Isaiah 59:21
As for me, this is my covenant with them, said the LORD; My spirit that is on you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, nor out of the mouth of your seed, nor out of the mouth of your seed's seed, said the LORD, from now on and for ever.
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(21) As for me, this is my covenant . . .—The words are, as to their form, an echo of Genesis 17:4; as to their meaning, the germ of Jeremiah 31:31; Hebrews 8:10; Hebrews 10:16. The new covenant is to involve the gift of the Spirit, that writes the law of God inwardly in the heart, as distinct from the Law, which is thought of as outside the conscience, doing its work as an accuser and a judge.

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.As for me - In the previous part of the chapter, the prophet has spoken. Here Yahweh is introduced as speaking himself, and as declaring the nature of the covenant which he would establish. In the verse previous, it had been stated that the qualifications on the part of people for their partaking of the benefits of the Redeemer's work, were, that they should turn from transgression. In this verse, Yahweh states what he would do in regard to the covenant which was to be established with his people. 'So far as I am concerned, I will enter into a covenant with them and with their children.'

This is my covenant with them - (Compare the notes at Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:8; Isaiah 54:10). The covenant here referred to, is that made with people under the Messiah. In important respects it differed from that made with the Jewish people under Moses. The word, 'covenant' here is evidently equivalent, as it is commonly, when applied to a transaction between God and human beings, to a most solemn promise on his part; and the expression is a most solemn declaration that, under the Messiah, God would impart his Spirit to those who should turn from transgression, and would abundantly bless them and their offspring with the knowledge of his truth. When it is said, 'this is my covenant,' the import evidently is, 'this is the nature or the tenure of my covenant, or of my solemn promises to my people under the Messiah. It shall certainly occur that my Spirit will be continually imparted to thy seed, and that my words will abide with thee and them forever.'

My Spirit that is upon thee - The word 'thee' here does not refer, as Jerome and others suppose, to the prophet, but to the pious Hebrew people. The covenant under the Messiah, was not made especially with the prophet or his posterity, but is a promise made to the church, and here evidently refers to the true people of God: and the idea is, that the Spirit of God would be continually imparted to his people, and to their descendants forever. It is a covenant made with true believers and with their children.

And my words - The Chaldee understands this of prophecy. But it seems rather to refer to the truth of God in general which he had revealed for the guidance and instruction of his church.

Shall not depart out of thy mouth - This phrase probably means, that the truth of God would be the subject of perpetual meditation and conversation. The covenant would be deemed so precious that it would constantly dwell on the tongues of those who were interested in it.

Thy seed's seed - Thy descendants; thy posterity.

From henceforth and for ever - This is in accordance with the promises which everywhere occur in the Scriptures, that God would bless the posterity of his people, and that the children of the pious should partake of his favor. See Exodus 20:6 : 'Showing mercy unto thousands (that is, thousands of generations) of them that love me and keep my commandments.' Compare Deuteronomy 4:37; Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 89:24, Psalm 89:36; Jeremiah 32:39-40. There is no promise of the Bible that is more full of consolation to the pious, or that has been more strikingly fulfilled than this. And though it is true that not all the children of holy parents become truly pious; though there are instances where they are signally wicked and abandoned, yet it is also true that rich spiritual blessings are imparted to the posterity of those who serve God and who keep his commandments. The following facts are well known to all who have ever made any observation on this subject:

1. The great majority of those who become religious are the descendants of those who were themselves the friends of God. Those who now compose the Christian churches, are not those generally who have been taken from the ways of open vice and profligacy; from the ranks of infidelity; or from the immediate descendants of scoffers, drunkards, and blasphemers. Such people usually tread, for a few generations at least, in the footsteps of their fathers. The church is composed mainly of the descendants of those who have been true Christians, and who trained their children to walk in the ways of pure religion.

