Isaiah 56:2
Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.
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(2) That keepeth the sabbath from polluting it . . .—It lies in the nature of the case that a devout king like Hezekiah would be an observer of the Sabbath. It is almost certain that the counsellors of the young Manasseh (probably the Shebna party), abandoning the religion of Israel in other things, would also disregard this. I take the prophet’s teaching accordingly as directed against that evil. He utters his beatitude for those who are faithful to the régime of Hezekiah’s reign, even though their alien birth or their condition as eunuchs seemed to exclude them from the polity of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:1-8).

Isaiah 56:2. Blessed is the man — Any, or every man, not only Jews but Gentiles, or strangers, as it is explained in the following verses. That doeth this — That practiseth the judgment and justice, or the righteousness, mentioned Isaiah 56:1. That layeth hold on it — Or, that holdeth it fast, as יחזיק בה may be rendered; that is, resolute and constant in so doing; that not only begins well, but perseveres in well-doing: that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it — That doth not profane or defile the sabbath, either by forbidden practices, or by the neglect of commanded duties. The sabbath seems to be here put, as sacrifice is elsewhere, for the whole worship of God. And keepeth his hand from doing any evil — That conscientiously abstains from all evil and immoral works.

56:1,2 The Lord tells us what are his expectations of duty from us. Be honest and just in all dealings. Also strictly observe the sabbath day. To have the blessing of God upon employments all the week, make conscience of keeping the sabbath holy. Have nothing to do with sin. Blessed is the man that keeps his hand from all things displeasing to God and hurtful to his own soul. Those who, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith, will be found walking in ways of holy obedience.Blessed is the man - Hebrew, 'The blessings of the man' (see Psalm 1:1). The sense is, 'happy is the man.' The word here rendered 'man' (אנושׁ 'ĕnôsh) usually denotes a man in humble life or in a subordinate rank, in contradistinction from אישׁ 'ı̂ysh, a man in elevated rank. As the object of the prophet here is particularly to say, that the 'stranger' and the 'eunuch' would be admitted to these privileges, it is possible that he designedly used a word denoting one in bumble life. The particular blessing to which he refers is specified in Isaiah 56:7-8.

That doeth this - That is, this which the prophet soon specifies - keeping the Sabbath, and abstaining from evil.

And the son of man - Another form of expression denoting man.

That layeth hold on it - Hebrew, 'Binds himself fast to it;' or seizes upon it with strength. That is, he adheres firmly to the purpose, as a man seizes upon a thing with an intention not to let it go.

That keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it - Who sacredly observes the day of holy rest which God has appointed. The Sabbath was one of the special rites of the Jewish religion, and one of the most important of their institutions. Its observance entered essentially into the idea of their worship, and was designed to be the standing memorial or sign between God and the Jewish nation Exodus 31:13-17. At home, in their own nation, it kept up the constant sense of religion; abroad, when they traveled among strangers, it would serve to remind all of the special nature of their institutions, and be the public evidence that they were the worshippers of Yahweh. Hence, as this served to distinguish them from other people, it comes to be used here to signify the observance of the rites which pertained to the public worship of God; and evidently includes whatever was to be perpetual and unchanging in the public worship of the Creator. It is remarkable that the prophet does not pronounce a blessing on him who came to bloody altars with sacrifices, or him who burned incense, or him who conformed to the unique rites of the Jewish religion. These rites were to pass away, and the obligation to observe them was to cease; and in this indirect manner the sacred writer has given an intimation that there would be blessings on those who did not observe those rites, and that the period would arrive when the divine favor and mercy would descend on people in a different channel. In regard to the importance of the Sabbath, see the note at the close of Isaiah 58:1-14.

And keepeth his hand ... - That is, is an upright, holy, honest man. He not only worships God and keeps the Sabbath, but he is upright in the discharge of all the duties which he owes to his fellow-men. These two specifications are evidently designed to include all the influences of religion - the proper service and worship of God, and an upright and holy life. Never in fact are they separated, and the religion of the Bible was designed to secure the one as much as the other.

2. (Lu 12:43).

the man—Hebrew, enosh, "a man in humble life," in contradistinction to Hebrew, ish, "one of high rank." Even the humblest, as "the stranger" and "the eunuch" (Isa 56:4, 6), are admissible to these privileges.

this … it—what follows: "keeping the Sabbath," &c. (Isa 58:13, 14; Eze 20:12). A proof that the Sabbath, in the spirit of its obligation, was to be binding under the Gospel (Isa 66:23). That gospel times are referred to is plain, from the blessing not being pronounced on the man who observed the sacrificial ritual of the Jewish law.

layeth hold—image from one grasping firmly some precious object which he is afraid of having forcibly snatched from him. The "Sabbath" here includes all the ordinances of divine worship under the new gospel law.

keepeth … hand … from … evil—The observance of the second table of the law; as the "Sabbath" referred to the first table. Together, they form the whole duty of man, the worship of God and a holy life.

Blessed is the man; every man, not only Jews, but Gentiles, or strangers, as it is explained in the following verses. That were this; judgment and justice, mentioned Isaiah 56:1.

