Isaiah 56:10
His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(10) His watchmen are blind.—These are the guides of the people, and specially the self-styled prophets, who are “blind” to the signs of the times, who are “dumb,” and give no warning to the people of the real dangers that threaten them, who prophesy for the rewards of divination (Numbers 22:7 :1Samuel 9:7; Nehemiah 6:12), who are conspicuous for their luxury and intemperance. Given the men who are described in Isaiah 5:22; Isaiah 28:7-8; Isaiah 30:10, and the circumstances of Manasseh’s reign, no other result could be expected.

Sleeping.—The prophet, with a scornful irony, substitutes hozîm (“dreamers”) for khozîm (“seers”). The “lying down” contrasts their indolent and easy life with the vigil and the fast of a true prophet.

Isaiah 56:10. His — Israel’s, watchmen are blind — The priests, prophets, and other teachers; he mentions only the teachers, because ignorance was most shameful in them; but hereby he supposes the gross ignorance of the people. They are all ignorant — Of God’s word and will, and of their own and the people’s duty, and of the true Messiah, and the nature of his kingdom. They cannot bark — They are also slothful and negligent in instructing the people, and do not faithfully reprove them for their sins, nor warn them of their dangers, nor endeavour to keep them from errors and corruptions in doctrine, worship, and conversation, as they ought to do: sleeping, lying down, &c. — Minding their own ease and safety more than the people’s benefit.56:9-12 Desolating judgments are called for; and this severe rebuke of the rulers and teachers of the Jewish church, is applicable to other ages and places. It is bad with a people when their shepherds slumber, and are eager after the world. Let us pray the Great Shepherd to send us pastors after his own heart, who will feed us with knowledge, that we may rejoice in his holy name, and that believers may be daily added to the church.His watchmen - The prophet proceeds to specify the sins which had thus induced God to send the desolating armies of foreign nations. The first is specified in this verse, the apathy, indifference, and unfaithfulness, which prevailed among those who were appointed to guard their interests and defend the cause of truth. The word rendered 'his watchmen' (צפוּ tsophâv) is derived from צפה tsâphâh, "to look about; to view from a distance; to see afar." It is applied appropriately to those who were stationed on the walls of a city, or on a tower, in order that they might see the approach of an enemy 1 Samuel 14:16; 2 Samuel 13:34; 2 Samuel 18:24. It is then applied to prophets, who are as it were placed on an elevated post of observation, and who are able to cast the eye far into future scenes, and to predict future events (Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 3:17; the note at Isaiah 21:6-11; Isaiah 52:8; compare Isaiah 62:6). Here it refers undoubtedly to the public teachers of the Jews who had failed to perceive the crimes and dangers of the people; or who, if they had seen them, had neglected to warn them of the prevalence of sin, and of the dangers to which they were exposed.

Are blind - They have become willfully blind to the existence of idolatry and vice, or they are so corrupt in sentiment and practice, that they fail to notice the existence of the prevailing sins.

They are all ignorant - Hebrew, 'They do not know.' This may either mean that they were not possessed of the proper qualifications for the office of prophets, or that they were so immersed in sin themselves, and so indolent, that they did not observe the existence of the national sins. In either case, they were unfit for the station.

They are all dumb dogs - Dogs are appointed to guard a house or flock, and to give notice of the approach of a robber by night Job 30:1. They are thus an emblem of a prophet - appointed to announce danger. Generally in the Scriptures the dog is mentioned as the symbol of uncleanness, of vileness, of apostasy, of that which deserved the utmost contempt (Deuteronomy 23:18; 1 Samuel 24:14; 2 Samuel 9:8; Proverbs 26:11; Philippians 3:2; 2 Peter 2:22; Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:15; compare Virg. Georg. i. 470). But here the dog is an emblem of vigilance. The phrase 'dumb dogs,' is applicable to prophets who from any cause failed to warn the nation of their guilt and danger.

They cannot bark - They cannot give warning of the danger which threatens. The reason why they could not do this the prophet immediately states. They loved to slumber - they delighted in indolence and repose.

Sleeping - Margin, 'Dreaming,' or 'Talking in their sleep.' The word הזים hoziym, is from הזה hâzâh, "to dream, to talk in one's dreams." It is kindred to חזה châzâh, "to see," and the primary idea seems to be that of nocturnal visions. The Septuagint renders it, Ενυπνιαξόμενοι κοίτην Enupniachomenoi koitēn - 'Sleeping in bed.' Aquila, φανταζόμενοι phantazomenoi - 'Having visions,' or phantasms. The idea is that probably of dreaming, or drowsing; a state of indolence and unfaithfulness to their high trust. Perhaps also there is included the idea of their being deluded by vain imaginations, and by false opinions, instead of being under the influence of truth. For it is commonly the case that false and unfaithful teachers of religion are not merely inactive; they act under the influence of deluding and delusive views - like people who are dreaming and who see nothing real. Such was probably the case with the false prophets in the time of Isaiah.