2. It is a fact that comparatively a large proportion of the descendants of the pious themselves for many generations become true Christians. I know that it is often thought to be otherwise, and especially that it is often said that the children of clergymen are less virtuous and religious than others. But it should be remembered that such cases are more prominent than others, and especially that the profane and the wicked have a malicious pleasure in making them the subject of remark. The son of a drunkard will be intemperate without attracting notice - for such a result is expected; the son of an infidel will be an infidel; the son of a scoffer will be a scoffer; of a thief a thief; of a licentious man licentious, without being the subject of special observation. But when the son of an eminent Christian treads the path of open profligacy, it at once excites remark, because such is not the usual course, and is not usually expected; and because a wicked world has pleasure in marking the case, and calumniating religion through such a prominent instance of imperfection and sin.

But such is not the common result of religious training. Some of the most devotedly pious people of this land are the descendants of the Huguenots who were expelled from France. A very large proportion of all the piety in this country has been derived from the 'Pilgrims,' who landed on the rock of Plymouth, and God has blessed their descendants in New England and elsewhere with numerous revivals of religion. I am acquainted with the descendants of John Rogers, the first martyr in Queen Mary's reign, of the tenth and eleventh generations. With a single exception, the oldest son in the family has been a clergymen - some of them eminently distinguished for learning and piety; and there are few families now in this land a greater proportion of whom are pious than of that. The following statistical account made of a limited section of the country, not more favored or more distinguished for piety than many others, accords undoubtedly with similar facts which are constantly occurring in the families of those who are the friends of religion. The Secretary of the Massachusetts Sabbath School Society made a limited investigation, in the year 1838, for the purpose of ascertaining the facts about the religious character of the families of ministers and deacons with reference to the charge so often urged that the 'sons and daughters of ministers and deacons were worse than common children.' The following is the result.

In 268 families which he canvassed, he found 1290 children over fifteen years of age. Of these children 884, almost three-fourths, are hopefully pious; 794 have united with the churches; sixty-one entered the ministry; only seventeen are dissipated, and about half only of these became so while with their parents. In eleven of these families there are 123 children, and all but seven pious. In fifty-six of these families there are 249 children over fifteen, and all hopefully pious. When and where can any such result be found in the families of infidels, of the vicious, or of irreligious people? Indeed, it is the great law by which religion and virtue are perpetuated in the world. that God is faithful to this covenant, and that he blesses the efforts of his friends to train up generations for his service.

3. All pious parents should repose on this promise of a faithful God. They may and should believe that it is his design to perpetuate religion in the families of those who truly serve and obey him. They should be faithful in imparting religious truth; faithful in prayer, and in a meek, holy, pure, and benevolent example; they should so live that their children may safely tread in their footsteps; they should look to God for his blessing on their efforts, and their efforts will not be in vain. They shall see their children walk in the ways of virtue; and when they die, they may leave the world with unwavering confidence that God will not suffer his faithfulness to fail; that he will not break his covenant, nor alter the thing that is gone out of his lips Psalm 89:33-34.

21. covenant with them … thee—The covenant is with Christ, and with them only as united to Him (Heb 2:13). Jehovah addresses Messiah the representative and ideal Israel. The literal and spiritual Israel are His seed, to whom the promise is to be fulfilled (Ps 22:30).

spirit … not depart … for ever—(Jer 31:31-37; Mt 28:20).

This is my covenant, or what I have promised, and so am engaged to see fulfilled, viz. to them that turn from their iniquity; or rather, the promise of his word and Spirit to abide in his church, upon which account it is also that the Spirit is promised in the next words, by which is understood either the gift of prophecy, or the prophecy itself, given here to Isaiah, and so to the church: and being here, as in the foregoing verse, explicative, not copulative; unless it note that in an ordinary way the Spirit and the word go together wherever either of them are effectual, the Spirit impressing what the word expresses, John 14:16-18\, and it is the spirit of Satan that is different from the word.

