Isaiah 6:10
Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(10) Make the heart of this people fat.—The thought is the same as that of the “hardening” of Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 8:19; Exodus 9:34, &c) and that of Sihon (Deuteronomy 2:30). It implies the reckless headstrong will which defies restraint and warnings. So the poets of Greece, in their thoughts as to the Divine government of the world, recognised the truth that there is a judicial blindness and, as it were, insanity of will that comes as the consequence of sinful deeds ( Æsch. Agam. 370-386). The mediaeval adage, “Quem Deus vult perdere prius dementat,” expresses one aspect of the same law; but the vult perdere is excluded by the clearer revelation of the Divine purpose (Ezekiel 18:23; 1Timothy 2:4; 2Peter 2:9), as “not willing that any should perish.”

Shut their eyes.—Literally, as in Isaiah 29:10, daub, or besmear. Possibly the phrase refers to the barbarous practice, not unknown in the East, of thus closing the eyes as a punishment. Burder (Oriental Customs, i. 98) mentions a son of the Great Mogul who was thus punished by his father. For the ethical fact, as well as for the phrase, we may (with Cheyne) compare Shakespeare—

“For when we in our viciousness grow hard,

Oh, misery on’t, the wise gods seal our eyes.”

6:9-13 God sends Isaiah to foretell the ruin of his people. Many hear the sound of God's word, but do not feel the power of it. God sometimes, in righteous judgment, gives men up to blindness of mind, because they will not receive the truth in the love of it. But no humble inquirer after Christ, need to fear this awful doom, which is a spiritual judgment on those who will still hold fast their sins. Let every one pray for the enlightening of the Holy Spirit, that he may perceive how precious are the Divine mercies, by which alone we are secured against this dreadful danger. Yet the Lord would preserve a remnant, like the tenth, holy to him. And blessed be God, he still preserves his church; however professors or visible churches may be lopped off as unfruitful, the holy seed will shoot forth, from whom all the numerous branches of righteousness shall arise.Make the heart - The word "heart" here is used in the sense of the "mind" - to denote all their mental powers. It is commonly used in this sense in the Scriptures.

Fat - Gross, heavy, dull, stupid. That is, go and proclaim such "truth" to them as shall have this effect - as shall irritate, provoke, enrage them; truth, whose delivery shall be attended, in their gross and corrupt hearts, with this blinding and infatuating influence the effect would be produced by the corrupt state of their hearts, not by any native tendency of the truth, and still less by any direct divine influence. 'Go, and proclaim truth to a corrupt and sensual people, and the result will be that they will not hear; they are so wicked that they will not attend to it; they will become even more hardened; yet go, and though certain of producing this effect, still proclaim it;' see this passage explained in the notes at John 12:40.

Their ears heavy - Dull, stupid, insensible.

And shut their eyes - The word used here means "to spread over," and then to close. It denotes here the state of mind which is more and more indisposed to attend to the truth.

And be healed - Be restored from the malady of sin; be recovered and pardoned. Sin is often represented as a painful, loathsome malady, and forgiveness as restoration from such a malady; Isaiah 30:26; Psalm 103; Psalm 41:3-4; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Jeremiah 3:22; Jeremiah 17:14. We may learn here,

(1) That the effect of truth is often to irritate people and make them more wicked.

(2) The truth must, nevertheless, be proclaimed.

This effect is not the fault of the truth; and it is often well that the heart should be known, and the true effect should be seen.

10. Make … fat—(Ps 119:17). "Render them the more hardened by thy warnings" [Maurer]. This effect is the fruit, not of the truth in itself, but of the corrupt state of their hearts, to which God here judicially gives them over (Isa 63:17). Gesenius takes the imperatives as futures. "Proclaim truths, the result of which proclamation will be their becoming the more hardened" (Ro 1:28; Eph 4:18); but this does not so well as the former set forth God as designedly giving up sinners to judicial hardening (Ro 11:8; 2Th 2:11). In the first member of the sentence, the order is, the heart, ears, eyes; in the latter, the reverse order, the eyes, ears, heart. It is from the heart that corruption flows into the ears and eyes (Mr 7:21, 22); but through the eyes and ears healing reaches the heart (Ro 10:17), [Bengel]. (Jer 5:21; Eze 12:2; Zec 7:11; Ac 7:57; 2Ti 4:4). In Mt 13:15, the words are quoted in the indicative, "is waxed gross" (so the Septuagint), not the imperative, "make fat"; God's word as to the future is as certain as if it were already fulfilled. To see with one's eyes will not convince a will that is opposed to the truth (compare Joh 11:45, 46; 12:10, 11). "One must love divine things in order to understand them" [Pascal].

be healed—of their spiritual malady, sin (Isa 1:6; Ps 103:3; Jer 17:14).

