Isaiah 29:13
Why the Lord said, For as much as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
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(13) Wherefore the Lord said . . .—We pass from the effect to the cause. The blind stupor was the outcome of a long hypocrisy. Lip-homage and an estranged heart had been the notes of the religious life of Israel, and they could bear no other fruit.

Their fear toward me . . .—The words point to what we may call an anticipated Pharisaism. Side by side with the great commandments of the Law and with the incisive teaching of the prophets there was growing up even then a traditional system of ethics and religion, based upon wrong principles, ending in a dishonest casuistry and a formal devotion. Commentaries even then were darkening counsel by words without knowledge, as they did in the Mishna and the Gemara of the later days of Judaism (Matthew 15:3; Mark 7:6).

Isaiah 29:13-14. Forasmuch as this people draw near to me — Namely, in acts of worship; with their mouth — Speaking to me in prayer and praise, and promising and professing to serve me; and with their lips do honour me — With mere outward devotion and bodily worship; but have removed their heart far from me — Do not render me that love and gratitude, that regard and obedience, which I require; and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men — By mere human wisdom, and not by my word and Spirit. They worship and serve me, not in such a manner as I have prescribed, but according to men’s inventions, preferring the devices and traditions of their false prophets before my institutions. Or, their religion is merely of human, not of divine, origin: it is the fruit of corrupt nature, and not of renewing grace. I will proceed to do a marvellous work — A thing that will scarce be believed; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish — Shall disappear and vanish. A veil shall be cast upon the eyes of their minds, and their folly shall be made manifest to all. The most refined arts of their politicians shall not avail their authors, nor be able to preserve them from God’s judgments; and their most wise and learned men shall lose their usual discretion, and be infatuated. This threatening was remarkably fulfilled in the Jews of our Lord’s time, who crucified him out of fear of the Romans, and thereby brought the Romans upon them! And “their learned rabbis, ever since, have minded little else but fabulous stories, and the Cabbalists have vented trifles for profound mysteries.” As, in rejecting Christ and his gospel, they removed their hearts far from God, therefore God justly removed wisdom far from them, and hid from their eyes the things that belonged even to their temporal peace.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.Wherefore the Lord said - This verse, with the following, is designed to denounce the divine judgment on their formality of worship. They kept up the forms of religion, but they withheld the affections of their hearts from God; and he, therefore, says that he will proceed to inflict on them exemplary and deserved punishment.

This people draw near me - That is, in the temple, and in the forms of external devotion.

And with their lips do honor me - They professedly celebrate my praise, and acknowledge me in the forms of devotion.

But have removed their heart - Have withheld the affections of their hearts.

And their fear toward me - The worship of God is often represented as "fear" Job 28:28; Psalm 19:9; Psalm 34:11; Proverbs 1:7.

Is taught by the precept of men - That is, their views, instead of having been derived from the Scriptures, were drawn from the doctrines of mankind. Our Saviour referred to this passage, and applied it to the hypocrites of his own time Matthew 15:8-9. The latter part of it is, however, not quoted literally from the Hebrew, nor from the Septuagint, but retains the sense: 'But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.' He quoted it as strikingly descriptive of the people when he lived, not as saying that Isaiah referred directly to his times.

13. precept of men—instead of the precepts of God, given by His prophets; also worship external, and by rule, not heartfelt as God requires (Joh 4:24). Compare Christ's quotation of this verse from the Septuagint. Draw near me, to wit, in acts of worship,

with their mouth and with their lips; with outward devotions, and the profession of religion.

But have removed their heart far from me; they do not pay me that love, and fear, and obedience which I require, and prefer before all sacrifices and external services.

