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)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.”
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.
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.
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 6:4 : "And the foundations of the thresholds shook with the voice of them that cried; and the house became full of smoke." By ‛ammoth hassippim, the lxx, Vulgate, Syriac, and others understand the posts of the lintels, the supporting beams of the superliminaria, which closed the doorway at the top. But as saph is only used in other places to signify the threshold and porch (limen and vestibulum), ‛ammoth hassippim must be understood here in the (perfectly appropriate) sense of "the foundations of the thresholds" (ammâh, which bears the same relation to עם, mother, as matrix to mater, is used to denote the receptive basis into which the door-steps with their plugs were inserted, like the talmudic ammetâh derēchayyâh, the frame or box of the hand-mill (Berachoth 18b), and ammath megērah, the wood-work which runs along the back of the saw and keeps it firmly extended (Kelim 21, 3); compare the "Schraubenmutter," literally screw-mother, or female screw, which receives and holds the cylindrical screw). Every time that the choir of seraphim (הקּורא: compare such collective singulars as hâ'oreb, the ambush, in Joshua 8:19; hechâlutz, of men of war, in Joshua 6:7, etc.) began their song, the support of the threshold of the porch in which Isaiah was standing trembled. The building was seized with reverential awe throughout its whole extent, and in its deepest foundations: for in the blessed state beyond, nothing stands immoveable or unsusceptible in relation to the spirits there; but all things form, as it were, the accidentia of their free personality, yielding to their impressions, and voluntarily following them in all their emotions. The house was also "filled with smoke." Many compare this with the similar occurrence in connection with the dedication of Solomon's temple (1 Kings 8:10); but Drechsler is correct in stating that the two cases are not parallel, for there God simply attested His own presence by the cloud of smoke behind which He concealed Himself, whereas here there was no need of any such self-attestation. Moreover, in this instance God does not dwell in the cloud and thick darkness, whilst the smoke is represented as the effect of the songs of praise in which the seraphim have joined, and not of the presence of God. The smoke arose from the altar of incense mentioned in Isaiah 6:6. But when Drechsler says that it was the prayers of saints (as in Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3-4), which ascended to the Lord in the smoke, this is a thought which is quite out of place here. The smoke was the immediate consequence of the seraphs' song of praise.
This begins to throw a light upon the name seraphim, which may help us to decipher it. The name cannot possibly be connected with sârâph, a snake (Sanscr. sarpa, Lat. serpens); and to trace the word to a verb sâraph in the sense of the Arabic 'sarafa ('sarufa), to tower high, to be exalted, or highly honoured (as Gesenius, Hengstenberg, Hofmann, and others have done), yields a sense which does not very strongly commend itself. On the other hand, to follow Knobel, who reads shârâthim (worshippers of God), and thus presents the Lexicon with a new word, and to pronounce the word serpahim a copyist's error, would be a rash concession to the heaven-storming omnipotence which is supposed to reside in the ink of a German scholar. It is hardly admissible, however, to interpret the name as signifying directly spirits of light or fire, since the true meaning of sâraph is not urere (to burn), but Comburere (to set on fire or burn up). Umbreit endeavours to do justice to this transitive meaning by adopting the explanation "fiery beings," by which all earthly corruption is opposed and destroyed. The vision itself, however, appears to point to a much more distinctive and special meaning in the name, which only occurs in this passage of Isaiah. We shall have more to say upon this point presently.
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