Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Also I heard the voice of the Lord.—The work of cleansing has made the prophet one of the heavenly brotherhood. He is as an angel called to an angel’s work. (Comp. Judges 2:1; Judges 5:23; Malachi 3:1.) He had before seen the glory of Jehovah, and had been overwhelmed with terror. Now he hears His voice (John 10:4), and it rouses him to self-consecration and activity.
Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?—The union of the singular and plural in the same sentence is significant. The latter does not admit of being explained as a pluralis majestatis, for the great kings of Assyria, and Babylon, and Persia always spoke of themselves in the singular (Records of the Past, passim), and the “plural of majesty” was an invention of the servility of the Byzantine court. A partial explanation is found in the fact that here, as elsewhere (1Kings 22:19 : Job 1:6; Job 2:1; and perhaps Genesis 1:26; Genesis 11:7), Jehovah is represented as a king in council. Christian thought has, however, scarcely erred in believing that the words were as a dim foreshadowing of the truth, afterwards to be revealed, of a plurality within the Unity. (See Note on Isaiah 6:3.) Psalm 110:1, which Isaiah may have known, suggested at least a duality. The question reveals to the prophet that there is a work to be done for Jehovah, that He needs an instrument for that work. It is implied that no angel out of the whole host, no man out of the whole nation, offers to undertake it. (Comp. Isaiah 63:3; Isaiah 63:5.) The prophet, with the ardour for work which follows on the sense of pardon, volunteers for it before he knows what it is. He reaches in one moment the supreme height of the faith which went forth, not knowing whither it went (Hebrews 11:8).Isaiah 6:8. Also I heard the voice of the Lord — We have here the third part of this vision, comprehending, 1st, A trial of the disposition of the prophet, now sanctified, with his reply to the Lord, in this verse; 2d, The command delivered to him concerning the execution of the divine judgment upon the Jews, of blindness, &c., Isaiah 6:9-10; Isaiah 3 d, A more full and explicit declaration of a most grievous temporal judgment, which should be joined with the spiritual one, Isaiah 6:11-13. — Vitringa. Whom shall I send? — God asks this question, not as if he were unresolved whom to send, but that Isaiah might have an opportunity of voluntarily offering his service. And who will go for us? — To deliver the following message. The change of the number, I and us, is very remarkable; and both being meant of one and the same Lord, do sufficiently intimate a plurality of persons in the Godhead. Then said I, Here am I, &c. — God’s last and great favour to him both encouraged and obliged him to be thus forward in his service.
Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? - The change of number here, from the singular to the plural, is very remarkable. Jerome, on this place, says that it indicates the 'sacrament' of the Trinity. The Septuagint renders it, 'whom shall I send, and who will go to this people?' The Chaldee, 'whom shall I send to prophesy, and who will go to teach?' The Syriac, 'whom shall I send, and who will go?' The Arabic has followed the Septuagint. The use of the plural pronouns "we and us," as applicable to God, occurs several times in the Old Testament. Thus, Genesis 1:26 : 'And God said, Let us make man in our image;' Genesis 11:6-7 : 'And Jehovah said, Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language.' Such a use of the name of God in the plural is very common, but it is not clear that there is a reference to the doctrine of the Trinity. In some cases, it is evident that it cannot have such a reference, and that no "argument" can be drawn from the use of that plural form in favor of such a doctrine.
Thus, in Isaiah 19:4, the expression 'a cruel lord,' is in the Hebrew in the plural, yet evidently denoting but one. The expression translated 'the most Holy One,' or 'the Holy,' is in the plural in Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 30:3. In 1 Samuel 19:13, 1 Samuel 19:16, the plural form is applied to a "household god," or an image; and the plural form is applied to God in Job 30:25, 'my Makers' (Hebrew); Ecclesiastes 12:1, 'thy Creators' (Heb,); Psalm 121:5, 'Yahweh is thy keepers' (Hebrew); see also Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 22:2; Isaiah 43:5; Isaiah 62:5. This is called by grammarians pluralis excellentice, or the plural form indicating majesty or honor. It is, in all countries, used in reference to kings and princes; and as God often represents himself as a "king" in the Scriptures, and speaks in the language that was usually applied to kings in oriental countries, no argument can be drawn from expressions like these in defense of the doctrine of the Trinity. There are unanswerable arguments enough in support of that doctrine, without resorting to those which are of doubtful authority.
