Isaiah 59:16
And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation to him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) He saw that there was no man . . .—If the words mean no “righteous man,” we have a parallel in Jeremiah 5:1, and the “intercessor” points to action like that of Aaron (Numbers 16:48) or Phinehas (Numbers 25:7). On the interpretation here adopted, “no man” is equivalent to “no champion.”

Isaiah 59:16. And he saw there was no man — Namely, to intercede, which is understood from the following words; or no man to help in such a case, and to appear in the behalf of equity. See Ezekiel 22:30. And wondered — Hebrew, וישׁתומם, was amazed, or astonished, an expression which denotes both God’s solicitude about their condition, and their stupidity, in not laying it to heart themselves, especially considering that they had been a people well instructed, and yet, when under the guilt of such gross sins, should be no more solicitous to obtain pardon. Therefore, or, yet, his arm brought salvation unto him — That is, to his people; and his righteousness it sustained him — His justice; seeing there could be no justice found among them, he would avenge the innocent himself. Since magistrates and societies for the reformation of manners fail of doing their part, the one will not do justice, nor the other call for it, God will let them know he can effect it without them, and thus prepare his people for mercy. And then the work of deliverance shall be wrought by the immediate influence of the divine grace on men’s spirits, and of the divine providence on their affairs. When God stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, and brought his people out of Babylon, not by human wisdom nor power, but by the Spirit of the Lord, then his own arm brought salvation to them, which arm is not shortened now.59:16-21 This passage is connected with the following chapters. It is generally thought to describe the coming of the Messiah, as the Avenger and Deliverer of his church. There was none to intercede with God to turn away his wrath; none to interpose for the support of justice and truth. Yet He engaged his own strength and righteousness for his people. God will make his justice upon the enemies of his church and people plainly appear. When the enemy threatens to bear down all without control, then the Spirit of the Lord shall stop him, put him to flight. He that has delivered, will still deliver. A far more glorious salvation is promised to be wrought out by the Messiah in the fulness of time, which all the prophets had in view. The Son of God shall come to us to be our Redeemer; the Spirit of God shall come to be our Sanctifier: thus the Comforter shall abide with the church for ever, Joh 14:16. The word of Christ will always continue in the mouths of the faithful; and whatever is pretended to be the mind of the Spirit, must be tried by the Scriptures. We must lament the progress of infidelity and impiety. But the cause of the Redeemer shall gain a complete victory even on earth, and the believer will be more than conqueror when the Lord receives him to his glory in heaven.And he saw that there was no man - That is, no wise and prudent man qualified to govern the affairs of the people. Or, that there was no man qualified to interpose and put an end to these evils; no one qualified to effect a reformation, and to save the nation from the calamities which their sins deserved. The reason why God provided a Redeemer was, that such was the extent and nature of human depravity, that no one on earth could arrest it, and save the world. A similar expression occurs in Isaiah 41:28.

And wondered - This is language adapted to the mode of speaking among men. It cannot be taken literally, as if God was amazed by suddenly coming to the knowledge of this fact. It is designed to express, with great emphasis, the truth, that there was no one to intercede, and that the wicked world was lying in a helpless condition.

That there was no intercessor - On the meaning of the word here rendered 'intercessor,' see the notes at Isaiah 53:6. The Chaldee renders it, 'There was no man who could stand and pray for them.' In Isaiah 63:5, Isaiah expresses the idea in the following language: I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold.'

Therefore his arm - On the meaning of this phrase, see the notes at Isaiah 40:10 (compare Isaiah 51:5; Isaiah 63:5). The idea is, that salvation was to be traced to God alone. It did not originate with man, and it was not accomplished by his agency or help.

And his righteousness, it sustained him - Sustained by the consciousness that he was doing right, he went forward against all opposition, and executed his plan. This is language derived from the mode of speaking among people, and it means that as a man who is engaged in a righteous cause is sustained amidst much opposition by the consciousness of integrity, so it is with God. The cause of redemption is the great cause of righteousness on earth. In this cause the Redeemer was sustained by the consciousness that he was engaged in that which was designed to vindicate the interests of truth and justice, and to promote righteousness throughout the universe.

