Isaiah 57:1
The righteous perishes, and no man lays it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
LVII.

(1) The righteous perisheth . . .—The words seem written as if in the anticipation or in the actual presence of Manasseh’s persecution of the true prophets. Even before that persecution burst out in its full violence, the “righteous” survivors of Hezekiah’s régime may well have vexed their souls even to death with the evils that were around them. The prophet finds comfort in the thought that their death was a deliverance from yet worse evils. The singular number points to the few conspicuous sufferers.

Isaiah 57:1-2. These two verses “contain a kind of prelude to the distressful scene which is opened immediately after: for the prophet, designing to describe the melancholy state of the adulterous church, to be chastised by the severe judgments of God, beholds, as it were in an ecstasy, the few pious and good men yet remaining in the church gradually falling off, and taken away, either by an immature or violent death: while there were but few who laid this matter to heart, and observed it as a presage of the judgment threatening the church. This stupidity he sadly deplores; immediately subjoining, however: an alleviation, to show that this complaint pertained not to the deceased, as having attained a happier lot, and as blessed in this respect, that they were taken away from the evils and calamities of their times.” — Vitringa. The following short paraphrase on the words will render their sense more apparent. The righteous perisheth — Just and holy men, who are the pillars of the place and state in which they live. And no man layeth it to heart — Few or none of the people are duly affected with this severe stroke and sign of God’s displeasure. Thus he shows that the corruption was general in the people no less than in the priests. And merciful men — Hebrew, אנשׁי חסד, men of benignity, or beneficence, the same whom he before called righteous: those whose practice it was, not only to exercise piety and justice, but also mercy and kindness; none considering — None reflecting within himself, and laying it to heart; that the righteous is taken away from the evil — That dreadful calamities are coming on the church and nation, and that the righteous are taken away before they come. He shall enter into peace — The righteous man shall be received into rest and safety, where he shall be out of the reach of the approaching miseries. They — The merciful men; shall rest in their beds — In their graves, not unfitly called their beds, or sleeping- places, death being commonly called sleep in Scripture; each one walking in his uprightness — That walked, that is, lived, in a sincere and faithful discharge of his duties to God and men. Vitringa thinks “the completion of this prophecy is to be sought in the latter end of the ninth, and in the following centuries; when the papal power greatly prevailed, and the corruption of the church was as great as the persecutions and troubles of the pious were many.”57:1,2 The righteous are delivered from the sting of death, not from the stroke of it. The careless world disregards this. Few lament it as a public loss, and very few notice it as a public warning. They are taken away in compassion, that they may not see the evil, nor share in it, nor be tempted by it. The righteous man, when he dies, enters into peace and rest.The righteous perisheth - This refers, as I suppose, to the time of Manasseh (see the Introduction, Section 3). Grotius supposes, that it refers to king Josiah; Vitringa, that it refers to martyrs in general. But it seems probable to me that the prophet designs to describe the state of stupidity which prevailed in his own time, and to urge as one proof of it, that the pious part of the nation was taken away by violent death, and that the nation was not affected by it. Such was the guilt of Manasseh; so violent was the persecution which he excited against the just, that it is said of him that he 'shed innocent blood very much, until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another' 2 Kings 22:16. There is evidence (see the Introduction, Section 2), that Isaiah 54ed to his time, and it is probable that he himself ultimately fell a victim to the race of Manasseh. Though he had, on account of his great age, retired from the public functions of the prophetic office, yet he could not be insensible to the existence of these evils, and his spirit would not suffer him to be silent even though bowed down by age, when the land was filled with abominations, and when the best blood of the nation was poured out like water. The word rendered 'perisheth' (אבד 'ābad) as well as the word rendered 'taken away' (אסף 'âsaph) denotes violence, and is indicative of the fact that they were removed by a premature death.

And no man layeth it to heart - No one is aroused by it, or is concerned about it. The sentiment of the passage is, that it is proof of great stupidity and guilt when people see the righteous die without concern. If the pious die by persecution and others are not aroused, it shows that they acquiesce in it, or have no confidence in God, and no desire that his people should be preserved; if they die in the ordinary mode and the people are unaffected, it shows their stupidity. The withdrawment of a pious man from the earth is a public calamity. His prayers, his example, his life, were among the richest blessings of the world, and people should be deeply affected when they are withdrawn; and it shows their guilt and stupidity when they see this with indifference. It increases the evidence of this guilt when, as is sometimes the case, the removal of the righteous by death is an occasion of joy. The wicked hate the secret rebuke which is furnished by a holy life, and they often feel a secret exultation when such people die.

And merciful men - Margin, 'Men of kindness,' or 'godliness.' Lowth and Noyes render it, 'Pious men.' The Septuagint, Ἄνδρες δίκαιοι Andres dikaioi - 'Just men.' The Hebrew word denotes "mercy" or "kindness" (חסד chesed). Here it probably means, 'Men of mercy;' that is, people who are the subjects of mercy; people who are pious, or devoted to God.

