Isaiah 32:5
The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful.
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(5) The vile person shall be no more called liberal.—Better, noble, the καλοκάγαθος of the Greeks, the ingenuus of the Latin. So for “bountiful,” read gentle. Here, again, we have a picture, the exact contrast of that which met us at the beginning of Isaiah’s work, when men “called good evil, and evil good” (chap 5:20).

Isaiah 32:5-6. The vile person — Base and worthless men; shall be no more called liberal — Shall no longer be reputed honourable, because of their high and honourable places, but wickedness shall be discovered wherever it is, and virtue manifested and rewarded. Nor the churl said to be bountiful — The sordid and covetous man; but under this one vice all vices are understood, as under the opposite virtue of bountifulness all virtues are comprehended. For the vile person will speak villany — Men shall no longer be miscalled; for every one will discover what he is by his words and actions. And will work iniquity — He will, from time to time, be devising wickedness, that he may execute it when he hath opportunity. To practise hypocrisy — To do bad things, though with a pretence of religion and justice. To utter error — To pass unjust sentences, directly contrary to the command of God. To cause the drink, &c. — Whereby they take away the bread and drink of the poor.32:1-8 Christ our righteous King, and his true disciples, are evidently here intended. The consolations and graces of his Spirit are as rivers of water in this dry land; and as the overhanging rock affords refreshing shade and shelter to the weary traveller in the desert, so his power, truth, and love, yield the believer the only real protection and refreshment in the weary land through which he journeys to heaven. Christ bore the storm himself, to keep it off from us. To him let the trembling sinner flee for refuge; for he alone can protect and refresh us in every trial. See what pains sinners take in sin; they labour at it, their hearts are intent upon it, and with art they work iniquity; but this is our comfort, that they can do no more mischief than God permits. Let us seek to have our hearts more freed from selfishness. The liberal soul devises liberal things concerning God, and desires that He will grant wisdom and prudence, the comforts of his presence, the influence of his Spirit, and in due time the enjoyment of his glory.The vile person - Hebrew, 'Fool.' But the connection requires us to understand this as the opposite of liberal; and it means a person who is close, miserly, narrow-minded, covetous. This person is designated, very appropriately, as a fool.

Shall be no more called liberal - It is probable that under the reign of former princes, when all views of right and wrong had been perverted, people of unprincipled character had been the subjects of flattery, and names of virtue had been attributed to them by their friends and admirers. But it would not be so under the virtuous reign of the prince here celebrated. Things would be called by their right names, and flattery would not be allowed to attribute to people, qualities which they did not possess.

Nor the churl - The word 'churl' means properly a rude, surly, ill-bred man; then a miser, a niggard. The Hebrew word means properly a deceiver, a fraudulent man (Gesenius). The word avaricious, however, seems to suit the connection. Lowth renders it, 'Niggard.' Noyes, 'Crafty.'

Bountiful - Flattery shall no more ascribe to a miserly man a character which does not belong to him.

5. vile—rather, "fool" [Lowth]; that is, ungodly (Ps 14:1; 74:18).

liberal—rather, "noble-minded."

churl—rather, "fraudulent" [Gesenius].

bountiful—religiously. The atheistic churl, who envies the believer his hope "full of immortality," shall no longer be held as a patriot struggling for the emancipation of mankind from superstition [Horsley].

rivers—as refreshing as water and the cool shade are to the heated traveller (Isa 35:6, 7; 41:18).

The vile person; base and worthless men. Heb. the fool; which in Scripture use commonly signifies a wicked man.

Shall be no more called liberal, or noble, or a prince, or lord, as this word is used, Psalm 118:9 146:3, and elsewhere. The sense of the place is, either,

1. Unworthy men shall not be advanced to places of honour and power, as the LXX. and some others understand it; for to be called is oft put in Scripture for to be, as hath been frequently observed. Or,

2. Vicious and worthless persons shall no longer be reputed honourable and virtuous because of their high and honourable places, as commonly they are under wicked princes by means of flatterers; but wickedness shall be discovered and punished wheresoever it is, and virtue shall be manifested and rewarded, and all things shall be managed with sincerity and simplicity; which was eminently fulfilled under the gospel; by the preaching whereof, and by Christ’s Spirit, hypocrites are detected, and men are enabled to discern between good and evil, both persons and things. The churl; the sordid and covetous man; which is a great vice in any man, but especially in magistrates; who therefore must be men hating covetousness, Exodus 18:21. But under this one vice all vices are understood by a synecdoche, very frequent in Scripture and in other authors; as under the apposite virtue of bountifulness all virtues are comprehended. The vile person shall be no more called liberal,.... Or "Nabal" (a fool) "shall no more be called Nadib" (e) (a prince); or have this name put upon him, or be advanced to honour and dignity, or be flattered with such a title, so unbecoming him. The sense seems to be, that, in Gospel times, such who are fools as to the knowledge of spiritual things, that have no spiritual and experimental knowledge of the truths of the Gospel, but are quite ignorant of them, shall not be made princes, or spiritual rulers, and governors in the house of God;

nor the churl said to be bountiful; or called a lord, as Jarchi interprets the word; which, he says, is used of such an one, because all men look to him, and respect him (f); but now a covetous and tenacious man, that withholds more than is meet, that keeps, all he has to himself, without communicating to others, and scarcely allows himself the necessaries of life, being so sordidly avaricious, such an one shall not be a pastor, or ruler, in the church of God; such were the Scribes and Pharisees among the Jews in Christ's time, and therefore rejected, Matthew 23:14 folly and covetousness are both bad things in a minister of the word, and greatly disqualify a man for that work and office: or else the sense of the whole is, that there should be such a discerning of men in Gospel times, and such faithfulness used towards them, that a wicked man should not be taken for a good man, nor in a flattering way be called one; but the precious and the vile should be distinguished, and called by their right names. The Targum is,

