Isaiah 64:8
But now, O LORD, you are our father; we are the clay, and you our potter; and we all are the work of your hand.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) We are the clay, and thou our potter . . .—Commonly, partly, perhaps, from St. Paul’s application of the image in Romans 9:20-21, and Isaiah’s own use of it in Isaiah 29:16, we associate the idea of the potter with that of simple arbitrary sovereignty. Here, however (as in Jeremiah 18:6), another aspect is presented to us, and the power of the Great Potter is made the ground of prayer. The “clay” entreats Him to fashion it according to His will, and has faith in His readiness, as well as His power, to comply with that prayer. The thought of the “potter” becomes, in this aspect of it, one with that of the Fatherhood of God.

Isaiah 64:8-9. But now, O Lord, thou art our Father — Notwithstanding all this, thou art our Father, having both created and adopted us; therefore pity us thy children; we are the clay, and thou our potter — We are in thy hands as clay in the hands of the potter: thou canst form us, and dispose of us as thou pleasest. And we will not quarrel with thee, however thou art pleased to deal with us. We are all the work of thy hands — Therefore forget us not, forsake us not, but spare, and preserve, and save us. Be not wroth with us very sore — But let thy anger be mitigated by the clemency and compassion of a father. Neither remember iniquity for ever — Thou hast been angry with us a long time, be not so for ever. Behold, &c. we are thy people — Thy peculiar people, Isaiah 63:19. Another argument to enforce the former petition.64:6-12 The people of God, in affliction, confess and bewail their sins, owning themselves unworthy of his mercy. Sin is that abominable thing which the Lord hates. Our deeds, whatever they may seem to be, if we think to merit by them at God's hand, are as rags, and will not cover us; filthy rags, and will but defile us. Even our few good works in which there is real excellence, as fruits of the Spirit, are so defective and defiled as done by us, that they need to be washed in the fountain open for sin and uncleanness. It bodes ill when prayer is kept back. To pray, is by faith to take hold of the promises the Lord has made of his good-will to us, and to plead them; to take hold of him, earnestly begging him not to leave us; or soliciting his return. They brought their troubles upon themselves by their own folly. Sinners are blasted, and then carried away, by the wind of their own iniquity; it withers and then ruins them. When they made themselves as an unclean thing, no wonder that God loathed them. Foolish and careless as we are, poor and despised, yet still Thou art our Father. It is the wrath of a Father we are under, who will be reconciled; and the relief our case requires is expected only from him. They refer themselves to God. They do not say, Lord, rebuke us not, for that may be necessary; but, Not in thy displeasure. They state their lamentable condition. See what ruin sin brings upon a people; and an outward profession of holiness will be no defence against it. God's people presume not to tell him what he shall say, but their prayer is, Speak for the comfort and relief of thy people. How few call upon the Lord with their whole hearts, or stir themselves to lay hold upon him! God may delay for a time to answer our prayers, but he will, in the end, answer those who call on his name and hope in his mercy.But now, O Lord, thou art our Father - (See the notes at Isaiah 63:16).

We are the clay - The idea seems to be, that their condition then had been produced by him as clay is moulded by the potter, and that they were to be returned and restored entirely by him - as they had no more power to do it than the clay had to shape itself. The sense is, that they were wholly in his hand and at his disposal (see the notes at Isaiah 29:16; Isaiah 45:9).

And thou our potter - Thou hast power to mould us as the potter does the clay.

And we all are the work of thy hand - That is, as the vessel made by the potter is his work. We have been formed by thee, and we are dependent on thee to make us what thou wilt have us to be. This whole verse is an acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God. It expresses the feeling which all have when under conviction of sin; and when they are sensible that they are exposed to the divine displeasure for their transgressions. Then they feel that if they are to be saved, it must be by the mere sovereignty of God; and then they implore his interposition to 'mould and guide them at his will.'

8. father—(Isa 63:16).

clay … potter—(Isa 29:16; 45:9). Unable to mould themselves aright, they beg the sovereign will of God to mould them unto salvation, even as He made them at the first, and is their "Father."

But now, O Lord, thou art our Father; an argument or pathetical plea for pity; or, Notwithstanding all this, thou art our Father, both by creation and by adoption, therefore pity us thy children.

We are the clay; a metonymy of the matter, clay for the vessels made of clay; or, we are clay, pointing at our original matter; or it may relate to their state, that God framed them in a body civil and ecclesiastical, out of a confused multitude; they plead at the same time their own frailty, why they would be pitied; and God’s covenant interest in them, why he should pity them.

We all are the work of thy hand; another argument of the same nature with the former, Psalm 138:8, not only as men, but as a body of men made thy peculiar. But now, O Lord, thou art our father,.... Notwithstanding all that we have done against thee, and thou hast done to us, the relation of a father continues; thou art our Father by creation and adoption; as he was in a particular manner to the Jews, to whom belonged the adoption; and therefore this relation is pleaded, that mercy might be shown them; and so the Targum,

"and thou, Lord, thy mercies towards us "are" many (or let them be many) as a father towards "his" children.''

