Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
Isa 59:1-21. The People's Sin the Cause of Judgments: They at Last Own It Themselves: the Redeemer's Future Interposition in Their Extremity.
The reason why Jehovah does not deliver His people, notwithstanding their religious services (Isa 58:3), is not want of power on His part, but because of their sins (Isa 59:1-8); Isa 59:9-15 contain their confession; Isa 59:16-21, the consequent promise of the Messiah.
1. hand … shortened—(See on Isa 50:2).
ear heavy—(Isa 6:10).
But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
2. hid—Hebrew, "caused Him to hide" (La 3:44).
For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.
3. (Isa 1:15; Ro 3:13-15).
hands … fingers—Not merely the "hands" perpetrate deeds of grosser enormity ("blood"), but the "fingers" commit more minute acts of "iniquity."
lips … tongue—The lips "speak" openly "lies," the tongue "mutters" malicious insinuations ("perverseness"; perverse misrepresentations of others) (Jer 6:28; 9:4).
None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.
4. Rather, "No one calleth an adversary into court with justice," that is, None bringeth a just suit: "No one pleadeth with truth."
they trust … iniquity—(So Job 15:35; Ps 7:14).
They hatch cockatrice' eggs, and weave the spider's web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper.
5. cockatrice—probably the basilisk serpent, cerastes. Instead of crushing evil in the egg, they foster it.
spider's web—This refers not to the spider's web being made to entrap, but to its thinness, as contrasted with substantial "garments," as Isa 59:6 shows. Their works are vain and transitory (Job 8:14; Pr 11:18).
eateth … their eggs—he who partakes in their plans, or has anything to do with them, finds them pestiferous.
that which is crushed—The egg, when it is broken, breaketh out as a viper; their plans, however specious in their undeveloped form like the egg, when developed, are found pernicious. Though the viper is viviparous (from which "vi-per" is derived), yet during gestation, the young are included in eggs, which break at the birth [Bochart]; however, metaphors often combine things without representing everything to the life.
Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands.
6. not … garments—like the "fig leaves" wherewith Adam and Eve vainly tried to cover their shame, as contrasted with "the coats of skins" which the Lord God made to clothe them with (Isa 64:6; Ro 13:14; Ga 3:27; Php 3:9). The artificial self-deceiving sophisms of human philosophy (1Ti 6:5; 2Ti 2:16, 23).
Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.
7. feet—All their members are active in evil; in Isa 59:3, the "hands, fingers, lips, and tongue," are specified.
run … haste—(Ro 3:15). Contrast David's "running and hasting" in the ways of God (Ps 119:32, 60).
thoughts—not merely their acts, but their whole thoughts.
The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.
8. peace—whether in relation to God, to their own conscience, or to their fellow men (Isa 57:20, 21).
crooked—the opposite of "straightforward" (Pr 2:15; 28:18).
Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.
9. judgment far—retribution in kind because they had shown "no judgment in their goings" (Isa 59:8). "The vindication of our just rights by God is withheld by Him from us."
us—In Isa 59:8 and previous verses, it was "they," the third person; here, "us … we," the first person. The nation here speaks: God thus making them out of their own mouth condemn themselves; just as He by His prophet had condemned them before. Isaiah includes himself with his people and speaks in their name.
justice—God's justice bringing salvation (Isa 46:13).
light—the dawn of returning prosperity.
obscurity—adversity (Jer 8:15).
We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.
10. grope—fulfilling Moses' threat (De 28:29).
stumble at noon … as … night—There is no relaxation of our evils; at the time when we might look for the noon of relief, there is still the night of our calamity.
in desolate places—rather, to suit the parallel words "at noonday," in fertile (literally, "fat"; Ge 27:28) fields [Gesenius] (where all is promising) we are like the dead (who have no hope left them); or, where others are prosperous, we wander about as dead men; true of all unbelievers (Isa 26:10; Lu 15:17).
We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us.
11. roar—moan plaintively, like a hungry bear which growls for food.
doves—(Isa 38:14; Eze 7:16).
salvation—retribution in kind: because not salvation, but "destruction" was "in their paths" (Isa 59:7).
For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them;
12. (Da 9:5, &c.).
thee … us—antithesis.
with us—that is, we are conscious of them (Job 12:3, Margin; Job 15:9).
know—acknowledge they are our iniquities.
In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.
