Isaiah 59:4
None calls for justice, nor any pleads for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.
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(4) None calleth for justice.—Better, none preferreth his suit with truthfulness. The words point chiefly to the guilt of unrighteous prosecutions, but may include that of false witness also.

They trust in vanity.—Literally, in chaos—the characteristic tohu of both parts of Isaiah (Isaiah 24:10; Isaiah 29:21; Isaiah 40:17; Isaiah 40:23).

Isaiah 59:4. None calleth for justice — None seek to redress these wrongs and violences; they commit all rapines and frauds with impunity; they trust in vanity — In vain and empty words, void of all consistency; or, in vain things, such as their idols were, often called vanity and nothing, 1 Corinthians 8:4; or in their own power, craft, and policy, whereby, laying aside justice, they oppressed others. And speak lies — This may refer to the judges, lawyers, and false prophets, who told them they should not go into captivity; as if he had said, They speak that which they know to be false. They conceive mischief and bring forth, &c. — These two words, conceiving and bringing forth, denote the whole contriving and perfecting of their wickedness.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.None calleth for justice - Or rather, there is no one who brings a suit with justice; no one who goes into court for the purpose of obtaining justice. There is a love of litigation; a desire to take all the advantage which the law can give; a desire to appeal to the law, not for the sake of having strict justice done, but for the sake of doing injury to others, and to take some undue advantage.

Nor any pleadeth for truth - Or, no one pleadeth with truth. He does not state the cause as it is. He makes use of cunning and falsehood to gain his cause.

They trust in vanity - They confide in quirks and evasions rather than in the justice of their cause.

They conceive mischief - They form plans of evil, and they execute them when they are fully ripe. Compare Job 15:35, where the same phrase occurs. The sense is, that they form plans to injure others, and that they expect to execute them by fraud and deceit.

4. Rather, "No one calleth an adversary into court with justice," that is, None bringeth a just suit: "No one pleadeth with truth."

they trust … iniquity—(So Job 15:35; Ps 7:14).

None calleth for justice, i.e. none seek to redress these wrongs and violences; they commit all rapines and frauds under impunity; either,

1. Because the judges are corrupt. Or,

2. Because none will warn the judges of their duty. Or,

3. Because none seek to bring offenders to justice. Or,

4. Because none will plead a righteous cause, or plead it righteously, or countenance goodness; and this the next expression favours; and so justice suffers, which the Hebrew word mispat, being in the passive voice, seems to intimate: the sense is the same, and whereas it is said none, it is as much as to say very few, as we say few or none; the like Psalm 14:3.

Quest. How could this be charged upon them, when in the time of their captivity they had no courts?

Answ. It is probable they had courts among themselves, to judge between one another, by leave of the Babylonish kings.

They trust in vanity; either,

1. Relating to their lies, which are words empty and void of all consistency; and so it is the same with the next expression,

and speak lies. Or,

2. In their idols, which are stocks and stones, and so oft called vanity and nothing, 1 Corinthians 8:4. For even in Babylon they worshipped idols, as appears by Jeremiah 16:11,12,18. Or rather,

3. In their power, and craft, and policy, whereby, laying aside justice, they can oppress others; and so he calls it vanity by a metonymy of the adjunct, because it would prove all vain in the end, and either,

1. Frustrate their ends. Or,

2. Not justify them against God’s proceedings with them. Or,

3. Bring all into emptiness and confusion: the word is tohu, whereby the confusion and mingling of all things is expressed, before the world was brought into order and form, Genesis 1:2.

Speak lies: it may refer both to the judges, and to the lawyers and false prophets, that tell them they shall not go into captivity; they speak that which they know to be false.

They conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity: these two words of conceiving and bringing forth note their whole contrivance, and perfecting their wickedness; the former notes their plotting, the latter their execution of mischief; whatever is in the mind, only out of sight, warmed and formed there by cogitating and meditation, is called conception, which being ripe, and produced to view, is called a birth; intimating that the wicked sin not occasionally and accidentally, but premeditatingly and professedly; they grow big with it. The expression is allegorical, and in the two next verses compared to the cockatrice’ eggs for the wickedness of it, and to a spider’s web for the vanity of it. None calleth for justice,.... Or, "righteousness"; not for civil justice in courts of judicature, as if there were no advocates for it there; or that put those in mind of it, to whom the administration of it belongs; or that see to put the laws against sin in execution, and to relieve those that are oppressed; though of this there may be just cause of complaint in some places: but there are none or few that call for evangelical righteousness, either that preach it, proclaim and publish it to others; even the righteousness of Christ, the grand doctrine of the Gospel, which is therein revealed from faith to faith; so the Syriac version, "there is none that preacheth righteously"; or "in", or "of righteousness" (t); and the Septuagint version, "no one speaks righteous things"; the words and doctrines of righteousness and truth: or, "no one calls for righteousness"; desires to hear this doctrine, and have it preached to him; hungers and thirsts after it; but chooses the doctrine of justification by works. The Targum refers it to prayer, paraphrasing it thus,

"there is none that prays in truth;''

in sincerity and uprightness, in faith and with fervour; but in a cold, formal, and hypocritical way:

nor any pleadeth for truth: for the truth of the Gospel, particularly for the principal one, the justification of a sinner by the righteousness of Christ alone; few or none contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; they are not valiant for the truth, nor stand fast in it, but drop or conceal it, or deny it: or, "none is judged by", or "according to truth" (u); by the Scriptures of truth, but by carnal reason; or by forms and rules of man's devising, and so are condemned; as Gospel ministers and professors of it are:

they trust in vanity; in nothing, as the Vulgate Latin; that is worth nothing; in their own strength, wisdom, riches, righteousness, especially the latter:

and speak lies; or "vanity"; vain things, false doctrines, as before:

they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity; they "conceive" and contrive "mischief" in their minds against those that differ in doctrine and practice from them: "and bring forth iniquity": do that which is criminal and sinful, by words and actions, by calumnies and reproaches, by violence and persecution. The Targum is,

"they hasten and bring out of their hearts words of violence.''

(t) "in justitia", Montanus, Tigurine version; "sive de justitia". (u) "nemo judicatur scundum veritatem", Munster; "non judicatur in veritate", Montanus.

None calleth for justice, nor any {b} pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and {c} bring forth iniquity.

(b) All men wink at the injuries and oppressions and none go about to remedy them.

(c) According to their wicked devices, they hurt their neighbours.

4. The first half of the verse should be rendered as R.V.

None sueth in righteousness,

And none pleadeth in truth.

The reference is to the abuse of legal procedure: lawsuits instituted and conducted with absolute disregard of righteousness and truth. Cf. ch. Isaiah 29:21.

calleth] with the sense of “summon” (in jus vocare), as in Job 9:16; Job 13:22.

pleadeth] i.e. “pleadeth a cause”, litigates; the same word as in Isaiah 43:26.

The rest of the verse probably continues the same subject, describing the sophistical and mischievous arguments employed by the litigants to make the worse appear the better reason, and subvert the ends of justice. The verbs are infinitives (as in Isaiah 59:13 and Hosea 4:2) and should be translated thus:

Trusting in emptiness (lit. “chaos” as Isaiah 40:17) and speaking vanity!

Conceiving mischief and bringing forth evil!

The last line occurs almost verbatim in Job 15:35.Verse 4. - None calleth for justice; rather, none preferreth his suit in justice (so Lowth, Gesenius, Ewald, Knobel, and Mr. Cheyne). "No one," that is, "who engaged in a suit, limited himself to just pleas and honest courses in his prosecution of it." Nor any pleadeth for truth; rather, none pleadeth in truthfulness. They trust in vanity; literally, in chaos; i.e. "in a mass of false and vain statements." The whole basis of the dealings between man and man was unsound, corrupt, chaotic. Where truth and plain dealing are set aside, all shortly becomes ruin and confusion. They conceive mischief, etc. (comp. Psalm 7:14). 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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