Isaiah 43:27
Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me.
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(27) Thy first father hath sinned . . .—The words have been interpreted: (1) of Adam; (2) of Abraham; (3) of Jacob; (4) of the ancestors of Israel collectively; (5) of this or that high priest individually. (3) fits in best. (See Isaiah 43:28.)

Thy teachers.—Literally, thy interpreters (Job 33:23), or thy mediators. The term is used in 2Chronicles 32:31 of the “ambassadors “of the king of Babylon, and stands here for the priests and the prophets, who ought officially to have been the expounders of the Divine will.

Isaiah 43:27-28. Thy first father hath sinned — Some think that Urijah, who was high-priest in the time of Ahaz, is here especially meant: see 2 Kings 16:10-11. But it is more probable that the expression is put for their forefathers collectively; and so he tells them, that as they were sinners, so also were all their progenitors, yea, even the best of them. Thus Lowth: “Your ancestors, reckoning from Adam downward, have been sinners, and you have trod in their steps:” see Ezekiel 2:3; Ezekiel 16:2, &c.; Ezra 9:7. And thy teachers have transgressed, &c. — Your prophets, priests, and teachers, who ought to have been guides to you, and intercessors for you with God, have led you into sin and error, and therefore you have no reason to fancy yourselves innocent. Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary — The highest and best of your priests, whose persons were most sacred, and therefore were supposed, by themselves and others, to be the farthest from danger. As they had made themselves profane, so have I dealt with them as such, without any regard to the sacredness and dignity of their functions. Have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches — Have exposed them to contempt and destruction, and made them a proverb of execration and reproach to all the neighbouring nations.

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.Thy first father hath sinned - This is the argument on the side of God, to show that they were neither unjustly punished, nor punished with undue severity. The argument is, that their rulers and teachers had been guilty of crime, and that therefore it was right to bring all this vengeance upon the nation. Various interpretations have been given of the phrase 'thy first father.' A slight notice of them will lead to the correct exposition.

1. Many have supposed that Adam is referred to here. Thus Piscator, Calovius, and most of the fathers, understand it; and, among the Jews, Kimchi. But the objections to this are plain:

(a) Adam was not peculiarly the first father or ancestor of the Jews, but of the whole human race.

(b) The Jews never boasted, or gloried in him as the founder of their nation, but they always referred to Abraham under this appellation Matthew 3:9; John 8:33, John 8:39.

(c) It would have been irrelevant to the design of the prophet to have referred to the sin of Adam in this case. God was vindicating his own cause and conduct in destroying their capital and temple, and in sending them as captives to a distant land. How would it prove that he was right in this, to say that Adam was a transgressor? How would it demonstrate his justice in these special inflictions of his anger to refer to the apostasy of the ancestor of the whole human race?

2. Others refer it to Abraham. This was the sentiment of Jerome, and of some others; and by those who maintain this opinion, it is supposed to refer to his doubting the truth of the promise Genesis 15:8; or to the denial of his wife, and his sin in inducing her to say that she was his sister Genesis 12:11; Genesis 20:2; or to the fact that when young he was an idolater. But the obvious objection to this is, that Abraham is everywhere in the Scriptures proposed as an example of one eminently devoted to God; nor could it be said that these calamities had come upon them in consequence of his unfaithfulness, and his sins.

3. Others refer it to the rulers and princes individually. Thus Grotius refers it to Manasseh; Aben Ezra to Jeroboam, etc.

4. Others, as Vitringa, refer it to the high priest, and particularly to Uriah, who lived in the time of Ahaz, and particularly to the fact, that, in obedience to the command of Ahaz, he constructed an altar in Jerusalem like the one which he had seen and admired in Damascus 2 Kings 16:10-16. The objection to this interpretation is, that no reason can be given for selecting this particular act from a number of similar abominations on the part of the priests and rulers, as the cause of the national calamities. It was only one instance out of many of the crimes which brought the national judgments upon them.

