Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.Isaiah 50:1. Thus saith the Lord — God having, by his prophet, in the last three verses of the preceding chapter, comforted his people with an assurance of their deliverance from the tyrannical power of their enemies, here vindicates his justice in suffering them to be exposed thereto, showing that they were the causes of their own calamities. Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement? — God had espoused the Jewish Church, the mother of the individuals of that people, to himself, in a kind of matrimonial covenant, frequently mentioned or alluded to by the prophets; but he seemed to divorce or cast them off when he sent them to Babylon, and afterward did wholly reject the generality of that nation from being his people, and took the Gentiles in their stead; which great and wonderful change was foretold in the Old Testament, (as has been already often observed, and will be again,) and was accomplished in the New. And because God foresaw that this strange dispensation would provoke the Jews to murmur and quarrel with him for casting them off without sufficient cause, as indeed they were always prone to accuse him, and vindicate themselves, he bids them produce their bill of divorce. For those husbands who put away their wives out of levity or passion were obliged to give them a bill of divorce, which vindicated the wives’ innocence, and declared that the husband’s will and pleasure was the cause of their dismission. Now, says God, produce your bill of divorce, to show that I have put you away of my own mere will, and on a slight occasion, and that you did not first forsake me and go after other gods, and by that spiritual adultery violate the marriage covenant into which I had taken you. Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you — Have I any creditors to whom I was obliged or willing to sell you for the payment of a debt? Parents, oppressed with debt, often sold their children, which, according to the law of Moses, they might do, till the year of release, Exodus 21:7. See also 2 Kings 4:1; Matthew 18:25. But neither of these cases, says God, can be mine; I am not governed by any such motives, nor am I urged by any such necessity. Behold, for your iniquities have you sold yourselves — Your captivity and your afflictions are to be imputed to yourselves, and to your own folly and wickedness.
Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst.Isaiah 50:2-3. Wherefore, &c. — The general accusation, delivered in the last words, he now proves by particular instances: When I came was there no man. — How comes it to pass, that, when I sent to you by my servants the prophets, there was no man that regarded my message and offer of grace, and complied with my will? Whereby he implies that the generality of the Jews were guilty of gross infidelity and obstinate disobedience, and therefore might justly be rejected. When I called them to repentance and reformation, there was none to come — None to come at my call, or to obey my commands. Is my hand shortened at all, &c. — What is the reason of this contempt and rebellion? Is it because you expect no good from me, but think I am either unwilling or unable to save you? Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea — At my word or command I can not only check its proud waves, but make its channel dry. Here, for a proof of his power, God appeals to the miracles he wrought in Egypt, at the Red sea, and at Jordan. I make the rivers a wilderness — As dry and fit for travelling over as a wilderness. I clothe the heavens with blackness — Or, I will, or can clothe, &c. What I once did in Egypt when I drew thick curtains before all the heavenly lights, and caused an unparalleled and amazing darkness to take place for three successive days, to the great terror of my enemies, so I can and will do still, when it is necessary to save my people. And therefore you have no reason to distrust me. And I make sackcloth their covering — I cover them with clouds as black as sackcloth.
I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.
The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.Isaiah 50:4. The Lord God hath given me, &c. — The second discourse of the fifth part of Isaiah’s prophecies, according to Vitringa, begins here, and is continued to the seventeenth verse of the following chapter. God having, in the preceding paragraph, asserted his own power; to manifest the unreasonableness of the infidelity of the Jews, and that it was without all excuse, he proceeds to show what excellent and powerful means he used to bring them to repentance and salvation. This and the following passages may be, in some sort, understood of the Prophet Isaiah, but they are far more evidently and eminently verified in Christ, and indeed seem to be meant directly of him. To understand them in this light seems to suit best with the context, for, according to this exposition, the same person speaks here, who is the chief subject of the preceding chapter, and who has spoken in the foregoing verses of this chapter. There, indeed, he speaks as God, but here as man, being both God and man, as is abundantly evident from many passages, both of the Old and New Testaments. By the tongue of the learned is meant, an ability of speaking plainly, convincingly, persuasively, and in all points, so as becomes a person taught of God, and filled with all divine and heavenly wisdom and knowledge. That I should know how to speak, &c., to him that is weary — That is, burdened with the sense of his sin and misery, in which case a word of comfort is most seasonable and acceptable. This was the principal design of Christ’s ministry, namely, to give rest and comfort to the weary and heavy laden, according to what is said Matthew 11:28. And all the doctrines, reproofs, and threatenings of Christ were directed to this end, to prepare men for receiving comfort and salvation. He wakeneth, namely, me, or mine ear, morning by morning — From time to time, and continually. He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned — Either, first, as learned men, or teachers, use to awaken their scholars to hear and learn of them from time to time: or, rather, second, as those that are, or desire to be, learned, use to hear with all possible attention and diligence.
