Isaiah 58:12
And they that shall be of you shall build the old waste places: you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
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(12) Shall build the old waste places.—The prophet contemplates primarily the restoration of the public and private buildings of Jerusalem, but the words have obviously a wider spiritual application.

The foundations of many generationsi.e., those that had been lying in ruins, with no superstructure, for even a longer period than the seventy years of exile.

Thou shalt be called . . .—This was to be the special work, and was to constitute the enduring fame, of the new Israel.

Paths to dwell ini.e., the streets of the city shall be once more flanked with houses on either side, and not merely roads from one point to another.

58:3-12 A fast is a day to afflict the soul; if it does not express true sorrow for sin, and does not promote the putting away of sin, it is not a fast. These professors had shown sorrow on stated or occasioned fasts. But they indulged pride, covetousness, and malignant passions. To be liberal and merciful is more acceptable to God than mere fasting, which, without them, is vain and hypocritical. Many who seem humble in God's house, are hard at home, and harass their families. But no man's faith justifies, which does not work by love. Yet persons, families, neighbourhoods, churches, or nations, show repentance and sorrow for sin, by keeping a fast sincerely, and, from right motives, repenting, and doing good works. The heavy yoke of sin and oppression must be removed. As sin and sorrow dry the bones and weaken the strongest human constitution; so the duties of kindness and charity strengthen and refresh both body and mind. Those who do justly and love mercy, shall have the comfort, even in this world. Good works will bring the blessing of God, provided they are done from love to God and man, and wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit.And they that shall be of thee - They that spring from thee; or thy people.

Shall build the old waste places - Shall repair the old ruins, and restore the desolate cities and fields to their former beauty. This language is taken from the condition of Judea during the long captivity at Babylon. The land would have been desolated by the Chaldeans, and lain waste for a period of seventy years. Of course all the remains of their former prosperity would have gone to decay, and the whole country would be filled with ruins. But all this, says the prophet, would be restored if they were obedient to God. and would keep his law. Their descendants would be so numerous that the land would be entirely occupied and cultivated again, and cities and towns would rise with their former beauty and magnificence.

Thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations - That is, the foundations which had endured for generations. The word 'foundations' here (מוסד môsâd), means properly the foundation of a building, that is, on which a building rests. Here it means the foundation when that alone remains; and is equivalent to ruins. The Hebrew phrase translated 'of many generational' (דור־ודור dôr-vâdôr, generation and generation), is equivalent to one generation after another, and is the usual form of the superlative degree. The exact amount of time is not designated; but the phrase is equivalent to a long time - while one generation passes away after another. Vitringa applies this to the gospel, and supposes that it means that the church, after long decay and desolation, would rise to its former beauty and glory. The promise is indeed general; and though the language is taken from the recovery of Palestine from its ruins after the captivity, yet there can be no objection to applying it in a more general sense, as teaching that the people of God, if they are faithful in keeping his commandments, and in manifesting the spirit which becomes the church, will repair the ruins which sin has made in the world, and rebuild the wastes and the desolations of many ages.

Sin has spread its desolations far and wide. Scarce the foundations of righteousness remain in the earth. Where they do remain, they are often covered over with ruined fragments, and are surrounded by frightful wastes. The world is full of the ruins which sin has caused; and there could be no more striking illustration of the effects of sin on all that is good, than the ruins of Judea during the seventy years of exile, or than those of Palmyra, of Baalbec, of Tyre, of Ephesus, and of Persepolis, at present. It is for the church of God to rebuild these wastes, and to cause the beauties of cultivated fields, and the glories of cities rebuilt, to revisit the desolate earth; in other words, to extend the blessings of that religion which will yet clothe the earth with moral loveliness, as though sin had not spread its gloomy and revolting monuments over the world.

And thou shalt be called - The name which shall appropriately designate what you will do.

The repairer of the breach - Lowth, 'The repairer of the broken mound.' The phrase properly means, 'the fortifier of the breach;' i.:e:, the one who shall build up the breach that is made in a wall of a city, either by the lapse of time, or by a siege.

