Isaiah 56
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures

1. On 56:11. (Every one looks to his own way). “Potest intelligi de externis criminibus, sed magis placet, ut accipiatur de speciosis viis, in quibus ambulant hypocritae. Sic Franciscanus Francisci regulam sequitur, decalogum et evangelii doctrinam negligit tanquam rem vulgarem, quae ad vulgus pertirneant.”—LUTHER.

2. On 56:12. In the Alexandrian and Vatican texts of the LXX., the words from מקצהו Isa 56:11 to the end of Isa 56:12 are wanting, which even JEROME remarks on. He adds: “denique hos versiculos nullus ecclesiasticorum interpretum disseruit, sed quasi patentem in medio foveam transiliunt atque transmittunt.”—That the Fathers, unacquainted as they were with Hebrew, pass the words by, is simply explained by the LXX. omitting them. JEROME, because he knew Hebrew, as he himself says, “added them ex hebraico.” But why the Greek translator left them out is doubtful: THEODOTION (see Hexapla ORIG. ed. Montfaucon II., p. 179) has them.—“Ab hoc vitio (ebrietatis) abstinere debent pii ecclesiae ministri memores interdicti apostolici 1 Tim. 3:2, 3, considerantes secum, nullam horulam ipsis esse adeo liberam ac vacuam, qua non ad officia functionis suis possint avocari.”—FOERSTER.—“Let one point the rough figure for himself for the more delicate spiritual form also, quite as Matth. 24:49; Eph. 5:18, and the like are meant. For there is a drunkenness and voluptuousness in all kinds of wine and intoxication, which only the eye of the Spirit beholds in many an honorable Bishop, General-superintendent or Superior-court-preacher. STIER. “Vita concionatoris optimus syllogismus.” CHRYSOSTOM.

3. On 57:1. “Against the heedlessness of the world, that regards the life and death of men alike. For because Pharaoh and Moses, Saul and Jonathan, Judas and Peter, must temporally die, the one as the other, they suppose it is as much to one as to the other. But on the contrary, one should lay it to heart when useful and pious men fall, because, first, one must miss them afterwards, especially their prayers by which they stand in the breach and run to the walls (Ezek. 22:30); second, because the destruction of such people is wont to be an evil omen of a great impending misfortune and change, [“It is a sign that God intends war when He calls home His ambassadors.”—M. HENRY]. Examples: When Noah turns his back on the world and shuts himself in the ark, the deluge comes (Gen. 7:17). When Lot goes out of Sodom and Gomorrah, fire from heaven falls on them (Gen. 19:24). When Joseph dies in Egypt, the bondage of the children of Israel begins, together with the murder of their infant boys (Exod. 1:8). When Hezekiah died, then followed the tyranny of Manasseh (2 Kings 20, 21) When Christ and His disciples were made way with, then began the destruction of Jerusalem.”—CRAMER.—“Sicut ad Josiam dicit: tolleris, ne videant occuli tui hoc malum, etc. (2 Kings 22:18–20). Sic excidio Hierosolymitano erepti sunt apostoli et reliqui Sancti. Idem nobis accidet. Vivunt adhuc passim quidam pii homines, propter iliis Deus differt poenam. Sublatis autem iis sequetur Germaniae ruina.”—LUTHER.—“Blessed are the dead, which die in the LORD, for they rest from their labor (Rev. 14:13). And hellish enemies, as little as human, can do them any harm.”—“It is a misfortune for the whole country when distinguished and deserving people are taken out of the midst by temporal death. For them, indeed, it is well; but God have mercy on those that are left. For as in a great storm, when the heavens are overcast with clouds, the shepherd leads in the sheep, the husbandman hastily gathers his sheaves, the parents call in the children from the streets, so our dear God calls His dearest children together, that the calamity may not touch them.”—CRAMER.—“The men of grace or mercy are receivers and distributers, thus also the mediators of the grace of God for their people; the men of grace, that atoningly represent the land by intercessions and conduct, postpone its judgment (Gen. 18:24; Ezek. 22:30).” STIER.—“The mere presence of an honest man is still a, restraint on the unbridledness of blasphemers.” G. MUELLER in STIER.

4. On 57:2. “Against the idle fancy of the fire of purgatory. For here it is said of those who have walked uprightly, not that they get into trouble, unrest, pain and torment, by which they must be purged; but that, with respect to their souls, they come to peace. But as to their bodies, they rest in their sleeping chamber. They are not on this account driven about; they seek also no mass or soul baths, as the Papists pretend.”—CRAMER.

Nam stultum est mortem matrem timuisse quietis,

Quam fugiunt morbi, moestaque pauperies.”

(Attributed to CORNELIUS GALLUS, the friend of VIRGIL).

5. On 52:4. It should be a wreath of honor to all faithful teachers and preachers, that they are regarded as monsters and are lampooned by the wise of this world. For if the great Prophet Isaiah in this passage, item, Jeremiah (Jer. 20:8), Elijah (2 Kings 2:24), Ezekiel (Ezek. 33:31), Job (Job 17:6), yea, even Christ Himself had to suffer this, what wonder is it if the scoffing birds sharpen their beaks on us and chatter like the storks?” CRAMER.

6. [On 52:8. “When a people forget God, the memorials of their apostacy will be found in every part of their habitations. The shrines of idol gods may not be there; the beautiful images of the Greek and Roman mythology, or the clumsy devices of less refined heathens may not be there; but the furniture, the style of living will reveal from ‘behind every door and the posts” of the house that God is forgotten, and that they are influenced by other principles than a regard for His name. The sofa, the carpet, the chandelier, the centre-table, the instruments of music, the splendid mirror, may be of such workmanship as to show, as clearly as the image of a heathen god, that JEHOVAH is not honored in the dwelling, and that His law does not control the domestic arrangements.” BARNES].

7. [On 57:10. “Thou art wearied——no hope. This is a striking illustration of the conduct of men in seeking happiness away from God. They wander from object to object; they become weary in the pursuit, yet they do not abandon it; they still cling to hope though often repulsed—and though the world gives them no permanent comfort—though wealth, ambition, gayety, and vice all fail in imparting the happiness which they sought, yet they do not give it up in despair. They still feel that it is to be found in some other way, than by the disagreeable necessity of returning to God, and they wander from object to object, and from land to land, and become exhausted in the pursuit, and still are not ready to say there is no hope, we give it up in despair, and we will now seek happiness in God.” BARNES.

NOTE.—Despair of happiness in the creature, and of satisfaction in the service of sin, is the first step toward a well-grounded hope of happiness in God, and a well-fixed resolution to keep to His service; and those are inexcusable who have had sensible convictions of the vanity of the creature, and yet will not be brought to say, ‘There is no hope to be happy short of the Creator.’—NOTE.—Prosperity in sin (Thou hast found the life of thy hand) is a great bar to conversion from sin.” M. HENRY].

8. On 57:11. “God keeps silence only for a while, but yet not for ever and continually, with respect to men’s sins; but the longer He has kept silence, the harder He punishes afterwards.”—STARKE.

9. On 57:12. “Tuam justitiam. Est emphasis in pronomine tuam. Quasi dicat: mea justitia firma et perpetua est, tua non item.… In calamitate nihil desperatius est justitiariis, cum secundis rebus nihil quoque iis sit confidentius.—LUTHER.”

10. On 57:15 sq. “God has three sorts of dwellings: first in the highest, second in the sanctuary, third in humble hearts. The first dwelling is the universalis praesentia, the universal presence, by which He fills all (Jer. 23:24); but there He is too high and incomprehensible for us. The other is gratiosa, the gracious presence, by which He lets Himself be found in the word and sacraments, and also comes finally to us and makes His dwelling in our hearts (Jno. 14:23).” CRAMER, comp. RENNER, p. 199.—“Humilis anima est Dei sessio et delectabile cubile.” “Excelsus es Domine, sed humiles corde sunt domus tua” (Ps. 113:6; 138:6). AUGUSTIN.—“Fluenta gratiae deorsum non sursum fluunt.” BERNHARD.—“Here is a principal passage beaming with evidence, that “holy” means not merely the tremenda majestas, but essentially comprehends the self-communicating condescension of love.” STIER.—Comp. His Reden Jesu V., p. 499, and the essays of SCHOEBERLEIN and ACHELIS in Stud. and Krit. 1847, I., IV.

