Isaiah 64:10
Your holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.
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(10) Thy holy cities . . .—There is no other instance of the plural, and this probably led the LXX. and Vulg. to substitute the singular. It probably rests on the thought that the whole land was holy (Zechariah 2:12), and that this attribute extended, therefore, to all its cities, especially to those which were connected with historical memories. Possibly, however, Zion and Jerusalem—the former identified with the Temple, the latter with the people of Jehovah—are thought of as two distinct cities, locally united. The “wilderness” is, as elsewhere, rather open pasture-land than a sandy desert.

Isaiah 64:10-12. Thy holy cities — Zion and Jerusalem, mentioned immediately after; or other cities also in the land of Judea besides these two; called holy, because God had his synagogues in them, in which he was worshipped, Psalm 74:8. Zion is a wilderness, &c. — Utterly waste: not only the ordinary cities, but Zion and Jerusalem themselves are in a state of ruin and desolation. Our holy and beautiful house — Our temple. Not only our principal cities, but even our temple, which we thought sacred and inviolable, in which we gloried, because it was thine, and our fathers’ house, and ours: the place where thy holy service was performed, and thy glory and presence were wont to be manifested. Where our fathers praised thee — They do not presume to mention themselves, having been every way so very abominable; but put the Lord in mind of their fathers, many of whom were his faithful servants, having praised him there. Is burned up with fire — This relates to the burning of the temple by the Romans, who made an entire destruction of it, according to our Saviour’s prediction, Matthew 24:2. And all our pleasant things are laid waste — Not only the pleasant land, but all that was magnificent, ornamental, or desirable in Jerusalem, or any other city, town, or place. Wilt thou refrain, or, contain, thyself for, or, at, these things — Wilt thou behold them unmoved, as an indifferent spectator? Wilt thou neither show thy compassion toward thy servants, nor thy resentment toward thine enemies? Wilt thou hold thy peace — Wilt thou be as one that regards not? And afflict us very sore — And persist to afflict us in thy continued hot displeasure? 64:6-12 The people of God, in affliction, confess and bewail their sins, owning themselves unworthy of his mercy. Sin is that abominable thing which the Lord hates. Our deeds, whatever they may seem to be, if we think to merit by them at God's hand, are as rags, and will not cover us; filthy rags, and will but defile us. Even our few good works in which there is real excellence, as fruits of the Spirit, are so defective and defiled as done by us, that they need to be washed in the fountain open for sin and uncleanness. It bodes ill when prayer is kept back. To pray, is by faith to take hold of the promises the Lord has made of his good-will to us, and to plead them; to take hold of him, earnestly begging him not to leave us; or soliciting his return. They brought their troubles upon themselves by their own folly. Sinners are blasted, and then carried away, by the wind of their own iniquity; it withers and then ruins them. When they made themselves as an unclean thing, no wonder that God loathed them. Foolish and careless as we are, poor and despised, yet still Thou art our Father. It is the wrath of a Father we are under, who will be reconciled; and the relief our case requires is expected only from him. They refer themselves to God. They do not say, Lord, rebuke us not, for that may be necessary; but, Not in thy displeasure. They state their lamentable condition. See what ruin sin brings upon a people; and an outward profession of holiness will be no defence against it. God's people presume not to tell him what he shall say, but their prayer is, Speak for the comfort and relief of thy people. How few call upon the Lord with their whole hearts, or stir themselves to lay hold upon him! God may delay for a time to answer our prayers, but he will, in the end, answer those who call on his name and hope in his mercy.Thy holy cities are a wilderness - It is to be remembered that this is supposed to be spoken near the close of the exile in Babylon. In accordance with the usual custom in this book, Isaiah throws himself forward by prophetic anticipation into that future period, and describes the scene as if it were passing before his eyes (see the Introduction, Section 7). He uses language such as the exiles would use; he puts arguments into their mouths which it would be proper for them to use; he describes the feelings which they would then have. The phrase, 'thy holy cities,' may either mean the cities of the holy land - which belonged to God, and were 'holy,' as they pertained to his people; or it may mean, as many critics have supposed, the different parts of Jerusalem. A part of Jerusalem was built on Mount Zion, and was called the 'upper city,' in contradistinction from that built on Mount Acra, which was called the 'lower city.' But I think it more probable that the prophet refers to the cities throughout the land that were laid waste.

Are a wilderness - They were uninhabited, and were lying in ruins.

