Isaiah 43:23
Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) I have not caused thee to serve . . .—The words practically imply the suspension of sacrifices during the exile. Jehovah had not imposed that bond service on them—had not wearied them with demanding incense when they were far away from the Temple to whose ritual it belonged.

43:22-28 Those who neglect to call upon God, are weary of him. The Master tired not the servants with his commands, but they tired him with disobedience. What were the riches of God's mercy toward them? I, even I, am he who yet blotteth out thy transgressions. This encourages us to repent, because there is forgiveness with God, and shows the freeness of Divine mercy. When God forgives, he forgets. It is not for any thing in us, but for his mercies' sake, his promise' sake; especially for his Son's sake. He is pleased to reckon it his honour. Would man justify himself before God? The attempt is desperate: our first father broke the covenant, and we all have copied his example. We have no reason to expect pardon, except we seek it by faith in Christ; and that is always attended by true repentance, and followed by newness of life, by hatred of sin, and love to God. Let us then put him in remembrance of the promises he has made to the penitent, and the satisfaction his Son has made for them. Plead these with him in wrestling for pardon; and declare these things, that thou mayest be justified freely by his grace. This is the only way, and it is a sure way to peace.Thou hast not brought me - As a people you have withheld from me the sacrifices which were commanded. They had not maintained and observed his worship as he had required.

The small cattle - Margin, 'Lambs,' or 'kids.' The Hebrew word (שׂה s'eh) denotes properly one of a flock - a sheep or a goat. It should have been so rendered here. These animals were used for burnt-offerings, and the Jews were required to offer them daily to God.

Of thy burnt-offerings - (Compare Exodus 29:38; Numbers 28:3). The burnt-offering was wholly consumed on the altar.

With thy sacrifices - Bloody offerings. There is little difference between this word and that rendered 'burnt-offerings.' If there is any, it is that the word rendered 'sacrifice' (זבח zebach) is of wider signification, and expresses sacrifice in general; the word rendered 'burnt-offering' (עלה ‛olâh), denotes that which is consumed, or which ascends as an offering. The holocaust refers to its being burned; the sacrifice to the offering, however made.

I have not caused thee to serve with an offering - 'I have not made a slave of thee; I have not exacted such a service as would be oppressive and intolerable - such as is imposed on a slave.' The word used here (עבד ‛âbad), is often used in such a sense, and with such a reference Leviticus 25:39; 'Thou shalt not compel him to serve the service of a bondman' Exodus 1:14; Jeremiah 22:13; Jeremiah 25:14; Jeremiah 30:8. The sense is, that the laws of God on the subject, were not grievous and oppressive.

With an offering - The word used here (מנחה minchāh) denotes properly a bloodless oblation, and is thus distinguished from those mentioned before. It consisted of flour mingled with salt, oil, and incense; or of the fruits of the earth, etc. (see the notes at Isaiah 1:11; compare Leviticus 2:2; Numbers 28:5.

Nor wearied thee - By exacting incense. I have not so exacted it as to make it burdensome and wearisome to you.

With incense - (See the note at Isaiah 1:13). The word לבונה lebônâh (Greek λίβανος libanos) denotes properly frankincense, a substance so called from its white color, from לבן lāban, "to be white." It is found in Arabia Isaiah 60:6; Jeremiah 6:20, and in Palestine Sol 4:6, Sol 4:14, and was obtained by making incisions in the bark of trees. It was much used in worship among the Jews as well as by other nations. It was burned in order to produce an agreeable fragrance Exodus 30:8; Exodus 37:29; Leviticus 16:13.

23. small cattle—rather, the "lamb" or "kid," required by the law to be daily offered to God (Ex 29:38; Nu 28:3).

sacrifices—offered any way; whereas the Hebrew for "holocaust," or "burnt offering," denotes that which ascends as an offering consumed by fire.

I have not caused thee to serve—that is, to render the the service of a slave (Mt 11:30; Ro 8:15; 1Jo 4:18; 5:3).

offering—bloodless (Le 2:1, 2).

wearied—antithetical to Isa 43:22, "Thou hast been weary of Me." Though God in the law required such offerings, yet not so as to "weary" the worshipper, or to exact them in cases where, as in the Babylonish captivity, they were physically unable to render them; God did not require them, save in subordination to the higher moral duties (Ps 50:8-14; 51:16, 17; Mic 6:3, 6-8).

Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; either,

1. Because thou didst not offer thy sacrifices to me, but to idols. Or rather,

2. Because what thou didst offer was not done to me, not for my sake, not from a principle of love and obedience to me, not to please and honour me with it; but merely for thine own ends: which interpretation seems to be favoured by the following clause, and by comparing this with Zechariah 7:5,6, Did ye fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat—did ye not eat for yourselves?

Neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices, because thou didst either neglect this work of sacrificing to me; or didst perform it merely out of custom or ill design, and not with a purpose to please and glorify me; or didst dishonour me, and pollute thy sacrifices by thy wicked course of life.

I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense: so the sense may be this, I did not require these wearisome services of thee, to wit, upon these terms, or to be offered in such a manner, as God speaks, Isaiah 1:11-13. But the words may very well be rendered, although I did not cause thee to serve with offerings, nor weary thee with incense; the particle although being here understood, as it is in many other places, as hath been formerly noted. And so this is an aggravation of their former sin, of being weary of and negligent in his service; although God hath not laid such heavy burdens upon them, nor required such hard services or costly offerings from them, as might give them cause to be weary, nor such as idolaters did freely and greedily perform in the service of their idols.

Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings,.... The kids and the lambs, which, according to the law, should have been brought for burnt offerings daily, morning and evening; and much less did they bring the larger cattle of burnt offerings, as oxen and bullocks. The Targum and Vulgate Latin render it, "the rams of thy burnt offerings"; the Septuagint version, "the sheep"; and the Syriac and Arabic versions, "the lambs"; and these were not brought to him, but to their idols; or, however, were not brought in a right way and manner, and from right principles, and with right views. Kimchi thinks this refers to the times of Ahaz, when the service of God ceased in the temple, and idolatry was practised at Jerusalem but it seems to respect later times, nearer the times of Christ; see Malachi 1:13,

neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices; what sacrifices they did offer were not offered to God, but to their idols; or they were such as were not according to the law of God; or they were not offered up in the faith of the Messiah, nor with a true spirit of devotion, and with a sincere view to the glory of God, and in the exercise of repentance for sins; but rather as an atonement for them, and that they might go on in them with ease of mind; see Isaiah 1:11,

I have not caused thee to serve with an offering; the "minchah", a meat offering or bread offering, which was a freewill offering, and they were not obliged to it; it was at their own option whether they would bring it or not, and which was not very chargeable to them:

nor wearied thee with incense; or frankincense, which was put upon the meat or bread offering; see Leviticus 2:1. Some understand this of all offerings in general, that they were not so many that were commanded them, as to be a burden to them; nor so expensive but that they were able to bear the charge of them, considering the fruitfulness of the land of Canaan, and especially the numerous and costly sacrifices of Heathen idolaters: and others think it has reference to the time of Israel's coming out of Egypt, and the covenant of God with them, when no mention was made of sacrifices, nor were they enjoined them, Jeremiah 7:21.

Thou {z} hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense.

(z) Meaning, in true faith and obedience.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. The absence of sacrifice has not impaired the bond between Jehovah and His people. The thought presents a striking contrast to ch. Isaiah 1:10 ff., a passage which was probably in the writer’s mind.

the small cattle] The Heb. word serves as the noun of unity to the word for “flock” (i.e. sheep and goats). On burnt-offerings, sacrifices and offering, see on ch. Isaiah 1:11; Isaiah 1:13.

I have not caused thee to serve] “have not treated thee as a slave,” by exacting tribute. The statement might no doubt be understood absolutely, according to Jeremiah 7:21 ff.; but it is perhaps sufficient to take it of the Exile, when the non-essential character of sacrifice was revealed by its enforced discontinuance (cf. Psalm 51:16).

incense] See ch. Isaiah 60:6; Jeremiah 6:20. In both these passages incense is described as coming from Arabia, which agrees with the statement of Pliny, that it was collected in the chief city of Hadramaut and thence conveyed to Syria. The Heb. word (lěbônâh), which is preserved in the Gr. λίβανος, λιβανωτός, is quite different from that found in ch. Isaiah 1:13.