11. On 57:18. Here again we have one of those words in which Isaiah shows Himself to be the Evangelist of the Old Testament. For in the old covenant God does not yet heal men, else the new were superfluous. The law only effects knowledge of sin, but it does not give the power to overcome sin. One fancies here again that he hears the Apostle that wrote Rom. 8.

12. On 57:19–21. “The gospel in a sermon of peace to the heathen that were far off, and to the Jews that were near. For by it we both have access in one Spirit to the Father (Eph. 2:18). But the wicked quakes all his life and what he hears terrifies him (Job 15:20; Isa. 48:22). And especially in conflicts, and notably in the last hour, and when they see God’s judgment near, one sees this in them, that they not only therefore often spit out blasphemies, but that for great anguish they have laid hands on themselves. Examples: Saul, Ahithophel, Judas, Franciscus Spiera. For because such peace is not to be brought about with works, they must ever stick in anger, resentment, discontent and disfavor with and before God. And it is only pure folly to wish to give the terrified hearts rest by their own expiation, merit and self-elected holiness. Much less will there be rest if one teaches such people to doubt the forgiveness of sins.” CRAMER.


1. On 56:10–57:2. These words may be used as the text of a sermon for a fast-day, or also for a synodical sermon. One might then regard the Prophet’s words as a mirror, or as a measure whereby to measure the condition of the church (of the country, of the times). From this would then come 1) earnest warning to those that belong to the wicked here described, or who do not oppose their doings; 2) comfort for those that have “walked straight before them,” for, though hated and persecuted by men, they shall still come to peace.

2. On 57:1, 2. These words (also “a Jewish formula solennis for the pious dead,” STIER) have very often been used as texts for funeral discourses for celebrated men.

3. On 57:2. Those that have walked in their uprightness, i. e., who during their lives have served the LORD in a living faith, need not fear death. It is to them a bringer of joy. For it brings 1) eternal peace to their soul, 2) rest to their body in the chamber of the grave, till the day of the blessed resurrection.

4. On 57:3–10. A description of the coarse idolatry, to which in our day correspond only too many appearances of the modern and subtile heathenism. Only too many have sucked in with their mother’s milk superstition and unbelief, which as a rule go together. As Ishmael, who was begotten after the flesh, mocked and persecuted Isaac that was born according to the promise (Gal. 4:28 sqq.), so also now. The false seed, i. e., those that are not born of the Spirit of the church, although by their fleshly birth they belong to it, mock and persecute the genuine children of the church. With insatiable greed people run daily, but especially on the LORD’S day, under all green trees, i. e., to the places of worldly pleasure-seeking, where the idols of the belly and of mammon are served! And how many children are from their earliest youth led away to the service of these idols! Are not thereby their immortal souls spiritually slain? And is not that, in the end, a worse sacrifice of children than that ancient sort? All that puts men in mind of the service of God, men get out of their sight (pious customs, Sunday, feast days, church acts, as baptism, marriage, burial), in order to be able to surrender themselves undisturbed and wholly to the modern idols. Men no longer seek their strength in the covenant with the LORD, but among men in associations of every kind. And, because that does not instantly reveal its ruinous effects, but often seems to have a good effect, men never weary of this conduct, but confirm themselves in it more and more.

5. On 57:12. Many men will not by any means believe that their good works are wholly insufficient to obtain the righteousness that is of avail with God. Now God will, indeed, not suffer to go unrewarded the cup of water that we give to the thirsty in the proper spirit (Matth. 10:42; Mark 9:41). But could we point to ever so many such cups, still they do not suffice to pay our ten thousand talents (Matth. 18:24 sqq.). One must therefore remind his charge of the great reckoning that the LORD will one day have with us. In this 1) will be had a complete and perfectly correct investigation into our indebtedness and assets. 2) Then it will appear that our assets will be too defective to be of any use whatever against our indebtedness.

6. On 57:13, 14. It depends very much on the sort of spirit with which one turns to God for help. If one does it in order to make a trial also with the dear God, then one will certainly be denied. But if one does it because one knows no other helper, and wishes to know no other, then one may confidently count on being heard. How differently the answers sound that God gives to the cries for help that reach Him. 1) To the one it is said: let thy gatherings help thee. 2) But to the others is called out: a. make a road, clear the way, take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people; b. inherit the land, possess my holy mountain.

7. On 57:15, 16. “I know that these sayings speak especially of penitent sinners and aroused consciences; but I do not see why they may not with good right be applied also to other alarmed and anxious people. One has here to look also at the examples of the dear children of God who are presented to us in the Holy Scriptures full of fear and alarm. Think of Job (9:34; 13:21), David (Ps. 25:17; 55:5 sqq.), Daniel (8:17 sq.), Paul (1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 7:5), yea, of Jesus Christ Himself (Matth. 26:37; Mark 14:33; Luke 22:44). From this thou seest clearly, thou lover of God, but timid and frightened soul, that thou art not the first among the children of God, that suffer His terrors and must go about with an anxious heart. It is also therewith sufficiently shown that such an event is not a reminder of anger, but rather of the grace of the kind and gracious God.”—SCRIVER.

8. On 57:15, 16. “A holy shudder goes through my soul when, in receiving Thy body and blood, I think of who they are to whom Thou so communicatest Thyself! That is Thy way, Thou wonderful Lord, that Thou utterly humblest and castest down to the ground before Thou raisest up. Thou sayest: ‘I who dwell in the high and holy place am with those that are of a contrite and humble spirit.’ Has the greatness of my sin already melted my heart, it melts still more at the greatness of Thy grace.”—THOLUCK.

9 On 57:15, 16. Sermon for Whitsun week: “Wherein do we behold the greatest glory of the God of grace? 1) Therein, that He does not despise a poor sinner’s heart for a dwelling. 2) Therein, that He manifests Himself in it not as a judge, but as a comforter.” TAUBE, in Gottes Bruenl. hat Wassers die Fuelle. Hamburg, 1872.

10. On 57:17, 18. One is reminded here of 1 Kings 19:11 sq. God is not in the tempest, nor in the earthquake, but He is in the still, gentle breeze. The gospel goes more to the hearts of men, and lays deeper hold on them than the law. The conversion of men. 1) It is prepared by being angry and smiting (Isa 57:17). 2. It is accomplished by God’s inwardly healing the heart.

11. On 57:19. Missionary Sermon. The work of missions: 1) By whom is it accomplished? 2) On whom is it accomplished? 3) What end does it serve?

12. On 57:20. “The whole Scripture testifies that what it says of the grace of God, of the forgiveness of sins and of the assurance of bliss belongs to the penitent. For those that are ever stirred up and driven on by their malignant desires (like the sea by the winds), and commit one sin after another (like the sea casts out all sorts of dirt), are wicked men, and have no peace to expect.”—SCRIVER.

Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.

CHAPTER 56:1–9

The new salvation mediated by the Servant of God was described chap. 54 in its general, objective aspect; in chap. 55 in respect to the subjective appropriation of salvation. Chap. 56, in a few but plain strokes, shows us the same as the source of an entirely new ethical, social and physical regulation of life. For Isa 56:1, 2 hold out the prospect of a holy walk, Isa 56:3–7 of a new legal regulation respecting strangers and eunuchs, finally Isa 56:8–9, that the salvation shall be extended also to the impersonal creature.

The Isa 56:56:10–12 belong as to substance to the following chapter.

The moral, social and physical fruits of the new way of salvation

Isaiah 56:1–9

1          THUS saith the LORD,

Keep ye 1judgment, and do justice:

For my salvation is near to come,

And my righteousness to be revealed.

2     Blessed is the man that doeth this,

And the son of man that layeth hold on it;

That keepeth the sabbath from polluting it,

And keepeth his hand from doing any evil.

3     Neither let 2the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak

Saying, The LORD 3hath utterly separated me from his people:

Neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.

4     For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs

That keep my sabbaths,

And choose the things that please me,

And take hold of my covenant;

5     Even unto them will I give in mine house

And within my walls a 4place and a name

Better than of sons and of daughters:

I will give them an everlasting name,

That shall not be cut off.

