Isaiah 59:3 Commentaries: For your hands are defiled with blood And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken falsehood, Your tongue mutters wickedness.
Isaiah 59:3
For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perverseness.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) Your hands are defiled with blood.—The accusation of the “grand indictment” of Isaiah 1:15 is reproduced verbatim.

Isaiah 59:3. Your hands are defiled with blood — Here the prophet proceeds from a more general to a more particular charge against them. By blood, we are to understand, either murders and bloodshed, properly so called, or ways of injustice, extortion, oppression, and cruelties, whereby men are deprived of a livelihood: hence, hating our brother is called murder, 1 John 3:15, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem murderers, Isaiah 1:21. And your fingers with iniquity — This is added to aggravate their sin; as if he had said, Not only your hands, but your fingers are defiled, and not the least part of you is free from injustice. Your lips have spoken lies — Not only properly so called, but perjuries, slanders, and false accusations: you have not only offered violence to your neighbours by your hands, but circumvented them by your lips. Your tongue hath muttered perverseness — Perverse words, or such as were contrary to God’s word and will. When they could not, for shame, utter their malice against their neighbours aloud, nor dared to do it for fear of being convicted of falsehood, and put to confusion, they muttered it secretly.59:1-8 If our prayers are not answered, and the salvation we wait for is not wrought for us, it is not because God is weary of hearing prayer, but because we are weary of praying. See here sin in true colours, exceedingly sinful; and see sin in its consequences, exceedingly hurtful, separating from God, and so separating us, not only from all good, but to all evil. Yet numbers feed, to their own destruction, on infidel and wicked systems. Nor can their skill or craft, in devising schemes, as the spider weaves its web, deliver or save them. No schemes of self-wrought salvation shall avail those who despise the Redeemer's robe of righteousness. Every man who is destitute of the Spirit of Christ, runs swiftly to evil of some sort; but those regardless of Divine truth and justice, are strangers to peace.For your hands are defiled with blood - The prophet proceeds here more particularly to specify the sins of which they were guilty; and in order to show the extent and depth of their depravity, he specifies the various members of the body - the hands, the fingers, the lips, the tongue, the feet as the agents by which people commit iniquity. See a similar argument on the subject of depravity in Romans 3:13-15, where a part of the description which the prophet here gives is quoted by Paul, and applied to the Jews in his own time. The phrase 'your hands are defiled with blood,' means with the blood of the innocent; that is, they were guilty of murder, oppression, and cruelty. See a similar statement in Isaiah 1:15, where the phrase 'your hands are full of blood' occurs. The word rendered here 'defiled' (גאל gā'al) means commonly to redeem, to ransom; then to avenge, or to demand and inflict punishment for bloodshed. In the sense of defiling it occurs only in the later Hebrew writers - perhaps used in this sense because those who were avengers became covered, that is, defiled with blood.

And your fingers with iniquity - The fingers in the Scriptures are represented as the agents by which any purpose is executed Isaiah 2:8, 'Which their own fingers have made' (compare Isaiah 17:8). Some have supposed that the phrase used here means the same as the preceding, that they were guilty of murder and cruelty. But it seems more probable that the idea suggested by Grotius is the true sense, that it means that they were guilty of rapine and theft. The fingers are the instruments by which theft - especially the lighter and more delicate kinds of theft - is executed. Thus we use the word 'light-fingered' to denote anyone who is dexterous in taking and conveying away anything, or anyone who is addicted to petty thefts.

Your lips have spoken lies - The nation is false, and no confidence can be reposed in the declarations which are made.

Your tongue hath muttered - On the word rendered 'muttered' (הגה hâgâh), see the notes at Isaiah 8:19. Probably there is included in the word here, the idea that they not only spoke evil, but that they did it with a complaining, discontented, or malicious spirit. It may also mean that they calumniated the government of God, and complained of his laws; or it may mean, as Grotius supposes, that they calumniated others - that is, that slander abounded among them.

Perverseness - Hebrew, עולה ‛avlâh - 'Evil ' - the word from which our word evil is derived.

3. (Isa 1:15; Ro 3:13-15).

hands … fingers—Not merely the "hands" perpetrate deeds of grosser enormity ("blood"), but the "fingers" commit more minute acts of "iniquity."

lips … tongue—The lips "speak" openly "lies," the tongue "mutters" malicious insinuations ("perverseness"; perverse misrepresentations of others) (Jer 6:28; 9:4).

