Isaiah 8:20
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) To the law and to the testimony.—The words are only remotely and by analogy an exhortation to the study of Scripture in general, or even to that of the Law of Moses in particular. “The law and the testimony” are obviously here, as in Isaiah 8:16, the “word of Jehovah,” spoken to the prophet himself, the revelation which had come to him with such an intensity of power.

If they speak not according to this word . . .—The personal pronoun refers to the people of Isaiah 8:19 who were hunting after soothsayers. The second clause should be rendered, for them there is no light of morning. The light here is that of hope rather than of knowledge. No morning dawn should shine on those who haunted the caves and darkened rooms of the diviners, the séances of the spiritualists of Jerusalem. The verse admits, however, of a different construction. As the Hebrew idiom, “If they shall . . .” stands, as in Psalm 95:11; Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 4:5, for the strongest form of negative prediction, so “if they shall not . . .” may stand here for the strongest form of positive. So taken the verse would read, Surely they will speak according to this word. (i.e., will have recourse to the true Revelation) when there is no morning-dawn for them, when they look above and around, and see nothing but darkness.

Isaiah 8:20. To the law and to the testimony — Let this dispute between you and them be determined by God’s word, which is here, and in many other places, called the law, to signify their obligation to believe and obey it; and the testimony, because it is a witness between God and man, of God’s will, and of man’s duty. If they speak not, &c. — Your antagonists, who seek to pervert you. No light — This proceeds from the darkness of their minds; they are blind, and cannot see. But these words are understood by divers learned interpreters, not as a declaration of their ignorance, but a prediction of their misery, light being most commonly used in Scripture for comfort and happiness, and darkness for sorrows and calamities. And this sense seems to be much favoured by the following passage: and then the words, אין לישׁחר, mean, no light, or no morning, shall be to them; that is, a night of misery shall come upon them, and they shall never have a morning of deliverance from it; they shall be swallowed up in endless calamities, as is farther declared in the following verses. 8:17-22 The prophet foresaw that the Lord would hide his face; but he would look for his return in favour to them again. Though not miraculous signs, the children's names were memorials from God, suited to excite attention. The unbelieving Jews were prone to seek counsel in difficulties, from diviners of different descriptions, whose foolish and sinful ceremonies are alluded to. Would we know how we may seek to our God, and come to the knowledge of his mind? To the law and to the testimony; for there you will see what is good, and what the Lord requires. We must speak of the things of God in the words which the Holy Ghost teaches, and be ruled by them. To those that seek to familiar spirits, and regard not God's law and testimony, there shall be horror and misery. Those that go away from God, go out of the way of all good; for fretfulness is a sin that is its own punishment. They shall despair, and see no way of relief, when they curse God. And their fears will represent every thing as frightful. Those that shut their eyes against the light of God's word, will justly be left to darkness. All the miseries that ever were felt or witnessed on earth, are as nothing, compared with what will overwhelm those who leave the words of Christ, to follow delusions.To the law ... - To the revelation which God has given. This is a solemn call of the prophet to try everything by the revealed will of God; see Isaiah 8:16.

If they speak not - If the necromancers - those that pretended to have contact with the dead.

According to this word - According to what God has revealed. By this standard all their pretended revelations were to be tried. By this standard all doctrines are still to be tried.

It is because - There has been a great variety of criticism upon this verse, but our translation expresses, probably, the true idea. The word rendered here 'because,' אשׁר 'ăsher, commonly denotes 'which;' but it seems here to be used in the sense of the Syriac? "Dolath," or the Greek ὅτι hoti.

No light - Margin, 'Morning.' Hebrew שׁחר shāchar. The word usually means the morning light; the mingled light and darkness of the aurora; daybreak. It is an emblem of advancing knowledge, and perhaps, also, of prosperity or happiness after calamity, as the break of day succeeds the dark night. The meaning here may be, 'If their teachings do not accord with the law and the testimony, it is proof that they are totally ignorant, without even the twilight of true knowledge; that it is total darkness with them.' Or it may mean, 'If they do not speak according to this word, then no dawn will arise, that is, no prosperity will smile upon this people.' - Gesenius. Lowth understands it of obscurity, darkness:

'If they speak not according to this word,

In which there is no obscurity.'