That there are clearer intimations of the doctrines of the Trinity, than that contained in this and similar texts, is indubitable; but we must not set aside the early and somewhat obscure intimations of a doctrine, simply because it comes afterward to be exhibited with more fulness. Such is the plan of revelation; and, instead of despising early announcements, or deeming them useless, because better "proofs" of the doctrine in question can be found, we ought to admire the wisdom and goodness of God in this gradual development of truth. The same interest belongs to the work of thus tracing the rise and progress of truth in the Bible, as belongs to that of him who traces rivers to their fountain head, and proves that, far up amid mountains all but inaccessible, rises the tiny stream, on whose broad waters, as it nears the sea, navies float in proud array. No more visible, in its earlier outflowings, is this doctrine of the Trinity; yet by and by it is the element on which Christianity doats, and in which it lives and moves. Thus we see the unity and harmony of revelation in 11 ages; the doctrine is the same; the degree of manifestation only is different. The necessity of preserving and exhibiting this unity, gives to these early intimations an unspeakable importance; though some, through an excess of candor, would abandon them to the enemy. This text, and its parallels, Genesis 1:26; Genesis 3:22; Genesis 11:7, exhibit the Trinity in Revelation's dawn indistinctly - partially disclosed - revealing only a "plurality" of persons. As the light increases, the "three" persons are seen moving under the lifting shadows, until, in the New Testament, baptism is commanded in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and the existence and functions of each person are clearly unfolded.
The problem is, to account for the use of the plural number in these passages, consistently with the unity of God. The doctrine of the Trinity seems to furnish an easy and beautiful solution; but this solution has been rejected, not by Unitarians only, but by Trinitarians not a few. Various hypotheses have been offered: as, that in the creation of man Genesis 1:26, God associated with himself the heavens and the earth; or, that he consulted with angels; or, meant simply to indicate the importance of the work; or, perhaps, to supply a lesson of deliberation! These crudities are by most, however, long ago abandoned as untenable; and the solution most generally approved by such as reject that of the Trinity, is that furnished by an appeal to the "style of majesty." Oriental princes, it is alleged, from the most ancient times, used the plural number in publishing their decrees; and such is the style of royalty to this day. But, unfortunately for this theory, there is no evidence whatever that ancient potentates employed this style. "The use of the plural number by kings and princes, is quite a modern invention." The Bible does not furnish any example of it. Nor is there any evidence that God himself, on especially solemn occasions, keeping out of sight, of course, the text in question, used such style; there is abundant evidence to the contrary, the singular number being used by Yahweh in the most sublime and awful declarations.
Besides this strange use of the plural number on the part of God himself, plural names (אלהים 'elohı̂ym, אדנים 'ădônâyı̂m) are frequently given to him by the writers of the Bible; the instances in which these names occur in the singular form, are the exceptions. The name usually rendered "God" in the English Bible, is almost invariably plural - אלהים 'elohı̂ym, Gods. That these plural forms are used of idols, as well as of the true God, is admitted; but as the special names of the true God came, in process of time, to be applied to idols, so would the special "form" of these names, and to tell us that these forms "are" so applied, is quite beside the question. We wish to know why, originally, such forms were applied to the "true" God; and it is no answer to tell us they are also applied to idols. 'There is nothing more wonderful in the name being so used in the plural form, than in its being so used at all.
The same principle which accounts for the name God being given to pagan deities at all, will equally well account for its being given to them in the particular form in which it is applied to the true God.' - "Wardlaw." This is pointed and decisive; and renders it needless to speculate here on the mode in which the name, or the plural form of it, came to be transferred to false gods, or great men. On this point, see Dr. John Pye Smith's "Scripture testimony to the Messiah." It is further remarkable, that these plural appellatives are, for the most part combined with verbs and adjectives in the singular number; as, 'Gods (he) created,' Genesis 1:1; and with plural adjuncts but rarely. Now, the ordinary rule of grammar might have been followed invariably, as well as in these few instances, or the departures from it might have been but few in number. That this is not the case, implies the existence of some very cogent reason, and cannot be regarded as the result, merely, of accident.
