Isaiah 1:21
How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.
Jump to: BarnesBensonBICalvinCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsJFBKDKellyKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWParkerPoolePulpitSermonSCOTeedTTBWESTSK
(21) How is the faithful city become an harlot! . . .—The opening word, as in Lamentations 1:1, is the key-note of an elegiac wail, which opens a new section. The idea of prostitution as representing apostasy from Jehovah was involved in the thought that Israel was the bride whom He had wooed and won (Hosea 1-3; Jeremiah 2:2). The imagery was made more impressive by the fact that actual prostitution entered so largely into the ritual of many of the forms of idolatry to which the Israelites were tempted (Numbers 25:1-2). So Ezekiel (Ezekiel 16:1-14) develops the symbolism with an almost terrible fulness. So our Lord spoke of the Pharisees as an “adulterous generation” (Matthew 12:39). The fact that Hosea, an earlier contemporary, had been led to tell how he had been taught the truth thus set forth by a living personal experience, is not without significance in its bearing on the genesis of Isaiah’s thoughts.

Righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.—Better, assassins. The word implies not casual homicide, but something like the choice of murder and robbery as a profession. Hosea (Hosea 6:9) had painted a like picture as true of Samaria. The traveller who sojourned in Jerusalem, the poor who lived there, were exposed to outrage and murder; and all this was passing before men’s eyes at the very time when they were boasting, as it were, of their “glorious reformation.”

Isaiah 1:21. How is the faithful city — Jerusalem, which in the reign of former kings was faithful to God; become a harlot — Filled with idolatry, called whoredom in the Scriptures. It was full of judgment, &c. — Judgment was truly and duly executed in all its courts, and righteousness, or justice, lodged, or had its seat in it; but now murderers — Under that one gross kind, he comprehends all sorts of unrighteous men and practices.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?How is - This is an expression of deploring, or lamenting. It indicates that that had occurred which was matter of grief. The prophet had stated the principles of the divine government; had urged the people to reason with God; and had affirmed his willingness to pardon. But it was seen that they would not repent. They were so wicked and perverse, that there was no hope of their reformation. His mind is full of this subject; he repeats the charge of their wickedness Isaiah 1:21-23, and states what must be the consequences.

The faithful city - Jerusalem. It is represented here under the image of a wife - once faithful to her husband; once a devoted and attached partner. Jerusalem was thus once. In former days, it was the seat of the pure worship of God; the place where his praise was celebrated, and where his people came to offer sincere devotion. In the Scriptures, the church is often represented under the image of a wife, to denote the tenderness and sacredness of the union; Hosea 2:19-20; Isaiah 62:5; Isaiah 54:6; Revelation 21:9.

An harlot - She has proved to be false, treacherous, unfaithful. The unfaithfulness of the people of God, particularly their idolatry, is often represented under the idea of unfaithfulness to the marriage contract; Jeremiah 3:8-9; Jeremiah 5:7; Jeremiah 13:27; Jeremiah 23:14; Ezekiel 16:32; Ezekiel 23:37; Joshua 2:2; Joshua 4:2.

It was full of judgement - It was distinguished for justice and righteousness.

Lodged in it - This is a figurative expression, meaning that it was characterized as a righteous city. The word ילין yālı̂yn is from לוּן lûn, to pass the night, to remain through the night Genesis 19:2; and then to lodge, to dwell; Psalm 25:13; Job 17:2; Job 29:19. In this place it has the sense of abiding, remaining, continuing permanently. Jerusalem was the home of justice, where it found protection and safety.

Now murderers - By murderers here are meant probably unjust judges; people who did not regard the interests of the poor, the widow, and the orphan; and who therefore, by a strong expression, are characterized as murderers. They had displaced justice from its home; and had become the permanent inhabitants of the city; compare the note at Isaiah 1:15.

21. faithful—as a wife (Isa 54:5; 62:5; Ho 2:19, 20).

harlot—(Eze 16:28-35).

righteousness lodged—(2Pe 3:13).

murderers—murderous oppressors, as the antithesis requires (see on [687]Isa 1:15; [688]1Jo 3:15).

How, a note of admiration at so strange, and sad, and sudden a change,

is the faithful city, Jerusalem, which in the reign of former kings was faithful to God,

become an harlot is filled with idolatry, which is commonly called whoredom.

It was full of judgment; judgment was duly and truly executed in all its courts. Righteousness lodged in it; it was famous for being the seat of justice, which did not only pass through it, like a wayfaring man, but had its settled abode in it.

But now murderers; under that one gross kind he comprehends all sorts of unrighteous men and practices, as may be gathered by the opposition. Only their connivance at that horrid crime of murder is noted, to assure us that Other crimes of a lower nature were not only unpunished, but even encouraged. 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.

How is the {d} faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now {e} murderers.

(d) That is, Jerusalem, which had promised happiness to me, as a wife to her husband.

(e) Given to covetousness and extortion, which he signified before by blood, Isa 1:15.