But there is no evidence that the word is ever used in this sense. Others suppose that the Arabic sense of the word is to be retained here, deception, or magic. 'If they speak not according to this oracle, in which there is no deception.' But the word is not used in this sense in the Hebrew. The meaning is, probably, this: 'The law of God is the standard by which all professed communications from the invisible world are to be tested. If the necromancers deliver a doctrine which is not sustained by that, and not in accordance with the prophetic communications, it shows that they are in utter ignorance. There is not even the glimmering of the morning twilight; all is total night, and error, and obscurity with them, and they are not to be followed.'

20. To the law, &c.—the revelation of God by His prophet (Isa 8:16), to which he directs them to refer those who would advise necromancy.

if they speak not … it is because—English Version understands "they" as the necromancers. But the Hebrew rendered "because" is not this but "who"; and "if not," ought rather to be "shall they not"; or, truly they shall speak according to this word, who have no morning light (so the Hebrew, that is, prosperity after the night of sorrows) dawning on them [Maurer and G. V. Smith]. They who are in the dark night of trial, without a dawn of hope, shall surely say so, Do not seek, as we did, to necromancy, but to the law," &c. The law perhaps includes here the law of Moses, which was the "Magna Charta" on which prophetism commented [Kitto].

To the law and to the testimony; let this dispute between you and them be determined by God’s word, which is here and in many other places called

the law, to signify their obligation to believe and obey it; and the testimony, because it is a witness between God and man of God’s mind and will, and of man’s duty; and so these two titles contain two arguments against these idolatrous practices.

If they; your antagonists, that seek to pervert you, Isaiah 8:19.

It is because there is no light in them; this proceeds from the darkness of their minds, because they are blind, and will not see, and God hath shut their eyes that they cannot see. But these words are by divers learned interpreters understood not as a declaration of their ignorance, but a commination and prediction of their misery, light being most commonly used in Scripture for comfort and happiness, and darkness for sorrows and calamities. And this sense seems to be much favoured by the following passages. And then the words may be thus rendered, assuredly (for the Hebrew particle asher is frequently used as a note of asseveration, as 1 Samuel 15:20 Psalm 10:6 95:11, &c., as hath been more than once observed before) no light or morning light shall be (for that may as well be understood as is) to them; a night of misery shall come upon them, and they shall never have a morning of deliverance from it; they shall be swallowed up in endless calamities. To the law, and to the testimony,.... Kimchi takes this to be an oath, "by the law, and by the testimony", it is so and so; but Aben Ezra observes there is no instance of this kind in Scripture; it is a direction of Christ's to his disciples, to attend to the writings of Moses and the prophets, to search the Scriptures, as in John 5:39 and particularly what is before said in this prophecy concerning himself, the same is meant as on Isaiah 8:16.

if they speak not according to this word; this sure word of prophecy, to which men do well to take heed, as to a light shining in a dark place, it being the rule of faith and practice, a lamp to the feet, and a light to the path:

it is because there is no light in them; that is, in them that speak not according to it, meaning the Scribes and Pharisees; who, rejecting the written word, set up the traditions of the elders above it, and taught the people to walk according to them; and so were, as our Lord says, "blind leaders of the blind", Matthew 15:14 or the words may be read, "if not"; if they will not regard the Scriptures, and the evangelical doctrine in them, and the testimony they give concerning Christ; "let them speak according to this word"; or instruction, and counsel, they have from the Scribes and Pharisees: "in which there is no light" (b); but the darkness of ignorance, infidelity, superstition, and will worship; or "no morning"; but a night of Jewish darkness, even though the sun of righteousness was risen, and the dayspring from on high had visited the earth; yet they had received no light and knowledge from him, which was their condemnation, John 1:4, John 3:19 or thus, "to the law, and to the testimony, though they may say after this manner, there is no light in it" (c); in the law and testimony, preferring the traditions, decisions, and determinations of their doctors above it. Noldhius (d) renders the words thus, "seeing they speak not according to this word, certainly they shall have no morning"; that is, seeing the seducers and false teachers, in the preceding verse Isaiah 8:19, speak not according to the word of God, and testimony of Jesus, they shall have no morning of light and joy, of grace and comfort, or any spiritual felicity; Christ will be no morning to them, but they will continue in their dark, benighted, and miserable condition, described in the following verse.

