Isaiah 50:3
I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.
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50:1-3 Those who have professed to be people of God, and seem to be dealt severely with, are apt to complain, as if God had been hard with them. Here is an answer for such murmurings; God never deprived any of their advantages, except for their sins. The Jews were sent into Babylon for their idolatry, a sin which broke the covenant; and they were at last rejected for crucifying the Lord of glory. God called on them to leave their sins, and prevent their own ruin. Last of all, the Son came to his own, but his own received him not. When God calls men to happiness, and they will not answer, they are justly left to be miserable. To silence doubts concerning his power, proofs of it are given. The wonders which attended his sufferings and death, proclaimed that he was the Son of God, Mt 27:54.I clothe the heavens with blackness - With the dark clouds of a tempest - perhaps with an allusion to the remarkable clouds and tempests that encircled the brow of Sinai when he gave the law. Or possibly alluding to the thick darkness which he brought over the land of Egypt (Exodus 10:21; Grotius). In the previous verse, he had stated what he did on the earth, and referred to the exhibitions of his great power there. He here refers to the exhibition of his power in the sky; and the argument is, that he who had thus the power to spread darkness over the face of the sky, had power also to deliver his people.

I make sackcloth their covering - Alluding to the clouds. Sackcloth was a coarse and dark cloth which was usually worn as an emblem of mourning (see the note at Isaiah 3:24). The same image is used in Revelation 6:12 : 'And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair.' To say, therefore, that the heavens were clothed with sackcloth, is one of the most striking and impressive figures which can be conceived.

3. heavens … blackness—another of the judgments on Egypt to be repeated hereafter on the last enemy of God's people (Ex 10:21).

sackcloth—(Re 6:12).

I clothe the heavens with blackness; or, I will or can clothe &c. What I once did in Egypt, when I drew black curtains before all the heavenly lights, and caused an unparalleled and amazing darkness for three days together, to the great terror of mine enemies, so I can and will do still when it is necessary to save my people. And therefore you have no reason to distrust me.

I make sackcloth their covering; I cover them with thick and dark clouds, black as sackcloth, as is said, Revelation 6:12, or as that stuff of which the tents of Kedar were made, Song of Solomon 1:5. From this and some other expressions it appears that they wore a black sackcloth, which also was most suitable to the state of mourners, by whom it was used. I clothe the heavens with blackness,.... With gross and thick darkness; perhaps referring to the three days' darkness the Egyptians were in, Exodus 10:12, or with thick and black clouds, as in tempestuous weather frequently; or by eclipses of the sun; there was an extraordinary instance of great darkness at the time of Christ's crucifixion, Matthew 27:45.

and I make sackcloth their covering; that being black, and used in times of mourning; the allusion may be to the tents of Kedar, which were covered with sackcloth, or such like black stuff. The fall of the Pagan empire, through the power of Christ and his Gospel, is signified by the sun becoming black as sackcloth of hair, Revelation 6:12. Jarchi interprets this parabolically of the princes of the nations, when the Lord shall come to take vengeance upon them; as Kimchi does the sea, and the rivers, in the preceding verse, of the good things of the nations of the world, which they had in great abundance, and should be destroyed.

I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make {f} sackcloth their covering.

(f) As I did in Egypt in token of my displeasure, Ex 10:21.

3. Comp. Exodus 10:21 with blackness] with murky storm-clouds. The word, which occurs only here, denotes (like sackcloth in the next clause) the garb of mourning. Cf. Revelation 6:12.

The strophe ends somewhat abruptly, and the thought is perhaps incomplete.Verse 3. - I clothe the heavens with blackness (comp. Jeremiah 4:28; Ezekiel 32:7, 8; Joel 2:10; Joel 3:15; Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24; Luke 21:25; Revelation 6:12). The Egyptian plague of darkness (Exodus 10:21-23) is not adequate to the expressions here used. God means to assert his power of leaving all nature in absolute darkness, if he so choose - a power necessarily belonging to him who said, "Let there be light; and there was light" (Genesis 1:3). I make sackcloth their covering (see Revelation 6:12, "The sun became black as sackcloth of hair"). Such affectionate treatment does the church receive, which is assembling once more upon its native soil, whilst kings and their consorts hasten to serve the re-assembled community. "And kings become thy foster-fathers, and their princesses they nurses: they bow down their face to thee to the earth, and they lick the dust of thy feet; and thou learnest that I am Jehovah, He whose hoping ones are not put to shame." As foster-fathers devote all their strength and care to those entrusted to them, and nurses nourish children from the very marrow of their own life, so will kings become the shelterers of Zion, and princesses the sustainers of her growth. All that is true in the regal headship of the church will be realized, and all that is false in regal territorialism will condemn itself: "vultu in terram demisso adorabunt te et pulverem pedum tuorum lingent" (Jerome). They do homage to the church, and kiss the ground upon which she stands and walks. According to Isaiah 45:14, this adoration belongs to the God who is present in the church, and points the church itself away from all thought of her own merits to Jehovah, the God of salvation, cui qui confidunt non pudefient (וידעתּ with an auxiliary pathach, like יגעתּ in Isaiah 47:15; Ges. 65, 2: אשׁר with the first person made into a relative as in Isaiah 41:8; Ges. 123, 1, Anm. 1). Observe, however, that the state will not be swallowed up by the church - a thing which never will occur, and is never meant to occur; but by the state becoming serviceable to the church, there is realized a prelude of the perfected kingdom of God, in which the dualism of the state and the church is entirely abolished.
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