Isaiah 58:13 Commentaries: "If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot From doing your own pleasure on My holy day, And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, And honor it, desisting from your own ways, From seeking your own pleasure And speaking your own word,
Isaiah 58:13
If you turn away your foot from the sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shall honor him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) If thou turn away thy foot.—The teaching of Isaiah 56:4-7, as to the Sabbath is resumed. The form of the phrase implies the idea that the Sabbath is as holy ground, on which no profane foot must tread (Exodus 3:5).

Thy pleasure.—Better, thy business.

Nor speaking thine own words.—Literally, speak words, as in Hosea 10:4, for idle unprofitable talk (Proverbs 10:19, Ecclesiastes 5:3).

Isaiah 58:13. If thou turn away — If thou take no unnecessary journeys, nor do any servile works on the sabbath day; or, metaphorically, if thou keep thy mind and affections disengaged, and free from secular cares and concerns, and restrain thyself from whatever might profane it; from doing thy pleasure on my holy day — From taking the liberty of doing what thou pleasest, without the control and restraint of conscience and the law of God; or from indulging thyself in the pleasures of sense and carnal delights; and call the sabbath a delight — Not looking on the duties of it as a burden and drudgery, but performing them with cheerfulness, and delighting in all its ordinances and services; the holy of the Lord — Or, to the Lord, that is, dedicated to him, consecrated to his service; honourable — Namely, the chief of days, worthy of all honour, and therefore honourable because holy: and shalt honour him — That is, The Lord, whose day it is; not doing thine own ways — Or works, or pursuing thy usual course of life, or thy worldly business; nor speaking thine own words — The words that are thine own, in opposition to what God commands to be spoken; words proceeding from the corruption of human nature, or the vanity of the human mind; or, not speaking words unsuitable to the work of the day, tending neither to thy edification nor comfort. 58:13,14 The sabbath is a sign between God and his professing people; his appointing it is a sign of his favour to them; and their observing it is a sign of their obedience to him. We must turn from travelling on that day; from doing our pleasure on that holy day, without the control and restraint of conscience; or from indulging in the pleasures of sense. On sabbath days we must not follow our callings, or our pleasures. In all we say and do, we must put a difference between this day and other days. Even in Old Testament times the sabbath was called the Lord's day, and is fitly called so still; and for a further reason, it is the Lord Christ's day, Re 1:10. If we thus remember the sabbath day to keep it holy, we shall have the comfort and profit of it, and have reason to say, It is good to draw near to God.If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath - The evident meaning of this is, that they were sacredly to observe the Sabbath, and not to violate or pollute it (see the notes at Isaiah 56:2). The idea, says Grotius, is, that they were not to travel on the Sabbath day on ordinary journeys. The 'foot' is spoken of as the instrument of motion and travel. 'Ponder the paths of thy feet' Proverbs 4:26; that is, observe attentively thy goings. 'Remove thy foot from evil' Proverbs 4:27; that is, abstain from evil, do not go to execute evil. So here, to restrain the foot from the Sabbath, is not to have the foot employed on the Sabbath; not to be engaged in traveling, or in the ordinary active employments of life, either for business or pleasure.

From doing thy pleasure on my holy day - Two things may here be observed:

1. God claims the day as his, and as holy on that account. While all time is his, and while he requires all time to be profitably and usefully employed, he calls the Sabbath especially his own - a day which is to be observed with reference to himself, and which is to be regarded as belonging to him. To take the hours of that day, therefore, for our pleasure, or for work which is not necessary or merciful, is to rob God of that which he claims as his own.

2. We are not to do our own pleasure on that day. That is, we are not to pursue our ordinary plans of amusement; we are not to devote it to feasting, to riot, or to revelry. It is true that they who love the Sabbath as they should will find 'pleasure' in observing it, for they have happiness in the service of God. But the idea is, here, that we are to do the things which God requires, and to consult his will in the observance. It is remarkable that the thing here adverted to, is the very way in which the Sabbath is commonly violated. It is not extensively a day of business, for the propriety of a periodical cessation from toil is so obvious, that people will have such days recurring at moderate intervals. But it is a day of pastime and amusement; a day not merely of relaxation from toil, but also of relaxation from the restraints of temperance and virtue. And while the Sabbath is God's great ordinance for perpetuating religion and virtue, it is also, by perversion, made Satan's great ordinance for perpetuating intemperance, dissipation, and sensuality.

