Isaiah 58:9
Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee 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. Isaiah 58:9The prophet now proceeds to point out the reward of divine grace, which would follow such a fast as this, consisting of self-renouncing, self-sacrificing love; and in the midst of the promise he once more reminds of the fact, that this love is the condition of the promise. This divides the promises into two. The middle promise is linked on to the first; the morning dawn giving promise of the "perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18). The first series of promises we have in Isaiah 58:8, Isaiah 58:9. "Then will thy light break forth as the morning dawn, and thy healing will sprout up speedily, and thy righteousness will go before thee, the glory of Jehovah will follow thee. Then wilt thou call and Jehovah will answer; thou wilt beseech, and He will say, Here am I!" The love of God is called "light" in contrast with His wrath; and a quiet cheerful life in God's love is so called, in contrast with a wild troubled life spent in God's wrath. This life in God's love has its dawn and its noon-day. When it is night both within and around a man, and he suffers himself to be awakened by the love of God to a reciprocity of love; then does the love of God, like the rising sun, open for itself a way through the man's dark night and overcome the darkness of wrath, but so gradually that the sky within is at first only streaked as it were with the red of the morning dawn, the herald of the sun. A second figure of a promising character follows. The man is sick unto death; but when the love of God stimulates him to reciprocal love, he is filled with new vigour, and his recovery springs up suddenly; he feels within him a new life working through with energetic force like a miraculous springing up of verdure from the earth, or of growing and flowering plants. The only other passages in which ארוּכה occurs are in the books of Jeremiah, Chronicles, and Nehemiah. It signifies recovery (lxx here, τὰ ἰάματά σου ταχὺ ἀνατελεῖ, an old mistake for ἱμάτια, vestimenta), and hence general prosperity (2 Chronicles 24:13). It always occurs with the predicate עלתה (causative העלה, cf., Targ. Psalm 147:3, ארכא אסּק, another reading ארוּכין), oritur (for which we have here poetically germinat) alicui sanitas; hence Gesenius and others have inferred, that the word originally meant the binding up of a wound, bandage (impontiru alicui fascia). But the primary word is ארך equals ארך, to set to rights, to restore or put into the right condition (e.g., b. Sabbath 33b, "he cured his wounded flesh"), connected with אריך, Arab. ârak, accommodatus; so that ארוּכה, after the form מלוּכה, Arab. (though rarely) arika, signifies properly, setting to rights, i.e., restoration.

The third promise is: "thy righteousness will go before thee, the glory of Jehovah will gather thee, or keep thee together," i.e., be thy rear-guard (lxx περιστελεῖ σε, enclose thee with its protection; אסף as in מאסּף, Isaiah 52:12). The figure is a significant one: the first of the mercies of God is δικαιοῦν, and the last δοξάζειν. When Israel is diligent in the performance of works of compassionate love, it is like an army on the march or a travelling caravan, for which righteousness clear and shows the way as being the most appropriate gift of God, and whose rear is closed by the glory of God, which so conducts it to its goal that not one is left behind. The fourth promise assures them of the immediate hearing of prayer, of every appeal to God, every cry for help.