21. a harlot] The idea conveyed is perhaps rather deterioration of character than infidelity to the marriage bond with Jehovah, an image not used by Isaiah (as by Hos.).

righteousness (çédeq) is the principle of right action in individuals or the community; judgment (mishpâṭ) the embodiment of that principle in judicial decisions, use and wont, and the like. These qualities constituted the “faithfulness,” trustworthiness, of the city.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). Their self-righteousness, so far as it rested upon sacrifices and festal observances, was now put to shame, and the last inward bulwark of the sham holy nation was destroyed: "And if ye stretch out your hands, I hide my eyes from you; if ye make ever so much praying, I do not hear: your hands are full of blood." Their praying was also an abomination to God. Prayer is something common to man: it is the interpreter of religious feeling, which intervenes and mediates between God and man;

(Note: The primary idea of hithpallel and tephillah is not to be obtained from Deuteronomy 9:18 and Ezra 10:1, as Dietrich and Frst suppose, who make hithpallel equivalent to hithnappel, to throw one's self down; but from 1 Samuel 2:25, "If a man sin against a man, the authorities right him" (וּפללו אלהים: it is quite a mistake to maintain that Elohim cannot have this meaning), i.e., they can set right the relation which he has disturbed. "But if one sin against Jehovah, who shall mediate for him (מי יתפּלּל־לו, quis intercedat pro eo)?" We may see from this that prayer is regarded as mediation, which sets right and establishes fellowship; and hithpallel signifies to make one's self a healer of divisions, or to settle for one's self, to strive after a settlement (sibi, pro se, intercedere: cf., Job 19:16, hithchannen, sibi propitium facere; Job 13:27, hithchakkah, sibi insculpere, like the Arabic ichtatta, to bound off for one's self).)

it is the true spiritual sacrifice. The law contains no command to pray, and, with the exception of Deuteronomy 26, no form of prayer. Praying is so natural to man as man, that there was no necessity for any precept to enforce this, the fundamental expression of the true relation to God. The prophet therefore comes to prayer last of all, so as to trace back their sham-holiness, which was corrupt even to this the last foundation, to its real nothingness. "Spread out," parash, or pi pērēsh, to stretch out; used with Cappaim to denote swimming in Isaiah 25:11. It is written here before a strong suffix, as in many other passages, e.g., Isaiah 52:12, with the inflection i instead of e. This was the gesture of a man in prayer, who spread out his hands, and when spread out, stretched them towards heaven, or to the most holy place in the temple, and indeed (as if with the feeling of emptiness and need, and with a desire to receive divine gifts) held up the hollow or palm of his hand (Cappaim: cf., tendere palmas, e.g., Virg. Aen. xii. 196, tenditque ad sidera palmas). However much they might stand or lie before Him in the attitude of prayer, Jehovah hid His eyes, i.e., His omniscience knew nothing of it; and even though they might pray loud and long (gam chi, etiamsi: compare the simple Chi, Jeremiah 14:12), He was, as it were, deaf to it all. We should expect Chi here to introduce the explanation; but the more excited the speaker, the shorter and more unconnected his words. The plural damim always denotes human blood as the result of some unnatural act, and then the bloody deed and the bloodguiltiness itself. The plural number neither refers to the quantity nor to the separate drops, but is the plural of production, which Dietrich has so elaborately discussed in his Abhandlung, p. 40.

(Note: As Chittah signified corn standing in the field, and Chittim corn threshed and brought to the market, so damim was not blood when flowing through the veins, but when it had flowed out-in other words, when it had been violently shed. (For the Talmudic misinterpretation of the true state of the case, see my Genesis, p. 626.))

The terrible damim stands very emphatically before the governing verb, pointing to many murderous acts that had been committed, and deeds of violence akin to murder. Not, indeed, that we are to understand the words as meaning that there was really blood upon their hands when they stretched them out in prayer; but before God, from whom no outward show can hide the true nature of things, however clean they might have washed themselves, they still dripped with blood. The expostulations of the people against the divine accusations have thus been negatively set forth and met in Isaiah 1:11-15 : Jehovah could not endure their work-righteous worship, which was thus defiled with unrighteous works, even to murder itself. The divine accusation is now positively established in Isaiah 1:16, Isaiah 1:17, by the contrast drawn between the true righteousness of which the accused were destitute, and the false righteousness of which they boasted. The crushing charge is here changed into an admonitory appeal; and the love which is hidden behind the wrath, and would gladly break through, already begins to disclose itself. There are eight admonitions. The first three point to the removal of evil; the other five to the performance of what is good.

Isaiah 1:21 Interlinear
Isaiah 1:21 Parallel Texts

Isaiah 1:21 NIV
Isaiah 1:21 NLT
Isaiah 1:21 ESV
Isaiah 1:21 NASB
Isaiah 1:21 KJV

Isaiah 1:21 Bible Apps
Isaiah 1:21 Parallel
Isaiah 1:21 Biblia Paralela
Isaiah 1:21 Chinese Bible
Isaiah 1:21 French Bible
Isaiah 1:21 German Bible

Bible Hub
Isaiah 1:20
Top of Page
Top of Page