Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.
Isa 50:1-11. The Judgments on Israel Were Provoked by Their Crimes, yet They Are Not Finally Cast Off by God.
1. Where … mothers divorcement—Zion is "the mother"; the Jews are the children; and God the Husband and Father (Isa 54:5; 62:5; Jer 3:14). Gesenius thinks that God means by the question to deny that He had given "a bill of divorcement" to her, as was often done on slight pretexts by a husband (De 24:1), or that He had "sold" His and her "children," as a poor parent sometimes did (Ex 21:7; 2Ki 4:1; Ne 5:5) under pressure of his "creditors"; that it was they who sold themselves through their own sins. Maurer explains, "Show the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom … ; produce the creditors to whom ye have been sold; so it will be seen that it was not from any caprice of Mine, but through your own fault, your mother has been put away, and you sold" (Isa 52:3). Horsley best explains (as the antithesis between "I" and "yourselves" shows, though Lowth translates, "Ye are sold") I have never given your mother a regular bill of divorcement; I have merely "put her away" for a time, and can, therefore, by right as her husband still take her back on her submission; I have not made you, the children, over to any "creditor" to satisfy a debt; I therefore still have the right of a father over you, and can take you back on repentance, though as rebellious children you have sold yourselves to sin and its penalty (1Ki 21:25).
bill … whom—rather, "the bill with which I have put her away" [Maurer].
Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst.
no man—willing to believe in and obey Me (Isa 52:1, 3). The same Divine Person had "come" by His prophets in the Old Testament (appealing to them, but in vain, Jer 7:25, 26), who was about to come under the New Testament.
hand shortened—the Oriental emblem of weakness, as the long stretched-out hand is of power (Isa 59:1). Notwithstanding your sins, I can still "redeem" you from your bondage and dispersion.
dry up … sea—(Ex 14:21). The second exodus shall exceed, while it resembles in wonders, the first (Isa 11:11, 15; 51:15).
make … rivers … wilderness—turn the prosperity of Israel's foes into adversity.
fish stinketh—the very judgment inflicted on their Egyptian enemies at the first exodus (Ex 7:18, 21).
I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.
3. heavens … blackness—another of the judgments on Egypt to be repeated hereafter on the last enemy of God's people (Ex 10:21).
The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.
4. Messiah, as "the servant of Jehovah" (Isa 42:1), declares that the office has been assigned to Him of encouraging the "weary" exiles of Israel by "words in season" suited to their case; and that, whatever suffering it is to cost Himself, He does not shrink from it (Isa 50:5, 6), for that He knows His cause will triumph at last (Isa 50:7, 8).
learned—not in mere human learning, but in divinely taught modes of instruction and eloquence (Isa 49:2; Ex 4:11; Mt 7:28, 29; 13:54).
speak a word in season—(Pr 15:23; 25:11). Literally, "to succor by words," namely, in their season of need, the "weary" dispersed ones of Israel (De 28:65-67). Also, the spiritual "weary" (Isa 42:3; Mt 11:28).
wakeneth morning by morning, &c.—Compare "daily rising up early" (Jer 7:25; Mr 1:35). The image is drawn from a master wakening his pupils early for instruction.
wakeneth … ear—prepares me for receiving His divine instructions.
as the learned—as one taught by Him. He "learned obedience," experimentally, "by the things which He suffered"; thus gaining that practical learning which adapted Him for "speaking a word in season" to suffering men (Heb 5:8).
The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.
5. opened … ear—(See on Isa 42:20; Isa 48:8); that is, hath made me obediently attentive (but Maurer, "hath informed me of my duty"), as a servant to his master (compare Ps 40:6-8, with Php 2:7; Isa 42:1; 49:3, 6; 52:13; 53:11; Mt 20:28; Lu 22:27).
not rebellious—but, on the contrary, most willing to do the Father's will in proclaiming and procuring salvation for man, at the cost of His own sufferings (Heb 10:5-10).
I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
6. smiters—with scourges and with the open hand (Isa 52:14; Mr 14:65). Literally fulfilled (Mt 27:26; 26:27; Lu 18:33). To "pluck the hair" is the highest insult that can be offered an Oriental (2Sa 10:4; La 3:30). "I gave" implies the voluntary nature of His sufferings; His example corresponds to His precept (Mt 5:39).
spitting—To spit in another's presence is an insult in the East, much more on one; most of all in the face (Job 30:10; Mt 27:30; Lu 18:32).
For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.
7. Sample of His not being "discouraged" (Isa 42:4; 49:5).
set … face like … flint—set Myself resolutely, not to be daunted from My work of love by shame or suffering (Eze 3:8, 9).
He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me.
8. (Isa 49:4). The believer, by virtue of his oneness with Christ, uses the same language (Ps 138:8; Ro 8:32-34). But "justify" in His case, is God's judicial acceptance and vindication of Him on the ground of His own righteousness (Lu 23:44-47; Ro 1:4; 1Ti 3:16, with which compare 1Pe 3:18); in their case, on the ground of His righteousness and meritorious death imputed to them (Ro 5:19).
stand together—in judgment, to try the issue.
adversary—literally, "master of my cause," that is, who has real ground of accusation against me, so that he can demand judgment to be given in his favor (compare Zec 3:1, &c. Re 12:10).
Behold, the Lord GOD will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up.
9. (Compare "deal," or "proper," Isa 52:13, Margin; Isa 53:10; Ps 118:6; Jer 23:5).
as a garment—(Isa 51:6, 8; Ps 102:26). A leading constituent of wealth in the East is change of raiment, which is always liable to the inroads of the moth; hence the frequency of the image in Scripture.
Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.
10. Messiah exhorts the godly after His example (Isa 49:4, 5; 42:4) when in circumstances of trial ("darkness," Isa 47:5), to trust in the arm of Jehovah alone.
Who is, &c.—that is, Whosoever (Jud 7:3).
obeyeth … servant—namely, Messiah. The godly "honor the Son, even as they honor the Father" (Joh 5:23).
darkness—(Mic 7:8, 9). God never had a son who was not sometimes in the dark. For even Christ, His only Son, cried out, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
light—rather, "splendor"; bright sunshine; for the servant of God is never wholly without "light" [Vitringa]. A godly man's way may be dark, but his end shall be peace and light. A wicked man's way may be bright, but his end shall be utter darkness (Ps 112:4; 97:11; 37:24).
let him trust in the name of the Lord—as Messiah did (Isa 50:8, 9).
Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.
11. In contrast to the godly (Isa 50:10), the wicked, in times of darkness, instead of trusting in God, trust in themselves (kindle a light for themselves to walk by) (Ec 11:9). The image is continued from Isa 50:10, "darkness"; human devices for salvation (Pr 19:21; 16:9, 25) are like the spark that goes out in an instant in darkness (compare Job 18:6; 21:17, with Ps 18:28).
sparks—not a steady light, but blazing sparks extinguished in a moment.
walk—not a command, but implying that as surely as they would do so, they should lie down in sorrow (Jer 3:25). In exact proportion to mystic Babylon's previous "glorifying" of herself shall be her sorrow (Mt 25:30; 8:12; Re 18:7).