And call the Sabbath a delight - This appropriately expresses the feelings of all who have any just views of the Sabbath. To them it is not wearisome, nor are its hours heavy. They love the day of sweet and holy rest. They esteem it a privilege, not a task, to be permitted once a week to disburden their minds of the cares, and toils, and anxieties of life. It is a 'delight' to them to recall the memory of the institution of the Sabbath, when God rested from his labors; to recall the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, to the memory of which the Christian Sabbath is consecrated; to be permitted to devote a whole day to prayer and praise, to the public and private worship of God, to services that expand the intellect and purify the heart. To the father of a family it is the source of unspeakable delight that he may conduct his children to the house of God, and that he may instruct them in the ways of religion. To the Christian man of business, the farmer, and the professional man, it is a pleasure that he may suspend his cares, and may uninterruptedly think of God and of heaven. To all who have any just feeling, the Sabbath is a 'delight;' and for them to be compelled to forego its sacred rest would be an unspeakable calamity.

The holy of the Lord, honorable - This more properly means, 'and call the holy of Yahweh honorable.' That is, it does not mean that they who observed the Sabbath would call it 'holy to Yahweh and honorable;' but it means that the Sabbath was, in fact, 'the holy of Yahweh,' and that they would regard it as 'honorable.' A slight inspection of the Hebrew will show that this is the sense. They who keep the Sabbath aright will esteem it a day "to be honored" (מכבד mekubâd).

And shalt honor him - Or rather, shalt honor it; to wit, the Sabbath. The Hebrew will bear either construction, but the connection seems to require us to understand it of the Sabbath rather than of the Lord.

Not doing thine own ways - This is evidently explanatory of the phrase in the beginning of the verse. 'if thou turn away thy foot.' So the Septuagint understands it: Οὐκ άρεῖς τὸς πόδα σου ἐπ ̓ ἔργῳ Ouk areis ton poda sou ep' ergō - 'And will not lift up thy foot to any work.' They were not to engage in secular labor, or in the execution of their own plans, but were to regard the day as belonging to God, and to be employed in his service alone.

Nor finding thine own pleasure - The Chaldee renders this, 'And shalt not provide on that day those things which are necessary for thee.'

Nor speaking thine own words - Lowth and Noyes render this, 'From speaking vain words.' The Septuagint, 'Nor utter a word in anger from thy mouth.' The Chaldee renders it, 'Words of violence.' It is necessary to add some epithet to make out the sense, as the Hebrew is literally, 'and to speak a word.' Probably our common translation has expressed the true sense, as in the previous members of the verse the phrase 'thine own' thrice occurs. And according to this, the sense is, that on the Sabbath our conversation is to be such as becomes a day which belongs to God. It is not less important that our conversation should be right on the Sabbath than it is that our conduct should be.

13. (Isa 56:2; Ne 13:15-22). The Sabbath, even under the new dispensation, was to be obligatory (Isa 66:23).

foot—the instrument of motion (compare Pr 4:27); men are not to travel for mere pleasure on the Sabbath (Ac 1:12). The Jews were forbidden to travel on it farther than the tabernacle or temple. If thou keep thy foot from going on thy own ways and "doing thy pleasure," &c. (Ex 20:10, 11).

my holy day—God claims it as His day; to take it for our pleasure is to rob Him of His own. This is the very way in which the Sabbath is mostly broken; it is made a day of carnal pleasure instead of spiritual "delight."

holy of the Lord—not the predicate, but the subject; "if thou call the holy (day) of Jehovah honorable"; if thou treat it as a day to be honored.

him—or else, it, the Sabbath.

not doing … own way—answering to, "turn away thy foot from the Sabbath."

nor finding … pleasure—answering to, "doing thy pleasure." "To keep the Sabbath in an idle manner is the sabbath of oxen and asses; to pass it in a jovial manner is the sabbath of the golden calf, when the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose again to play; to keep it in surfeiting and wantonness is the sabbath of Satan, the devil's holiday" [Bishop Andrewes].

nor speaking … words—answering to, "call Sabbath a delight … honorable." Man's "own words" would "call" it a "weariness"; it is the spiritual nature given from above which "calls it a delight" (Am 8:5; Mal 1:13).