16. no man—namely, to atone by his righteousness for the unrighteousness of the people. "Man" is emphatic, as in 1Ki 2:2; no representative man able to retrieve the cause of fallen men (Isa 41:28; 63:5, 6; Jer 5:1; Eze 22:30).

no intercessor—no one to interpose, "to help … uphold" (Isa 63:5).

his arm—(Isa 40:10; 51:5). Not man's arm, but His alone (Ps 98:1; 44:3).

his righteousness—the "arm" of Messiah. He won the victory for us, not by mere might as God, but by His invincible righteousness, as man having "the Spirit without measure" (Isa 11:5; 42:6, 21; 51:8; 53:11; 1Jo 2:1).

No man, viz. to intercede, which is supplied from the following words; or no man to help in such a case, to show himself and appear in such a corrupt state in the behalf of equity, as Isaiah 59:4; the like circumstances we have Ezekiel 22:29,30; or none fit to intercede.

Wondered, Heb. iistomen, was amazed, astonished, as it were, not knowing what to do. This notes both God’s solicitousness about their condition, and their hypocrisy, as if God took no notice of them, together with their dulness and blockishness, in not concerning themselves about it, especially considering they had been a people so well instructed, and yet under the guilt of such gross sins should be no more solicitous about pardon, which God would readily have granted, if any such could have been found, Jeremiah 5:1.

Therefore; or, yet, as it is used, Isaiah 7:14 51:21.

His arm brought salvation unto him: this may relate,

1. To the parties thus oppressed. Or,

2. To God, as that either,

1. He would do his work without help from any other, Isaiah 59:5. Or,

2. He would avenge himself, his own honour; thus the word is used 1 Samuel 25:26; and this may and seems to be the meaning of the next clause. Or,

3. He had made provision for the maintaining his own righteous cause and people’s interest: this sense, that phrase, so like this, favours, Isaiah 53:5, Salvation unto me. His righteousness, viz. his justice: q.d. Seeing there could be no justice found among them, he would avenge the innocent himself, which agrees with Isaiah 59:8, and is justified by Isaiah 63:5, where speaking of the destruction of the Idumeans, you have the same words, only the word fury changed for righteousness. The literal meaning is, God’s taking vengeance on the Chaldeans for the people’s sake; the mystical is, Christ’s making use of his own righteousness for the redemption of lest man, being destitute of all other. And he saw that there was no man,.... Whose works are good, as the Targum adds; no good man, or faithful and righteous one, that had any regard to truth and justice; that was an advocate for truth, and opposed error, and set on foot a reformation; or was concerned for any of these things, and mourned over the general corruption; not that it must be thought there was not one individual person, but very few, comparatively none; since mention is made before of some that departed from evil, and made themselves a prey:

and wondered that there was no intercessor; to stand up, and pray for them, as the Targum; so it seems a spirit of prayer and supplication will be greatly wanting in the times of latter day darkness, and before latter day glory breaks out: or, "that there was no interposer" (h); none to appear on the side of truth and justice, and on the behalf of those that become a prey to others. "Wonder" is here ascribed to God by an anthropopathy, after the manner of men, as being a marvellous and surprising thing, and almost incredible, that none could be found in so good a cause, and taking the part of injured truth and righteousness; and it expresses the general corruption and defect of religion in those times; and shows that it is not for the goodness of men, or their merits, that the Lord will do what is next said he did:

therefore his arm brought salvation to him; either to himself, and which redounded to his own honour and glory; or to his people, those that became a prey to their enemies; these he rescued out of their hands, and by his own arm of power saved them; or he himself alone wrought out salvation for them, and delivered them from the insults, reproach, and persecution of men, under whatsoever name; so when antichrist, and antichristianism in every form, shall be destroyed, salvation will be ascribed to God alone, Revelation 19:1,

and his righteousness, it sustained him; his righteousness, in taking vengeance on his and his people's enemies; and his faithfulness, in the performance of his promises, will support him in, and carry him through, his work, though attended with difficulties that may seem insuperable to men: this may be understood of Christ, as well as what follows. The Jews (i) interpret this of the Messiah, who should come in an age in which are none but wicked men, as is here said.