The restorer of paths to dwell in - Lowth and Noves render this, 'The restorer of paths to be frequented by inhabitants.' The Septuagint renders it, 'And thou shalt cause thy paths to rest in the midst of thee;' and Jerome. Avertens semitas in quietem - 'Turning the paths into rest,' which the Jewish exposition explains to mean, 'Thou shalt build walls so high that no enemy can enter them.' So Grotius renders it, 'Turning thy paths to rest;' that is, thou shalt leave no way of access to robbers. The Chaldee renders it, 'Converting the wicked to the law.' The common English version has probably expressed correctly the sense. The idea is, that they would repair the public highways which had long lain desolate, by which access was had to their dwelling-places. It does not mean, however, that the paths or ways were to be places in which to dwell, but that the ways which led to their dwelling-places were to be restored, or repaired. These roads, of course, in the long desolations would be ruined. Thorns, and brambles, and trees would have grown upon them; and having been long neglected, they would be impassable. But the advantages of a free contact from one dwelling and one city to another, and throughout the land, would be again enjoyed. Spiritually applied, it means the same as the previous expression, that the church of God would remove the ruins which sin has caused, and diffuse comfort and happiness around the world. The obstructed and overrun paths to a quiet and peaceable dwelling on earth would be cleared away, and the blessings of' the true religion would be like giving free and easy access from one tranquil and prosperous dwelling-place to another.

12. they … of thee—thy people, the Israelites.

old waste places—the old ruins of Jerusalem (Isa 61:4; Eze 36:33-36).

foundations of many generations—that is, the buildings which had lain in ruins, even to their foundations, for many ages; called in the parallel passage (Isa 61:4), "the former desolations"; and in the preceding clause here, "the old waste places." The literal and spiritual restoration of Israel is meant, which shall produce like blessed results on the Gentile world (Am 9:11, 12; Ac 15:16, 17).

be called—appropriately: the name truly designating what thou shalt do.

breach—the calamity wherewith God visited Israel for their sin (Isa 30:26; 1Ch 15:13).

paths to dwell in—not that the paths were to be dwelt in, but the paths leading to their dwellings were to be restored; "paths, so as to dwell in the land" [Maurer].

They that shall be of thee, i.e. either,

1. A remnant of thee among the captivity, that shall be as persons raised from the dead; or,

2. Thy posterity, expressed thus, because they sprang or proceeded from them.

The old waste places, Heb. wastes of eternity, i.e. which have lain long waste; for holam doth not always signify what is bounded by no time, but what respects a long time, looking either forward, as Genesis 13:15 Exodus 21:6, or backward, as here, viz. the space of seventy years, and so may truly be rendered the wastes of an age. By waste places he means the city and temple, with cities and places adjacent, turned as it were all into a waste, or wilderness, void and untilled, and which was done not only by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, but by Sennacherib also, and the other kings of Assyria. They had lain so long desolate, that the foxes inhabited them instead of men, Lamentations 5:18. And it was turned so much into a desert, that they were forced to fight with the beasts that possessed it to get their food, Lamentations 5:9.

The foundations of many generations; either the foundations that were laid many generations ago, as those of Jerusalem, which was not only built, but was the head of a kingdom, in the days of Melchizedek, who was king thereof in the days of Abraham, as appears, Genesis 14:18; if that Salem were Jerusalem, as is generally agreed, and Josephus writes, lib. 1. Antiquit. cap. 10; who was born about the three hundredth year after the flood: the superstructures were now destroyed, viz. of Jerusalem, and divers other cities. Or, that shall continue for many generations yet to come.

Thou shalt be called; thou shalt be honoured with this title, as we use to say the father of our country, i.e. deservedly so called, because thou art so; the like phrase Isaiah 48:8.

The repairer of the breach: breach is put here collectively for breaches, which were made by God’s judgment breaking in upon them in suffering the walls of their towns and cities to be demolished, and their state broken, Isaiah 5:5.

The restorer of paths; such a one was Moses, Psalm 106:23. And this tends to the same sense with the former expression, because men were wont to make paths over those breaches, to go the nearest way. Or it may more particularly point at the recovering of the ancient paths, and bringing them into their wonted course, which were either those chief streets through the gates of the cities, or other lanes out of those streets, which were now forgotten and lost, partly by being covered with rubbish, and partly by those shorter paths that were trod and made over the breaches; such a restorer of paths was Nehemiah, Nehemiah 6:1. And we read of the several repairers he made use of, Ne 3. Or those paths that leads from city to city, which being now laid desolate, and uninhabited, were grown over with grass and weeds, for want of travellers, or safety of travelling, (of something a like case we read in the time of the judges, Judges 5:6,7) and so lost as in a wilderness, wherein there is no way; and by building up those cities again the several paths leading to them would be restored.

