Isaiah 58
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.
c.—The new creature

CHAPS. 58–66

At the close of the second Ennead, the gaze of the Prophet had returned from the heights of prophecy to the practical necessities of his own time. In the third Ennead he renewedly mounts aloft to the heights of prophetic vision. Chapters 58, 59. form, as it were, the ladder on which he ascends. He shows in them how the people must, by a sincere repentance, raise themselves out of the region of the flesh into the region of the spirit. After this introductory section, the Prophet, in the second discourse, chap. 60, lets the day of salvation dawn by the rising of a new sun that will prove to be a new, heavenly principle of life in the sphere both of nature and of personal life. The third discourse, Isa 61:1–63:6, shows us that the new principle of life will be represented by a personal centre. And in this personality, which, indeed, he beholds only as veiled, the Prophet distinguishes a three-fold official activity. He so speaks of it that we must recognize it as the bearer of a prophetic, priestly and kingly power and dignity. As for the object of this three-fold activity, it will be a double one. In a positive respect, there will be brought by that personal centre to the people Israel all-comprehending salvation, that shall find its concentrated expression in a new name. But negatively, it will be active as judge of the whole Gentile world, here represented by Edom. The fourth discourse, chaps, 63:7–64 implies another descent of the Prophet into the present. But this time it is not the actual, absolute present, but a relative present, viz., that of the Exile into which he translates himself in thought. And as out of this present, he makes the people pray the LORD, in a fervent prayer, that He who once showed Himself as the God of His people, would now also look down, yea, that He would come down with grand display of His power. The fifth discourse, finally, chaps. 65, 66, is like a limited “yes” to the prayer offered in the foregoing discourse. For the prayer was respecting the deliverance of all Israel (64:7, 8). To this 65 replies that neither all Israel will be saved, nor all Israel be lost. The righteousness of God will give to each his own (65:1–16). The pious shall receive new life. For there shall be a new earth and a new heaven. And the new life that shall reign in these will be one that is inexhaustibly rich, spiritually exalted, in the highest degree intensive; it will also bear the character of the tenderest maternal love (65:17; 66:14). In conclusion, there follows, 66:15–24, a panorama of the last time. Its acts of judgment the Prophet beholds together. The first act of the judgment is pre-supposed when, in Isa 58:19, it is said, that those that have escaped bring the salvation to the heathen; that the latter shall, as it were, bring back Israel as an offering to Jehovah, and that then all mankind shall be a new Israel on the highest pinnacle. So ends the book with an outlook on a new creation of a higher grade, whose reverse side is briefly indicated in the extended refrain, 66:24, as a worm that never dies, and a fire that is unquenchable.

It must, in the third Ennead, first of all surprise one, that the number of the chapters in it no longer corresponds to the number of discourses, as is in general the case in both the Enneads that precede. For there are nine chapters, and yet only five discourses. Besides, we observe evident interpolations in various places [see Introd., p. 16 b]. Also, the division of verses is erroneous in several places (comp. the rem. on 63:19 b—64:4 a). All this appears to me to indicate that the Prophet had not wrought out the last Ennead as perfectly as the two preceding. In the materials originating from him, there were doubtless nine discourses indicated for the third division. Hence the undeniable Isaianic character of much the greater part of these last nine chapters. [The Author’s further inferences are substantially a repetition of what appears on pp. 16, 17 of the Introduction, where see.—TR.]



Bridge from the Present to the Future, from Preaching Repentance to Preaching Glory

CHAPS. 58, 59

This discourse connects closely with the concluding word of the foregoing Ennead. There the Prophet had descended from the heights of future glory to the level of the present. This present, with its sad moral condition, makes him doubtful whether the glorious images of the future that he beheld could be realized. But he is comforted: God’s loving wisdom is able to heal a man, if only he does not harden his heart. The Prophet, then, in these chapters, proceeds from the level to which in 57 he descended. But he mounts upward again. He builds a bridge for himself that shall conduct him again to those heights he has momentarily forsaken. This he does first, by repelling the charge of the people that God is unjust and denies to their deserving its suitable reward. God, he says, is not unjust, but your piety is good for nothing, for it is merely outward, and appears associated with deeds that are morally objectionable (58:1–5). Then it is shown how true piety that pleases God must prove itself by actions (58:6–14). Then in chap. 59 which, with chap. 58, forms an organic whole, the Prophet first refutes the charge that God cannot help, and shows that the moral corruption of the people is to blame for their misfortune (59:1–8). This charge the people acknowledge to be founded, and make a sincere confession that promises genuine fruits (59: 9–15 a). Upon this confession the Prophet promises again that Israel shall come to its right, to the possession of the theocratic salvation, and receives in conclusion the comforting assurance that the Spirit imparted to him will rule in Israel forever (59:15 b–21). This artistically constructed conclusion has a double sense. First it intimates that the new covenant which the Goel will conclude with Israel shall inaugurate a life in the Spirit, and indeed the same Spirit which is imparted to the Prophet, and which will instantly, from chap. 60. on, again raise him aloft to the heights of prophetic vision. Here the division of the chapter is not quite correct. The first chief part of the discourse comprises 58:1–59:8; the second 59:9–21. The first part opposes charge to charge. In chap. 53 the charge against Israel on account of false piety is opposed to the charge against God of unrighteousness. In 59:1–8 the charge of moral corruption is opposed to the charge of inability. The second part contains first the people’s confession of sin (59: 9–15 a), and then the promise that Jehovah will, after their repentance, also help Israel to their rights, by which also the spirit of the Prophet is, as it were, set free, and rendered capable of a new flight.