(h) "nullum interventorem", Junius & Tremellius. (i) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 1.

And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: {o} therefore his arm brought {p} salvation to him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.

(o) Meaning, to do justice, and to remedy the things that were so far out of order.

(p) That is, his Church or his arm helped itself and did not seek aid from any other.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. Comp. the closely parallel passage, ch. Isaiah 63:5.

there was no man] See on ch. Isaiah 50:2.

no intercessor] Better none to interpose, i.e. on behalf of truth and right (cf. Ezekiel 22:30). Duhm finds in these expressions an allusion to the absence of any human hero to play the rôle assigned to Cyrus in the earlier part of the book. This is perhaps to strain the prophet’s language unduly; but see on Isaiah 63:5.

therefore his arm &c.] Jehovah’s only allies in this conflict with wickedness are His own attributes.

brought salvation unto him] “wrought deliverance for Him.” Cf. Jdg 7:2.

That the whole description refers to a future event can hardly be questioned. The perfects in this verse and the next are those of prophetic certainty.Verse 16. - He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; i.e. God looked for some champion of the oppressed to arise; it was to be expected under the circumstances. But, alas! "there was no man." None stood up to resist the unrighteous and protect the innocent; much less did any stand up to deliver Israel from its heathen adversaries. When it is said that God "wondered" at no champion appearing, we must understand the expression as an anthropomorphism· Therefore his arm brought salvation unto him. As them was no human champion, it became necessary that God should arise in his own Person, and show himself. "His arm" and "his righteousness" were enough; no human aid was needed, or could have added anything to the resistless strength of his might (comp. Isaiah 63:5). In the second strophe the prophet includes himself when speaking of the people. They now mourn over that state of exhaustion into which they have been brought through the perpetual straining and disappointment of expectation, and confess those sins on account of which the righteousness and salvation of Jehovah have been withheld. The prophet is speaking communicatively here; for even the better portion of the nation was involved in the guilt and consequences of the corruption which prevailed among the exiles, inasmuch as a nation forms an organized whole, and the delay of redemption really affected them. "Therefore right remains far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold darkness; for brightness - we walk in thick darkness. We grope along the wall like the blind, and like eyeless men we grope: we stumble in the light of noon-day as in the darkness, and among the living like the dead. We roar all like bears, and moan deeply like doves: we hope for right, and it cometh not; for salvation - it remaineth far off from us." At the end of this group of verses, again, the thought with which it sets out is palindromically repeated. The perfect רחקה denotes a state of things reaching from the past into the present; the future תשּׂיגנוּ a state of things continuing unchangeable in the present. By mishpât we understand a solution of existing inequalities or incongruities through the judicial interposition of God; by tsedâqâh the manifestation of justice, which bestows upon Israel grace as its right in accordance with the plan of salvation after the long continuance of punishment, and pours out merited punishment upon the instruments employed in punishing Israel. The prophet's standpoint, whether a real or an ideal one, is the last decade of the captivity. At that time, about the period of the Lydian war, when Cyrus was making one prosperous stroke after another, and yet waited so long before he turned his arms against Babylon, it may easily be supposed that hope and despondency alternated incessantly in the minds of the exiles. The dark future, which the prophet penetrated in the light of the Spirit, was indeed broken up by rays of hope, but it did not amount to light, i.e., to a perfect lighting up (negōhōth, an intensified plural of negōhâh, like nekhōchōth in Isaiah 26:10, pl. of nekhōchâh in Isaiah 59:14); on the contrary, darkness was still the prevailing state, and in the deep thick darkness ('ăphēlōth) the exiles pined away, without the promised release being effected for them by the oppressor of the nations. "We grope," they here complain, "like blind men by a wall, in which there is no opening, and like eyeless men we grope." גּשּׁשׁ (only used here) is a synonym of the older משּׁשׁ (Deuteronomy 28:29); נגשׁשׁה (with the elision of the reduplication, which it is hardly possible to render audible, and which comes up again in the pausal נגשּׁשׁה) has the âh of force, here of the impulse to self-preservation, which leads them to grope for an outlet in this ἀπορία; and עינים אין is not quite synonymous with עורים, for there is such a thing as blindness with apparently sound eyes (cf., Isaiah 43:8); and there is also a real absence of eyes, on account of either a natural malformation, or the actual loss of the eyes through either external injury or disease.

