Isaiah 59:16
And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) He saw that there was no man . . .—If the words mean no “righteous man,” we have a parallel in Jeremiah 5:1, and the “intercessor” points to action like that of Aaron (Numbers 16:48) or Phinehas (Numbers 25:7). On the interpretation here adopted, “no man” is equivalent to “no champion.”

Isaiah 59:16. And he saw there was no man — Namely, to intercede, which is understood from the following words; or no man to help in such a case, and to appear in the behalf of equity. See Ezekiel 22:30. And wondered — Hebrew, וישׁתומם, was amazed, or astonished, an expression which denotes both God’s solicitude about their condition, and their stupidity, in not laying it to heart themselves, especially considering that they had been a people well instructed, and yet, when under the guilt of such gross sins, should be no more solicitous to obtain pardon. Therefore, or, yet, his arm brought salvation unto him — That is, to his people; and his righteousness it sustained him — His justice; seeing there could be no justice found among them, he would avenge the innocent himself. Since magistrates and societies for the reformation of manners fail of doing their part, the one will not do justice, nor the other call for it, God will let them know he can effect it without them, and thus prepare his people for mercy. And then the work of deliverance shall be wrought by the immediate influence of the divine grace on men’s spirits, and of the divine providence on their affairs. When God stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, and brought his people out of Babylon, not by human wisdom nor power, but by the Spirit of the Lord, then his own arm brought salvation to them, which arm is not shortened now.

59:16-21 This passage is connected with the following chapters. It is generally thought to describe the coming of the Messiah, as the Avenger and Deliverer of his church. There was none to intercede with God to turn away his wrath; none to interpose for the support of justice and truth. Yet He engaged his own strength and righteousness for his people. God will make his justice upon the enemies of his church and people plainly appear. When the enemy threatens to bear down all without control, then the Spirit of the Lord shall stop him, put him to flight. He that has delivered, will still deliver. A far more glorious salvation is promised to be wrought out by the Messiah in the fulness of time, which all the prophets had in view. The Son of God shall come to us to be our Redeemer; the Spirit of God shall come to be our Sanctifier: thus the Comforter shall abide with the church for ever, Joh 14:16. The word of Christ will always continue in the mouths of the faithful; and whatever is pretended to be the mind of the Spirit, must be tried by the Scriptures. We must lament the progress of infidelity and impiety. But the cause of the Redeemer shall gain a complete victory even on earth, and the believer will be more than conqueror when the Lord receives him to his glory in heaven.And he saw that there was no man - That is, no wise and prudent man qualified to govern the affairs of the people. Or, that there was no man qualified to interpose and put an end to these evils; no one qualified to effect a reformation, and to save the nation from the calamities which their sins deserved. The reason why God provided a Redeemer was, that such was the extent and nature of human depravity, that no one on earth could arrest it, and save the world. A similar expression occurs in Isaiah 41:28.

And wondered - This is language adapted to the mode of speaking among men. It cannot be taken literally, as if God was amazed by suddenly coming to the knowledge of this fact. It is designed to express, with great emphasis, the truth, that there was no one to intercede, and that the wicked world was lying in a helpless condition.

That there was no intercessor - On the meaning of the word here rendered 'intercessor,' see the notes at Isaiah 53:6. The Chaldee renders it, 'There was no man who could stand and pray for them.' In Isaiah 63:5, Isaiah expresses the idea in the following language: I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold.'

Therefore his arm - On the meaning of this phrase, see the notes at Isaiah 40:10 (compare Isaiah 51:5; Isaiah 63:5). The idea is, that salvation was to be traced to God alone. It did not originate with man, and it was not accomplished by his agency or help.

And his righteousness, it sustained him - Sustained by the consciousness that he was doing right, he went forward against all opposition, and executed his plan. This is language derived from the mode of speaking among people, and it means that as a man who is engaged in a righteous cause is sustained amidst much opposition by the consciousness of integrity, so it is with God. The cause of redemption is the great cause of righteousness on earth. In this cause the Redeemer was sustained by the consciousness that he was engaged in that which was designed to vindicate the interests of truth and justice, and to promote righteousness throughout the universe.

