Isaiah 59:9
Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.
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(9) Therefore is judgment.—The pleading of the prophet is followed by the confession which he makes on their behalf. They admit that the delay in the manifestation of God’s judgment against their enemies, and of His righteousness (i.e., bounty) towards themselves, has been caused by their own sins.

We wait for light.—The cry of the expectant Israelites is, mutatis mutandis, like that of the “How long?” of Zechariah 1:12; Revelation 6:10. On the assumption that the words come ideally from the Babylonian exiles, the first of these passages presents an interesting coincidence.

Isaiah 59:9-11. Therefore is judgment far from us — Because we have no regard for justice or honesty, God will not plead our cause against our oppressors; neither doth justice overtake us — He does not defend our rights, nor avenge our wrongs; as if he had said, If we had executed judgment and equity among one another, they would not now have been far from us. We wait for light — In what sense the Hebrews use the terms light and darkness, see before, on Isaiah 58:8; Isaiah 58:10. But behold obscurity — We are in a state of such thick darkness, that, which way soever we look, we see no hope of deliverance. We grope for the wall like the blind — As a blind man, that hath no other means of perceiving and distinguishing objects than his hands, feels for the wall, from whence he expects either direction or a resting-place to lean on; so we expect salvation, as it were, blindfold, not taking direction from the prophets, but hoping to obtain it by our cries and fasts, though we continue in our sins; and therefore may be well said to grope after it. And, or rather, yea, we grope as if we had no eyes — As if we were stark blind; we stumble at noon-day — This denotes their exceeding blindness, as a man must needs be exceedingly blind who can discern no more at noon-day than if it were midnight. We are in desolate places as dead men — He compares their calamitous state to that of men dead, without hope of restoration. We roar like bears, &c. — Thus he expresses the greatness of their anguish, which forced from them loud outcries and sorrowful lamentations. We look for judgment, &c. — See note on Isaiah 59:9.

59:9-15 If we shut our eyes against the light of Divine truth, it is just with God to hide from our eyes the things that belong to our peace. The sins of those who profess themselves God's people, are worse than the sins of others. And the sins of a nation bring public judgments, when not restrained by public justice. Men may murmur under calamities, but nothing will truly profit while they reject Christ and his gospel.Therefore is judgment far from us - This is the confession of the people that they were suffering not unjustly on account of their crimes. The word 'judgment' here is evidently to be taken in the sense of vengeance or vindication. The idea is this, 'we are subjected to calamities and to oppressions by our enemies. In our distresses we cry unto God, but on account of our sins he does not hear us, nor does he come to vindicate our cause.'

Neither doth justice overtake us - That is, God does not interpose to save us from our calamities, and to deliver us from the hand of our enemies. The word justice here is not to be regarded as used in the sense that they had a claim on God, or that they were now suffering unjustly, but it is used to denote the attribute of justice in God; and the idea is, that the just God, the avenger of wrongs, did not come forth to vindicate their cause, and to save them from the power of their foes.

We wait for light - The idea here is, that they anxiously waited for returning prosperity.

But behold obscurity - Darkness. Our calamities continue, and relief is not afforded us.

For brightness - That is, for brightness or splendor like the shining of the sun an emblem of happiness and prosperity.

9. judgment far—retribution in kind because they had shown "no judgment in their goings" (Isa 59:8). "The vindication of our just rights by God is withheld by Him from us."

us—In Isa 59:8 and previous verses, it was "they," the third person; here, "us … we," the first person. The nation here speaks: God thus making them out of their own mouth condemn themselves; just as He by His prophet had condemned them before. Isaiah includes himself with his people and speaks in their name.

justice—God's justice bringing salvation (Isa 46:13).

light—the dawn of returning prosperity.

obscurity—adversity (Jer 8:15).

Therefore is judgment far from us: this seems to be spoken in the person of those Jews that did partake of these sins, giving the reason by way of complaint of those evils that they groaned under. Justice: judgment, and so justice, is herb taken for deliverance, Isaiah 1:27: q.d. God doth not defend our right, nor revenge our wrong, nor deliver us, because of these outrages and acts of violence, injustice, and oppression that are committed among us; so that deliverance is called here judgment and justice by a metonymy of the efficient: q.d. If he had executed judgment and equity among one another, they would not now have been far from us. As works are sometimes put for the reward of works, Job 7:2 Psalm 109:20, so judgment and justice is put for the reward of judgment and justice. Or wicked men are in power and seats of judicature, that execute no judgment or justice in the behalf of the oppressed.

We wait for light: how the Hebrews use light and darkness, see before on Isaiah 58:8,10.

