Isaiah 1:13
Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination to me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
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(13) Bring no more vain oblations.—These were of the minchah class, the “meat-offerings,” or, more properly, meal-offerings of Leviticus 7:9-12. This, with its symbolic accompaniment of incense (Isaiah 66:3), was the characteristic feature of the thank-offerings and peace-offerings.

Incense is an abomination.—The Hebrew word is not that usually translated “incense,” and is found in Psalm 66:15 (“incense,” or sweet smoke, “of rams”), in connection with animal sacrifice. There does not appear, however, any adequate reason why we should take the minchah in any but its usual sense of meal-offering. The prophet brings together all the chief ritual phrases without an elaborate attention to the details connected with them.

The new moons and sabbaths . . .—The classification agrees with that of 2Chronicles 8:13 : sabbaths, new moons, and solemn feasts.” (Comp. Hosea 2:11). The term “convocation,” or “assembly,” was specially applied to the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:7; Leviticus 23:21; Leviticus 23:27). The religious revival under Hezekiah brought all these into a fresh prominence (2Chronicles 31:3). In Colossians 2:16 they appear together as belonging to the Judaising Essene Christians of the apostolic age.

It is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.—The Hebrew construction has the abruptness of indignation: “The new moon and sabbaths, and calling of assemblies . . . iniquity with a solemn assembly I cannot bear. This was what made the crowded courts of the Temple hateful to the messenger of Jehovah. “Iniquity” was there. The character of a ruling caste is not changed in a day, and the lives of rulers and judges were under Hezekiah as they had been in the days of Ahaz, or at least in those of Uzziah.

Isaiah 1:13. Bring no more vain oblations — I neither desire, nor will accept of any on these terms. Incense is an abomination to me — So far is it from being a sweet savour to me, as you foolishly imagine. The new moons — Which were holy to God, and observed with great solemnity; the calling of assemblies — At all other solemn times, wherein the people were obliged to meet together. I cannot away with — Hebrew, לא אוכל, I cannot endure; it is grievous to me. It is iniquity — It is so far from pleasing me, that it is an offence to me: and, instead of reconciling me to you, which is your design, it provokes me more against you; even the solemn meeting — The most solemn day of each of the three feasts, which was the last day, which was called by this very name, עצרה, Leviticus 23:36; Numbers 29:35, and elsewhere; although the word be used sometimes more generally of any other solemn festival day. Perhaps the great day of atonement was especially intended. Bishop Lowth renders it, the day of restraint, certain holy days, ordained by the law, being distinguished by a particular charge, that “no servile work should be done therein.” This circumstance clearly explains the reason of the name, the restraint, given to those days.1:10-15 Judea was desolate, and their cities burned. This awakened them to bring sacrifices and offerings, as if they would bribe God to remove the punishment, and give them leave to go on in their sin. Many who will readily part with their sacrifices, will not be persuaded to part with their sins. They relied on the mere form as a service deserving a reward. The most costly devotions of wicked people, without thorough reformation of heart and life, cannot be acceptable to God. He not only did not accept them, but he abhorred them. All this shows that sin is very hateful to God. If we allow ourselves in secret sin, or forbidden indulgences; if we reject the salvation of Christ, our very prayers will become abomination.Bring no more - God does not intend absolutely to forbid this kind of worship, but he expresses his strong abhorrence of the manner in which it was done. He desired a better state of mind; he preferred purity of heart to all this external homage.

Vain - Hebrew "offering of vanity" - שׁוא shâv' - offerings which were hollow, false, deceitful, and hypocritical.

Oblations - מנחת minchath. This word properly denotes a gift, or present, of any kind Genesis 32:13, and then especially a present or offering to the Deity, Genesis 4:3-5. It does not denote a bloody offering, but what is improperly rendered in the Old Testament, a meat-offering Leviticus 2:1; Leviticus 6:14; Leviticus 9:17 - an offering made of flour or fruits, with oil and frankincense. A small part of it was burned upon the altar, and the remainder was eaten by Aaron and his sons with salt, Leviticus 2:1, Leviticus 2:9, Leviticus 2:13. The proper translation would have been meat or flour-offering rather than meat-offering, since the word meat with us now denotes animal food only.