We are the clay, and thou our potter: respecting their original formation out of the dust of the earth; and so expressing humility in themselves, and yet ascribing greatness to God, who had curiously formed them, as the potter out of the clay forms vessels for various uses: it may respect their formation as a body politic and ecclesiastic, which arose from small beginnings, under the power and providence of God; see Deuteronomy 32:6,

and we all are the work of thy hand; and therefore regard us, and destroy us not; as men do not usually destroy their own works: these relations to God, and circumstances in which they were as creatures, and as a body civil and ecclesiastic, are used as arguments for mercy and favour.

But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the {i} clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.

(i) Even though O Lord by your just judgment you may utterly destroy us as the potter may his pot, yet we appeal to your mercies, by which it has pleased you to adopt us to be your children.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. thou art our father] See on Isaiah 63:16.

we are the clay, and thou our potter] The nearest parallel to this application of the common image of clay and potter is perhaps Job 10:9. It is the plea of the creature against seeming unreasonableness on the part of the Creator. Can the potter allow the work on which he has lavished his utmost skill and care to be broken in pieces?

8–12. The prayer now ends in a direct and touching supplication, supported by various pleas, that Jehovah will at last cause His wrath against His people to cease.Verse 8. - But now, O Lord, thou art our Father (see the comment on Isaiah 63:16). We are the clay, and thou our Potter (comp. Isaiah 29:16; Isaiah 45:9). Thy hands have made us and fashioned us, both as individuals and as a nation. Thou hast lavished thy labour and thy skill upon us. Surely thou wilt not "forsake the work of thine own hands" (Psalm 138:8). The similes which follow cannot be attached to this nâzōllū, however we may explain it. Yet Isaiah 64:1 (2) does not form a new and independent sentence; but we must in thought repeat the word upon which the principal emphasis rests in Isaiah 63:19 (Isaiah 64:1). "(Wouldst come down) as fire kindles brushwood, fire causes water to boil; to make known Thy name to Thine adversaries, that the heathen may tremble before Thy face! When Thou doest terrible things which we hoped not for; wouldst come down, (and) mountains shake before Thy countenance!" The older expositors gave themselves a great deal of trouble in the attempt to trace hămâsı̄m to mâsas, to melt. But since Louis de Dieu and Albert Schultens have followed Saadia and Abulwlid in citing the Arabic hms, to crack, to mutter, to mumble, etc., and hšm, to break in pieces, confringere, from which comes hashim, broken, dry wood, it is generally admitted that hămâsim is from hemes (lit. crackling, rattling, Arab. hams), and signifies "dry twigs," arida sarmenta. The second simile might be rendered, "as water bubbles up in the fire;" and in that case mayim would be treated as a feminine (according to the rule in Ges. 146, 3), in support of which Job 14:19 may be adduced as an unquestionable example (although in other cases it is masculine), and אשׁ equals בּאשׁ would be used in a local sense, like lehâbhâh, into flames, in Isaiah 5:24. But it is much more natural to take אשׁ, which is just as often a feminine as מים is a masculine, as the subject of תּבעה, and to give to the verb בּעה, which is originally intransitive, judging from the Arabic bgâ, to swell, the Chald. בּוּע, to spring up (compare אבעבּעות, blisters, pustules), the Syr. בּגא, to bubble up, etc., the transitive meaning to cause to boil or bubble up, rather than the intransitive to boil (comp. Isaiah 30:13, נבעה, swollen equals bent forwards, as it were protumidus). Jehovah is to come down with the same irresistible force which fire exerts upon brushwood or water, when it sets the former in flames and makes the latter boil; in order that by such a display of might He may make His name known (viz., the name thus judicially revealing itself, hence "in fire," Isaiah 30:27; Isaiah 66:15) to His adversaries, and that nations (viz., those that are idolaters) may tremble before Him (מפּניך: cf., Psalm 68:2-3). The infinitive clause denoting the purpose, like that indicating the comparison, passes into the finite (cf., Isaiah 10:2; Isaiah 13:9; Isaiah 14:25). Modern commentators for the most part now regard the optative lū' (O that) as extending to Isaiah 64:2 also; and, in fact, although this continued influence of lū' appears to overstep the bounds of the possible, we are forced to resort to this extremity. Isaiah 64:2 cannot contain a historical retrospect: the word "formerly" would be introduced if it did, and the order of the words would be a different one. Again, we cannot assume that נזלּוּ הרים מפּניך ירדתּ contains an expression of confidence, or that the prefects indicate certainty. Neither the context, the foregoing נוראות בּעשׂותך נו (why not עשׂה?), nor the parenthetical assertion נקוּה לא, permits of this. On the other hand, וגו בעשׂותך connects itself very appropriately with the purposes indicated in Isaiah 64:1 (2.): "may tremble when Thou doest terrible things, which we, i.e., such as we, do not look for," i.e., which surpass our expectations. And now nothing remains but to recognise the resumption of Isaiah 63:19 (Isaiah 64:1) in the clause "The mountains shake at Thy presence," in which case Isaiah 63:19b-64:2((Isaiah 64:1-3) forms a grand period rounded off palindromically after Isaiah's peculiar style.
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