Are taken away - Hebrew, 'Are gathered.' That is, they are gathered to their fathers by death.

None considering - They were not anxious to know what was the design of Divine Providence in permitting it.

From the evil to come - Margin, 'That which is evil.' The idea here evidently is, that severe calamities were coming upon the nation. God was about to give them up to foreign invasion (Isaiah 56:9 ff); and the true reason why the just were removed was, that they may not be subject to the divine wrath which should come upon the nation; they were not to be required to contemplate the painful state of things when an enemy should fire the cities, the palaces, and the temple, and cause the sacred services of religion to cease. It was a less evil for them to be removed by death - even by the painful death of persecution - than to be compelled to participate in these coming sorrows. At the same time this passage may be regarded as inculcating a more general truth still. It is, that the pious are often removed in order that they may not be exposed to evils which they would experience should they live. There might be the pains and sorrows of persecution; there might be long and lingering disease; there might be poverty and want; there might be the prevalence of iniquity and infidelity over which their hearts would bleed; there might be long and painful conflicts with their own evil hearts, or there might be danger that they would fall into sin, and dishonor their high calling. For some or all these reasons the righteous may be withdrawn from the world; and could we see those reasons as God does, nothing more would be necessary to induce us to acquiesce entirely in the justice of his dealings.

CHAPTER 57

Isa 57:1-21. The Peaceful Death of the Righteous Few: the Ungodliness of the Many: a Believing Remnant Shall Survive the General Judgments of the Nation, and Be Restored by Him Who Creates Peace.

In the midst of the excesses of the unfaithful watchmen (Isa 56:10, 11, 12), most of the few that are godly perish: partly by vexation at the prevailing ungodliness; partly by violent death in persecution: prophetical of the persecuting times of Manasseh, before God's judgments in causing the captivity in Babylon; and again those in the last age of the Church, before the final judgments on the apostasy (2Ki 21:16; Mt 23:29-35, 37; Re 11:17). The Hebrew for "perisheth," and "is taken away," expresses a violent death (Mic 7:2).

1. no man layeth it to heart—as a public calamity.

merciful men—rather, godly men; the subjects of mercy.

none considering—namely, what was the design of Providence in removing the godly.

from the evil—Hebrew, from the face of the evil, that is, both from the moral evil on every side (Isa 56:10-12), and from the evils about to come in punishment of the national sins, foreign invasions, &c. (Isa 56:9; 57:13). So Ahijah's death is represented as a blessing conferred on him by God for his piety (1Ki 14:10-13; see also 2Ki 22:20).The blessed death of the righteous not duly lamented by the Jews; who also commit idolatry, and trusted in man: they are threatened, Isaiah 57:1-12; Evangelical promises to the penitent, Isaiah 57:13-19. No peace to the wicked, Isaiah 57:20,21.

The righteous; just and holy men, who are the pillars of the place and state in which they live; yea, as the Jews call them, the pillars of the world.

No man; few or none of the people. So he showeth that the corruption was general, in the people no less than in the priests.

Layeth it to heart; is duly affected with this severe stroke and sad sign of God’s displeasure.

Merciful; or, godly; the same whom he now called righteous, whose duty and practice it is to exercise both mercy or kindness, and justice.

From the evil to come; from those dreadful calamities which are coming upon the nation.

The righteous perisheth,.... Not eternally; he may fear he shall, by reason of sin and temptation; he may say his strength and hope are perished; and his peace and comfort may perish for a time; but he cannot perish everlastingly, because he is one that believes in Christ, and is justified by his righteousness, from whence he is denominated righteous; and such shall never perish, but have everlasting life: but the meaning is, that he perisheth as to his outward man, or dies corporeally, which is called perishing, Ecclesiastes 7:15 and so the Targum renders it,

"the righteous die.''

Or it may be rendered, "the righteous man is lost" (b); not to himself, his death is a gain to him; but to the church, and to the world, which yet is not considered:

and no man layeth it to heart; takes any notice of it, thinks at all about it, far from being concerned or grieved; instead of that, rather rejoice, and are pleased that they are rid of such persons; which will be the case when the witnesses are slain, Revelation 11:10. The Targum is,

"and no man lays my fear to heart;''

or on his heart; whereas such providences should lead men to fear the Lord, and seek to him, and serve him, as it did David, Psalm 12:1,

and merciful men are taken away; or "gathered" (c); out of the world, to their own people, to heaven; these are such who obtain mercy of the Lord, and show mercy to others, holy good men: the former character may respect the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, this his grace implanted in them, discovered by acts of mercy and goodness; for one and the same persons are intended:

none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come; that there are evil times coming, great calamities, and sore judgments upon men; and therefore these righteous ones are gathered out of the world, and are gathered home, and safely housed in heaven, that they may escape the evil coming upon a wicked generation; and who yet have no thought about it, nor are they led to observe it as they might, from the removal of good men out of the world; see 2 Kings 22:20. All this may be applied to the martyrs of Jesus in times of Popish persecution; or to the removal of good men by an ordinary death before those times came.