(b) "sin minus, dicant secundum verbum istud, cui mon est aurora", Piscator. So Sanctius. (c) "Licet ipsi dicent, in verbis legis, nihil lucis esse", Oleaster in Bootius. (d) Ebr. Part. Concord. p. 374. No. 1302.

To the {y} law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no {z} light in them.

(y) Seek remedy in the word of God, where his will is declared.

(z) They have no knowledge but are blind leaders of the blind.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. To the law and to the testimony] See on Isaiah 8:16. Apparently an exclamation of the distracted people (see on next clause).

The remainder of the verse, where the construction is very difficult, ought probably to be rendered: surely they shall speak according to this word when there is no dawn (i.e. no hope) for them (lit. him). The meaning is that the people will seek direction from the “sure word of prophecy,” but only when it is too late. But the original is so obscure that no great confidence can be placed in any translation.Verse 20. - To the Law and to the testimony. A sort of watchword or battle-cry, to be used by the faithful when God's enemies assailed them. Compare Gideon's cry (Judges 7:18), "For the Lord and for Gideon." If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them; rather, Surely they will speak according to this word, when there is no dawn for them; i.e. when they are plunged in darkness (ver. 22) and distress, and see no prospect of better days, surely they - the people generally - will rally to this cry, and repeat it, "For the Law and for the testimony." They will not always trust in necromancy. The object of their fear was a very different one. "Jehovah of hosts, sanctify Him; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your terror. So will He become a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence (vexation) to both the houses of Israel, a snare and trap to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and shall fall; and be dashed to pieces, and be snared and taken." The logical apodosis to Isaiah 8:13 commences with v'hâhâh (so shall He be). If ye actually acknowledge Jehovah the Holy One as the Holy One (hikdı̄sh, as in Isaiah 29:23), and if it is He whom ye fear, and who fills you with dread (ma‛arı̄tz, used for the object of dread, as mōrah is for the object of fear; hence "that which terrifies" in a causative sense), He will become a mikdâsh. The word mikdâsh may indeed denote the object sanctified, and so Knobel understands it here according to Numbers 18:29; but if we adhere to the strict notion of the word, this gives an unmeaning apodosis. Mikdâsh generally means the sanctified place or sanctuary, with which the idea of an asylum would easily associate itself, since even among the Israelites the temple was regarded and respected as an asylum (1 Kings 1:50; 1 Kings 2:28). This is the explanation which most of the commentators have adopted here; and the punctuators also took it in the same sense, when they divided the two halves of Isaiah 8:14 by athnach as antithetical. And mikdâsh is really to be taken in this sense, although it cannot be exactly rendered "asylum," since this would improperly limit the meaning of the word. The temple was not only a place of shelter, but also of grace, blessing, and peace. All who sanctified the Lord of lords He surrounded like temple walls; hid them in Himself, whilst death and tribulation reigned without, and comforted, fed, and blessed them in His own gracious fellowship. This is the true explanation of v'hâyâh l'mikdâs, according to such passages as Isaiah 4:5-6; Psalm 27:5; Psalm 31:21. To the two houses of Israel, on the contrary, i.e., to the great mass of the people of both kingdoms who neither sanctified nor feared Jehovah, He would be a rock and snare. The synonyms are intentionally heaped together (cf., Isaiah 28:13), to produce the fearful impression of death occurring in many forms, but all inevitable. The first three verbs of Isaiah 8:15 refer to the "stone" ('eben) and "rock" (tzūr); the last two to the "snare" (pach), and "trap" or springe (mōkēsh).

(Note: Malbim observes quite correctly, that "the pach catches, but does not hurt; the mokesh catches and hurts (e.g., by seizing the legs or nose, Job 40:24): the former is a simple snare (or net), the latter a springe, or snare which catches by means of a spring" (Amos 3:5).)

All who did not give glory to Jehovah would be dashed to pieces upon His work as upon a stone, and caught therein as in a trap. This was the burden of the divine warning, which the prophet heard for himself and for those that believed.

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