But before the prophet brings his promises up to their culminating point, he once more lays down the condition upon which they rest. "If thou put away from the midst of thee the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking of evil, and offerest up thy gluttony to the hungry, and satisfiest the soul that is bowed down: thy light will stream out in the darkness, and thy darkness become like the brightness of noon-day. And Jehovah will guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in droughts, and refresh thy bones; and thou wilt become like a well-watered garden, and like a fountain, whose waters never deceive. And thy people will build ruins of the olden time, foundations of earlier generations wilt thou erect; and men will call thee repairers of breaches, restorers of habitable streets." מוטה, a yoke, is here equivalent to yoking or oppression, as in Isaiah 58:6, where it stands by the side of רשׁע. שׁלח־אצבּא (only met with here, for שׁלח, Ges. 65, 1, a), the stretching out of the finger, signifies a scornful pointing with the fingers (Proverbs 6:13, δακτυλοδεικτεῖν) at humbler men, and especially at such as are godly (Isaiah 57:4). דּבּר־און, the utterance of things which are wicked in themselves and injurious to one's neighbour, hence sinful conversation in general. The early commentators looked for more under נפשׁך, than is really meant (and so does even Stier: "they soul, thy heart, all thy sympathetic feelings," etc.). The name of the soul, which is regarded here as greedily longing (Isaiah 56:11), is used in Deuteronomy 24:6 for that which nourishes it, and here for that which it longs for; the longing itself (appetitus) for the object of the longing (Psychol. p. 204). We may see this very clearly from the choice of the verb תּפק (a voluntative in a conditional clause, Ges. 128, 2), which, starting from the primary meaning educere (related to נפק, Arabic anfaqa, to give out, distribute, nafaqa, distribution, especially of alms), signifies both to work out, acquire, carry off (Proverbs 3:13; Proverbs 8:35, etc.), and also to take out, deliver, offer, expromere (as in this instance and Psalm 140:9; Psalm 144:13). The soul "bowed down" is bowed down in this instance through abstinence. The apodoses commence with the perf. cons. וזרח. אפלה is the darkness caused by the utter absence of light (Arab. afalat esh-shemsu, "the sun has become invisible"); see at Job 10:22. This, as the substantive clause affirms, is like the noon-day, which is called צהרים, because at that point the daylight of both the forenoon and afternoon, the rising and setting light, is divided as it were into two by the climax which it has attained. A new promise points to the fat, that such a man may enjoy without intermission the mild and safe guidance of divine grace, for which נחה (הנחה, syn. נהל) is the word commonly employed; and another to the communication of the most copious supply of strength. The ἅπαξ γεγρ בצחצחות does not state with what God will satisfy the soul, as Hahn supposes (after Jerome, "splendoribus"), but according to צסהיחה (Psalm 68:7) and such promises as Isaiah 43:20; Isaiah 48:21; Isaiah 49:10, the kind of satisfaction and the circumstances under which it occurs, viz., in extreme droughts (Targ. "years of drought"). In the place of the perf. cons. we have then the future, which facilitates the elevation of the object: "and thy bones will He make strong," יחליח, for which Hupfeld would read יחליף, "will He rejuvenate." חחליץ is a denom. of חלוּץ, expeditus; it may, however, be directly derived from a verb חלץ, presupposed by חלצים, not, however, in the meaning "to be fat" (lxx πιανθήσεται, and so also Kimchi), but "to be strong," lit., to be loose or ready for action; and b. Jebamoth 102b has the very suitable gloss גרמי זרוזי (making the bones strong). This idea of invigorating is then unfolded in two different figures, of which that of a well-watered garden sets forth the abundance received, that of a spring the abundance possessed. Natural objects are promised, but as a gift of grace; for this is the difference between the two testaments, that in the Old Testament the natural is ever striving to reach the spiritual, whereas in the New Testament the spiritual lifts up the natural to its own level. The Old Testament is ever striving to give inwardness to what was outward; in the New Testament this object is attained, and the further object now is to make the outward conformed to the inward, the natural life to the spiritual.

The last promise (whether the seventh or eighth, depends upon whether we include the growing of the morning light into the light of noon, or not) takes its form from the pining of the exiles for their home: "and thy people (ממּך) build" (Ewald, 295, c); and Bttcher would read ממך וּבנּוּ; but מן with a passive, although more admissible in Hebrew than in Arabic, is very rarely met with, and then more frequently in the sense of ἀπό than in that of ὑπό, and בּנּוּ followed by a plural of the thing would be more exact than customary. Moreover, there is no force in the objection that ממּך with the active can only signify "some of thee," since it is equivalent to ממך אשׁר, those who sprang from thee and belong to thee by kindred descent. The members born to the congregation in exile will begin, as soon as they return to their home, to build up again the ruins of olden time, the foundations of earlier generations, i.e., houses and cities of which only the foundations are left (Isaiah 61:4); therefore Israel restored to its fatherland receives the honourable title of "builder of breaches," "restorer of streets (i.e., of places much frequented once) לשׁבת" (for inhabiting), i.e., so that, although so desolate now (Isaiah 33:8), they become habitable and populous once more.

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