To dwell in; these accommodations being all recovered, their ancient cities might be fit to be reinhabited. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places,.... As the cities in Israel and Judea, which had been long laid waste by the Assyrians and Chaldeans, were rebuilt by those of the Jewish nation, who returned from the captivity of Babylon, to which there is at least an allusion; and as the church of God, the tabernacle of David, which was fallen down, and had lain long in ruins, through corruptions in doctrine and worship, to the times of Christ, when the apostles, who were of the Jews, those wise masterbuilders, were instruments of raising it up again, and repairing its ruins: so, in the latter day, "the waste places of the world" (n), as the words may be rendered, shall be built by a set of men, that shall be of the church of God, who shall be instruments in his hand of converting many souls, and so of peopling it with Christians; such places as before were desolate, where before there was no preaching of the word, no administration of ordinances, nor any Gospel churches:

thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; either such foundations as have been razed up, and lay so for ages past; or raise up such as shall continue for generations to come. It may allude to the raising the foundations of the city and temple of Jerusalem; but rather refers to the founding of churches in Gospel times, which, as it was done in the first times of it by the apostles in the Gentile world, so shall be again in the latter day, which will continue for many ages:

and thou shalt be called the repairer of the breach, and the restorer of paths to dwell in; that is, the church and her builders, that shall be of her, shall be so called; the Jews and Gentiles will be converted in great numbers, and coalesce in the same Gospel church state, and so the breach between them will be repaired. Christians of various denominations, who now break off and separate one from another, will be of the same sentiment and judgment in doctrine and discipline; they shall see eye to eye, and cement together, and all breaches will be made up, and there will be no schism in the body; and they shall dwell together in unity, and walk in the same paths of faith and duty, of truth and holiness; and such who will be the happy instruments of all this will have much honour, and be called by these names.

The Targum is,

"they shall call thee one that confirms the right way, and converts, the ungodly to the law.''

(n) "desolata seculi", Munster, Vatablus, Vitringa; "deserta seculi", Pagninus, Montanus.

And they that shall be of thee shall build the old {n} waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.

(n) Signifying that of the Jews would come such as would build again the ruins of Jerusalem and Judea: but chiefly this is meant of the spiritual Jerusalem, whose builders were the Apostles.

12. Comp. ch. Isaiah 61:4, Isaiah 49:8. The importance attached to the restoration of the ruined places shews that what the prophet has in view is chiefly the recovery of temporal and political prosperity. It may also throw some light on the date of the prophecy. The description of the ruins as “ancient” suggests a period considerably later than the Exile (which only lasted half a century), although the argument is not one that can be rigorously pressed.

they that shall be of thee] Strictly “some of thee.” Weir and Cheyne emend the text and read “thy children” (בניך for ממך). König on the other hand (Syntax, p. 37) suggests a change of the verb (reading ונבנו): “and the wastes shall be built by thee.”

the old waste places] Better, the ancient ruins (Isaiah 44:26).

the foundations of many generations] might mean places which had been founded many generations back, but the correspondence with ch. Isaiah 61:4 seems to shew that foundations which have lain waste for many generations are referred to.

The repairer of the breach &c.] The restoration of the walls and highways will be an achievement by which the community is remembered.

paths to dwell in] Cf. Job 24:13.Verse 12. - They that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places. Thy descendants shall restore all that has fallen into decay in Israel, whether it be cities or customs. They shall restore "breaches" of every kind, and bring back the old paths for thee to walk in. The restoration of the ruined cities of Judah may be glanced at, but is far from exhausting the writer's meaning (comp. Isaiah 61:4). Whilst the people on the fast-day are carrying on their worldly, selfish, everyday business, the fasting is perverted from a means of divine worship and absorption in the spiritual character of the day to the most thoroughly selfish purposes: it is supposed to be of some worth and to merit some reward. This work-holy delusion, behind which self-righteousness and unrighteousness were concealed, is met thus by Jehovah through His prophet: "Can such things as these pass for a fast that I have pleasure in, as a day for a man to afflict his soul? To bow down his head like a bulrush, and spread sackcloth and ashes under him - dost thou call this a fast and an acceptable day for Jehovah? Is not this a fast that I have pleasure in: To loose coils of wickedness, to untie the bands of the yoke, and for sending away the oppressed as free, and that ye break every kind of yoke? Is it not this, to break thy bread to the hungry, and to take the poor and houseless to thy home; when thou seest a naked man that thou clothest him, and dost not deny thyself before thine own flesh?" The true worship, which consists in works of merciful love to one's brethren, and its great promises are here placed in contrast with the false worship just described. הכזה points backwards: is such a fast as this a fast after Jehovah's mind, a day on which it can be said in truth that a man afflicts his soul (Leviticus 16:29)? The ה of הלכף is resumed in הלזה; the second ל is the object to תּקרא expressed as a dative. The first ל answers to our preposition "to" with the infinitive, which stands here at the beginning like a casus absol. (to hang down; for which the inf. abs. הכפוף might also be used), and as in most other cases passes over into the finite (et quod saccum et cinerem substernit, viz., sibi: Ges. 132, Anm. 2). To hang down the head and sit in sackcloth and ashes - this does not in itself deserve the name of fasting and of a day of gracious reception (Isaiah 56:7; Isaiah 61:2) on the part of Jehovah (ליהוה for a subjective genitive).