Their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men; they worship me not in such way and manner as I have commanded and prescribed, but according to their own and other men’s inventions, preferring the devices and traditions of their false prophets before my institutions. For this was a common error among the Jews, as we learn from Jeremiah 7:31 Hosea 5:11, and many other scriptures; and thus our blessed Saviour expounds this very place, Matthew 15:7-9. Wherefore the Lord said,.... Concerning the hypocritical people of the Jews in Christ's time, as the words are applied by our Lord himself, Matthew 15:7,

Forasmuch as this people draw near to me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me; Kimchi observes, there is a double reading of the word rendered "draw near": in one reading of it, it signifies to be "afflicted"; and then the sense is, "when this people are afflicted, with their mouth, and with their lips, they honour me"; that is, when they are in distress, they pray unto him, and profess a great regard for him, speak honourably of him, and reverently to him, hoping he will help and relieve them; see Isaiah 26:16 but the other reading of the word, in which it has the signification of "drawing near", is confirmed, not only by the Masora on the text, but by the citation of it in Matthew 15:7 and designs the approach of these people to God, in acts of religion and devotion, in praying to him, and praising of him, and expressing great love and affection for him, and zeal for his cause and interest; but were all outwardly, with their lips and mouths only:

but have removed their heart far from me; these were not employed in his service, which is the main thing he requires and regards, but were engaged elsewhere; while their bodies were presented before him, and their mouths and lips were moving to him, their affections were not set upon him, nor the desires of their souls unto him, nor had they any real hearty concern for his glory:

and their fear towards me is taught by the precept of men; their worship of God was not according to the prescription of God, and his revealed will; but according to the traditions of the elders, which they preferred to the word of God, and, by observing them, transgressed it, and made it of no effect; see Matthew 15:3.

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people {k} draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their {l} fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

(k) Because they are hypocrites and not sincere in heart, as in Mt 15:7,8.

(l) That is, their religion was learned by man's doctrine, and not by my word.

13. draw near (i.e. worship) me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me] A.V. is here unquestionably right against R.V., which slavishly follows the Hebrew accentuation, rendering, “draw nigh, and with their mouth and with their lips do honour me.” with their mouth … their lips]—uttering the prescribed liturgical formulæ.

have removed their heart far from me] The heart is the organ of intelligence and moral obedience and inclination (cf. Proverbs 23:26).

their fear towards me] R.V. their fear of me, i.e. their piety, religion.

is taught by the precept of men] Better as R.V.: is (or, has become) a commandment of men which hath been taught;—a human ordinance learned by rote (cf. Matthew 15:1-9). This pregnant criticism expresses with epigrammatic force the fundamental difference between the pagan and the biblical conceptions of religion. Religion, being personal fellowship with God, cannot be “learned” from men, but only by revelation (Matthew 16:17).

13, 14. This spiritual insensibility of the people is the outcome of its whole religious attitude, which is insincere, formal, and traditional. The contrast implied is that between a religion of mere ritual and one of moral fellowship with God.Verse 13. - Wherefore the Lord said; rather, moreover the Lord said. This people draw near me with their mouth. Samaria had been punished for open idolatry and flagrant neglect of Jehovah (2 Kings 17:7-17). Jerusalem had not gone these lengths. She still, in profession, clung to the worship of Jehovah, and had even recently accepted a purification of religion at the hand of Hezekiah, who had "removed the high places," and cut down the groves, and broken in pieces the brazen serpent," because the people burnt incense to it (2 Kings 18:4). But her religion was a mere lip-service, which God detested - it was outward, formal, hypocritical (comp. Isaiah 1:11-17). Jerusalem, therefore, no less than Samaria, deserved and would receive a severe chastisement. But have removed their heart far from me. Here lies the gist of the charge. It was not that there was too much outward religion, but that there was no inward religion corresponding to it. Lip-service without inward religion is a mockery, though it is not always felt as such. Their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men. Mr. Cheyne conjectures that ritual books had been already published by the authority of the priests, and that these were followed, on account of the human authority which had issued them, without any reference to the Law. Thus ritual obedience became mere obedience to "the precept of men." 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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