In the lamentation which follows, "we stumble in the light of noon-day (צהרים, meridies equals mesidies, the culminating point at which the eastern light is separated from the western) as if it were darkness, and בּאשׁמנּים, as if we were dead men," we may infer from the parallelism that since בּאשׁמנּים must express some antithesis to כּמּתים, it cannot mean either in caliginosis (Jer., Luther, etc.), or "in the graves" (Targ., D. Kimchi, etc.), or "in desolate places" (J. Kimchi). Moreover, there is no such word in Hebrew as אשׁם, to be dark, although the lexicographers give a Syriac word אוּתמנא, thick darkness (possibly related to Arab. ‛atamat, which does not mean the dark night, but late in the night); and the verb shâmēn, to be fat, is never applied to "fat, i.e., thick darkness," as Knobel assumes, whilst the form of the word with נ c. dagesh precludes the meaning a solitary place or desert (from אשׁם equals שׁמם). The form in question points rather to the verbal stem שׁמן, which yields a fitting antithesis to כמתים, whether we explain it as meaning "in luxuriant fields," or "among the fat ones, i.e., those who glory in their abundant health." We prefer the latter, since the word mishmannı̄m (Daniel 11:24; cf., Genesis 27:28) had already been coined to express the other idea; and as a rule, words formed with א prosth. point rather to an attributive than to a substantive idea. אשׁמן is a more emphatic form of שׁמן (Judges 3:29);

(Note: The name of the Phoenician god of health and prosperity, viz., Esmoun, which Alois Mller (Esmun, ein Beitrag zur Mythologie des orient. Alterthums. 1864) traces to חשׁמן (Psalm 68:32) from אשׁם equals חשׁם, "the splendid one (illustris)," probably means "the healthy one, or one of full health" (after the form אשׁחוּר, אשׁמוּרה), which agrees somewhat better with the account of Photios: ̓́Εσμουνον ὑπὸ Φοινίκων ὠνομασμένον ἐπὶ τῇ θέρμη τῆς ζωῆς.)

and אשׁמנּים indicates indirectly the very same thing which is directly expressed by משׁמנּים in Isaiah 10:16. Such explanations as "in opimis rebus" (Stier, etc.), or "in fatness of body, i.e., fulness of life" (Bttcher), are neither so suitable to the form of the word, nor do they answer to the circumstances referred to here, where all the people in exile are speaking. The true meaning therefore is, "we stumble (reel about) among fat ones, or those who lead a merry life," as if we were dead. "And what," as Doederlein observes, "can be imagined more gloomy and sad, than to be wandering about like shades, while others are fat and flourishing?" The growling and moaning in Isaiah 59:11 are expressions of impatience and pain produced by longing. The people now fall into a state of impatience, and roar like bears (hâmâh like fremere), as when, for example, a bear scents a flock, and prowls about it (vespertinus circumgemit ursus ovile: Hor. Ephesians 16.51); and now again they give themselves up to melancholy, and moan in a low and mournful tone like the doves, quarum blanditias verbaque murmur habet (Ovid). הגה, like murmurare, expresses less depth of tone or raucitas than המה. All their looking for righteousness and salvation turns out again and again to be nothing but self-deception, when the time for their coming seems close at hand.

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