Isaiah 6:11
Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,
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(11) Lord, how long?—The prophet asks the question which is ever on the lips of those who are brought face to face with the problems of the world, with the great mystery of evil, sin permitted to work out fresh evil as its punishment, and yet remaining evil. How long shall all this last? So a later prophet, towards the close of the seventy years of exile, cried once again, “How long?” (Daniel 8:13). So the cry, “How long, O Lord, dost thou not judge?” came from the souls beneath the altar (Revelation 6:10).

Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant.—The words answer the immediate question of the prophet within its horizon. They suggest an answer to all analogous questions. Stroke after stroke must come, judgment after judgment, till the sin has been adequately punished; but the darkness of the prospect, terrible as it is, does not exclude the glimmer of an eternal hope for the far-off future.

Isaiah 6:11-12. Then said I, Lord, how long? — An abrupt speech, arising from the prophet’s great passion and astonishment: how long shall this dreadful judgment last? Until the cities be wasted, &c. — Until this land be totally destroyed, first by the Babylonians, and afterward by the Romans. And the Lord have removed men far away — Hath caused this people to be carried away captive into far countries. And there be a great forsaking — Till houses and lands be generally forsaken of their owners. The reader wilt observe, “There is a remarkable gradation in denouncing these judgments; not only Jerusalem and the cities should be wasted without inhabitant, but even the single houses should be without man; and not only the houses of the cities, but even the country should be utterly desolate; and not only the people should be removed out of the land, but the Lord should remove them far away; and they should not be removed for a short period, but there should be a great, or rather, a long forsaking in the midst of the land. And hath not the world seen all these particulars exactly fulfilled? Have not the Jews laboured under a spiritual blindness and infatuation, in hearing, but not understanding, in seeing, but not perceiving the Messiah, after the accomplishment of so many prophecies, after the performance of so many miracles? And, in consequence of their refusal to convert and be healed, have not their cities been wasted without inhabitants, and their houses without man? Have they not been removed far away into the most distant parts of the earth? and hath not their removal, or banishment, been now of above 1700 years duration? And do they not still continue deaf and blind, obstinate and unbelieving? The Jews, at the time of the delivery of this prophecy, gloried in being the peculiar church and people of God; and would any Jew, of himself, have thought or have said, that his nation would, in process of time, become an infidel and reprobate nation; infidel and reprobate for many ages, oppressed by man, and forsaken of God? It was above 750 years before Christ that Isaiah predicted these things; and how could he have predicted them, unless he had been illuminated by the divine vision; or could they have succeeded accordingly, unless the Spirit of prophecy had been the Spirit of God?” See Bishop Newton on the Prophecies, vol. 1. p. 233.6:9-13 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.How long - The prophet did not dare to pray that this effect should not follow. He asked merely therefore "how long" this state of things must continue; how long this message was to be delivered, and how long it should be attended with these painful effects.

Until the cities ... - They will remain perverse and obstinate until the land is completely destroyed by divine judgments. Still the truth is to be proclaimed, though it is known it will have no effect in reforming the nation. This refers, doubtless, to the destruction that was accomplished by the Babylonians.

The houses without man - This is strong language, denoting the certain and widespread desolation that should come upon the nation.

11. how long—will this wretched condition of the nation being hardened to its destruction continue?

until—(Isa 5:9)—fulfilled primarily at the Babylonish captivity, and more fully at the dispersion under the Roman Titus.

Lord, how long? an abrupt speech, arising from the prophet’s great passion and astonishment. How long shall this dreadful judgment last?

Until the land be utterly desolate; until this land be totally destroyed, first by the Babylonians, and afterward by the Romans. Then said I, Lord, how long?.... That is, how long will this blindness, hardness, stupidity, and impenitence, remain with this people, or they be under such a sore judgment of God upon them:

and he answered, until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate; until there is not an inhabitant in the cities of Judea, nor in Jerusalem, the metropolis of the land, nor a single man in any house in them; which denotes the utter desolation of the land and city; and can refer to no other than to the desolation thereof by the Romans; and till that time the blindness which happened to them continued; the things which belonged to their peace were hid from their eyes till their city was destroyed, and not one stone left upon another, Luke 19:42 till that time, and even to this day, the veil of blindness, ignorance, and and penitence, is on their hearts, and will remain until they are converted to the Lord, in the latter day; see Romans 11:25, 2 Corinthians 3:14.

Then said I, Lord, {p} how long? And he answered, Until the cities shall be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,

(p) As he was moved with the zeal of God's glory, so was he touched with a charitable affection toward the people.

11. Lord, how long?] The prophet feels that in the divine counsels there must be a limit to this process of judicial hardening, that it must reach a crisis with a day of hope beyond it. But the answer is “Not till the existing Israel has been annihilated.”

Until the cities … without man] (Omit the.) Cf. ch. Isaiah 5:9.

and the land be utterly desolate] lit. “be wasted to desolation.” LXX., changing a letter, reads “and the land be left a desolation.”

11–13. The hardening of the people in unbelief is to be accompanied by a series of external judgments, culminating in the utter ruin of the nation.Verse 11. - Then said I, Lord, how long? Either, "How long am I to continue this preaching?" or, "How long is this blindness and callousness of the people to continue?" Isaiah assumes that he has not heard as yet God's final purpose; that there is some merciful intention kept in reserve, which is to take effect after the close of the period of judgment. The cities... the houses; rather, cities... houses. An entire desolation of the whole land, and extermination of its inhabitants, is not prophesied, and never took place. Nebuchadnezzar "left of the poor of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen" (2 Kings 25:12; Jeremiah 39:10). Even when the great mass of these persons went into Egypt and perished there (Jeremiah 44:11-27), a certain number escaped and returned to Palestine (Jeremiah 44:14, 28). The land; rather, the ground, the soil. The seer, who was at first overwhelmed and intoxicated by the majestic sight, now recovers his self-consciousness."Then said I, Woe to me! for I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I am dwelling among a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts." That a man cannot see God without dying is true in itself, and was an Old Testament conviction throughout (Exodus 33:20, etc.). He must die, because the holiness of God is to the sinner a consuming fire (Isaiah 33:14); and the infinite distance between the creature and the Creator is sufficient of itself to produce a prostrating effect, which even the seraphim could not resist without veiling their faces. Isaiah therefore regarded himself as lost (nidmēthi, like ὄλωλα, perii, a preterite denoting the fact which, although not outwardly completed, is yet effected so far as a man's own consciousness is concerned), and all the more because he himself was of unclean lips, and he was also a member of a nation of unclean lips. The unholiness of his own person was doubled, in consequence of the closeness of the natural connection, by the unholiness of the nation to which he belonged. He designates this unholiness as uncleanness of lips, because he found himself transported into the midst of choirs of beings who were praising the Lord with pure lips; and he calls the King Jehovah, because, although he had not seen Jehovah face to face, he had seen the throne, and the all-filling robe, and the seraphim who surrounded and did homage to Him that sat upon the throne; and therefore, as he had seen the heavenly King in His revealed majesty, he describes the scene according to the impression that he had received. But to stand here in front of Jehovah of hosts, the exalted King, to whom everything does homage, and to be obliged to remain mute in the consciousness of deep uncleanness, excited within him the annihilating anguish of self-condemnation. And this is expressed in the confession made by the contrite seer.
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