Lying down - As dogs do who are indolent. They are inactive, unfaithful, and delighting in ease.

Loving to slumber - Perhaps there was never a more graphic and striking description of an indolent and unfaithful ministry than this. Alas, that it should be too true of multitudes who bear the sacred office, and who are appointed to warn their fellow-men of danger! How many come still under the description of dumb dogs who cannot bark, and who love to slumber!' Some are afraid of giving offence; some have no deep sense of the importance of religious truth, and the actual danger of the ungodly; some embrace false opinions - led on by day-dreams and fictions of the imagination, as unreal, as vain, and as inconsistent, as are the incoherent expressions which are uttered in sleep; some engage in worldly projects, and fill up their time with the cares and plans of this life; and some are invincibly indolent. Nothing will rouse them; nothing induce them to forego the pleasures of sleep, and ease, and of an inactive life. The friends of God are unrebuked when they err; and an inactive and unfaithful ministry suffers the great enemy to come and bear away the soul to death, as an unfaithful mastiff would suffer the thief to approach the dwelling without warning the inmates. But the mastiff is usually more faithful than an indolent ministry. To the deep shame of man be it spoken, there are more ministers of religion who are indolent, inactive, and unfaithful, than there are of the canine race. Instinct prompts them to act the part which God intends; but alas, there are men - men in the ministry - whom neither instinct, nor conscience, nor reason, nor hope, nor fear, nor love, nor the command of God, nor the apprehension of eternal judgment, will rouse to put forth unwearied efforts to save souls from an eternal hell!

10. His watchmen—Israel's spiritual leaders (Isa 62:6; Eze 3:17).

dumb dogs—image from bad shepherds' watchdogs, which fail to give notice, by barking, of the approach of wild beasts.

blind—(Mt 23:16).

sleeping, lying down—rather, "dreamers, sluggards" [Lowth]. Not merely sleeping inactive, but under visionary delusions.

loving to slumber—not merely slumbering involuntarily, but loving it.

His; Israel’s, as is evident from the following verses; the pronoun relative being put without and instead of the antecedent; of which I have given divers instances before.

Watchmen; priests and prophets, or other teachers, who are commonly called watchmen, as Ezekiel 3:17 33:2 Hosea 9:8. He mentions only the teachers, because ignorance was most shameful in them; but hereby he supposeth the gross ignorance of the people, who neither pretended nor desired to be wiser than their teachers.

They are all ignorant of God’s will and word, and of their own and the people’s duty, and of the true Messiah.

They are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; they are also slothful and negligent in instructing the people, and do not faithfully reprove them for their sins, nor warn them of their dangers, nor keep them from errors and corruptions in doctrine, and worship, and conversation, as they ought to do.

Sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber; minding their own ease and safety more than the people’s benefit. His watchmen are blind,.... A sad character of watchmen; who, of all men, ought to have good sight, to see who is coming, to discover an enemy, to discern approaching danger, and so be capable of giving notice thereof. This some apply to the Scribes and Pharisees, who are often called blind guides, and blind leaders of the blind, Matthew 15:14 and well suits the character of the Popish clergy, bishops, and priests, those ecclesiastical watchmen, whose business should be to look after the souls of men, and feed them with knowledge and understanding; but very ill qualified for it, being blind and ignorant as to the knowledge of things divine and spiritual. The first letter in this clause is larger than usual, perhaps designed to strike the eye, and raise the attention to what follows, as being something remarkable and extraordinary, as indeed the character given of these men is, and directing to beware of them. The first word, which is the word for "watchmen", has the letter "jod" wanting; which, being a note of multitude, shows, it is observed (u), that all the watchmen were universally deficient in the light of their minds, and not one of them did their duty, as it follows:

they are all ignorant; or "know not" (w), or "nothing", not the Scriptures, and the meaning of them; the Gospel, and the doctrines of it; Christ, and the way of salvation by him; the Spirit of God, and his operations on the souls of men; and so very unfit to be spiritual watchmen, or to have the care of immortal souls. A Popish bishop in Scotland declared he did not know neither the Old nor the New Testament; and Bishop Albert, reading the Bible, could not tell what book it was, only he found it was contrary to their religion.