16. no man—namely, to atone by his righteousness for the unrighteousness of the people. "Man" is emphatic, as in 1Ki 2:2; no representative man able to retrieve the cause of fallen men (Isa 41:28; 63:5, 6; Jer 5:1; Eze 22:30).

no intercessor—no one to interpose, "to help … uphold" (Isa 63:5).

his arm—(Isa 40:10; 51:5). Not man's arm, but His alone (Ps 98:1; 44:3).

his righteousness—the "arm" of Messiah. He won the victory for us, not by mere might as God, but by His invincible righteousness, as man having "the Spirit without measure" (Isa 11:5; 42:6, 21; 51:8; 53:11; 1Jo 2:1).

No man, viz. to intercede, which is supplied from the following words; or no man to help in such a case, to show himself and appear in such a corrupt state in the behalf of equity, as Isaiah 59:4; the like circumstances we have Ezekiel 22:29,30; or none fit to intercede.

Wondered, Heb. iistomen, was amazed, astonished, as it were, not knowing what to do. This notes both God’s solicitousness about their condition, and their hypocrisy, as if God took no notice of them, together with their dulness and blockishness, in not concerning themselves about it, especially considering they had been a people so well instructed, and yet under the guilt of such gross sins should be no more solicitous about pardon, which God would readily have granted, if any such could have been found, Jeremiah 5:1.

Therefore; or, yet, as it is used, Isaiah 7:14 51:21.

His arm brought salvation unto him: this may relate,

1. To the parties thus oppressed. Or,

2. To God, as that either,

1. He would do his work without help from any other, Isaiah 59:5. Or,

2. He would avenge himself, his own honour; thus the word is used 1 Samuel 25:26; and this may and seems to be the meaning of the next clause. Or,

3. He had made provision for the maintaining his own righteous cause and people’s interest: this sense, that phrase, so like this, favours, Isaiah 53:5, Salvation unto me. His righteousness, viz. his justice: q.d. Seeing there could be no justice found among them, he would avenge the innocent himself, which agrees with Isaiah 59:8, and is justified by Isaiah 63:5, where speaking of the destruction of the Idumeans, you have the same words, only the word fury changed for righteousness. The literal meaning is, God’s taking vengeance on the Chaldeans for the people’s sake; the mystical is, Christ’s making use of his own righteousness for the redemption of lest man, being destitute of all other.

And he saw that there was no man,.... Whose works are good, as the Targum adds; no good man, or faithful and righteous one, that had any regard to truth and justice; that was an advocate for truth, and opposed error, and set on foot a reformation; or was concerned for any of these things, and mourned over the general corruption; not that it must be thought there was not one individual person, but very few, comparatively none; since mention is made before of some that departed from evil, and made themselves a prey:

and wondered that there was no intercessor; to stand up, and pray for them, as the Targum; so it seems a spirit of prayer and supplication will be greatly wanting in the times of latter day darkness, and before latter day glory breaks out: or, "that there was no interposer" (h); none to appear on the side of truth and justice, and on the behalf of those that become a prey to others. "Wonder" is here ascribed to God by an anthropopathy, after the manner of men, as being a marvellous and surprising thing, and almost incredible, that none could be found in so good a cause, and taking the part of injured truth and righteousness; and it expresses the general corruption and defect of religion in those times; and shows that it is not for the goodness of men, or their merits, that the Lord will do what is next said he did:

therefore his arm brought salvation to him; either to himself, and which redounded to his own honour and glory; or to his people, those that became a prey to their enemies; these he rescued out of their hands, and by his own arm of power saved them; or he himself alone wrought out salvation for them, and delivered them from the insults, reproach, and persecution of men, under whatsoever name; so when antichrist, and antichristianism in every form, shall be destroyed, salvation will be ascribed to God alone, Revelation 19:1,

and his righteousness, it sustained him; his righteousness, in taking vengeance on his and his people's enemies; and his faithfulness, in the performance of his promises, will support him in, and carry him through, his work, though attended with difficulties that may seem insuperable to men: this may be understood of Christ, as well as what follows. The Jews (i) interpret this of the Messiah, who should come in an age in which are none but wicked men, as is here said.

(h) "nullum interventorem", Junius & Tremellius. (i) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 1.

And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: {o} therefore his arm brought {p} salvation to him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.

(o) Meaning, to do justice, and to remedy the things that were so far out of order.