Zion is a wilderness - On the name 'Zion,' see the notes at Isaiah 1:8. The idea here is, that Jerusalem was laid waste. Its temple was burned; its palaces destroyed; its houses uninhabited. This is to be regarded as being uttered at the close of the exile, after Jerusalem had been lying in ruins for seventy years - a time during which any forsaken city would be in a condition which might not improperly be called a desert. When Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, he burned the temple, broke down the wall, and consumed all the palaces with fire (2 Chronicles 36:19). We have only to conceive what must have been the state of the city seventy years after this, to see the force of the description here.

10. holy cities—No city but Jerusalem is called "the holy city" (Isa 48:2; 52:1); the plural, therefore, refers to the upper and the lower parts of the same city Jerusalem [Vitringa]; or all Judea was holy to God, so its cities were deemed "holy" [Maurer]. But the parallelism favors Vitringa. Zion and Jerusalem (the one city) answering to "holy cities." Thy holy cities; either Zion and Jerusalem, being the cities they instance in: q.d. Thy holy cities, viz. Zion and Jerusalem: or rather, other cities also in the land of Judea besides those two; called holy, either,

1. Because they were built upon God’s inheritance, Isaiah 63:17. Or,

2. Because they were inhabited by the Jews, who were a holy people, Deu 7:6 Daniel 12:7. Or,

3. Because God had his synagogues in them, Psalm 74:8. For all which reasons also they are called thy cities.

A desolation; utterly waste; not only the ordinary cities, but even Jerusalem and Zion themselves; the one called the upper Jerusalem, or the city of David, because it was built upon Mount Zion; the other the lower city, because it lay under the hill of Zion in the valley: he particularizeth Zion and Jerusalem, though he had mentioned the other cities before, because the chiefest of the cities; it being usual, notwithstanding the mentioning of generals, in which all the particulars or individuals are included, to name the particular again; as, and from the hand of Saul, Psalm 18:1. Thy holy cities are a wilderness,.... Meaning either Zion, the city of David, and Jerusalem; the one called the upper, the other the lower city; now uninhabited, and a mere wilderness: or else the other cities of Judea, in which were formerly synagogues for religious service, and in which dwelt many godly families where the worship of God was kept up; but now a desert, at least quite devoid of true religion and godliness.

Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation; which are either explanative of the holy cities in the preceding clauses, or are mentioned as distinct from them; the account proceeding from the lesser to the metropolitan cities, which fared no better than they did, but equally lay desolate; and which fulfilled the prophecy in Micah 3:12 and was the case of those cities, at the destruction of them by Titus; and to this day are in a ruinous condition in the hands of the Turks.

{l} Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.

(l) Who were dedicated to your service, and to call on your Name.

10. Thy holy cities] is a phrase which does not occur elsewhere, and both LXX. and Vulg. substitute the sing. for the plur. It is not necessary, however, to follow them. If the land is holy (Zechariah 2:12) there is no reason why the epithet should not be applied to all its cities.

10, 11. The evidences of Jehovah’s displeasure are to be seen on every hand, in the desolation and ruin of the sacred places.Verse 10. - Thy holy cities are a wilderness. Commonly Jerusalem stands alone as "the holy city" (Isaiah 48:2; Isaiah 56:1; Daniel 9:24; Nehemiah 11:1, 18); but here the epithet is applied to the cities of Judah generally. They were all in a certain sense "holy," as being comprised within the limits of "the holy land" (Zechariah 2:12) and "the holy border" (Psalm 78:54). Zion... Jerusalem (see the comment on Isaiah 62:1). After the long period governed by לוּא has thus been followed by the retrospect in Isaiah 64:3 (4.), it is absolutely impossible that Isaiah 64:4 (5a) should be intended as an optative, in the sense of "O that thou wouldst receive him that," etc., as Stier and others propose. The retrospect is still continued thus: "Thou didst meet him that rejoiceth to work righteousness, when they remembered Thee in Thy ways." צדק ועשׂה שׂשׂ is one in whom joy and right action are paired, and is therefore equivalent to לעשׂות שׂשׂ. At the same time, it may possibly be more correct to take צדק as the object of both verses, as Hofmann does in the sense of "those who let what is right be their joy, and their action also;" for though שׂוּשׂ (שׂישׂ) cannot be directly construed with the accusative of the object, as we have already observed at Isaiah 8:6 and Isaiah 35:1, it may be indirectly, as in this passage and Isaiah 65:18. On pâga‛, "to come to meet," in the sense of "coming to the help of," see at Isaiah 47:3; it is here significantly interchanged with בּדרכיך of the minor clause bidrâkhekhâ yizkerūkhâ, "those who remember Thee in Thy ways" (for the syntax, compare Isaiah 1:5 and Isaiah 26:16): "When such as love and do right, walking in Thy ways, remembered Thee (i.e., thanked Thee for grace received, and longed for fresh grace), Thou camest again and again to meet them as a friend."

