Isaiah 52:3
For thus said the LORD, You have sold yourselves for nothing; and you shall be redeemed without money.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) Ye have sold yourselves . . .—Literally, ye were sold. The people had complained that Jehovah had “sold them” into the hands of their enemies (Psalm 44:12). “Not so,” is the answer. “There was no real sale, only a temporary transfer, and therefore Jehovah can redeem you at His own pleasure. A comparison with Isaiah 43:3, shows how spiritual truths may present aspects that require the most opposite illustrations.

Isaiah

A PARADOX OF SELLING AND BUYING

Isaiah 52:3
.

THE first reference of these words is of course to the Captivity. They come in the midst of a grand prophecy of freedom, all full of leaping gladness and buoyant hope. The Seer speaks to the captives; they had ‘sold themselves for nought.’ What had they gained by their departure from God?-bondage. What had they won in exchange for their freedom?- only the hard service of Babylon. As Deuteronomy puts it: ‘Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness. . . by reason of the abundance of all things, therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies. . . in want of all things.’ A wise exchange! a good market they had brought their goods to! In striking ironical parallel the prophet goes on to say that so should they be redeemed. They had got nothing by bondage, they should give nothing for liberty. This text has its highest application in regard to our captivity and our redemption.

I. The reality of the captivity.

The true idea of bondage is that of coercion of will and conscience, the dominance and tyranny of what has no right to rule. So men are really in bondage when they think themselves most free. The only real slavery is that in which we are tied and bound by our own passions and lusts. ‘He that committeth sin is the slave of sin.’ He thinks himself master of himself and his actions, and boasts that he has broken away from the restraints of obedience, but really he has only exchanged masters. What a Master to reject-and what a master to prefer!

II. The voluntariness of the captivity.

‘Ye have sold yourselves,’ and become authors of your own bondage. No sin is forced upon any man, and no one is to blame for it but himself. The many excuses which people make to themselves are hollow. Now-a-days we hear a great deal of heredity, how a man is what his ancestors have made him, and of organisation, how a man is what his body makes him, and of environment, how a man is what his surroundings make him. There is much truth in all that, and men’s guilt is much diminished by circumstances, training, and temperament. The amount of responsibility is not for us to settle, in regard to others, or even in regard to ourselves. But all that does not touch the fact that we ourselves have sold ourselves. No false brethren have sold us as they did Joseph.

The strong tendency of human nature is always to throw the blame on some one else; God or the devil, the flesh or the world, it does not matter which. But it remains true that every man sinning is ‘drawn away of his own lust and enticed.’

After all, conscience witnesses to the truth, and by that mysterious sense of guilt and gnawing of remorse which is quite different from the sense of mistake, tears to tatters the sophistries. Nothing is more truly my own than my sin.

III. The profitlessness of the captivity.

‘For nought’; that is a picturesque way of putting the truth that all sinful life fails to satisfy a man. The meaning of one of the Hebrew words for sin is ‘missing the mark.’ It is a blunder as well as a crime. It is trying to draw water from broken cisterns. It is ‘as when a hungry man dreameth and behold he eateth, but he awaketh and his soul is empty.’ Sin buys men with fairy money, which looks like gold, but in the morning is found to be but a handful of yellow and faded leaves. ‘Why do ye spend your money for that which is not bread?’ It cannot but be so, for only God can satisfy a man, and only in doing His will are we sure of sowing seed which will yield us bread enough and to spare, and nothing but bread. In all other harvests, tares mingle and they yield poisoned flour. We never get what we aim at when we do wrong, for what we aim at is not the mere physical or other satisfaction which the temptation offers us, but rest of soul-and that we do not get. And we are sure to get something that we did not aim at or look for-a wounded conscience, a worsened nature, often hurts to health or reputation, and other consequent ills, that were carefully kept out of sight, while we were being seduced by the siren voice. The old story of the traitress, who bargained to let the enemies into the city, if they would give her ‘what they wore on their left arms,’ meaning bracelets, and was crushed to death under their shields heaped on her, is repeated in the experience of every man who listens to the ‘juggling fiends, who keep the word of promise to the ear, but break it to the hope.’ The truth of this is attested by a cloud of witnesses. Conscience and experience answer the question, ‘What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?’ Wasted lives answer; tyrannous evil habits answer; diseased bodies, blighted reputations, bitter memories answer.