To account for the use of these plural names, our author has recourse to what is called the pluralis majestaticus, or excellentiae, according to which, nouns of dignity and majesty, in Hebrew, are said to be used in the plural form. But the existence of this pluralis majestaticus has never been proved. Its defense is now abandoned by the most skillful grammarians. Ewald repudiates it. And it is not a little remarkable, that some of the examples most relied on for proof of this "dignified plural," are found, on examination, to possess nothing of the dignity, while more exact scholarship has reduced their plurality also. The examples alluded to, are, Exodus 21:29, Exodus 21:34; Exodus 22:10, Exodus 22:13; Isaiah 1:3; where the supposed plural form denotes the owner of oxen, of sheep, and of asses! - fit parties, doubtless, to be honored with the pluralis majestaticus. In truth, leaving out of view the plural appellatives applied to the Deity, that is, the appellatives in question, and which, therefore, cannot be adduced, there is no evidence whatever of this pretended rule. Had any rule of the kind existed, we should, without doubt, have found it exemplified, when kings, princes, nobles, generals, priests, and prophets figure on the sacred pages. That the pluralis excellentiae is not applied to them, is sufficient proof of its nonexistence; and should dispose rational and candid inquirers to acquiesce in the solution of the grammatical anomalies we have been considering, that is furnished by the doctrine of Trinity in Unity - the solution which, to say the least of it, is beset with fewest difficulties.
The language here idicates the "design" for which this vision was shown to Isaiah. It was to commission him to exhibit truth that would be extremely unpleasant to the nation, and that would have the certain effect of hardening their hearts. In view of the nature and effect of this message, God is represented as inquiring who would be willing to undertake it? Who had courage enough to do it? Who would risk his life? And it indicates, perhaps, that there were "few" in the nation who would be willing to do it, and that it was attended with self-denial and danger.
Here am I-- This shows at once his confidence in God, and his zeal. He had been qualified for it by the extraordinary commission, and he was now ready to bear the message to his countrymen. In this attitude "we" should stand, prompt to deliver "any" message that God shall entrust to our hands, and to engage in "any" service that he calls on us to perform.
Whom … who—implying that few would be willing to bear the self-denial which the delivering of such an unwelcome message to the Jews would require on the part of the messenger (compare 1Ch 29:5).
Here am I—prompt zeal, now that he has been specially qualified for it (Isa 6:7; compare 1Sa 3:10, 11; Ac 9:6).Whom shall I send, and who will go for us, to deliver the following message? The change of the number,
us, is very remarkable; and both being meant of one and the same Lord, do sufficiently intimate a plurality of persons in the Godhead.
Here am I; send me: God’s last and great favour to him did both encourage and oblige him to be forward in God’s service.
saying, Whom shall I send? to the people of Israel, to reprove them for their blindness and stupidity, and to threaten them, and foretell unto them their ruin and destruction; intimating that it was a difficult thing to pitch upon a proper person; and that there were but few that were fit to go on such an errand: this is spoken after the manner of men; otherwise the Lord knew whom to send, and whom he would send; and could easily qualify anyone he pleased, and send with such a message:
and who will go for us? not directing his discourse to the seraphim, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi; as if he consulted with them: for who of all the creatures is the Lord's counsellor? but to the Son and Spirit, who it is certain were concerned in this mission; for the following words were said when Isaiah saw the glory of Christ, and spake of him, John 12:41 and they are expressly attributed to the Holy Ghost in Acts 28:25 the Septuagint and Arabic versions, instead of "for us", read "unto this people"; and the Targum is,
"whom shall I send to prophesy? and who will go to teach?''
then said I, here am I, send me: for he who before thought himself undone, and unworthy to be employed in the service of God, now having a discovery and application of pardoning grace, freely offers himself to God: this shows the true nature and effect of an application of pardon; it gives a man freedom and boldness in the presence of God, and stimulates to a ready and cheerful obedience to his will, and engages him with the utmost alacrity in his service; so far is the doctrine of free and full pardon by the blood of Christ from being a licentious doctrine.Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)8. Now for the first time Isaiah hears the voice of God, the purification of his lips having fitted him for personal converse with Jehovah and spiritual sympathy with His purposes.
who will go for us?] The plural is not that of majesty, but includes the “council of the holy ones” (Psalm 89:7), or the angelic “hosts of heaven” (1 Kings 22:19 f.).
