Isaiah 51:6
Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.
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(6) Shall die in like manneri.e., shall vanish into nothingness. Many commentators, however, render, shall die like gnats; shall live their little day and pass away; thus supplying a third similitude, in addition to the “smoke” and the “garment.” We are reminded once again of Psalm 102:26; and we may add, Matthew 24:35; 2Peter 3:10.

Isaiah 51:6. Lift up your eyes to the heavens — Look up to the visible heavens above, which have continued hitherto, and seem likely to continue; and look upon the earth beneath — Which seems as firmly established as if it would endure for ever. The heavens shall vanish away like smoke — Which soon spends itself and disappears; and the earth shall wax old, &c. — Shall decay and perish, like a worn-out garment. And they that dwell therein shall die in like manner — Shall be dissolved, as the heaven and earth shall be, 2 Peter 3:11. But my salvation shall be for ever, &c. — As it shall spread through all the nations of the earth, so it shall last through all the ages of the world, and, in its consequences, to all eternity.

51:4-8 The gospel of Christ shall be preached and published. How shall we escape if we neglect it? There is no salvation without righteousness. The soul shall, as to this world, vanish like smoke, and the body be thrown by like a worn-out garment. But those whose happiness is in Christ's righteousness and salvation, will have the comfort of it when time and days shall be no more. Clouds darken the sun, but do not stop its course. The believer will enjoy his portion, while revilers of Christ are in darknessLift up your eyes to the heavens - The design of directing their attention to the heavens and the earth is, probably, to impress them more deeply with a conviction of the certainty of his salvation in this manner, namely, the heavens and the earth appear firm and fixed; there is in them no apparent tendency to dissolution and decay. Yet though apparently thus fixed and determined, they will all vanish away, but the promise of God will be unfailing.

For the heavens shall vanish away - The word which is rendered here 'shall vanish away' (מלח mâlach), occurs nowhere else in the Bible. The primary idea, according to Gesenius, is that of smoothness and softness. Then it means to glide away, to disappear. The idea here is, that the heavens would disappear, as smoke is dissipated and disappears in the air. The idea of the vanishing, or the disappearing of the heavens and the earth, is one that often occurs in the Scriptures (see the notes at Isaiah 34:4; compare Psalm 102:26; Hebrews 1:11-12; 2 Peter 3:10-12).

The earth shall wax old ... - Shall decay, and be destroyed (see Psalm 102:26).

And they that dwell therein shall die in like manner - Lowth renders this, 'Like the vilest insect.' Noyes, 'Like flies.' The Vulgate, and the Septuagint, however, render it as it is in our version. Rosenmuller renders it, 'As flies.' Gesenius renders it, 'Like a gnat.' This variety of interpretation arises from the different explanation of the word כן kên, which usually means, 'as, so, thus, in like manner, etc.' The plural form, however, (כנים kiniym), occurs in Psalm 105:31, and is rendered by the Septuagint, σκνῖφες skniphes, and by the Vulgate, sciniphes, a species of small gnats, very troublesome from their sting, which abounds in the marshy regions of Egypt; and according to this the idea is, that the most mighty inhabitants of the earth would die like gnats, or the smallest and vilest insects. This interpretation gives a more impressive sense than our version, but it is doubtful whether it can be justified. The word occurs nowhere else in this sense, and the authority of the ancient versions is against it. The idea as given in the common translation is not feeble, as Gesenius supposes, but is a deeply impressive one, that the heavens, the earth, and all the inhabitants should vanish away together, and alike disappear.

But my salvation shall be for ever - It is a glorious truth that the redemption which God shall give his people shall survive the revolutions of kingdoms, and the consummation of all earthly things. It is not improbable that the Saviour had this passage in his eye when he said, 'heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away' Matthew 24:35.

6. (Isa 40:6, 8; Ps 102:26; Heb 1:11, 12).

vanish away—literally, "shall be torn asunder," as a garment [Maurer]; which accords with the context.

in like manner—But Gesenius, "Like a gnat"; like the smallest and vilest insect. Jerome translates, as English Version, and infers that "in like manner" as man, the heavens (that is, the sky) and earth are not to be annihilated, but changed for the better (Isa 65:17).

righteousness—My faithfully fulfilled promise (see on [838]Isa 51:5).

The heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment; the heavens and earth shall pass away, either,

1. Simply, and by a substantial corruption or annihilation, which is yet to be understood comparatively or conditionally, that these should sooner vanish into nothing than God’s promised salvation should not be accomplished; as when it is said, Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away, Matthew 24:35. It is thus expounded, It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than (for) one tittle of the law to fail. Or,

2. In regard of their present state, and properties, and use, as smoke is here said to vanish, although the substance of it be not destroyed. They that dwell therein shall die in like manner; as they shall be dissolved, as we read, 2 Peter 3:11, and death is nothing else but a dissolution.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,.... And observe their beauty and order, the constant and regular motion of the heavenly bodies, the firmness and solidity of them:

and look upon the earth beneath; how stable and well founded it is:

for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke; though they are so firm, and have lasted so long, and have kept their constant situation and course, yet they shall melt away like salt, as the word (k) signifies, and disappear in an instant like smoke. Reference seems to be had to the general conflagration, when the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, 2 Peter 3:12,

and the earth shall wax old like a garment; and be folded up, and laid aside, as useless; see Psalm 102:26. This seems to design not a substantial destruction of the earth, but of its qualities, when waxing old it shall be renewed and changed. Jarchi interprets these clauses of the princes of the hosts of people in heaven, and the governors of the earth; but the inhabitants thereof are mentioned next:

and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner; as the heavens and the earth; be dissolved as they, and in like manner; vanish as smoke, and be seen no more; wax old as a garment, and become useless and unprofitable. De Dieu renders it, "as a louse" (l), and so this word sometimes signifies; and this sense is approved of by many learned men (m), and seems best to agree with the text; since neither the heavens and the earth are said to die, nor smoke, or a garment: and it may denote how loathsome and nauseous wicked men are in life, like vermin; and how mean and contemptible in death, their bodies are vile and despicable, and how easily they are destroyed:

but my salvation shall be for ever; that salvation which Christ has wrought out for his people is an everlasting salvation, Isaiah 14:17, Hebrews 5:9 and they that are interested in it will be always safe and happy; and though they shall die as other men, they shall rise again, and enjoy glory, immortality, and eternal life:

and my righteousness shall not be abolished: the righteousness which Christ has brought in for his people, and by which they are justified, is also everlasting, Daniel 9:24 or, "shall not be broken" (n); it answers all the demands of law and justice, and stands firm against all the accusations and charges of men and devils: or, "shall not fail" (o), as the Septuagint; its virtue to justify will always continue; it will answer for the saints in a time to come, even at the last judgment. The Targum is, it

"shall not tarry;''

being near to be wrought out and revealed, Isaiah 51:5.

(k) "Symmachus". It is expressive of corruption and consumption, as Ben Melech observes; which is the sense of salt land, not inhabited Jeremiah 17 6. It denotes, as Gussetius (Ebr. Comment. p. 469.) thinks, the fluctuating and confused agitation of the heavens, like those of the salt sea, and as smoke over the head. (l) "tanquam pediculus", De Dieu; so the word is used in Exodus 8.16, 17, 18. "instar vermiculi", Vitringa. (m) Calvinus, Gataker, Gussetius. (n) "conteretur", Pagninus, Montanus; "atteretur", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. So Ben Melech interprets it, "shall not be broken". (o) , Sept. "non deficiet", V. L.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the {g} heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall become old like a garment, and its inhabitants shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.

(g) Forewarns them of the horrible changes and mutations of all things, and how he will preserve his church in the midst of all these dangers.

6. From the thought of the universality of religion the prophet rises to that of its eternity, which is here expressed by a contrast of surprising boldness between the “things which are seen” and the “things which are not seen.” The whole visible creation, the heavens above and the earth beneath, are transitory, but Jehovah’s salvation endures for ever.

the heavens shall vanish away (or “be dissolved”) like smoke] To feel the force of the metaphor we must bear in mind the ancient conception of the “firmament” as a solid vault overarching the earth. The word for “vanish away” is connected with noun rendered “rotten rags” in Jeremiah 38:11 f.

wax old like a garment] see on ch. Isaiah 50:9, from which the expression is taken. Cf. also Psalm 102:26.

shall die in like manner] Rather, as R.V. marg., shall die like gnats. The word kçn does not occur elsewhere in this sense, unless Numbers 13:33 be an instance, which is doubtful. It might be a collective noun corresponding to the fem. kinnâh (noun of unity = a single gnat), found in Talmudic Hebrew. Several commentators, however, think it necessary to read kinnîm (also a collective), a word used in Exodus 8:16-18 of the “lice” of Egypt. The Ancient Versions and the Jewish interpreters explain as E.V., taking kçn to be the common particle “so.”

salvation and righteousness are practically synonymous, as often. see Appendix, Note II.