Your hands are defiled with blood: here the prophet comes from a more general to a more particular charge against them; by blood we are to understand either murders and bloodshed properly so called; or ways of injustice, extortion, oppression, and cruelties, whereby men are deprived of a livelihood; hence hating our brother is called murder, 1Jo 3:15, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem called murderers. See how the prophet phraseth their oppression, Micah 3:1-3.

Your fingers: this is not added to protract the discourse, but to aggravate their sin: q.d. Not only your hands, but your fingers; you are not free from the least part of injustice.

Your lips have spoken lies; not only properly so called, but perjuries, and wronging’ your neighbours by slanders and false accusations; wherein he shows they did not only offer violence by the hand, but they had ways of circumventing with their lips.

Your tongue hath muttered: the verb doth properly signify to muse, or meditate; then the meaning is, that what they mutter, or utter with the tongue, they do it out of premeditated malice, from a perverse spirit; you may have a larger comment upon this Jeremiah 9:3-6.

Perverseness: perverse words are such as are contrary to God’s word, and it is put here in the abstract, to intimate that their words were every way contrary to God’s will. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity,.... From a general charge, the prophet proceeds to a particular enumeration of sins they were guilty of; and idolatry not being mentioned, as Jerom observes, shows that the prophecy belongs to other times than Isaiah's, when that sin greatly prevailed. He begins the account with the sin of shedding blood; the blood of innocents, as the Targum; designing either the sin of murder, now frequently committed in Christian nations; or wars between Christian princes, by means of which much blood is shed; or persecutions of Christian brethren, by casting them into prisons, which have issued in their death; and at least want of brotherly love, or, the hatred of brethren, which is called murder, 1 John 3:15 a prevailing sin in the present Sardian state; and which will not be removed till the spiritual reign or Philadelphian state takes place: and this sin is of a defiling nature; it "defiles" the "hands" or actions; and without love all works signify nothing, 1 Corinthians 13:1, yea, even their "fingers" are said to be defiled "with iniquity"; meaning either their lesser actions; or rather those more curiously and nicely performed, and seemingly more agreeable to the divine will; and yet defiled with some sin or other, as hypocrisy, vain glory, or the like: or it may be this may design the same as putting forth the fingers, and smiting with the fist, Isaiah 58:4, as Kimchi and Ben Melech observe; and so may have respect to some sort of persecution of their brethren for conscience sake, as there.

Your lips have spoken lies: or "falsehood" (q); that is, false doctrines, so called because contrary to the word of truth, and which deceive men:

your tongue hath muttered perverseness: that which is a perversion of the Gospel of Christ, and of the souls of men; what is contrary to the sacred Scriptures, the standard of faith and practice, and that premeditated, as the word (r) signifies; done with design, and on purpose: the abounding of errors and heresies in the present day, openly taught and divulged, to the ruin of souls, seems here to be pointed at. In the Talmud (s) these are explained of the several sorts of men in a court of judicature; the "hands" of the judges; the "fingers" of, the Scribes; the "lips" of advocates and solicitors; and the "tongue" of adversaries, or the contending parties.

(q) "falsitatem", Montanus, Cocceius; "falsum", Junius & Tremeliius, Piscator. (r) Sept.; "meditabitur", Montanus; "meditatur", Piscator; "meditatam effert", Junius & Tremellius. (s) T. Bab. Sabbat. fol. 139. 1.

For your hands are defiled with {a} blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath uttered perverseness.

