Isaiah 59:10
We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noon day as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.
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(10) We grope for the wall . . .—The words present a striking parallelism with Deuteronomy 28:29, and may have been reproduced from, or in, it.

We are in desolate places . . .—Many critics render, (1) among those full of life, or (2) in luxuriant fields, of which (1) is preferable, as giving an antithesis like that of the other clauses. So taken, we have a parallelism with Psalm 73:5-8.

59:9-15 If we shut our eyes against the light of Divine truth, it is just with God to hide from our eyes the things that belong to our peace. The sins of those who profess themselves God's people, are worse than the sins of others. And the sins of a nation bring public judgments, when not restrained by public justice. Men may murmur under calamities, but nothing will truly profit while they reject Christ and his gospel.We grope for the wall like the blind - A blind man, not being able to see his way, feels along by a wall, a fence, or any other object that will guide him. They were like the blind. They had no distinct views of truth, and they were endeavoring to feel their way along as well as they could. Probably the prophet here alludes to the threatening made by Moses in Deuteronomy 28:28-29, 'And the Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart; and thou shalt grope at noon-day as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways.'

We stumble at noon-day as in the night - The idea here is, that they were in a state of utter disorder and confusion. Obstacles were in their way on all hands, and they could no more walk than people could who at noon-day found their path filled with obstructions. There was no remission, no relaxation of their evils. They were continued at all times, and they had no intervals of day. Travelers, though at night they wander and fall, may look for approaching day, and be relieved by the returning light. But not so with them. It was all night. There were no returning intervals of light, repose and peace. It was as if the sun was blotted out, and all was one long, uninterrupted, and gloomy night.

We are in desolate places - There has been great variety in the interpretation of this phrase. Noyes, after Gesenius. translates it, 'In the midst of fertile fields we are like the dead.' One principal reason which Gesenius gives for this translation (Commentary in loc.) is, that this best agrees with the sense of the passage, and answers better to the previous member of the sentence, thus more perfectly preserving the parallelism:

At noon-day we stumble as in the night;

In fertile fields we are like the dead.

Thus, the idea would be, that even when all seemed like noon-day they were as in the night; and that though they were in places that seemed luxuriant, they were like the wandering spirits of the dead. Jerome renders it, Caliginosis quasi mortui. The Septuagint, 'They fall at mid-day as at midnight: they groan as the dying' (ὡς ἀποθνῄσκοντες στενάξουσιν hōs apothnēskontes stenachousin). The Syriac follows this. 'We groan as those who are near to death.' The Chaldee renders it, 'It (the way) is closed before us as the sepulchre is closed upon the dead;' that is, we are enclosed on every side by calamity and trial, as the dead are in their graves. The derivation of the Hebrew word אשׁמנים 'ashemanı̂ym is uncertain, and this uncertainty has given rise to the variety of interpretation. Some regard it as derived from שׁמם shâmam, to be laid waste, to be desolate; and others from שׁמן shâman, to be, or become fat.

The word שׁמנים shemannı̂ym, in the sense of fatness, that is, fat and fertile fields, occurs in Genesis 27:28, Genesis 27:39; and this is probably the sense here. According to this, the idea is, we are in fertile fields like the dead. Though surrounded by lands that are adapted to produce abundance, yet we are cut off from the enjoyment of them like the dead. Such is the disturbed state of public affairs; and such the weight of the divine judgments, that we have no participation in these blessings and comforts. The idea which. I suppose, the prophet means to present is, that the land was suited to produce abundance, but that such was the pressure of the public calamity, that all this now availed them nothing, and they were like the dead who are separated from all enjoyments. The original reference here was to the Jew suffering for their sins, whether regarded as in Palestine under their heavy judgments, or as in Babylon, where all was night and gloom. But the language here is strikingly descriptive of the condition of the world at large. Sinners at noon-day grope and stumble as in the night. In a world that is full of the light of divine truth as it beams from the works and the word of God, they are in deep darkness. They feel their way as blind people do along a wall, and not a ray of light penetrates the darkness of their minds. And in a world full of fertility, rich and abundant and overflowing in its bounties, they are still like 'the dead.' True comfort and peace they have not; and they seem to wander as in the darkness of night, far from peace, from comfort, and from God.