6     Also 5the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD,

To serve him, and to love the name of the LORD,

To be his servants,

Every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it,

And taketh hold of my covenant:

7     Even them will I bring to my holy mountain,

And make them joyful in my house of prayer:

Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar:

For mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.

8      The Lord God [Jehovah] which gathereth the outcasts of Israel, saith,

Yet will I gather others to him,

6Beside those that are gathered unto him.

9      All ye beasts of the field, come 7to devour,

Yea, all ye beasts in the forest.


Isa 56:1. צדקה and משׁפט in parallelism as in 28:17; 32:16 33:5; 59:9, 14.

Isa 56:2. זֹאת and בָּהּ can of course be grammatically referred to what follows. But grammar just as much admits of their being referred to what precedes. And I prefer the latter, because then there is no need of taking שֹׁמֵר for שָׁמוֹר or לִשְׁמֹר, but it can be understood simply as in apposition with אֱנוֹשׁ and בן־אדם in a specifying sense.——שׁמר שׁ׳ מחללו is not to be understood as if מן simply intimated from what the Sabbath should be kept, in which sense שׁמר and מן are frequently conjoined (e.g.,שָׁמַר רַגְלֶךָ מִלָּכֶד “he keeps thy foot from the snare” Prov. 3:26, etc.). מן has here, as often, the negative meaning (comp. 44:18; 49:15; 58:13, etc.). We must therefore translate: “who keeps the Sabbath (comp. Exod. 31:14) so that he does not profane it.” For the suffix in חללו were quite superfluous if it were intended to be said only in general from what the Sabbath must be kept. In the latter case one would rather look for an infinitive passive or an abstract noun: he who keeps the Sabbath from being profaned, or from profanation. Moreover this involves the meaning that one must not only keep the Sabbath himself, but also guard it from every profanation by others. But the suffix is pertinent if the meaning is: he who keeps the Sabbath so that he does not profane it (the Sabbath, not anything in general). This explanation is commended by the fact that the same construction recurs 58:13. Of course, then, the following clause שׁמר ידו וגו׳ must be similarly explained.

Isa 56:3. נִלְוָה is, from its ending, not the participle, but the perfect. If the pointing be correct, then the mode of expression belongs to the instances where the article involves a pronominal meaning; Josh. 10:24; Gen. 21:3; Ezra 8:25; 1 Chr. 29:17; 26:28.——In מעל עמו the על has a cumulative sense, as in 32:10; Gen. 28:9; 31:50, etc.

Isa 56:4. As regards the construction, one sees from ובחרו, that the Prophet arranges the clauses by that rule according to which, from the view-point of the first stage of the future attained, what remains is presented in the perfect as the simple unfolding of that stage. For the sake of variety, and doubtless also for the purpose of denoting the persistency of the holding fast, the Prophet expresses the third condition by the participle. For this reason we are not to construe מחזיקים as in apposition, say, with סריסים, but it stands parallel with ובחרו. The pronomen separatum הֵם is wanting, as very often happens, 2:6; 24:2; 34:21; 37:26; 41:7, etc.——The words of Jehovah, announced by כה אמר ה׳, begin with אשׁר ישׁמרו as appears by the suffixes and afformatives of the first person.

Isa 56:5. יָר וָשֵׁם, belong together as a double idea, and טוב מב׳ ומב׳ refers to it. Hence יָד cannot simply mean “side, place, share” (as e.g., Num. 2:17; Deut. 23:13; Gen. 46:24, etc.), nor שֵׁם mean simply “name.” But both together must designate a monument that preserves the memory of the name. In this sense יָד stands alone (2 Sam. 18:18; 1 Sam. 15:12), and also שֵׁם (comp. on 55:13). The combination has the force of a hendiadys: mark and memory=memorial mark.

Isa 56:6, 7. אַהֲבָה is the infin. with the fem. ending ה_.——On יִקָּרֵא comp. 54:5; 35:8; 62:4,12.

Isa 56:8. Only here and Zech. 12:1 is נאם so placed at the beginning. On the double name אדני יהוה see List.

Isa 56:9. I construe כל חיתו שׂדי (instead of which 43:20 חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה) as the object of אֲקַבֵּץ Isa 56:8, and Isa 56:9 b as parallel clause. The form חַיְתוֹ (excepting in Zeph. 2:14, where חַיְתוֹ גוֹי are spoken of, and thus the word is evidently used in a figurative sense), occurs only in connection with the substantives אֶרֶץ (Gen. 1:24; Ps. 79:2), שָׂדַי (Ps. 104:11) and יַעַר(Ps. 50:10; 104:20). חיתו ארץ designates the totality of all beasts. The two halves of them are the חַיְתוֹ שָׂדַי and חַיְתוֹ יַעַר or בַּיַּעַר.


1. Thus saith the LORD——any evil.

Isa 56:1, 2. It might appear from 55:1–3, as if, for receiving the promised salvation, nothing more were necessary than receptivity, and as if all activity were excluded. That such is not the case is intimated already 55:7, by the exhortation to penitent turning from evil and turning to the LORD. But the Prophet designedly declares in the present passage, that one should not suppose moral uncleanness is compatible with participation in the promised salvation. It is indeed God’s free grace that accords to men the satisfaction spoken of in 55:2, 3. But this grace is not only to make men blessed, but also to sanctify them. It is in fact impossible for one to enjoy the goodness of God, and at the same time to insult Him by transgressing His commandments. Such an exhortation is of course needless for those that have entered body and scul into the kingdom of God, i. e., for those that no longer live in the mortal body that is subject to sin. To all those that still stand in the conflict of this earthly life, the kingdom of God has only come near. To them the righteousness of God is not completely revealed (comp. Rom. 8:24). When we note that the LORD, at the end of the first clause of Isa 56:1 requires of men that they “use righteousness,” then the corresponding revelation of His righteousness, that He promises at the close of the verse, consist in this, that He for His part, as the one covenanting party (55:3), will keep what He has promised. Thus, too, it is said to Christians that have in faith laid hold of God’s grace: “know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9 sq.)? and: “this ye know, that no whore, monger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ, and of God” (Eph. 5:5); and: “follow after holiness, without which no man shall see the LORD” (Heb. 12:14, comp. 1 Tim. 6:11; 1 Thess. 5:23, etc.). Moreover the author of Ps. 106:3, seems to have had our passage before him.

Isa 56:2. He that does what was required in Isa 56:1 (see Text. and Gram.), is to be esteemed blessed. For he has proved that he has true faith. Two commandments, or two categories of commandments, are named instead of all. First the Sabbath commandment. The Sabbath was the day consecrated to Jehovah. By its weekly recurrence, it was a standing admonition to the duty that Israel owed to Jehovah, and thus a touchstone of whether Israel would faithfully pay this duty. Hence it is called, Exod. 31:13: “a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you.” Thus the Sabbath belonged to foundations of the Theocracy, its profanation was punished with death (Exod. 35:2), which was to be inflicted by the whole congregation, and by means of stoning (Num. 15:35). And keepeth his hand from doing any evil; one can say that in this clause the Prophet includes the sphere of the second table of the Decalogue. LUTHER says: Comprehendit nomine sabbati omnia ea, quae nos Deo debemus, hoc est primam tabulam. Rursus cum dicit “custodiens manus suas etc.,” omnia caritatis opera complectitur, hoc est secundam tabulam. The Prophet means about the same that is demanded of the Israelites, 1:16, 17 (where see my comment). One may also say that he has in mind the image of the Old Testament צַדִּיק, the antithesis to which is the עָרִיץ. It is moreover to be noted, that the Prophet, in contemplating the future Messianic salvation with reference to its moral behaviour, does so in the form of as exhortation. Although on the whole he gives a promise, still, agreeably to the nature of the subject, he appeals here with special emphasis also to the personal performance of men. His אַשְׁרֵי Isa 56:2 is conditioned on the admonition שׁמרו משׁפט ועשׂו צדקה Isa 56:1.