Isaiah 58: 1–59:8.

a. The complaint of the people against the unrighteousness of Jehovah, opposed by the charge of false piety.

CHAPTER 58:1–14.

1          Cry 1aloud, spare not,

Lift up thy voice like a trumpet,

And show my people their transgression,

And the house of Jacob their sins.

2     Yet they seek me daily,

And delight to know my ways, 2

As a nation that did righteousness,

And forsook not the ordinance of their God: 3

They ask of me the ordinances of justice;

They take delight in 4approaching to God.

3     Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not?

Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?

Behold, in the day of your fast ye 5find pleasure,

And exact all your 6labours.

4     Behold, ye fast for 7strife and debate,

And to smite with the fist of wickedness:

8Ye 9shall not fast as ye do this day,

To make your voice to be heard on high.

5      Is it such a fast that I have chosen?

10A day for a man to afflict his soul?

Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush,

And to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast,

And an acceptable day to the LORD?

6     Is not this the fast that I have chosen?

To loose the bands of wickedness,

To undo 11the 12heavy burdens,

And to let the 13oppressed go free,

And that ye break every yoke?

7     Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry,

And that thou bring the poor 14that are 15cast out to thy house?

When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him;

And that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

8     Then shall thy light break forth as the morning,

And thine 16health shall spring forth speedily:

And thy righteousness shall go before thee;

The glory of the LORD 17shall be thy rereward.

9     Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer;

Thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.

If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke,

The putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;

10     And18 if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry,

And satisfy the afflicted soul;

Then shall thy light rise in obscurity,

And thy darkness be as the noon day:

11     And the LORD shall guide thee continually,

And satisfy thy soul in 19drought,

And 20make fat thy bones:

And thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water,

Whose waters 21fail not.

12     22And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places:

Thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations;

And thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach,

The restorer of paths 23to dwell in.

13     If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath,

From doing thy 24pleasure on my holy day;

And call the Sabbath a delight,

The holy of the LORD, honourable;

And shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways,

Nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:

14     Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD ;

And I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth,

And feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father:

For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.


Isa 58:3. It is doubtful whether עַצְּבֵיכֶם means operas vestras (i.e„ your laborers), or opera vestra. But since עֶצֶב (on the abnormal doubling of the צ by Dagheshforte derimens or separative see GREEN, § 24. b; 216, 2 a) never has a personal sense, but always means only labor, hard work, we must translate: and ye exact all your compulsory labor. נָגַשׂ is construed not only with the accusative of the person, but also with the accusative of the thing, as is shown by 2 Kings 23:35. The double accusative joined with the word here shows that it is conceived of as verbum postulandi.

Isa 58:5. It is not clear to me why DELITZSCH affirms that the לְ in הֲלָכֹף is not dependent on תקרא. Only the ablative of the gerund could be so expressed. But here no ablative gerund is in place. For one could not translate: Numbers flectendo caput arundinis instar? But it is the pure dative of the remoter object, that numberless times stands after קָרָא in the sense of “calling, to give a name.” לְ very often has a pretonic vowel before the monosyllabic infinitive that itself does not stand in the construct state (comp. Num. 24:10; Amos 7:4). The construction ושׂק ואפר יַצֹּיעַ after the infinitive לָכֹף is a return from the subordinate to the principal form.

Isa 58:6. Also in the last clause of this verse we notice the discourse returns after three infinitives to the principal form, to the imperfect.

Isa 58:7. הֲלֹא at the beginning of the verse recapitulates the הלא Isa 58:6, and also represents the clause introduced by the latter (is not that a fast, that I choose?).——פָּרַם “to split, divide,” (only again spoken of bread, Jer. 16:7, where לֶחֶם is to be supplied; used beside only with פַּרְסָה of beasts that cleave the hoof) occurs only here in Isaiah.——The word מְרוּדִים is difficult. It is found Lam. 1:7 meaning “a going astray, erratio.” Lam. 3:19 has the same word in the singular in the same sense. Both times the word is joined with עֳנִי, miseria, as in our text it is with עָנִי, miser. That it is so connected with one or other of these words in every instance of its use, is certainly no accident. It seems to indicate a proverbial mode of expression. Also it results that our word is really from the same root as that in Lam. If then the latter be from רוּד, errare, vagari, then our word must be from the same, and not from מָרַד rebellare. Now as there are no words ad. f. מָקוֹם (with further obscuration in the plural into u) or מָצוּק, that would have both a substantive and adjective signification, we must, with MAURER, KNOBEL, et al., take מרוּד as a substantive, which like e.g. מַלְאָךְ ,מוֹרָא, etc., pass over from the abstract meaning to the concrete. Then מְרוּדִים would be not merely wanderings astray,” but also “wanderers,” as it were personified goings astray.

Isa 58:10. הֵפִיק (in Isaiah occurs only פּוּק vacillare 28:7) is “to make go out, promere, bring forth,” in various senses, comp. Ps. 140:9; 144:13, Prov. 3:13; 8:35; 12:2; 18:22. It is still uncertain whether the root of our תפק is or is not identical with that of פקו 28:7 and יָפִיק Jer. 10:4. The jussive form וְתָפֵק stands parallel with אִס־תָּסִיד in the foregoing conditional clause. We translate, not quite literally: “and sacrifice thy hunger to the hungry one” (comp. GESEN. and UMBERIT). Properly it should be rendered: “and draw forth (offer out of thy provision) to the hungry one that after which thy soul craves.” The other translation is for the sake of brevity and pregnancy.