5. Others, as Gesenius, suppose that the word is to be taken collectively, not as referring to any particular individual, but to the high priests in general. It is not uncommon to give the name 'father' thus to a principal man among a people, and especially to one eminent in religious authority. The word 'first' here does not refer to time, but to rank; not the ancestor of the people, but the one having appropriately the title of father, who had the priority also in rank. The Septuagint renders it, Οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν πρῶτοι Hoi pateres humōn prōtoi. It refers therefore, probably, to the character of the presiding officers in religion, and means that the priests, supreme in rank, and whose example was so important, had sinned; that there was irreligion at the very foundation of influence and authority; and that therefore it was necessary to bring these heavy judgments on the nation. No one acquainted with the history of the Jewish people in the times immediately preceding the captivity, can doubt that this was the character of the high priesthood.

(Gesenius and some others give the words a collective sense, as signifying either the succession of priests or ancestors in general. The interpretation which understands the phrase of Abraham, is supposed by some to be at variance with the uniform mention of that patriarch in terms of commendation. But these terms are perfectly consistent with the proposition that he was a sinner, which may here be the exact sense of חטא châṭâ'. To the application of the phrase to Adam, it has been objected, that he was not peculiarly the father of the Jews. To this it may be answered, that if the guilt of the national progenitor would prove the point in question, much more would it be established by the fact of their belonging to a guilty race. At the same time it may be considered as implied, that all their fathers, who had since lived, shared in the original depravity; and thus the same sense is obtained that would have been expressed by the collective explanation of first father, while the latter is still taken in its strict and full sense, as denoting the progenitor of all mankind. - Alexander)

And thy teachers - Margin, 'Interpreters.' The word used here (מלציך melı̂ytseykā) is derived from לוץ lûts. This word means to stammer, to speak unintelligibly; and then to speak in a foreign and barbarous language, and then to interpret, from the idea of speaking a foreign tongue. Hence, it may be used in the sense of an internuncius, or a messenger (2 Chronicles 32:31; compare the notes at Job 33:23). That it refers here to the priests, there can be no doubt, and is properly applied to them because they sustained the office of interpreting his will to the people, and generally of acting as internuncii or messengers between God and them. The Septuagint renders it, " Ἄρχοντρς Archontes - 'Rulers.'

27. first father—collectively for "most ancient ancestors," as the parallelism ("teachers") proves [Maurer]. Or, thy chief religious ministers or priests [Gesenius]. Adam, the common father of all nations, can hardly be meant here, as it would have been irrelevant to mention his sin in an address to the Jews specially. Abraham is equally out of place here, as he is everywhere cited as an example of faithfulness, not of "sin." However, taking the passage in its ultimate application to the Church at large, Adam may be meant.

teachers—literally, "interpreters" between God and man, the priests (Job 33:23; Mal 2:7).

Thy first father; either,

1. Adam, from whom the guilt and filth of sin is propagated to thee; or rather,

2. Abraham, who might well be called the first father of the Israelites, because they all descended from him, had all their right and title to God’s ordinances and promises, and other special privileges, from God’s covenant made with Abraham and with his seed, and who is oft emphatically called their father, as Joshua 24:2 Isaiah 51:2, &c; and the Jews gloried in and trusted to that relation which they had to Abraham, as we read, Matthew 3:9 John 8:33, and elsewhere. And this agrees well with the foregoing context. For having sufficiently intimated that they had no merits of their own, he now addeth, that even their father Abraham, to whose merits they trusted, had no merits of his own, nor any occasion of boasting; for he also was a sinful man, and hath left some instances of his failings. Or the first father may be put collectively for their forefathers; and so he tells them, that as they were sinners, so also were all their progenitors, yea, even the best of them, Abraham, and David, and others, for whose sakes they expected to be pardoned and rewarded. And this indeed is usual with God, to upbraid the Israelites with the sins of their fathers.

Thy teachers; thy priests and prophets; who were their intercessors with God, and who were generally presumed to be the holiest part of that people; and therefore if these were transgressors, the people had no reason to fancy themselves to be innocent.