2. Neither let the son——for all people. Isa 56:3-7. In these verses the Prophet shows that the new way of salvation will have in its train an entirely new order of law and life. The natural basis of the old covenant was the descent from Abraham, through the lineage consecrated by means of circumcision. This explains why the reception of strangers into this holy national communion could take place only under certain onerous conditions. For it was possible (Deut. 23:4 sqq., comp. SAALSCHUETZ,Mos. Recht. chap. 100). Now evidently the Prophet would say, that the foreigners (בְּנֵי נֵכָר a broader conception than גֵּרִים; for גֵּר is only the foreigner sojourning in the land, whereas נָכְרִי or בֶּן־נֵכָר designates the foreigner generally, comp. 14:1, ונְִלְוָה הַגֵּר עֲלֵיהֶם; SAALSCHUETZ,l. c. p. 684 sq.) in the new covenant, will suppose that there will be greater stringency in the legal requirements respecting the reception of foreigners into the Israelitish communion in consequence of the enhanced glory. Thus the Prophet assumes, that Israel will be so glorious in the new covenant, that the inferiority of the heathen will, in contrast, only appear in so much the stronger light, that consequently nothing more will be said of receiving the latter into Israel, yea, that the question will even be raised of excluding those already received. A נִלְוָה אל־יהוה is one that has joined himself to the קְהַל יהוה “assembly of Jehovah,” and has been received into it (comp. Neh. 10:29). The expression occurs in this sense 14:1; Jer. 1:5; Zech. 2:15; Esth. 9:27. From Isa 56:6, we will learn that an allusion to offering one’s self for the priestly ministry is not foreign to the word. It seems to me to be a needless inquiry, whether the Prophet means by נלוה proselytes of the gate or proselytes of righteousness. For he would evidently say, that all those who are unable to trace back the origin of their race to the root of Israel, will question, whether, because not predestined by birth to the glory of this people, thus because not noble enough, they must not be expelled again from the national communion of Israel, spite of their reception into it, and spite of their having thereby become כְּיִשְׂרָאֵל לְכָל־דָּבָר (comp. LEYRER in Herz. R.-Encycl XII. p. 244). The Prophet negatives this inquiry, because the new covenant will rest on a totally different basis from the old. Not fleshly descent, not works of the law will be the chief thing, but the receptivity for God’s word, and the disposition to receive His gift as a gift of grace (55:1–3). This negation is followed by another relating to the quite similar apprehension ascribed to the eunuchs. He, that on account of sexual impotency was unable to propogate his race, was, according to the Old Testament view, a man living in a certain measure under a curse. For since the Old Testament knows no continuance of life beyond the present, but only a continuance of life in the present in children, therefore the want of children appears to it ignominious punishment (comp. 4:1; Gen. 30:23; 1 Sam. 1:5 sqq.; 2:1 sqq. Luke 1:25). A eunuch in the proper sense was, according to Deut. 23:2, excluded forever from admission into the congregation. He could not continue to live, he was excluded from the possibility of co-operating in preserving the natural basis on which the whole Israelitish communion rested. Such a one must, of course, in the old covenant regard himself as a dry, unfruitful tree. There would be no reason for this in the new covenant, which makes the everlasting life depend on spiritual and not on fleshly conditions.

Isa 56:4. The Prophet now names three such spiritual conditions of life. In their enumeration there is a progression from the special to the general. As the first he names the observance of a definite single commandment, that regarding the Sabbath. As already remarked, it belonged to the foundations of the Theocracy. At first sight the mention of this commandment gives the impression of Old Testament narrowness. And indeed we have observed often already, how the prophets continue to be rooted in their own times, and hence paint the future with the colors of the present.8 But it is also to be considered, that the Prophet certainly knew how to distinguish between a merely outward and truly spiritual fulfilment of the Sabbath-commandment. He must, according to the whole character of his prophecy, have the latter in his mind. He thinks of the Sabbaths as the halting places of religious life, where the pilgrim provides himself with bread and water of life for the next stretch of life’s way, until at last he arrives where all life is a great, holy Sabbath, i. e., an eternal resting in God. “The rest of God on the seventh creative day, that has no evening, hovers over the whole course of the world, in order at last to receive it into itself.” ŒHLER. The second condition is expressed more generally, whereby it is to be noted that the expression בחרו designates as the right obedience that which is voluntary, and rests on an inward harmony with the divine will. The third and most general condition, is holding fast to the covenant of God in general, for to this belongs not only the right activity, but also the right receptivity (55:3). In this connection it seems to me inadmissible to think specially of the covenant of circumcision, when just in Isa 56:3, the irrelevancy of fleshly birth and generation has been emphasized.

Isa 56:5. I will give them in My house and in My walls a mark and memory better than sons and daughters. On יד ושׁם [“a place and a name” English Version] see Text. and Gram. [“As the meaning place (for יד) is admissible in 2 Sam. 18:18, as in many other cases, it appears to be entitled to the preference.” J. A. ALEX.]. The Lord will set up this mark in His house and in His walls. The Temple walls are not elsewhere made prominent, whereas the city walls are. For not only does the wall, in common usage, (comp. intra, extra muros: Ps. 122:7) represent the circuit of the city, but it is personified as the representative of the city community (Lam. 2:8, 18). So I believe here, the Prophet would denote the ecclesiastical and political communion, the ecclesiastical and political citizenship. The LORD will give the eunuchs a memorial-mark that will better preserve their name than sons and daughters, whose succession any way must at last become extinct, that is, an everlasting name that shall never be cut off. Note the repetition from 55:13. [“A beautiful coincidence and partial fulfilment of the promise is pointed out by J. D. MICHAELIS, in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch, whose conversion is recorded Acts 8, and whose memory is far more honored in the church than it could have been by a long line of illustrious descendants.” J. A. ALEX.]. What shall this everlasting name be? Living on in the memory of after-times? Yet just how will this be secured? Sons and daughters, in fact, only take the place in the Old Testament of personal immortality in the New Testament sense. The everlasting name is nothing else than everlasting personal continuance as it is promised in 1 Cor. 15:29 sqq. on the ground of the resurrection of the Lord. If the bearer of the name himself lives everlastingly, then there is at length the true, new, everlasting name (65:15; Rev. 2:17; 3:12). Of what avail is the everlasting name to him who himself is swallowed up of death?

Isa 56:6. It is a sort of ὕστερον πρότερον when the Prophet discourses last of the בני נכרthe foreigners,” after having put that first in the theme-like Isa 56:3. His designating them as those joining themselves to Jehovah to serve Him, reminds us very much of Num. 18:2, where it is said in reference to the Levites: “and they shall join themselves to thee and shall minister unto thee” (comp. ibid. Isa 56:4). If this passage hovered in the Prophet’s mind, then his choice of expression would intimate that he promised to “the foreigner” a certain participation in the priestly character of the people Israel, that he conceives of their holding a relation to the latter, something like that of the Levites to the priests. The Piel שֵׁרֵת is chiefly used of the priestly ministrations (Exod. 28:43; 29:30; 39:1; Num. 3:31; 4:12,14, etc.). The Prophet would evidently intimate by the word אהבה (see Text. and Gram.) “to love,” that the foreigner’s joining himself to Jehovah to serve Him will be voluntary, proceeding from the inmost necessity of the heart. The additional statement: to be his servants, seems to me to confirm the conjecture that the Prophet conceives of the relation of the foreigners to the Israelites as like that of the Levites to the priests. For the expression לעבדים seems to me a reminder that עֲבֹדָה is the specific word used for the Levitical ministry (comp. Num. 8:23 sqq.), which in Num. 4:47 is distinguished into עַבֹדַת עֲבֹדָה and עֲבֹדַת מַשָׂא.

