|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:16-20 Not only feel sorrow for the sin committed, but break off the practice. We must be doing, not stand idle. We must be doing the good the Lord our God requires. It is plain that the sacrifices of the law could not atone, even for outward national crimes. But, blessed be God, there is a Fountain opened, in which sinners of every age and rank may be cleansed. Though our sins have been as scarlet and crimson, a deep dye, a double dye, first in the wool of original corruption, and afterwards in the many threads of actual transgression; though we have often dipped into sin, by many backslidings; yet pardoning mercy will take out the stain, Ps 51:7. They should have all the happiness and comfort they could desire. Life and death, good and evil, are set before us. O Lord, incline all of us to live to thy glory.
Verses 16-20. - THE REQUIREMENT OF GOD - AMENDMENT OF LIFE. God, having put aside the worthless plea of outward religiousness made by his people, goes on to declare, by the mouth of his prophet, what he requires. First, in general terms (ver. 16), and then with distinct specification (ver. 17), he calls on them to amend their ways, both negatively ("cease to do evil") and positively ("learn to do well"). If they will really amend, then he assures them of forgiveness and favor; if they refuse and continue their rebellion, the sword will devour them. Verse 16. - Wash you, make you clean. The analogy of sin to defilement, and of washing to cleansing from sin, has been felt among men universally wherever there has been any sense of sin. Outward purification by water has been constantly made use of as typical of the recovery of inward purity. Hence the numerous washings of the Levitical Law (Exodus 29:4; Leviticus 1:9, 13; Numbers 19:7, 8, 19; Deuteronomy 21:6; Deuteronomy 23:11; etc.); hence the ablutions of the priests in Egypt (Herod., 2:37); hence the appropriateness of the rite of baptism; hence the symbolical washing of hands to free from complicity in blood-guiltiness (Matthew 27:24). "Wash you, make you clean, "could not be misunderstood by the Israelites; they would know that it was a requirement to "wash their hands in innocency" (Psalm 26:6; Psalm 73:13), even apart from what follows. Put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes. Not "hide it, "for that was impossible; but remove it altogether - in other words, "cease from it." "Cast off all the works of darkness;" get rid of evil, to begin with. So much is negative.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Wash ye, make you clean, &c. These two words are to be regarded as one, since they intend the same thing, and suppose the persons spoken to to be unclean, as they were, notwithstanding their legal sacrifices and ceremonial ablutions; and are designed to convince them of it, to bring them to a sense of their inability to cleanse themselves, to lead them to inquire after the proper means of it, and so to the fountain of Christ's blood to wash in, which only cleanses from it:
put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; the exhortation is not barely to put away their doings, but the evil of them, and that not from themselves, but from before the eyes of God, from the eyes of his vindictive justice, which is only done by the sacrifice of Christ; and the use of this exhortation is to show the necessity of putting away sin to salvation, and the insufficiency of the blood of bulls and goats to do it, since, notwithstanding these, it remains untaken away; and to direct to the sacrifice of Christ, which effectually does it.
Cease to do evil; either from ceremonial works done with a wicked mind, or from outward immoralities, such as shedding innocent blood, oppressing the fatherless and widow, things mentioned in the context; it denotes a cessation from a series and course of sinning, otherwise there is no ceasing from sin in this life.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
16. God saith to the sinner, "Wash you," &c., that he, finding his inability to "make" himself "clean," may cry to God, Wash me, cleanse me (Ps 51:2, 7, 10).
before mine eyes—not mere outward reformation before man's eyes, who cannot, as God, see into the heart (Jer 32:19).
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