"the wicked man shall be no more called just, and they that transgress his word shall not be called mighty.''

(e) "Nabal non vocabitur Nadib", Gataker. (f) Kimchi makes it to be the same with a "prodigal person"; and so Ben Melech; but Elias, in his Tishbi, p. 93, 95. says there is a difference between them; he says, is one that squanders his money in eating and drinking, and the like, which is a bad custom; but is an honourable person, who gives his money to good purposes, and more than is meet, which is a good custom; and he is more praiseworthy than the liberal man.

The {e} vile person shall be no more called noble, nor the churl said to be bountiful.

(e) Vice will no more be called virtue, nor virtue esteemed by power and riches.

5. True and false nobility shall no longer be confounded because of artificial caste-distinctions.

The vile person] or, the fool; see the typical specimen, Nabal by name and by nature, in 1 Samuel 25.

liberal] Better: noble (in rank). The word denotes, first, one of generous, self-sacrificing disposition; and then one of noble degree; Numbers 21:18 and often.

The word rendered churl occurs only here (and Isaiah 32:7), and its meaning is uncertain. The view adopted by most commentators derives it from a root signifying guile or craftiness (hence Cheyne well renders knave). bountiful represents another rare word (only Job 34:19 [E.V. “rich”]), perhaps man of substance.Verse 5. - The vile person shall be no more called liberal; rather, the foolish person - as nabal is commonly translated (Deuteronomy 32:6; 2 Samuel 3:33; 2 Samuel 13:13; Psalm 14:1; Psalm 39:8; Psalm 74:22, etc.) - such a man as the "Nabal" of 1 Samuel 25. Men are apt to confound moral distinctions, and to call the "fools" who waste their substance in feasting and revelry "generous" or "liberal," and the niggards (churls) who hoard their riches "warm men," "wealthy men," "men well to do in the world" (see Isaiah 5:20; and comp. Arist.,' Eth. Nic.,' 2:8, § 3; Thucyd., 3:82). This perversion of truth shall not obtain in Messiah's kingdom. Bountiful; rather, wealthy (comp. Job 34:19, where the same word is translated "rich"). The second motive is, that Israel will not be rescued by men, but by Jehovah alone; so that even He from whom they have now so deeply fallen will prove Himself the only true ground of confidence. "And Asshur falls by a sword not of a man, and a sword not of a man will devour him; and he flees before a sword, and his young men become tributary. And his rock, for fear will it pass away, and his princes be frightened away by the flags: the saying of Jehovah, who has His fire in Zion, and His furnace in Jerusalem." The lxx and Jerome render this falsely φεύξεται οὐκ (לא) ἀπὸ προσώπου μαχαίρας. לו is an ethical dative, and the prophet intentionally writes "before a sword" without any article, to suggest the idea of the unbounded, infinite, awful (cf., Isaiah 28:2, beyâd; Psalter, vol. i. p. 15). A sword is drawn without any human intervention, and before this Asshur falls, or at least so many of the Assyrians as are unable to save themselves by flight. The power of Asshur is for ever broken; even its young men will henceforth become tributary, or perform feudal service. By "his rock" most commentators understand the rock upon which the fugitive would gladly have taken refuge, but did not dare (Rosenmller, Gesenius, Knobel, etc.); others, again, the military force of Asshur, as its supposed invincible refuge (Saad., etc.); others, the apparently indestructible might of Asshur generally (Vulgate, Rashi, Hitzig). But the presence of "his princes" in the parallel clause makes it most natural to refer "his rock" to the king; and this reference is established with certainty by what Isaiah 32:2 affirms of the king and princes of Judah. Luther also renders it thus: und jr Fels wird fur furcht wegzihen (and their rock will withdraw for fear). Sennacherib really did hurry back to Assyria after the catastrophe in a most rapid flight. Minnēs are the standards of Asshur, which the commanders of the army fly away from in terror, without attempting to rally those that were scattered. Thus speaks Jehovah, and this is what He decrees who has His 'ūr and tannūr in Jerusalem. We cannot suppose that the allusion here is to the fire and hearth of the sacrifices; for tannūr does not mean a hearth, but a furnace (from nūr, to burn). The reference is to the light of the divine presence, which was outwardly a devouring fire for the enemies of Jerusalem, an unapproachable red-hot furnace (ignis et caminus qui devorat peccatores et ligna, faenum stipulamque consumit: Jerome).
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