But we walk in darkness; or, mist; we are in such a thick mist, that which way soever we look, we see no way out, no hope of deliverance; we are still in captivity, and like so to be, till we see judgment and justice executed, and then we may expect good days.

Therefore is judgment far from us,.... These are the words of the few godly persons in those times, taking notice of prevailing sins, confessing and lamenting them, and observing that these were the source of their calamities under which they groaned; "therefore", because of the above mentioned sins, and in just retaliation, no justice or judgment being among men; therefore, in great righteousness "judgment is far from us"; or God does not appear to right our wrongs, and avenge us of our enemies, but suffers them to afflict and distress us:

neither doth justice overtake us; the righteousness of God inflicting vengeance on our enemies, and saving and protecting us; this does not come up with us, nor do we enjoy the benefit of it, but walk on without it unprotected, and exposed to the insults of men:

we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness; or "for brightnesses" (y); for much clear light; but

we walk in mists (z); in thick fogs, and have scarce any light at all. The meaning is, they waited for deliverance and salvation; but instead of that had the darkness of affliction and distress; or they were expecting latter day light and glory, the clear and bright shining of Gospel truths; but, instead of that, were surrounded with the darkness of ignorance and infidelity, superstition and will worship, and walked in the mists and fogs of error and heresy of all sorts: this seems to respect the same time as in Zechariah 14:6.

(y) "in splendores", Pagninus, Montanus; "magnum splendorem", Vitringa. (z) "in ealiginibus", Montanus, Cocceius; "in summa caligine", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "in densa caligine", Vitringa.

Therefore is {f} judgment far from us, neither doth {g} justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.

(f) That is, God's vengeance to punish our enemies.

(g) God's protection to defend us.

9. Therefore] on account of these sins and disorders, and not on account of Jehovah’s remissness (Isaiah 59:1-2).

judgment … justice (R.V. righteousness) are here again synonyms for salvation, right manifested by a judicial interposition of Jehovah, as in Isaiah 59:11 and the latter part of ch. Isaiah 56:1.

overtake us] The nation has struggled on its dreary and difficult way in the confident expectation that salvation would not tarry long behind, but hitherto this hope has been disappointed.

9–11. The sorrow and dejection of the people is depicted in striking and pathetic images. It is the better mind of the community which is here expressed,—its intense desire for the fulfilment of the divine promises, its weariness through hope deferred making the heart sick. The contrast to the buoyant enthusiasm of the second Isaiah is very great, and it is hardly credible that the state of feeling here described should have arisen in the short interval which elapsed between the announcement of deliverance and the actual release from captivity.

Verses 9-15. - ISRAEL HUMBLY CONFESSES ITS SIN'S TO GOD. Isaiah, anxious to bring the people to confession and amendment, makes humble confession in their name, joining himself with them, as if he had been a participator in their iniquities. Verse 9. - Therefore - i.e. on account of these sins - is judgment far from us; i.e. "does God refrain from judging our enemies." Neither doth justice - i.e. the righting of the wrongs which we suffer at the hands of the heathen - overtake us. We are left by God unavenged, and our enemies are left unpunished on account of our many transgressions. We wait for light. We look for a bright dawn to succeed the night of our trouble; but we wait in vain - the obscurity continues. Isaiah 59:9In the second strophe the prophet includes himself when speaking of the people. They now mourn over that state of exhaustion into which they have been brought through the perpetual straining and disappointment of expectation, and confess those sins on account of which the righteousness and salvation of Jehovah have been withheld. The prophet is speaking communicatively here; for even the better portion of the nation was involved in the guilt and consequences of the corruption which prevailed among the exiles, inasmuch as a nation forms an organized whole, and the delay of redemption really affected them. "Therefore right remains far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold darkness; for brightness - we walk in thick darkness. We grope along the wall like the blind, and like eyeless men we grope: we stumble in the light of noon-day as in the darkness, and among the living like the dead. We roar all like bears, and moan deeply like doves: we hope for right, and it cometh not; for salvation - it remaineth far off from us." At the end of this group of verses, again, the thought with which it sets out is palindromically repeated. The perfect רחקה denotes a state of things reaching from the past into the present; the future תשּׂיגנוּ a state of things continuing unchangeable in the present. By mishpât we understand a solution of existing inequalities or incongruities through the judicial interposition of God; by tsedâqâh the manifestation of justice, which bestows upon Israel grace as its right in accordance with the plan of salvation after the long continuance of punishment, and pours out merited punishment upon the instruments employed in punishing Israel. The prophet's standpoint, whether a real or an ideal one, is the last decade of the captivity. At that time, about the period of the Lydian war, when Cyrus was making one prosperous stroke after another, and yet waited so long before he turned his arms against Babylon, it may easily be supposed that hope and despondency alternated incessantly in the minds of the exiles. The dark future, which the prophet penetrated in the light of the Spirit, was indeed broken up by rays of hope, but it did not amount to light, i.e., to a perfect lighting up (negōhōth, an intensified plural of negōhâh, like nekhōchōth in Isaiah 26:10, pl. of nekhōchâh in Isaiah 59:14); on the contrary, darkness was still the prevailing state, and in the deep thick darkness ('ăphēlōth) the exiles pined away, without the promised release being effected for them by the oppressor of the nations. "We grope," they here complain, "like blind men by a wall, in which there is no opening, and like eyeless men we grope." גּשּׁשׁ (only used here) is a synonym of the older משּׁשׁ (Deuteronomy 28:29); נגשׁשׁה (with the elision of the reduplication, which it is hardly possible to render audible, and which comes up again in the pausal נגשּׁשׁה) has the âh of force, here of the impulse to self-preservation, which leads them to grope for an outlet in this ἀπορία; and עינים אין is not quite synonymous with עורים, for there is such a thing as blindness with apparently sound eyes (cf., Isaiah 43:8); and there is also a real absence of eyes, on account of either a natural malformation, or the actual loss of the eyes through either external injury or disease.