The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.Isaiah 50:5-6. The Lord hath opened mine ear — Hath given me a power and will to hear and receive his commands. And I was not rebellious — I readily did and suffered what he required of me. Neither turned away back — From hearing or obeying his will, how difficult or dangerous soever the work might be to which he called me. He seems to allude to some of the former prophets, who had shrunk back, and for a time refused such work as God called them to, as Moses, Exodus 3:11; Jonah, chap. 1:3, and others. I gave my back to the smiters — I patiently yielded up myself to the will of those who smote me: I was willing, not only to do, but to suffer the will of God, and the injuries of men: and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair — Which was a contumely or punishment sometimes inflicted on malefactors, Nehemiah 13:25. I hid not my face from shame — From any manner of reproachful usage, but did knowingly and willingly submit myself thereunto; and spitting — Spitting in a man’s face was used in token of contempt and detestation. All these things were literally fulfilled in Christ, as is expressly affirmed in the gospels; but we read of no such things concerning Isaiah, and therefore it is most safe and reasonable to understand this passage of Christ, and the rather, because it is not usual with the prophets to commend themselves so highly as the prophet here commends the person of whom he speaks.
I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.Isaiah 50:7-9. For, or rather, but, the Lord God will help me — Though as man I am weak, yet God will strengthen me to go through my great and hard work. Therefore shall I not be confounded — Therefore I assure myself of success in my undertaking, and of victory over all my enemies. I have set my face like a flint — I have hardened myself with resolution and courage against all opposition. See the like phrase, Ezekiel 3:8-9. which Bishop Lowth translates as follows: “Behold I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads: as an adamant, harder than a rock, have I made thy forehead.” The expression, however, sometimes signifies obstinacy and impudence, as Jeremiah 5:3; Zechariah 7:12; but here a settled and immoveable purpose to persevere in well-doing. He is near that justifieth me —
Though God seems to be at a distance, and to hide his face from me; yet he is, in truth, at my right hand, ready to help me, and will publicly acquit me from all the calumnies of mine adversaries; will clear up my righteousness, and show, by many and mighty signs and wonders, that I lived and died his faithful servant. Who is mine adversary? Let him come near to me — I challenge all my accusers to stand and appear before the Judge, and to produce all their charges against me: for I am conscious of mine own innocence, and I know that God will give sentence for me. Who is he that shall condemn me? — That dare attempt, or can justly do it? Lo, they all — Mine accusers and enemies; shall wax old as a garment — Shall pine away in their iniquity: the moth shall eat them up — They shall be cut off and consumed, by a secret curse and judgment of God, compared to a moth, Hosea 5:12.
He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me.
Behold, the Lord GOD will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up.
Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.Isaiah 50:10-11. Who is among you that feareth the Lord? — He now turns his speech from the unbelieving and rebellious Jews, to those of them who were, or should be, pious. That obeyeth the voice of his servant — Of the same person of whom he has hitherto spoken, of Christ, who is called God’s servant by way of eminence, and to intimate that, though he was God, yet he would take upon himself the form of a servant. It is hereby signified, that the grace of God, and the encouragement and comfort here following, belong to none but those that believe in and obey this great prophet of the church; which was also declared by Moses, Deuteronomy 18:15, compared with Acts 3:22-23. That walketh in darkness — Not in sin, which is often called darkness, but in misery, which the word also frequently signifies; that lives in a disconsolate and calamitous condition. And hath no light — No comfort nor prospect of deliverance. Let him trust in the name of the Lord, &c. — Let him fix his faith and hope in the amiable nature and infinite perfections, and especially in the mercy and faithfulness of the Lord, declared in his word, and in his interest in God, who, by the mediation of this his servant, is reconciled to him, and made his God. Behold, all ye that kindle a fire — That you may enjoy the light and comfort of it; you that reject the light which God hath set up, and seek for comfort and safety in your own inventions: which was the common error of the Jews in all ages, and especially in the days of the Messiah, when they refused him, and that way of salvation which he appointed, and rested on their own traditions and devices, going about to establish their own righteousness, and not submitting themselves unto the righteousness of God. That compass yourselves with sparks — Of your own kindling. Dr. Waterland and Bishop Lowth translate this latter clause, “who place, or heap the fuel around.” Walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled — Use your utmost endeavours to get comfort from these devices. This shall ye have of my hand, &c — This shall be the fruit of all, through my just judgment, that, instead of that comfort and security which you expect by these means, you shall receive nothing but vexation and misery, which shall pursue you both living and dying; for the word שׁכב, here rendered lie down, is frequently used for dying, as Genesis 47:30; Job 21:26, and elsewhere.
Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.