Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
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.L.
(1) Where is the bill . . .?—The thought seems suggested by Isaiah 49:14, but expands in a different direction. Both questions imply a negative answer. Jehovah had not formally repudiated the wife (Judah) whom he had chosen (Deuteronomy 24:1) as he had done her sister Israel (Jeremiah 3:8;·Hosea 2:2). He had no creditors among the nations who could claim her children. On the law of debt which supplies the image, comp. Exodus 21:7; 2Kings 4:1; Nehemiah 5:5. The divorce, the sale, were her acts and not His.
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.(2) Wherefore, when I came . . .?—The “coming” of Jehovah must be taken in all its width of meaning. He came in the deliverance from Babylon, in a promise of still greater blessings, in the fullest sense, in and through His Servant, and yet none came to help in the work, or even to receive the message. (Comp. Isaiah 63:3.) Not that He needed human helpers. In words that remind us, in their sequence, of the phenomena of the plagues of Egypt, the prophet piles up the mighty works of which He is capable. The words are echoed in Revelation 6:12; Revelation 8:9; Revelation 8:12.
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.(4) The Lord God . . .—A new section begins in the form of an abruptly introduced soliloquy. As in Isaiah 49:4, the speaker is the Servant of Jehovah, not Isaiah, though we may legitimately trace in what follows some echoes of the prophet’s own experience. The union of the two names Adonai Jahveh (or Jehovah) indicates, as elsewhere, a special solemnity.
The tongue of the learned.—Better, of a disciple, or, well-trained scholar.
That I should know how to speak.—Better, that I should know how to sustain (or, refresh) the weary with a word.
He wakeneth.—The daily teaching of the morning communion with God is contrasted by implication with the dreams and night visions of a less perfect inspiration. An illustration, perhaps a conscious fulfilment, may be found in Mark 1:35; Luke 4:42.
To hear as the learned.—Read disciples, as before. The true Servant is also as a scholar, studious of the Master’s will, as are other scholars.
The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.(5, 6) The Lord God.—Jehovah Adonai, as before. The Servant continues his soliloquy. What has come to him in the morning communings with God is, as in the next verse, that he too is to bear reproach and shame, as other disciples had done before him. The writer of Psalm 22:7, the much-enduring Job (Job 30:10), the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:7), were but foreshadowings of the sufferings that should fall on him. And all this the true Servant-Scholar accepts willingly. because it is his Father’s will. Here again we cannot fail to trace the influence of Isaiah’s words in all our Lord’s utterances as to His passion. (Comp. Matthew 16:21; Mark 10:34; Luke 18:32.)
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.(7) The Lord God will help me.—That one stay gives to the suffering Servant an indomitable strength. (Comp for the phrase Jeremiah 1:18; Ezekiel 3:9.)
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.(8) He is near that justifieth—i.e., declares innocent and righteous. Appealing from the unrighteous judges of the earth, the Servant commits himself to Him who judges righteously (Luke 23:46). With that Judge to declare his innocence, what does he care for the accuser? (Comp. Romans 8:33-34.)
Who is mine adversary?—Literally, the master of a law-suit, i.e., the prosecutor.
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.(9) They all shall wax old as a garment.—An echo of Job 13:28; Psalm 102:26; reproduced in Isaiah 51:6.
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.(10) That obeyeth the voice of his servant.—The question may be asked of any servant of Jehovah, such as was Isaiah himself, but receives its highest application in the Servant who has appeared as speaking in the preceding verses.
That walketh in darkness.—The words grow at once out of the prophet’s own experience and that of the ideal Servant. All true servants know what it is to feel as if the light for which they looked had for a time failed them, to utter a prayer like that of Ajax, “Give light, and let us die” (Hom. Il. xvii. 647). The Servant felt it when he uttered the cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). For such an one there were the words of counsel, “Trust, in spite of the darkness.” So the cry of the forsaken Servant was followed by the word “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
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.(11) All ye that kindle a fire.—The words obviously point to any human substitute for the Divine light, and thus include the two meanings which commentators have given them: (1) Man’s fiery wrath, that worketh not the righteousness of God; and (2) man’s attempt to rest in earthly comforts or enjoyments instead of in the light and joy that comes from God.
That compass yourselves about with sparks.—The words are rendered by many commentators, gird yourselves with burning darts, or firebrands, i.e., with calumnies and execrations as your weapons of warfare (Comp. Ephesians 6:16.)
Ye shall lie down in sorrow.—The words point to a death of anguish, perhaps to the torment that follows death (comp. Luke 16:24), as the outcome of the substitution of the earthly for the heavenly light.