Isa 58:11. By the imperf. with Vav consec. [copulat?] יחליץ appears as the consequence of חָלַץ ּוְהִשְׂבִּיעַ is extraxit, subtraxit; חָלוּץ is extractus, “become loose, free from, expeditus.” The Piel חִלֵּץ denotes “to draw off” (clothes), “to draw out” (a prisoner; thus to free). Hiph. occurs only here. As Kal has a transitive meaning (excepting in Hos 5:6), a Hiph. formed from it is hardly in place here. Already Archbishop SECKER, with whom LOWTH agrees, would on this account read וְעָצְמָֽתְךָ יַחֲלִיף (comp. 40:29, 31;41:1). But חָלוּץ meaning “equipped, fighting men,” is a word of such frequent occurrence, that the formation of a denominativum הֶ‍ֽחֱלִיץ, meaning “to make fit for war, active,” is quite conceivable. I agree in this with DELITZSCH without regarding it necessary to assume a חָלַץ, “to be strong,” for חֲלָצִים, lumbi.

Isa 58:12. EWALD, et al., would read בֻּנּוּ. But, apart from only the Kal and Niph. of בָּנָה being used, this reading is needless, because nothing is gained by it either in respect to grammar or sense. Still I would not render מִמְּךָ by “a te oriundi,” and treat it as implying the subject of בָּנו. But the latter carries its subject in itself; the third person plural of the personal pronoun (הֵם), for which we use the indefinite subject man, “one, they,” is expressed by the afformative וּ.

Isa 58:13. The expression הָשִׁיב רֶגֶל מִן is found only here. Elsewhere we find: מָנַע ר׳ (Prov. 1:15), שָׁמַר ר׳ (Prov. 3:26; Eccl. 4:17), הָסִיר ר׳ (Prov. 4:27).—Expositors now justly give up supplying מִן before עֲשׂוֹת, which affords a forced construction, if not exactly an impossible one. עשׂות is in apposition with רגלך, The doing, dispatching business (חֵפֶץ see on Isa 58:3) is in fact the foot that desecrates the Sabbath. [Though the meaning “business,” maintained for the word חֵפֶץ, be suitable for its use in later writers, there is no reason for so rendering it here or in ver.3 or in the passages there cited from Isaiah. DELITZSCH says at Isa 58:3 of מָצָא הֵפֶלִ: “In the face of ver.13 this cannot have any other meaning than to stretch one’s hand after occupation, to carry on business, to occupy one’s-self with it,—חפץ combining the three meanings, application or affairs, striving, and trade or occupation.” Translation of CLARK’S F. Theol. Lib. As at Isa 58:13 he adds nothing to corroborate the above appeal to that verse, it would seem that in some way the use of חפץ in connection with the Sabbath must self-evidently refer to business. That is, we may suppose, it is self-evident that it can’t mean “pleasure.” It is hard to resist the persuasion that such is actually the logical process of this interpretation. It is influenced by a state of religious life that has given up the Sabbath and will only recognize a Sunday. To those of different tradition it is not self-evident, that the right observance of the Sabbath does not call for self-renunciation in favor of God, even the renouncement of our own pleasures, that we may seek pleasure in what pleases God. To such, therefore, it seems perfectly obvious, as J. A. ALEX., says on (44:28) that “the word (חפץ) has here its strict, original, and usual sense of inclination, will or pleasure, that which one delights in, chooses or desires; and the substitution of affair or business would be not only arbitrary but ridiculous.” –TR ].


1. Cry aloud——their sins.

Ver.1. The Prophet still stands in the present; he is not soaring in the heights of prophetic vision. He never loses sight of the practical question: what must Israel do to be saved? Even in this last Ennead, where yet the inmost depths and the highest heights of the future salvation present themselves to his gaze, he does not forget to oppose the illusion, that every Israelite by his birth alone and nothing more has an expectancy of this salvation. On the contrary he says most emphatically, that the judgments of the LORD will fall on the unbelieving Israel just as on the unbelieving Gentile world (comp. especially 65:2 sqq.; 66:4 sqq., 14 sqq.). The Prophet, therefore, does not idealize his nation. He sees it in its concrete reality, made up as it is of the God-fearing and the godless combined. But it deeply concerns him that as many as possible of the latter may be converted. He had concluded the second Ennead with such a descent to the sphere of practical necessity, and from that sphere also he addresses himself to the third and final cycle of discourse. One sees how important to the LORD this practical point of view is, from the way He summons the Prophet to give it effect; with the greatest emphasis, without timidity or sparing the Prophet must hold up to the people their sins. For without the knowledge of sin there is no return (שׁוּב), and without return there is no salvation. This exhortation, to hold up to the people their sins, is of the nature of a theme. For warning against sin and exhortation to repent is the undertone of all of chapts. 58, 59; and is similarly the serious, dark background in chapts. 64–66.