Fat, i.e. stupid and senseless; for the fat which is in the body is without sense; and fatness in the heart makes it dull and heavy. Thus this phrase is used Psalm 119:70. And this seems best to agree with the following words. This making of their hearts fat is here ascribed to the prophet, as it is ascribed to God in the repetition of this prophecy, John 12:40, because God inflicted this judgment upon them by the ministry of the prophet, partly by way of prediction, foretelling that this would be the effect of his preaching; and partly by way of judicial operation, withdrawing the light and help of his Spirit, and giving them up to the power and arts of Satan, and to their own mistakes and lusts, whereby they are easily and commonly led to turn God’s word, as they do other things, into occasions of sin.

Make their ears heavy; make them dull of hearing, as Isaiah 59:1 Zechariah 7:11, as sometimes the ears are made by an excessive noise.

Shut their eyes, Heb. daub their eyes, as the word is used also Isaiah 44:18.

Lest they see; that they may not be able, as before they were not willing, to see.

Convert; turn from their sinful practices unto God.

Be healed of sin, which is the disease of the soul, by remission and sanctification, and of all the deadly effects of sin.

Make the heart of this people fat,.... Gross and heavy, stupid and unteachable, hard and obdurate; which is sometimes done by the preaching of the Gospel, through the wickedness of man's heart, that being the savour of death unto death to some, just as the sun hardens the clay; or declare that their hearts are thus gross and stupid; or that I will give them up to a judicial hardness of heart:

and make their ears heavy: that they cannot hear the word, so as to understand it; they having stopped the ear, and plucked away the shoulder, it is in righteous judgment that they are given up to such an insensibility as not to be capable of hearing and understanding what is delivered in the ministry of the word:

and shut their eyes; they having wilfully shut their own eyes against all evidence of the Messiah, and the truth of his doctrines, they are given up to a judicial blindness; which still continues upon them, and will until the fulness of the Gentiles is brought in:

lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understated with their heart; though only in a notional way, the things relating to the Messiah, the truths of the Gospel, and the ordinances thereof, and what may belong to their outward peace:

and convert; or turn themselves by external repentance and reformation:

and be healed: or forgiven in such sense as to be preserved from national ruin; which God willed not; for seeing they went such great lengths in sin, in rejecting the Messiah, and his Gospel, they were given up to a reprobate mind, to do things that were not convenient, that they might be destroyed; which destruction is after prophesied of.

Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
10. Make the heart … fat] i.e. callous, unfeeling, Psalm 119:70. In Hebrew idiom, the “heart” includes the understanding. shut (lit. smear) its eyes] cf. Isaiah 29:10, Isaiah 44:18, Isaiah 42:19 f.

The difficulties created in our minds by this startling, and even harsh, statement of a great law of the spiritual world, are partly due to the tendency of Scripture writers to refer all things immediately to the will of God. To the Hebrew mind what we call secondary causes scarcely exist, at least in the sphere of religion. That which, in given circumstances, is the inevitable result of God’s providential dispensations is viewed absolutely, apart from its conditions, as a distinct divine purpose. The truth revealed to Isaiah is that the unbelief of his countrymen amounts to an incapacity for divine things, which can only be intensified by the further disclosure of the truth of God. And this, which is the inevitable issue of his own prophetic mission, is represented to him as Jehovah’s intention in sending him. Isaiah realises the profound truth that the most decisive and searching judgment to which men are subjected lies in the abundance of the revelations of God vouchsafed to them. It is a principle often appealed to in the New Testament, and frequently in the very words of our prophet (Matthew 13:14 f. and parallels; Acts 16:26 f.; Romans 11:8). “This is the judgment that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil” (John 3:19).

