Isaiah 59:15
Yes, truth fails; and he that departs from evil makes himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment.
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(15) Truth failethi.e., is banished, and becomes as a missing and lost thing. The man who departs from evil is but the victim of the evil-doers. Other renderings are (1) is outlawed, and (2) is counted mad, but the Authorised Version is quite tenable. The words remind us of the terrible picture of Greek demoralisation in Thuc. iii.

And the Lord saw it . . .—The verse at first suggests the thought that what Jehovah saw were the sins thus described. The sequence of thought, however, tends to the conclusion that the words are properly the beginning of a new section, and that the supplied pronoun refers to the repentance and confession of the people. It displeased Him—literally, was evil in His eyes—that the penitents were still subject to oppression, that they found no leader and deliverer, and therefore He came, as it were, alone and unaided, to the rescue. (Comp. Joel 2:17-19.)

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.Yea, truth faileth - That is, it is not to be found, it is missing. The word used here (from עדר ‛âdar) means "to be left, to remain" 2 Samuel 17:22; then "to be missing or lacking" 1 Samuel 30:19; Isaiah 40:26. Here it means that truth had no existence there.

And he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey - Margin, 'Is accounted mad.' Noyes renders this, 'And he that departeth from evil is plundered.' Grotius renders it, 'The innocent man lies open to injury from all.' The Septuagint, 'They took away the mind from understanding;' or, 'They substituted opinion in the place of knowledge.' (Thompson's Translation.) The phrase, 'He that departeth from evil,' means evidently a man who did not, and would not, fall in with the prevailing iniquitous practices, but who maintained a life of honesty and piety. It was one of the evils of the times that such a man would be harassed, plundered, ill-treated. The word rendered 'maketh himself a prey' (משׁתולל mishetôlēl from שׁלל shâlal), is a word usually signifying to strip off, to plunder, to spoil. Some have supposed that the word means to make foolish, or to account mad, in Job 12:17, Job 12:19. Thus, in the passage before us, the Septuagint understood the word, and this sense of the word our translators have placed in the margin. But there is no reason for departing here from the usual signification of the word as denoting to plunder, to spoil; and the idea is, that the people of honesty and piety were subject to the rapacity of the avaricious, and the oppression of the mighty. They regarded them as lawful prey, and took every advantage in stripping them of their property, and reducing them to want. This completes the statement of the crimes of the nation, and the existence of such deeds of violence and iniquity constituted the basis on which God was led to interpose and effect deliverance. Such a state of crime and consequent suffering demanded the divine interposition; and when Yahweh saw it, he was led to provide a way for deliverance and reform.

The passage before us had a primary reference to the prevalence of iniquity in the Jewish nation. But it is language also that will quite as appropriately describe the moral condition of the world as laying the foundation for the necessity of the divine interposition by the Messiah. Indeed, the following verses undoubtedly refer to him. No one, it is believed, can attentively read the passage, and doubt this. The mind of the prophet is fixed upon the depravity of the Jewish nation. The hands, the tongue, the eyes, the feet, the fingers, were all polluted. The whole nation was sunk in moral corruption; and this was but a partial description of what was occurring everywhere on the earth. In such a state of things in the Jewish nation, and in the whole world, the question could not but arise, whether no deliverer could be found. Was there no way of pardon; no way by which deserved and impending wrath could be diverted? From this melancholy view, therefore, the prophet turns to him who was to be the Great Deliverer, and the remainder of the chapter is occupied with a most beautiful description of the Redeemer, and of the effect of his coming. The sentiment of the whole passage is, "that the deep and extended depravity of man was the foundation of the necessity of the divine interposition in securing salvation, and that in view of the guilt of people, God provided one who was a Glorious Deliverer, and who was to come to Zion as the Redeemer."

And the Lord saw it - He saw there was no righteousness; no light; no love; no truth. All was violence and oppression: all was darkness and gloom.