If thou turn away thy foot: this is taken either properly, i.e. If thou take no unnecessary journeys, or do any servile works, either of hand or foot, that are forbidden on the sabbath day, the instrument being here put for the work; or metaphorically, i.e. If thou keep thy mind and affections clear, and restrain thyself from whatever may profane it, as David did concerning the word, Psalm 119:101. Feet are often put for the affections, Ecclesiastes 5:1, because the mind is moved by the affections, as the body is by the feet; If we do not let our thoughts be extravagant either upon impertinencies or unlawful things. The sum is, If thou be careful not to break the sabbath.

From the sabbath; or for the sabbath’s sake, whether we understand it more largely, of the occasional sabbath in solemn humiliations or otherwise set apart for sacred services, which is called a sabbath, Leviticus 16:31 23:32. Days of this nature were set apart before the captivity, Isaiah 22:12 Jeremiah 36:9, and also in the captivity, Zechariah 7:5. And thus it may be pertinent to the occasion of this discourse, Isaiah 58:3. And further, though sabbath be here only mentioned, yet it may take in every institution of God that they were in a capacity of observing during their captivity; thus I conceive it is understood Isaiah 56:1,2. Or whether we take it more particularly, for the weekly sabbath, such a carriage doth God expect as doth become it. From doing thy pleasure, satisfying thy lusts, and the corruption of thy will, on my holy day, i.e. on my sabbath, which is a holy day. A delight; full of delights in thy judgment, not looking on it as a burden; and practice, performing the duties of it with cheerfulness, delighting in the ordinances of it: and so the sabbath by a metonymy is put for the works of the sabbath, the time being put for the things that ought to be done in that time; therefore calling here is not only a verbal, but affectionate calling, the understanding assenting, the will consenting, and the actions conforming thereto: this delight appears in the saints of God, in their breathings after it, as it did frequently in David, Psalm 27:4 36:8 42:1, with many more.

The holy of the Lord; or to the Lord, i.e. dedicated to him, consecrated to his service. The Jews had a law that no man might take from the sabbath to add to the profane days but he might on the contrary.

Honourable, viz. the chief of days; worthy of all honour, and therefore honourable, because holy; and so shall honour, either it, i.e. the day; or him, i.e. the Lord, whose day it is. For to sanctify God and to sanctify his day is all one; compare Isaiah 8:13, with Exodus 20:8; thus esteem it an honour as well as a pleasure.

Not doing thine own ways, or works, or course of life; a man’s whole course being described by a way or walk, Genesis 17:1 Ephesians 5:8.

Nor speaking thine own words, viz. that are properly thine own, i.e. thine own in opposition to what God commands, proceeding from the corruption of nature, and vanity of the mind; or not speaking words, i.e. vainly, impertinently, and not suitable to the work of the day, tending neither to thy profit nor pleasure; or rather injurious, revengeful, or reproachful words, contrary to rest, quiet, and sedate composedness of the sabbath. And thus it refers to what was their usual practice upon their solemn assemblies or sabbaths towards their poor brethren, which they are charged with, Isaiah 58:3, and is called speaking vanity, Isaiah 58:9; see there; and accordingly the LXX. render it, if thou speak not a word in anger. If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath,.... From walking and working on that day; or withdrawest thy mind and affections from all worldly things; the affections being that to the mind as the feet are to the body, which carry it here and there. The time of worship, under the Gospel dispensation, is here expressed in Old Testament language, as the service of it usually is in prophetic writings; though its proper name is the Lord's day, Revelation 1:10, and is here instanced in, and put for all religious institutions and services to be attended unto, and which will be with greater strictness in the times referred to:

from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; that is, if thou turnest away, or dost abstain from doing thine own servile work, the business of thy calling; which may be agreeable for the sake of the profit of it; or from recreations and amusements, which may be lawfully indulged on another day:

and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of God, and honourable; take delight and pleasure in the service of it; in all the duties of religion, private and public, to be observed on that day; in reading and hearing the word, and meditation on it; in prayer, and in attendance on all ordinances; and reckon it as separated for holy use and employment, and on that account honourable; and so have it in high esteem, and desire the return of it, and not think the service of it long and tedious, when enjoyed, and wish it was over: or, "for the Holy One of God, and honourable"; that is, for the sake of Christ, the Holy One of God, in both his natures, and honourable in his person and office; accounting the sabbath a delight, in remembrance of the great work of redemption and salvation wrought out by him:

and shall honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; honour the Lord on that day, by not attending to any secular business, or walking abroad in the fields, to the neglect of private duties or public worship; by not seeking the gratification of the fleshly and sensual part, or indulging to those things which are agreeable to it; and by not speaking such words, or talking of such things, as relate to worldly affairs, or the things of civil life, but walking in the ways of the Lord, doing those things which are well pleasing in his sight, and conversing about spiritual and heavenly things; by such means God is honoured on his own day; and the reverse of this is a dishonouring him. The Jews (o) make this honour to lie chiefly in wearing other clothes on this day than on a weekday, and not walking as on other days, or talking as on them; yet they allow of thoughts, though not of words, about worldly things.