Incense - More properly frankincense. This is an aromatic or odoriferous gum, which is obtained from a tree called Thurifera. Its leaves were like those of a pear-tree. It grew around Mount Lebanon, and in Arabia. The gum was obtained by making incisions in the bark in dogdays. It was much used in worship, not only by the Jews, but by the pagan. When burned, it produced an agreeable odor; and hence, it is called a sacrifice of sweet smell, an odor acceptable to God; compare Philippians 4:18. That which was burned among the Jews was prepared in a special manner, with a mixture of sweet spices. It was offered by the priest alone, and it was not lawful to prepare it in any other way than that prescribed by the law: see Exodus 30:34, ...

Is an abomination - Is hateful, or an object of abhorrence; that is, as it was offered by them, with hollow service, and with hypocritical hearts.

The new moons - On the appearance of the new moon. in addition to the daily sacrifices, two bullocks, a ram, and seven sheep, with a meal-offering, were required to be offered to God, Numbers 10:10; Numbers 28:11-14. The new moon in the beginning of the month Tisri (October), was the beginning of their civil year, and was commanded to be observed as a festival, Leviticus 23:24-25. The appearance of the new moon was announced by the blowing of silver trumpets, Numbers 10:10. Hence, the annual festival was called sometimes, 'the memorial of the blowing of trumpets.' The time of the appearance of the new moon was not ascertained, as with us, by astronomical calculation; but persons were stationed, about the time it was to appear, on elevated places in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and when it was discovered, the trumpet was sounded. Moses did not command that this should be observed as a festival except at the beginning of the year, but it is not improbable that the Jews observed each return of the new moon as such.

And sabbaths - שׁבת shabbâth, from שׁבת shâbath, "to cease to do anything"; "to rest from labor." The words used here are all in the singular number, and should have been rendered 'the new moon, and the sabbath, and the calling of the assembly;' though used in a collective sense. The sabbaths here refer not only to the weekly sabbaths, but to all their days of rest. The word sabbath means properly a day of rest Genesis 2:2-3; and it was applied not only to the seventh day, but particularly to the beginning and the close of their great festivals, which were days of unusual solemnity and sacredness, Leviticus 16:31; Leviticus 23:24-39.

The calling of assemblies - The solemn convocations or meetings at their festivals and fasts.

I cannot away with - Hebrew אוּכל לא lo' 'ûkal - I cannot bear, or endure.

It is iniquity - That is, in the way in which it is conducted. This is a strong emphatic expression. It is not merely evil, and tending to evil; but it is iniquity itself. There was no mixture of good.

Even the solemn meeting - The word which is used here - עצרה ‛ătsârâh - comes from the verb עצר ‛âtsar, which signifies to shut up, or to close; and is applied to the solemnities which concluded their great feasts, as being periods of unusual interest and sacredness. It was applied to such solemnities, because they shut up, or closed the sacred festivals. Hence, that day was called the great day of the feast, as being a day of special solemnity and impressiveness; see the note at John 7:37; compare Leviticus 23:3-36. In the translation of this word, however, there is a great variety in the ancient versions. Vulgate, 'Your assemblies are iniquitous.' Septuagint, 'Your new moons, and sabbaths, and great day, I cannot endure; fasting and idleness.' Chald. Paraph., 'Sacrifice is abominable before me; and your new moons, and sabbaths, "since you will not forsake your sins, so that your prayer may be heard in the time of your assembling." Syriac, 'In the beginning of your months, and on the sabbath, you convene an assembly, but I do not eat that (that is, sacrifices) which has been Obtained by fraud and violence.' The English translation has, however, probably expressed the correct sense of the Hebrew.

13. oblations—unbloody; "meat (old English sense, not flesh) offerings," that is, of flour, fruits, oil, &c. (Le 2:1-13). Hebrew, mincha.

incense—put upon the sacrifices, and burnt on the altar of incense. Type of prayer (Ps 141:2; Re 8:3).

new moons—observed as festivals (Nu 10:10; 28:11, 14) with sacrifices and blowing of silver trumpets.

sabbaths—both the seventh day and the beginning and closing days of the great feasts (Le 23:24-39).

away with—bear, Maurer translates, "I cannot bear iniquity and the solemn meeting," that is, the meeting associated with iniquity—literally, the closing days of the feasts; so the great days (Le 23:36; Joh 7:37).

Bring no more; I neither desire nor will accept of any upon these terms.

Oblations, Heb. meat-offerings; of which see Leviticus 2:1 Numbers 15:4. Incense is an abomination, unto me; so far is it from being a sweet savour to me, as you foolishly imagine. The new moons; which were holy to God, and observed with great solemnity. See Numbers 28:11,14 Psa 81:3.