(a) Read Isa 1:15.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. your hands are defiled with blood] Cf. ch. Isaiah 1:15.

hath uttered] Better muttereth (as R.V.).Verse 3. - Your hands are defiled with blood (comp. Isaiah 1:15, 21). (On the "innocent blood" shed by the Jews of the later Judaean kingdom, see 2 Kings 21:6, 16; 2 Kings 24:4; 2 Kings 25:25; 2 Chronicles 24:21; 2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6; 2 Chronicles 36:16, etc.) It consisted in

(1) sacrifices of children to Moloch;

(2) persecution of prophets; and

(3) judicial murders, either actual (like that of Naboth, in Israel) or virtual, i.e. such perversion of justice as produced general poverty and misery, and tended to shorten men's lives (see the comment on Isaiah 1:15). Your lips have spoken lies (comp. Isaiah 32:7). The wicked oppressors "devised wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words." The prophet now proceeds to point out the reward of divine grace, which would follow such a fast as this, consisting of self-renouncing, self-sacrificing love; and in the midst of the promise he once more reminds of the fact, that this love is the condition of the promise. This divides the promises into two. The middle promise is linked on to the first; the morning dawn giving promise of the "perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18). The first series of promises we have in Isaiah 58:8, Isaiah 58:9. "Then will thy light break forth as the morning dawn, and thy healing will sprout up speedily, and thy righteousness will go before thee, the glory of Jehovah will follow thee. Then wilt thou call and Jehovah will answer; thou wilt beseech, and He will say, Here am I!" The love of God is called "light" in contrast with His wrath; and a quiet cheerful life in God's love is so called, in contrast with a wild troubled life spent in God's wrath. This life in God's love has its dawn and its noon-day. When it is night both within and around a man, and he suffers himself to be awakened by the love of God to a reciprocity of love; then does the love of God, like the rising sun, open for itself a way through the man's dark night and overcome the darkness of wrath, but so gradually that the sky within is at first only streaked as it were with the red of the morning dawn, the herald of the sun. A second figure of a promising character follows. The man is sick unto death; but when the love of God stimulates him to reciprocal love, he is filled with new vigour, and his recovery springs up suddenly; he feels within him a new life working through with energetic force like a miraculous springing up of verdure from the earth, or of growing and flowering plants. The only other passages in which ארוּכה occurs are in the books of Jeremiah, Chronicles, and Nehemiah. It signifies recovery (lxx here, τὰ ἰάματά σου ταχὺ ἀνατελεῖ, an old mistake for ἱμάτια, vestimenta), and hence general prosperity (2 Chronicles 24:13). It always occurs with the predicate עלתה (causative העלה, cf., Targ. Psalm 147:3, ארכא אסּק, another reading ארוּכין), oritur (for which we have here poetically germinat) alicui sanitas; hence Gesenius and others have inferred, that the word originally meant the binding up of a wound, bandage (impontiru alicui fascia). But the primary word is ארך equals ארך, to set to rights, to restore or put into the right condition (e.g., b. Sabbath 33b, "he cured his wounded flesh"), connected with אריך, Arab. ârak, accommodatus; so that ארוּכה, after the form מלוּכה, Arab. (though rarely) arika, signifies properly, setting to rights, i.e., restoration.

The third promise is: "thy righteousness will go before thee, the glory of Jehovah will gather thee, or keep thee together," i.e., be thy rear-guard (lxx περιστελεῖ σε, enclose thee with its protection; אסף as in מאסּף, Isaiah 52:12). The figure is a significant one: the first of the mercies of God is δικαιοῦν, and the last δοξάζειν. When Israel is diligent in the performance of works of compassionate love, it is like an army on the march or a travelling caravan, for which righteousness clear and shows the way as being the most appropriate gift of God, and whose rear is closed by the glory of God, which so conducts it to its goal that not one is left behind. The fourth promise assures them of the immediate hearing of prayer, of every appeal to God, every cry for help.

