Isaiah 29:11 Commentaries: The entire vision will be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, "Please read this," he will say, "I cannot, for it is sealed."
Isaiah 29:11
And the vision of all is become to you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray you: and he said, I cannot; for it is sealed:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) The vision of all . . .—Better, the whole vision, i.e., the entire substance of Isaiah’s teaching. The words perhaps imply that this had been committed to writing, but that to the unbelievers they were as “the roll of a sealed book.” The same imagery meets us in Revelation 5:2. The wise of this world treated its dark sayings as seals, which forbade their making any attempt to study it. The poorer unlearned class could plead a more genuine and less guilty ignorance, but the effect was the same with both.

Isaiah 29:11-12. And the vision of all — Of all your prophets, or every vision; is unto you as the words of a book that is sealed — Which no man can read while it is sealed up, as books then sometimes were, being in the form of rolls. Which men deliver to one that is learned — That understands the language in which the book is written; saying, Read this — he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed — Mere human learning, without supernatural illumination, will not enable any man rightly to understand the word of God, and things divine: see 1 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 2:14. The book is delivered — Unsealed and opened; to him that is unlearned — and he saith, I cannot read it; for I am unlearned. Thus, neither the learned nor the unlearned among the Jews were any better for the messages which God sent them by his servants the prophets, nor desired to be better.29:9-16 The security of sinners in sinful ways, is cause for lamentation and wonder. The learned men, through prejudice, said that the Divine prophecies were obscure; and the poor urged their want of learning. The Bible is a sealed book to every man, learned or unlearned, till he begins to study it with a simple heart and a teachable spirit, that he may thence learn the truth and the will of God. To worship God, is to approach him. And if the heart be full of his love and fear, out of the abundance of it the mouth will speak; but there are many whose religion is lip-labour only. When they pretend to be speaking to God, they are thinking of a thousand foolish things. They worship the God of Israel according to their own devices. Numbers are only formal in worship. And their religion is only to comply with custom, and to serve their own interest. But the wanderings of mind, and defects in devotion, which are the believer's burden, are very different from the withdrawing of the heart from God, so severely blamed. And those who make religion no more than a pretence, to serve a turn, deceive themselves. And as those that quarrel with God, so those that think to conceal themselves from him, in effect charge him with folly. But all their perverse conduct shall be entirely done away.And the vision of all - The vision of all the prophets; that is, all the revelations which God has made to you (see the note at Isaiah 1:1). The prophet refers not only to his own communications, but to those of his contemporaries, and of all who had gone before him. The sense is, that although they had the communications which God had made to them, yet they did not understand them. They were as ignorant of their true nature as a man who can read is of the contents of a letter that is sealed up, or as a man who cannot read is of the contents of a book that is handed to him.

As the words of a book - Margin, 'Letter.' The word ספר sêpher may mean either. It properly means anything which is "written" (Deuteronomy 24:1, Deuteronomy 24:3; Jeremiah 32:11; Daniel 1:4), but is commonly applied to a book Exodus 17:14; Joshua 1:8; Joshua 8:34; Psalm 40:8.

That is sealed - (see the note at Isaiah 8:16).

11. of all—rather, "the whole vision." "Vision" is the same here as "revelation," or "law"; in Isa 28:15, the same Hebrew word is translated, "covenant" [Maurer].

sealed—(Isa 8:16), God seals up the truth so that even the learned, because they lack believing docility, cannot discern it (Mt 13:10-17; 11:25). Prophecy remained comparatively a sealed volume (Da 12:4, 9), until Jesus, who "alone is worthy," "opened the seals" (Re 5:1-5, 9; 6:1).

No text from Poole on this verse. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed,.... The prophecies of all the prophets contained in the Scriptures; or all the prophecies in the book of Isaiah, concerning the Messiah, were no more seen, known, and understood, both by the priests and the people, than if they had been in a book, written, rolled up, and sealed. And this was owing, not to the obscurity of these writings, or because they were really sealed up, but to the blindness and stupidity of the people, whose eyes were closed, and their heads covered; and the prophecies of the Scriptures were only so to them, "unto you", not unto others; not to the apostles of Christ, whose understandings were opened by him, to understand the things written concerning him, in the law, in the prophets, and in the psalms; but the Jewish rulers, civil and ecclesiastical, as well as the common people, understood them not, though they were the means of fulfilling many of them; and they were as ignorant of the prophecies concerning their own ruin and destruction, for their rejection of Christ; see Luke 24:27,

which men deliver to one that is learned; or, "that knows the book" (u); or "letters", as the Septuagint; see John 7:15 such were the Scribes, called or "letter men", men that could read well, and understood language:

saying, Read this, I pray thee; or read this now, as the Targum, and interpret it, and tell the meaning of it:

and he saith, I cannot, for it is sealed; which Kimchi says was an excuse invented, because he had no mind to read it, or otherwise he could have said, open, and I will read it; or he might have broke off the seal; but knowing there were difficult things, and things hard to be understood, in it, did not care to look into it, and read it, and attempt to explain it to others.