Here am I; send me] The spontaneity and self-abandonment of this response are characteristic of Isaiah. He is as yet ignorant of the nature of his commission, yet he freely accepts it; and throughout life he never felt his message to be a grievous burden, as Jeremiah often did.Verses 8-13. - THE PROPHET ENTRUSTED WITH A SPECIAL MISSON. We do not know what special call Isaiah had had previously. Perhaps he had been brought up in the "schools of the prophets." Perhaps, when the "word of the Lord" came to him, he had accepted the fact as sufficient call. Now, however, he had, in vision, a clear and distinct call and mission (vers. 8, 9). He was told to "go," and instructed as to what he was to say (vers. 9, 10). As before (Isaiah 1-5.), while in the main he was to denounce woe, he was still to proclaim the survival of a remnant (vers. 10-12). Verse 8. - Whom shall I send? (comp. 1 Kings 20:20). Such questions enable those who wait in the courts of heaven to show their zeal and readiness. Who will go for us? Some explain the plural pronoun as used of the Almighty and those with whom he is consulting. But he does not really "consult" his creatures (infra, Isaiah 40:14; Romans 11:34), nor do his messengers do his errands for them. The plural form is best explained by the light which ver. 3 throws on it, as indicative of the doctrine of the Trinity (comp. Genesis 1:26). Exodus 18:13; Jeremiah 36:21; compared 2 Chronicles 26:19, where the latter is used to signify "over against" the altar of incense), and is used in this sense to denote the attitude of spirits (Job 1:16; 1 Kings 22:19; Zechariah 6:5), and even of men (Zechariah 4:14), in relation to God when seated on His throne, in which case it cannot possibly be employed in the sense of "towering above;" yet לו ממּעל, the strongest expression for supra, cannot be employed in any other than a literal sense here; for which reason Rashi and the Targums understand it as signifying "above in the attitude of service," and the accentuation apparently, though erroneously, implies this (Luzzatto). What Isaiah meant by this standing above, may be inferred from the use which the seraphim are said to have made of their wings. The imperfects do not describe what they were accustomed to do (Bttcher and others), but what the seer saw them do: with two of their six wings he saw them fly. Thus they stood flying, i.e., they hovered or soared (cf., Numbers 14:14), as both the earth and stars are said to stand, although suspended in space (Job 26:7). The seraphim would not indeed tower above the head of Him that sat upon the throne, but they hovered above the robe belonging to Him with which the hall was filled, sustained by two extended wings, and covering their faces with two other wings in their awe at the divine glory (Targ. ne videant), and their feet with two others, in their consciousness of the depth at which the creature stands below the Holiest of all (Targ. ne videantur), just as the cherubim are described as veiling their bodies in Ezekiel 1:11. This is the only passage in the Scriptures in which the seraphim are mentioned. According to the orthodox view, which originated with Dionysius the Areopagite, they stand at the head of the nine choirs of angels, the first rank consisting of seraphim, cherubim, and throni. And this is not without support, if we compare the cherubim mentioned in Ezekiel, which carried the chariot of the divine throne; whereas here the seraphim are said to surround the seat on which the Lord was enthroned. In any case, the seraphim and cherubim were heavenly beings of different kinds; and there is no weight in the attempts made by Hendewerk and Stickel to prove that they are one and the same. And certainly the name serpahim does not signify merely spirits as such, but even, if not the highest of all, yet a distinct order from the rest; for the Scriptures really teach that there are gradations in rank in the hierarchy of heaven. Nor were they mere symbols or fanciful images, as Hvernick imagines, but real spiritual beings, who visibly appeared to the prophet, and that in a form corresponding to their own supersensuous being, and to the design of the whole transaction. Whilst these seraphim hovered above on both sides of Him that sat upon the throne, and therefore formed two opposite choirs, each ranged in a semicircle, they presented antiphonal worship to Him that sat upon the throne.
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