10. grope—fulfilling Moses' threat (De 28:29).

stumble at noon … as … night—There is no relaxation of our evils; at the time when we might look for the noon of relief, there is still the night of our calamity.

in desolate places—rather, to suit the parallel words "at noonday," in fertile (literally, "fat"; Ge 27:28) fields [Gesenius] (where all is promising) we are like the dead (who have no hope left them); or, where others are prosperous, we wander about as dead men; true of all unbelievers (Isa 26:10; Lu 15:17).

We grope: as a blind man that hath no other eyes than his hands feels for the wall, from whence he expects either direction or a resting place to lean on; so they expect salvation as it were blindfold, not taking direction from the prophets, but hoping to obtain it by their cries and fasts, though they continued in their sins, and therefore may well be said to grope after it. See Deu 28:28,29 Job 12:25.

And we grope as if we had no eyes; as if we were stark blind; and being here put for yea, thereby aggravating the misery in repeating the expression.

We stumble at noon-day: this notes their exceeding blindness, as it must needs be with one that can discern no more at noon-day than if it were midnight, Job 5:14.

We are as dead men: he compares their captivity to men dead without hope of recovery; their bonds render them as free among the dead, Psalm 88:5. They can see the way, or get out of their captivity, no more than dead men can get out of their graves; thus a calamitous estate is set forth, Psalm 44:19, great calamity and despair oft going together: they are as men cast out, no more to be looked after. Compare Lamentations 3:6. All darkness is uncomfortable, but that of the grave terrible. We grope for the wall like the blind,.... Who either with their hands, or with a staff in them, feel for the wall to lean against, or to guide them in the way, or into the house, that they may know whereabout they are, and how they should steer their course:

and we grope as if we had no eyes: which yet they had, the eyes of their reason and understanding; but which either were not opened, or they made no use of them in searching the Scriptures, to come at the light and knowledge of divine things; and therefore only at most groped after them by the dim light of nature, if thereby they might find them. This is to be understood not of them all, but of many, and of the greatest part:

we stumble at noonday as in the night; as many persons do now: for though it is noonday in some respects, and in some places, where the Gospel and the truths of it are clearly preached; yet men stumble and fall into the greatest errors, as in the night of the greatest darkness; as if it was either the night of Paganism or Popery with them:

we are in desolate places as dead men; or "in fatnesses" (a); in fat places where the word and ordinances are administered, where is plenty of the means of grace, yet not quickened thereby; are as dead men, dead in trespasses and sin, and at most have only a name to live, but are dead. Some render it, "in the graves" (b); and the Targum thus,

"it is shut before us, as the graves are shut before the dead;''

we have no more light, joy, and comfort, than those in the graves have.

(a) "in rebus pinguissimis", Junius & Tremellius; "in pinguetudinibus", Piscator; "in opimis rebus", Vitringa. (b) "In sepulchris", Pagninus; and so Ben Melech interprets it.

We grope for the wall like the {h} blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.

(h) We are altogether destitute of counsel, and can find no end to our miseries.

