Isaiah 56:3
Neither let the son of the stranger, that has joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD has utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) Neither let the son of the stranger . . .—Two classes of persons were likely to suffer specially from Manasseh’s policy—(1) the heathen proselytes, who, as in Psalms 87, had been admitted as citizens of Zion under Hezekiah’s special protection; and (2) in the highest degree, those of that body who had been taken, as Ebed-Melech afterwards was (Jeremiah 38:7), into the king’s household as eunuchs. The courtiers of Manasseh would taunt them as aliens, and in the second case would press the letter of Deuteronomy 23:2. The principle of Isaiah’s teaching was, of course, applicable to the Israelites who, like Daniel and his friends, had been mutilated against their will by heathen conquerors (Daniel 1:3), and most commentators refer the words to such cases. It is scarcely probable, however, that the household of Hezekiah would have been supplied with home-born eunuchs, and, on the hypothesis which I have adopted, I find in the eunuchs a sub-section of the proselytes. The words put into the mouths of the complainers are the natural utterances of men treated as they had been.

Isaiah 56:3-5. Neither let the son of the stranger — The Gentile, who by birth is a stranger to God, and to the commonwealth of Israel. That hath joined himself to the Lord — That hath turned from dumb idols to the living God, and to true religion; speak, saying, The Lord hath separated me, &c. — For such shall be as acceptable to me as the Israelites themselves, and the partition wall between Jews and Gentiles shall be taken down, and repentance and remission of sins shall be preached and offered to men of all nations. Neither let the eunuch say — Who is here joined with the stranger, because he was forbidden to enter into the congregation of the Lord, Deuteronomy 23:1. Under these two instances he understands all those, who, either by birth, or by any ceremonial pollution, were excluded from church privileges, and so he throws open the door to all true believers. Behold, I am a dry tree — A fruitless tree, accursed by God with the curse of barrenness. For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs, &c. — That observe my commands, not by custom, or through force or fear, but by free choice, with love to them, and delight in them. And take hold of my covenant — That steadfastly keep the conditions of my covenant. Even unto them will I give in my house, &c. — In my temple, an emblem of the Christian church; a place, &c., better than of sons and daughters — A far greater blessing and honour than that of having a posterity, even my favour, and my Spirit and eternal felicity.56:3-8 Unbelief often suggests things to discourage believers, against which God has expressly guarded. Spiritual blessings are unspeakably better than having sons and daughters; for children are a care, and may prove a grief and shame, but the blessings we partake of in God's house, are comforts which cannot be made bitter. Those who love the Lord truly, will serve him faithfully, and then his commandments are not grievous. Three things are promised. Assistance: I will not only bid them welcome, but incline them to come. Acceptance, and comfort: though they came mourning to the house of prayer, they shall go away rejoicing. They shall find ease by casting their cares and burdens upon God. Many a sorrowful spirit has been made joyful in the house of prayer. The Gentiles shall be one body with the Jews, that, as Christ says, Joh 10:16, there may be one fold and one Shepherd. Thanks be to God that none are separated from him except by wilful sin and unbelief; and if we come to him, we shall be accepted through the sacrifice of our great High Priest.Neither let the son of the stranger - The foreigner who shall become a proselyte to the true religion.

That hath joined himself - That has embraced the true faith, and become a worshipper of the true God. It is evidently implied here that there would be such proselytes, and that the true religion would be extended so as to include and embrace them. The idea is, that they should be admitted to the same privileges with those who had been long recognized as the people of God.

The Lord hath utterly separated - Let him not esteem himself to be an outcast, or cut off from the privileges of the people of God. This language is used with reference to the opinion which prevailed among the Jews, that the Gentiles were excluded from the privileges of the people of God, and it is designed to intimate that hereafter all such barriers would be broken down. They who entered the church as proselytes from the pagan world, were not to come in with any sense of inferiority in regard to their rights among his people; but they were to feel that all the barriers which had heretofore existed were now broken down, and that all people were on a level. There is to be no assumption of superiority of one nation or rank over another; there is to be no sense of inferiority of one class in reference to another.

Neither let the eunuch say - This class of men was usually set over the harems of the East Esther 2:3, Esther 2:14-15; Esther 4:5; and they were employed also as high officers at court Esther 1:10, Esther 1:12, Esther 1:15; Daniel 1:3; Acts 8:27. The word is sometimes used to denote a minister of court; a court officer in general Genesis 37:6; Genesis 39:1. The Targum often renders the word by רבא rabbâ', "a prince."