But Israel appeared to have been given up without hope to the wrath of this very God. Isaiah 64:4 (5b). "Behold, Thou, Thou art enraged, and we stood as sinners there; already have we been long in this state, and shall we be saved?" Instead of hēn ‛attâh (the antithesis of now and formerly), the passage proceeds with hēn 'attâh. There was no necessity for 'attâh with qâtsaphtâ; so that it is used with special emphasis: "Behold, Thou, a God who so faithfully accepts His own people, hast broken out in wrath." The following word ונּחטא cannot mean "and we have sinned," but is a fut. consec., and therefore must mean at least, "then we have sinned" (the sin inferred from the punishment). It is more correct, however, to take it, as in Genesis 43:9, in the sense of, "Then we stand as sinners, as guilty persons:" the punishment has exhibited Israel before the world, and before itself, as what it really is (consequently the fut. consec. does not express the logical inference, but the practical consequence). As ונחטא has tsakeph, and therefore the accents at any rate preclude Shelling's rendering, "and we have wandered in those ways from the very earliest times," we must take the next two clauses as independent, if indeed בהם is to be understood as referring to בדרכיך. Stier only goes halfway towards this when he renders it, "And indeed in them (the ways of God, we sinned) from of old, and should we be helped?" This is forced, and yet not in accordance with the accents. Rosenmller and Hahn quite satisfy this demand when they render it, "Tamen in viis tuis aeternitas ut salvemur;" but ‛ōlâm, αἰών, in this sense of αἰωνιότης, is not scriptural. The rendering adopted by Besser, Grotius, and Starck is a better one: "(Si vero) in illis (viis tuis) perpetuo (mansissemus), tunc servati fuerimus" (if we had continued in Thy ways, then we should have been preserved). But there is no succession of tenses here, which could warrant us in taking ונוּשׁע as a paulo-post future; and Hofmann's view is syntactically more correct, "In them (i.e., the ways of Jehovah) eternally, we shall find salvation, after the time is passed in which He has been angry and we have sinned" (or rather, been shown to be guilty). But we question the connection between בהם and רדכיך in any form. In our view the prayer suddenly takes a new turn from hēn (behold) onwards, just as it did with lū' (O that) in Isaiah 64:1; and רדכיך in Isaiah 64:5 stands at the head of a subordinate clause. Hence בהם must refer back to ונחטא קצפת ("in Thine anger and in our sins," Schegg). There is no necessity, however, to search for nouns to which to refer בּהם. It is rather to be taken as neuter, signifying "therein" (Ezekiel 33:18, cf., Psalm 90:10), like עליהם, thereupon equals thereby (Isaiah 38:16), בּהן therein (Isaiah 37:16), מהם thereout (Isaiah 30:6), therefrom (Isaiah 44:15). The idea suggested by such expressions as these is no doubt that of plurality (here a plurality of manifestations of wrath and of sins), but one which vanishes into the neuter idea of totality. Now we do justice both to the clause without a verb, which, being a logical copula, admits simply of a present sumus; and also to ‛ōlâm, which is the accusative of duration, when we explain the sentence as meaning, "In this state we are and have been for a long time." ‛Olâm is used in other instances in these prophecies to denote the long continuance of the sate of punishment (see Isaiah 42:14; Isaiah 57:11), since it appeared to the exiles as an eternity (a whole aeon), and what lay beyond it as but a little while (mits‛âr, Isaiah 63:18). The following word ונוּשׁע needs no correction. There is no necessity to change it into ונּתע, as Ewald proposes, after the lxx καὶ ἐπλανήθημεν ("and we fell into wandering"), or what would correspond still more closely to the lxx (cf., Isaiah 46:8, פשׁעים, lxx πεπλανήμενοι), but is less appropriate here, into ונּפשׁע ("and we fell into apostasy"), the reading supported by Lowth and others. If it were necessary to alter the text at all, we might simply transpose the letters, and read וּנשׁוּע, "and cried for help." But if we take it as a question, "And shall we experience salvation - find help?" there is nothing grammatically inadmissible in this (compare Isaiah 28:28), and psychologically it is commended by the state of mind depicted in Isaiah 40:27; Isaiah 59:10-12. Moreover, what follows attaches itself quite naturally to this.

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