Isaiah 58:6 and Isaiah 58:7 affirm that the fasting which is pleasant to Jehovah consists in something very different from this, namely, in releasing the oppressed, and in kindness to the helpless; not in abstinence form eating as such, but in sympathetic acts of that self-denying love, which gives up bread or any other possession for the sake of doing good to the needy.

(Note: The ancient church connected fasting with almsgiving by law. Dressel, Patr. Ap. p. 493.)

There is a bitter irony in these words, just as when the ancients said, "not eating is a natural fast, but abstaining form sin is a spiritual fast." During the siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans a general emancipation of the slaves of Israelitish descent (who were to be set free, according to the law, every three years) was resolved upon and carried out; but as soon as the Chaldeans were gone, the masters fetched their liberated slaves back into servitude again (Jeremiah 34:8-22). And as Isaiah 58:6 shows, they carried the same selfish and despotic disposition with them into captivity. The זה which points forwards is expanded into infin. absolutes, which are carried on quite regularly in the finite tense. Mōtâh, which is repeated palindromically, signifies in both cases a yoke, lit., vectis, the cross wood which formed the most important part of the yoke, and which was fastened to the animal's head, and so connected with the plough by means of a cord or strap (Sir. 30:13; 33:27).

(Note: I have already observed at Isaiah 47:6, in vindication of what was stated at Isaiah 10:27, that the yoke was not in the form of a collar. I brought the subject under the notice of Prof. Schegg, who wrote to me immediately after his return from his journey to Palestine to the following effect: "I saw many oxen ploughing in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and the neighbourhood of Ephesus; and in every case the yoke was a cross piece of wood laid upon the neck of the animal, and fastened to the pole of the plough by a cord which passed under the neck of the animal.")

It is to this that אגדּות, knots, refers. We cannot connect it with mutteh, a state of perverted right (Ezekiel 9:9), as Hitzig does. רצוּצים are persons unjustly and forcibly oppressed even with cruelty; רצץ is a stronger synonym to עשׂק (e.g., Amos 4:1). In Isaiah 58:7 we have the same spirit of general humanity as in Job 31:13-23; Ezekiel 18:7-8 (compare what James describes in James 1:27 as "pure religion and undefiled"). לחם (פרשׂ) פרץ is the usual phrase for κλᾶν (κλάζειν) ἄρτον. מרוּדים is the adjective to עניּים, and apparently therefore must be derived from מרד: miserable men who have shown themselves refractory towards despotic rulers. But the participle mârūd cannot be found elsewhere; and the recommendation to receive political fugitives has a modern look. The parallels in Lamentations 1:7 and Lamentations 3:19 are conclusive evidence, that the word is intended as a derivative of רוּד, to wander about, and it is so rendered in the lxx, Targ., and Jerome (vagos). But מרוד, pl. מרוּדים, is no adjective; and there is nothing to recommend the opinion, that by "wanderers" we are to understand Israelitish men. Ewald supposes that מרוּדים may be taken as a part. hoph. for מוּרדים, hunted away, like הממותים in 2 Kings 11:2 (Keri המּמתים); but it cannot be shown that the language allowed of this shifting of a vowel-sound. We prefer to assume that מרוּדים (persecuted) is regarded as part. pass., even if only per metaplasmum, from מרד, a secondary form of רוּד (cf., מכס, מלץ, מצח, makuna). Isaiah 58:7 is still the virtual subject to אבחרהוּ צום. The apodosis to the hypothetical כּי commences with a perf. consec., which then passes into the pausal future תתעלּם. In hsilgnE:egaugnaL\&מבשׂרך (from thine own flesh) it is presupposed that all men form one united whole as being of the same flesh and blood, and that they form one family, owing to one another mutual love.

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