Cry with throat,” i. e., with chest-tones, with a full, strong sound (not with suppressed or whispered sound, comp. 1 Sam. 1:13). Farther, the Prophet is not to restrain (54:2), viz., his voice. He is therefore not to spare his voice, and accordingly not his hearers either. For a loud calling that penetrates marrow and bone, strains not only the crier but hearer also. The Prophet’s cry should penetrate to the quick, therefore it is said to him he must lift up his voice like the Shophar. שׁופר interchanges Josh. 6 with פֶרֶן (comp. vers.5 and 4, 6, 13). According to JOSEPHUS (Antiq. V., 6, 5, comp. Jud. 7:16), the Shophar was a rams-horn [κριοῦ κέρας). JEROME, too, remarks on Hos. 5:8 concerning the Shophar: buccina pastoralis est et cornu, recurvo efficitur, unde et graece κερατίνη appellatur.” Comp. LEYRER, in HERZ.,R. Enc. X., p. 131.

2. Yet they seek——to the LORD.

Vers.2–5. I share the view of DELITZSCH, that וְ before אותי is to be taken in an adversative, and not a causal sense. For the summons to hold up importunately to the people their sin, implies that they do not know their sin, that they hold themselves to be quite sinless. In contrast with this (indirectly expressed) opinion of themselves, stands what the people attempt with respect to God. God’s ways seem incomprehensible to them. That is, they do not at all understand how the LORD can deal with them as He does. They think they deserve reward and praise, and yet must endure severe tribulation. דָּרַשׁ (comp. 31:1) is=“to inquire, to find out by asking, to search out.” They would know from the LORD how His treatment is to be understood. For such is the meaning of דעת דרכי יחפצון, which on its part is moreover explanatory of אותי ידרשׁון. But they do not stop with a verbal explanation. They demand a formal reply, i. e., they would have their pretended right assured to them by formal, judicial procedure. As a people that practice righteousness and has not forsaken the law (משׁפט=legal norm) of its God, they demand of Jehovah judicial processes of righteousness, i. e., an impartial judicial procedure. They appeal, as it were, from Jehovah to a higher, independent court, and demand that Jehovah shall appear before it. In the expression משׁפטי צדק “righteous judgments,” there is thus an indirect charge that Jehovah’s treatment of them had been unjust. An impartial tribunal shall decide, and before this Jehovah Himself should appear. Such is the meaning קרבת א׳ (substant. קְרָבָה again only Ps. 73:28). קָרַב is often used for appearing before judgment or before the lord and governor (34:1; 41:1, 5; 48:16; 57:3; Mal. 3:5).—Notice the full-sounding forms יֶחְפָצוּן ,ידְרשׁוּן (the latter rhyme-like concluding the two halves of the verse). They paint the bold insolence displayed.

In ver.3 the LORD lets the Israelites themselves produce their complaint. We have fasted and chastened ourselves. Such is the merit they urge. They ask why it is not acknowledged.—This passage has been urged as a proof that our book originated in the exile, because from Zech. 7:3 sqq. (comp. 8:19) it appears that in the Exile fasting in the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months came in vogue (comp. WIENERR. W., and HERZ.R. Enc. s. v. Fasten), whereas the Mosaic law prescribed fasting for only one day in the year, viz., the great day of atonement (Lev. 23:27–32). In this bragging about their fasting is found an indication of that extension that in the Exile was given to the rite of fasting. Even DELITZSCH will not be dissuaded of the idea that here we “have before us a picture out of the life of the exiles.” But was that Isaiah’s task, to give pictures from the life of the exiles?