Behold, I am a dry tree - A dry tree is an emblem of that which is barren, useless, unfruitful. By the law of Moses such persons could not be enrolled or numbered in the congregation of the Lord Deuteronomy 23:2. The sense here is, that they should not hereafter be subjected to the religious and civil disabilities to which they had been. These external barriers to the full privileges among the people of God, would be removed. All classes and ranks would be admitted to the same privileges; all would be on the same level (see Isaiah 56:5).

3. God welcomes all believers, without distinction of persons, under the new economy (Ac 10:34, 35).

joined … to … Lord—(Nu 18:4, 7). "Proselytes."

separated—Proselytes from the Gentiles were not admitted to the same privileges as native Israelites. This barrier between Jews and Gentiles was to be broken down (Eph 2:14-16).

eunuch—(Ac 8:27, &c.). Eunuchs were chamberlains over harems, or court ministers in general.

dry tree—barren (compare Lu 23:31); not admissible into the congregation of Israel (De 23:1-3). Under the Gospel the eunuch and stranger should be released from religious and civil disabilities.

The son of the stranger; the stranger, as the son of man is the same with the man, Isaiah 56:2; the Gentile, who by birth is a stranger to God, and to the commonwealth of Israel.

That hath joined himself to the Lord; that hath turned from dumb idols to the living God, and to the true religion; for such shall be as acceptable to me as the Israelites themselves, and the partition-wall between Jews and Gentiles shall be taken down, and repentance and remission of sins shall be preached and offered to men of all nations.

The eunuch; who is here joined with the stranger, because he was forbidden to enter into the congregation of the Lord, Deu 23:1, as the stranger was, and by his barrenness might seem no less than the stranger to be cast out of God’s covenant, and cut off from his people, to whom the blessing of a numerous posterity was promised. And under these two instances he understands all those persons who either by birth, or by any ceremonial pollution, were excluded from the participation of church privileges; and so he throws open the door to all true believers, without any restriction whatsoever. A dry tree; a sapless and fruitless tree, accursed by God with the curse of barrenness, which being oft threatened as a curse, and being a matter of reproach among the Jews, might easily occasion such discouraging thoughts as are here expressed. Neither let the son of the stranger,.... A Gentile, that is so by birth, the son of one that is an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, a stranger from the covenants of promise, and so had no right to come into the congregation of the Lord under the former dispensation; but now the middle wall of partition being broken down, in the times to which this prophecy belongs, such are encouraged to expect admission:

that hath joined himself to the Lord; who, having a spiritual knowledge of him in Christ, loves him, believes in him, gives up himself to him, to walk in his ways and ordinances, and cleaves unto him with full purpose of heart; see Isaiah 44:5 such an one should not speak,

saying, the Lord hath utterly separated me from his people; by a law of his, Deuteronomy 23:3, for now the wall of separation, the ceremonial law, is destroyed, and God declares himself to be the God of the Gentiles, as well as of the Jews; and of all that fear God, and believe in Christ, of every nation, who are accepted with him; and that they are all one in Christ, and all partakers of the same promises and blessings; so strangers, and the sons of strangers, were to have an inheritance among the children of Israel in Gospel times; see Ezekiel 47:22 and therefore should have no reason to speak after this manner:

neither let the eunuch say, behold, I am a dry tree; having no children, nor could have any; and to be written childless was reckoned a reproach and a curse; nor might an eunuch enter the congregation of the Lord, Deuteronomy 23:1, and yet such a man, having the grace of God, and acting agreeably to it, as in the following verse, should not distress himself on the above accounts.

Neither let the son of the foreigner, that {d} hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.

(d) Let no one think himself unfit to receive the graces of the Lord: for the Lord will take away all impediments, and will forsake no one who will keep his true religion, and believe in him.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. the son of the stranger means simply the individual foreigner (R.V. the stranger), not one whose father was a foreigner.