Verse 10. - Make the heart of this people fat. Isaiah is commanded to effect by his preaching that which his preaching would, in fact, effect. It would not awaken the people out of their apathy, it would not stir them to repentance; therefore it would only harden and deaden them. The words have a national, not an individual, application. Shut their eyes; literally, besmear their eyes; or, seal them up. Such sealing has been employed by Oriental monarchs as a punishment. And convert; i.e. "turn to God." Our translators have used the word in an intransitive sense. Isaiah 6:10This is confirmed by the words in which his commission is expressed, and the substance of the message. "He said, Go, and tell this people, Hear on, and understand not; and look on, but perceive not. Make ye the heart of this people greasy, and their ears heavy, and their eyes sticky; that they may not see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and their heart understand, and they be converted, and one heal them." "This people" points back to the people of unclean lips, among whom Isaiah had complained of dwelling, and whom the Lord would not call "my people." It was to go to this people and preach to them, and therefore to be the prophet of this people, that he was called. But how mournful does the divine commission sound! It was the terrible opposite of that seraphic mission, which the prophet had experienced in himself. The seraph had absolved Isaiah by the burning coal, that he as prophet might not absolve, but harden his people by his word. They were to hear and see, and that continually as the gerundives imply (Ges. 131, 3, b; Ewald, 280, b), by having the prophet's preaching actu directo constantly before them; but not to their salvation. The two prohibitory expressions, "understand not" and "perceive not," show what the result of the prophet's preaching was to be, according to the judicial will of God. And the imperatives in v. 10 are not to be understood as simply instructing the prophet to tell the people what God had determined to do; for the fact that "prophets are often said to do what they announce as about to happen," in proof of which Jeremiah 1:10 is sometimes quoted (cf., Jeremiah 31:28; Hosea 6:5; Ezekiel 43:3), has its truth not in a rhetorical figure, but in the very nature of the divine word. The prophet was the organ of the word of God, and the word of God was the expression of the will of God, and the will of God is a divine act that has not yet become historical. For this reason a prophet might very well be said to perform what he announced as about to happen: God was the Causa efficiens principalis, the word was the Causa media, and the prophet the Causa ministerialis. This is the force of the three imperatives; they are three figurative expressions of the idea of hardening. The first, hishmin, signifies to make fat (pinguem), i.e., without susceptibility or feeling for the operations of divine grace (Psalm 119:70); the second, hicbı̄d, to make heavy, more especially heavy or dull of hearing (Isaiah 59:1); the third, השׁע or השׁע (whence the imperative השׁע or השׁע), to smear thickly, or paste over, i.e., to put upon a person what is usually the result of weak eyes, which become firmly closed by the hardening of the adhesive substance secreted in the night. The three future clauses, with "lest" (pen), point back to these three imperatives in inverse order: their spiritual sight, spiritual hearing, and spiritual feeling were to be taken away, their eyes becoming blind, and their ears deaf, and their hearts being covered over with the grease of insensibility.

Under the influence of these futures the two preterites לו ורפא שׁב affirm what might have been the result if this hardening had not taken place, but what would never take place now. The expression ל רפא is used in every other instance in a transitive sense, "to heal a person or a disease," and never in the sense of becoming well or being healed; but in the present instance it acquires a passive sense from the so-called impersonal construction (Ges. 137, 3), "and one heal it," i.e., "and it be healed:" and it is in accordance with this sense that it is paraphrased in Mark 4:12, whereas in the three other passages in which the words are quoted in the New Testament (viz., Matthew, John, and Acts) the Septuagint rendering is adopted, "and I should heal them" (God Himself being taken as the subject). The commission which the prophet received, reads as though it were quite irreconcilable with the fact that God, as the Good, can only will what is good. But our earlier doctrinarians have suggested the true solution, when they affirm that God does not harden men positive aut effective, since His true will and direct work are man's salvation, but occasionaliter et eventualiter, since the offers and displays of salvation which man receives necessarily serve to fill up the measure of his sins, and judicialiter so far as it is the judicial will of God, that what was originally ordained for men's salvation should result after all in judgment, in the case of any man upon whom grace has ceased to work, because all its ways and means have been completely exhausted. It is not only the loving will of God which is good, but also the wrathful will into which His loving will changes, when determinately and obstinately resisted. There is a self-hardening in evil, which renders a man thoroughly incorrigible, and which, regarded as the fruit of his moral behaviour, is no less a judicial punishment inflicted by God, than self-induced guilt on the part of man. The two are bound up in one another, inasmuch as sin from its very nature bears its own punishment, which consists in the wrath of God excited by sin. For just as in all the good that men do, the active principle is the love of God; so in all the harm that they do, the active principle is the wrath of God. An evil act in itself is the result of self-determination proceeding from a man's own will; but evil, regarded as the mischief in which evil acting quickly issues, is the result of the inherent wrath of God, which is the obverse of His inherent love; and when a man hardens himself in evil, it is the inward working of God's peremptory wrath. To this wrath Israel had delivered itself up through its continued obstinacy in sinning. And consequently the Lord now proceeded to shut the door of repentance against His people. Nevertheless He directed the prophet to preach repentance, because the judgment of hardness suspended over the people as a whole did not preclude the possibility of the salvation of individuals.

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