? referring to a practice used, that when men were in debt, and could not pay their debts, they sold their children for the payment of them; see Exodus 21:7, but this could not be the case here; the Lord has no creditors, not any to whom he is indebted, nor could any advantage possibly accrue to him by the sale of them; it is true they were sold to the Romans, or delivered into their hands, which, though a loss to them, was no gain to him; nor was it he that sold them, but they themselves; he was not the cause of it, but their own sins, as follows:

behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves; or, "are sold" (w); they were sold for them, or delivered up into the hands of their enemies on account of them; they had sold themselves to work wickedness, and therefore it was but just that they should be sold, and become slaves:

and for your transgressions is your mother put away; and they her children along with her, out of their own land, and from being the church and people of God.

(w) Sept. "venditi estis", Pagninus, Montanus, Piscator, Cocceias, Vitringa.

Thus saith the LORD, Where is the {a} bill of your mother's divorcement, {b} whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it {c} to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.

(a) Meaning, that he has not forsaken her, but through her own opportunity as in Ho 2:2.

(b) Who would declare that I have cut her off: meaning, that they could show no one.

(c) Signifying, that he sold them not for any debt or poverty, but that they sold themselves to sins to buy their own lusts and pleasures.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Isaiah 50:1-3. The third oracle meets another doubt which must have occurred to the exiles, viz., that the covenant relation between Jehovah and Israel has been broken beyond possibility of renewal. In Isaiah 50:1 this fear is dispelled by the help of two analogies from common life.

Where is the bill … whom I have put away?] (better, as R.V., wherewith I have put her away). No such document exists. Although Jehovah has had good reason to adopt this extreme measure (Jeremiah 3:8), He has not done it, but has left the way open for a reconciliation. The effect of the “bill of divorcement” was to make the separation absolute and final; the woman was free to marry another, but could not after that be received back by her former husband (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). (A specimen of the form of words used by later Jews is given in Dalman’s Aramäische Dialektproben, p. 5.) In Mohammedan law a man may divorce his wife twice and take her back without any ceremony, but a third divorce (or a triple divorce conveyed in one sentence) is final, unless the woman have contracted a fresh marriage in the interval and been released from it either by divorce or the death of the husband (Koran, Sura 2:229 f.; see Lane, Modern Egyptians, chap. 3). Both the Mosaic and the Mohammedan laws accord to a husband the unrestricted right of divorce, and for this reason the Jewish custom was pronounced by our Lord to be inconsistent with the true idea of marriage and a concession to the weakness of human nature (Matthew 19:3 ff.; Mark 10:2 ff.).

which of my creditors is it &c.] i.e. “what creditor of mine is there to whom” &c.? The selling of children into slavery in payment of a debt is another practice tolerated, though hardly approved, by the Law (Exodus 21:7; cf. 2 Kings 4:1; Nehemiah 5:5). Since it is inconceivable that Jehovah should have a creditor, so it is impossible that He should have surrendered His rights over His own children.

Behold, for your iniquities &c.] This is the true explanation of the slavery of the children and the divorce of the mother, and this cause is removed by the offer of forgiveness (Isaiah 40:2). It is remarkable that the prophet does not, like Hosea and Ezekiel, directly attribute sin to the ideal mother of the nation, but only to the individual Israelites, to whom this whole expostulation is addressed (cf. Hosea 2:2).

For have you sold yourselves render with R.V. were ye sold (so again ch. Isaiah 52:3). The phrase is frequently used in the Book of Judges of the delivering of Israel into the power of its enemies (Jdg 2:14 &c.).Verse 1. - Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement? On account of her persistent "backsliding," God had "put away Israel," Judah's sister, and had "given her a bill of divorce" (Ver. 3:8). But he had not repudiated Judah; and her children were wrong to suppose themselves altogether cast off (see Isaiah 49:14). They had, in fact, by their transgressions, especially their idolatries, wilfully divorced themselves, or at any rate separated themselves, from God; but no sentence had gone forth from him to bar reconciliation and return. Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you! Neither has God exercised the right, regarded as inherent in a parent (Exodus 21:7; 2 Kings 4:11; Nehemiah 6:5, 8), of selling his children to a creditor. They are not sold - he has "taken no money for them" (Psalm 44:12; Isaiah 52:3); and the Babylonians are thus not their rightful owners (Isaiah 49:24) - they are still God's children, his property, and the objects of his care. For your iniquities... for your transgressions; rather, by your iniquities... by your transgressions. The separation, such as it was, between God and his people was caused by their sins, not by any act of his. The words that sound in the ears of Zion are now followed by the thought of astonishment and surprise, that rises up in her heart. "And thou wilt say in thy heart, Who hath borne me these, seeing I was robbed of children, and barren, banished, and thrust away; and these, who hath brought them up? Behold, I was left alone; these, where were they?" She sees herself suddenly surrounded by a great multitude of children, and yet she was robbed of children, and galmūdâh (lit. hard, stony, Arab. 'galmad, 'gulmūd, e.g., es-sachr el'gulmūd, the hardest stone, mostly as a sugstantive, stone or rock, from gâlam, from which comes the Syriac gelomo, stony ground, related to châlam, whence challâmı̄sh, gravel, root gal, gam, to press together, or heap up in a lump or mass), i.e., one who seemed utterly incapacitated for bearing children any more. She therefore asks, Who hath borne me these (not, who hath begotten, and which is an absurd question)? She cannot believe that they are the children of her body, and her children's children. As a tree, whose foliage is all faded away, is called nōbheleth itself in Isaiah 1:30, so she calls herself gōlâh vesūrâh, extorris et remota (sūr equals mūsâr, like sūg in Proverbs 14:14 equals nâsōg or mussâg), because her children have been carried away into exile. In the second question, the thought has dawned upon her mind, that those by whom she finds herself surrounded are her own children; but as she was left alone, whilst they went forth, as she thought to die in a foreign land, she cannot comprehend where they have been hitherto concealed, or where they have grown up into so numerous a people.
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