Isaiah 58:9
Then shall you call, and the LORD shall answer; you shall cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If you take away from the middle of you the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
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(9) Then shalt thou call.—The words point to the secret of the prayer which is answered in contrast to the formal worship that found no acceptance (Isaiah 58:2; Isaiah 58:4).

The putting forth of the finger.—The gesture (Cheyne compares the “infamis digitus” of Persius ii. 33) has in well-nigh all nations been a natural symbol of scorn. It is in action what the words “Raca” and “Thou fool” are in the language of Matthew 5:22.

Isaiah 58:9-10. Then shalt thou call, &c. — They made great complaint, Isaiah 58:3, that God took no notice of their services, which complaint he seems now to refer to, as if he had said, These conditions being observed, call upon me, and thou shalt see I will regard, Psalm 34:15. The Lord shall answer — He will give an effectual demonstration that he hears thee. He shall say, Here I am — A phrase that signifies a person to be ready at hand to help. If thou take away from the midst of thee — From among you; the yoke — All those pressures and grievances before mentioned. The putting forth of the finger — Done by way of scoff, or disdainful insulting; and speaking vanity — Any kind of evil words. Bishop Lowth renders it, “The pointing of the finger, and the injurious speech.” If thou draw out — Open, as when we open a store to satisfy the wants of the needy; thy soul to the hungry — Thy affection, that is, thy pity and compassion, to those in want of the necessaries of life; and satisfy the afflicted soul — With a real, substantial benefit, not contenting thyself with giving him merely kind words. For here the prophet expresses the work that is to be done, as in the former clause the affection wherewith it is to be done; otherwise it would only be what the Apostle James reproves, James 2:15-16. Then shall thy light rise in obscurity — See on Isaiah 58:8; and thy darkness be as the noon-day — In the very darkness of the affliction itself, thou shalt have comfort, Psalm 112:4. There it shall be as the morning, still increasing, here as the noon-day, in its zenith, and height of perfection.58:3-12 A fast is a day to afflict the soul; if it does not express true sorrow for sin, and does not promote the putting away of sin, it is not a fast. These professors had shown sorrow on stated or occasioned fasts. But they indulged pride, covetousness, and malignant passions. To be liberal and merciful is more acceptable to God than mere fasting, which, without them, is vain and hypocritical. Many who seem humble in God's house, are hard at home, and harass their families. But no man's faith justifies, which does not work by love. Yet persons, families, neighbourhoods, churches, or nations, show repentance and sorrow for sin, by keeping a fast sincerely, and, from right motives, repenting, and doing good works. The heavy yoke of sin and oppression must be removed. As sin and sorrow dry the bones and weaken the strongest human constitution; so the duties of kindness and charity strengthen and refresh both body and mind. Those who do justly and love mercy, shall have the comfort, even in this world. Good works will bring the blessing of God, provided they are done from love to God and man, and wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit.Then shalt thou call - The sense is, that if we go before God renouncing all our sins, and desirous of doing our duty, then we have a right to expect that he will hear us. But if we go indulging still in sin; if we are false and hollow and hypocritical in our worship; or if, while we keep up the regular forms of devotion, we are nevertheless guilty of oppression, cruelty, and dishonesty, we have no right to expect that he will hear us (see the notes at Isaiah 1:15).

If thou take away ... the yoke - (See the notes at Isaiah 58:6).

The putting forth of the finger - That is, if you cease to contemn and despise others; if you cease to point at them the finger of scorn. It was usual to make use of the middle finger on such occasions. Thus Martial, ii. 28, 2:

Rideto multum -

- et digitum porrigito medium.

So Juvenal, Sat. x. 52:

- mediumque ostenderet unguem.

And speaking vanity - Lowth and Noyes render it thus, 'The injurious speech.' Kimchi understands it of words of contention and strife. The word used here (און 'âven) denotes either nothingness, vanity, a vain and empty thing Isaiah 41:29; Zechariah 10:2; or falsehood, deceit Psalm 36:4; Proverbs 17:4; or unworthiness, wickedness, iniquity Job 36:21; Isaiah 1:13; here it means, probably, every kind of false, harsh, and unjust speaking - all of which probably I abounded among the Jews. The Septuagint renders it, ̔Ρῆμα γογγυσμοῦ Rēma gongusmou - 'The word of murmuring.'