Isa 56:7. Only to the foreigner is it promised, that the Lord, when they have fulfilled the conditions proposed already to the eunuch (Isa 56:4), will bring them up on His holy mountain (2:2 sq,; 25:6 sqq.), and make them joyful in His house of prayer. The LORD therefore distinguishes His house from His mountain, and calls the former His prayer-house, i. e., the house where one prays to Him and to Him alone. That there will be a place and time of the greatest joy, we know already from 2:4 where the return of an aetas aurea is promised, and from 25:6 sqq. where the prospect is presented to the nation of a glorious meal and great joy (Isa 56:9) on the holy mount. To the colors of the present, with which the Prophet paints the future, belongs also his conception of the worship on the holy mountain, as being quite in the old style. He sees there still the altar on which burnt-offerings and sacrifices are offered! Still, it is not to be overlooked, that he calls the Temple a “house of prayer,” before he speaks of the sacrifices, and that he afterwards emphatically repeats the designation “house of prayer” as a denominatio a potiori, so to speak. Although the old Temple was a place destined also for prayer (comp. 1 Kings 8:28 sqq.), yet in the Old Testament it is never called a house of prayer. There is, therefore, in this name an intimation that the sacrifices to be offered in the temple of the future will be spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet. 2:5), the fruit of the lips that confess His name (Heb. 13:15). The clause: for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations does not assign a reason for what immediately precedes, but for the fundamental thought that the LORD will bring also the foreigners to His holy mountain. The Prophet would make prominent the universality of the salvation, and one easily detects also in כל־העמים a reference to 3:2 sqq. and to 25:6 sqq. On the other hand Jesus Christ in Matth. 21:13 (Mark 11:17; Luke 19:43) lays the emphasis on the idea “house of prayer,”

3. The Lord God——in the forest.

Isa 56:8, 9. The initial words saith the Lord God, intimate something new and grand to be said. Now it is nothing new, nor is it anything exceeding grand beyond what we have had already, that Jehovah, in addition to the scattered of Israel, will gather the heathen, so that there may be one flock and one shepherd. For has not the Prophet hitherto often enough (comp. 54), and even from Isa 56:3 on of our chapter, given expression to this? Has he not said plainly enough, Isa 56:7, that the LORD will bring the foreigners to His holy mountain and make them joyful in His house? Why then this repetition? and why still more this solemn preface? The Prophet states, in Isa 56:9, whom the LORD will add to those already gathered. All meanings of this Isa 56:9 that would disjoin it from Isa 56:8, and connect it with what follows are unnatural. Some take כל־חיתו ביער as accusative, and understand by it the flocks of Israel badly kept or grown wild; others, as the modern expositors, would take חיתו ביער as a second vocative, which leaves the object the same, viz., the badly guarded Israel (Isa 56:10); others again, as STIER, etc., understand by the beasts of the field and forest especially the savage nations (in antithesis, therefore, it would seem to “the foreigners” as the civilized) that are also to be invited. But in all these explanations I find neither anything new, nor anything grand, nor any thought that is a fitting conclusion for the chain of thoughts preceding.

Did not the Prophet begin, from chap. 54 on, to describe how all will be new and wonderful in the new covenant? Israel, although judged and repudiated, shall suddenly see itself surrounded by a countless troop of children. One is no longer to be blessed by means of works of the law, but by believing acceptance (55)! But of course obedience to God’s command is not to cease (56:1, 2). By these new conditions of life, however, entrance is permitted also to the heathen, and even the eunuchs may be fully qualified members of the community, which rests on a spiritual basis of life, and no longer on a merely natural basis. Therefore a higher, out and out spiritual order of nature, is held in prospect! Already in Isa 55:12, 13, the Prophet afforded us a presentiment, that also the lower half of creation, the organic but not personal creation, viz., the vegetable world, will feel itself penetrated by this new spirit of life, the spirit of glorification. What wonder if he says the same here of the beasts! And is that a new thought with our Prophet? Has he not already, Isa 11:6 sqq., declared, that the kingdom of the Messiah will fill the world with new, higher life-forces? Has he not in the same place especially declared, that even the nature of the beasts will change, that from enemies of man they will become their friends and play-mates (11:8 comp. with Hos. 2:18, and Isa. 65:25)? I find in Isa 56:8, therefore a climax. To the chain of promise, that all foreigners, yea, even the eunuchs can have part in the new covenant, is added as the final link that also the brute world shall find admittance.

It should be noted that the LORD is described here as the great gatherer. Under the old covenant sin reigned, and consequently discontent and discord, through the whole world of nature and men. In the new covenant reign love and peace. The centrifugal tendency is replaced by a centripetal. Everything gathers to the common centre. But the LORD, who is this centre and effects this gathering, begins it with Israel. Then He gathers to Israel the heathen. Then He brings up the vegetable and brute world, that they, the groaning creation, may become regenerated and free from the bondage of destruction unto the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8:21). It is certainly not an accident, and is a strong support to our explanation, that the words מְקַבֵּץ and נִדחֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל are taken from 11:12, therefore out of the same chapter in which we first found the expression of the view that is the basis of our explanation here. For there it says: “And He will raise up a standard toward the nations and assemble the outcasts of Israel (נדחי ישׂראל) and gather (קִבֵּץ) the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” Only in 11:12 and 56:8 does the expression נדחי ישׂראל occur in Isaiah. It is found once beside in Ps. 147:2, which belongs to a later period. The word קִבֵּץ is used three times in our passage; first as a predicate of LORD, as the gatherer of the outcasts of Israel. Beside that principal passage, we learn from many passages of 40–66. the significance of this ingredient of the future (40:11; 43:5; 49:18; 54:7; 60:4; 62:10). The מְקַבֵּץ, then, who understands gathering and does it willingly, will gather still others to Israel, viz., to those gathered to Israel. One would suppose that what is further to be gathered must even be added to “outcasts of Israel.” But the Prophet evidently distinguishes “the outcasts,” and “those that are gathered.” By the latter he means such as could by no means be designated as outcasts of Israel, because they never belonged to (the fleshly) Israel. He means by them the heathen of whom he has spoken, Isa 56:3, 6 sq. Of this it was indeed said Isa 56:7, that the LORD will bring them to His holy mountain. Therefore we detect two things in the words עליו לנקבץיו; first, that the נִקְבָּצִים are no נִדָּחִים; that they nevertheless belong to Israel. For they belong to the spiritual Israel. After that, what is left that could be added to Israel, when, beside “the outcasts,” the heathen, after qualifying as in Isa 56:6, have already become נקבצים, “the gathered?” Then nothing is left but the impersonal creatures. And as already 55:12, 13, the vegetable world was mentioned as interpenetrated by the new life-forces, nothing remains to us but the brute world, to be declared a partaker of the new life. Because the beasts of the earth are destined to partake of the new life, the bringing on of one half is described by beasts of the field, and of the other by beasts of the forest (see Text. and Gram.). Only in respect to the form of the expression does a change occur. Isa 56:9b states in what way the gathering will take place, viz., by extending an invitation to them. It is not necessary to supply an object to לאכל. The brutes are just invited to eat, to a meal. It is, mutatis mutandis, the same meal to which, 25:6, all nations are invited.

[The Author’s interpretation of Isa 56:9, connecting it with the preceding context, has in its favor the marked division of the Masoretic text, in addition to its own ingenuity. But spite of His assertion to the contrary, that is much the more natural division that connects Isa 56:9 with what follows, as is proved by its having been so generally adopted, notwithstanding the Masoretic division. The Author supports his view chiefly by appeal to “saith the LORD God,” as a preface that intimates that something new and grand, or grandly new, is to be said. But this inference may itself be questioned. Yet if it were justified, he himself undoes the force of his appeal by showing; that, after all, what is said is not grandly new, seeing it has been said in effect before. The naturalness and propriety of the connection of Isa 56:9 with what follows may be illustrated by a reference to Jno. 10:10, 12. The relation of Isa 56:1–8 and 9–12, as coherent parts of one distinct chapter, may be illustrated by a reference to Matth. 24:42–51. The Author’s own exposition of the text of itself calls to mind this latter passage, as one that in its spirit is related to the revelation in our prophecy. But the Author actually brings the passages into relation: see below Hom. Hints, § 1. The propriety of throwing Isa 56:10–12 into one connected section with 57:1, 2, may therefore be questioned.—TR.]


1. On 56:1, 2. “Just because Christ has appeared, we ought not to suppose that now we may live as we please, but rather we ought to be the more diligent about righteousness and godly conversation. For therefore the saving grace of God has appeared and chastens us, that we should live chastened, righteous and godly (Tit. 2:11).” CRAMER.