And it displeased him - Margin, 'Was evil in his eyes.' So Jerome, 'It appeared evil in his eyes.' Septuagint, Καὶ οὐκ ἤρεσεν αὐτῷ Kai ouk ēresen autō - 'And it did not please him.' The Hebrew, וירע vayēra‛ means, literally, 'It was evil in his eyes.' That is, it was painful or displeasing to him. The existence of so much sin and darkness was contrary to the benevolent feelings of his heart.

That there was no judgment - No righteousness; no equity; and that iniquity and oppression abounded.

15. faileth—is not to be found.

he that departeth … prey—He that will not fall in with the prevailing iniquity exposes himself as a prey to the wicked (Ps 10:8, 9).

Lord saw it—The iniquity of Israel, so desperate as to require nothing short of Jehovah's interposition to mend it, typifies the same necessity for a Divine Mediator existing in the deep corruption of man; Israel, the model nation, was chosen to illustrate his awful fact.

Truth faileth: q.d. Truth is more than fallen, which he had said in the former verse; it faileth. For being only fallen it may recover itself again, but failing notes the loss of its very vitals; as being every where neglected, in court, in city, in country, in inferior as well as superior ranks, in the streets, in the gates, in the markets, in the fairs, in all public places of commerce, the condition much like that under the beast coming out of the earth, Revelation 13:11, &c. See Psalm 10:7,8, &c. All things are amiss, neither judgment, nor justice, nor truth is to be found among us, but fraud and deceit; yet none troubled at it.

He that departeth from evil, that separateth himself from evil things and persons, will not be as vile as others,

maketh himself a prey; or, is accounted mad; is laughed at that talks of justice, so some. Josephus tells us that immediately before the destruction of Jerusalem, it was matter of scorn to be religious. Though there be no solid ground for nor need of that marginal reading, yet is it a truth. The translators reach the meaning by prey; the wicked, like wild beasts, endeavouring to devour such as are not as bad as themselves: where wickedness rules, innocency is oppressed: in bargaining, as buying and selling, they that are simple and innocent are outwitted by the crafty and fraudulent, as not willing, or rather daring, to oppose fraud with fraud, but to do all things in sincerity.

The Lord saw it, i.e. took notice of it: it is spoken of God after the manner of men, as Genesis 11:5 18:21, and many other places.

It displeased him: q.d. If you would know why God is so angry with you, it is for such things as these; the Lord takes notice of it, and it is a great evil in his eye. Yea, truth faileth,.... Or, "is deprived" (f); of its life and being; it not only falls in the street, and there lies, without any to show regard unto it; but it fails; it seems as if it had given up the ghost and expired; so very prevalent will error be, before light and truth spring up again and be victorious, as they will:

and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey; he that does not give in to the prevailing vices of the age in which he lives, now become fashionable, but abstains from them, and departs from doctrinal as well as practical evils; from all false doctrines, and from all superstitious modes of worship; becomes a prey to others; a reproach and a laughing stock to them; they scoff at him, and deride him for his preciseness in religion; for his enthusiastic and irrational notions in doctrine; and for his stiffness in matters of worship: or, "he makes himself reckoned a madman" (g); as some render it; and this is a common notion with profane men, and loose professors, to reckon such as madmen that are upright in doctrine, worship, and conversation; see Acts 26:24,

and the Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment; he took notice of all this, and resented it, though in a professing people, that there was no judgment or discretion in matters of doctrine and worship; no order or discipline observed; no justice done in civil courts, or in the church of God; no reformation in church or state.

(f) "privata"; so "privatio", often with the Rubbins. (g) "facit ut insanus habeatur", Junius & Tremellius; "habitus est pro insano", Vitringa; so Abendana, "he that fears God, and departs from evil", , "they reckon him a fool or a madman."

Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself {n} a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment.

(n) The wicked will destroy him.

15. Yea, truth faileth] Lit. And truth is missing,—conspicuous by its absence.

maketh himself a prey] i.e. must submit to extortion (Psalm 76:6). Another, and possibly a better rendering is, “withdraws himself”; compare the peculiar use of the simple verb in Ruth 2:16 (= “draw out” corn from the sheaf).

