Isaiah 64:4 Commentaries: For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, Nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.
Isaiah 64:4
For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither has the eye seen, O God, beside you, what he has prepared for him that waits for him.
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(4) Neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee . . .—The best commentators are in favour of rendering, Neither hath the eye seen a God beside Thee, who will work for him that waiteth for Him. The sense is not that God alone knows what He hath prepared, but that no man knows (sight and hearing being used as including all forms of spiritual apprehension) any god who does such great things as He does. St. Paul, in 1Corinthians 2:9, applies the words freely, after his manner, to the eternal blessings which God prepares for His people. Clement of Rome (chap. 34), it may be noted, makes a like application of the words, giving “those who wait for Him” (as in Isaiah), instead of “those who love Him.”

64:1-5 They desire that God would manifest himself to them and for them, so that all may see it. This is applicable to the second coming of Christ, when the Lord himself shall descend from heaven. They plead what God had used to do, and had declared his gracious purpose to do, for his people. They need not fear being disappointed of it, for it is sure; or disappointed in it, for it is sufficient. The happiness of his people is bound up in what God has designed for them, and is preparing for them, and preparing them for; what he has done or will do. Can we believe this, and then think any thing too great to expect from his truth, power, and love? It is spiritual and cannot be comprehended by human understanding. It is ever ready. See what communion there is between a gracious God and a gracious soul. We must make conscience of doing our duty in every thing the Lord our God requires. Thou meetest him; this speaks his freeness and forwardness in doing them good. Though God has been angry with us for our sins, and justly, yet his anger has soon ended; but in his favour is life, which goes on and continues, and on that we depend for our salvation.For since the beginning of the world - This verse is quoted, though not literally, by the apostle Paul, as illustrating the effects of the gospel in producing happiness and salvation (see the notes at 1 Corinthians 2:9). The meaning here is, that nowhere else among people had there been such blessings imparted, and such happiness enjoyed; or so many proofs of love and protection, as among those who were the people of God, and who feared him.

Men have not heard - In no nation in all past time have deeds been heard of such as thou hast performed.

Nor perceived by the ear - Paul 1 Corinthians 2:9 renders this 'neither have entered into the heart of man,' 'which,' says Lowth, 'is a phrase purely Hebrew, and which should seem to belong to the prophet.' The phrase, 'Nor perceived by the ear,' he says, is repeated without force or propriety, and he seems to suppose that this place has been either willfully corrupted by the Jews, or that Paul made his quotation from some Apocryphal book - either the ascension of Esaiah, or the Apocalypse of Elias, in both of which the passage is found as quoted by Paul. The phrase is wholly omitted by the Septuagint and the Arabic, but is found in the Vulgate and Syriac. There is no authority from the Hebrew manuscripts to omit it.

Neither hath the eye seen - The margin here undoubtedly expresses the true sense. So Lowth renders it, 'Nor hath the eye seen a God beside thee, which doeth such things for those that trust in him.' In a similar manner, the Septuagint translates it, 'Neither have our eyes seen a God beside thee (οὐδὲ οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ ἡμῶν εἶδον θεὸν πλήν σου oude hoi ophthalmoi hēmōn eidon theon plēn sou), and thy works which thou hast done for those who wait for mercy.' The sense is, no eye had ever seen such a God as Yahweh; one who so richly rewarded those who put their trust in him. In the Hebrew, the word rendered 'O God,' may be either in the accusative or vocative case, and the sense is, that Yahweh was a more glorious rewarder and protector than any of the gods which had ever been worshipped by the nations.

What he hath prepared - Hebrew, יעשׂה ya‛ăs'eh - 'He doeth,' or will do. So the Septuagint, Ἅ ποιήσεις Ha poiēseis - 'What thou wilt do.' The sense given by our translators - 'What he hath prepared,' has been evidently adopted to accommodate the passage to the sense given by Paul 1 Corinthians 2:9, ἅἠτοίμασεν, κ.τ.λ. ha ētoimasen, etc. 'What God has prepared.' But the idea is, in the Hebrew, not what God has prepared or laid up in the sense of preserving it for the future; but what he bad already done in the past. No god had done what he had; no human being had ever witnessed such manifestations from any other god.