IV. The unbought freedom.

‘Ye shall be redeemed without money.’ You gained nothing by your bondage; you need give nothing for your emancipation. The original reference is, of course, to the great act of divine power which set these literal captives free, not for price nor reward. As in the Exodus from Egypt, so in that from Babylon, no ransom was paid, but a nation of bondsmen was set at liberty without war or compensation. That was a strange thing in history. The paradox of buying back without buying is a symbol of the Christian redemption.

{1} A price has been paid.

‘Ye were redeemed not with corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.’ The New Testament idea of redemption, no doubt, has its roots in the Old Testament provisions for the Goel or kinsman redeemer, who was to procure the freedom of a kinsman. But whatever figurative elements may enter into it, its core is the ethical truth that Christ’s death is the means by which the bonds of sin are broken. There is much in the many-sided applications and powers of that Death which we do not know, but this is clear, that by it the power of sin is destroyed and the guilt of sin taken away.

{2} That price has been paid for all.

We have therefore nothing to pay. A slave cannot redeem himself, for all that he has is his master’s already. So, no efforts of ours can set ourselves free from the ‘cords of our sins.’ Men try to bring something of their own. ‘I do my best and God will have mercy.’ We will bring our own penitence, efforts, good works, or rely on Church ordinances, or anything rather than sue in forma pauperis. How hard it is to get men to see that ‘It is finished,’ and to come and rest only on the mere mercy of God.

How do we ally ourselves with that completed work? By simple faith, of which an essential is the recognition that we have nothing and can do nothing.

Suppose an Israelite in Babylon who did not choose to avail himself of the offered freedom; he must die in bondage. So must we if we refuse to have eternal life as the gift of God. The prophet’s paradoxical invitation, ‘He that hath no money, come ye, buy. . . without money,’ is easily solved. The price is to give up ourselves and forsake all self-willed striving after self-purchased freedom which is but subtler bondage. ‘If the Son make you free, ye shall be free indeed.’ If not, then are ye slaves indeed, having ‘sold yourselves for nought,’ and declined to be ‘redeemed without money.’52:1-12 The gospel proclaims liberty to those bound with fears. Let those weary and heavy laden under the burden of sin, find relief in Christ, shake themselves from the dust of their doubts and fears, and loose themselves from those bands. The price paid by the Redeemer for our salvation, was not silver or gold, or corruptible things, but his own precious blood. Considering the freeness of this salvation, and how hurtful to temporal comfort sins are, we shall more value the redemption which is in Christ. Do we seek victory over every sin, recollecting that the glory of God requires holiness in every follower of Christ? The good news is, that the Lord Jesus reigns. Christ himself brought these tidings first. His ministers proclaim these good tidings: keeping themselves clean from the pollutions of the world, they are beautiful to those to whom they are sent. Zion's watchmen could scarcely discern any thing of God's favour through the dark cloud of their afflictions; but now the cloud is scattered, they shall plainly see the performance. Zion's waste places shall then rejoice; all the world will have the benefit. This is applied to our salvation by Christ. Babylon is no place for Israelites. And it is a call to all in the bondage of sin and Satan, to use the liberty Christ has proclaimed. They were to go with diligent haste, not to lose time nor linger; but they were not to go with distrustful haste. Those in the way of duty, are under God's special protection; and he that believes this, will not hasten for fear.Ye have sold yourselves for nought - You became captives and prisoners without any price being paid for you. You cost nothing to those who made you prisoners. The idea is, that as they who had made them prisoners had done so without paying any price for them, it was equitable that they should be released in the same manner. When their captors had paid nothing for them, God would suffer nothing to be paid for them in turn; and they should be released, as they had been sold, without a price paid for them. Perhaps God intends here to reproach them for selling themselves in this manner without any compensation of any kind, and to show them the folly of it; but, at the same time, he intends to assure them that no price would be paid for their ransom.

Ye shall be redeemed - You shall be delivered from your long and painful captivity without any price being paid to the Babylonians. This was to be a remarkable proof of the power of God. Men do not usually give up captives and slaves, in whatever way they may have taken them, without demanding a price or ransom. But here God says that he designs to effect their deliverance without any such price being demanded or paid, and that as they had gone into captivity unpurchased, so they should return unpurchased. Accordingly he so overruled events as completely to effect this. The Babylonians, perhaps, in no way could have been induced to surrender them. God, therefore, designed to raise up Cyrus, a mild, just, and equitable prince; and to dispose him to suffer the exiles to depart, and to aid them in their return to their own land. In this way, they were rescued without money and without price, by the interposition of another.