(u) "scienti librum", Montanus; , Sept.; "scienti literas", V. L. Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius.

And the vision of all is become to you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I {i} cannot; for it is sealed:

(i) Meaning, that it is all alike, either to read, or not to read, unless God open the heart to understand.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. the vision of all] i.e. the revelation of all this (cf. Psalm 49:17, “all that”).

learned] is literally “knowing letters.”

11, 12. A distinction is drawn between the ignorance of the educated and that of the uneducated classes. The man of culture is like one who will not break the seal of a sealed book that he may read it; the man in the street cannot read it even if unsealed. The passage is interesting as illustrating the diffusion of literary education in Isaiah’s time (cf. Jeremiah 5:4-5).Verse 11. - The vision of all; i.e. "the entire vision" - all that Isaiah has put before them in vers. 1-8. As the words of a book that is sealed; rather, the words of a letter (marginal rendering) or writing. Written documents were often sealed up to secure secrecy, the sealing being done in various ways. When the writing was on a clay tablet, it was often enclosed in a clay envelope, so that the document could not be read till the outer clay covering was broken. Rolls of papyrus or parchment were secured differently. One that is learned; i.e. "one that can read writing," which the ordinary Jew could not do, any more than the ordinary European in the Middle Ages. Neither the learned nor the unlearned Jews would be able to understand Isaiah's prophecy, so as to realize and accept its literal truth. They were devoid of spiritual discernment. Even the rulers were but "blind loaders of the blind." Thus far does the unfolding of the hoi reach. Now follows an unfolding of the words of promise, which stand at the end of Isaiah 29:1 : "And it proves itself to me as Ariel." Isaiah 29:5-8 : "And the multitude of thy foes will become like finely powdered dust, and the multitude of the tyrants like chaff flying away; and it will take place suddenly, very suddenly. From Jehovah of hosts there comes a visitation with crash of thunder and earthquake and great noise, whirlwind and tempest, and the blazing up of devouring fire. And the multitude of all the nations that gather together against Ariel, and all those who storm and distress Ariel and her stronghold, will be like a vision of the night in a dream. And it is just as a hungry man dreams, and behold he eats; and when he wakes up his soul is empty: and just as a thirsty man dreams, and behold he drinks; and when he wakes up, behold, he is faint, and his soul is parched with thirst: so will it be to the multitude of the nations which gather together against the mountain of Zion." The hostile army, described four times as hâmōn, a groaning multitude, is utterly annihilated through the terrible co-operation of the forces of nature which are let loose upon them (Isaiah 30:30, cf., Isaiah 17:13). "There comes a visitation:" tippâqēd might refer to Jerusalem in the sense of "it will be visited" in mercy, viz., by Jehovah acting thus upon its enemies. But it is better to take it in a neuter sense: "punishment is inflicted." The simile of the dream is applied in two different ways: (1.) They will dissolve into nothing, as if they had only the same apparent existence as a vision in a dream. (2.) Their plan for taking Jerusalem will be put to shame, and as utterly brought to nought as the eating or drinking of a dreamer, which turns out to be a delusion as soon as he awakes. Just as the prophet emphatically combines two substantives from the same verbal root in Isaiah 29:1, and two adverbs from the same verb in Isaiah 29:5; so does he place צבא and צבה together in Isaiah 29:7, the former with על relating to the crowding of an army for the purpose of a siege, the latter with an objective suffix (compare Psalm 53:6) to the attack made by a crowded army. The metsōdâh of Ariel (i.e., the watch-tower, specula, from tsūd, to spy)

(Note: In Arabic, also, masâd signifies a lofty hill or mountain-top, from a secondary form of tsud; and massara, to lay the foundations of a fortified city (‛ı̄r mâtsōr, Psalm 31:22), from tsūr.))

is the mountain of Zion mentioned afterwards in Isaiah 29:8. כּאשׁר, as if; comp. Zechariah 10:6; Job 10:19. אוכל והנּה without הוּא; the personal pronoun is frequently omitted, not only in the leading participial clause, as in this instance (compare Isaiah 26:3; Isaiah 40:19; Psalm 22:29; Job 25:2; and Khler on Zechariah 9:12), but also with a minor participial clause, as in Psalm 7:10; Psalm 55:20, and Habakkuk 2:10. The hungering and thirsting of the waking man are attributed to his nephesh (soul: cf., Isaiah 32:6; Isaiah 5:14; Proverbs 6:30), just because the soul is the cause of the physical life, and without it the action of the senses would be followed by no sensation or experience whatever. The hungry stomach is simply the object of feeling, and everything sensitive in the bodily organism is merely the medium of sensation or feeling; that which really feels is the soul. The soul no sooner passes out of the dreaming state into a waking condition, than it feels that its desires are as unsatisfied as ever. Just like such a dream will the army of the enemy, and that victory of which it is so certain before the battle is fought, fade away into nothing.

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