|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:21-31 Neither holy cities nor royal ones are faithful to their trust, if religion does not dwell in them. Dross may shine like silver, and the wine that is mixed with water may still have the colour of wine. Those have a great deal to answer for, who do not help the oppressed, but oppress them. Men may do much by outward restraints; but only God works effectually by the influences of his Spirit, as a Spirit of Judgment. Sin is the worst captivity, the worst slavery. The redemption of the spiritual Zion, by the righteousness and death of Christ, and by his powerful grace, most fully accord with what is here meant. Utter ruin is threatened. The Jews should become as a tree when blasted by heat; as a garden without water, which in those hot countries would soon be burned up. Thus shall they be that trust in idols, or in an arm of flesh. Even the strong man shall be as tow; not only soon broken, and pulled to pieces, but easily catching fire. When the sinner has made himself as tow and stubble, and God makes himself as a consuming fire, what can prevent the utter ruin of the sinner?
Verses 21-23. - ISAIAH'S LAMENT OVER JERUSALEM. The exhortation to amendment has been made - the results have been set forth; the temporal reward has been promised; the temporal vengeance, unless they amend, threatened. Time must be allowed the people for the prophet's words to reach them, and do their work upon them, i.e. either soften or harden them. Meanwhile, Isaiah reflects on the condition of Jerusalem, and the unlikelihood of its rulers turning to God in consequence of his preaching. Verse 21. - How is the faithful city become an harlot! Not here an idolatress, but one that has left her first love, and turned to other attractions. Faithful once to her lord her spouse (Cant., passim), she has now cast him off - she is an adulterous wife, she no longer obeys or loves her husband. It was full of judgment; righteousness, etc. "She that was full" (Revised Version). Under Solomon (1 Kings 3:9-28) and again under Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 19:5-11). It is not clear when the systematic perversion of justice by the rulers began. Perhaps it originated in the latter part of Uzziah's reign, when the royal authority was weakened by being divided between Uzziah and Jotham (2 Chronicles 26:21). But now murderers (see the last note on ver. 15).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
How is the faithful city become a harlot!.... The city of Jerusalem, in which were the temple, and the pure worship of God, and was in the tribe of Judah, which ruled with God, and was very faithful with the saints when the ten tribes revolted, and fell in with the sin of Jeroboam; but now, in Isaiah's time, was become like a treacherous wife to her husband, unfaithful to the Lord, went after other lovers, committed spiritual adultery, that is, idolatry, with stocks and stones; and in the times of Christ were a wicked and an adulterous generation, corrupting the word and worship of God; see Matthew 12:39.
it was full of judgment; strict justice was exercised privately between man and man, as well as in the public courts of judicature;
righteousness lodged in it; that is, righteous men, who walked in all the commandments of the Lord, and lived soberly, righteously, and godly; see 2 Peter 3:13.
but now murderers: of the prophets whom they stoned, who were sent unto them, and of the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom they were the betrayers and murderers; see Matthew 23:37.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
21. faithful—as a wife (Isa 54:5; 62:5; Ho 2:19, 20).
righteousness lodged—(2Pe 3:13).
murderers—murderous oppressors, as the antithesis requires (see on Isa 1:15; 1Jo 3:15).
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