That layeth hold on it; or, that holdeth it fast; that is resolute and constant in so doing; that not only begins well, but perseveres in it.

That keepeth the sabbath, from polluting it; that guardeth the sabbath from profanation, and doth not defile it, either by forbidden practices, or by the neglect of commanded duties. And the sabbath seems to be put here, as sacrifice is elsewhere, synecdochically for the whole worship of God, whereof this is an eminent part, and the bond of all the rest.

Keepeth his hand; which being the great instrument of action, is put for all the kinds and means of action.

From doing any evil, to wit, to one’s neighbour, as it is more fully expressed, Psalm 15:3.

Blessed is the man that doth this,.... That does justice, and keeps judgment; he hereby exercises a good conscience both towards God and men; he enjoys communion with God in his ways, worship, and ordinances, he attends unto, and has an evidence of his right to eternal happiness:

and the son of man that layeth hold on it; on the salvation of Christ, and his righteousness; which supposes a sense of the insufficiency of a man's own righteousness, a view of the excellency and suitableness of Christ's righteousness; and is expressive of a strong act of faith upon it, embracing and retaining it as a man's own:

that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it; by doing any servile work on it, and attending to all religious duties, private or public. This is put for the whole of instituted worship under the Gospel dispensation, and for any day or time in which the church of Christ meet together for religious worship:

and keepeth his hand from doing any evil; committing any sin against God, or doing injury to the persons or properties of men, including the whole of moral duty.

Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the {c} sabbath from profaning it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.

(c) Under the Sabbath he comprehends the whole service of God and true religion.

2. The blessing attached to Isaiah 56:1 extends to mankind in general (note the expressions man and Song of Solomon of man), i.e. to all who comply with the conditions of membership in the Jewish community.

that layeth hold on it] Better as R.V. that holdeth fast by it (and so Isaiah 56:4 and Isaiah 56:6).

that keepeth the sabbath from profaning it (R.V.)] (i.e. “so as not to profane it,” so Isaiah 56:6). The same emphasis on Sabbath observance appears in ch. Isaiah 58:13, and so in Ezekiel 20:12 ff; Ezekiel 22:8; Ezekiel 22:26 (cf. Jeremiah 17:19 ff.). Although one of the most ancient of Israel’s religious institutions (Exodus 20:8; Deuteronomy 5:15; Amos 8:5) the Sabbath acquired peculiar significance during the Exile, when the ordinances of public worship were suspended and the Sabbath and circumcision became the chief external badges of fidelity to the covenant of which it was the sign (Exodus 31:13-14; Ezekiel 20:12).

from doing any evil] such offences as are specified in Isaiah 58:4 ff., Isaiah 59:3 f.

Verse 2. - That doeth this... that layeth hold on it; i.e. that doeth according to the exhortation in ver. 1. That keepeth the sabbath. The prominent place assigned to this duty by the evangelical prophet is remarkable. We may observe, however,

(1) that the spirit of obedience is better tested by a positive than by a moral ordinance; and

(2) that as, probably, there could be little outward keeping of the sabbath by the captives, it would have had to be kept inwardly by spiritual exercises, by silent prayer and praise, together with prolonged meditation upon holy things. In the absence of all the ordinary aids to devotion, the religious condition of the people must have depended very much on their keeping up the recollection of the sabbath, and hallowing it so far as was possible; e.g. doing no work for themselves, neither buying nor selling, making their devotions longer, and keeping God in their thoughts throughout the day. Isaiah 56:2The note of admonition struck in the foregoing prophecy is continued here, the sabbatical duties being enforced with especial emphasis as part of the general righteousness of life. "Thus saith Jehovah, Keep ye right, and do righteousness: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to reveal itself. Blessed is the mortal that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth fast hold thereon; who keepeth the Sabbath, that he doth not desecrate it, and keepeth his hand from doing any kind of evil." Jehovah and Israel have both an objective standard in the covenant relation into which they have entered: משׁפּט (right) is practice answering to this; ישׁוּעה (salvation) the performance promised by God; צדקה (righteousness) on both sides such personal activity as is in accordance with the covenant relation, or what is the same thing, with the purpose and plan of salvation. The nearer the full realization on the part of Jehovah of what He has promised, the more faithful ought Israel to be in everything to which it is bound by its relation to Jehovah. זאת (this) points, as in Psalm 7:4, to what follows; and so also does בּהּ, which points back to זאת. Instead of שׁמור or לשׁמר we have here שׁמר, the זאת being described personally instead of objectively. שּׁבּת is used as a masculine in Isaiah 56:2, Isaiah 56:6 (cf., Isaiah 58:13), although the word is not formed after the same manner as קטּל, but is rather contracted from שׁבּתת (a festive time, possibly with עת equals עדת understood), and therefore was originally a feminine; and it is so personified in the language employed in the worship of the synagogue.

(Note: According to b. Sabbath 119a, R. Chanina dressed himself on Friday evening in his sabbath-clothes, and said, "Come, and let us go to meet Queen Sabbath." And so did also Jannai, saying, "Come, O bride; come, O bride." Hence the customary song with which the Sabbath was greeted had נקבּלה שׁבּת פּני כּלּה לקראת דודי לכה as it commencement and refrain.)

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