13. The particulars of the sins generally confessed in Isa 59:12 (Isa 48:8; Jer 2:19, 20). The act, the word, and the thought of apostasy, are all here marked: transgression and departing, &c.; lying (compare Isa 59:4), and speaking, &c.; conceiving and uttering from the heart.
And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.
14. Justice and righteousness are put away from our legal courts.
in the street—in the forum, the place of judicature, usually at the gate of the city (Zec 8:16).
cannot enter—is shut out from the forum, or courts of justice.
Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment.
15. faileth—is not to be found.
he that departeth … prey—He that will not fall in with the prevailing iniquity exposes himself as a prey to the wicked (Ps 10:8, 9).
Lord saw it—The iniquity of Israel, so desperate as to require nothing short of Jehovah's interposition to mend it, typifies the same necessity for a Divine Mediator existing in the deep corruption of man; Israel, the model nation, was chosen to illustrate his awful fact.
And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.
16. no man—namely, to atone by his righteousness for the unrighteousness of the people. "Man" is emphatic, as in 1Ki 2:2; no representative man able to retrieve the cause of fallen men (Isa 41:28; 63:5, 6; Jer 5:1; Eze 22:30).
no intercessor—no one to interpose, "to help … uphold" (Isa 63:5).
his arm—(Isa 40:10; 51:5). Not man's arm, but His alone (Ps 98:1; 44:3).
his righteousness—the "arm" of Messiah. He won the victory for us, not by mere might as God, but by His invincible righteousness, as man having "the Spirit without measure" (Isa 11:5; 42:6, 21; 51:8; 53:11; 1Jo 2:1).
For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.
17. Messiah is represented as a warrior armed at all points, going forth to vindicate His people. Owing to the unity of Christ and His people, their armor is like His, except that they have no "garments of vengeance" (which is God's prerogative, Ro 12:19), or "cloak of zeal" (in the sense of judicial fury punishing the wicked; this zeal belongs properly to God, 2Ki 10:16; Ro 10:2; Php 3:6; "zeal," in the sense of anxiety for the Lord's honor, they have, Nu 25:11, 13; Ps 69:9; 2Co 7:11; 9:2); and for "salvation," which is of God alone (Ps 3:8), they have as their helmet, "the hope of salvation" (1Th 5:8). The "helmet of salvation" is attributed to them (Eph 6:14, 17) in a secondary sense; namely, derived from Him, and as yet only in hope, not fruition (Ro 8:24). The second coming here, as often, is included in this representation of Messiah. His "zeal" (Joh 2:15-17) at His first coming was but a type of His zeal and vengeance against the foes of God at His second coming (2Th 1:8-10; Re 19:11-21).
According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompence.
18. deeds—Hebrew, "recompenses"; "according as their deeds demand" [Maurer]. This verse predicts the judgments at the Lord's second coming, which shall precede the final redemption of His people (Isa 66:18, 15, 16).
islands—(See on Isa 41:1). Distant countries.
So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.
19. (Isa 45:6; Mal 1:11). The result of God's judgments (Isa 26:9; 66:18-20).
like a flood—(Jer 46:7, 8; Re 12:15).
lift up a standard—rather, from a different Hebrew root, "shall put him to flight," "drive him away" [Maurer]. Lowth, giving a different sense to the Hebrew for "enemy" from that in Isa 59:18, and a forced meaning to the Hebrew for "Spirit of the Lord," translates, "When He shall come as a river straitened in its course, which a mighty wind drives along."
And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD.
20. to Zion—Ro 11:26 quotes it, "out of Zion." Thus Paul, by inspiration, supplements the sense from Ps 14:7: He was, and is come to Zion, first with redemption, being sprung as man out of Zion. The Septuagint translates "for the sake of Zion." Paul applies this verse to the coming restoration of Israel spiritually.
them that turn from—(Ro 11:26). "shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob"; so the Septuagint, Paul herein gives the full sense under inspiration. They turn from transgression, because He first turns them from it, and it from them (Ps 130:4; La 5:21).
As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.
21. covenant with them … thee—The covenant is with Christ, and with them only as united to Him (Heb 2:13). Jehovah addresses Messiah the representative and ideal Israel. The literal and spiritual Israel are His seed, to whom the promise is to be fulfilled (Ps 22:30).
spirit … not depart … for ever—(Jer 31:31-37; Mt 28:20).