(o) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 113. 1, 2. & 119. 1. & 150. 1.

If thou shalt {o} turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thy own ways, nor finding thy own pleasure, nor speaking thy own words:

(o) If you refrain yourself from your wicked works.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13, 14. A promise attached to the strict and cheerful observation of the Sabbath. See on ch. Isaiah 56:2.

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath] treating it as “holy ground” (ἄβατος). The metaphor is translated into literal terms in the following clause.

from doing thy pleasure] so as not to do thy business (as Isaiah 58:3).

call the sabbath a delight] Great stress is laid on heartiness in the observance of this command; for a contrast see Amos 8:5. The next clause must be translated as in R.V. and [sc. call] the holy of the LORD honourable, and shalt honour it. “The holy of Jehovah” is a remarkable designation for the Sabbath, and all the expressions of the clause are peculiar.

not doing thine own ways] so as not to do after thy wont (Cheyne). For pleasure render, as before, business.

nor speaking thine own words] Lit. a word, i.e. “idle words”; cf. Hosea 10:4.Verses 13, 14. - A STRICT OBSERVANCE OF THE SABBATH ENJOINED. While the fasting of the day only required to be spiritualized, the sabbath observance needed both spiritualizing and increased strictness. From 2 Chronicles 36:21 we learn that the sabbatical years had been little observed during the later Jewish kingdom; and it would Seem from the present passage (comp. Jeremiah 17:21-23) that even the observance of the sabbath itself had been neglected. Not that the neglect was total. The sacrifices proper to the sabbath were duly offered - the "solemn assembly" was duly called and attended (Isaiah 1:13); but during the rest of the day business flowed in its usual course - the complete sanctification of the entire day was set aside. We find a similar laxity prevalent after the return from the Captivity (Nehemiah 10:31; Nehemiah 13:15, 16). Verse 13. - If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath; i.e. treat it with reverence, as if it were "holy ground" (Exodus 3:5; Proverbs 4:27). From doing thy pleasure; rather, from doing thy business - the same expression as in ver. 3. It is by "business," not by pleasure, that the sabbath was polluted both in the time of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 17:21-23) and of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:31, etc.). And call the sabbath a delight. This is the spiritualization of the sabbath - "to call" and feel it "a delight," a real satisfaction to the soul, not a weariness (Amos 8:5), as it was to many. And shalt honour him; rather, and shalt honour it; i.e. the sabbath, which is made masculine here, as in Isaiah 56:2. The sabbath was to be honoured by men not pursuing their own ordinary ways, or engaging in their regular business, or even carrying on their ordinary everyday talk. Literally, the command is, not to "speak words;" but no Jews were ever such strict sabbatarians as to understand this as prohibiting all speech on the sabbath. Some have held that sabbatical talk should be scanty, limited, restrained as much as possible; but even for this there is no warrant. It is the quality, rather than the quantity, of the words uttered that is of real importance. Whilst the people on the fast-day are carrying on their worldly, selfish, everyday business, the fasting is perverted from a means of divine worship and absorption in the spiritual character of the day to the most thoroughly selfish purposes: it is supposed to be of some worth and to merit some reward. This work-holy delusion, behind which self-righteousness and unrighteousness were concealed, is met thus by Jehovah through His prophet: "Can such things as these pass for a fast that I have pleasure in, as a day for a man to afflict his soul? To bow down his head like a bulrush, and spread sackcloth and ashes under him - dost thou call this a fast and an acceptable day for Jehovah? Is not this a fast that I have pleasure in: To loose coils of wickedness, to untie the bands of the yoke, and for sending away the oppressed as free, and that ye break every kind of yoke? Is it not this, to break thy bread to the hungry, and to take the poor and houseless to thy home; when thou seest a naked man that thou clothest him, and dost not deny thyself before thine own flesh?" The true worship, which consists in works of merciful love to one's brethren, and its great promises are here placed in contrast with the false worship just described. הכזה points backwards: is such a fast as this a fast after Jehovah's mind, a day on which it can be said in truth that a man afflicts his soul (Leviticus 16:29)? The ה of הלכף is resumed in הלזה; the second ל is the object to תּקרא expressed as a dative. The first ל answers to our preposition "to" with the infinitive, which stands here at the beginning like a casus absol. (to hang down; for which the inf. abs. הכפוף might also be used), and as in most other cases passes over into the finite (et quod saccum et cinerem substernit, viz., sibi: Ges. 132, Anm. 2). To hang down the head and sit in sackcloth and ashes - this does not in itself deserve the name of fasting and of a day of gracious reception (Isaiah 56:7; Isaiah 61:2) on the part of Jehovah (ליהוה for a subjective genitive).