(p) That is, his Church or his arm helped itself and did not seek aid from any other.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. Comp. the closely parallel passage, ch. Isaiah 63:5.

there was no man] See on ch. Isaiah 50:2.

no intercessor] Better none to interpose, i.e. on behalf of truth and right (cf. Ezekiel 22:30). Duhm finds in these expressions an allusion to the absence of any human hero to play the rôle assigned to Cyrus in the earlier part of the book. This is perhaps to strain the prophet’s language unduly; but see on Isaiah 63:5.

therefore his arm &c.] Jehovah’s only allies in this conflict with wickedness are His own attributes.

brought salvation unto him] “wrought deliverance for Him.” Cf. Jdg 7:2.

That the whole description refers to a future event can hardly be questioned. The perfects in this verse and the next are those of prophetic certainty.

Verse 16. - He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; i.e. God looked for some champion of the oppressed to arise; it was to be expected under the circumstances. But, alas! "there was no man." None stood up to resist the unrighteous and protect the innocent; much less did any stand up to deliver Israel from its heathen adversaries. When it is said that God "wondered" at no champion appearing, we must understand the expression as an anthropomorphism· Therefore his arm brought salvation unto him. As them was no human champion, it became necessary that God should arise in his own Person, and show himself. "His arm" and "his righteousness" were enough; no human aid was needed, or could have added anything to the resistless strength of his might (comp. Isaiah 63:5). Isaiah 59:16The confession of personal sins is followed by that of the sinful state of society. "And right is forced back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth has fallen in the market-place, and honesty finds no admission. And truth became missing, and he who avoids evil is outlawed." In connection with mishpât and tsedâqâh here, we have not to think of the manifestation of divine judgment and justice which is prevented from being realized; but the people are here continuing the confession of their own moral depravity. Right has been forced back from the place which it ought to occupy (hissı̄g is the word applied in the law to the removal of boundaries), and righteousness has to look from afar off at the unjust habits of the people, without being able to interpose. And why are right and righteousness - that united pair so pleasing to God and beneficial to man - thrust out of the nation, and why do they stand without? Because there is no truth or uprightness in the nation. Truth wanders about, and stands no longer in the midst of the nation; but upon the open street, the broad market-place, where justice is administered, and where she ought above all to stand upright and be preserved upright, she has stumbled and fallen down (cf., Isaiah 3:8); and honesty (nekhōchâh), which goes straight forward, would gladly enter the limits of the forum, but she cannot: people and judges alike form a barrier which keeps her back. The consequence of this is indicated in Isaiah 59:15: truth in its manifold practical forms has become a missing thing; and whoever avoids the existing voice is mishtōlēl (part. hithpoel, not hithpoal), one who is obliged to let himself be plundered and stripped (Psalm 76:6), to be made a shōlâl (Micah 1:8), Arab. maslûb, with a passive turn given to the reflective meaning, as in התחפּשׂ, to cause one's self to be spied out equals to disguise one's self, and as in the so-called niphal tolerativum (Ewald, 133, b, 2).

The third strophe of the prophecy commences at Isaiah 59:15 or Isaiah 59:16. It begins with threatening, and closes with promises; for the true nature of God is love, and every manifestation of wrath is merely one phase in its development. In consideration of the fact that this corrupt state of things furnishes no prospect of self-improvement, Jehovah has already equipped Himself for judicial interposition. "And Jehovah saw it, and it was displeasing in His eyes, that there was no right. And He saw that there was not a man anywhere, and was astonished that there was nowhere an intercessor: then His arm brought Him help, and His righteousness became His stay. And He put on righteousness as a coat of mail, and the helmet of salvation upon His head; and put on garments of vengeance as armour, and clothed Himself in zeal as in a cloak. According to the deeds, accordingly He will repay: burning wrath to His adversaries, punishment to His foes; the islands He will repay with chastisement." The prophet's language has now toilsomely worked its way through the underwood of keen reproach, of dark descriptions of character, and of mournful confession which has brought up the apostasy of the great mass in all the blacker colours before his mind, from the fact that the confession proceeds from those who are ready for salvation. And now, having come to the description of the approaching judgment, out of whose furnace the church of the future is to spring, it rises again like a palm-tree that has been violently hurled to the ground, and shakes its head as if restored to itself in the transforming ether of the future. Jehovah saw, and it excited His displeasure ("it was evil in His eyes," an antiquated phrase from the Pentateuch, e.g., Genesis 38:10) to see that right (which He loves, Isaiah 61:8; Psalm 37:28) had vanished form the life of His nation. He saw that there was no man there, no man possessing either the disposition or the power to stem this corruption (אישׁ as in Jeremiah 5:1, cf., 1 Samuel 4:9; 1 Kings 2:2, and the old Jewish saying, "Where there is no man, I strive to be a man"). He was astonished (the sight of such total depravity exciting in Him the highest degree of compassion and displeasure) that there was no מפגּיע, i.e., no one to step in between God and the people, and by his intercession to press this disastrous condition of the people upon the attention of God (see Isaiah 53:12); no one to form a wall against the coming ruin, and cover the rent with his body; no one to appease the wrath, like Aaron (Numbers 17:12-13) or Phinehas (Numbers 25:7).

