Isaiah 59:1 Commentaries: Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear.
Isaiah 59:1
Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
LIX.

(1) Behold, the Lord’s hand . . .—The declaration is an implied answer to the complaint, like that of Isaiah 58:3, that the glorious promises had not as yet been fulfilled. The murmurera are told that the hindrance is on their side.

Isaiah 59:1-2. Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened — He is not grown weaker than informer times, but is as omnipotent as ever he was; neither his ear heavy — Or dull of hearing: he is not like your idol gods, that have hands and cannot help, and ears and cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated — Have been as a thick wall, between you and your God — And have set him at a distance from you, Proverbs 15:29. “The reason of the continuance of your calamities is not any want either of power in God to deliver you, or of goodness to hear your prayers: but your own iniquities make him a stranger to you, interrupt the correspondence that used to be between God and his people, and stop the course of his blessings.” — Lowth. 59:1-8 If our prayers are not answered, and the salvation we wait for is not wrought for us, it is not because God is weary of hearing prayer, but because we are weary of praying. See here sin in true colours, exceedingly sinful; and see sin in its consequences, exceedingly hurtful, separating from God, and so separating us, not only from all good, but to all evil. Yet numbers feed, to their own destruction, on infidel and wicked systems. Nor can their skill or craft, in devising schemes, as the spider weaves its web, deliver or save them. No schemes of self-wrought salvation shall avail those who despise the Redeemer's robe of righteousness. Every man who is destitute of the Spirit of Christ, runs swiftly to evil of some sort; but those regardless of Divine truth and justice, are strangers to peace.Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened - On the meaning of this phrase, see the notes at Isaiah 50:2.

Neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear - On the meaning of this phrase, see the notes at Isaiah 6:10.

CHAPTER 59

Isa 59:1-21. The People's Sin the Cause of Judgments: They at Last Own It Themselves: the Redeemer's Future Interposition in Their Extremity.

The reason why Jehovah does not deliver His people, notwithstanding their religious services (Isa 58:3), is not want of power on His part, but because of their sins (Isa 59:1-8); Isa 59:9-15 contain their confession; Isa 59:16-21, the consequent promise of the Messiah.

1. hand … shortened—(See on [858]Isa 50:2).

ear heavy—(Isa 6:10).Sin separates between God and us, Isaiah 59:1,2. Murder, theft, falsehood, injustice, cruelty, Isaiah 59:3-8. Calamity for sin, Isaiah 59:9-15. Salvation only of God, Isaiah 59:16-19. The covenant of the Redeemer, Isaiah 59:20,21.

The Lord’s hand is not shortened; he is not grown weaker than in former times, as omnipotent as ever he was: hand is here by a synecdoche put for arm, and so for strength, because the strength of a man doth generally put forth itself in his arm; and thus it is applied to God in his bringing Israel out of Egypt, Psalm 136:12.

Neither his ear heavy; or thick of hearing; he is not like your idol gods, that have hands, and cannot help, and ears, and cannot hear. The phrases are much to the same purpose, save only that they seem to be appropriated to the double cavil, or quarrel, that the Jews might have with God; as,

1. Surely if God were not heavy or hard of hearing, he could not but hear those strong cries that we put up in the days of our fast; or,

2. If he did hear, certainly he could not help us; and thus it may have respect to the beginning of the 58th chapter. Or the words may be by way of confirmation and establishment, and so may relate to the close of it, to let them know that if they sought him as they ought, and was before prescribed, he was not inexorable, but willing to hear, and able to make good all those promises that he had made from verse 8 to the end. The sum is, to show that the fault was not in God, that their fasts and cries were not regarded, for his ear was as quick to hear as ever; nor their services rewarded, for his hand was as able to help as ever; but the obstruction lay in their sins, which is positively asserted, Isaiah 59:2, and a more particular account given of them in the sequel.

Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,.... It is not for want of power in the Lord, that he has not as yet destroyed the enemies of his people, antichrist, and the antichristian states, and saved them out of their hands, and made them to triumph over them; or brought on the glorious state of the church, and fulfilled the promises of good things, suggested in the latter part of the preceding chapter. His hand is as long as ever, and as able to reach his and their enemies in the greatest height of power, or at the greatest distance, and to do every good thing for them; his power is as great as ever, and not in the least abridged or curtailed.

Neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: the prayers of his people, their cries unto him on their fast days, of which he seemed to take no notice, complained of Isaiah 58:3, this is not owing to any want of attention in him, or of readiness to hear prayer made unto him; for he is a God hearing and answering prayer, and is ready to help his people in every time of need, who apply to him in a proper and suitable manner; his eyes are upon them, and his ears are open to their cries. And this is introduced with a "behold", as requiring attention, and deserving the notice and consideration of his people. The Targum is,

"behold, not through defect of hand (or power) from the Lord ye are not saved; nor because it is heavy to him to hear, that your prayer is not received.''

Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. Behold the hand of Jehovah is not too short (cf. ch. Isaiah 50:2) to save,

Nor His ear too heavy (ch. Isaiah 6:10) to hear.

1, 2. These verses state briefly and forcibly the argument of which the whole chapter is the expansion: not the powerlessness or the indifference of Jehovah, but the sin of the people, is the hindrance to the promised redemption.Verses 1-8. - A GENERAL REBUKE OF ISRAEL FOR ITS MANIFOLD SINS, The command given to the prophet in Isaiah 58:1 to "show God's people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins " - partly executed in Isaiah 58:4-7 and 13 - is now further carried out by a scathing denunciation of various forms of wickedness, more or less prevalent in Israel, the effect of which has been to separate between Israel and God, to "shorten God's hand" and "make his ears heavy." The passage has many analogies with Isaiah 1:2-23. Verse 1. - The Lord's hand is not shortened; i.e. God is not less able to help than of old; his "hand" has lost none of its power. That he does not help is owing to the iniquities of his people, which have separated between him and them (ver. 2). It is the same fact which has made his ear heavy. He cannot hear prayers that are not sincere - not from the heart. The 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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