15b introduces the peroration of the discourse, in which the prophet describes the manner in which salvation shall at last “overtake” the sinful and misgoverned community. The logical development of the argument seems to be arrested by the conviction that the existing situation is hopeless, and only to be terminated through the personal intervention of Jehovah. This conviction clothes itself first of all in a prophetic vision of Jehovah as He appears to judgement; which is followed by an announcement of the consequences of His interposition for the two classes within Israel and for mankind at large. Although the transition in the middle of this verse is abrupt and unexpected there is no sufficient reason to doubt the unity of the discourse.Verse 15. - Yea, truth faileth. Truth itself is altogether gone, is missing, not forthcoming. "Tetras Astraea reliquit." This is the worst of all. For truth is the basis of the social fabric, the groundwork of all morality. Once let there be no regard for truth in a state, no discredit attaching to lying, and all virtue is undermined, all soundness is vanished - nothing remains but "wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores" (Isaiah 1:6). He that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey. Evil-doers prosper. The man who "eschews evil," and declines to employ (as others do) the weapons of fraud and violence, simply gives himself over as a prey to those who are less scrupulous than himself. Verses 15-21. - A PROMISE OF DELIVERANCE. TO OPPRESSED ISRAEL. The godly in Israel were suffering a double oppression:

(1) at the hand of their ungodly brethren;

(2) at the hand of the heathen.

The prophet promises a deliverance from both. The deliverance will be followed by the establishment of Messiah's kingdom, which will continue for ever. Verse 15. And the Lord saw it. The division of the verses here requires alteration. The opening clause of ver. 15 belongs to what precedes; the second clause to what follows. "The Lord saw" that condition of things in Israel which is described in vers. 3-15; and it displeased him; literally, it was evil in his eyes, especially in that there was no judgment. Justice was not done between man and man; no one thought of pronouncing just judgments. The circumstances were such as to invite a Divine interposition. In the second strophe the prophet includes himself when speaking of the people. They now mourn over that state of exhaustion into which they have been brought through the perpetual straining and disappointment of expectation, and confess those sins on account of which the righteousness and salvation of Jehovah have been withheld. The prophet is speaking communicatively here; for even the better portion of the nation was involved in the guilt and consequences of the corruption which prevailed among the exiles, inasmuch as a nation forms an organized whole, and the delay of redemption really affected them. "Therefore right remains far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold darkness; for brightness - we walk in thick darkness. We grope along the wall like the blind, and like eyeless men we grope: we stumble in the light of noon-day as in the darkness, and among the living like the dead. We roar all like bears, and moan deeply like doves: we hope for right, and it cometh not; for salvation - it remaineth far off from us." At the end of this group of verses, again, the thought with which it sets out is palindromically repeated. The perfect רחקה denotes a state of things reaching from the past into the present; the future תשּׂיגנוּ a state of things continuing unchangeable in the present. By mishpât we understand a solution of existing inequalities or incongruities through the judicial interposition of God; by tsedâqâh the manifestation of justice, which bestows upon Israel grace as its right in accordance with the plan of salvation after the long continuance of punishment, and pours out merited punishment upon the instruments employed in punishing Israel. The prophet's standpoint, whether a real or an ideal one, is the last decade of the captivity. At that time, about the period of the Lydian war, when Cyrus was making one prosperous stroke after another, and yet waited so long before he turned his arms against Babylon, it may easily be supposed that hope and despondency alternated incessantly in the minds of the exiles. The dark future, which the prophet penetrated in the light of the Spirit, was indeed broken up by rays of hope, but it did not amount to light, i.e., to a perfect lighting up (negōhōth, an intensified plural of negōhâh, like nekhōchōth in Isaiah 26:10, pl. of nekhōchâh in Isaiah 59:14); on the contrary, darkness was still the prevailing state, and in the deep thick darkness ('ăphēlōth) the exiles pined away, without the promised release being effected for them by the oppressor of the nations. "We grope," they here complain, "like blind men by a wall, in which there is no opening, and like eyeless men we grope." גּשּׁשׁ (only used here) is a synonym of the older משּׁשׁ (Deuteronomy 28:29); נגשׁשׁה (with the elision of the reduplication, which it is hardly possible to render audible, and which comes up again in the pausal נגשּׁשׁה) has the âh of force, here of the impulse to self-preservation, which leads them to grope for an outlet in this ἀπορία; and עינים אין is not quite synonymous with עורים, for there is such a thing as blindness with apparently sound eyes (cf., Isaiah 43:8); and there is also a real absence of eyes, on account of either a natural malformation, or the actual loss of the eyes through either external injury or disease.