3. As you became your foes' servants, without their paying any price for you (Jer 15:13), so they shall release you without demanding any price or reward (Isa 45:13), (where Cyrus is represented as doing so: a type of their final restoration gratuitously in like manner). So the spiritual Israel, "sold under sin," gratuitously (Ro 7:14), shall be redeemed also gratuitously (Isa 55:1). Ye have sold yourselves, by your sins, into the hands of the Chaldeans,

for nought; without any price or valuable consideration paid by them, either to you or to me, your Lord and Owner.

Ye shall be redeemed without money; without paying any ransom. For thus saith the Lord, ye have sold yourselves for nought,.... As Ahab did to work wickedness; as men do freely, and get nothing by it; for there is nothing got in the service of sin, Satan, and antichrist, or by being slaves and vassals to them; not profit, but loss; not pleasure, but pain; not honour, but shame; not liberty, but bondage; not riches and wealth, but poverty and want, which Popery always brings into those countries and people where it obtains.

And ye shall be redeemed without money; in like manner as our spiritual and eternal redemption from sin, Satan, and the law, the world, death, and hell, is obtained; not without the price of the precious blood of the Lamb, but without such corruptible things as silver and gold, 1 Peter 1:18 and without any price paid to those by whom we are held captive, but to God, against whom we have sinned, whose law we have broken, and whose justice must be satisfied; and the blood of Christ is a sufficient price to answer all: hence redemption, though it cost Christ much, is entirely free to us; so will the redemption of the church, from the bondage and slavery of antichrist, be brought about by the power of God undeserved by them; not through their merits, and without any ransom price paid to those who held them captives.

For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for {c} nothing; and ye shall be redeemed without money.

(c) The Babylonians paid nothing to me for you: therefore I will take you again without ransom.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. Ye have sold yourselves] R.V. Ye were sold; See on ch. Isaiah 50:1; cf. Psalm 44:12.

redeemed without money] Cf. ch. Isaiah 45:13. Jehovah gained nothing by delivering Israel into the hand of its enemies, and He asks nothing as the price of its redemption.

3–6. There is here a sudden change both in form and subject. The rhythmic structure of the preceding verses gives place to prose, and the figure of Jerusalem arising from the dust is altogether abandoned. Jehovah is represented as deliberating with Himself on the religious situation, so injurious to His honour, brought about by the unprecedented calamities of His people (Isaiah 52:4-5), and as resolving to end it by their deliverance (6). It is doubtful if the passage was the original sequel to Isaiah 52:1-2.Verse 3. - Ye have sold yourselves for nought; rather, for nought were ye sold. God received nothing when he allowed his people to become the slaves of the Babylonians. He took no price for them (see Isaiah 50:1), and therefore is free to claim them back without payment (comp. Isaiah 45:13). He has but to say the word; and he is about to say it. Just as we found above, that the exclamation "awake" (‛ūrı̄), which the church addresses to the arm of Jehovah, grew out of the preceding great promises; so here there grows out of the same another "awake" (hith‛ōrerı̄), which the prophet addresses to Jerusalem in the name of his God, and the reason for which is given in the form of new promises. "Wake thyself up, wake thyself up, stand up, O Jerusalem, thou that hast drunk out of the hand of Jehovah the goblet of His fury: the goblet cup of reeling hast thou drunk, sipped out. There was none who guided her of all the children that she had brought forth; and none who took her by the hand of all the children that she had brought up. There were two things that happened to thee; who should console thee? Devastation, and ruin, and famine, and the sword: how should I comfort thee? Thy children were benighted, lay at the corners of all the streets like a snared antelope: as those who were full of the fury of Jehovah, the rebuke of thy God. Therefore hearken to this, O wretched and drunken, but not with wine: Thus saith thy Lord, Jehovah, and thy God that defendeth His people, Behold, I take out of thine hand the goblet of reeling, the goblet cup of my fury: thou shalt not continue to drink it any more. And I put it into the hand of thy tormentors; who said to thy soul, Bow down, that we may go over; and thou madest thy back like the ground, and like a public way for those who go over it." In Isaiah 51:17, Jerusalem is regarded as a woman lying on the ground in the sleep of faintness and stupefaction. She has been obliged to drink, for her punishment, the goblet filled with the fury of the wrath of God, the goblet which throws those who drink it into unconscious reeling; and this goblet, which is called qubba‛ath kōs (κύπελλον ποτηιρίου, a genitive construction, though appositional in sense), for the purpose of giving greater prominence to its swelling sides, she has not only had to drink, but to drain quite clean (cf., Psalm 75:9, and more especially Ezekiel 23:32-34). Observe the plaintive falling of the tone in shâthı̄th mâtsı̄th. In this state of unconscious stupefaction was Jerusalem lying, without any help on the part of her children; there was not one who came to guide the stupefied one, or took her by the hand to lift her up. The consciousness of the punishment that their sins had deserved, and the greatness of the sufferings that the punishment had brought, pressed so heavily upon all the members of the congregation, that not one of them showed the requisite cheerfulness and strength to rise up on her behalf, so as to make her fate at any rate tolerable to her, and ward off the worst calamities. What elegiac music we have here in the deep cadences: mikkol-bânı̄m yâlâdâh, mikkol-bânı̄m giddēlâh! So terrible was her calamity, that no one ventured to break the silence of the terror, or give expression to their sympathy. Even the prophet, humanly speaking, is obliged to exclaim, "How (mı̄, literally as who, as in Amos 7:2, Amos 7:5) should I comfort thee!" He knew of no equal or greater calamity, to which he could point Jerusalem, according to the principle which experience confirms, solamen miseris socios habuisse malorum. This is the real explanation, according to Lamentations 2:13, though we must not therefore take mı̄ as an accusative equals bemı̄, as Hitzig does. The whole of the group is in the tone of the Lamentations of Jeremiah. There were two kinds of things (i.e., two kinds of evils: mishpâchōth, as in Jeremiah 15:3) that had happened to her (קרא equals קרה, with which it is used interchangeably even in the Pentateuch) - namely, the devastation and ruin of their city and their land, famine and the sword to her children, their inhabitants.