9. Then … call … answer—when sin is renounced (Isa 65:24). When the Lord's call is not hearkened to, He will not hear our "call" (Ps 66:18; Pr 1:24, 28; 15:29; 28:9).

putting forth of … finger—the finger of scorn pointed at simple-minded godly men. The middle finger was so used by the Romans.

speaking vanity—every injurious speech [Lowth].

They make great complaint, Isaiah 58:3, that God took no notice of their services, which complaint God seems now to satisfy: q.d. These conditions observed, call upon me, and thou shalt see I will regard, Psalm 34:15. See Isaiah 1:18.

The Lord shall answer; he will give an effectual demonstration, that he hears thee, by the real answer that he will give to thy request, Psalm 34:17 99:6 118:5.

Here I am; a phrase that notes a person to be ready at hand for work, as Isaiah 6 8; or for help, as God here, and Psalm 46:1; or both, Psalm 145:18,19.

From the midst; not a geometrical middle or centre, but having a place among others; the meaning is, from among you.

The yoke, i.e. all those pressures and grievances before mentioned, Isaiah 58:6; all that barbarous slavery they brought their brethren into; the particulars expressed by that one Hebrew word motah, three times used in this chapter.

The putting forth of the finger: there being often an indication of a man’s mind by the postures of several parts of the body, as of lust, malice, scorn, revenge, &c., Proverbs 6:12-14, this putting forth of the finger may point at divers things all springing from two roots; either the secret malice of the heart, or just and open violence. It is used,

1. Sometimes by way of scoff, reproof, or disdainful insulting, as the Pharisee seems to point at the publican, Luke 18:11; pointing with the finger, like winking with the eye, seeming to indicate something that may cause shame in another; and this is reckoned among great afflictions, Hebrews 11:36. See 2 Chronicles 36:16 Jeremiah 20:72. Sometimes for beating, or other injurious treating men, seizing either their persons or estates: such a putting forth of the hand you have mentioned 1 Samuel 22:17; and this agrees well to the fist of wickedness, Isaiah 58:4; and so the finger may be put by a synecdoche for the hand, and that which before was called the fist may be here called the finger.

3. Sometimes as a token of putting suitors by, and refusing to hear their petitions and requests, seeking to them for mercy and pity.

4. Sometimes to express an angry mind, stirring up itself, either to the imperious commanding of a thing, or to revenge, whether by the gesture alone, or accompanied with menacing expressions. signifying thereby a purpose to put our power in execution.

Speaking vanity, Heb. aven; it signifies a lie, or iniquity, as Psalm 5:5 6 8; and so the sense may be, If thou dost not proceed to indecent expressions in thy strifes, brawls, and threatenings with thy finger, which seldom is done without sin; and thus the counsel here may suit with our Saviour’s, Matthew 5:21,22, viz. not only not stretch out thine hand against thy brother, but not so much as be lavish with thy tongue: so speaking vanity may be a meiosis, for not railing; the LXX. render it muttering, which is an incomplete kind of speaking, whereby we reproach another in low, unformed, undigested expressions. But it seems here rather to signify affliction, not only because the word used in this place doth properly so signify, but because it is most agreeable to the matter discoursed of, and the Chaldee render it violence; and then the sense is, speaking words of affliction, or that will vex and grieve, like those words of Nabal to David’s servants, 1 Samuel 25:10,11 Pr 18:23. And thus it relates to their harsh and unjust commands, wherewith they were wont to burden their servants; a synecdoche of the kind. Then shall thou call, and the Lord shall answer,.... A spirit of grace and supplication will be poured out upon the people of God; they will then pray without a form, and call upon the Lord in sincerity and truth, with faith and fervency; and the Lord will hear and answer them, and plentifully bestow his favours on them, so that they will have no reason to complain, as in Isaiah 58:3,

thou shalt cry, and he shall say, here I am; he will immediately appear to the help and relief of his people; they shall have his presence with them, to comfort and refresh them, to support and supply them, to protect and defend them:

if thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke; of human inventions, doctrines, rites and ceremonies, as in Isaiah 58:6, "the putting forth of the finger"; pointing at those that could not comply with them, by way of scorn and derision, as puritans, schismatics, &c. and persecuting them for it; and so is the same with smiting with the fist of wickedness, Isaiah 58:4; when this deriding and persecuting spirit is done away, then, and not till then, will the prayers of a people be heard, though under a profession of religion, and under the Protestant name: and speaking vanity; which also must be taken away, or desisted from; even speaking false doctrines, as the Syriac version; or which profits not, as the Vulgate Latin version; profane and vain babblings, 2 Timothy 2:14, and threatening words, to such who will not receive them.

Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou shalt take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the {k} finger, and speaking vanity;

(k) By which is meant all manner of injury.

Verse 9. - If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke (comp. ver. 6). The putting forth of the finger. The pointing of the finger at any one in scorn. And speaking vanity; rather, speaking evil, or plotting evil, against others. There follow now the words of the work-righteous themselves, who hold up their fasting before the eyes of God, and complain that He takes no notice of it. And how could He?! "'Wherefore do we fast and Thou seest not, afflict our soul and Thou regardest not?' Behold, on the day of your fasting ye carry on your business, and ye oppress all your labourers. Behold, ye fast with strife and quarrelling, and with smiting with the fist maliciously closed: ye do not fast now to make your voice audible on high." By the side of צוּם (root צם, to press, tie up, constrain) we have here the older expression found in the Pentateuch, נפשׁ ענּה, to do violence to the natural life. In addition to the fasting on the day of atonement (the tenth of the seventh month Tizri), the only fast prescribed by the law, other fasts were observed according to Zechariah 7:3; Zechariah 8:19, viz., fasts to commemorate the commencement of the siege of Jerusalem (10th Tebeth), its capture (17th Tammuz), its destruction (9th Aibb), and the murder of Gedaliah (3rd Tizri). The exiles boast of this fasting here; but it is a heartless, dead work, and therefore worthless in the sight of God. There is the most glaring contrast between the object of the fast and their conduct on the fast-day: for they carry on their work-day occupation; they are then, more than at any other time, true taskmasters to their work-people (lest the service of the master should suffer form the service of God); and because when fasting they are doubly irritable and ill-tempered, this leads to quarrelling and strife, and even to striking with angry fist (בּאגרף, from גּרף, to collect together, make into a ball, clench). Hence in their present state the true purpose of fasting is quite unknown to them, viz., to enable them to draw near with importunate prayer to God, who is enthroned on high (Isaiah 57:15).

(Note: The ancient church called a fast statio, because he who fasted had to wait in prayer day and night like a soldier at his post. See on this and what follows, the Shepherd of Hermas, iii. Sim. 5, and the Epistle of Barnabas, c. iii.)

The only difficulty here is the phrase חפץ מצא. In the face of Isaiah 58:13, this cannot have any other meaning than to stretch one's hand after occupation, to carry on business, to occupy one's self with it - חפץ combining the three meanings, application or affairs, striving, and trade or occupation. מצא, however, maintains its primary meaning, to lay hold of or grasp (cf., Isaiah 10:14; Targ. צרכיכון תּבעין אתּוּן, ye seek your livelihood). This is sustained by what follows, whether we derive עצּביכם (cf., חלּקי, Isaiah 57:6) from עצב (et omnes labores vestros graves rigide exigitis), נגשׂ (from which we have here תּנגּשׂוּ for תּגּשׂוּ, Deuteronomy 15:3) being construed as in 2 Kings 23:35 with the accusative of what is peremptorily demanded; or (what we certainly prefer) from עצב; or better still from עצב morf ll (like עמל): omnes operarios vestros adigitis (urgetis), נגשׂ being construed with the accusative of the person oppressed, as in Deuteronomy 15:2, where it is applied to the oppression of a debtor. Here, however, the reference is not to those who owe money, but to those who owe labour, or to obligations to labour; and עצב does not signify a debtor (an idea quite foreign to this verbal root), but a labourer, one who eats the bread of sorrows, or of hard toil (Psalm 127:2). The prophet paints throughout from the life; and we cannot be persuaded by Stier's false zeal for Isaiah's authorship to give up the opinion, that we have here a figure drawn from the life of the exiles in Babylon.

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