My Spirit that is upon thee. See Poole "Numbers 11:17", See Poole "Numbers 11:25", &c.; See Poole "2 Kings 2:15".

Which I have put in thy mouth; which thou hast uttered by virtue of my Spirit, it being the church’s great treasure and happiness to have God present with his word. Shall not depart out of thy mouth, &iowa.; the sense is either, these words, and the fulfilling of them, shall be always talked of, wherever the mention of this deliverance shall come, as is said of Mary’s ointment, Matthew 26:13. Or rather, he seems to promise the perpetual presence of his word and Spirit with the prophets, apostles, and ministers, and teachers of the church to all succeeding ages thereof, and may have a special reference to the gospel, or new covenant in Christ.

For ever, i.e. for a long, though yet a definitive, space of time, as it is often used. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord,.... Which shall be manifested and made good to them that repent of their sins, and, believe in Christ; and to whom the particular blessing of it shall be applied, the forgiveness of their sins; see Romans 11:27,

my Spirit which is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth; the Spirit of God, with his gifts and graces, which were upon Christ the Redeemer without measure; and the doctrines he received from his divine Father to teach others, and which he gave to his apostles; the same Spirit which in measure was put upon them, and the same truths which were delivered to them:

shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever; that is, shall always continue with the church and her spiritual seed, such as are born in her, and brought up by her, throughout all successive ages, and to the end of time; and it may be observed, that after the conversion of the Jews, to which this prophecy has a special regard, they shall no more apostatize; the Spirit of the Lord shall not depart from them; and the Gospel shall always be professed by them: and it may be further observed, that the Spirit and the word go together; and that the latter is only effectual as accompanied will, the former, and is a proof of the perseverance of the church of God, and of all such who have the Spirit and grace of God, Christ will always have a church, and that church a seed, in which the Spirit and word will always remain. The grace of the Spirit, in the hearts of God's people, never removes from them; nor his Gospel from such, in whose hearts it works effectually. The Targum interprets this of the words of prophecy; and the Talmud (o) of the law not departing from the disciples of wise men; but it is best to understand it of the Gospel not departing from the disciples of Christ, and the seed of the church.

(o) T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 85. 1.

As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, {u} shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.

(u) Because the doctrine is made profitable by the virtue of the Spirit, he joins the one with the other, and promises to give them both to his Church for ever.

21. Confirmation of the covenant to the true Israel. The verse, on account of its apparent want of connexion with what precedes, and its change of person and number, is regarded by some as an insertion.

My spirit that is upon thee] The change of pronouns (with them … upon thee) presents little difficulty here. It is caused by the transition from indirect to direct address; what follows being the substance of an oracle that was already gone forth. Comp. the similar promise in ch. Isaiah 44:3. The person addressed is the spiritual Israel, which is even now endowed with the divine spirit and word. Whether Israel is conceived as “the bearer of the idea of the Servant of Jehovah” (Dillmann) is doubtful in view of the possible post-exilic origin of the prophecy. Against the view that the prophet himself is addressed, Dillmann pertinently remarks that the O.T. knows nothing of a hereditary transmission of the prophetic gift.Verse 21. - As for me; literally, and I. The prophet begins with one construction, and then checks himself, and introduces another. This is my covenant (comp. Jeremiah 31:31-34; and see the comment on Isaiah 53:3). The new covenant involved the giving of God's Spirit to his people (Joel 2:28); and this Spirit, it is here promised, shall not depart from God's people while time endures. The Spirit will be accompanied with certain "words" which will be put into the Church's mouth; and these words will remain unchanged and pass on from mouth to mouth, age after age, for ever. The "words" intended are probably those of the entire Bible - "all God's revelations" (Cheyne) - which the Church will maintain as inspired truth through all ages. Upon thee; i.e. upon Israel. The change of number and person ("with them... upon thee") is not unusual in Isaiah (Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 33:2; Isaiah 49:5; Isaiah 62:11, 12, etc.).

The 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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