But before the prophet brings his promises up to their culminating point, he once more lays down the condition upon which they rest. "If thou put away from the midst of thee the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking of evil, and offerest up thy gluttony to the hungry, and satisfiest the soul that is bowed down: thy light will stream out in the darkness, and thy darkness become like the brightness of noon-day. And Jehovah will guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in droughts, and refresh thy bones; and thou wilt become like a well-watered garden, and like a fountain, whose waters never deceive. And thy people will build ruins of the olden time, foundations of earlier generations wilt thou erect; and men will call thee repairers of breaches, restorers of habitable streets." מוטה, a yoke, is here equivalent to yoking or oppression, as in Isaiah 58:6, where it stands by the side of רשׁע. שׁלח־אצבּא (only met with here, for שׁלח, Ges. 65, 1, a), the stretching out of the finger, signifies a scornful pointing with the fingers (Proverbs 6:13, δακτυλοδεικτεῖν) at humbler men, and especially at such as are godly (Isaiah 57:4). דּבּר־און, the utterance of things which are wicked in themselves and injurious to one's neighbour, hence sinful conversation in general. The early commentators looked for more under נפשׁך, than is really meant (and so does even Stier: "they soul, thy heart, all thy sympathetic feelings," etc.). The name of the soul, which is regarded here as greedily longing (Isaiah 56:11), is used in Deuteronomy 24:6 for that which nourishes it, and here for that which it longs for; the longing itself (appetitus) for the object of the longing (Psychol. p. 204). We may see this very clearly from the choice of the verb תּפק (a voluntative in a conditional clause, Ges. 128, 2), which, starting from the primary meaning educere (related to נפק, Arabic anfaqa, to give out, distribute, nafaqa, distribution, especially of alms), signifies both to work out, acquire, carry off (Proverbs 3:13; Proverbs 8:35, etc.), and also to take out, deliver, offer, expromere (as in this instance and Psalm 140:9; Psalm 144:13). The soul "bowed down" is bowed down in this instance through abstinence. The apodoses commence with the perf. cons. וזרח. אפלה is the darkness caused by the utter absence of light (Arab. afalat esh-shemsu, "the sun has become invisible"); see at Job 10:22. This, as the substantive clause affirms, is like the noon-day, which is called צהרים, because at that point the daylight of both the forenoon and afternoon, the rising and setting light, is divided as it were into two by the climax which it has attained. A new promise points to the fat, that such a man may enjoy without intermission the mild and safe guidance of divine grace, for which נחה (הנחה, syn. נהל) is the word commonly employed; and another to the communication of the most copious supply of strength. The ἅπαξ γεγρ בצחצחות does not state with what God will satisfy the soul, as Hahn supposes (after Jerome, "splendoribus"), but according to צסהיחה (Psalm 68:7) and such promises as Isaiah 43:20; Isaiah 48:21; Isaiah 49:10, the kind of satisfaction and the circumstances under which it occurs, viz., in extreme droughts (Targ. "years of drought"). In the place of the perf. cons. we have then the future, which facilitates the elevation of the object: "and thy bones will He make strong," יחליח, for which Hupfeld would read יחליף, "will He rejuvenate." חחליץ is a denom. of חלוּץ, expeditus; it may, however, be directly derived from a verb חלץ, presupposed by חלצים, not, however, in the meaning "to be fat" (lxx πιανθήσεται, and so also Kimchi), but "to be strong," lit., to be loose or ready for action; and b. Jebamoth 102b has the very suitable gloss גרמי זרוזי (making the bones strong). This idea of invigorating is then unfolded in two different figures, of which that of a well-watered garden sets forth the abundance received, that of a spring the abundance possessed. Natural objects are promised, but as a gift of grace; for this is the difference between the two testaments, that in the Old Testament the natural is ever striving to reach the spiritual, whereas in the New Testament the spiritual lifts up the natural to its own level. The Old Testament is ever striving to give inwardness to what was outward; in the New Testament this object is attained, and the further object now is to make the outward conformed to the inward, the natural life to the spiritual.

The last promise (whether the seventh or eighth, depends upon whether we include the growing of the morning light into the light of noon, or not) takes its form from the pining of the exiles for their home: "and thy people (ממּך) build" (Ewald, 295, c); and Bttcher would read ממך וּבנּוּ; but מן with a passive, although more admissible in Hebrew than in Arabic, is very rarely met with, and then more frequently in the sense of ἀπό than in that of ὑπό, and בּנּוּ followed by a plural of the thing would be more exact than customary. Moreover, there is no force in the objection that ממּך with the active can only signify "some of thee," since it is equivalent to ממך אשׁר, those who sprang from thee and belong to thee by kindred descent. The members born to the congregation in exile will begin, as soon as they return to their home, to build up again the ruins of olden time, the foundations of earlier generations, i.e., houses and cities of which only the foundations are left (Isaiah 61:4); therefore Israel restored to its fatherland receives the honourable title of "builder of breaches," "restorer of streets (i.e., of places much frequented once) לשׁבת" (for inhabiting), i.e., so that, although so desolate now (Isaiah 33:8), they become habitable and populous once more.

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