In that passage of Zech. we are informed of an embassy, probably from Bethel, that made inquiry in Jerusalem, whether fasting in the fifth month was to be retained even after the return out of the Exile. Thereupon Zechariah receives a commission to answer the people that they might use their pleasure in this respect. For fasting as eating was indifferent to the LORD. What other divine service, better and more rational (Rom. 12:1), Jehovah requires must be known to them from the words that Jehovah caused to be proclaimed by “the former prophets (נְבִיאִים הָרִא‍ ֹשׂנִים) when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her,” And then follows vers.9, 10, what sort of words of former prophets the LORD means: “Execute true judgment, and show mercy and compassions every man to his brother: and oppress not the widow, or the fatherless, the stranger nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.” If it be asked what words of an older prophet Zechariah means, only our passage can be first thought of. Of course the agreement is not verbal; but neither is there any other passage that does agree verbally with that in Zechariah. And as regards the sense, our passage is the only one that in the same way as Zechariah exposes negatively the valuelessness of outward fasting and sets positively in antithesis to it the true λατρεία that is well-pleasing to God. “Did ye at all fast unto me?” the LORD asks in Zech. 7:5. The idea of fasting here involves the idea of solemnizing, honoring, sanctifying in the way of divine service, and on this depends the accusative suffix (“do ye then fast me”). Not my honor and my interest did ye seek in your fasting, is, then what the LORD says, Zech. 7:5. And He says the same in our text, only more extendedly, in that He charges the Israelites with not having God at all in view or in their hearts when they fasted, since otherwise it were impossible for them at the same time to carry on all sorts of wickedness. And as regards the positive feature, our Prophet in vers.6, 7, when he admonishes to let go the bound, to feed, entertain, clothe the poor, actually says what Zechariah (7: 9, 10) says with his admonition to practise works of righteousness and love. Also the prophet Joel utters a similar thought (Joel 2:12, 13). By the words “and with fasting, and with weeping and with mourning” followed by “and rend your heart and not your garments,” he points out the difference between the true and the false λατρεία. Zechariah may also have thought of Ezek. 18:5 sqq. (although it by no means has for subject the contrast between true and false divine service) since that is the only place beside Zechariah where the expression מִשְׁפַּט אֱמֶת is found. But our passage has the most resemblance to that in Zechariah, partly because it speaks only of fasting and partly because it contrasts false and true fasting. There are some other particulars that favor the idea that Zechariah had our passage, and also others in chapts. 40, 66 in mind. Of inferior significance is the fact that the expression משׁפט אמתZech. 7:9, (in which we have recognized a connection with Ezek. 18: 8), perhaps includes also a reminiscence of מִשְׁפְטֵי־צֶדֶקIsa. 58:2, which expression, beside here, is found only Ps. 119:7, 62, 106, 160, 164, in the form מִשְׁפְטֵי צִדְֶֽקךָ. It is more important that in Zech. 7:13 we have a very plain echo of Isa. 1:2; 65:12; 66:4. For after Zechariah (7:9, 10) had quoted what “the former prophets” had demanded instead of the merely outward fasting, he proceeds in ver.11, with the information that Israel did not heed the words of those prophets, and that thereby a great wrath came about on the Lord’s part (Isa 58:11, 12). Then it is said further: “And it came to pass, that as He cried and they would not hear” (ver.13). Now these words are the reproduction of a thought that in this form is peculiar to chapts. 40, 66. Thus in 50:2 we have the words: “Wherefore when I came was there no man, when I called was there none to answer?” Afterwards we read: “I called and ye did not answer, I spake and ye did not hear” (65:12). Finally: “I called and there was none answering, I spake and they did not hear” (66:4). The same form of expression is found with modification only in Jeremiah and Zechariah beside. Thus in Jeremiah we read: “And I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not” (7:13); and again: “And thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hear thee; thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee” (7:27). Finally: “I have spoken unto them, but they have not heard; and I have called unto them, but they have not answered” (35:17). Such are the Old Testament passages in which the said form of speech occurs applied to the people Israel. For it occurs already Job 19:16, but there only in relation to Job and his servant. We expressly observe that we have to do here only with that form of expression, which to the calling of a superior opposes the not answering of an inferior, and not with the opposite where the superior refuses to answer the call of an inferior. Now it is possible that the expression was borrowed from Job 19:16, and applied to the relation of Jehovah to Israel. Who did this first is the question. Any way the words in Zech. 7:13a, have most resemblance to Isa. 65:12, and 66:4. Now as this kind of expression is found in Isaiah only 50:2; 65:12; 66:4, the conclusion is very natural that Zechariah reckoned the author of Isa. 40–64 to the former prophets that prophesied in the time “when Jerusalem still sat and was quiet and its cities round about and the south, and the plain” (Zech. 7:7). For evidently vers.13, 14 are explanatory of what precedes. It is said wherein “the great wrath” consisted, of which Isa 58:12 spoke. And as the cause of this wrath was said to be that the Israelites would not hear “the law and the words which Jehovah Sabaoth sent by His Spirit by the hand of the former prophets,” so, in ver.13a, the cause of the wrath is more nearly defined by a condensed statement of the contents of those former prophecies. The conclusion here presented is the judgment also of KUEPERDas Prophetenth, d. A. B. p. 291. Another proof of the same thing is, that the words: “made heavy their ears that they should not hear” (Zech. 7:11), is a quotation of Isa. 59:1. And it may be noted that the expression כָבְדָה אִתֶן in general occurs only in Isa. (6:10; 59:1). From this whole investigation it results, that we have not to consider the words of Isa. 58:3a, as the language of an exile, but of a contemporary of Isaiah.

Although only one fast day in the year was legally prescribed, still voluntary fast-days were allowed both for individuals, and for the whole community. And there are many texts to prove that such often occurred. Comp. Judg. 20:26; 1 Sam. 7:16; 2 Sam. 1:12; 12:16 sqq.; 1 Kings 21:12; Joel 1:14; Jer. 36:6, 9; 2 Chron. 20:3; Ezr. 8:21; Ps. 109:24, etc. It was just voluntary fasting that was likely to become the subject of work-righteous, Pharisaical boasting (Luke 18:12). עִנָּה נֶפֶשׁ is “to restrain, bow, repress the craving” for food. It is the expression by which the law itself designated the inward side of fasting (Lev. 16:31; 23:27, 29, 32; Num. 29:7; 30:14; Ps. 35:13). “Crucify the flesh,” though not a literal rendering, is true to the sense; for נפשׁ is after all nothing else than the inner flesh, fleshly craving in the extended sense.

Isa 58:3b. To this proud, work-righteous speech of the people, in which they make the LORD, as it were, the defendant, the LORD Himself replies by pointing them away from worship in the letter to worship in spirit, and in truth (Jno.4). First He exposes the hypocrisy of their way of fasting. Fasting ought to be a divine worship. Thus it implies a direction of the heart toward God. But how can devotion be thought of in those who, while they fast, turn their thoughts only to worldly profit, yea, to wrangling and unrighteousness. חֵפֶץ is that which a man delights in, not merely in the sense of transitory pleasure, but also in the more serious sense of business interest. In this sense it even stands parallel with בֶּצַעJob 22:3, comp. 21:21. In Isa. 44:2853:10 we see plainly the transition from one to the other meaning. In our chapter ver.13 the word occurs twice again in the sense of πρᾶγμα, negotium. In Eccl. 3:1, 17; 5:7; 8:6, it occurs in this sense, and each time the LXX. render it by πρᾶγμα. By the expression מָצָא before חפץ the Prophet purposes primarily a paronomasia with respect to צֹמְכֶם. But perhaps, too, מצא חפץ (to touch, take hold of a business, according to the fundamental meaning pertingere ad, assequi, comp. Job. 11:7; Ps. 21:9; Isa. 10:10, 14) was a popular expression current in business life. The general sense of תנגשׂוכל־עצביכם is easily made out. The Prophet reproaches the Israelites with combining greedy exaction with their fasting. But עצביכם occasions difficulty, on which see Text, and Gram.