The Lord hath utterly separated] Render with R.V., will surely separate. The case supposed is that of a foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord, i.e. has become a proselyte by accepting the symbols of Jewish nationality (circumcision, &c.), but now has reason to fear that his qualifications will be disallowed. This anxiety is hardly to be explained by the law of Deuteronomy 23:3-8; for the regulations there laid down apply only to Moabites, Ammonites, Egyptians and Edomites; and the general tendency of the legislation is in favour of the religious rights of proselytes. (See the exhaustive monograph of Bertholet, Die Stellung der Israeliten und der Juden zu den Fremden, 1896.) It is more likely that the immediate cause of apprehension was some manifestation of an exclusive and intolerant spirit amongst the leaders of the new Jerusalem. Against this spirit (if it existed) the prophet’s words enter a strong protest (see Isaiah 56:6-7).

the eunuch] Such persons are excluded from the congregation by Deuteronomy 23:1. On that passage Prof. W. R. Smith remarks that “Presumably the original sense of this rule was directed not against the unfortunate victims of Oriental tyranny and the harem system, but against the religious mutilation of the Galli” &c. (Driver’s Deuteronomy, p. 259). If this be so, the present passage need not be regarded as superseding the Deuteronomic law; it may be only a protest against its extension to cases which it did not contemplate; for it is certain that those here referred to were “the unfortunate victims of Oriental tyranny.”

I am a dry tree] He could not become the head of a family in Israel, and therefore felt that he had no real and permanent share in the hopes of the nation.Verse 3. - The son of the stranger; i.e. the foreigner, who has become a proselyte. During the depression of the Captivity these are not likely to have been many. Still, there were doubtless some; and these, who had embraced Judaism under such unfavourable circumstances, were entitled to special consideration. As Messianic hopes prevailed, and the time of restoration to Palestine drew near (ver. 1), they might naturally be afraid that they would not be looked upon as equals by the native Israelites, but would be made into a lower grade, if not even excluded. The Lord hath utterly separated me; rather, the Lord will utterly separate me. They do not suppose it done, but think it will be done. The eunuch. Isaiah had prophesied to Hezekiah that a certain number of his seed should serve as eunuchs in the royal palace of the King of Babylon (2 Kings 20:18). Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were such persons (Daniel 1:3-6), and there may have been others. By the letter of the Law (Deuteronomy 23:1), they were cut off from the congregation, but practically it would seem that during the Captivity they were on a par with other Israelites. These persons feared, with more reason than the foreign proselytes, that, on the return of Israel to their own land, a stricter practice would be established than had prevailed during the Captivity, and the letter of the Law would be enforced against them. I am a dry tree. Therefore useless, and entitled to no consideration at all. This is set forth under a figure drawn from the rain and the snow. "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, till it has moistened the earth, and fertilized it, and made it green, and offered seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will my word be which goeth forth out of my mouth: it will not return to me fruitless, till it has accomplished that which I willed, and prosperously carried out that for which I sent it." The rain and snow come down from the sky, and return not thither till they have .... The perfects after אם כּי are all to be understood as such (Ewald, 356, a). Rain and snow return as vapour to the sky, but not without having first of all accomplished the purpose of their descent. And so with the word of Jehovah, which goeth forth out of His mouth (יצא, not יצא, Isaiah 45:23, because it is thought of as still going on in the preaching of the prophet): it will not return without having effected its object, i.e., without having accomplished what was Jehovah's counsel, or "good pleasure" - without having attained the end for which it was sent by Jehovah (constr. as in 2 Samuel 11:22; 1 Kings 14:6). The word is represented in other places as the messenger of God (Isaiah 9:8; Psalm 107:20; Psalm 147:15.). The personification presupposes that it is not a mere sound or letter. As it goeth forth out of the mouth of God it acquires shape, and in this shape is hidden a divine life, because of its divine origin; and so it runs, with life from God, endowed with divine power, supplied with divine commissions, like a swift messenger through nature and the world of man, there to melt the ice, as it were, and here to heal and to save; and does not return from its course till it has given effect to the will of the sender. This return of the word to God also presupposes its divine nature. The will of God, which becomes concrete and audible in the word, is the utterance of His nature, and is resolved into that nature again as soon as it is fulfilled. The figures chosen are rich in analogies. As snow and rain are the mediating causes of growth, and therefore the enjoyment of what is reaped; so is the soil of the human heart softened, refreshed, and rendered productive or prolific by the word out of the mouth of Jehovah; and this word furnishes the prophet, who resembles the sower, with the seed which he scatters, and brings with it bread which feeds the souls: for every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God is bread (Deuteronomy 8:3).
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