Isaiah 6:9
And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear you indeed, but understand not; and see you indeed, but perceive not.
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(9) Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not.—No harder task, it may be, was ever given to man. Ardent dreams of reformation and revival, the nation renewing its strength like the eagle, were scattered to the winds; and he had to face the prospect of a fruitless labour, of feeling that he did but increase the evil against which he strove. It was the very opposite mission of that to which St. Paul was sent, to “open men’s eyes, and turn them from darkness to light” (Acts 26:18). It is significant that the words that followed were quoted both by the Christ (Matthew 13:14-15; Mark 4:12), by St. John (John 12:40), and by St. Paul (Acts 28:26-27), as finding their fulfilment in their own work and the analogous circumstances of their own time. History was repeating itself. To Isaiah, as with greater clearness to St. Paul (Romans 9-11), there was given the support of the thought that the failure which he saw was not total, that even then a “remnant should be saved;” that though his people had “stumbled,” they had not “fallen” irretrievably; that the ideal Israel should one day be realised. The words point at once to the guilt of “this people “—we note the touch of scorn (“populus iste”) in the manner in which they are mentioned (Isaiah 8:11; Isaiah 28:11; Isaiah 28:14; Matthew 9:3; Matthew 26:61)—and to its punishment. All was outward with them. Words did not enter into their minds (“heart,” i.e., “understanding,” rather than “feeling”). Events that were “signs of the times,” calls to repentance or to action, were taken as things of course. For such a state, after a certain stage, there is but one treatment. It must run its course and “dree its weird,” partly as a righteous retribution, partly as the only remedial process possible.

Isaiah 6:9-10. And he said, Go, and tell this people — Not my people, for I disown them as they have rejected me. Hear ye indeed, but understand not, &c. — The Hebrew words are imperative; yet they are not to be taken as a command, enjoining what the people ought to do, but only as a prediction foretelling what they would do. The sense is, Because you have so long heard my words, and seen my works, to no purpose, and have hardened your hearts, and will not learn nor reform, I will punish you in your own way; your sin shall be your punishment. I will still continue my word and works to you, but will withdraw my Spirit, so that you shall be as unable, as now you are unwilling, to understand. Make the heart of this people fat — Stupid and senseless. 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 withdrawing the light and help of his Spirit. Make their ears heavy — Make them dull of hearing. Lest they see with their eyes — That they may not be able, as before they were not willing to see. And convert — Turn from their sinful practices unto God; and be healed — Of sin, (which is the disease of the soul,) by remission and sanctification, and of all the deadly effects of sin. This prophecy might relate, in some measure, to the state of the Jews before the Babylonish captivity, but certainly it did not receive its full accomplishment till the days of our Lord; and in this sense it is understood and applied by the writers of the New Testament, and by Christ himself.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.And he said ... - The expressions which follow are those which denote hardness of heart and blindness of mind. They would hear the words of the prophet, but they would not understand him. They were so obstinately bent on iniquity that they would neither believe nor regard him. This shows the spirit with which ministers must deliver the message of God. It is their business to deliver the message, though they should know that it will neither be understood nor believed.

Hear ye indeed - Hebrew 'In hearing, hear.' This is a mode of expressing emphasis. This passage is quoted in Matthew 13:14; see thenote at that place.

9. Hear … indeed—Hebrew, "In hearing hear," that is, Though ye hear the prophet's warnings again and again, ye are doomed, because of your perverse will (Joh 7:17), not to understand. Light enough is given in revelation to guide those sincerely seeking to know, in order that they may do, God's will; darkness enough is left to confound the wilfully blind (Isa 43:8). So in Jesus' use of parables (Mt 13:14).

see … indeed—rather, "though ye see again and again," yet, &c.

This people; not

my people, for I disown them, as they have rejected me.

Understand not, perceive not: the Hebrew words are imperative; yet they are not to be taken as a command what the people ought to do, but only as a signification and prediction. what by their own wickedness, and by God’s just judgment, they did and would do, as is manifest by Matthew 13:14 Acts 28:26, where they are so rendered. And imperative words among the Hebrews are frequently put for the future, as is well known to the learned. The sense is, Because you have so long heard my words, and seen my works, to no purpose, and have hardened your hearts, and will not learn nor reform, I will punish you in your own kind, your sin shall be your punishment. I will still continue my word and works to you, not in mercy, and for your good, but to aggravate your sin and condemnation; for I will blind your minds, and withdraw my Spirit, so that you shall be as unable, as now you are unwilling, to understand or perceive any thing that may do you good. And he said, go, and tell this people,.... What is and will be their case and condition, as follows:

hear ye indeed; the words of the prophets sent unto them, yea, Christ himself incarnate preaching among them; the great Prophet Moses said should be raised up unto them:

but understand not; neither that he is the Messiah, nor the doctrines delivered by him; which were spoken to them in parables; see Matthew 13:13,

and see ye indeed: the miracles wrought by him, as raising the dead, cleansing the lepers, restoring sight to the blind, causing the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak:

but perceive not; that he is the Messiah, though all the characteristics pointed at in prophecy are upon him, and such miracles are done by him.