The calling of assemblies; all other solemn times wherein the people were obliged to meet together, as the three great yearly feasts, and other extraordinary seasons.

I cannot away with, Heb. I cannot bear; it is burdensome and grievous to me. It is also iniquity; so far is it from pleasing me, that it is an offence to me; and instead of reconciling me to you, which is your design, it provoketh me more against you.

The solemn meeting; the most solemn day of each of the three feasts, which was the last day, which is called by this very name, Leviticus 23:36 Numbers 29:35, and elsewhere; although the word be sometimes more generally used of any other solemn festival day. Bring no more vain oblations,.... As all such were, which were offered up without faith in Christ, in hypocrisy, and with dependence on them for pardon and atonement, and particularly when put an end to by the sacrifice of Christ; see Matthew 15:9. The Targum renders it, "an oblation of robbery"; see Isaiah 60:8.

incense is an abomination to me; instead of being of a sweet smell. This was burnt on the altar of incense, and put upon the sacrifices, Exodus 30:1 was typical of prayer, Psalm 141:2 but now under the Gospel dispensation to be disused, and so disagreeable to God, that it is as if an idol was blessed, Isaiah 66:3.

the new moons; the feasts kept on the first day of the month, at the appearance of the moon:

and sabbaths; observed every seventh day, every seventh year, and every seven times seventh year:

the calling of assemblies; or "the new moon and sabbath, do not call a congregation". These assemblies called were the holy convocations on the seventh day sabbath, at the feasts of passover, pentecost, and tabernacles, at the blowing of the trumpets, and on the day of atonement, Leviticus 23:3 &c. Numbers 28:26. The words,

I cannot away with or "bear", may be joined with the following word, "iniquity"; and the meaning is, that the Lord could not bear the iniquity that was in their hearts when they had their solemn assemblies and holy convocations:

it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting: or cessation from work on any of the above festivals; particularly the feast of weeks, or pentecost, was called "Atzareth", by the Jews (g), the same word with this here (h).

(g) Misn. Chagiga, c. 2. sect. 4. (h) The whole verse, agreeably to the accents, is thus rendered by Reinbeck. de Accent. Heb. p. 377, 378.

"Do not go on to offer oblation of vanity; incense of abomination is it to me; do not go on, I say, on the new moon, and sabbath, to call a convocation: I cannot bear iniquity, together with the most solemn congregation.''

{t} Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination to me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot endure; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.

(t) Without faith and repentance.

13. oblations] The word is technically used of the meal-offering, but may embrace sacrificial gifts of every description (Genesis 4:4).

incense is an abomination] Or (according to the Hebrew accentuation), “it is abominable incense to me.” The word “incense” meant originally the sacrificial smoke.

new moon and sabbath (R.V.). Cf. 1 Samuel 20:5; 1 Samuel 20:24; 2 Kings 4:23; Amos 8:5; Hosea 2:11; Numbers 28:11, &c.; Exodus 20:8; Genesis 2:2-3, &c. assemblies (lit. “calling together”) is the word rendered “convocation” in the Pent. (see esp. Leviticus 23).

it is iniquity … meeting] Render as R.V. I cannot away with (endure) iniquity and the solemn meeting (festal gathering), i.e. the combination of the two. The construction is still harsh (but see a somewhat similar combination in 1 Samuel 15:23). LXX. has “fasting and idleness”; apparently çôm wě‘açlâh. The true reading may have been çôm wa‘ǎçârâh, “fasting and solemn assembly” (Joel 1:14; Joel 2:15).