Isa 58:4. But beside greedy harshness toward those under them, the Israelites combined with their fasting vexatious strife that degenerated into deeds of violence towards those of like condition. Fasting, instead of raising them up inwardly, made them moody to the degree that they give vent to their ill-humor by cudgelings. Thus their fasting exercised even a demoralizing influence. The consequence is that the prayer, which combined with such fasting they send toward heaven, is not heard. כַּיּוֹם cannot possibly (with HAHN) be taken in the sense of ὡς ἐν ἡμέρᾳ (Rom. 13:12, 13), ὡς τέκνα φωτός (Eph. 5:8). Also STIER ascribes too much to the expression when, following JARCHI, he takes it in the sense of “as becomes the day” (i. e., the day of atonement). כַּיּוֹם simply urges the present, silently implying a contrast with the past and future. That is, the Prophet will say nothing of the past and future. He only makes prominent: that Israel now, in the present moment, does not fast as it ought to (comp. 1 Sam. 2:16; 9:27; 1 Kings 22:5). It implies also the possibility of doing better in the future. In להשׂמיע the לְ denotes the intended effect: ye fast not so that (the intended effect, to bring your voice on high (57:15; 33: 5) to a hearing) can be attained. Fasting and praying go together, and fasting is intended to serve the prayer as an accompaniment that recommends it, as say, with reference to men, a present is joined to a petition to make it more effective (compare the texts cited above on voluntary fasting).

Ver.5. The Prophet once more comprehends what has been said, in a question that calls for a negative response. Shall that (described vers.3 b–4) be a fast that I choose, a day when a man afflicts his soul? We must not (with the VULG. LUTHER and many others refer הכזהוגו׳ to what follows (numquid tale est jejunium quod elegi, per diem affligere hominem animam suam?VULG.). For the words יום ענות אדם נפשׁו are words of the law (Lev. 16:31; 23:27, 32; Num. 29:7). One ought to fast so according to the law. Therefore the words יום ענות ו֝ are parallel with צום אבחרהו. It is indeed God’s will that a man afflict his soul, i. e., his psychical lusts, that he crucify the flesh. That is wholesome and healthy. But would fasting combined with outrage, as described Isa 58:3 b–4, be really a wholesome crucifying of the flesh? This question must be answered with no. Moreover that is also to be called no fasting when one lays all stress on the outward, bodily exercise (the σωματικὴ γυμνασία) 1 Tim. 4:8) and at this price leaves the inward flesh wholly unmolested. The expression “sackcloth and ashes” occurs again only Dan. 9:3; Esth. 4:1, 3. Evidently Isaiah has also here been the source for later usage, for in general the language of Isa. 40–66 is not that of Daniel and Esther.

3. Is not this the fast——thine own flesh.

Isa 58:6, 7. It is well to observe that in these two verses, which would describe the fasting that is well-pleasing to God, the Prophet says nothing more of bodily mortification. He only names the works of righteousness toward the oppressed (ver.6), and beneficence toward the poor and needy. But one must not understand that he positively rejects fasting. When he says: is not that a fasting I choose? he assumes that there will be fasting. What follows: to loose, etc., only gays what should be combined with fasting, in contrast with the conduct of the Israelites in this respect. Nevertheless the Prophet lays the chief stress just on the works mentioned in Isa 58:6, 7. He assumes that the practice of these works also costs a sacrifice either of bodily substance, or of inward resignation and subduing uncharitable inclinations. He that subdues the flesh to the will in this wise, practises the true “afflicting of the soul.” Notice how the Prophet is here quite on the road that reaches its highest elevation in the declarations of 66:3. Also: that thou hide not thyself from thy flesh, is a trace of the broad, evangelical spirit that reigns in our passage. To the question: who is my neighbor? the answer is given here: every one who is of thy flesh. The answer does not run: every one who is of thy nation, or tribe (Luke 10:29 sqq.). Thus our Prophet here, too, rises far above theocratic narrowness. [Comp. Jas. 1:27].