(b) , Sept. (c) "colliguntur", V. L. Munster, Piscator, Cocceius; "congregantur", Pagninus.

The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away {a} from the evil to come.

(a) From the plague that is at hand, and also because God will punish the wicked.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Isaiah 57:1-2. The most alarming feature of the situation, though the least noticed, is the gradual removal of the righteous members of the community. Comp. Psalm 12:1.

merciful men] lit., men of piety (cf. ch. Isaiah 55:7, Isaiah 28:14).

none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come] The idea conveyed by this rendering is that the natural death of many good men was a divine intimation, little heeded by the community, that some great calamity was impending. The translation is perfectly admissible, and the thought is in accordance with the religious sentiment of the O.T. (cf. 2 Kings 22:20); yet it is doubtful if we are entitled to read so much into the prophet’s language. There is nothing to indicate that “the evil” is future, nor is it likely that the prophet has in view a future of terror for the righteous. The clause may be equally well rendered that (or for) the righteous is swept away before the evil; and this is probably all that is meant. The “evil” is the prevailing wickedness and oppression caused by the misgovernment described in Isaiah 56:10-12. The words “none considering” are parallel to “no man layeth it to heart,” and mean that the community takes no note of the fact that its best members are disappearing from its midst.Verses 1, 2. - THE EARLY DEATH OF RIGHTEOUS MEN ACCOUNTED FOR. The Hebrews were given to expect that long life should, as a general rule, accompany righteousness (Exodus 20:12; 1 Kings 3:14; Psalm 91:16; Proverbs 3:1, 2, etc.); and under the Mosaical dispensation we must suppose that it did so. But there were exceptions to the rule. Wicked persecutors, like Ahab, Jezebel, and Athaliah, cut off the righteous ere they had seen half their days. So probably did Manasseh (2 Kings 24:3, 4). And God sometimes removed the righteous from earth by a natural death before they had grown old (Ecclesiastes 7:15; Ecclesiastes 8:14). At the time of which Isaiah is here speaking there had been such removals; and of this he takes note, partly to rebuke those who lightly passed over the phenomenon, partly to justify God's ways to such as were perplexed by it. Verse 1. - The righteous perisheth. The word translated "perisheth" does not imply any violence; but the context implies a premature death. The righteous disappear - are taken from the earth before their natural time. Yet no man layeth it to heart; i.e. no one asks what it means - no one is disturbed, no one grieves. The general feeling was either one of indifference, or of relief at the departure of one whose life was a reproach to his neighbours. Merciful men; rather, godly men, or pious men (comp. Micah 7:2). Are taken away; literally, are gathered in. Compare the phrase so frequently used, "gathered to his fathers" (Genesis 49:29; Numbers 27:13; Judges 2:10; 2 Kings 22:20; 2 Chronicles 34:28). From the evil; or, out of the way of the evil - in order that he may escape it (comp. 2 Kings 22:20, where Josiah is promised that he shall be gathered to his fathers (prematurely), in order that he may escape the sight of the evil that was coming on Jerusalem soon after his decease. The fears of proselytes from among the heathen are also removed. "And the foreigners, who have joined themselves to Jehovah, to serve Him, and to love the name of Jehovah, to be His servants, whoever keepeth the Sabbath from desecrating it, and those who hold fast to my covenant, I bring them to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their whole-offerings and their slain-offerings are well-pleasing upon mine altar: for my house, a house of prayer shall it be called for all nations." The proselytes, who have attached themselves to Jehovah (על־הא),

(Note: The oriental reading, not in Isaiah 56:3, but here in Isaiah 56:6, is על־ה; the western, אל־ה. The Masora follows the western (מערבאי( nre), i.e., the Palestinian, and reckons this passage as one of the 31 על־ה in the Old Testament Scriptures.)

the God of Israel, with the pure intention of serving Him with love, are not to be left behind in the strange land. Jehovah will bring them along with His people to the holy mountain, upon which His temple rises once more; there will He cause them to rejoice, and all that they place upon His altar will find a most gracious acceptance. It is impossible that the prophet should be thinking here of the worship of the future without sacrifice, although in Isaiah 53:1-12 he predicts the self-sacrifice of the "Servant of Jehovah," which puts an end to all animals sacrifices. But here the temple is called "the house of prayer," from the prayer which is the soul of all worship. It will be called a house of prayer for all nations; and therefore its nature will correspond to its name. This ultimate intention is already indicated in Solomon's dedicatory prayer (1 Kings 8:41-43); but our prophet was the first to give it this definite universal expression. Throughout this passage the spirit of the law is striving to liberate itself from its bondage. Nor is there anything to surprise us in the breaking down of the party wall, built up so absolutely between the eunuchs on the one hand and the congregation on the other, or the one partially erected between the heathen and the congregation of Israel; as we may see from Isaiah 66:21, where it is affirmed that Jehovah will even take priests and Levites out of the midst of the heathen whom Israel will bring back with it into its own land.

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