10. We grope for the wall, &c.] Rather, along the wall seeking an outlet. Comp. the very similar passage Deuteronomy 28:29.

we are in desolate places as dead men] R.V. among them that are lusty we are as dead men. The A.V. follows the Vulgate, but the rendering “desolate places” seems destitute of any etymological basis. The word, which occurs only here, comes apparently from a root denoting “fatness”; hence the translation of the R.V., which gives a more effective turn to the figure than any other that has been proposed. The soundness of the text, however, is open to suspicion.Verse 10. - We grope for the wall; rather, we grope along the wall (comp. Deuteronomy 28:29; and for the "blindness that had happened unto Israel" see above, Isaiah 29:10, 18; Isaiah 35:5; Isaiah 42:16, etc.). We stumble at noonday. It was not that light was really wanting, but they had no eyes to behold it. We are in desolate places; rather, in dark places (Vulgate, Rodiger, Kay, Knobel). The word occurs only in this place, and is of doubtful signification. The description now passes over to the social and judicial life. Lying and oppression universally prevail. "No one speaks with justice, and no one pleads with faithfulness; men trust in vanity, and speak with deception; they conceive trouble, and bring forth ruin. They hatch basilisks' eggs, and weave spiders' webs. He that eateth of their eggs must die; and if one is trodden upon, it splits into an adder. Their webs do not suffice for clothing, and men cannot cover themselves with their works: their works are works of ruin, and the practice of injustice is in their hands." As קרא is generally used in these prophetic addresses in the sense of κηρύσσειν, and the judicial meaning, citare, in just vocare, litem intendere, cannot be sustained, we must adopt this explanation, "no one gives public evidence with justice" (lxx οὐδεὶς λαλεῖ δίκαια). צדק is firm adherence to the rule of right and truth; אמוּנה a conscientious reliance which awakens trust; משׁפּט (in a reciprocal sense, as in Isaiah 43:26; Isaiah 66:16) signifies the commencement and pursuit of a law-suit with any one. The abstract infinitives which follow in Isaiah 59:4 express the general characteristics of the social life of that time, after the manner of the historical infinitive in Latin (cf., Isaiah 21:5; Ges. 131, 4, b). Men trust in tōhū, that which is perfectly destitute of truth, and speak שׁוא, what is morally corrupt and worthless. The double figure און והוליד עמל הרו is taken from Job 15:35 (cf., Psalm 7:15). הרו (compare the poel in Isaiah 59:13) is only another form for הרה (Ges. 131, 4, b); and הוליד (the western or Palestinian reading here), or הולד (the oriental or Babylonian reading), is the usual form of the inf. abs. hiph. (Ges. 53, Anm. 2). What they carry about with them and set in operation is compared in Isaiah 59:5 to basilisks' eggs (צפעוני, serpens regulus, as in Isaiah 11:8) and spiders' webs (עכּבישׁ, as in Job 8:14, from עכּב, possibly in the sense of squatter, sitter still, with the substantive ending ı̄sh). They hatch basilisks' eggs (בּקּע like בּקע, Isaiah 34:15, a perfect, denoting that which has hitherto always taken place and therefore is a customary thing); and they spin spiders' webs (ארג possibly related to ἀράχ-νη;

(Note: Neither καῖρος nor ἀράχνη has hitherto been traced to an Indian root in any admissible way. Benfey deduces the former from the root dhvir (to twist); but this root has to perform an immense number of services. M. Mller deduces the latter from rak; but this means to make, not to spin.)

the future denoting that which goes on occurring). The point of comparison in the first figure is the injurious nature of all they do, whether men rely upon it, in which case "he that eateth of their eggs dieth," or whether they are bold or imprudent enough to try and frustrate their plans and performances, when that (the egg) which is crushed or trodden upon splits into an adder, i.e., sends out an adder, which snaps at the heel of the disturber of its rest. זוּר as in Job 39:15, here the part. pass. fem. like סוּרה (Isaiah 49:21), with a - instead of ā - like לנה, the original ă of the feminine (zūrăth) having returned from its lengthening into ā to the weaker lengthening into ĕ. The point of comparison in the second figure is the worthlessness and deceptive character of their works. What they spin and make does not serve for a covering to any man (יתכּסּוּ with the most general subject: Ges. 137, 3), but has simply the appearance of usefulness; their works are מעשׂי־און (with metheg, not munach, under the Mem), evil works, and their acts are all directed to the injury of their neighbour, in his right and his possession.

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