What the fut. consec. affirms from ותּושׁע onwards, is not something to come, but something past, as distinguished form the coming events announced from Isaiah 59:18 onwards. Because the nation was so utterly and deeply corrupt, Jehovah had quipped Himself for judicial interposition. The equipment was already completed; only the taking of vengeance remained to be effected. Jehovah saw no man at His side who was either able or willing to help Him to His right in opposition to the prevailing abominations, or to support His cause. Then His own arm became His help, and His righteousness His support (cf., Isaiah 63:5); so that He did not desist from the judgment to which He felt Himself impelled, until He had procured the fullest satisfaction for the honour of His holiness (Isaiah 5:16). The armour which Jehovah puts on is now described. According to the scriptural view, Jehovah is never unclothed; but the free radiation of His own nature shapes itself into a garment of light. Light is the robe He wears (Psalm 104:2). When the prophet describes this garment of light as changed into a suit of armour, this must be understood in the same sense as when the apostle in Eph speaks of a Christian's panoply. Just as there the separate pieces of armour represent the manifold self-manifestations of the inward spiritual life so here the pieces of Jehovah's armour stand for the manifold self-manifestations of His holy nature, which consists of a mixture of wrath and love. He does not arm Himself from any outward armoury; but the armoury is His infinite wrath and His infinite love, and the might in which He manifests Himself in such and such a way to His creatures is His infinite will. He puts on righteousness as a coat of mail (שׁרין in half pause, as in 1 Kings 22:34 in full pause, for שׁריון, ō passing into the broader a, as is generally the case in יחפּץ, יחבשׁ; also in Genesis 43:14, שׁכלתי; Genesis 49:3, עז; Genesis 49:27, יטרף), so that His appearance on every side is righteousness; and on His head He sets the helmet of salvation: for the ultimate object for which He goes into the conflict is the redemption of the oppressed, salvation as the fruit of the victory gained by righteousness. And over the coat of mail He draws on clothes of vengeance as a tabard (lxx περιβόλαιον), and wraps Himself in zeal as in a war-cloak. The inexorable justice of God is compared to an impenetrable brazen coat of mail; His joyful salvation, to a helmet which glitters from afar; His vengeance, with its manifold inflictions of punishment, to the clothes worn above the coat of mail; and His wrathful zeal (קנאה from קנא), to be deep red) with the fiery-looking chlamys. No weapon is mentioned, neither the sword nor bow; for His own arm procures Him help, and this alone. But what will Jehovah do, when He has armed Himself thus with justice and salvation, vengeance and zeal? As Isaiah 59:18 affirms, He will carry out a severe and general retributive judgment. גּמוּל and גּמלה signify accomplishment of (on gâmal, see at Isaiah 3:9) a ῥῆμα μέσον; גּמלות, which may signify, according to the context, either manifestations of love or manifestations of wrath, and either retribution as looked at from the side of God, or forfeiture as regarded from the side of man, has the latter meaning here, viz., the works of men and the double-sided gemūl, i.e., repayment, and that in the infliction of punishment. כּעל, as if, as on account of, signifies, according to its Semitic use, in the measure (כּ) of that which is fitting (על); cf., Isaiah 63:7, uti par est propter. It is repeated with emphasis (like לכן in Isaiah 52:6); the second stands without rectum, as the correlate of the first. By the adversaries and enemies, we naturally understand, after what goes before, the rebellious Israelites. The prophet does not mention these, however, but "the islands," that is to say, the heathen world. He hides the special judgment upon Israel in the general judgment upon the nations. The very same fate falls upon Israel, the salt of the world which has lost its savour, as upon the whole of the ungodly world. The purified church will have its place in the midst of a world out of which the crying injustice has been swept away.

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