Verse 6. - Lift up your eyes to the heavens. Look to that which seems to you most stable and most certain to endure - the vast firmament of the heavens, and the solid earth beneath it, of which God "bears up the pillars" (Psalm l25:3). Both these, and man too, are in their nature perishable, and will (or may) vanish away and cease to be. But God, and his power to save, and his eternal law of right, can never pass away, but must endure for evermore. Let Israel be sure that the righteous purposes of God with respect to their own deliverance from Babylon, and to the conversion of the Gentiles, stand firm, and that they will most certainly be accomplished. The heavens shall vanish away like smoke (comp. Psalm 102:26; Matthew 24:35; 2 Peter 3:10-12). And the earth shall wax old like a garment. So also in Psalm 102:26 and Hebrews 1:11. The new heaven and new earth promised by Isaiah (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22), St. Peter (2 Peter 3:13), and St. John (Revelation 21:1) are created in the last times, because "the first heaven and the first earth have passed away." They that dwell therein shall die in like manner. Dr. Kay observes that the Hebrew text does not say, "in like manner," but "as in like manner." Man is not subject to the same law of perishableness as the external world, but to a different law. External things simply "pass away" and are no more. Man disappears from the earth, but continues to exist somewhere. He has, by God's gift, a life that is to be unceasing. Isaiah 51:6The people of God are now summoned to turn their eyes upwards and downwards: the old world above their heads and under their feet is destined to destruction. "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens will pass away like smoke, and the earth fall to pieces like a garment, and its inhabitants die out like a nonentity; and my salvation will last for ever, and my righteousness does not go to ruin." The reason for the summons follows with kı̄. The heavens will be resolved into atoms, like smoke: nimlâchū from mâlach, related to mârach, root mal, from which comes mâlal (see at Job 14:2), to rub to pieces, to crumble to pieces, or mangle; Aquila, ἠλοήθησαν, from ἀλοᾶν, to thresh. As melâchı̄m signifies rags, the figure of a garment that has fallen to pieces, which was then quite ready to hand (Isaiah 50:9), presented itself from the natural association of ideas. כּמו־כן, however, cannot mean "in like manner" (lxx, Targ., Jerome); for if we keep to the figure of a garment falling to pieces, the figure is a very insipid one; and if we refer it to the fate of the earth generally, the thought which it offers is a very tame one. The older expositors were not even acquainted with what is now the favourite explanation, viz., "as gnats perish" (Hitzig, Ewald, Umbreit, Knobel, Stier, etc.); since the singular of kinnı̄m is no more kēn than the singular of בּיצים is בּיץ. The gnat (viz., a species of stinging gnat, probably the diminutive but yet very troublesome species which is called akol uskut, "eat and be silent," in Egyptian) is called kinnâh, as the talmudic usage shows, where the singular, which does not happen to be met with in the Old Testament, is found in the case of kinnı̄m as well as in that of bētsı̄m.

(Note: Kinnâm, in Exodus 8:13-14, whether it be a collective plural or a singular, also proves nothing in support of kēn, any more than middâh in Job 11:9 (which see) in favour of mad, in the sense of measure. It does not follow, that because a certain form lies at the foundation of a derivative, it must have been current in ordinary usage.)

We must explain the word in the same manner as in 2 Samuel 23:5; Numbers 13:33; Job 9:35. In all these passages kēn merely signifies "so" (ita, sic); but just as in the classical languages, these words often derive their meaning from the gesture with which they are accompanied (e.g., in Terence's Eunuch: Cape hoc flabellum et ventulum sic facito). This is probably Rckert's opinion, when he adopts the rendering: and its inhabitants "like so" (so wie so) do they die. But "like so" is here equivalent to "like nothing." That the heavens and the earth do not perish without rising again in a renewed form, is a thought which may naturally be supplied, and which is distinctly expressed in Isaiah 51:16; Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22. Righteousness (tsedâqâh) and salvation (yeshū‛âh) are the heavenly powers, which acquire dominion through the overthrow of the ancient world, and become the foundations of the new (2 Peter 3:13). That the tsedâqâh will endure for ever, and the yeshū‛âh will not be broken (yēchath, as in Isaiah 7:8, confringetur, whereas in Isaiah 51:7 the meaning is consternemini), is a prospect that opens after the restoration of the new world, and which indirectly applies to men who survive the catastrophe, having become partakers of righteousness and salvation. For righteousness and salvation require beings in whom to exert their power.

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