And he said, Go, and tell this people, {o} Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.

(o) By which is declared that for the malice of man God will not immediately take away his word, but he will cause it to be preached to their condemnation, when as they will not learn by it to obey his will, and be saved: by this he exhorts the ministers to do their duty, and answers to the wicked murmurers, that through their own malice their heart is hardened, Mt 13:14, Ac 28:26, Ro 11:8.

9. this people] A contemptuous designation of Israel, peculiar to Isaiah: cf. ch. Isaiah 8:6; Isaiah 8:12, Isaiah 9:16, Isaiah 28:11; Isaiah 28:14, Isaiah 29:13 f.

Hear ye indeed …] Rather:

Hear ye continually, but perceive not

And see ye continually, but understand not.

The verbs, of course, are imperatives. On the force of the inf. abs. see Davidson, Synt. § 86 c (where, however, a different view of this particular passage is taken).

9, 10. The first effect of Isaiah’s prophetic work: to increase the spiritual insensibility of the people. The prophet’s words will go hand in hand with the “work of Jehovah,” the development of His purpose in history (Isaiah 6:12, cf. Amos 3:7); the people shall hear the one and see the other, but neither will bring them to true insight.Verse 9. - Hear ye indeed... see ye indeed; literally, In hearing hear... in seeing see - with the force of "Listen and bear; look and see;" "Attend, "that is," with the outward souse, and catch all that sense can catch, but without perception of the inward meaning" (see Matthew 13:14; Mark 4:12, etc.). This is what they would do. Isaiah is bidden to exhort them, in grave irony, to do it. "And one cried to the other, and said, Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of hosts: filling the whole earth is His glory." The meaning is not that they all lifted up their voice in concert at one and the same time (just as in Psalm 42:8 el is not used in this sense, viz., as equivalent to C'neged), but that there was a continuous and unbroken antiphonal song. One set commenced, and the others responded, either repeating the "Holy, holy, holy," or following with "filling the whole earth is His glory." Isaiah heard this antiphonal or "hypophonal" song of the seraphim, not merely that he might know that the uninterrupted worship of God was their blessed employment, but because it was with this doxology as with the doxologies of the Apocalypse, it had a certain historical significance in common with the whole scene. God is in Himself the Holy One (kâdōsh), i.e., the separate One, beyond or above the world, true light, spotless purity, the perfect One. His glory (Câbod) is His manifested holiness, as Oetinger and Bengel express it, just as, on the other hand, His holiness is His veiled or hidden glory. The design of all the work of God is that His holiness should become universally manifest, or, what is the same thing, that His glory should become the fulness of the whole earth (Isaiah 11:9; Numbers 14:21; Habakkuk 2:14). This design of the work of God stands before God as eternally present; and the seraphim also have it ever before them in its ultimate completion, as the theme of their song of praise. But Isaiah was a man living in the very midst of the history that was moving on towards this goal; and the cry of the seraphim, in the precise form in which it reached him, showed him to what it would eventually come on earth, whilst the heavenly shapes that were made visible to him helped him to understand the nature of that divine glory with which the earth was to be filled. The whole of the book of Isaiah contains traces of the impression made by this ecstatic vision. The favourite name of God in the mouth of the prophet viz., "the Holy One of Israel" (kedosh Yisrael), is the echo of this seraphic sanctus; and the fact that this name already occurs with such marked preference on the part of the prophet in the addresses contained in Isaiah 1:2-4:5, supports the view that Isaiah is here describing his own first call. All the prophecies of Isaiah carry this name of God as their stamp. It occurs twenty-nine times (including Isaiah 10:17; Isaiah 43:15; Isaiah 49:7), viz., twelve times in chapters 1-39, and seventeen times in chapters 40-66. As Luzzatto has well observed, "the prophet, as if with a presentiment that the authenticity of the second part of his book would be disputed, has stamped both parts with this name of God, 'the Holy One of Israel,' as if with his own seal." The only other passages in which the word occurs, are three times in the Psalms (Psalm 71:22; Psalm 78:41; Psalm 89:19), and twice in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 50:29; Jeremiah 51:5), and that not without an allusion to Isaiah. It forms an essential part of Isaiah's distinctive prophetic signature. And here we are standing at the source from which it sprang. But did this thrice-holy refer to the triune God? Knobel contents himself with saying that the threefold repetition of the word "holy" serves to give it the greater emphasis. No doubt men are accustomed to say three times what they wish to say in an exhaustive and satisfying manner; for three is the number of expanded unity, of satisfied and satisfying development, of the key-note extended into the chord. But why is this? The Pythagoreans said that numbers were the first principle of all things; but the Scriptures, according to which God created the world in twice three days by ten mighty words, and completed it in seven days, teach us that God is the first principle of all numbers. The fact that three is the number of developed and yet self-contained unity, has its ultimate ground in the circumstance that it is the number of the trinitarian process; and consequently the trilogy (trisagion) of the seraphim (like that of the cherubim in Revelation 4:8), whether Isaiah was aware of it or no, really pointed in the distinct consciousness of the spirits themselves to the truine God.
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