In Isaiah 51:20 this is depicted with special reference to the famine. Her children were veiled (‛ullaph, deliquium pati, lit., obvelari), and lay in a state of unconsciousness like corpses at the corner of every street, where this horrible spectacle presented itself on every hand. They lay ketho' mikhmâr (rendered strangely and with very bad taste in the lxx, viz., like a half-cooked turnip; but given correctly by Jerome, sicut oryx, as in the lxx at Deuteronomy 14:5, illaqueatus), i.e., like a netted antelope (see at Job 39:9), i.e., one that has been taken in a hunter's net and lies there exhausted, after having almost strangled itself by ineffectual attempts to release itself. The appositional וגו המלאים, which refers to בניך, gives as a quippe qui the reason for all this suffering. It is the punishment decreed by God, which has pierced their very heart, and got them completely in its power. This clause assigning the reason, shows that the expression "thy children" (bânayikh) is not to be taken here in the same manner as in Lamentations 2:11-12; Lamentations 4:3-4, viz., as referring to children in distinction from adults; the subject is a general one, as in Isaiah 5:25. With lâkhē̄n (therefore, Isaiah 51:21) the address turns from the picture of sufferings to the promise, in the view of which the cry was uttered, in Isaiah 51:17, to awake and arise. Therefore, viz., because she had endured the full measure of God's wrath, she is to hear what His mercy, that has now begun to move, purposes to do. The connecting form shekhurath stands here, according to Ges. 116, 1, notwithstanding the (epexegetical) Vav which comes between. We may see from Isaiah 29:9 how thoroughly this "drunk, but not with wine," is in Isaiah's own style (from this distinction between a higher and lower sphere of related facts, compare Isaiah 47:14; Isaiah 48:10). The intensive plural 'ădōnı̄m is only applied to human lords in other places in the book of Isaiah; but in this passage, in which Jerusalem is described as a woman, it is used once of Jehovah. Yârı̄bh ‛ammō is an attributive clause, signifying "who conducts the cause of His people," i.e., their advocate or defender. He takes the goblet of reeling and wrath, which Jerusalem has emptied, for ever out of her hand, and forces it newly filled upon her tormentors. There is no ground whatever for reading מוניך (from ינה, to throw down, related to יון, whence comes יון, a precipitate or sediment) in the place of מוגי (pret. hi. of יגה, (laborare, dolere), that favourite word of the Lamentations of Jeremiah (Lamentations 1:5, Lamentations 1:12; Lamentations 3:32, cf., Isaiah 1:4), the tone of which we recognise here throughout, as Lowth, Ewald, and Umbreit propose after the Targum ליך מונן דהוו. The words attributed to the enemies, shechı̄ vena‛ăbhorâh (from shâchâh, the kal of which only occurs here), are to be understood figuratively, as in Psalm 129:3. Jerusalem has been obliged to let her children be degraded into the defenceless objects of despotic tyranny and caprice, both at home in their own conquered country, and abroad in exile. But the relation is reversed now. Jerusalem is delivered, after having been punished, and the instruments of her punishment are given up to the punishment which their pride deserved.

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