They are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; and so useless; as a house dog, or one that is set to keep the sheep, if it barks not at the noise of a thief, or the approach of a wolf, to give notice to the family, or the shepherd, it is of no service. It may design such who call themselves ministers of the word, and yet either cannot or will not preach, such as are non-preaching bishops; or in their ministry do not reprove the errors and vices of men, and warn them of their danger:

sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber; as dogs do; slothful, indolent, do not care to be concerned in business, but take their ease and pleasure, and are very improper persons for watchmen. The first word (x) used is observed to signify speaking vain things in dreams, things delirious; and agrees well with the dreaming doctrines and delirious notions of the Romish clergy.

(u) Buxtorf. Tiberias, c. 14. p. 39. Vid. Hiller. De Arcano Cethib & Keri, I. 1. c 7. p. 55. (w) "nesciverunt", Pagninus, Montanus; "nil sciunt", Piscator. (x) "deliria loquentes", Montanus; "videntes vans", V. L. So Ben Melech interprets it of such that speak vain things in their sleep.

His {k} watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.

(k) He shows that this affliction will come through the fault of the governors, prophets and pastors, whose ignorance, negligence, greed and obstinacy provoked God's wrath against them.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
10–12. The delinquencies of the rulers. The watchmen are the spiritual leaders of the community, who in the earlier post-exilic period were the priests and the prophets (see Nehemiah 6:10-14). Elsewhere the word is used metaphorically only of the prophets (Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 3:17; Ezekiel 33:2 ff.) and to them the description here chiefly applies, although there may be no reason for excluding the priests, with whom the higher authority lay, and who shared in the vices here specified. These guides are blind, not discerning the evils of the time, and dumb, afraid to speak out against them.

they are all ignorant] Lit. “they all of them know not.” Several codices of the LXX. supply an infinitive (φρονῆσαι), by which the sense and parallelism are improved (cf. the similar phrase in Isaiah 56:11 “they know not how to observe”: E.V. “cannot understand”).

dumb dogs, they cannot bark] in contrast to the true prophet, who “cries aloud and spares not,” shewing the people their transgressions (see ch. Isaiah 58:1; cf. Ezekiel 33:1 ff.), and specially gives warning of the approach of an enemy; Ezekiel 33:6. Sheep-dogs are mentioned in Job 30:1.

sleeping] R.V. “dreaming,” better raving. The word, which occurs only here, means in Arabic to talk deliriously in sickness. Cheyne suggests that it contains a play on the word for “seers,” from which it differs in a single letter (hòzîm and ḥôzîm).

loving to slumber] The laziness of the dog was proverbial amongst the Arabs: “he delays like a sleepy hound” (Gesenius).Verse 10. - His watchmen are blind. Israel's "watchmen" are his guides and teachers, the prophets (Isaiah 6:17; Ezekiel 3:17; Habakkuk 2:1, etc.). At the time of which Isaiah speaks, they are "blind" (Isaiah 29:18; Isaiah 35:5; Isaiah 42:7, 16, 18, 19; Isaiah 43:8, etc.), or without knowledge - like the "blind guides" of the Gospel (Matthew 15:14; Luke 6:39, etc.). They have not the spiritual discernment which would enable them to lead the people aright. Further, they are dumb dogs. Instead of acting as faithful watch-dogs, who give warning of the approach of danger by their barking, they remain apathetic, and utter no warning at all. It is as if they passed their lives in sleep. "For thus saith Jehovah to the circumcised, Those who keep my Sabbaths, and decide for that in which I take pleasure, and take fast hold of my covenant; I give to them in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters: I give such a man an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off." The second condition after the sanctification of the Sabbath has reference to the regulation of life according to the revealed will of God; the third to fidelity with regard to the covenant of circumcision. יד also means a side, and hence a place (Deuteronomy 23:13); but in the passage before us, where ושׁם יד form a closely connected pair of words, to which וּמבּנות מבּנים is appended, it signifies the memorial, equivalent to מצּבת (2 Samuel 18; 2 Samuel 1:1-24:25; 1 Samuel 15:12), as an index lifted up on high (Ezekiel 21:24), which strikes the eye and arrests attention, pointing like a signpost to the person upon whom it is placed, like monumentum a monendo. They are assured that they will not be excluded from close fellowship with the church ("in my house and within my walls"), and also promised, as a superabundant compensation for the want of posterity, long life in the memory of future ages, by whom their long tried attachment to Jehovah and His people in circumstances of great temptation will not be forgotten.
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