Isaiah 58:6 and Isaiah 58:7 affirm that the fasting which is pleasant to Jehovah consists in something very different from this, namely, in releasing the oppressed, and in kindness to the helpless; not in abstinence form eating as such, but in sympathetic acts of that self-denying love, which gives up bread or any other possession for the sake of doing good to the needy.

(Note: The ancient church connected fasting with almsgiving by law. Dressel, Patr. Ap. p. 493.)

There is a bitter irony in these words, just as when the ancients said, "not eating is a natural fast, but abstaining form sin is a spiritual fast." During the siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans a general emancipation of the slaves of Israelitish descent (who were to be set free, according to the law, every three years) was resolved upon and carried out; but as soon as the Chaldeans were gone, the masters fetched their liberated slaves back into servitude again (Jeremiah 34:8-22). And as Isaiah 58:6 shows, they carried the same selfish and despotic disposition with them into captivity. The זה which points forwards is expanded into infin. absolutes, which are carried on quite regularly in the finite tense. Mōtâh, which is repeated palindromically, signifies in both cases a yoke, lit., vectis, the cross wood which formed the most important part of the yoke, and which was fastened to the animal's head, and so connected with the plough by means of a cord or strap (Sir. 30:13; 33:27).

(Note: I have already observed at Isaiah 47:6, in vindication of what was stated at Isaiah 10:27, that the yoke was not in the form of a collar. I brought the subject under the notice of Prof. Schegg, who wrote to me immediately after his return from his journey to Palestine to the following effect: "I saw many oxen ploughing in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and the neighbourhood of Ephesus; and in every case the yoke was a cross piece of wood laid upon the neck of the animal, and fastened to the pole of the plough by a cord which passed under the neck of the animal.")

It is to this that אגדּות, knots, refers. We cannot connect it with mutteh, a state of perverted right (Ezekiel 9:9), as Hitzig does. רצוּצים are persons unjustly and forcibly oppressed even with cruelty; רצץ is a stronger synonym to עשׂק (e.g., Amos 4:1). In Isaiah 58:7 we have the same spirit of general humanity as in Job 31:13-23; Ezekiel 18:7-8 (compare what James describes in James 1:27 as "pure religion and undefiled"). לחם (פרשׂ) פרץ is the usual phrase for κλᾶν (κλάζειν) ἄρτον. מרוּדים is the adjective to עניּים, and apparently therefore must be derived from מרד: miserable men who have shown themselves refractory towards despotic rulers. But the participle mârūd cannot be found elsewhere; and the recommendation to receive political fugitives has a modern look. The parallels in Lamentations 1:7 and Lamentations 3:19 are conclusive evidence, that the word is intended as a derivative of רוּד, to wander about, and it is so rendered in the lxx, Targ., and Jerome (vagos). But מרוד, pl. מרוּדים, is no adjective; and there is nothing to recommend the opinion, that by "wanderers" we are to understand Israelitish men. Ewald supposes that מרוּדים may be taken as a part. hoph. for מוּרדים, hunted away, like הממותים in 2 Kings 11:2 (Keri המּמתים); but it cannot be shown that the language allowed of this shifting of a vowel-sound. We prefer to assume that מרוּדים (persecuted) is regarded as part. pass., even if only per metaplasmum, from מרד, a secondary form of רוּד (cf., מכס, מלץ, מצח, makuna). Isaiah 58:7 is still the virtual subject to אבחרהוּ צום. The apodosis to the hypothetical כּי commences with a perf. consec., which then passes into the pausal future תתעלּם. In hsilgnE:egaugnaL\&מבשׂרך (from thine own flesh) it is presupposed that all men form one united whole as being of the same flesh and blood, and that they form one family, owing to one another mutual love.

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