In the lamentation which follows, "we stumble in the light of noon-day (צהרים, meridies equals mesidies, the culminating point at which the eastern light is separated from the western) as if it were darkness, and בּאשׁמנּים, as if we were dead men," we may infer from the parallelism that since בּאשׁמנּים must express some antithesis to כּמּתים, it cannot mean either in caliginosis (Jer., Luther, etc.), or "in the graves" (Targ., D. Kimchi, etc.), or "in desolate places" (J. Kimchi). Moreover, there is no such word in Hebrew as אשׁם, to be dark, although the lexicographers give a Syriac word אוּתמנא, thick darkness (possibly related to Arab. ‛atamat, which does not mean the dark night, but late in the night); and the verb shâmēn, to be fat, is never applied to "fat, i.e., thick darkness," as Knobel assumes, whilst the form of the word with נ c. dagesh precludes the meaning a solitary place or desert (from אשׁם equals שׁמם). The form in question points rather to the verbal stem שׁמן, which yields a fitting antithesis to כמתים, whether we explain it as meaning "in luxuriant fields," or "among the fat ones, i.e., those who glory in their abundant health." We prefer the latter, since the word mishmannı̄m (Daniel 11:24; cf., Genesis 27:28) had already been coined to express the other idea; and as a rule, words formed with א prosth. point rather to an attributive than to a substantive idea. אשׁמן is a more emphatic form of שׁמן (Judges 3:29);

(Note: The name of the Phoenician god of health and prosperity, viz., Esmoun, which Alois Mller (Esmun, ein Beitrag zur Mythologie des orient. Alterthums. 1864) traces to חשׁמן (Psalm 68:32) from אשׁם equals חשׁם, "the splendid one (illustris)," probably means "the healthy one, or one of full health" (after the form אשׁחוּר, אשׁמוּרה), which agrees somewhat better with the account of Photios: ̓́Εσμουνον ὑπὸ Φοινίκων ὠνομασμένον ἐπὶ τῇ θέρμη τῆς ζωῆς.)

and אשׁמנּים indicates indirectly the very same thing which is directly expressed by משׁמנּים in Isaiah 10:16. Such explanations as "in opimis rebus" (Stier, etc.), or "in fatness of body, i.e., fulness of life" (Bttcher), are neither so suitable to the form of the word, nor do they answer to the circumstances referred to here, where all the people in exile are speaking. The true meaning therefore is, "we stumble (reel about) among fat ones, or those who lead a merry life," as if we were dead. "And what," as Doederlein observes, "can be imagined more gloomy and sad, than to be wandering about like shades, while others are fat and flourishing?" The growling and moaning in Isaiah 59:11 are expressions of impatience and pain produced by longing. The people now fall into a state of impatience, and roar like bears (hâmâh like fremere), as when, for example, a bear scents a flock, and prowls about it (vespertinus circumgemit ursus ovile: Hor. Ephesians 16.51); and now again they give themselves up to melancholy, and moan in a low and mournful tone like the doves, quarum blanditias verbaque murmur habet (Ovid). הגה, like murmurare, expresses less depth of tone or raucitas than המה. All their looking for righteousness and salvation turns out again and again to be nothing but self-deception, when the time for their coming seems close at hand.

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