Thy first father hath sinned,.... Either Adam, as Kimchi, in whom all have sinned, and from whom all derive a sinful and corrupt nature; or Abraham, as Jarchi, the father of the Jewish nation, of whom they boasted, and in whom they trusted, as being of his seed, and through whose merits and worthiness they expected great things; yet he was but a sinful man, though a good man, and a great believer; of whose infirmity and frailty many instances are on record. Some have thought Terah the father of Abraham is designed, who was an idolater; others think some particular king is meant, the father of his people; Aben Ezra supposes Jeroboam to be intended, the first king of the ten tribes who made Israel to sin; but Kimchi observes, it is better to understand it of Saul, who was the first king over all Israel; others interpret it of Ahaz; and others of Manasseh; Vitringa of Uriah the priest, in the times of Ahaz; but it seems best to take the singular for the plural, as the Arabic version does, which renders it, "your first fathers have sinned"; all their forefathers had sinned, from their coming out of Egypt to that day; and, therefore it was in vain to have respect to them, or plead any worthiness of theirs in their favour; besides, they imitated them in their sins, and were filling up the measure of their iniquities:

and thy teachers have transgressed against me; or "interpreters" (s); of the law to the people, the Priests and Levites, Scribes and Pharisees; such who should have taught the people, and instructed them in the knowledge of divine things, and interceded with God for them; these were transgressors of the law themselves, as well as despisers of the Gospel; these rejected the counsel of God against themselves, disbelieved the Messiah, and dissuaded the people from receiving him; they were "orators" (t), as the word is by some rendered; and they used all the oratory they were masters of against Christ, and to persuade the people into an ill opinion of him, and at last to insist upon his crucifixion.

(s) "interpretes tui", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus. (t) "Oratores", Cocceius; "interpretes, seu oratores tui", Piscator; "oratores, intercessores tui", Vitringa.

Thy {d} first father hath sinned, and thy {e} teachers have transgressed against me.

(d) Your ancestors.

(e) Your priests and your prophets.

27. Thy first father] Undoubtedly Jacob, the eponymous hero of the nation, is meant (cf. Hosea 12:3 f.), not Abraham (who is never spoken of in the later literature as sinful), nor the earliest ancestors collectively; still less Adam.

thy teachers] Lit. as R.V. thine interpreters (Genesis 42:23), and hence “mediators” (as Job 33:23; 2 Chronicles 32:31); used of the prophets only here. On the idea, see Jeremiah 23:11 ff. If the representative ancestor and the spiritual leaders of Israel were such, what must the mass of the nation have been!

Verse 27. - Thy first father hath sinned; rather, thy first father sinned; that is, "Thou hast no merits of thy own. Even thy first father, Abraham, sinned (Genesis 12:13, 18; Genesis 17:17; Genesis 20:2); and thy teachers have transgressed. Thy very priests and prophets have been full of imperfections - have often sinned against me. Much more hast thou, my people generally, committed grievous offences. Thou must therefore throw thyself on my mercy." Isaiah 43:27But Israel has no such works; on the contrary, its history has been a string of sins from the very first. "Thy first forefather sinned, and thy mediators have fallen away from me." By the first forefather, Hitzig, Umbreit, and Knobel understand Adam; but Adam was the forefather of the human race, not of Israel; and the debt of Adam was the debt of mankind, and not of Israel. The reference is to Abraham, as the first of the three from whom the origin and election of Israel were dated; Abraham, whom Israel from the very first had called with pride "our father" (Matthew 3:9). Even the history of Abraham was stained with sin, and did not shine in the light of meritorious works, but in that of grace, and of faith laying hold of grace. The melı̄tsı̄m, interpreters, and mediators generally (2 Chronicles 32:31; Job 33:23), are the prophets and priests, who stood between Jehovah and Israel, and were the medium of intercourse between the two, both in word and deed. They also had for the most part become unfaithful to God, by resorting to ungodly soothsaying and false worship. Hence the sin of Israel was as old as its very earliest origin; and apostasy had spread even among those who ought to have been the best and most godly, because of the office they sustained.
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