solemn meeting] (=“throng,” Jeremiah 9:2), cf. 2 Kings 10:20; Amos 5:21; Joel 1:14. A slightly different form is used in the Law for the great gathering on the last day of the feasts of Passover and Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:36; Deuteronomy 16:8, &c.). The original meaning of the word is probably “tempus clausum.” (See Robertson Smith, Rel. of the Semites, Revd. Ed. p. 456.)Verse 13. - Bring no more vain oblations. The command is net "Bring no more oblations, "as though the daily oblation was to cease; but "bring no more oblations that are vain ones, "i.e. empty and unreal - mere forms, without the proper corresponding spirit. The "oblation" spoken of is the minchah, or "meat offering," cf. Leviticus 2:1-11; Numbers 28:12-31, which was a cake of fine flour mingled with oil, and generally had incense joined with it, which explains the nexus of this clause with the following one. Incense is an abomination unto me. God had commanded the use of incense in worship, as he had commanded burnt offerings and oblations (Exodus 30:1-8, 34-38; Leviticus 2:2; Leviticus 16:12, 13). But incense symbolized prayer (Psalm 141:2); and if no heartfelt prayer accompanied its use, it was emptied of all its significance, and became hateful to God - a mere form, and consequently an "abomination." The new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with. The weekly festival of the sabbath, the monthly one of the "new moon, "and the annual "assemblies" or "solemn feasts" (2 Chronicles 8:13), were the main occasions of Jewish worship. As at this time conducted, God could endure none of them; all were tainted with the prevalent unreality. The construction of the passage is highly rhetorical, and indicates great excitement of feeling. Kay translates it literally, "New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies, I cannot - it is ungodliness - even the solemn meeting." The authors of the Revised Version also suppose an aposiopesis. The solemn meeting. The word thus translated is applied only to particular days in the great festival seasons, as to the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:36; Numbers 29:35; Nehemiah 8:18), and the seventh day of the Passover (Deuteronomy 16:8), or else to days specially appointed for religious services by civil authority (2 Kings 10:20; 2 Chronicles 7:9; Joel 1:14; Joel 2:15). The meaning thus is, that even the very highest 'occasions of religious worship were abused by the Israelites of the time, and made an offence to God. This is described more particularly in Isaiah 1:7, which commences with the most general view, and returns to it again at the close."Your land ... a desert; your cities ... burned with fire; your field ... foreigners consuming it before your eyes, and a desert like overthrowing by strangers." Caspari has pointed out, in his Introduction to the Book of Isaiah, how nearly every word corresponds to the curses threatened in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 (29); Micah 6:13-16 and Jeremiah 5:15. stand in the very same relation to these sections of the Pentateuch. From the time of Isaiah downwards, the state of Israel was a perfect realization of the curses of the law. The prophet intentionally employs the words of the law to describe his own times; he designates the enemy, who devastated the land, reduced its towers to ashes, and took possession of its crops, by the simple term zarim, foreigners or barbarians (a word which would have the very same meaning if it were really the reduplication of the Aramaean bar; compare the Syriac barōye, a foreigner), without mentioning their particular nationality. He abstracts himself from the definite historical present, in order that he may point out all the more emphatically how thoroughly it bears the character of the fore-ordained curse. The most emphatic indication of this was to be found in the fact, which the clause at the close of Isaiah 1:7 palindromically affirms, that a desolation had been brought about "like the overthrow of foreigners." The repetition of a catchword like zarim (foreigners) at the close of the v. in this emphatic manner, is a figure of speech, called epanaphora, peculiar to the two halves of our collection. The question arises, however, whether zarim is to be regarded as the genitive of the subject, as Caspari, Knobel, and others suppose, "such an overthrow as is commonly produced by barbarians" (cf., 2 Samuel 10:3, where the verb occurs), or as the genitive of the object, "such an overthrow as comes upon barbarians." As mahpechâh (overthrow) is used in other places in which it occurs to denote the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, etc., according to the primary passage, Deuteronomy 29:22, and Isaiah had evidently also this catastrophe in his mind, as Isaiah 1:8 clearly shows; we decide in favour of the conclusion that zârim is the genitive of the object (cf., Amos 4:11). The force of the comparison is also more obvious, if we understand the words in this sense. The desolation which had fallen upon the land of the people of God resembled that thorough desolation (subversio) with which God visited the nations outside the covenant, who, like the people of the Pentapolis, were swept from off the earth without leaving a trace behind. But although there was similarity, there was not sameness, as Isaiah 1:8, Isaiah 1:9 distinctly affirm. Jerusalem itself was still preserved; but in how pitiable a condition! There can be no doubt that bath-Zion ("daughter of Zion," Eng. ver.) in Isaiah 1:8 signifies Jerusalem. The genitive in this case is a genitive of apposition: "daughter Zion," not "daughter of Zion" (cf., Isaiah 37:22 : see Ges. 116, 5). Zion itself is represented as a daughter, i.e., as a woman. The expression applied primarily to the community dwelling around the fortress of Zion, to which the individual inhabitants stood in the same relation as children to a mother, inasmuch as the community sees its members for the time being come into existence and grow: they are born within her, and, as it were, born and brought up by her. It was then applied secondarily to the city itself, with or without the inhabitants (cf., Jeremiah 46:19; Jeremiah 48:18; Zechariah 2:11). In this instance the latter are included, as Isaiah 1:9 clearly shows. This is precisely the point in the first two comparisons.
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