2. On 56:2. Apart from the temporal coloring of this declaration, it may be remarked here, that the weekly day of rest is necessary, also, for us Christians as long as we are under the curse, Gen. 3:17 sqq. It is one of the greatest and most important benefactions of God, that at the creation of time He at once gave us also the proper division of time. Less than six working days would interrupt too often the progress of human labors and encourage laziness; more than six working days in succession would use up human forces too soon. Six days’ labor, then a day of rest, is just the right and in every respect healthful medium. That we Christians observe the first instead of the seventh day, has come about of itself, without any special higher ordinance. It is the victory that the second creation, as the beginning of the holy, blessed, everlasting life, must naturally have over the first creation as the beginning of a life made subject to sin, evil and death. For Sunday is the weekly Easter feast. The day of Christ’s resurrection was also a creative day, and indeed a higher one than that of which the Sabbath reminds us. Therefore we ought to celebrate Sunday in a higher style. We, as mush as the men of the old covenant, need rest for the body and rest for the soul. The soul should on this day wash off the dust and dirt, that have gathered through the week’s work, by a cleansing, refreshing, strengthening bath in its heavenly life-element, that is offered in God’s word. But it should do this in a truly spiritual, not in an outwardly legal way. Let it beware of getting out of the Scylla of Publicanism into the Charybdis of Pharisaism. Even the Old Testament Sabbath was a day of joy. So much the less is it becoming to make of the Christian Sabbath a day of gloomy, depressing asceticism. The Christian Sunday should be illumined with the joy and glory of Easter morning. But by this joy it should also at the same time be raised high away out, not only above all earthly plagues, but also above all bad, merely earthly joy. It should stand in the brightness of the transfiguration, and thus not merely imitate the light of Easter day, but also typify the light of the everlasting Sabbath.

[If Sunday is anywhere kept holy in the manner described in the last two of the foregoing sentences, there one might abstain from controversy concerning the grounds of its being so. But it is a fact now historical, that the day is nowhere greatly kept sacred, where its importance is urged on no better grounds than those given above. It is a strange proceeding to find a reason for the institution or need of the Sabbath in Gen. 3:17 sqq., when God Himself gives as the reason His own resting on the seventh day, and that not from a work on which rested the blight of a curse. We assent to the statement that “six days’ labor, then a day of rest, is just the right and healthful medium.” But it is still true, that this rule could never be urged as of binding force on any other ground than that of revelation. Experience confirms it; but it could never do so in a way to make it an article of religion, any more than it could make the habit of early rising an article of religion. The reason for the institution of the Sabbath was God’s resting. Making a day for man to rest like God rested, is itself a revelation of God’s willingness to have men share his rest. To “enter his rest” is the chief, final goal of religion, both under the old and under the new covenant. The Sabbath, therefore, as typical of that rest, and (when we observe it) of our hope of sharing that rest, is the great distinctive and significant institution of the only true religion, i.e., the only religion that offers a true hope of immortality. As long as God’s people have not yet entered into His rest, there is reason, and all the reason there ever was, for observing that day that is a type of His rest. When the rest itself is given, there will no longer remain a typical day to be kept. Just as there no longer remained any sacrifices for sin after the great Sacrifice was come, that all sacrifices for sin typified (Heb. 10:26). In Heb. 4:1–11 the truth just stated is clearly revealed. And in Isa 56:8–10 it is put with a pointedness that expressly affirms the Sabbath to be an existing institution for the people of God under the new covenant, though this meaning is generally overlooked. But if the order of thought in Heb. 4:1–11 is closely scrutinized, it will appear that, in Isa 56:8–10, Paul reminds his readers, that Joshua did not give the promised rest, which he appeals to as the only event of the past that might seem to be a realization of God’s promise of rest. The proof that the rest was not then given is, that God afterwards spake of another day for giving it. As the consequence of the rest being yet future, Paul says, Isa 56:9: “Therefore there remaineth σαββατισμός (i.e., the observance of the Sabbath), to the people of God.” And so it must “remain” as long as the watchword of Christians is: “Let us labor to enter into that rest” (Heb. 4:10).—It is remarkable that the author, in his comment on 56:7, seems to find less “temporal coloring” in the expressions “burnt-offerings and sacrifices,” and “mine altar,” than in the mention of “keeping the Sabbath.” To him the former give no impression of Jewish narrowness in Isaiah, while the latter seems so fitted to give this impression that the best he can offer is an indifferent apology. As he is but a representative of multitudes of Christians, including multitudes of eminent ones, it is a mournful evidence of how far the Christian church is from properly valuing the divine and priceless institution of the Holy Sabbath, and therefore how far we Gentiles and “foreigners “are from meeting the conditions of the blessings of the new covenant set forth in the prophecy before us.—TR.]

3. On 56:3–7. In the old covenant, only he was fully qualified as to principle [to be one of the covenant people] who was descended from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. The natural basis of descent was at the same time the legal basis. Those who only from without grew into this natural and legal basis, must ever, in a certain degree, have regarded themselves as only guests received out of grace, that must properly yield and give place to the fully qualified, were the principles of the Theocracy carried out consistently. And might it not be expected that the triumph of the Theocracy would be attended with the most severely consistent carrying out of its principle? The right that descent from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob gave, involved, as does every right, a duty, viz., that of co-operating in preserving the natural basis. The extinction of the Twelve Tribes would have been the end of the Old Testament Theocracy. Hence the high significance of marriage, of generation, of posterity. To be childless or, still worse, to be incapable of begetting children, was a ban and curse that rested on a man, like a divine judgment that excluded him from living on and working on, and gave him absolutely to death. What a consoling look, then, the Prophet takes here into the nature of the new covenant ! There is no longer Greek nor Jew; their continued life and activity no longer depends on fleshly posterity. But in the new covenant Christ is all. Whoever is rooted and lives in him is a child of God, and hence, too, an heir of God and joint heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17). He has his citizenship and everlasting life in Christ. His name lives on everlastingly, because he himself is everlasting.

4. On 56:5. These words were used by the Papists to commend celibacy. LUTHER remarks on this: “Propheta hic non versatur in laude virginitatis, sed consolatur steriles eunuchos, ne desperent de sua vocatione, et diserte dicit de eunuchis servantibus Sabbatum et tenentibus foedus divinum. Non ligitur agit de laude eunuchatus aut virginitatis, sed laude servantium mandata.”

5. On 56:8, 9. There will one time be a new heaven and a new earth (65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev.21:1). Paul speaks of “the anxious expectation of the creature,” and that it “will be delivered from the service of the perishable nature to the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:19, 21). “Behold, I make all things new,” says He that sitteth on the throne (Rev 21:5). We must not, therefore, think it wonderful if the Prophet here speaks of the brute world and their relation to man becoming new. Are not, after all, the Cherubim types of what will become of the brute world (Ezek. 1:10)?


1. On 56:1, 2. This text may most appropriately be used for an Advent Sunday (comp. the Epistle of the I. Adv., Rom. 13:11–14, the Gospel of the second Luke 21:25–34, the Epistle of the third 1 Cor. 4:1–5 and of the fourth Phil. 4:4–7), or for one of the last Sundays after Trinity, when the look of the congregation is turned to the coming of the Lord to judgment. On such a day, in the sense of the parables of “the faithful and wise servant” (Matth. 24:45 sqq.) or of the ten virgins (Matth. 25:1 sqq.), one might preach on The revelation of the Lord that we are to look for at the last day. I. When and how will this revelation take place? (Isa 56:1 b) 1.) As regards the time, we are to think of it as near; 2) As regards how, it will bring to light, a. the Salvation intended for us, b. the Righteousness of God. II. Under what conditions may we cheerfully anticipate this revelation? When we are found as servants that do the Lord’s will. 1) What is the doing of such a servant (Isa 56:1 a, Isa 56:2, comp. Matth. 24:46)? 2) How does one become such a servant? (by sincere repentance and living faith).

2. On 56:3–7. MISSIONARY SERMON. The Church of the Lord a house of prayer for all nations. I. A house of prayer, therefore 2) not a place for offering outward divine service, but 1) a place for worshipping in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). II. For all nations. For 1) neither fleshly descent nor fleshly defect excludes; 2) only that is demanded which all men may perform: that one hold fast the covenant of the LORD, and choose what pleases Him (Isa 56:4).

3. On 56:3–7. We have here an example of what Peter says, Acts 10:34, 35, that with God there is no respect of persons, but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him. God proved that, even in the Old Covenant, since He commanded to receive also foreigners into His nation, if they sought Him. But especially in the New Testament has He called and gathered all heathen to His believing people Israel, and to the fellowship of Christ and of His salvation. Let a man be ever so bad, ever so poor and despised of men, still, if he become a believing Christian, he is of as much importance to God as the most superior person. And what this one has in God, Christ and His kingdom, with that same every believing Christian may comfort himself. Hence John writes of believers, they have their fellowship with them. the holy Apostles; and their fellowship is with the Father, and with Jesus Christ his Son (1 John 1:3).”