Verse 23. - Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings. If this reproach is regarded as addressed to captive Israel, who could not offer sacrifices, we must explain it by the analogy of the expression, "the calves of your lips" (Hosea 14:2). All prayer may be regarded as a sort of offering, and withholding it as withholding sacrifice. But it is possible that the prophet is not addressing captive Israel only, but carrying his thoughts back to the period preceding the Captivity, when there was a general neglect of God's service, and for a time the temple was given up to idol-worship (2 Kings 21:3-7; 2 Kings 23:4-14). The glance back at earlier times is apparent in vers. 27, 28. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, etc.; rather, I put no heavy service on thee in respect of meat offering, neither made I thee to toil in respect of incense; i.e. "my positive requirements have been light - surely thou shouldst have complied with them." Meat offerings were to accompany every sacrifice, but were a small burthen. Incense was not required from any private person. Isaiah 43:23It would be the praise of God, however, and not the merits of their own works, that they would have to relate; for there was nothing at all that could give them any claim to reward. There were not even acts of ceremonial worship, but only the guilt of grievous sins. "And thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob, that thou shouldst have wearied thyself for me, O Israel! Thou hast not brought me sheep of thy burnt-offerings, and thou hast not honoured me with thy slain-offerings. I have not burdened thee with meat-offerings, and have not troubled thee about incense. Thou hast bought me no spice-cane for silver, nor hast thou refreshed me with fat of thy slain-offerings. No; thou hast wearied me with thy sins, troubled me with thine iniquities." We cannot agree with Stier, that these words refer to the whole of the previous worship of Israel, which is treated here as having no existence, because of its heartlessness and false-holiness. And we must also not forget, that all these prophecies rested on either the historical or the ideal soil of the captivity. The charge commences with the worship of prayer (with calling upon Jehovah, as in Psalm 14:4; Psalm 18:7), to which the people were restricted when in exile, since the law did not allow them to offer sacrifice outside the holy land. The personal pronoun אתי, in the place of the suffix, is written first of all for the sake of emphasis, as if the meaning were, "Israel could exert itself to call upon other gods, but not upon Jehovah." The following kı̄ is equivalent to ut (Hosea 1:6), or ‛ad-kı̄ in 2 Samuel 23:10, adeo ut laborasses me colendo (so as to have wearied thyself in worshipping me). They are also charged with having offered no sacrifices, inasmuch as in a foreign land this duty necessarily lapsed of itself, together with the self-denial that it involved. The spelling הביאת (as in Numbers 14:31) appears to have been intended for the pronunciation הביאת (compare the pronunciation in 2 Kings 19:25, which comes between the two). The ‛ōlōth (burnt-offerings) stand first, as the expression of adoration, and are connected with sēh, which points to the daily morning and evening sacrifice (the tâmı̄d). Then follow the zebâchı̄m (slain-offerings), the expression of the establishment of fellowship with Jehovah (וּזבחיך is equivalent to וּבזביחך, like חמה equals בּחמה, Isaiah 43:25). The "fat" (chēlebh) in Isaiah 43:24 refers to the portions of fat that were placed upon the altar in connection with this kind of sacrifice. After the zebâchı̄m comes the michâh, the expression of desire for the blessing of Jehovah, a portion of which, the so-called remembrance portion ('azkârâh), was placed upon the altar along with the whole of the incense. And lastly, the qâneh (spice-cane), i.e., some one of the Amoma,

(Note: The qâneh is generally supposed to be the Calamus; but the calamus forms no stalk, to say nothing of a cane or hollow stalk. It must be some kind of aromatic plant, with a stalk like a cane, either the Cardamum, Ingber, or Curcuma; at any rate, it belonged to the species Amomum. The aroma of this was communicated to the anointing oil, the latter being infused, and the resinous parts of the former being thereby dissolved.)

points to the holy anointing oil (Exodus 30:23), or if it refer to spices generally, to the sacred incense, though qâneh is not mentioned as one of the ingredients in Exodus 30:34. The nation, which Jehovah was now redeeming out of pure unmingled grace, had not been burdened with costly tasks of this description (see Jeremiah 6:20); on the contrary, it was Jehovah only who was burdened and troubled. He denies that there was any "causing to serve" (העביד, lit., to make a person a servant, to impose servile labour upon him) endured by Israel, but affirms this rather of Himself. The sins of Israel pressed upon Him, as a burden does upon a servant. His love took upon itself the burden of Israel's guilt, which derived its gravitating force from His won holy righteous wrath; but it was a severe task to bear this heavy burden, and expunge it - a thoroughly divine task, the significance of which was first brought out in its own true light by the cross on Golgotha. When God creates, He expresses His fiat, and what He wills comes to pass. But He does not blot out sin without balancing His love with His justice; and this equalization is not effected without conflict and victory.

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