Isaiah 59:18
According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompence.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) To his adversaries . . .—The judgment is generally against all, in Israel or outside it, who come under this description. The word “islands” is used, as elsewhere, for far-off lands. The words point to every such judgment, from that of Cyrus to the great final day.

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.According to their deeds - The general sentiment of this verse is plain, though there is not a little difficulty in the construction of the Hebrew. Lowth pronounces the former part of the verse, as it stands in the Hebrew text, to be 'absolutely unintelligible. By a slight change in the Hebrew as it now stands (reading בעל ba‛al, "lord," instead of כעל ke‛al "as according to"), Lowth supposes that he has obtained the true sense, and accordingly translates it:

He is mighty to recompense;

He that is mighty to recompense shall requite.

This translation is substantially according to the Chaldee, but there is no authority from manuscripts to change the text in this place. Nor is it necessary. The particle כעל ke‛al occurs as a preposition in Isaiah 63:7, in the sense of 'as according to,' or 'according to,' and is similar in its form to the word מעל mē‛al, which often occurs in the sense of from above, or from upon Genesis 24:64; Genesis 40:19; Isaiah 34:16; Jeremiah 36:11; Amos 7:11. The sense of the verse before us is, that God would inflict just punishment on his enemies. It is a general sentiment, applicable alike to the deliverance from Babylon and the redemption of his church and people at all times. In order to effect the deliverance of his people it was necessary to take vengeance on those who had oppressed and enslaved them. So in order to redeem his church, it is often necessary to inflict punishment on the nations that oppose it, or to remove by death the adversaries that stand in his way. This punishment is inflicted strictly according to their deeds. The principal thought here is, undoubtedly, that as they had opposed and oppressed the people of God, so he would take vengeance on them. He would remove his enemies, and prepare the way in this manner for the coming of his kingdom.

To the islands - On the use of the word 'islands' in Isaiah, see the notes at Isaiah 41:1. The idea here is, that he would 'repay recompence' or take vengeance on the foreign nations which had oppressed them.

18. deeds—Hebrew, "recompenses"; "according as their deeds demand" [Maurer]. This verse predicts the judgments at the Lord's second coming, which shall precede the final redemption of His people (Isa 66:18, 15, 16).

islands—(See on [859]Isa 41:1). Distant countries.

Deeds, Heb. recompences or deserts, i.e. he will recompense his adversaries with those effects of his fury that they have deserved.

Fury; a metonymy of the efficient, for the effects of his fury.

Islands; or, islanders; a metonymy of the containing for the contained; either Mesopotamia, and other adjacent islands, encompassed by Tigris and Euphrates; or those remoter nations (for the Hebrews call nations remote from Judea islands, Genesis 10:5 Isaiah 41:1. See Poole "Isaiah 20:6", and the reason of it) under the king of Babylon, that thought themselves secure.

According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay,.... As the enemies of his people have treated them, so will the Lord deal with them; as they have shed their blood, he will, according to the laws of retribution and retaliation, give them blood to drink, as they deserve. The whore of Rome shall be rewarded as the followers of Christ have been rewarded by her, and double shall be rendered to her double, according to her works, Revelation 16:6,

fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies: the church's adversaries and enemies are Christ's, and so he esteems them; and therefore his wrath and fury is poured out by way of recompence to them, for all the ill they have done them, even the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath, Revelation 16:19,

to the islands he will repay recompence; even to those who dwell in the more distant and remote parts of the antichristian jurisdiction; for when the cup of wrath shall be given to Babylon every island will flee away, Revelation 16:20.

According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the {r} isles he will repay recompence.

(r) That is, your enemies who dwell in various places, and beyond the sea.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. According to their deeds] Or deserts. The word means simply an accomplished deed, either in a good or bad sense; but it is chiefly used in expressions which imply a reference to reward or retribution. In the next line it denotes the recompence itself (cf. ch. Isaiah 35:4).

According to … accordingly] The form of the comparative sentence is hardly grammatical. The compound preposition which introduces both protasis and apodosis has in the second case no noun to govern, and it cannot be treated either as a conjunction or as an adverb. We must either (with Dillmann) omit “accordingly” as dittography, or (with Duhm) change “he will repay” into a noun; rendering, “as the deserts so the retribution.” The sentence, however, would read awkwardly without a verb.

to the islands he will repay recompence] The clause seems to identify the “adversaries” and “enemies” of Jehovah with the “islands” (cf. Isaiah 41:1), i.e. the heathen world; but that is almost certainly a misinterpretation of the sense of the passage. If there is any connexion with the earlier part of the discourse, the “adversaries” spoken of must be the apostate Jews,—those who by their sins hindered the coming of salvation. The prophet cannot mean that because Israel’s sin has separated it from Jehovah, therefore judgement will descend on the heathen. Apart from this clause, indeed, there is nothing in the context to suggest the thought of a world-judgement, although of course the conception of a judgement beginning with Israel and extending to the nations is possible (see on ch. Isaiah 3:13). The words, however, are wanting in the LXX., and the verse would be greatly simplified by their removal. Their insertion is easily accounted for through a misunderstanding of Isaiah 59:19.

18–20. The consequences of Jehovah’s interposition.

Verse 18. - According to their deeds; rather, according to their deserts (comp. Psalm 28:4, ad fin.). He will repay. The ordinary future here, and in the remainder of the prophecy, replaces the "perfect of prophetic certitude," which has been employed in vers. 16, 17. Fury to his adversaries, recompense to his enemies. God's "adversaries" are those of his own household - his people, the ungodly Israelites; his "enemies" are the heathen that oppress his people (comp. Isaiah 1:24, which is very similar). To the islands; i.e. the maritime lands, which, under Assyria, and afterwards under Babylon, took part in the oppression of his people. Isaiah 59:18The 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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