4. [On 56:6. “The conditions on which admission is had to the privileges of the people of God. (1) They were to “join themselves to the LORD;” embrace the true faith and become a worshipper of the true God. (2) This should be with a purpose to serve Him. (3) They were to “love the name of the Lord,” that is, to love Jehovah Himself. (4) They were to keep His Sabbaths. (5) They were to take hold of His covenant.”—BARNES].

5. On 56:8, 9. Sin rends mankind, yea all nature asunder, puts them at enmity and scatters them. For by sin we all become egoists, and so lose both the tendency to the common centre, God, and also to those who revolve with us around the centre. God’s love gathers, again what has been scattered. Let us consider God’s activity in gathering. 1) He gathers the outcast of Israel. 2) He gathers to these the heathen. 3) He brings also, in addition to these, the impersonal creatures, the plants (55:12, 13) and the brutes (11:6–8; 55:25; Rom. 8:19–23).


[1]Or, equity.

[2]the foreigners.

[3]will utterly separate.


[5]the foreigners.

[6]Heb. To his gathered.

[7]to eat.

[8][The remarks of the Author on this mention of the Sabbath, and all “the impression of Old Testament narrowness” of which he would divest it, belong to a condition of “rootedness” in a state of religious life that has lost much of the blessing of the Sabbath. Those who believe in the perpetual obligation of the Fourth Commandment, and have lived in church communions that have observed the command, and have religious traditions through generations of Sabbath-keeping people, will see no “Old Testament narrowness” in the language of the Prophet. On the contrary, we must see in this language the express revelation, that the new covenant is not to involve an abrogation of the Sabbath of the Fourth Commandment; that Sabbath is, in fact, to be more honored than ever, and the keeping of it is to be the first privilege of those that hold fast to that covenant. Though part of the foundations of the Theocracy, it did not pass away with the latter. Some of those foundations last still, e, g., the Abrahamic covenant—, TR.].

His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.

Concluding Word: The Mournful Present, which will not be Prevented by the Approach of the Glorious Future.

CHAPTER 56:10–57:21.

Isaiah is wont to set the present in the light of the future, in order to make an impression on it by the contrast. I appeal to chapters 2–5, and to my interpretation of 2:5. Jeremiah also imitates Isaiah in this (Jer. 3:11–4:4). The sudden spring from the remotest, the glorious future into the mournful, immediate present that the Prophet makes between 56:9 and 10, need not therefore seem strange to us. It is to be admitted that the description of the bad shepherds, 56:10–12, can suit also the period of the Exile. That it at least fits Isaiah’s contemporaries very well is undeniably plain from Isa 28. That in the exile, prophets of Jehovah were murdered (57:1) simply for being such, is possible, but not probable, and not proved. That remnants of idolatry continued through the whole exile, is not only possible but also probable. However the time before and after the destruction of Jerusalem must be distinguished. But that all kinds of idolatry even Moloch worship, with its sacrifices of children (57:5), still occurred in the Exile, is not probable and not proved. It is utterly inconceivable, or, as HENGSTENBERG says (Christol. II. p. 201, 2 edit.), “it has no meaning,” that Israel even in exile sent to foreign kings for help (57:9). The threat: because thou hast not laid to heart my silence מֵעוֹלם, thy works shall be made manifest and thy idols be swept away (57:11–13), certainly suits better the time before than the time after the Exile. For this reason even the opponents of the genuineness have been obliged to admit that the authorship of our section dates before the Exile (comp. KLEINERT, Echth. D. jes. Weiss. p. 305 sqq.; STIER in his Comm.; HENGSTENBERG, l.c.). They do so partly by forced interpretations; partly by assuming that the whole passage 56:10–57:21 (EICHHORN), or at least 56:9–57:11 (EWALD) is repeated “from older prophets.” I am for this reason of the opinion (with KLEINERT, STIER, HENGSTENBERG) that the grounds already given are opposed to the idea that in writing our passage, too, Isaiah’s view-point was that of the Exile (DEL.).

The section divides into three parts. In the First the Prophet contrasts the conduct and the fate of the bad and of the good shepherds of the present (56:10; 57:2). In the Second he describes the mournful signs of the present, the idolatrous doings of the nation (57:3–14). In the Third he returns to promising salvation, and announces that God’s love will still bring salvation and healing to those that let themselves be healed (57:15–21).



CHAPTERS 56:10–57:2

10     His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant,

They are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark;

9Sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.

11     Yea, they are 10greedy dogs which 11can never have enough,

12And they are shepherds that cannot understand:

They all look to their own way,

Every one for his gain, 13from his quarter.

12     Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine,

And we will fill ourselves with strong drink;

And to-morrow shall be as this day,

And much more abundant.

CHAPTER 57 1     THE righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart:

And 14merciful men are taken away, none considering

15That the righteous is taken away 16from the evil to come.

2     17He shall 18enter into peace:

They shall rest in their beds,

Each one walking 19in his uprightness.


See List for the recurrence of the words: 56:10. הזה. Verse 12. יתר מאד; 57:1. אנשׁי־חסד– שׂם על לב; 57:2. מִשְׁכָּב.

Isa 56:10. The suffix in צֹכּוֹ undoubtedly refers to Israel.

Isa 56:11. The suffix in מקצהו is related to the ideal totality to which the אִישׁ belongs.

Isaiah 57:1. I cannot approve the view that כי מפני וגו׳ is an objective clause depending on מֵבִין. For how could then the wicked know that the pious by their death only escape the impending evil? And must it not then read, as VITRINGA has said, לִפְגֵי or at least מִלִּכְּנֵי? I believe that we must construe מִפְנֵי as causal, as in countless instances beside.

Isa 57:2. This verse is very difficult on grammatical and lexical grounds. For if one take הֹלֵךְ as the subject of יָבוֹא, then this insertion of a clause whose subject is identical with that of the principal clause, but expressed in the plural, is very violent, and, so far as I see, unexampled, notwithstanding the great freedom usual in Hebrew in respect to the change of person and number. It is also very questionable whether מִשְׁכָּב can mean “burying place,” and whether נוֹחַ with עַל can mean “rest in the grave.” For משׁכב is only twice beside this used of a bed prepared for a dead person. In 2 Chr. 16:14 it designates the bed of state on which king Asa was laid before his burial (משׁכב and קְבָרוֹת are expressly distinguished). Also in Ezek. 32:25 there is prepared for Elam a משׁכב in the under-world, around about which are the עְבָרוֹת of his adherents. Thus it appears that משׁכב can indeed designate the place of repose of a dead person, but that is not then the grave in which he lies, but a distinguished elevated couch, on which he lies. But here nothing else is meant to be said of the righteous than that he, as one who has walked uprightly, finds rest in his grave. For this reason I am unable also to agree with the explanation, grammatically admissible, that treats יבוא שׁלום as a clause by itself, and הלך as the subject of ינוהו. Then the participle is regarded as collective: the upright walking, i. e., the total of those walking uprightly. But here על משׁכבותם remains an oddity. For this reason I am of the opinion, that ינוחו על מ׳ is to be treated as clause thrown in, expressive of the situation (comp. Jer. 13:21): “comes to peace—while they rest on their beds—who walks uprightly”. In this way is made prominent the contrast between the fleshly rest on soft pillows (comp. 66:10. שׁכבים אהבי לנום) that the bad shepherds enjoy, and the rest of everlasting peace of God enjoyed by the righteous whom the world persecutes (comp. Luke 16:22). It is true one looks for וְחֵמָּה before יָנוּחוּ. Still Vav. in such clauses is not unfrequently omitted (comp. e. g., Ps. 57:4; חֵרֵף שׁאֲפִי; EWALD, § 311, a), and the omission of הֵמָּה finds compensation in the striking prominence of the plural.—The plural משׁכבות is found beside here in Hos. 7:14; Mic. 2:1; Ps. 149:5. It is also perhaps not unimportant to remark that this plural only occurs with עַל, and that both the singular and the plural with עַל never mean anything else than the bed on which the living repose. The passages with משׁכב in the singular with על: 2 Sam. 4:11; 11:2; 13:6; 1 Kings 1:47; Ps. 4:5; 36:5; Job 33:19; Song of Sol. 3:1. For the use of both sing. and plur. in Isaiah, see List.—נָכֹחַ is τὸ ἐναντίον, ex adverso positum, that which lies directly opposite, directly before a man. Hence הלך נכחו is he that goes the way lying directly before him. הלך with the accusative as in 33:15; 50:10.