In the lamentation which follows, "we stumble in the light of noon-day (צהרים, meridies equals mesidies, the culminating point at which the eastern light is separated from the western) as if it were darkness, and בּאשׁמנּים, as if we were dead men," we may infer from the parallelism that since בּאשׁמנּים must express some antithesis to כּמּתים, it cannot mean either in caliginosis (Jer., Luther, etc.), or "in the graves" (Targ., D. Kimchi, etc.), or "in desolate places" (J. Kimchi). Moreover, there is no such word in Hebrew as אשׁם, to be dark, although the lexicographers give a Syriac word אוּתמנא, thick darkness (possibly related to Arab. ‛atamat, which does not mean the dark night, but late in the night); and the verb shâmēn, to be fat, is never applied to "fat, i.e., thick darkness," as Knobel assumes, whilst the form of the word with נ c. dagesh precludes the meaning a solitary place or desert (from אשׁם equals שׁמם). The form in question points rather to the verbal stem שׁמן, which yields a fitting antithesis to כמתים, whether we explain it as meaning "in luxuriant fields," or "among the fat ones, i.e., those who glory in their abundant health." We prefer the latter, since the word mishmannı̄m (Daniel 11:24; cf., Genesis 27:28) had already been coined to express the other idea; and as a rule, words formed with א prosth. point rather to an attributive than to a substantive idea. אשׁמן is a more emphatic form of שׁמן (Judges 3:29);

(Note: The name of the Phoenician god of health and prosperity, viz., Esmoun, which Alois Mller (Esmun, ein Beitrag zur Mythologie des orient. Alterthums. 1864) traces to חשׁמן (Psalm 68:32) from אשׁם equals חשׁם, "the splendid one (illustris)," probably means "the healthy one, or one of full health" (after the form אשׁחוּר, אשׁמוּרה), which agrees somewhat better with the account of Photios: ̓́Εσμουνον ὑπὸ Φοινίκων ὠνομασμένον ἐπὶ τῇ θέρμη τῆς ζωῆς.)

and אשׁמנּים indicates indirectly the very same thing which is directly expressed by משׁמנּים in Isaiah 10:16. Such explanations as "in opimis rebus" (Stier, etc.), or "in fatness of body, i.e., fulness of life" (Bttcher), are neither so suitable to the form of the word, nor do they answer to the circumstances referred to here, where all the people in exile are speaking. The true meaning therefore is, "we stumble (reel about) among fat ones, or those who lead a merry life," as if we were dead. "And what," as Doederlein observes, "can be imagined more gloomy and sad, than to be wandering about like shades, while others are fat and flourishing?" The growling and moaning in Isaiah 59:11 are expressions of impatience and pain produced by longing. The people now fall into a state of impatience, and roar like bears (hâmâh like fremere), as when, for example, a bear scents a flock, and prowls about it (vespertinus circumgemit ursus ovile: Hor. Ephesians 16.51); and now again they give themselves up to melancholy, and moan in a low and mournful tone like the doves, quarum blanditias verbaque murmur habet (Ovid). הגה, like murmurare, expresses less depth of tone or raucitas than המה. All their looking for righteousness and salvation turns out again and again to be nothing but self-deception, when the time for their coming seems close at hand.

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