For him that waiteth for him - Lowth and Noyes, 'For him who trusteth in him.' Paul renders this, 'For them that love him,' and it is evident that he did not intend to quote this literally, but meant to give the general sense. The idea in the Hebrew is, 'For him who waits (למחכה limchakēh) for Yahweh,' that is, who feels his helplessness, and relies on him to interpose and save him. Piety is often represented as an attitude of waiting on God Psalm 25:3, Psalm 25:5, Psalm 25:21; Psalm 27:14; Psalm 37:9; Psalm 130:5. The sense of the whole verse is, that God in his past dealings had given manifestations of his existence, power, and goodness, to those who were his friends, which had been furnished nowhere else. To those interpositions the suppliants appeal, as a reason why he should again interpose, and why he should save them in their heavy calamities.

4. perceived by the ear—Paul (1Co 2:9) has for this, "nor have entered into the heart of man"; the virtual sense, sanctioned by his inspired authority; men might hear with the outward ear, but they could only by the Spirit "perceive" with the "heart" the spiritual significancy of God's acts, both those in relation to Israel, primarily referred to here, and those relating to the Gospel secondarily, which Paul refers to.

O God … what he … prepared—rather, "nor hath eye seen a god beside thee who doeth such things." They refer to God's past marvellous acts in behalf of Israel as a plea for His now interposing for His people; but the Spirit, as Paul by inspiration shows, contemplated further God's revelation in the Gospel, which abounds in marvellous paradoxes never before heard of by carnal ear, not to be understood by mere human sagacity, and when foretold by the prophets not fully perceived or credited; and even after the manifestation of Christ not to be understood save through the inward teaching of the Holy Ghost. These are partly past and present, and partly future; therefore Paul substitutes "prepared" for "doeth," though his context shows he includes all three. For "waiteth" he has "love Him"; godly waiting on Him must flow from love, and not mere fear.

Whereas there are but three ways whereby men ordinarily come to the knowledge of a thing, viz. by the ear, either our own hearing, or by hearsay; and by the eye; and by reason, which the apostle adds, where he makes use of this text, 1 Corinthians 2:9; two of them are mentioned here.

Besides thee; with reference either to the gods that do them. never any other god could do like time; or to things done, never any

besides thee could do such things as were never seen or heard of. He refers to those terrible things mentioned in the former verse. It seems to be clear by comparing this with Deu 4:31-35. Not to be restrained to these, but to be applied to all the wonderful works that God at all times wrought for his people. And thus they are a plea with God, that they might well expect such things from him now, that had done such wonderful things for their fathers of old.

That waiteth for him; the apostle hath it, that love him, 1 Corinthians 2:9, to show that none can wait on him that love him not; so all that love him will wait on him. This may be taken with reference both to the state of grace and glory, those incomprehensible things that are exhibited through Christ in the mysteries of the gospel, as well as the good things of this present life, which the prophet may here literally aim at; it being not unusual for the mentioning these temporal things to point at spiritual, especially being things that do so well suit with each other. For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear,.... Not only the things unexpected, undesired, and undeserved, had been done for the Lord's people of old; but there were other things, unheard of and unseen, which God, in his secret counsels, had prepared for them; and for which reason his appearance in his providential dispensations was the more to be desired and entreated. The Apostle Paul has cited this passage in 1 Corinthians 2:9 and applied it to Gospel times, and to evangelical truths, which are not discoverable by the light of nature; had there not been a revelation from God, the ears of men had never heard them, nor the eyes of men ever seen them:

neither hath the eye seen, O God, besides thee; and though there is a revelation made, yet, unless God gives men eyes to see, and ears to hear, divine truths will remain unknown to them; and those who have knowledge of them, it is but imperfect; perfect knowledge of them is reserved to another state. These are mysteries and, though revealed, remain so; the modes of them being unknown, or the manner how they are is inscrutable; such as the mode of each Person's subsisting in the Trinity; and how the two natures, human and divine, are united in the person of Christ. Moreover, under the Old Testament dispensation, these things were not so clearly revealed as now; they were the fellowship of the mystery hid in God, the treasure of Gospel truths hid in the field of the Scriptures; they were wrapped up in the dark figures and shadows of the ceremonial law, and expressed in obscure prophecies; they were kept secret since the beginning of the world, from ages and generations past, and, not so made known, as now, to the holy apostles and prophets; a more full and clear knowledge of them was reserved to Gospel times. This may also include the blessings of grace, more peculiarly prepared and provided for the church of Christ under the Gospel dispensation, especially in the latter part of it, as the promise of the Spirit; more spiritual light and knowledge; peace in abundance, and such as passeth all understanding; and particularly what will be enjoyed in the personal reign of Christ, described in so pompous a manner, Revelation 20:1 and it may be applied to the glories of the future state, which are such as the eye of man has never seen, nor his ear heard; and, as the apostle adds, have not entered into the heart of man to conceive of; and, as Jarchi paraphrases the words here,

"the eye of any prophet hath not seen what God will do for him that waits for him, except thine eyes, thou, O God;''

having cited a passage of their Rabbins out of the Talmud (o), which interprets the words of the world to come,

"all the prophets say, they all of them prophesied only of the days of the Messiah; but as to the world to come, eye hath not seen, &c.''