1. The Prophet stands at the conclusion of the task he proposed for the second Ennead. He has pursued the word of the Servant of God through all its alternations to its glorious goal. From the light of the final glorification he turns his eye back and observes with pain the contrast between the glorious future and the mournful present. As we notice in Isa 48:6 that the Prophet by no means becomes unconscious of the present in his contemplation of the future, so we see here, too, that he cannot avoid instituting a comparison between that hereafter and the now. The difference is so great, that one does not comprehend how from the now the hereafter can ever come to be. But nothing is impossible with God. Spite of the heinousness of the present, the word of the LORD stands fast, that the people of God (those of course excepted that persistently resist the drawings of the Spirit) shall come to the peace and refreshment on the mount of God. The Prophet describes first the heinousness of the present. His eye falls chiefly on those that ought to be leaders and exemplars to the nation in the good way. But these are blind watchmen, and dumb, lazy dogs (56:10) and insatiably greedy. They are shepherds without knowledge, only keen for their own interest (56:11), and carousers that each day carry on worse than the day before (56:12). Where such men rule, of course the lot of the righteous is outwardly mournful; unregarded by the crowd they are borne away by the evil (57:1). But happily for them! For while others on their luxurious pillows surrender themselves to a fatal repose, the righteous go in to everlasting peace (57:2).

2. His watchmen——more abundant.—56:10–12. Although in general the transition here is sharp from the future to the immediate present, still the figure used in 56:9 prepares the transition in a very artistic way. For, although I do not think that there the Prophet summons the wild beasts to devour Israel, because they may easily do this on account of the bad watch that is kept, still I think it likely, that the Prophet, by the mention of the future of the beasts, is led to think of the beasts of the present, and of the way in which Israel is given over to them. צֹפִים (21:5, 6; 52:7), which means primarily “spies, sentinels on guard,” we are to understand here as meaning those whose duty it is, on account of their office, to warn the community of evil, and with it to contend against wickedness. Such, first of all, are the prophets. But also the priests (Mal. 2:7) and worldly superiors, in short all that are entrusted with the shepherd office (וְהֵמָּה רעִים56:11) are included. But what sort of watchmen are those that cannot see? In the ordinary sense there are none such. But in a spiritual sense there are. For there are, alas, those spiritually blind, whose spiritual eye is plastered up, and who consequently “do not know,” i. e., have no knowledge, no understanding of what they ought to know, יָדע in this absolute sense we had already 44:9, 18; 45:20. Changing his figure, the Prophet further compares those bad shepherds to dogs that should watch the flock, and which though not blind, indeed, are yet dumb. But a protector that sees the enemy and gives no notice, is just as bad as one that does not see him at all (indeed worse subjectively). Thus the second figure intensifies the charge; for it adds a bad will to incapacity. Why they do not bark is said in the following words (added in the form of apposition): snarling in sleep, lying down, loving to slumber.הָזָה, ἅπ. λεγ. seems to designate the sounds a dog utters in sleep, and therefore the meanings “to sleep, dream, snore, to be delirious” are ascribed to the word; comp. BOCHART, Hieroz. ed. Lips. I. p. 781 sqq. With the Arabs the dog passes for a sleepy beast (comp. HITZIGin loc.), while, on the contrary, in the Occident it is the type of watchfulness (see BOCHART, l. c.). The Prophet would say of the bad shepherds under all circumstances, that they cannot bark because they love their comfort and advantage beyond everything. Hence they get off nothing more than a snarl or a growl, such as a dog utters in slumber. BOCHARTl.c. adduces several passages from the ancients that show that they regarded these sounds in sleep as a characteristic peculiarity of dogs. They are lazy, yet insatiably greedy dogs (עַזֵּי־נֶפֶשׁ strong in greed, 5:14; 29:8; 55:2); they do not know what it is to be satisfied. And they are shepherds! adds the Prophet indignantly, with reference to “his watchmen,” etc., Isa 57:10 init. Then, as is his manner, Isaiah proceeds, in what follows, to explain the figure: answering to the ignorance of what is enough, is a worse ignorance with respect to הָבִין, “to distinguish “(comp. the reverse of this 32:4). They are strangers to true wisdom. They let selfishness essentially determine the direction of their efforts (comp. 58:6), and especially greediness for gain. בֶּצַע is “that cut off, the cutting, gain” (33:15; 57:17), קָצֶה is the end in the sense of the periphery (comp. Gen. 19:4; Jer. 50:26). Thus the idea is: from the utmost periphery in to the very centre every one of this fine fellowship turns only to gain. Accordingly they all do so without exception.

And what good does their money do them? Isa 57:12 shows this by examples. Such a blind, dumb watchman, who can open eye and mouth well enough when it concerns his belly, calls out to the passer-by, or a visitor: Come ye, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with intoxicating drink (שֵׁכָר comp. on 5:11). This friendly host, however, does not invite to merely a short banquet, but, (answering to “they know not satiety” Isa 57:10), also to one that the following day will be continued in grander style. The words גדול are both a nearer definition and also intensify the meaning. The next day is to be like the first only as a drunken day in general, but distinguished as to species by being of a much higher quality. Who does not think here of what the Prophet says 28:7 sqq. of the vice of drunkenness that invaded both Judah and Israel? At all events, this moral aberration agrees very well with the religious degeneracy spoken of in 57:3 sqq.

3. The righteous perish——uprightness, 57:1, 2. If 56:10–12 describes the doings of the bad shepherds, especially of false prophets, then by the righteous man here must be understood also a prophet. And אבד and נאסף cannot mean a natural death, for that would be much more an encouragement than a warning to the bad. Rather the context seems to me to demand that the mournful fate of the true and righteous servants of Jehovah be contrasted with the lazy, jovial doings of the dumb dogs. Therefore (with UMBREIT and others) I understand אבד and נאספ to denote a violent death. I cannot avoid the impression that the Prophet here alludes to circumstances that he sees quite near, and as perhaps personally threatening to himself. Of course, precise proof of this cannot be offered; and I will only offer the view as a conjecture. The flood of unbelief had only swelled to greater magnitude under the idolatrous Manasseh. The apostacy was universal. It was much as in the days of Elijah (1 Ki. 19:10). It is also expressly said of Manasseh, that he shed very much innocent blood, and filled Jerusalem with it from one end to the other (2 Ki. 21:16); and tradition (handed down by JOSEPHUS,Antiq. X. 3, 1) refers that bloodshed especially to execution of numerous prophets. Even though Isaiah himself may not so have perished, and though the tradition to that effect be unfounded (see Introduction, pp. 3, 4), still Isaiah, while writing this, may have had this atrocious period in mind, and even have regarded it as threatening himself with destruction. That no man laid it to heart, if again a Jehovah-prophet was slain, is perfectly explained by the frequency of such events and by the apostacy being so universal and intense. The expression אנשׁי־חסד might in parallelism have a general meaning. Yet history justifies our construing it in a particular sense. חֶסֶד is “pietas, piety.” באין מבין is said as בְּהִמָ‍ֽצְאוֹ, 55:6. On כי מפני וגו׳, see Text. and Gram. It was said before only, that the pious are taken away without any one regarding it. Now the reason of this is given. It is the רָעָה, the universally prevalent wickedness. That explains that the righteous are not only taken away, but that it is done without opposition, yea, even without causing any disturbance.

Isa 57:2. But that is only a seeming misfortune for the righteous. In fact in this way he enters into peace, while they, the wicked, are fatally reposing on their beds of luxury (see Text. and Gram.).


[9]Or, Draming, or, talking in their sleep.

[10]Heb. strong of appetite.

[11]Heb. know not to be satisfied.

[12]And they are shepherds! They know not how to distinguish.

[13]without exception.

[14]Heb. men of kindness, or, godliness.


[16]Or, from that which is evil.

[17]He enters into peace (while they rest on their beds) who walks straight before him.

[18]Or, go in peace.

[19]Or, before him.

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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