Isaiah 59:4
None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth 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). Isaiah 59:4The description now passes over to the social and judicial life. Lying and oppression universally prevail. "No one speaks with justice, and no one pleads with faithfulness; men trust in vanity, and speak with deception; they conceive trouble, and bring forth ruin. They hatch basilisks' eggs, and weave spiders' webs. He that eateth of their eggs must die; and if one is trodden upon, it splits into an adder. Their webs do not suffice for clothing, and men cannot cover themselves with their works: their works are works of ruin, and the practice of injustice is in their hands." As קרא is generally used in these prophetic addresses in the sense of κηρύσσειν, and the judicial meaning, citare, in just vocare, litem intendere, cannot be sustained, we must adopt this explanation, "no one gives public evidence with justice" (lxx οὐδεὶς λαλεῖ δίκαια). צדק is firm adherence to the rule of right and truth; אמוּנה a conscientious reliance which awakens trust; משׁפּט (in a reciprocal sense, as in Isaiah 43:26; Isaiah 66:16) signifies the commencement and pursuit of a law-suit with any one. The abstract infinitives which follow in Isaiah 59:4 express the general characteristics of the social life of that time, after the manner of the historical infinitive in Latin (cf., Isaiah 21:5; Ges. 131, 4, b). Men trust in tōhū, that which is perfectly destitute of truth, and speak שׁוא, what is morally corrupt and worthless. The double figure און והוליד עמל הרו is taken from Job 15:35 (cf., Psalm 7:15). הרו (compare the poel in Isaiah 59:13) is only another form for הרה (Ges. 131, 4, b); and הוליד (the western or Palestinian reading here), or הולד (the oriental or Babylonian reading), is the usual form of the inf. abs. hiph. (Ges. 53, Anm. 2). What they carry about with them and set in operation is compared in Isaiah 59:5 to basilisks' eggs (צפעוני, serpens regulus, as in Isaiah 11:8) and spiders' webs (עכּבישׁ, as in Job 8:14, from עכּב, possibly in the sense of squatter, sitter still, with the substantive ending ı̄sh). They hatch basilisks' eggs (בּקּע like בּקע, Isaiah 34:15, a perfect, denoting that which has hitherto always taken place and therefore is a customary thing); and they spin spiders' webs (ארג possibly related to ἀράχ-νη;

(Note: Neither καῖρος nor ἀράχνη has hitherto been traced to an Indian root in any admissible way. Benfey deduces the former from the root dhvir (to twist); but this root has to perform an immense number of services. M. Mller deduces the latter from rak; but this means to make, not to spin.)

the future denoting that which goes on occurring). The point of comparison in the first figure is the injurious nature of all they do, whether men rely upon it, in which case "he that eateth of their eggs dieth," or whether they are bold or imprudent enough to try and frustrate their plans and performances, when that (the egg) which is crushed or trodden upon splits into an adder, i.e., sends out an adder, which snaps at the heel of the disturber of its rest. זוּר as in Job 39:15, here the part. pass. fem. like סוּרה (Isaiah 49:21), with a - instead of ā - like לנה, the original ă of the feminine (zūrăth) having returned from its lengthening into ā to the weaker lengthening into ĕ. The point of comparison in the second figure is the worthlessness and deceptive character of their works. What they spin and make does not serve for a covering to any man (יתכּסּוּ with the most general subject: Ges. 137, 3), but has simply the appearance of usefulness; their works are מעשׂי־און (with metheg, not munach, under the Mem), evil works, and their acts are all directed to the injury of their neighbour, in his right and his possession.

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