Isaiah 56
Benson Commentary
Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.
Isaiah 56:1. Thus saith the Lord — This verse, and the rest of this chapter, until Isaiah 56:9, seems to belong to the foregoing prophecy. From the consideration of God’s promises there made to the believing Jews and Gentiles, he here urges them to perform their duty to him. Keep ye judgment and do justice — This phrase elsewhere generally signifies the duties which one man owes to another; but here it seems rather to signify the duties which men owe to God, as it is explained in the following verses. Accordingly, it might with propriety have been rendered, practise righteousness. For my salvation is near to come — That eminent salvation by the Messiah, so largely promised and insisted upon in the foregoing chapters. The Scriptures, it must be observed, often speak of things that are at a great distance as if they were present or at hand, Habakkuk 2:3; James 5:8-9; Revelation 22:20. And my righteousness to be revealed — What in the former clause he called salvation, he here calls righteousness, as being an evident demonstration of God’s righteousness, both in the fulfilment of his promises, and in the punishment of sin, as also in the salvation of sinners, upon just and honourable terms.

Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.
Isaiah 56:2. Blessed is the man — Any, or every man, not only Jews but Gentiles, or strangers, as it is explained in the following verses. That doeth this — That practiseth the judgment and justice, or the righteousness, mentioned Isaiah 56:1. That layeth hold on it — Or, that holdeth it fast, as יחזיק בה may be rendered; that is, resolute and constant in so doing; that not only begins well, but perseveres in well-doing: that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it — That doth not profane or defile the sabbath, either by forbidden practices, or by the neglect of commanded duties. The sabbath seems to be here put, as sacrifice is elsewhere, for the whole worship of God. And keepeth his hand from doing any evil — That conscientiously abstains from all evil and immoral works.

Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.
Isaiah 56:3-5. Neither let the son of the stranger — The Gentile, who by birth is a stranger to God, and to the commonwealth of Israel. That hath joined himself to the Lord — That hath turned from dumb idols to the living God, and to true religion; speak, saying, The Lord hath separated me, &c. — For such shall be as acceptable to me as the Israelites themselves, and the partition wall between Jews and Gentiles shall be taken down, and repentance and remission of sins shall be preached and offered to men of all nations. Neither let the eunuch say — Who is here joined with the stranger, because he was forbidden to enter into the congregation of the Lord, Deuteronomy 23:1. Under these two instances he understands all those, who, either by birth, or by any ceremonial pollution, were excluded from church privileges, and so he throws open the door to all true believers. Behold, I am a dry tree — A fruitless tree, accursed by God with the curse of barrenness. For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs, &c. — That observe my commands, not by custom, or through force or fear, but by free choice, with love to them, and delight in them. And take hold of my covenant — That steadfastly keep the conditions of my covenant. Even unto them will I give in my house, &c. — In my temple, an emblem of the Christian church; a place, &c., better than of sons and daughters — A far greater blessing and honour than that of having a posterity, even my favour, and my Spirit and eternal felicity.

For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
Isaiah 56:6-7. The sons of the stranger that join themselves to the Lord — That with purpose of heart cleave unto him, as is said Acts 11:23. To love the Lord, to be his servants — To serve him out of love to him and to his worship. Them will I bring to my holy mountain — To my house which stood upon mount Zion, including mount Moriah; and make them joyful — By accepting their services, and comforting their hearts with the sense of my love; in my house of prayer — In my temple, in and toward which prayers are daily made unto me. Their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar — They shall have as free access to my house and altar as the Jews themselves, and their services shall be as acceptable to me. Evangelical worship is here described under such expressions as agreed to the worship of God which was then in use. My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people — Jews and Gentiles shall have equal freedom to my house, and shall there call upon my name. “The temple was originally designed for strangers as well as Jews, as a place to offer up their prayers to the Divine Majesty; which is sufficiently plain from the prayer of Solomon, at the dedication of it, though the number of proselytes was small till the time of the second temple. But there can be no doubt that this verse alludes particularly to the conversion of the Gentiles. This truth could not be told the Jewish people otherwise than by using terms taken from rites familiar to them, unless the nature of the Christian dispensation had been previously explained; a matter evidently unfit for their information, when they were yet to live so long under the Jewish law. For though the prophets speak of the little value of their regard to the ceremonial law, they easily make themselves understood, that they mean, when it was observed without the moral law; which they describe in the purity and perfection of the gospel. So admirable was this conduct, that while it hid the future dispensation it prepared men for it.” — Bishop Warburton’s Div. Leg. Upon the whole, the reader may observe, “that the principal scope of this paragraph is to teach that all the privileges of the covenant of grace should be common to all, without distinction of nation, state, or condition; that God would distribute to all believers, according to the measure of their grace, equal gifts, as our Lord hath taught in the parable of the labourers in the vineyard, Matthew 20.”

Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.
Isaiah 56:8. The Lord which gathereth the outcasts — Who will gather to himself, and bring into their own land, those poor Israelites which are or shall be cast out of it, and dispersed in divers parts of the world; saith, Yet will I gather others to him — As there are some few Gentiles whom I have made proselytes and added to the Jewish Church, so I will make another and far more comprehensive gathering of the Gentiles, whom I will bring into the same church with the Jews, making both Jews and Gentiles one flock under one shepherd.

All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest.
Isaiah 56:9. All ye beasts of the field, come to devour — “Here,” says Bishop Lowth, “manifestly begins a new section. The prophet, in the foregoing chapters, having comforted the faithful with many great promises of God’s favour to be extended to them, in the restoration of their ruined state, and of the enlargement of his church by the admission of the Gentiles, here, on a sudden, makes a transition to the more disagreeable part of the prospect, and to a sharp reproof of the wicked and unbelievers, and especially of the negligent and faithless governors and teachers, of the idolaters and hypocrites, who would still draw his judgments upon the nation; probably having in view the destruction of their city and polity by the Chaldeans, and perhaps by the Romans.” Vitringa, however, thinks the enemies of the Christian Church may be here pointed out, such as the Goths, Vandals, Turks, and others, who committed great devastations upon it after it declined from the first faith, and became extremely corrupt; as is particularly specified in the next verses. It seems very evident that this is a prediction, either of Israel’s destruction, or that of the fallen Christian Church, by their cruel enemies, who are often represented in Scripture under the emblem of ravenous beasts. Thus Jeremiah 12:7-9, I have forsaken my house, I have deserted my heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies. Come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour.

His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.
Isaiah 56:10. His — Israel’s, watchmen are blind — The priests, prophets, and other teachers; he mentions only the teachers, because ignorance was most shameful in them; but hereby he supposes the gross ignorance of the people. They are all ignorant — Of God’s word and will, and of their own and the people’s duty, and of the true Messiah, and the nature of his kingdom. They cannot bark — They are also slothful and negligent in instructing the people, and do not faithfully reprove them for their sins, nor warn them of their dangers, nor endeavour to keep them from errors and corruptions in doctrine, worship, and conversation, as they ought to do: sleeping, lying down, &c. — Minding their own ease and safety more than the people’s benefit.

Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.
Isaiah 56:11. Yea, they are greedy dogs — Insatiably covetous: shepherds that cannot understand — Hebrew, that know not to understand; that do not care, or love, or desire either to understand the word of God themselves, or to make the people understand it. They all look to their own way — They regard neither God’s glory nor the people’s good, but only the satisfaction of their own base desires. Every one for his gain from his quarter — In their several places and stations, as they have opportunity.

Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.
Isaiah 56:12. Come ye, say they — Unto their brethren, fellow-priests, or other jolly companions. We will fill ourselves — We will drink, not only to delight, but even to drunkenness, as the word signifies. And tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant — Which shows their dreadful security and contempt of God, and of his judgments, and their abandoning of all care of their own or the people’s souls.

Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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