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"). Isaiah 50:3The radical sin, however, which has lasted from the time of the captivity down to the present time, is disobedience to the word of God. This sin brought upon Zion and her children the judgment of banishment, and it was this which made it last so long. "Why did I come, and there was no one there? Why did I call, and there was no one who answered? Is my hand too short to redeem? or is there no strength in me to deliver? Behold, through my threatening I dry up the sea; turn streams into a plain: their fish rot, because there is no water, and die for thirst. I clothe the heavens in mourning, and make sackcloth their covering." Jehovah has come, and with what? It follows, from the fact of His bidding them consider, that His hand is not too short to set Israel loose and at liberty, that He is not so powerless as to be unable to draw it out; that He is the Almighty, who by His mere threatening word (Psalm 106:9; Psalm 104:7) can dry up the sea, and turn streams into a hard and barren soil, so that the fishes putrefy for want of water (Exodus 7:18, etc.), and die from thirst (thâmōth a voluntative used as an indicative, as in Isaiah 12:1, and very frequently in poetical composition); who can clothe the heavens in mourning, and make sackcloth their (dull, dark) covering (for the expression itself, compare Isaiah 37:1-2); who therefore, fiat applicatio, can annihilate the girdle of waters behind which Babylon fancies herself concealed (see Isaiah 42:15; Isaiah 44:27), and cover the empire, which is now enslaving and torturing Israel, with a sunless and starless night of destruction (Isaiah 13:10). It follows from all this, that He has come with a gospel of deliverance from sin and punishment; but Israel has given no answer, has not received this message of salvation with faith, since faith is assent to the word of God. And in whom did Jehovah come? Knobel and most of the commentators reply, "in His prophets." This answer is not wrong, but it does not suffice to show the connection between what follows and what goes before. For there it is one person who speaks; and who is that, but the servant of Jehovah, who is introduced in these prophecies with dramatic directness, as speaking in his own name? Jehovah has come to His people in His servant. We know who was the servant of Jehovah in the historical fulfilment. It was He whom even the New Testament Scriptures describe as τὸν παῖδα τοῦ κυρίου, especially in the Acts (Acts 3:13, Acts 3:26; Acts 4:27, Acts 4:30). It was not indeed during the Babylonian captivity that the servant of Jehovah appeared in Israel with the gospel of redemption; but, as we shall never be tired of repeating, this is the human element in these prophecies, that they regard the appearance of the "servant of Jehovah," the Saviour of Israel and the heathen, as connected with the captivity: the punishment of Israel terminating, according to the law of the perspective foreshortening of prophetic vision, with the termination of the captivity - a connection which we regard as one of the strongest confirmations of the composition of these addresses before the captivity, as well as of Isaiah's authorship. But this ἀνθρώπινον does not destroy the θεῖον in them, inasmuch as the time at which Jesus appeared was not only similar to that of the Babylonian captivity, but stood in a causal connection with it, since the Roman empire was the continuation of the Babylonian, and the moral state of the people under the iron arm of the Roman rule resembled that of the Babylonian exiles (Ezekiel 2:6-7). At the same time, whatever our opinion on this point may be, it is perfectly certain that it is to the servant of Jehovah, who was seen by the prophet in connection with the Babylonian captivity, that the words "wherefore did I come" refer.
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