4. Then shall thy light——to dwell in.

Isa 58:8-12. The Prophet now gives a series of ten promises of glorious reward for those who will fulfil the command of the LORD in the right spirit. He strings them together like a necklace of pearls, yet so that, after the first four promises, he mentions again (Isa 58:9b, and 10a), the conditions, as one breaks the monotony of the string of pearls by an ornament of another form and color. The row of promises consists of four and six members, among which a certain parallelism and also a climax is observable. In Isa 58:8–9a, the Prophet describes in some measure the pious man’s course of life. Rising out of the obscurity of his previous way of life, the light of divine holiness and glory rises like the morning dawn for the pious man—בָּק־ע “to split,” Niph. “by splitting to press forth,” (comp. 35:6; 59:5). Heretofore sick, he feels in himself the power of a new life, by which, as it were, new, healthy flesh grows on him, as on the dead bones Ezekiel saw (Ezek. 37:5 sq.). אֲרֻכָה is certainly derived most naturally from אָרַךְlongum esse, and denotes the new flesh that extends over the wound, by which, supplanting that which is dead, it fills up the gaps and restores the normal form of the member, (comp. FLEISCHERinDEL. Comm. p. 592, Anm.). The word is found only here in Isaiah, comp. Jer. 8:22; 30:17; 33:6; 2 Chr. 24:13; Neh. 4:1. He that has come to the light, and that has become strong in health, moves along the course assigned him. This march resembles a triumphal procession. As before him that goes in triumph are borne or led along the signs of his victory, so the glory of the pious goes before him, i. e., his righteous works. But he does not on this account shine in the brightness of his own celebrity, for he that closes up and holds together (comp. 52:12) the procession, and thus shows himself to be the power that controls all, is the glory of Jehovah. But where is the pious one, let his course of life be never so glorious, that does not need God? Therefore the Prophet comprehends all the rest together in the great, glorious right of petition of the pious one, which consists in this, that the pious may ask for everything, and never prays in vain (Matth. 21:22; Mark 11:24; John 14:13 sq.). As has been remarked, the Prophet in ver.9 b–10 a interrupts the chain of promises, in order to repeat the conditions. What he mentions as such is again the demand to forego every sort of lovelessness (Isa 58:9b), and to practise every sort of love (ver.10a). As the first thing to be abstained from, he designates: not to rule tyrannically, but to take away yokes wherever they exist. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17), and love does no evil to its neighbor; it seeks not its own; it rejoices not in iniquity (1 Cor. 13:4 sqq.). There is here a certain climax: the Prophet evidently regards subjugation, tyranny, violence as the coarsest violation of the law of love. As a more refined transgression, he regards the pointing (שְׁלַח, inf.) with the finger. This, among western nations as well as among orientals, is a gesture of contempt, comp. loc. (infamis digitus, the middle finger; PERS. II:33: rideto multum et digitum porrigito medium, MARTIAL, II:28, 2). According to Prov. 6:13, pointing the finger appears also as a means of malignant denunciation and spiteful betrayal. Still more refined, but not better on that account, is the transgression of the law of love by sacrilegious discourse (comp. 1:13; 10:1; Ps. 5:6: 6:9, etc.).—The demand to cease to do evil is followed by the demand to do good (ver.10). And vice omnium it is demanded that the pious sacrifice his own hunger to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul. For I agree with DELITZSCH in the opinion that נֶפֶשׁ can mean nothing else here than that after which the soul, i. e., here the hungry man’s prompting for nourishment, craves. Hence it is going too far, when STIERet al., following JEROME, take נפשׁ in the sense of life and heart. For he that is hungry after our life, to him we would not owe it.

Ver.11. In what now follows we have a second row of promises and made stronger. It is composed of six members, but in its fundamental thought it corresponds to the one of four members [that precedes]. For underlying it is the thought of a life-career, that begins with the morning and presses happily through conflicts of every sort. But in this succession of six members the issue is different. That is, it concludes with a perspective of an activity that is richly blessed, and extends its efficiency into the remotest times. The first promise of this series corresponds exactly to the beginning of the first series: liberation from the chains of darkness, rising of light and increase of it is promised in such measure, that even the obscurest parts of that darkness will have the brightness of midday. (Job 11:17; Ps. 18:29; 37:6, etc.).—The second promise is indeed the shortest, but it is also the most important of all: the LORD will never withdraw His hand from the pious one; He will abide with him and guide him (57:18) in all his ways. The third promise assumes that cross and conflict will, nevertheless, not be wanting to the pious one. For there will be also for him still עַחְצָחוֹת, i. e., hot places. JEROME translates: “implebit splendoribus animam tuam.” HAHN follows this and translates: ‘ ‘and let thy soul be satisfied with brightness.” It is true, the root צָחָה ,צָחַח, in its fundamental meaning, “burning,” involves the meaning of “gleaming” and of “drought.” Hence on the one hand צַח, nitens on the other hand צְחִיחָה (Ps. 68:7) and צְהִיחִיִּם (Neh. 4:7) loca arida. But what is promised already, Isa 58:10b, satisfies the requirements of light, and ver.11b. shows that the Prophet has in mind the refreshing element of water. He promises satiety from it in a two-fold gradation. First, the pious one shall want none, even in localities that for others are arid deserts. The soul, i. e., the need of -water shall be richly satisfied, so that thereby the bones (thus the body itself) become fresh and powerful. But, and this is the fourth promise, the refreshing element shall be, bestowed on the pious one in a still greater degree. That is to say, he shall himself become a well-watered garden; in fact, a richly flowing spring of water. Thus the pious one shall be an oasis in the desert, a lovely, green, fruitful garden, with a glorious spring that never goes dry. The expression גן רוה is found again only in Jer. 31:12. מוצא מים is the place of issue, the flowing place for water (comp. 41:18; Ps. 107:33, 35; 2 Chr. 32:30). In general comp. 1:30; 51:3; Song of S. 4:12.—The fifth promise extends to the pious one the prospect that he will be still beyond the period of his life a source of blessing, and indeed the cause of a glorious restoration: they shall build (see Text, and Gram.) from thee (מִמְּךָ designates the ideal originator) ancient waste places,” means nothing else than: thou wilt be the author and spiritual director of such buildings by which ancient buildings that were destroyed shall be restored. The Prophet purposely does not say that it shall be just bodily children. Any way it will be children after the Spirit. Hence, also, in the second clause, just the second person sing. is used. It were incomprehensible why the children’s building should be mentioned before that of the father. On the other hand, תְּקוֹמֵם explains to us the meaning of the בנו ממך. One is, indeed, tempted to do as STIER and others do, and refer the second clause to new buildings, since דור ודוד, as a rule, points to the future, and since great men are wont not merely to restore, but also to found new institutions. But in 61:4, the Prophet repeats this expression with some modifications, and there, according to the context, only restoration can be meant. Added to this, קום in Pilel designates essentially “rising up again,” and the predicates גֹדֶר and מְשׁוֹבֵכ equally refer to restoration. דור ודור (notice that it does not say לְדֹור ו׳) is used of the past also in Deut. 32:7; Ps. 90:1.—The sixth promise extends to the pious one the prospect of honorable surnames, the praise of having deserved well of his country. A פֶרֶץ גֹּדֵר is one that walls up (comp. Ezek. 22:30; 2 Kings 12:13) what is shattered (פֶרֶץ28:21; 30:13), thus a repairer of human dwellings. But, in order to dwell comfortably in a land, men must be able to go to one another, commerce and intercourse must be possible. Hence the additional title restorer of the paths. לָשָֽׁבֶת “to dwell in,” is probably to be referred to both, since, in order to dwell, i. e., for comfortable and secure dwelling in a land, both are necessary, good dwellings and good roads. נְתִיבָה is a poetic word with no technical reference, and hence suitable for designating any sort of way (comp. LEYRER’S article “Strassen in Palaestina;” HERZ. R. Enc. xv. p. 157 sqq.).—One sees, especially from ver.12, that the Prophet, who here still before the Exile preaches repentance to his nation, has yet always in mind the great future of restoration. So it is characteristic that, to the pious of his day, as a last and most glorious reward, he presents the prospect, that by him, too, shall be exercised blessed influences on Israel’s reinstallation in its land.