Some read the words, "neither has the eye seen God besides thee who will do for him that waiteth for him" (p); that is, none besides thee, O Christ, who lay in the bosom of the Father, and was privy to all, John 1:18, what

he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him; the apostle quotes it, "for them that love him"; which describes the same persons; for those that wait for the Lord love him, and those that love him will wait for him; as Old Testament saints did for the first coming of Christ, and as New Testament saints now wait on him, in the ministry of his word and ordinances, for his spiritual presence, and also are waiting for his second coming, and for the ultimate glory; and for such persons unseen and unheard of things are prepared in the counsels and purposes of God, and in the covenant of his grace; Christ, and all things with him; the Gospel, and the truths of it, ordained before the world was; and all the blessings of grace and glory. The Targum is,

"and since the world was, ear hath not heard the voice of mighty deeds, nor hearkened to the speech of trembling; nor hath eye seen, what thy people saw, the Shechinah of the glory of the Lord, for there is none besides thee, what thou wilt do to thy people, the righteous, who were of old, who wait for thy salvation.''

(o) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 63. 1. & Sanhedrin, fol. 99. 1.((p) "nono oculus vidit Deum praeter te, faciat expectanti ipsum", Montanus; "qui faciat sic expectanti se", Pagninus, Munster.

For since the beginning of the world men have not {c} heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, besides thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.

(c) Paul uses the same kind of admiration, 1Co 2:9 marvelling at God's great benefit showed to his Church, by the preaching of the gospel.

4–7. This difficult passage contains (1) an appeal to that which distinguishes Jehovah from all other deities: He is the only God who works for them that wait for Him in the way of righteousness; (2) a confession of the people’s sinful condition due to the persistency of the divine wrath. A contrast between these thoughts is probably intended; the severity of Jehovah’s dealings with Israel seems at variance with His known character. But the text is in some places hopelessly corrupt, and the exact sense is somewhat uncertain.

For since the beginning … heard] Lit. “And from of old they have not heard.” It is tempting (with Duhm) to take this as a relative clause parallel to and continuing Isaiah 64:3 (“… terrible things which we hoped not for, and which from of old men have not heard”). There is an awkwardness, however, in commencing a new sentence with the next clause, and still greater difficulty in carrying on the sentence of Isaiah 64:3 to the word “seen” (Hitzig). Accepting the traditional division, Isaiah 64:4 will read nearly as in R.V., And from of old men have not heard, have not perceived by the ear, no eye hath seen a God beside Thee, Who worketh for him that waiteth for Him. The rendering of A.V. is partly accommodated to St Paul’s language in 1 Corinthians 2:9, where, however, a different text (not the LXX.) seems to be followed. Jerome says that the Apostle’s words are found in certain Apocalyptic books, although he will not admit that they are quoted from them.

“Worketh for”=“sheweth Himself active on behalf of”; without obj., as Genesis 30:30; Psalm 37:5.Verse 4. - Neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared, etc.; rather, as in the margin, neither hath the eye seen a God, beside thee, which worketh for him that waiteth upon him. The only "living God" who really works for his votaries, and does them good service, is Jehovah (comp. Isaiah 41:23, 24; Isaiah 44:9, etc.). But the in the existing state of things there was a contrast which put their faith to a severe test. "O Jehovah, why leadest Thou us astray from Thy ways, hardenest our heart, so as not to fear Thee? Return for Thy servants' sake, the tribes of Thine inheritance." When men have scornfully and obstinately rejected the grace of God, God withdraws it from them judicially, gives them up to their wanderings, and makes their heart incapable of faith (hiqshı̄ăch, which only occurs again in Job 39:16, is here equivalent to hiqshâh in Psalm 95:8; Deuteronomy 2:30). The history of Israel from Isaiah 6:1-13 onwards has been the history of such a gradual judgment of hardening, and such a curse, eating deeper and deeper, and spreading its influence wider and wider round. The great mass are lost, but not without the possibility of deliverance for the better part of the nation, which now appeals to the mercy of God, and sighs for deliverance from this ban. Two reasons are assigned for this petition for the return of the gracious presence of God: first, that there are still "servants of Jehovah" to be found, as this prayer itself actually proves; and secondly, that the divine election of grace cannot perish.
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