5. If thou turn——hath spoken it.

Isa 58:13, 14. Isaiah’s contemporaries seem to have provoked the LORD especially by two things. First by an excess that was not demanded; that is by fasting much more than was commanded. They fancied that by this outward exercise they could bribe the LORD and wipe out scores with Him. But then they let themselves be caught in doing too little. They were as lax about keeping the Sabbath as they were strict about fasting. The Sabbath was Jehovah’s day. Keeping it holy was a sure sign of fidelity to Jehovah, and easily tested. Thus the Prophet demands a right sanctification of the Sabbath as a condition of glorious, theocratic blessing (comp. 56:2). The doing or dispatching business (חֵפֶץ comp. onver.3 and Text, and G., where see TR.’s note) is just the foot whose tramp desecrates the holy ground of the Sabbath. From the mouths of those that did not heartily serve the LORD, one may often have heard utterances that the celebration of the Sabbath was a burden, that interfered with all business and occupation (Amos 8:5). Opposed to this the Prophet demanded that men shall call the Sabbath a delight (ענג again only 13:22). It merits this name as the universal friend of man, that brings rest and refreshment to all that are weary and heavy-laden. But, as being holy to Jehovah, it deserves the name honorable (מְכֻבָּד to be highly honored). But the Israelites should practically honor it also by not doing their own ways, and not going about their trade and occupation (מעשׂות=far from making, without making or doing), by not doing their own business (see on ver.3) and by not carrying on conversation. The expression דִבֵּר דָּבָר is found again 8:10. The sense differs with the context. In many passages it has no pregnant sense (comp. Gen. 41:28; 44:18; 2 Kings 5:13; Job 2:13; Prov. 25:11). But there are also passages where it has (Deut. 18:20; Isa. 8:10; Jer. 29:23; 34:5; Ezek. 12:25, 28; 14:9; 2 Sam. 7:7). According to the Mosaic law, the Sabbath should be a day of joy (comp. OEHLER in HERZ.R. Enc. xiii. p. 199). Could it be exacted of all Israelites that on this day only weighty words should proceed from their mouth? Certainly not. But business conversation could properly be forbidden. On the Sabbath no business must be transacted, neither by works nor by words. Thus דָּבָר is here about the same as πρᾶγμα (comp. 1 Sam. 20:2; Judg. 18:7, 18, etc.). Let the Israelite practically honor the Sabbath in this way and he will delight himself in Jehovah Himself. He will serve the LORD with inmost satisfaction, and the LORD on His part will bestow upon Him the highest honor and the highest enjoyment. I will cause thee to ride, I will feed thee are citations from Deut. 32:13, comp. 33:29. To ride on the high places of the earth denotes exaltation above all other nations. Instead of “eating the heritage of Jacob thy father,” the original text in Deuteronomy reads “eat the increase of the fields; and He (Jehovah) made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.” These expressions are compressed in our text, and an expression used instead that recalls the promises given to the fathers in reference to the land of Canaan (Exod. 3:8, 17; 13: 5, etc.). On “For the mouth of the Lord,” etc., see on 1:20; 40:5.


[1]Heb. with the throat.

[2]period instead of comma.


[4]the approach of God.

[5]carry on business.

[6]Or, things wherewith ye grieve others.

[7]Heb. griefs.

[8]Or, ye fast not as this day.

[9]Ye fast not at present so as to make.

[10]Or, to afflict his soul for a day?

[11]Heb. the bundles of the yoke.


[13]Heb. broken.


[15]Or, afflteted.

[16]sound flesh will speedily grow.

[17]Heb. shall gather thee up.

[18]sacrificest thy hunger to the hungry and satisfiest.

[19]Heb. droughts.


[21]Heb. lie, or, deceive.

[22]And they shall build from thee.

[23]so that men may inhabit.


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

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